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Staff Favourite Reads of 2020

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 2020 and find copies in our library catalogue to borrow.

The Good Luck Girls
by Charlotte Nicole Davis
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Doing Time
by Jodi Taylor
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Children of Blood and Bone
by Tomi Adeyemi
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Mexican Gothic
by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
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All the Light We Cannot See
by Anthony Doerr
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The Trauma Cleaner
by Sarah Krasnostein
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After the End
by Clare Mackintosh
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The Last Drop of Blood
by Graham Masterton
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The Good Turn
by Dervia McTiernan
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The Harry Potter series
by J. K. Rowling
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The Wife and the Widow
by Christian White
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Rebel with a Cause
by Jacqui Lambie
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by Chris Hammer
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Year of the Monkey
by Patti Smith
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In the Dream House
by Carmen Maria Machado
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Memories of the Future
by Siri Hustvedt

"This is a fascinating read, being mostly biographical as the author writes about her twenties from her sixties and intersperses a fictional story she was writing at that time. Like observing the life of another person, she becomes reacquainted with her younger self from clues in scattered diary entries, rather than a clear memory of it. She reflects thoughtfully on her survival in a sometimes-harsh New York as she begins what later became a very successful writing career. I confess to skipping over most of the fictional story, finding her real life much more satisfying to read about, but did appreciate all the little drawings and photos sprinkled in, and how different this was to everything else I read this year."

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Where the Crawdads Sing
by Delia Owens

"A fascinating story of an abandoned girl who lives in a makeshift cabin amongst the marshlands of North Carolina.

"An evocative story which brought the flora and fauna of the area to life during a murder mystery investigation. I can't wait to see it made into a movie."

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Alice to Prague
by Tanya Heaslip

"A charming true story of an outback girl who finds adventure-and-love on the other side of the world."

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Advanced Style: Older and wiser
by Ari Seth Cohen

"Shows senior street style and inspiration from all over the globe with an emphasis on New York. The book distils wisdom and lifestyle secrets from the portrait subjects."

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The Loudest Voice in the Room
by Gabriel Sherman

"This book was the basis for the television series of the same name and the film Bombshell. Ailes was a fascinating character, very intelligent and with a great grasp of media and its role in contemporary politics. The book covers his relationships with Rupert, Lachlan and James Murdoch and how they built Fox News between them. Ailes was also a repulsive human being as the reasons behind his fall (unfortunately not covered by the book) show. He became even too much for Rupert. Trump has said that he misses Ailes - enough said."

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The Holocaust: A new history
by Laurence Rees

"This was a very readable and well-researched book about an appalling event. It gives a horrifying account of how the crime started and a year-by-year history and how it was a remarkably haphazard event. Hitler was a rabid anti-Semite from the beginning of his career and called for their complete removal from German life but mass murder was not part of his declared plan. Rees has researched, archives, memoirs and interviewed survivors and witnesses to write a superb book."

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The Hound of the Baskervilles
by Arthur Conan Doyle

"I first read this as a teenager and my enjoyment of it then was repeated quite a few years later. I loved the opening chapter when Holmes and Watson discuss the walking stick (a Penang Lawyer) left behind at 221B Baker Street by Dr Mortimer and have wanted such a stick ever since. The plot is interesting in itself and so are the range of characters that occur through it. The puzzle is a credible one centred around a diabolical dog and a family curse. Conan Doyle is very skilled at creating a spooky Baskerville Hall and the forbidding Grimpen Mire in Dartmoor. It is a classic mystery."

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Agent Running in the Field
by John le Carré

"John le Carré's latest novel shows that after 60 years of writing acclaimed spy thrillers the author had lost none of his knack for suspense or skill at crafting complex espionage stories that seem firmly steeped in the real world. Set in the UK during the contemporary chaos of Brexit and Trump (but published pre-2020 pandemic), Agent Running in the Field centres around a contemporary British Secret Service operative who inadvertently becomes embroiled in a Russian spy plot through a chance meeting at his badminton club. This exciting page-turner may not be as intricate and le Carré's classic earlier novels, but it's clever, suspenseful and sure to please fans of smart spy fiction."

