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Staff Favourite Reads 2021

Looking for some reading recommendations over the summer?

Kingston Libraries' staff have come together once again to share their favourite books read over the past year! From fiction to nonfiction, graphic novels and young adult - there's a little something for everyone.

Browse below to see some of our favourite reads in 2021 and find copies in our library catalogue to borrow.

A Marquis in Want of a Wife
by Louise Allen
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A Promise of Fire
by Amanda Bouchet
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A Very Punchable Face: A memoir
by Colin Jost
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Australia to Z
by Armin Greder
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Before You Knew My Name
by Jacqueline Bublitz
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Big Lies In A Small Town
by Diane Chamberlain
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Broken:
In the best possible way

by Jenny Lawson
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Dark as Last Night
by Tony Birch
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Girl, 11
by Amy Suiter Clarke
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Great Circle
by Maggie Shipstead
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Honeybee
by Craig Silvey
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Invisible Differences:
A story of Aspergers, adulting & living a life in full colour

by Julie Dachez & Illustrated by Mademoiselle Caroline
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Life After Life
by Kate Atkinson
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Mirror Man
by Fiona McIntosh
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Piranesi
by Susanna Clarke
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Sex and Vanity
by Kevin Kwan
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Shadow over Edmund Street
by Suzanne Frankham
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The Adoption
by Zidrou
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The Animals in that Country
by Laura Jean McKay
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The Book of Australian Trees
by Inga Simpson
and Illustrated by Alicia Rogerson
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The End of Men
by Christina Sweeney-Baird
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The Good Turn
by Dervla McTiernan
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The Hollow of Fear
by Sherry Thomas
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The Library Book
by Susan Orlean
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The Man who Died Twice
by Richard Osman
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The Mother-in-law
by Sally Hepworth
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The Others
by Mark Brandi
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The River Home
by Hannah Richell
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The Scout Mindset:
Why some people see things clearly and other's don't

by Julia Galef
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The Silent Patient
by Alex Michaelides
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The Taking of Jemima Boone:
Colonial settlers, tribal nations, and the kidnap that shaped America

by Matthew Pearl
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The Testaments
by Margaret Atwood
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The Things We Cannot Say
by Kelly Rimmer
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The Truth About Her
by Jacqueline Maley
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The Vanishing Half
by Brit Bennett
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The Wild Silence
by Raynor Winn
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Wearing Paper Dresses
by Anne Brinsden
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When Will There Be Good News
by Kate Atkinson
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All Human Wisdom
by Pierre Lemaître

"This is the second volume in a between the wars trilogy and makes for a very absorbing read. It begins in early 1927 when the cream of Paris society gather for the funeral of the prominent banker Marcel Pericourt.

Pericourt’s grandson, Paul, has a spectacular fall from an upstairs window and lands in the middle of the funeral procession and sustains some serious, permanent injuries. Paul’s mother Madeleine soon finds herself betrayed by many she thought she could trust and instead of inheriting her father’s millions finds herself nearly bankrupt. Her revenge utilizing a list of very flamboyant characters makes for a most entertaining novel.

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Car Crash
by Lech Blaine

"A memoir by Australian writer Lech Blaine, it is centred around a devastating car crash when Lech was just 17. He walked away without a scratch, but three of his friends were killed and two were left in comas. Through some incredibly beautiful writing, Lech explores his years growing up in Toowoomba, Queensland; the love of the 'Aussie larrikin' and its ripple effects; and how he managed to find his way through a devastating tragedy. A compelling read."

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Chronicles from the Land of the Happiest People on Earth
by Wole Soyinka

"Acclaimed playwright and winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, Wole Soyinka has written his first novel in nearly 50 years. Chronicles from the Land of the Happiest People on Earth is a biting satire on the effects of power and greed in an imaginary Nigeria. Dr Kighare Menka, a physician, discovers that body parts are being stolen from his hospital for ritualistic practices. He takes the problem to his oldest friend, engineer and Yoruba royal, Duyole Pitan-Payne. But Duyole has his own problems. He is about to take up a prestigious post at the United Nations in New York but it seems that someone is determined to prevent him.

This book is partly a whodunit and partly a scathing indictment of political corruption. Soyinka has a virtuoso command of the English language that sent me running to the dictionary a few times. You need to concentrate when reading but the story well repays the effort and would make for a great holiday escape."

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Digging Up Dirt
by Pamela Hart

"Best holiday read suggestion."

