I read a lot of books, around 75 I think. I kept a tally for a while but lost track along the way. I tend to forget library books but made an extra special effort to remember this year. I’ve picked 20 of the best.
These are the ones that have stayed with me. Beautiful prose and poetry connects them all, as does a complex engagement with love, legacy, enigma and loss, both in the human and non-human world. With these writers I revisited motherhood, survival, madness, wellness, ageing, pain, countries, cats, foxes and bears and revelled in the solace of their words.
The Labyrinth by Amanda Lohrey
Cold Coast by Robyn Mundy
The Dictionary of Lost Words by Pip Williams
Eye of a Rook by Josephine Taylor
Everyday Madness by Susan Midalia
The Little Boat on Trusting Lane by Melanie Hall
Smart Ovens for Lonely People by Elizabeth Tan (short stories)
Everywhere I Look by Helen Garner (essays)
The Yield by Tara June Winch
Salt by Bruce Pascoe (essays and short stories)
Vociferate by Emily Sun (poetry)
What We Carry Edited by Kurz/King/Delahunty (poetry)
These books allowed me to travel to the past and to countries whose complex histories and cultures were deftly presented by writers new to me. Again, these books sustained me with story, memory, history, society – there were narratives about how language obscures and prejudice thrives, how women survive and children endure.
Victory Colony 1950 by Bhaswati Ghosh
Zahara and the Lost Books of Light by Joyce Yarrow
China Room by Sunjeev Sahota
Pachinko by Min Jin Lee
The Shadow King by Maaza Mengiste
Against the Loveless World by Susan Abulhawa
Girl, Woman, Other by Bernadine Evaristo
The Book of Delights by Ross Gay (non-fiction – a fabulously wise collection of micro essays)
And finally, I’m excited to share that my own book of short stories is forthcoming in January 2022. The Bonesetter’s Fee and Other Stories was a runner-up in the Carmel Bird Digital Literary Awards and is shortly to be made available in print, audio and digital versions.
I’ve been fortunate enough to receive endorsements from writers I admire, and here’s some of what they’ve said about the collection:
“Rashida Murphy compresses lifetimes into these nuanced and intimate stories where characters grapple with ways of being and belonging.” Michelle Michau Crawford
“Rashida Murphy writes with elegance and simplicity, paying homage to girls and their inner lives without losing sight of the absurdity of social expectations, and the sting of the daily humiliations women face.” Sisonke Msimang
“Crisp and observant, these stories give a voice to quiet experience.” Brooke Dunnell
“A luminous, skillfully-crafted collection about little lives narrated in a distinctively compelling voice.”
Roanna Gonsalves, judge, 2021 Carmel Bird Digital Literary Award