Christmas is sorted (with these fab recommendations)
Every year I have such trouble choosing my favourite book, and like many of the keen readers below, I have read and loved SO many fantastic books. Read on to see what some of my bookish friends have loved this year (and would recommend in a heartbeat) and discover what they're hoping Santa will leave for them under the Christmas tree this year.
Michelle Beesley, Queensland
Book blogger with SheSociety Brisbane and bookstagrammer @michellebeesley_writer
My favourite Australian book for 2021 has to be The Funny Thing About Norman Foreman. It’s a charming debut from Australian author, Julietta Henderson. It tells the mother and son story of Norman Foreman and his single Mum, Sadie. Norman and his very best friend Jax have plans to perform their comedy double act at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. But then Jax dies before they even turn twelve. Sadie and Norman set off to fulfil his comedy dream and perhaps find his Dad along the way. With the help of their friend, Leonard and his Austin Maxi, they set off on a funny and poignant pilgrimage to Edinburgh. It’s just the most delightful book and you will fall in love with Julietta’s well drawn characters.
I would love Sally Hepworth’s The Younger Wife under the tree this Christmas. I adored her novel The Good Sister and gifted that book to everyone last Christmas. They all read it in two days. Sally writes such wonderful page turners which are perfect for my annual Christmas beach holiday.
Anna Loder, Sydney
Anna's Shop Around the Corner and ReadAPod podcast host
I can’t recommend The Wattle Island Book Club by Sandie Docker more, it’s such a beautiful novel (I could definitely be president of the Sandie Docker fan club; but this still exceeded every expectation). It wasn’t just the beautiful island it’s set in, or the book-loving characters that so quickly became lifelong friends, it’s the mystery to be solved, the bucket lists to be drawn, the Anne of Green Gables references; there’s a cow called Emmeline Harris even….it’s completely the whole package. The book love contained in this story just warms the heart; the love of libraries, book clubs and bookish pins…ahh when can I move to Wattle Island? It’s a wonderful novel that would be perfect Christmas reading, it’s definitely one to curl up with and enjoy (maybe with a box of Kleenex)
I'm asking Santa for... Trent Dalton’s Love Stories
Naomi Lewis, Sydney
Recommendation: The Housemate by Sarah Bailey - An investigative journo retracing her steps in and old-that’s-become-new again investigation of a mystery everyone believed solved. Another death, oodles of detail, plot twists and suspects kept me page flipping to the end!
At the top of my Christmas wishlist... Trent Dalton's Love Stories!
Sophie Hay, Victoria
Bookstagrammer @Sophies.Little.Library and book reviewer for Oak Magazine
Bila Yarrudhanggalangdhuray (River of Dreams) by Anita Heiss would be a wonderful gift under the tree this Christmas, depicting a historical tale of white settlers on Aboriginal land in the 1850s. With complex relationships and beautiful descriptions of connection to country and Ancestors, this story will be a hit with any lover of Australian fiction.
I’m keeping my fingers crossed that Love & Virtue by Diana Reid will find its way under the tree for me this Christmas, I love literary fiction and have seen so many rave reviews. I hope you all have a very merry Christmas!
Bron Swasbrick, Canberra
Bookstagrammer @BookishBron and book blogger
Waking Romeo by Kathryn Barker has been one of my absolute favourite books all year. It has time travel and love and feminism and a mind-blowingly clever plot and just loads of heart. It's Romeo and Juliet like you've never seen them before, and is packed with references to classic literature and modern pop culture as well.
Christmas wishlist: I'd love to receive The Astonishing Chronicles of Oscar from Elsewhere, which is Jaclyn Moriarty's latest book in her middle-grade fantasy Kingdoms and Empires series. It's a gorgeous hardcover book and I think would make a great gift
Janine Kimberley, Victoria
Casey Cardinia Library and In A Nook With A Book Facebook group
Recommendation: The Five Year Plan by Jodi Gibson. If you are looking for a feel-good novel that will take you across the seas where you can experience the sights, sounds and food, then this is the book for you! Demi thought she had it all figured out, within 5 years she had a list of objectives that she was determined to meet - that is until fate has other plans that put her on a plane to Italy to discover her roots and her extended family. There she becomes immersed in everything that Bari has to offer, the scenery, the food, culture, family and the people she meets including Leo who she instantly falls for. But he comes from a rival family - will their love survive - you will have to read this book to find out!"
