A bit of end of year blogging tidy up. So how did my reading plans for 2020 go? I joined in Turtle Recall the discworld reading challenge hosted by Annemieke at A Dance with Books and to be honest I only managed to re-read three Terry Pratchett novels in 2020; the first witches novel, Equal Rights, followed by another title in the witches story arc, Witches Abroad. The earlier Pratchett novels are not usually amongst my favourites and it is really only from the second novel in the witches arc, Wyrd Sisters, that my appreciation for the Discworld universe really begins. Witches Abroad was definitely a fun relaxing read, laugh out loud in places, maybe a bit un-pc at times but a great relaxing read, filled with that trademark Pratchett wisdom: “People whose wishes get granted often don’t turn out to be very nice people,” or; “The good are innocent and create justice. The bad are guilty, which is why they invent mercy.” And it featured, Greebo, Nanny Ogg’s notorious cat: “This is Greebo. Between you and me, he’s a fiend from hell.” “Well, he’s a cat,” said Mrs. Gogol, generously. “It’s only to be expected.” Witches Abroad actually made a good lockdown read given the normally more regionally located witches went on a bit of a Discworld road trip to sort out some fairy tale nonsense. At the height of our short lived lockdown it made for a good reading choice.
The only other Pratchett read was The Last Continent. Discworld might be a fantasy universe but as a comic satire on our world it necessarily bears a similarity to this, the round world and The Last continent is the Discworld novel that features the discs version of the world down under, Australia. Satires on Australia are not always well executed, they often lack subtlety and nuance but this one is pretty good and it features the wizards of Unseen University with characteristic academic humour:
“But we’re a university! We have to have a library!” said Ridcully. “It adds tone. What sort of people would we be if we didn’t go into the library?”
“Students,” said Senior Wrangler morosely.”
To be honest I thought I would read or re-read a lot more of the Discworld, I think in 2019 I read or listened to at least 7 Discworld novels. I am not normally a big fan of audio books but they are great for long road trips and the one thing G and I will agree on is a discworld novel is always a good choice for a long trip. How do you feel about audio books? Do you use them when travelling? Do you consider listening to a book the same as reading a book? I have some mixed feelings about audio books. They can be really useful in breaking out of a bit of a reading rut or block and they are great for long road trips
I also toyed with the idea of participating in a historically themed reading challenge but I am afraid I did not get very far with that one and really only read one book for it, so a bit of a reading challenge fail there I am afraid.
I guess it is not surprising that the bulk of my 2020 reading fitted into the Gaia/nature themed reading which does tend to be a bit of a norm for me. It was because of a lack of suitably themed challenges that I started the Gaia/nature reading challenge here on Gum trees and Galaxies. In 2021 the Gaia/nature challenge will be bigger and better, a sign up post will come shortly.
I never really intended for Gum trees and Galaxies to become a book blog and have tried to resist that a bit but I think books and reading will always play a big part in our lifestyle.
In the last few months especially I have read some wonderful Australian fiction that dovetailed nicely with the Gaia challenge and I have not really been posting on it but in brief summary the following novels make for excellent reads and they are all Australian:
- Desire Lines by Felicity Volk – a love story told against the backdrop of an emerging modern nation, where horticulture and architecture feature strongly as symbols of our changing nation.
- The Last Migration by Charlotte McConaghy – a page turning cli-fi novel that also features a love story. It is premised on the idea that the earth is experiencing the last migration of the arctic tern. Migratory sea birds have been particularly challenged in recent years, their numbers showing dramatic declines and this novel is timely and powerful.
- The Octopus and I by Erin Hortle – A stunning debut novel set on the Tasmanian coast that lays bare the wild, beating heart at the intersection of human and animal, love and loss, and fear and hope, (from the goodreads blurb). This is a gorgeous novel that explores female identity and our relationship with the natural world.
- All our Shimmering Skies by Trent Dalton – wonderful, life affirming, page turning quest story that is a love letter to the Northern Territory. Set during the bombing of Darwin it celebrates friendship, nature and storytelling a fantastic read.
- The Living Sea of Waking Dreams by Richard Flanagan – Flanagan’s impassioned allegory for the anthropocene, a novel about dysfunction in all sorts of ways and yet ultimately still a hopeful book. (This one is the current Gum trees and Galaxies summer 2020 book box book).
My last fiction read, another Australian novel, this time the debut novel of Nardi Simpson, Song of the Crocodile with its beautiful evocation of Australian environment and indigenous storytelling, also fits the criteria for the Gaia/nature challenge although this is primarily a novel that explores Australia’s uncomfortable history with race and treatment of our first nation peoples. It is yet another work by a talented Australian writer engaged with the issues that are defining our times, she just happens to also beautifully evoke the natural world in her writing.
Finally I also read some great non-fiction like David Fleay’s classic text; Paradoxical Platypus: Hobnobbing with Duckbills – a great place to start if you want to learn about what is perhaps our most strikingly unique animal. I also read Craig Reucassel’s Fight for planet A – the book that goes with the tv series. A quick easy read that makes sense of what is a complicated topic, leaving the reader better informed and empowered. There were a few other titles completed during the year but I figure this is long winded enough. For more nature themed reads check out the nature environment book list page. And check back for the 2021 Gaia/nature reading challenge, sign up page coming soon!