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Me: Elton John official autobiography
by Elton John

"This book covers his life, good and bad, and it seems that he has genuinely written about everything - childhood, fame, music, addictions, health, interests, and relationships. After 50 years in the music industry, he has some interesting stories. It is incredible that he wrote the music to Your Song in 15 minutes over breakfast."

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488 Rules for Life: The thankless art of being correct
by Kitty Flanagan

"Funny, quick, easy to read book. I read it with a continual 'Yes!'. "Rule 351: You have Friday and Monday to talk about the weekend's game. That's it. One day of pre-game chatter and one day of post-game chatter, then let it go." I thought I would add that one in for the AFL obsessed."

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I Am About to Lick Your Human
by Kate Pullen

"Lovely doggy dedication. This may sound weird but I thought the smell of my dog's paws was familiar and when I read this book I found out what it was!"

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The Weekend
by Charlotte Wood

"A beautifully written book about friendship and ageing. It is set around three friends redefining their relationship after their beloved friend - the lynchpin of the group - dies and they meet to clear out her beach house."

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Your Own Kind of Girl
by Clare Bowditch

"I recommend listening to this as an audiobook as there is something special about listening to Clare read her own story, and as it is not necessarily chronological - it is more like sitting down for a chat with a friend. However when I say chat, this is not a light-hearted, shallow book as Clare talks a lot about her mental issues and the heartbreak her family went through when she was a young girl."

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The Boy from the Woods
by Harlan Coben

"An easy, fast-paced, enjoyable read (despite one of the characters being called Crash!)."

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Humankind: A hopeful history
by Rutger Bregman

"This book tackles one of the biggest philosophical questions: our human nature. Does our human nature lean towards good or evil? Using sociology, psychology and history, historian Rutger Bregman weaves a powerful and positive argument, a hopeful history that recounts and demonstrates we lean towards to the good. A very timely book with a great message that is a really enjoyable read."

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The Grot: The story of the swamp city grifters
by Pat Grant

"A dystopian Australia suffering environmental collapse and traumatised by a plague. It's hot, it's wet, it's dirty and grimy and the land is full of scammers and scoundrels who will do anything to get ahead. Pat Grant's new graphic novel is a page turning and timely book that explores inequality with his trademark biting humour and detailed, at times deliberately, art style and punk rock attitude."

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The House
by Paco Roca

"Three siblings who have grown somewhat apart from each other reunite a year after their father's death to empty his house and prepare it to be sold. As they perform the mundane tasks of cleaning up and fixing the house, memories, grudges, and emotions come to the surface. At once intimate and universal, The House is a perfectly balanced book with subtle and yet powerful storytelling."

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Paying the Land
by Joe Sacco

"The Dene people of Northwestern Canada have lived there for thousands of years. In their culture, the land owns them and is central to their lives and being. Graphic journalist Joe Sacco, reports how an education system was set up 'to remove the Indian from the child', the destructive policies of the Canadian government and the Dene's struggle to revive their culture. The master of non-fiction graphic journalism is back with another masterpiece."

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Slaughterhouse Five
by Kurt Vonnegut, Ryan North, and Albert Monteys

"A time hopping science fiction classic that explores the horrors and tragedy of war. Kurt Vonnegut's anti war classic shines in this graphic novel adaptation with Ryan North's faithful adaptation and Albert Monteys' perfect art style."

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The Other Windsor Girl: A novel of Princess Margaret, royal rebel
by Georgie Blalock

"This fiction based on fact novel is a tale of two young women. One a famous princess and the other an aristocrat who not only becomes her friend but also her Lady-in-Waiting. This page turning novel will appeal to anyone who has been enjoying watching series The Crown."

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Stalin's Wine Cellar
by John Baker

"Every now and again a book is published about something that is unusual and interesting. There is nothing unusual about wine merchants or stores that sell expensive wine, but what John Baker helped to discover was a wine collection that had a really interesting history. His story behind its discovery makes for an engaging read, with adventure, drama, history and a bit of archaeology all thrown into the mix."

