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Staff Favourite Reads for 2015

Want to see what books Kingston Library Staff have been enjoying in 2015?

We asked staff to give us their top 3 reads for the year. We got some fantastic responses and recommendations. Why not reserve one or add it to your Summer reading list?

Tim

The Martian by Andy Weir

Science fiction meets science fact as one man’s story of survival plays out on the red deserts of Mars. I don’t think I have read a story that is as emotionally stirring and uplifting as that of Mark Watney, a must read story of survival.

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The Cartel by Don Winslow

The gritty underworld of Mexico’s drug cartels is laid bare in this exciting true tale of prison breakouts, assassinations, blood feuds and man hunts. Following on from the events in his amazing earlier novel The Power of the Dog, Winslow weaves together stories from both sides of the law during the past 30 years of the narcotics war. Eye opening and at some points unbelievable, this isn’t for the feint of heart.

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One True Thing by Nicole Hays

Life is hard as any teen will tell you: joining a band, staying in school, falling in love…what could make things harder? What if you were the Victorian Premier’s daughter on the eve of an election and your entire private life is about to be spilt all over the tabloids? Nicola Hays has written a great little contemporary Melbourne novel that will make you laugh, cry and vote conscientiously!

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Tanyia

A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

I think this is one of the saddest most heartbreaking books I have ever read. Full of distressing abuse and heartbreak, but ultimately a beautiful mediation on friendship and love. Books rarely make me cry, but I sobbed my way through the last 150 pages. My book of the year.

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Far From the Tree by Andrew Solomon

An incredible book, that has had a profound impact on the way I think and feel about parenting a child far from the tree (I have a son with autism). The depth of research, compassion and respect that Solomon shows for the hundreds of people interviewed and profiled is truly impressive. A masterpiece that I will continue to think and return to for a long time.

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The Natural Way of Things by Charlotte Wood

I have long been a fan of Charlotte Wood’s writing, but I was in no way prepared for what a knock out of a book The natural way of things would be. Intense, imaginative and utterly extraordinary The Natural Way of tells the story of a group of ten young women are imprisoned on a deserted farm in the Australian outback. They don’t know how they got there, all they know is that they were drugged and kidnapped beforehand. The story that unfolds is a complex and devastating one where you are compelled to keep reading in order to find out why this is so.

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Laura

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

A fascinating story about the resistance movement in France during WW 2. The book is really well written and kept me hooked.

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Emerald Springs by Fleur McDonald

A rural romance with a touch of mystery, I had to keep reading the book to see the resolution.

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Michelle

Reckoning: a memoir by Magda Szubanski

A very well written book. Insight into the struggles that she's had despite being a hugely popular entertainer.

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The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

I didn't see it coming, despite other people on goodreads thinking it was obvious. Easy read despite the annoyingness of the main character.

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A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James

Despite struggling a bit with the language (not the swearing- I'm used to that, but the Jamaican lingo) and the difficulty of just dipping in briefly (needs reading in a longer sitting), it is an interesting book and won this year’s Man Booker.

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Cathy

Young Skins by Colin Barrett

A collection of short stories from a new Irish writer. The characters are ordinary and flawed, the language real, raw and beautiful and the stories are often dark but sometimes unexpectedly uplifting.

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The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly by Sun-Mi Hwang

A simply told but moving story of an individual’s struggle for motherhood and freedom. It’s been described as a fable for our times and calls to mind both Charlotte’s Web and Animal Farm. I’ve recommended it to people who have language processing problems or low literacy.

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Bad Monkey by Carl Hiassen

Hiassen has a wicked sense of humour, a gift for characterization and a deep love for the Florida everglades! I read this in one sitting after a patron insisted I give it a go.

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Katrine

The Song Collector by Natasha Solomons

Beautifully written with an interesting storyline, about a man in his later years connecting with his musically talented grandson and the story of his past.

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A Paris Apartment by Michelle Gable

Fascinating account of an art house auctioneer who is given the task of valuing treasures from an apartment which was untouched for 70 years. The apartment contained items from several centuries as well as the diaries of the Parisian courtesan who accumulated the pieces. Based on a true story with lots of juicy details about life in the 18th and 19th centuries.

