The best reads of 2016? I have no idea. Try Kate W’s compilation of the best of the Best-Books-of-2016 lists (here). I’m more of a literary history guy. So here are my lists for 50, 100 and 150 years ago drawn from Annals of Australian Literature.
There were 23 novels published, of which I’ve read three, and a few interesting works of non-fiction. Highlights were –
Geoffrey Blainey, The Tyranny of Distance
Elizabeth Harrower, The Watch Tower (Sue at Whispering Gums’ review)
Shirley Hazzard, The Evening of the Holiday (see Vale ShirleyHazzard (1931-2016) by Lisa at ANZLitLovers which contains links to reviews of this and other Hazzard novels)
Robert Hughes, The Art of Australia
Sumner Locke Elliott, Some Doves and Pythons
Morris Lurie, Rappaport
Christina Stead, Cotters’ England (review)
Judah Waten, Season of Youth
Patrick White, The Solid Mandala
No births are shown for this year or for any year after 1959 except one, Tim Winton in 1960. However it is noted that in 1966 publication began for the Australian Dictionary of Biography and the Australian Left Review (monthly journal of the CPA from 1966-1992 – that’s the Communists, not the Accountants’ association. I was a member of one and not the other but I’ll leave it to you to guess which).
Thirty-odd books were published, well down on the 45 of the year before. I’ve listed all the novels (8) and a couple of books of verse. The Helena Sumner Locke in this list is the mother of the Sumner Locke Elliott in the list above. She died of complications arising from his birth.
CJ Dennis, The Moods of Ginger Mick
Joseph Furphy, Poems (ed. by Kate Baker)
Doris Egerton Jones, The Coconut Planter (AG Stephens described one of her earlier novels as the most Australian story since My Brilliant Career)
Helena Sumner Locke, Samaritan Mary
Sydney de Loghe (Frederick Loch), The Straits Impregnable
Rosa Praed, Sister Sorrow
Ambrose Pratt, Her Assigned Husband
Katharine Sussanah Prichard, Windlestraws (Nathan Hobby’s review)
Steele Rudd, Grandpa’s Selection
Arthur Wright, Under a Cloud
There were some good births this year including Jessica Anderson, Paul Brickhill, Peter Finch, George R Turner, Googie Withers and Morris West.
Just four books, no novels. I should have done this last year when there were four novels, one of which I own and will review ‘shortly’ – Catherine Helen Spence, Mr Hogarth’s Will. The others were Henry Kingsley, The Hillyars and the Burtons, Benjamin Farjeon, Shadows on the Snow, and William Thomes, The Bushrangers.
In fact 1865 was a much more interesting year altogether. The most ‘notable’ writer born in 1866 was Barcroft Boake, but in 1865 Mary Gilmore, Breaker Morant and AG Stephens were born and John Gould brought out his Handbook of the Birds of Australia.
Nothing published. The only ‘Australian’ book published in the 5 years to 1816 was Matthew Flinders, A Voyage to Terra Australis (1814). Among the births was Annie Maria Baxter/Dawbin. Her first husband, Andrew Baxter had a station at Yambuk, where I used to camp and swim in the surf as a kid, around from Port Fairy, Vic. She left Baxter, and Australia, but later returned, married Robert Dawbin and they took up property in the Wannon region, 50 or 60 miles northwest of Port Fairy. In 1873, she published Memories of the Past by a Lady in Australia, drawn from her early diaries, of which there are 32 volumes covering the period 1834-1865.
Joy Hooton and Harry Heseltine, Annals of Australian Literature, 2nd Ed., OUP, Melbourne, 1992