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Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead
by Olga Tokarczuk

"Best book in translation"

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Educated
by Tara Westover

"Educated was published a few years ago now but I began reading it at the beginning of 2021...and finished it over a weekend. It is a memoir by Tara Westover, who shares with us her childhood as part of a Mormon fundamentalist family. It feels wrong to say that I 'enjoyed' this book as it was incredibly sad and distressing at times, but it had me absolutely captivated. Highly recommend."

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Flames
by Robbie Arnott

"I have only one. The debut novel of Tasmanian writer, Robbie Arnott – Flames.
I loved it and would happily read it again.
So difficult to describe and is like nothing else I’ve ever read!
As the blurb rightly states -
“…Utterly original in conception, spellbinding in its descriptions of nature and its celebration of the power of language, it announces the arrival of a thrilling new voice in contemporary fiction.”"

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Hitler’s Horses: the incredible true story of the detective who infiltrated the Nazi underworld
by Arthur Brand

"This is an amazing true story about two huge bronze horses which stood outside Hitler’s Berlin chancellery. After the war it was believed that they had been destroyed in the bombing but then Brand saw in a film shot before the end of the war revealing that they had been moved. Brand invents fictitious Texas millionaire who he pretends is a potential buyer of the sculptures and the very absorbing chase is on."

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If Not Us
by Mark Smith

"This is YA author Mark Smith’s first stand-alone novel (he is the author of the Road to Winter trilogy). Focused squarely on climate change as it’s theme, this is an accomplished novel by a writer really starting to win fans everywhere.
Teenage Hesse is a surfer living in a coastal town under the shadow of a coalmine and power station. His mum is actively involved in an environmental group trying to expose the illegal and dangerous practices of the station and have it shut down. Normally Hesse is just worried about where the next wave is coming from, but then he meets exchange student, Fenna. Fenna, who has echoes of Greta Thunberg about her, is highly intelligent, very self-assured, and wants Hesse to teach her how to surf. One night at one of the environmental group’s meetings at his house, Hesse finds himself volunteering to be a spokesperson for the group and their campaign. As his friendship with Fenna deepens, and his involvement in the group becomes more committed, Hesse discovers that speaking your truth can sometimes come at a cost. How far is he prepared to go to save the environment? And what is the price?
A great novel; timely, easy to read and very engaging. "

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Just Ignore Him
by Alan Davies

"Known to millions as the wise-cracking foil to Stephen Fry and now Sandi Toksvig on QI, Alan Davies gives us nothing to laugh about here. I have never cried so much reading an autobiography. THIS is not a fun read, but once you are there in the pages you feel compelled, obligated to keep going. Alan Davies had what can only be described as a horrifyingly difficult and lonely childhood. To have become the man he is today, witty, clever and at least on the surface, happy, is a testament to his resilience and the love of his mother which sustained him for years after her death when he was six. Sweetly sad but also terrifying, this is a powerful book which I have not been able to stop thinking about in the months since I finished it. Brilliant and tragic. "

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Morrison & Mr Moore
by Michael Hyde

"Seventeen-year-old Morrison is trouble with a capital T. He’s full of anger, frustration and passion - all of which he tries to damp down most of the time- except when it boils over and gets him into more trouble. That’s how he ends up sitting outside Principal Moore’s office.
Mr Moore invites Morrison to come and sit in his office, and thus begins a remarkable relationship. To say too much would be to provide spoiler-fodder and I don’t want to ruin your experience of reading this wonderful novel.
Michael Hyde is really on-song with his depiction of Morrison here. Morrison’s dialogue, both spoken and inner thoughts, is on the money - thoroughly believable. It doesn’t take long to become deeply invested in this flawed, but clearly gifted protagonist. Morrison’s friendship circle is small, but tight. Roxy, with whom he has been mates right through high school, is a mouthy, loyal, wannabe film director; and Petticoat Boy (Marcus) is a fabulous individual who is confident in their own skin - a great contrast to Morrison. Mention must also be made of Morrison’s Grandma, who has been a steadying and loving presence in a turbulent, parentless childhood. As the first and best example of a supportive force in Morrison’s life, she is simply beautiful.
Friendships, the good ones, the ones that mean something, come in all shapes, sizes and circumstances. Hyde’s representation in this novel is aspirational - from both an authorial and narrative perspective. The writing is economical, witty and emotional. This book is a triumph, as good as - or possibly better - than Hyde’s first YA novel, Max (which I also loved)."

