2015 Staff and Reader Picks

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Best of 2015

Our staff and readers share their favourite reads of 2015.

Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami

Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage was a beautifully and vivid book that made an unknown world jump off the pages and told a story of isolation and loneliness.

Reader pick by Skye


We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo

Shortlisted for the Man Booker in 2013, this is the story of an impoverished Namibian childhood. Darling is the name of our small heroine who lives in the shanty community of Paradise. The scenes, the voices, and the themes ring rock solid true. It is, in turns, very funny, absolutely tragic and achingly sad; but always sensitively and beautifully written.

Staff pick by Julie


The Good Sleeper by Dr Janet Kennedy

As a new dad, I found this book to be very helpful, easy to read and with some great practical advice to help newbies with learning all about sleeping babies.

Reader pick by Jose


The Blue Duck’s Real Food by Mark LaBrooy and Darren Robertson

This second cookbook from Bronte and Byron Bay Three Blue Ducks chefs is full of tasty wholefood recipes that reflect their mindful eating way of life.

Staff pick by Brigid


The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver

Because it was such a relaxing read, written in a very conversational style with the narrative being related in the first person and the storyline moving along smoothly to a feel-good ending!

Reader pick by Lina


All My Puny Sorrows by Miriam Toews

Because it was brilliant - both uplifting and desperately sad. To give a synopsis of this story wouldn’t really tell you what it was about or why it was so great so I won’t. It’s simply a beautifully written and moving tragicomedy.

Staff pick by Kate


The Ecliptic by Benjamin Wood

Was the best book I read all year due to its beautiful writing, unique storyline and characters that begged you to be emotionally invested in!

Reader pick by Oliver


Flesh Wounds by Richard Glover

This memoir about Richard Glover’s childhood and youth spent surviving crazy parents is entertaining, hilarious, sad and optimistic.

Staff pick by Janet


Hullabaloo in the Guava Orchard by Kiran Desai

The first book I picked up, 8 months after being inducted to parenthood and the first book I read to my daughter.

Reader pick by Laverne


Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

Because it was the most optimistic and hopeful post-apocalyptic novel I have ever read, and because it had a wonderful narrative structure that made it a really gripping read towards the end.

Staff pick by Jenn


The Natural Way of Things by Charlotte Wood

My top read was the thrillingly original The Natural Way of Things by Charlotte Wood, a book that seamlessly combines horrific plot with startlingly poetic writing, creating an alternative Australia that chilled and shocked me with it prescience.

Reader pick by Ailsa


The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

A gripping read. Perfect holiday reading.

Staff pick by Corinna


In the Heart of the Sea by Nathaniel Philbrick

Because it is not the sort of book I would normally read, but I found it fascinating and very well written.

Reader pick by Pat


The Fate of 10 by Pittacus Lore (Young Adult)

This is #6 in the Lorien Legacies (I Am Number 4) first book in series. It's an addictive read a mix of fantasy, science fiction, super heroes and lots of action. In this book we learn more about the history of Setrakus Ra and John (Number 4) hones his new abilities.

It's a terrific series suitable for young adults and adults with a cliff hanger ending. I can't wait for the next one to see what happens. Why not start off with I Am Number 4 and work your way through the series.

Staff pick by Vicki


The Bronze Horseman by Paullina Simons

I could not put it down as this Russian love story and WW11 plot made me appreciate my daily life and how fortunate I've been to grow up in Australia compared to the times of war and starvation described in this book.

Reader pick by Fiona


Playing It My Way by Sachin Tendulkar

That was my fav.

Staff pick by Zico

Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff

Fates and furiesFates and Furies is a novel about a twenty four year marriage, but it is also a novel about marriage itself, creativity, art, love, mythology and perception.

Lauren Groff, one of the greatest writers of her generation, presents the story of Lotto and Mathilde – a glamorous, attractive, smart and passionately in-love couple - throughout their marriage beginning at the age of twenty two. They are still the picture of lust and happiness and the envy of their friends a decade later. To the reader though, as we delve into both Lotto and Mathilde’s unique perspectives; the relationship begins to appear far more complex and far less picture perfect.

