Books Read in 2023

I’m so relieved I found my reading mojo again this year, after last year’s sad total of five. Going on holidays helped. There’s nothing like having only two or three free-to-air tv stations to get book covers opening. Books also got me through the difficult first seven months of the year. It’s intriguing to me that I didn’t read any traditional fantasy, instead powering through series of science fiction, horror, and modern day setting fantasy – as well as a stand-alone near-future science fiction book, a retelling of nordic myths, and an alternative feminist regency story.

No non fiction this year, which is unusual. I was reading a non-fiction book on hoarding at the start of 2023, but stopped because it was depressing me.

Leviathan Wakes James Corey 
Caliban’s War James Corey 
Abaddon’s Gate James Corey 
Cibola Burn James Corey 
Nemesis Games James Corey
The Benevolent Society of Ill-Mannered Ladies Alison Goodman
Babylon’s Ashes James Corey
Persepolis Rising James Corey
The Courier’s New Bicycle Kim Westwood
The Screaming Staircase Jonathan Stroud
Tiamat’s Wrath James Corey
Leviathan Falls James Corey
Between Two Thorns Emma Newman
Winter’s Gifts Ben Aaronovich
Any Other Name Emma Newman
All Is Fair Emma Newman
A Little Knowledge Emma Newman
All Good Things Emma Newman
The Whispering Skull Jonathan Stroud
The Hollow Boy Jonathan Stroud
The Gospel of Loki Joanne Harris
The Creeping Shadow Jonathan Stroud
The Empty Grave Jonathan Stroud

Books Read in 2020

At the beginning of the year I dove into reading almost like my old self, but when I developed de Quervains even holding my phone hurt, so I stopped. I picked up and put down a few books since then, but finished nothing.

Here’s what I read:

Stormlord’s Exile Glenda Larke
Crown of Midnight Sarah J Mass
Heir of Fire Sarah J Mass
Queen of Shadows Sarah J Mass
Empire of Storms Sarah J Mass
Tower of Dawn Sarah J Mass
Kingdom of Ash Sarah J Mass
We Ride the Storm Devin Madson
The Golden Thread Kassia St Clair
Upheaval Jared Diamond
Pandemics: a very short introduction Christian W. McMillen
Tim Gunn: The Natty Professor Ada Calhoun
The Shuttle-Craft Book Of Hand-Weaving Mary Meigs Atwater
The Spanish Flu Epidemic and its Influence on History Jaime Breitnauer
Tim Gunn’s Fashion Bible Ada Calhoun and Tim Gunn

Hmm. When I look at the last few books, I do wonder if pandemic anxiety had a part to play in me abandoning reading. I tend to read non-fiction when I can’t concentrate on fiction. It doesn’t have plot threads demanding ongoing brain space.

Books Read in 2019

I only managed to read thirteen books last year. Four non-fiction and nine fiction. Since I don’t tend to read much fiction when I’m writing or editing, I was hoping that once I had none of either to do I’d tear through my to-read list. It felt like I was, but the books per month ration didn’t change. Possibly that’s because the last two fiction books I read were quite large.

Entanglement Emma Tarlo
Vardaesia Lynette Noni
City of Lies Sam Hawke
Stormdancer Jay Kristoff
Kinslayer Jay Kristoff
Endsinger Jay Kristoff
The Conscious Closet Elizabeth Cline
Suited Jo Anderton
Guardian Jo Anderton
Roy G. Biv: An Exceedingly Surprising Book about Colour Jude Stewart
The Last Stormlord Glenda Larke
Stormlord Rising Glenda Larke
Minxy Vintage Kelly Doust

I’m hoping to increase the number of books read next year. I need to set a ratio rule for how many to-read list books I must read before I add a new book. Maybe 3:1.

