MWF STAFF’S FAVOURITE BOOKS OF 2016 (PART TWO)

Tuesday 6 December 2016

Earlier this year, we gave you our favourite books of 2016 so far. With so many incredible books released this year, we thought it was time for part two. What were your favourites?


Lisa Dempster, Festival Director/CEO

Perhaps obviously, as she was MWF’s keynote speaker this year, one of my favourite books of the year was Maxine Beneba Clarke’s The Hate Race. A lyrical, funny and heartbreaking account of family, identity and growing up in Australia.

On the fiction front, I was recently captivated by George Haddad’s Populate and Perish, a fast-paced novella about a young man’s coming of age in Melbourne and Beirut. The writing is sharp and the social commentary sharper.

Two collections that I adored and can’t recommend enough are Walking Towards Ourselves: Indian Women Tell Their Stories – containing moving mini-memoirs on power, politics and patriarchy – and The Near and the Far – stunning literary pieces by amazing writers from across the Asia Pacific region.


Shona Barrett, General Manager

I have relatively recently got into crime fiction as a genre, and discovered that I adore a good procedural (they satisfy my love of process and logistics, I guess). This year I have been raving to everyone about two Australian crime novels, Jane Harper’s The Dry and Emily Maguire’s An Isolated Incident. I read them back-to-back and they are very different but both explore the connection with land and community, the pressure cooker of small-town life, and the deeply problematic relationships between people. And in the same vein, I am currently half-way through Dave Warner’s Before it Breaks

In international fiction, I am still bowled over by Kate Tempest’s The Bricks That Built the Houses. It is a beautiful and brutal, poetic novel. I lived in south London for over a decade and I have never read anything that evokes what London means to me in the way this book does: its noise, its size, its people, how the city is awesome and beautiful and repugnant all at once.

And in non-fiction, Geoff Dyer’s Another Great Day At Sea made me smile so much. Dyer manages to make a travel memoir about life aboard an aircraft carrier an amusing and edifying narrative about the generosity, patience and nice-ness of our fellow humans, even those potentially engaged in the ultimately violent acts of military warfare.


Kylie Eddy, Marketing & Development Manager

My favourite book this year is Lindy West’s Shrill. West is an outspoken defender of women’s rights, gender politics and body positivity. In her New York Times bestselling memoir, she tackles all of these topics with her trademark humour. Delving deep into her childhood she provides heartfelt and totally relatable stories about how she found her voice. West bravely challenges the status quo and proves without a doubt that feminists can be funny.


Irene Kalpakas, Marketing Coordinator

2016 was the year for excellent Australian small-town crime fiction, it seems. I’ve already talked about how much I loved Emily Maguire’s An Isolated Incident, and I also greatly enjoyed The Dry by Jane Harper; now I’m adding Goodwood to that list. It’s kind of unfair to lump these all in together as even though they focus on murder or mystery in a small town, they are still very different and all brilliant reads. Holly Throsby gives us a charming, funny, heartbreaking story that I inhaled in one very late night.

I also count Maxine Beneba Clarke’s The Hate Race, Charlotte Wood’s The Natural Way of Things, Helen Garner’s Everywhere I Look and Clementine Ford’s Fight Like a Girl among my favourites from the year, and it was incredible to see these women at MWF16.


Jessica Alice, Program Manager

I loved Hera Lindsay Bird’s eponymous poetry collection Hera Lindsay Bird and its irreverent, poignant insights on desire and longing. It’s a book that appeals to people who don’t like poetry due to its accessible verse, but it’s also got this very Kiwi style that’s super refreshing. Elspeth Muir’s Wasted explores grief and memory and alcohol abuse in a way that really moved me. Her prose is beautiful and arresting and the narrative easily straddles both the personal and journalistic.


Sally McKittrick, Schools’ Program Producer

I must confess, 2016 has not been a massive reading year for me, however I have fallen in love with the life-enriching Danish custom of ‘hygge’ (pronounced hoogah) and it seems I’m not the only one. There have been no less than 9 books released on the subject this year! One such release, The Book of Hygge: The Danish Art of Living Well by Louisa Thomsen Brits, explores the Nordic philosophy and way of life for the Danes. It’s hard to define hygge, but loosely speaking it translates to a feeling of belonging, mindful appreciation of simple things and quiet moments of cosiness, comfort and contentment. Lighting a candle, cooking a wholesome meal, snuggling up with your loved one or sprawling on a picnic rug in the sun are all examples of hygge and I for one am keen to cultivate more of it in my life.


Jasmeet Sahi, Asia TOPA Program Producer

For me, there were two books that came at the tail end of the year by two writers that I admire very much: Michelle Cahill and Roanna Gonsalves. Michelle Cahill’s Letter to Pessoa forced me to pay attention even to the prepositions in the stories. They are simply from another world and have thrilled me to no end. She surprises with her ability to string together words in sentences that are quite unique in their construction, sometimes leaving you breathless. Roanna Gonsalves’s collection of short stories The Permanent Resident is as sharp as a tack in its observation and the stories are very real to me as a first generation Indian immigrant. I have yet to read an Australian work that follows these lives with this much honesty and kindness. A must-read!

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