Books I read on holidays

And they were all fabulous!

I’ve just been on holidays and I took my iPad in case I felt the urge to write, and four novels that have been sitting on my bedside table for several months. The holiday was much needed, as I have been feeling complete burnout since about August when I launched FOUND, and I needed nothing more than to sit by the pool and read (or write). I didn’t write, although ideas still sloshed around inside my head, and instead I read.

These couple of weeks of reading reminded me of why I have always been such an avid reader. Since I was a young child reading Dr Seuss right through to now, I have always found peace and comfort inside the pages of novels. Now that I write my own, I am seeing books through completely different eyes and further appreciate the skill and absolute brilliance of other writers.

Everyone has their own unique way of saying things but the one thing good writers have in common, is that their words become part of you. They draw you into their characters, both real and fictional, and you are right there, in the moment with them. Crying and laughing, holding your breath and hoping things turn out okay when you know they won’t.
Then walking around long after you’ve finished thinking about what you’ve just read and mourning for what you’ve lost when you reach the end.

I generally don’t read many memoirs or non-fiction books, as my love affair has been with fiction from a very young age. But as I aim to become a better writer myself, I’m making a genuine effort to read more non-fiction and memoirs. There is only one fiction in this group of what I’m recommending highly for your holiday reading, and I must say I’m thoroughly enjoying expanding my reading horizons.

1. Bush Doctors by Annabelle Brayley
Bush Doctors is a brilliant collection of short stories, truly Australia, truly unique. Annabelle is a wonderful storyteller and has the ability to find the story behind the story, then brings that to the forefront to grab and hold your attention, before delicately filling in the back story. By the time you reach the end of each doctor’s story, you are completely engrossed in their lives and in awe of their courage and contribution to their communities. I have a personal link with Annabelle that we only discovered last year. My mother-in-law Lyn Pouliot, a retired teacher, used to volunteer as part of an outback angels program where retired teachers went to isolated properties to be in the classrooms of School of the Air children. The Brayley family was one of the families she spent time with, and so it was with great delight that Annabelle and I discovered each other through our writing, then realised the link! I absolutely loved this book and am now going to read all her others which include Bush Nurses, Our Vietnam Nurses. Outback Vets and Nurses of the Outback. I have gifted several copies of her books for Christmas and birthdays, highly recommended!

2. Love Your Sister by Connie & Samuel Johnson
This year I lost a long-time friend to cancer, and like Connie Johnson she was a wife and mother, and an amazing woman who we all miss very much. I have also been an avid follower of the Love Your Sister journey, like many others, and am in such admiration for the bravery it has taken for both Connie and Sam to make this journey such a public one. I love how Connie tells the story from her side, then Sam jumps in to tell it from his. The story is both inspiring and heartbreaking, heartwarming and devastating. The chapters I found most harrowing were the ones they added after the initial book was finished. Their updates after Sam finished his epic journey around Australia on a unicycle are raw, real, honest and compelling. Cancer spreads its reach far beyond the person who is suffering cancer itself and Connie gives us a no holds barred insight. Yes we’ve seen both Connie and Sam speak passionately on television, we’ve read Sam’s beautiful tributes to Connie since she died but until you take the time to read through these pages, you’ll never fully be able to comprehend just why Love Your Sister (which to date has raised over $7 million) is so vitally important as a vanquisher of cancer, both now and into the long-term future. DONATE HERE

3. Wimmera by Mark Brandi
Having spent more than 15 years living in the Wimmera in Western Victoria, it’s no surprise this novel jumped off the shelf and into my hands. Since it’s release this year I have enjoyed following its author Mark Brandi on social media, whose debut crime fiction has attracted broad praise, and I wanted to savour every moment once I was finally able to pick it up. Wimmera will stay with me for a long, long time. Its dark themes, beautifully crafted characters, strong sense of place and its ability to make you feel hot when it’s hot and feel scared when it’s scary. I am not going to sugar coat this book, it’s covers several very disturbing sides of everyday life. I deliberately didn’t read reviews or detailed synopses of the book before I read it and so it caught me by surprise in so many ways. I couldn’t put it down and anyone who tried to speak to me while I was reading got no response. I absolutely loved it.

4. I Am, I Am, I Am by Maggie O’Farrell 
At a recent writer’s course a word of advice stuck in my mind, read what you don’t normally read. This was a reminder of the philosophy of the book club a friend and I started in 2000 where ‘popular’ books were discouraged, but as the years passed I fell into the trap of reading mostly in my comfort genres. I Am I Am I Am was my foray into Memoir, and I chose well. There is so much to love about this book. It doesn’t follow a logical timeline and jumps from a young Maggie to an older Maggie back to a very young Maggie. But it is so cleverly weaved together that these jumps are connected in another, more meaningful way. Am so in awe of the writing, the language and the way the words take you deep into Maggie’s heart. I adore this book and can’t wait for a friend to read it so we can talk about it over wine.