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All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

A story told in alternating short chapters about a French blind girl and a German orphan boy who live during the second world war. The best of human nature contrasts with the worst. Gorgeous and evocative descriptions of simple things, though the times the characters are living through are harsh.

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Jasmine

When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead

When you reach me by Rebecca Stead is a Junior novel which is almost a response to reading A wrinkle in time, that great classic in junior fiction. It’s a story about friendship and poverty and being 12, but then it’s also a mystery with a crazy twist in the tail. I loved this book and thought about it a lot after I’d finished it. It’s one I’ll read again, I have no doubt.

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The Aeronaut’s Windlass by Jim Butcher

Jim Butcher wrote the really fantastic 14 book series The Dresden Files, which was a masterful long work by the author weaving bits of story through all 14 books and keeping his main character Wizard Harry Dresden fun even through his darker days. Then he published is last book in the series and I was very sad until I discovered Patrick Rothfuss and his wonderful books. Unfortunately Patrick Rothfuss writes like treacle and is publishing a book every year and a half or two. So I’m ecstatic that Jim Butcher is back to churning out wonderful magic and adventure with such aplomb. His characters are wonderfully written and they have a vitality which leaps from the page, his pacing makes the book hard to put down and his plotting is excellent. I haven’t finished it yet, but I know this is going to be one of my favourite books of the year.

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Astrologer’s Daughter by Rebecca Lim

The astrologer’s daughter was a really intriguing mystery, it has a bit of reality bite to it and a lovely bit of whimsy too. It’s got a kick-ass main character and the story is riveting. I think it should have won the Inky. I loved it.

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Tony

Certain Admissions by Gideon Haigh

A true crime story of an infamous murder that occurred in Albert Park in the 1950s. It was incredibly well researched and cogently written. To add interest to the story I even had a borrower reserve a copy who said that her husband had danced with the victim.

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The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters

Not the sort of love story/murder tale that I normally take up but I found myself quite intrigued by the tale. I enjoyed the descriptions of the ebb and flow of the relationship between the two main characters. The London setting also made it more colourful.

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Camille by Pierre Lemaitre

This was the third of Commandant Camille Verhoeven trilogy featuring a very unusual French police detective. It was very well written with a plot that had more twists than a snake’s tale. The bad guy is a smart one who prepares his misdeeds with great skill and aforethought that places great demands on our detective’s initiative and maturity. The other books in the trilogy are gold standard too.

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Julie

Palace of Tears by Julian Leatherdale

This well-written Australian novel is a fictionalised story based around the Palace of Tears a magnificent hotel set in the Blue Mountains. The inspiration for the setting is the Hydro Majestic and the events of the 1900s including visits by Nellie Melba and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the devastating bushfires and the two world wars. The intricate intertwining of the stories main characters keeps you guessing and surprised up until the last page. Highly recommended.

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Close Your Eyes by Michael Robotham

I close my eyes and feel my heart begin racing. A mother and her teenage daughter are found brutally murdered in a remote farmhouse, one defiled by multiple stab wounds and the other left lying like Sleeping Beauty waiting for her Prince. Reluctantly, clinical psychologist Joe O'Loughlin is drawn into the investigation. He pits his wits against a merciless, unpredictable killer. A rollercoaster ride of a thriller.

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One of us: the story of Anders Breivik and the massacre in Norway by Asne Seierstad

Why do some in society lash out and create havoc? What contributes to the making of such individuals? Could society have changed the course of history?

On July 22, 2011, Anders Behring Breivik detonated a bomb outside government buildings in central Oslo, killing eight people. He then travelled to a youth camp on the island of Utøya, where he killed sixty-nine more, most of them teenage members of Norway’s governing Labour Party. Åsne Seierstad a renowned journalist tells the story of this terrible day and what led up to it. What made Breivik, a gifted child from an affluent neighborhood in Oslo, become a terrorist? A well written and well researched book that will leave you thinking long after you have read the last page.