Fates and Furies is a dazzling examination of a marriage and a creative partnership. It is the very embodiment of the notion that every story has two sides.
This novel is a joy to read, as profound and propulsive as it is moving.

December Staff Pick by Kate, Senior Lending Officer

Everyday Super Food by Jamie Oliver

Everyday Super FoodJamie Oliver's Everyday Super Food was published in August of this year and seen on Woollahra Library's shelf within a month! I was lucky enough to have had the portrait of UK's favourite chef laughing on the cover catch my eye.

The recipes focus on incorporating whole-foods into our diets and into our busy lives as each one briefly describes not only its nutritional value, but also the (short) time it takes to make. Simple, healthy and exciting dishes, and beautiful photos, this cookbook was a joy to borrow and read through. Thanks Woollahra Library!

November Reader Pick by Elise, Library Member

Nightcrawler (DVD)

NightcrawlerLou Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal) is a desperate but driven man. Craving to work, he stumbles upon the world of freelance crime journalism where camera crews film car crashes, fires etc. As the victims become a monetary game to Bloom, will he step over the line from being an observer to being a participant?

For most of the film I was waiting for what reviews claimed was ‘A modern masterpiece’. I persevered and BOOM, the plot started unravelling in front of my eyes. In the last twenty minutes of the film, I was in shock.

October Staff Pick reviewed by Ryan, Senior Lending Officer

Don’t Look Back by Karin Fossum (e-Audiobook)

Dont Look BackA feisty five-year-old girl is reported missing, last seen getting into a white van near her home in an idyllic village near the foot of Norway's Kollen Mountain. Soon Inspector Konrad Sejer and his assistant Jacob Skarre are investigating a murder within a small community where many secrets are hidden behind a veneer of solid respectability.

The main focus of this expertly constructed police procedural is however not the question of 'whodunit' but the psychology of the crime. The story is told from several view points which expose a dormant darkness in seemingly routine lives. The effect of the crime on the victim's family, friends and neighbours, the perpetrator and the investigators is emphasised. Konrad Sejer does not dominate the book to the extent that many fictional police do, such as Henning Mankell's Kurt Wallander and Ian Rankin's John Rebus.

Karin Fossum's writing style is elegant and precise and her Inspector Sejer books have been compared to Ruth Rendell’s Inspector Wexford series. The short chapters and simple yet compelling language combined with the velvet voice of David Rintoul made this an excellent book to listen to.

There are twelve books in the Inspector Sejer series, eleven of which have been translated into English, the most recent of which is The Drowned Boy, published this year. Don't Look Back is read by David Rintoul (9 hours 7 minutes) and is Book 2 in the Inspector Sejer series.

September Staff Pick reviewed by Trish, Collection Services Officer

So You've Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson

So Youve Been Publicly ShamedSome people are famous for fifteen minutes; others are infamous.Have you ever wondered what happens to the people who momentarily become a figure of enormous public hate? Jon Ronson has an unnerving experience on Twitter, and it leads him down a wormhole of finding people, some famous, some ordinary folk, who have been publicly shamed for transgressions large (plagiarism) and small (sending a bad joke to their Twitter of Facebook friends). Ronson checks in with these people over a span of months, and charts the consequences of their shaming along with a select history of punishment.

An interesting read in the age of social media, where the course of your fortunes can change in an instant, or with a hashtag.

August Staff Pick

Carlotta (DVD)

CarlottaImmediately when this aired on ABC earlier this year, I suggested this biopic be ordered for the Woollahra Library collection.  I felt it was important for this DVD to be added to our collection, as Carlotta is not only an iconic Australian figure, but she paves the way for whoever feels different and excluded from society.

This film touches on and blends many of the people Carlotta met in her life. I assure you, you will laugh, cry and begin to understand that in order to be true to ourselves, we must dispel what holds us back.

Take home this item now.

July Staff Pick reviewed by Ryan, Senior Lending Officer

The Fault In Our Stars by John Green

Fault in our starsCentring on two characters, Hazel Grace and Augustus Waters, both meet in a cancer support group and fall in love and live happily ever after. Not quite. Hazel had resigned herself to the fact she is about to die when in walks Augustus, completely changing Hazel’s perspective on life forever.