Christmas wish: I would love Jane Green’s Sister Stardust but it doesn’t come out until April 22
Mercedes Maguire, NSW
Daily Telegraph reporter and bookstagrammer @MercsBookNook
My favourite Australian read this year was The Warsaw Orphan by Kelly Rimmer. I'll be honest I thought "not another World War 2 book" when I saw this because there seems to have been a lot this year in particular. But wow, this book blew me away. I cried through the tragic bits, I swooned through the romantic bits and I got very angry at all the horrible bits. It was such a beautifully constructed story which melded fact with fiction and told the harrowing tale of the people contained inside the Jewish Ghetto in Warsaw during WW2 and the amazing women who risked their lives to save the children trapped there.
The book I hope to see under my tree is anything by Rachael Johns. I have never read one of her books but I hear such amazing things said about them and she's one author I keep meaning to get to and just haven't yet. And what's better than some great Aussie women's fiction over the Christmas break?
Michelle Di Giacomo, WA
Librarian and bookstagrammer @itsalibrarianlife
Christmas recommendation: He Was Tremendously Scary and Extraordinary Hairy by @christophermaxwellart This stunning wordless picture book is for anyone, little or big. It’s a story about being brave enough to confront one's fears and worries and gain confidence to strive for what brings joy, even if a little help is needed along the way. You will find so much enjoyment and adventure in this book about a shy little girl in a beautiful world full of boundless wonder and enjoyment.
Christmas wishlist: Fingers crossed I'll receive a copy of Kevin Kwan's Sex & Vanity under the tree this summer.
Talking Aussie Books podcast @claudientinellis
Tania Farrelly's debut novel The Eighth Wonder was so brilliant it left me amazed and envious in equal measures! It was inspired, nuanced, thought-provoking and intelligent - taking readers on a journey through New York in the early 20th century. A time of great contradictions and one that posed a great many challenges for women. A perfect gift for Christmas! Christmas wishlist: I’m desperate to read Michael Robotham’s new novel When You Are Mine - so I’m hoping this will be under the tree for me this year! 🎄🎅🏻
Cowlick Book Shop, Colac, Victoria
Christmas recommendation: The Prison Healer by Lynette Noni. Magical powers, trials by ordeal, made me cry over characters more than once and a lot of great plot twists!
Christmas wishlist: Hoping to get anything Maria Lewis for Christmas.
Jeff Popple, Canberra
Canberra Weekly reviewer (plus Murder, Mayhem and Long Dogs Blog)
Recommendation: There was a bumper crop of good Australian crime novels in 2021. One of my favourites was Sarah Bailey’s exquisitely plotted mystery The Housemate. Combining a surprising dual-timeline plot with an interesting, flawed female central character and some wry reflections on modern society, it was a terrific read that reminded me of the early novels by Val McDermid.
Christmas wishlist: Unforgiven by Sarah Barrie
Sarah Barrie’s 2020 novel Deadman’s Tracks was a thrilling addition to her oeuvre of romantic suspense novels. With her forthcoming novel, Unforgiven, she seems to be heading in a darker new direction. The story revolves around Lexi Winter, a child abuse victim and tech savvy vigilante who is on the trail of a notorious paedophile known as the Spider. Promising addictive suspense and a twisty, I am very keen to read Sarah’s new novel.
Pamela Cook, NSW
Podcast host, Writes4Women and @pamelacookwrites
As a podcaster I’m fortunate to have complimentary copies sent to me by publishers and there have been so many wonderful Australian books published in 2021 it’s hard to narrow it down to one recommendation. After much consideration I’m going with the one I’ve only just finished: The Hush by Sara Foster. I’ve read a few of Sara’s previous books in the psychological thriller genre and loved them, so I was curious to see what her foray into near-future (dystopian) fiction would bring. This is not usually a genre I enjoy but Sara may have converted me! It’s a page-turner set about five years into the future in post-Covid UK exploring the impact of a society in crisis on three generations of women from the one family. I loved all three characters and the plot twists are totally compelling. Chatting to Sara for Writes4Women and hearing about her research made it an even more interesting read. Definitely one to add to your wish list.
One book I’m hoping will be under the tree is Love Stories by Trent Dalton. I adored both Boy Swallows Universe and All Our Shimmering Skies so I can‘t wait to get my hands on this non-fiction collection of stories. It came about when Trent sat at a desk in Brisbane and asked passers-by to tell him a love story which he then wrote down. Such a beautiful concept and I’m sure there will be a touch of Trent magic woven into each one.
What a great selection of books, did you find something in there you liked? I know I sure did! And having just finished the audiobook of Trent Dalton's new Love Stories, I can see why it's on everyone's Santa list. If you love author-narrated books (I sure do) then get downloading ASAP and have nine hours with Trent whispering love stories in your ear.
Merry Christmas, my friends, and big thanks to the librarians, bloggers, bookstagrammers and journalists for their fab recommendations!