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The Secret Life of the Savoy: And the D'oyly Carte family
by Olivia Williams

"The Savoy is one of those iconic hotels well known for its luxury, location and the rich and famous people that have visited and stayed there. Less well known is the D'oyly Carte family who created and run it for three generations. Each stamped their own style and personality on the hotel. As much as I enjoyed the snippets and stories about the hotel and its guests, I found the story about this family fascinating"

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When Life is Not Peachy: Real-life lessons in recovery from heartache, grief and tough times
by Pip Lincolne

"The perfect book for 2020. This is a beautiful book full of calm and gentle self-care practices and advice for anyone going through a tough time.

"If you're not into self-help books but have been feeling the need for one this year, then this is one to be highly recommended as it doesn't preach to you or suggest all the same old tricks that many self-help books do. Pip writes about her own struggles while suggesting what worked for her. The book is beautifully laid out and is as visually appealing as it is comforting to read."

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Home Stretch
by Graham Norton

"Graham Norton is a wonderful storyteller. This compelling novel is full of secrets, drama, stigma and the reverberations felt after tragedy. Set in a small town in 1987, a car accident leaves everyone devastated. We follow Connor, the driver, as he tries to forget his past and begin a new life while his family are left behind longing for the day he comes back home."

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Open Book
by Jessica Simpson and Kevin Carr O'Leary

"Both my current self and inner preteen were very excited about the release of Jessica Simpson's book in February this year and it easily became one of the best memoirs I've read. Jessica's writing is honest and open and she doesn't hold back, letting readers into her most private moments whether they are moments of celebration or defeat."

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Boy Swallows Universe
by Trent Dalton

"I didn't actually read it but listened to it on audio CD. A friend of mine said she didn't know what the fuss was about, it's just a story about a boy growing up on the wrong side of the tracks in QLD. But it was so much more to me - it was the sound of the words, the language, the dialogue rendered more rich and real and exquisite in the listening. It was hopeful and a little harrowing, a story of survival for some, payback for others and triumph for... well that would be telling. Recommend you read this quintessentially Australian novel."

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Phosphorescence: On Awe, Wonder and Things That Sustain You When the World Goes Dark
by Julia Baird

"Phosphorescence is a really interesting voyage into humanity, beauty, nature and appreciating the awe in the world."

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Alias Grace
by Margaret Atwood

"Alias Grace was beautifully written, a real page turner as the reader explores the story of a young woman imprisoned for life for a heinous crime, which she may or may-not be guilty of."

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A Head Full of Ghosts
by Paul Tremblay

"A Head Full of Ghosts is for those of us who love a good scare. A haunting? A possession?? Or is it something more sinister??? Super creepy!"

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Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder
by Caroline Fraser

"This book explores the history and journey of American children's author Laura Ingalls Wilder through 19th century USA. Whilst it was a return to those childhood novels, the book also gives a much broader image of Wilder's life, exploring events as recalled within her stories but also those historical details Wilder glossed over, adding much greater nuance to the world of Little House and the American pioneer."

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The Midnight Library
by Matt Haig

"If there was one book for every decision you ever made, every regret you wish you could undo, every unfulfilled plan, which book would you wish to open and experience? What if you could keep choosing a different book until you found the life you truly wanted? This story is not just about protagonist Nora Seed, but about what it is to live a life fulfilled, what it is to experience the different versions of ourselves. Haig's writing is beautiful and poetic, weaving in bits of sci-fi, literature, philosophy and magic whilst so eloquently investigating what it means to be human."

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Geese Are Never Swans
by Kobe Bryant and Eva Clark

"I walked away from this book with tears in my eyes. This story was both harrowing and filled with unpleasant reality checks, but it was also ultimately hopeful. These characters were complex - messy, and angry and sad, but also filled with hope, with dreams and a desire to define yourself against others. Whilst Olympic aspirations were a key element of this book, it encapsulates so much about depression and grief, but even with so much darkness, there is time to heal and that you have the power to make your own happy ending."