This is not your typical teenage romance, and the critically acclaimed novel was also adapted to film in 2013. As an avid reader and a possible cinema addict, the film complements the book by staying true to the story and the loving interaction between the two characters. While the surprise element is softened in the film, the actress Shailene Woodley still provides punch and brings the character Hazel Grace to life in the crucial scenes.

Woollahra Libraries have the book, audiobook and film available to borrow, and I highly recommend listening to the audiobook. Both the book and film have moments where you will laugh, cry and be surprised; the audiobook narrator captures all of this with the many characters she portrays.

June Staff Pick reviewed by Ryan, Senior Lending Officer

My Dog Doesn't Like Me by Elizabeth Fensham

My Dog Doesnt Like MeHave you ever had a dog in your family? This is the ideal book for children to learn in a comical way about the responsibilities of looking after a pet. Eric is an 8 year old boy who goes with his family to select a dog from the animal shelter – it’s a tough choice! ‘Ugly’ the dog is taken home and Eric has lots of discussion with his friends at school and with his Grandfather as he works his way through a list of helpful suggestions to encourage his dog to love him – or even want to spend a bit of time with him. The story highlights the special bond between Grandpa and Eric and lots of life skills involving tasks, rewards and commitment.

It’s a great junior fiction book that is a trip down memory lane for adults and thought provoking for children when they think that they ‘do everything’ for their pet when it is in fact Mum that does the bulk of the work. Sound familiar? Borrow this terrific ‘tail’ to find out more as it is perfect for all ages - particularly 6+.

May Staff Pick reviewed by Vicki, Children and Young Adult Officer

Birdsong (DVD)

BirdsongBirdsong is a love story set during the first world war in France about a young English man and his affair with a married French woman.

The film explores the tragedy of war and the comradeship that developed between men living in such close quarters in the trenches. This was a good film that really made you think about war and is quite relevant in this year when we are thinking about the 100th anniversary of Gallipoli (even though this story is set in Amiens).

Birdsong is an award winning television mini-series and is based on the novel by Sebastian Faulks.

April Staff Pick reviewed by Dianne, Librarian

Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout

Olive

Olive Kitteridge is a "novel in stories" set in the coastal town of Crosby, Maine. Olive is a retired maths teacher with connections to most people living in the small town. Olive can be grumpy, stubborn, opinionated and it seems very set in her ways. The interconnecting stories feature various residents of Crosby, sometimes Olive is a secondary character within the story.

What I loved most about this book is that you gradually get to know Olive and witness subtle changes to her character though each story. I enjoyed Olive's sharp wit and her observations of the residents and picturesque setting of her home town. This isn't a galloping read, it's more like visiting a small coastal town and wandering around. Olive Kitteridge was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 2009.

March Staff Pick reviewed by Bernie, Customer Service Librarian

The Babadook (DVD)

Babadook

Australian director Jennifer Kent’s 2014 debut feature film centres on Amelia (Essie Davis, of Miss Fisher’s Mysteries) a single mother looking after her 6 year old son Samuel (Noah Wiseman) and still grieving the loss of her partner who was killed in a car accident the day Samuel was born. Amelia struggles as Noah is a highly sensitive and imaginative child but also quite a handful.

One evening Noah finds a pop-up book in his room and asks Amelia to read it to him. The book called Mister Babadook, is about a supernatural creature; and once someone is made aware of its existence, the monster torments that person indefinitely. Amelia is disturbed by the book's contents, while a traumatized Sam becomes convinced that the Babadook is stalking them in their home. From this point something that starts out as a child’s overactive imagination clearly becomes something more sinister and disturbing.

Kent masterfully sets the tension and doesn’t use cheap thrills and effects to scare the audience but instead uses psychological terror and empathy for the main characters to great effect. Apart from being a genuinely scary movie The Babadook can also be seen as a narrative about grief, loneliness and the difficulties and pressures of motherhood, with outstanding performances from the always reliable Essie Davis and young actor Noah Wiseman.

Although this film was well received by critics locally and overseas, it was sadly largely ignored at the Australian box office when it was released last year. Hopefully it will now find an audience on DVD.

February Staff Pick reviewed by Fiona, Collection Development Librarian