Best Reads 2018

Armistice Day 1918, Martin Place, Sydney

I nearly forgot to do this, but I’m home, on holidays, I can do it now. That’ll make seven pending posts, so this week will look a bit busy, as will next week as we knock over Gen 2.

I’m impressed by the new releases I listed in Best Reads 2017, I’ve read nothing like that – quantity or quality – this year past. Three or four crime fiction on audiobook and that’s it. Elizabeth Tan’s Rubik was the best ‘new release’ I read but it’s actually 2017, and I squeezed in the marvellous Tracker before New Years but that’s 2017 too. The nearest I got is my current bedtime reading, AS Patrić’s The Butcherbird Stories (2018). Must do better! I’ve already read my first 2019, and written a review, which I’ll put up in a day or two (Sue/Whispering Gums lists her best of 2019 new releases here).

Here are my lists for 50, 100, 150 and 200 years ago drawn from Annals of Australian Literature, with just one review. I’ve read a few of them (4 or 5), and notably Frank Dalby Davidson’s, The White Thorntree (1968) which marks an important step between the 1950s and what we baby boomers regard as modernity.


There were 25 novels published, the best of them (ie. the ones I recognise) –

Thea Astley, A Boat Load of Home Folk
Di Cilento, The Manipulator
Kenneth Cook, The Wine of God’s Anger
Frank Dalby Davidson, The White Thorntree
David Ireland, The Chantic Bird
Joan Lindsay, Picnic at Hanging Rock
Morris Lurie, The London Jungle Adventures of Charlie Hope
John Rowe, Count Your Dead (important anti-Vietnam War novel)
Christina Stead, The Puzzleheaded Girl (review: ANZLL)
Morris West, The Tower of Babel

In the Others category there were

Keith Dunstan, Wowsers which caused a bit of a stir
Kit Denton, A Walk Around my Cluttered Mind
Gwen Harwood, Poems vol.II
Dorothy Hewett, Windmill Country
Sumner Locke Elliott, Rusty Bugles
Colin Roderick, Suckled by a Wolf (I wonder what that’s about)
Gavin Souter, A Peculiar People: New Australia in Paraguay
Ian Turner, The Australian Dream


44 books published, 11 more than the previous year, though one was in French, and including two immortal books for children.

May Gibbs, Snugglepot and Cuddlepie
Norman Lindsay, The Magic Pudding

Bernard Cronin, The Coastlanders
Ewart, Front Lines (can’t identify ‘Ewart’, the NLA credits Boyd Cable)
Doris Egerton Jones, The Year Between
Sydney de Loghe, One Crowded Hour
GG McCrae, John Rous
Donald MacLean, The Luck of the Gold Moidore
Margaret Marlowe, The Women Who Wait
Steele Rudd, Memoirs of Corporal Keeley
Mollie Skinner, Letters of a V.A.D.
Paul Wenz, Bonnes Gens de la Grande Guerres
Arthur Wright, Over the Odds
Arthur Wright, The Breed Holds Good
Arthur Wright, When Nuggets Glistened

CJ Dennis, Digger Smith
Mary Gilmore, The Passionate Heart
Henry Lawson, Selected Poems
Murdoch ed., The Oxford Book of Australian Verse


Just six books! And Steele Rudd and Mary Fullerton were born.

Catherine Helen Spence, The Author’s Daughter
Richmond Thatcher, Mr Newcombe in Search of a Cattle Station


One book, which is one more than the previous six years.

Thomas Wells, Michael Howe, the Last and Worst of the Bushrangers of Van Diemen’s Land (reprinted in 1966)


I know I don’t need to remind you of Australian Women Writers Gen 2 Week 13-19 Jan. 2018. In writing this post I see I have been overlooking Mollie Skinner – here with Letters of a V.A.D. (1918) – who co-wrote The Boy in the Bush with DH Lawrence.

Also, seeing the Chantic Bird (1968) reminds me that Lisa (ANZLitLovers) has persuaded me to have a David Ireland ‘year’. So over the course of 2019 I hope that by my own efforts and by some judicious sharing of yours, I can put up reviews for all his novels. I’ll commence a David Ireland page with a list of his works, and what reviews I can find, once Gen 2 Week is over.


Joy Hooton and Harry Heseltine, Annals of Australian Literature, 2nd Ed., OUP, Melbourne, 1992

13 thoughts on “Best Reads 2018

  1. David Ireland? That’s a big thing for he of independent woman fame! I think I have one on my TBR. If I can do it I will.

    BTW Before I left home yesterday, I suddenly thought of Skinner, but besides that short story I’ve already reviewed I only have her memoir. Unfortunately it was published much later than your Gen 2 period.


    • I like women’s writing and I mostly prefer it, because it’s more likely to be character based rather than action based. But most of all I like innovative, literary writing and that seems to be pretty much 50/50 gender-wise. Anyway, I secretly worry about getting typecast!

      My Gen’s are pretty flexible, and I don’t think Mollie Skinner ever rose out of Gen 2, as KSP did, for example. And MF wrote until the 1950s, and though she tried a couple of times, never really rose out of the Bush.


  2. I do like this approach to the ‘Best of’. I have read pitifully few of the listed books however the three that I have read, I love – Picnic at Hanging Rock (fond memories of being obsessed with this book as a teen); Snugglepot and Cuddlepie, and Magic Pudding – loved both as a child and still love them.


  3. Yes, I’ve read those three! PAHR one of my all-time favourite movies. I must make an effort to read the younger grandkids (7 and 8) the Magic Pudding this year. Their mother and I took a year to get through SP&CP when they were much younger (I read their mother Charles Kingsley’s The Water Babies at much the same age – kids obviously get more from dense language than you’d expect).


    • Also, I’ve wondered how much we ‘retain’ of what was read to us. My memories of being read to are more about the whole sensory experience – sitting in bed/ on the couch/ on a lap – and who was doing the reading (mostly my dad – I remember my mum reading all the time, but not to me!).


      • I’m sure my father read to me, particularly The Magic Pudding which he was mad about, but I don’t remember it at all, not even him reading to my brothers who were up to 7 years younger than me. All those kids books I read them so often to myself and then to my own kids that they are imprinted on my mind independently of how I acquired the memory. I still have them all, except that I gave one good hardback to each grandchild when they were born.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I’ve given up on tv, and I’m not sure I’m in favour of remakes in any case. One exception, I was looking forward to Phryne Fisher but after a couple of episodes I didn’t think they’d got the tone right and I gave up.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I was still at school in 1968, so I wasn’t aware of any of those back then, and even now have read only two of them although I know all the author names you list there.
    Have you any thoughts about when the DI Week will be? I have started a reading calendar this year (though I bet I don’t keep it up to date) …


    • So was I! (Ok, I admit I’m older than you). I think once I resume work I won’t have time for a ‘week’ but I’ll try and review The Unknown Industrial Prisoner in Feb, and put up a page. And we’ll see if we can get reviews for all his works by the end of the year. It should work, I still feel the pull of your Christina Stead page, though the already reviewed Puzzleheaded Girl is probably the one I’d most like to read next.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s