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The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue
by V. E. Schwab

"Addie LaRue, a French country girl, prays for freedom on the eve of a marriage she doesn't want. She's granted her wish, but it comes at a cost, and for the next 300 years she lives every day never ageing, watching the world change around her, knowing that she can never be remembered. And after years spent believing she'll always be forgotten, she meets a man in a bookstore who can remember her name. And when those around won't know you when they walk away, how do you be yourself? What consequences should you be facing and which ones do you wish you could be free from?"

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None Shall Sleep
by Ellie Marney

"Ellie Marney is an award-winning YA crime author, known for not pulling any punches. This novel does not disappoint in that regard. A page-turning psychological thriller featuring a teenage serial killer and two fledgling FBI profilers sent to interview him, None Shall Sleep lives up to the promise of its title. Emma Lewis, psychology students and survivor of a serial killer; and Travis Bell US Marshall trainee and son of a cop murdered by a serial killer are enlisted by the FBI to profile teenage serial killers. Slowly they are drawn into the tangled web of the manipulative and deadly Simon Gutmunsson who seems to have insights to offer in a current FBI case. This is an accomplished and well realised crime thriller, for older young adults, and for other adults too. Highly recommended for ages 16 and up, due to some pretty grisly scenes."

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The Year the Maps Changed
by Danielle Binks

"This debut novel, written with a deft touch, draws on events and places from Binks's childhood to infuse this coming of age story with an authenticity that is hard to deny. Winnifred (Fred) is a well-defined and affecting character. Still working her way through the grief of losing her mother five years earlier, she struggles with changes happening in her small family. When we meet Fred, her beloved grandfather Jeff is in hospital. With his steadying presence taken away, Fred finds coping with other changes such as her father's new partner (and her son Sam) even more difficult. Then the Kosovo refugees start arriving.

"Fred's father, Luca, is a local police officer and Fred finds herself caught up in the plight of the displaced people escaping a war zone as her father is volunteering in the safe haven at Point Nepean. As Fred's life becomes further complicated by the pregnancy of Anika, her father's girlfriend, she becomes more and more anxious about the fate of the refugees.

"The way the author links these events shows her prodigious writing talent. Binks has commented that this novel was five years in the making, and the care she has taken shows on every page. Not only are the central characters convincingly realised, the supporting characters such as Fred's teacher Mr Khouri; her friend Jed, and Jed's mum Vi are great and add important depth to the story. There are sad times, confusing times, happy times and most of all, a big dose of hope contained in these pages. Suitable for ages 9 and up."

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1989 The Great Grand Final
by Tony Wilson

"Tony Wilson can write just about anything. Picture books, fiction for kids and adults, film, and podcasts are all in his wheelhouse. Where Tony excels, however, in my opinion is in writing non-fiction and, in particular, sporting non-fiction. His 2006 book, Australia United, about his 3 week at the Soccer World Cup is a great read. So too is this latest title in his ouvre. A long-time Hawthorn supporter, son of past player Ray Wilson, and former Hawks listed player, Tony brings a clear and cogent voice to this account of a legendary Grand Final. While I am not a Hawks supporter, I am a fan of AFL and this book captures everything I love about the game (and some things I don't). Wilson has managed to gather some great material, from both the Geelong and Hawthorn players of the time, and he presents a compelling read. The way the book builds the tension and recreates the memorable scenes from that last ever VFL Grand Final, is deft and thoroughly enjoyable. Highly recommended (even if you aren't a Cats or Hawks supporter)."

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by Patrick Ness

"The latest by Patrick Ness. YA literary God (in my eyes). Ness has won two Carnegie medals and when you start reading this book you can see why. There were moments as I read this beautiful novel set in a world of humans and dragons that I wept because the writing is just so perfect. The world-building here is second to none and the underlying message of self-love and acceptance has become Ness's signature theme. With the movie of his acclaimed Chaos Walking novels coming to screens in 2021, now is a great time to catch up with the genius of this brilliant author who says important things in a lyrical and heartfelt way. For ages 13 to 130."

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