It’s a gift for a reader to pick up a book that takes you by surprise and blows your mind.
I had the great fortune in 2014 to stumble upon several books that did this — all of them short story collections, three released in 2014, five by Australian authors. I cannot recommend these books highly enough.
Sightseeing by Rattawut Lapcharoensap (2006, Grove Press) was one the first anthology to blow my mind in 2014. It contains seven beautifully crafted stories, most set in Thailand. Lapcharoensap’s stories tackle injustice and inequality at times with poignancy, at times with humour, always with bite. (See here for a full review).
Holiday in Cambodia by Laura Jean McKay (2013, Black Inc) is a stunning collection of intimate stories set in different historical periods in Cambodia, told from the points of view of Cambodian and non-Cambodian characters. (See here for a full review).
The Weight of a Human Heart by Ryan O’Neill (2012, Black Inc) contains some of the most striking and innovative work I’ve ever read. What O’Neill does with the short story form is almost beyond belief, and every story packs an emotional punch. Breathtaking.
Maxine Beneba Clarke says she tries ‘to write beautifully about ugly things’, which is exactly what she does in Foreign Soil (2014, Hachette). Stories of heartbreak and horror are told in the language of poetry and hope. Riveting.
Only the Animals by Ceridwen Dovey (2014, Penguin) got bumped up my TBR pile when it was shortlisted for the 2015 Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for fiction. Each story is told from the point of view of a different animal associated with a significant historical figure, many of them writers. Crazy, brazen and astonishingly good.
Merciless Gods by Christos Tsiolkas (2014, Allen & Unwin) will see me out for 2014, a remarkable collection from a writer who can be relied on for pushing readers out of their comfort zone.
Heartfelt thanks to all these authors for inspiring me, as a reader and a writer. I take joy in commending these books to others.
Now it’s your turn. Did you read any books, short story collections or otherwise, that blew your mind in 2014?