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Night Blue
by Angela O'Keeffe

"I found the reading of this story intriguing as it is told from the point of the controversial painting by Jackson Pollack called Number 11 or more affectionately known as Blue Poles. This painting polarised Australian society in the early 1970's when Prime Minister Gough Whitlam approved payment of the record selling price of $1.3 million to purchase this artwork for display at The National Gallery. History has treated this purchase well with Blue Poles now the most often visited artwork in the gallery and its current value is astronomical."

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The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
by Mark Twain

"I read this over 50 years ago and loved it. So I returned to the Borrowbox eaudio version in my autumn years and discovered that it was still an absorbing story in itself. Now, however, I have a much better appreciation of the struggles Huck has with his conscience as he comes to terms with helping the escaped slave Jim and what is the correct thing to do on their various escapades on their trip down the Mississippi River."

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The Anarchy: The relentless rise of the East India Company
by William Dalrymple

"This too was a fantastic page-turner about the arrival and the growth of the British Empire in India. It tells of how a simple trading company became the number one power in a very foreign land. Dalrymple is a very skilled writer and historian and he concludes by warning  of what can happen to a polity when it collides with international “can do capitalism”."

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The Death of Francis Bacon
by Max Porter

"Look at a Francis Bacon painting or two before you read this.  Look close.  Look from afar.  Take it all in.  Feel.  Bewildered.  Fearful. Disgusted.  Now Read.
This short book is an astonishing twisting of emotions and words to consider what might be crashing around in a visual artist’s head in the final days of their living."

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The Deep
by Kyle Perry

"From the harsh but beautiful coastal setting, to the riveting and diverse characters and the twisting and turning plot - this is the novel of a writer really hitting his straps.
Set in the south-Tasman town of Shacktown, The Deep draws us into the seedy and violent world of the Dempseys; a crime family consisting of matriarch Ivy, and brothers Mackenzie (Mackerel) and Davey. They work in drug trade in partnership with a mysterious figure known only as the Dread Pirate Blackbeard. Everything is moving along nicely (as nicely as illegal pursuits can) - and then Forest, a boy long thought dead, turns up coughing and sputtering from the ocean.
Where has the boy been for 8 years? What happened the night he went missing? Where are the others who were with him? What does this mean for the Dempseys?
The Deep has a steady, building pace and Perry's plot twists made me gasp out loud at times, especially as the book neared its conclusion. It also has a lot to say about what it means to "be a man". The timely theme of toxic masculinity is an interesting thread through the novel and it's fair to say Perry leaves the read in no doubt about the devastating impact it has on men and those close to them (and those not close to them)."

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The Family Upstairs
by Lisa Jewell

"If you love an unsettling phycological thriller, or a captivating family mystery, this book is for you."

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The Good Sister
by Sally Hepworth

"I have found that listening to audiobooks on my commute to and from work not only helps me read more and keeps me entertained, but it’s also helped me rediscover my love of a great thriller. One of the great things about this one was the narrator, Casey Withoos, who also read Hepworth’s The Mother-in-Law. She is fantastic.
Sally Hepworth’s novels are all cast in “small” settings in suburbs close to Kingston and Bayside municipalities. Perhaps it is this that makes them so compelling. This story of Fern and her sister, Rose draws us in with what it doesn’t say, as much as what it does say. Rose is Fern’s protector – Fern’s grip on life at times seems tenuous as she doesn’t cope well with too much sensory stimulation, or changes to routine. But Fern has a good heart and is capable enough to hold down a job in a public library which endeared her to me straight away. When Rose discovers she is unable to have children. Fern makes it her mission to help her. How? By becoming pregnant herself and giving Rose the child – now she needs to find a father. Enter, Wally. Wally is mysterious and strange – a bit like Fern – but he is also kind and smart. Could he be the man Fern needs?
The road this novel takes, weaving in and out and around secrets in the lives of these twins, is intriguing and emotional. The truth of things, when it is finally revealed, will take your breath away. A cracker of a book."

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The Paris Affair
by Pip Drysdale

"Just like Pip Drysdales previous two books, this crime fiction is captivating and will have you hooked right from the beginning. "

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The Passenger
by Ulrich Alexander Boschwitz

"A tragic disturbing novel written in 1938 by a German Jewish young man about a successful Jewish businessman, Otto Silbermann who finds himself hunted and afraid in his own country. After Nazi thugs smash their way into his flat he takes to the trains and criss-crosses Germany trying not to be recognized as being Jewish and attempting to escape across the Belgian border. The story of the author as revealed in the end notes is also a tragic one."