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The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough

What a joy to revisit this Australian classic by the master storyteller Colleen McCullough.

‘The Thorn Birds’ spans three generations of the Cleary family, focusing mostly on Meggie and her love of a man she can never possess Ralph de Briscassart who rises from parish priest to the inner circles of the Vatican but whose passion for Meggie will follow him to the end of his days.

A powerful story of 3 generations of the Cleary family set against 20th century Australian history.

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Linda

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

In August 1944 the historic walled city of Saint-Malo on the coast of Brittany, France was almost entirely destroyed by fire from Allied bombing. Of the 865 buildings within the walls, only 182 remained standing and all were damaged to some degree.

I enjoyed following the parallel lives of Marie-Laure, a young, blind girl from Paris who is sent to Saint-Malo and the relative safety of her uncle’s house, and the other of Werner, a young German orphan who is found to be very good at fixing radios and is hence sent off to the Hitler Youth Academy. Similar to The Book Thief, this tale is from the teenager’s points of view, what they experience and how little the strategies and politics of war make any sense to them. With beautiful imagery and delicate details of everyday life in wartime Europe I found this an engrossing tale and highly recommend it.

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Butterflies in November by Auður Ava Ólafsdóttir, Brian FitzGibbon (Translation)

It has taken a number of years for this very quirky Icelandic tale to be translated, and with its very particular ‘voice’ it may just have been on the ‘too hard’ list. But gosh it’s fun - whimsical even. With a road trip, a very particular woman, an even more particular boy and a transient menagerie of animals you really have no idea – despite it being a road trip – where you’ll end up.

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The Bullet-Catcher's Daughter by Rod Duncan

Familiar 1800s history in a parallel universe of the Steampunk genre (with a bit of cross dressing for added adventure), I recommend for anyone who likes adventure with a bit of almost-historical fiction.

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Carolyn

A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

Riveting. A deeply moving work about what gives meaning and joy to life. Set in New York in an indeterminate present, I would not normally expect to enjoy a book so strangely devoid of external references (e.g. 9/11), but this one won me over.

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This Changes Everything: capitalism vs the climate by Naomi Klein Cat

A dense but immensely well written work by the author of No Logo and The Shock Doctrine. I needed a couple of dedicated days of reading over Easter to get through this but it is well worth it for anyone wanting a thorough update on the issue of climate change. Bear in mind though that, as the title suggests, it is written from an anti-capitalist perspective.

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The Silence of the Sea by Yrsa Sigurdardottir

My favourite Icelandic author. Yrsa Sigurdardottir writes mysteries with a dash of horror thrown in. The result is a riveting pageturner not recommended for the small hours of the night!

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Jan

Golden Boys by Sonya Hartnett

Shortlisted for the 2015 Miles Franklin Literary Award, ‘Golden Boys’ is Hartnett at her finest. It is the story of two very different families as seen through the eyes of the eldest child in each. Hartnett brilliantly captures the world of children on the cusp of puberty and the realisation that their parents are fallible. Her prose is exquisitely crafted, no line is wasted. As always with Hartnett there is an undercurrent of menace which will be familiar to readers of the acclaimed ‘Of a Boy’.

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Debbie

Inside the O’Briens by Lisa Genova

Inside the O’Briens is the latest novel by Lisa Genova. Lisa was the author of Still Alice. Inside the O’Briens focuses on an Irish Catholic family of six who live in America. The story centres around the father Joe O’Brien who is diagnosed with Huntington’s Disease. A lethal neurodegenerative disease which he may of passed onto his four children. Each child has to decide to take the necessary test to see if they have the gene that carries this disease where there is no cure or treatment.

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The Dalai Lama’s Cat by David Michie

This book was published in 2012 so you may not wish to include in your booklist. The Himalayan kitten is rescued from certain death if not for the kindness of the Dalai Lama . This book is written through the eyes of the kitten who grows into a beautiful and much admired Himalayan cat. This book provides us with a feline guide to Buddhism.

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