In January 2019, I blogged about the sixteen books which I’d read or dipped into during 2018 (My Year of Books). I’m a bedtime reader and often doze off with a book on my nose. Which is why I’m happy to report there were another sixteen fiction and nonfiction titles in my bedside books for 2019.

In last year’s blog post, I listed all the books I’d read with extracts from reviews I’d published on the writers’ website, Tall And True, or comments I’d posted about them to social media. I’m going to do similar this year, but only for my five favourites from 2019. It wasn’t easy to narrow down the list to five, but hopefully, this will give me more time for writing and reading.

Note: One of the titles below is missing from my 2019 bedside books photo because I’ve loaned it to a friend.

Also, click on a cover photo to learn more about a book or to buy it on — doing so helps support my blog posts.

All That I Am by Anna Funder

Published in 2012 and depicting events that led to fascism and world war seventy years ago, the resonance of All That I Am for today’s political climate is disturbing. Anna Funder’s Miles Franklin Award-winning account of the lurch to populism and nationalism and the disastrous consequences of appeasement in Europe should not be ignored. And it has one of the best first sentences I’ve ever read: When Hitler came to power I was in the bath.
All That I Am by Anna Funder

Beneath the Willow by Michael J Murphy

Beneath the Willow opens with a prologue set in rural NSW in 1953. It is a dark scene of fear and domestic violence. The novel then steps back in time and place to the working-class suburb of Balmain in 1915. Australia is at war in foreign lands and sons of families have answered her call to arms. Michael J Murphy had me invested emotionally in the lives of his characters and hopeful for their future. His is an outstanding debut novel and one which I highly recommend.
Beneath the Willow by Michael J Murphy

Boy Swallows Universe by Trent Dalton

The hoopla surrounding this book after its publication in June 2018 was phenomenal. Set in mid-1980s Brisbane, it’s the tale of two brothers, a lost father, a junkie mother, heroin dealers, murderers and an ex-crim babysitter whose jailbreaks earned him the nickname, Houdini of Boggo Road. What makes this book a little uncomfortable, is that it’s based on Trent Dalton’s life. Like the young protagonist, Eli Bell, his parents were heroin addicts and dealers in Brisbane in the 1980s.
Boy Swallows Universe by Trent Dalton

The Shepherd’s Hut by Tim Winton

My first Tim Winton novel was Cloudstreet, bought in 1992, just after he’d won his second Miles Franklin Award. I’ve since added ten more Wintons to my bookcase. I enjoyed reading each book, but, for me, none had the wow impact of Cloudstreet. When I finished reading the last sentence of The Shepherd’s Hut, I exhaled the breath I’d held for the final paragraph and exclaimed, Wow!
The Shepherd's Hut by Tim Winton

Stasiland by Anna Funder

Award-winning Australian author Anna Funder discussed her 2003 bestseller Stasiland on the Better Reading podcast in February 2019. Having visited Berlin as a backpacker in 1987 and 1995, Funder’s account of the East German secret police and the lives of East Germans before and after the Berlin Wall piqued my interest. And the book lived up to its cover blurb: “Stasiland is a brilliant, timeless portrait of a Kafkaesque world, as gripping as any thriller.”
Stasiland by Anna Funder

Do I have a number one among my favourites for 2019? Well, yes, but it’s from outside the five listed above. And it’s a favourite not because of the book itself (although I loved reading it), but for its inscription:

The Beatles 1962-1969 From Liverpool to Abbey Road by Ernesto Assante

You can never have too many Beatles books — and I have a good collection. This latest addition to my library was a parting gift from a young guy who I’d helped learn to drive and clock up his learner-log book hours and to whom I mentioned my love of the Beatles. Inside the cover, he’d written: “Thank you for your time, patience and good chats. It’s been a pleasure learning to drive with you.”
The Beatles by Ernesto Assante

Books bring so much joy to my life. I love reading and reviewing them, I love giving them as gifts, and I love receiving them, especially when they come with a message of thanks.

One month into the new year, and my pile of unread bedside books is already growing. Perhaps I need to go to bed earlier, so I can stop dozing off mid-chapter and read more books in 2020?

© 2020 Robert Fairhead

NB. This blog post is also published on the Tall And True. And you might like to read a selection of my books reviews on my blog. 

This post was proofread by Grammarly


Welcome to the blog posts and selected writing of a middle-aged dad and dog owner. Robert Fairhead is writer and editor at Tall And True, an online showcase and forum for writers, readers and publishers. His book reviews and other writing have appeared in various print and online media. And he has published two collections of short stories, Both Sides of the Story (2020) and Twelve Furious Months (2021).


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