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The Ripping Tree
by Nikki Gemmell

"An illustrious family. A beautiful home. A shipwrecked young woman left on its doorstep. Don't think they are going to save her.
The ripping tree opens with a grandmother reading letters to her grandchildren about an impressive historic estate, Willowbrae, the family has just visited. These letters start us on a journey into early 1800's Australia history.
A teenage girl brought up by her widowed father in England to be strong and opinionated. When her father dies, her brother takes responsibility for her and arranges to bring her out to Australia to marry a clergyman she has never met. Nearing the Australian coast a fierce storm wrecks the ship killing all bar our heroine. Her mysterious rescuer leaves her wrapped in bark from the ripping tree on the doorstop of Willowbrae. From there the story is one of honesty about the behaviour and attitudes both good and evil of the isolated family as they battle against the headstrong lead.
Gemmell is a skilled wordsmith who has written a powerful and gripping story which will leave you entranced and shaken by a powerful and gripping story that leaves you wondering what happened and why. You will continue to question what will happen to the characters as they move into their future."

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The Secret Life of Mr Roos
by Håkan Nesser

"This is the 3rd novel in the Inspector Barbarotti quintet. Published in English in 2020, it tells the story of Valdemar Roos who, at 59, is in a complete rut in his job and at home, and is tired of his life. Then he wins the lottery and is able to secretly quit his job and buy an isolated cabin in the woods. Anna Gambowska, a recovering drug addict on the run from her rehab centre and an abusive boyfriend, comes across the apparently deserted cabin, and thinks its just what she needs. Then something disastrous happens sending both Valdemar and Anna on the run, with Inspector Barbarotti following on their trail.
This is a well-written story in the Nordic Noir genre, set in Sweden. It has the requisite gloomy landscape – both literal and psychological – although Inspector Barbarotti has a happier life than most detectives in such stories. I found Valdemar and Anna’s stories compelling and couldn’t put the book down. This one is a must for Nordic Noir fans.
Night blue tells the story behind the painting, sale and displaying of Blue Poles. It casts the painting as the narrator, a narrator that knows and shares its history and at the same time listens to the goings on in the National Gallery over the decades. Night Blue is an invitation to engage, to see fiction with different eyes. This is a thought provoking and engaging read."

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The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle
by Stuart Turton

"A delicious mix of Downton Abbey meets Agatha Christie meets Groundhog Day.  Highly recommend the audiobook version via Borrowbox"

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The Space Between: Chaos. Questions. Magic. Welcome to your Twenties.
by Michelle Andrews & Zara McDonald

"Well known podcasters Michelle Andrews and Zara McDonald have artfully constructed an array of short essays which encapsulate the challenges, joys, and changes that make up being in your twenties. An insightful perspective into how these women have achieved great success at a young age."

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The Stand
by Stephen King

"I read a lot of Stephen King books this year, I fear he may have ruined all other authors for me as his writing is so incredibly brilliant."

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The Way it is Now
by Garry Disher

"If you like a little bit of crime and mystery set in the Aussie suburbs, then this new standalone Garry Disher novel is for you. Charlie Deravin has ventured back to the Mornington Peninsula after moving away years earlier. Facing disgrace at work and a broken marriage at home, Charlie travels back to his childhood home where, 20 years earlier, his mother disappeared, feared murdered. But now two bodies have been discovered and Charlie may finally find the answers he's been searching for for two decades."

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What Could be Saved
by Liese O'Halloran Schwarz

"This story follows the Preston family in Bangkok in 1972, where Robert ostensibly works for a building company, but is actually an intelligence officer, and life resembles a sheltered 1950s bubble for his wife and the three children behind the high wall of their home.  Genevieve’s weekly dinner parties are a sought after invitation, while the children attend an American school, and in between are nail salons, bridge games and the like - all supported by a hierarchy of Thai domestic staff. Then her brother goes missing after Karate class when everyone forgets to collect him, and he isn’t seen or heard of again for 47 years.  Is it really him? This story is a “delicious hybrid of mystery, drama, and elegance” (Jodi Picoult) and was enjoyed by everyone in my bookclub."

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With the Falling of the Dusk
by Stan Grant

"This is Australian journalist Stan Grant’s review of the current state of the world. He draws on his many years working as a foreign correspondent in Asia and elsewhere, his philosophical readings and personal experiences to show us a snapshot of our world at a time of crisis, and to ask the question: how should the West proceed, given that its global dominance is now being challenged?
Grant comes across as a pragmatist. This book is not long, but very thought provoking. It is a recommended read for anyone wanting a starting point for understanding the social and political complexities of our time. "

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