Reading and writing in 2017

Phew. What a readerly/writerly adventure 2017 turned out to be. Thanks to my four-month Reading and Writing Sabbatical, I screamed past my previous personal-best record and ended the year with a whopping 105 books under my belt (averaging just over 2 books each week – not including repeats, journals or children’s books). Huzzah.

Fave reads and recommendations

Unusually for me, a couple of non-fiction books left by far the biggest impression in 2017. Reni Eddo-Lodge topped the favourites list with Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race (barely a single non-dog-eared page can be found in my copy), closely followed by Fight Like a Girl by Clementine Ford – both extraordinary and powerful calls to action that left me feeling like a stronger and better-equipped human for having read them.

Once again, a number of YA books also landed on the top of my list for the year, most notably The Bone Sparrow by Zana Fraillon and When Michael Met Mina by Randa Abdel-Fattah: both of which strike blows for social justice by aiming at more empathetic younger audiences. I also loved the young Aboriginal protagonist that showed me around my new Adelaide home in Jared Thomas’ Calypso Summer, enjoyed flashing back through four decades of Aussie YA with Kathy Lette and Gabrielle Carey’s still-shocking Puberty Blues, and returning to Orphancorp with Marlee Jane Ward’s Psynode. I also finished the Terry Pratchett memorial reading project that I kicked off following his death in March 2015, getting through the final 10 Discworld books and weeping like a baby at the end of The Shepherd’s Crown.

My fave fiction for the year was definitely Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City series, which I revisited in preparation for turning forty in San Francisco – as much in awe of Maupin’s compelling stories as their socio-political significance. My fiction-reading year began with my annual Easy Summer Series, which in 2017 was a double-header of Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander books and Charlaine Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse novels. I also fell in love with Corrina Chapman in Kerry Greenwood’s Earthly Delights series, renewed my affection for Stephanie Plum in Janet Evanovich’s numbers books, and delighted in the sassy, sexy Aboriginal women at the heart of Anita Heiss’ Manhattan and Paris Dreaming.

Poetry highlights for the year included 100 Chinese Silences by Timothy Yu and Hazards by Sarah Holland-Batt (both on the Poetry Book Club reading list during my last year in Melbourne), as well as the gently political Don’t Mention the Children by Michael Rosen.

Australian Women Writers

My reading list included 28 books by Australian women writers (27% of my reading total) for the #AWW2017 / #readwomen challenges, including posting micro-reviews on Twitter and Instagram.

Highlights for the year included being blown away Lisa Dempster’s journey in Neon Pilgrim and proud beyond measure to launch (and get a mention in) Sarah Vincent’s Death by Dim Sim. Continuing on with the #LoveOzYA theme, I also enjoyed Ellie Marnie’s Every Breath series, Lili Wilkinson’s Green Valentine and Take Three Girls by Cath Crowley, Simmone Howell and Fiona Wood.

We Need Diverse Books

I recorded 27 books as part of the #weneeddiversebooks challenge (26% of my reading total): “books where people of color can be first-page HEROES rather than second-class citizens. Books in which LGBTQIA characters can represent social CHANGE rather than social problems. And books where people with disability can be just… people.”

Two of my highlights not already listed above included Sister Heart by Sally Morgan and These Wild Houses by Omar Sakr.

2017 in Writing

For the eight months of the year that I still lived in Melbourne, I managed to maintain an early-morning writing routine. Add that to my four months of Reading and Writing Sabbatical in Adelaide, and I’ve probably never had such a efficacious writing year – adding pages and pages to several ongoing projects.

In my eighth year as a social media poet, I extended my daily practice on Twitter to include a series of meme-poems on Instagram as well. And I was thrilled to perform a selection of work alongside Maxine Beneba Clarke and Miles Merril at the 2017 Bendigo Writers Festival.

Other than that, I wrote a bunch of advocacy, strategy and research pieces (as well as poetry) for Writers Vic and my relaunched consultancy clients, and am settling into Adelaide’s literary community, with two workshops in the upcoming Writers SA program.

All in all, it was a reading and writing year to be proud of. Roll on 2018!

Author: katelarsenkeys

Arts, Cultural & Non-Profit Consultant. Reader. Writer (Our Hybrid Future, The Relationship is the Project). Researching the art of arts governance.

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