Books Read in 2018

Slow Clothing Jane Milburn
Phantom Islands of the Atlantic Donald S. Johnson
Craeft Alexander Langlands
Indigo Catherine McKinley
The Perfect Red Amy Butler Greenfield
Deep Survival Laurence Gonzales
Superfreakonomics Stephen J. Dubner and Steven Levitt
Obsidio Aime Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
Turning the Tide on Plastic Lucy Siegle
The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Marie Kondo
Zero Waste Home Bea Johnson
Wear No Evil Greta Eagan
Waste Not Erin Rhodes
Raelia Lynette Noni
Draekora Lynette Noni
Graevale Lynette Noni
We Three Heroes Lynette Noni
Grandma Knows Best Jane Maple
Lady Helen and the Dark Days Deceit Alison Goodman
A Life Less Throwaway Tara Button

Twenty books. Five from the to-read pile and fifteen new. Six fiction books and fourteen non-fiction. The novels were new books by author friends. Many of the non-fiction were books mentioned in a previous book I’d read. I also started three more books but lost momentum, abandoning one and putting the others on hold.

My favourite fiction for the years was Lady Helen and the Dark Days Deceit, and Craeft was the most enjoyable non-fiction book. Wear No Evil may be the most useful – specifically Greta’s method of choosing clothing to buy. The only book I disliked was The Life Changing Magic of Tidying, which I read only to see if it was truly like what I’d been told (it was).

This year I hope to read a bit more fiction. I’m not sure there’s much more to gain from reading more ethical fashion and waste reduction books. What I’ve already read covered a lot of the same ground. I have plenty of books in the non-fiction to-read pile to take me in other directions. It’ll all depend on what I am doing after I finish working on The Book, as I find it hard to read fiction when I’m writing it.

Non-fiction Meanderings

When I’m working on a book I tend to avoid reading fiction. Instead I stick to non-fiction – usually books about the history of something. This year it’s been books about waste.

The first was Turning the Tide on Plastic by Lucy Siegle, who wrote the wonderful ethical fashion book, To Die For. It was clear and interesting, covering much of the same territory as The War on Waste tv show.

That led me to review my (then unpublished) post on maximalism, and deciding I needed to read The Life Changing Magic of Tidying. The book repelled and intrigued me as much as I expected, which is to say lot of repelling and a little bit of intriguing. As I suspected, the minimalist lifestyle she advocates ignores the problem of our throwaway culture – and possibly encourages it.

Next I started How to be a Craftivist by Sarah Corbett, which I think was referred to in Lucy’s book. I only got halfway through, however, finding it a bit too repetitive though I liked the idea of gentle crafty protest.

After that I found Zero Waste Home by Bea Johnson. Though I don’t have an itch to go zero waste, I read it for ideas and motivation on reducing waste. She moved from a gigantic house to a modestly-sized one so a lot of her family’s belongings would have had to go, and she talks about disposing of things responsibly, but there’s a Kondoishness to her minimising – her wardrobe in particular – that didn’t appeal to me. However, she’s nowhere near as neurotic as Marie Kondo comes across and is honest about failures in a way that is humble and appealing.

In the following book, I went back to ethical fashion with Wear No Evil by Greta Eagan. In the ethical fashion books I’ve read so far ‘fashion’ was an umbrella term for ‘clothing and accessories’. This one uses the term as it relates to designer clothing. It focusses on shifts in designer fashion, and how it filters down to fast fashion. I really enjoyed it, especially her accessible system for choosing what clothes to buy. Not long after I read it I bought two pieces of new clothing using her system, and it worked very well.

I came away from all this reading thinking that keeping stuff is perhaps the most beneficial and weirdly subversive decision you can make. Maybe it’s not so much about owning stuff, but owning up to it. Would people stop buying crap indiscriminately and then cull it over and over if they couldn’t easily toss it out? Would manufacturers stop making products that don’t last if customers started taking things back and asking for a refund? How can people learn to make good shopping decisions when prices are so low they can easily throw mistakes away? My little reading binge certainly had me thinking.

Recently I read A Life Less Throwaway by Tara Button. Written by the founder of BuyMeOnce, a website containing a curated list of products made to last, it is a guide to avoiding overspending, valuing what you have, ditching the trend treadmill and living ‘a more fulfilled life’. While it did have the usual chapter on culling your wardrobe and preaching the ‘capsule’ wardrobe nonsense (I skipped that bit) I found lots of interesting factual nuggets and tips for resisting spontaneous purchase regret.

Now I’m reading a book I picked up at a sale about human hair, so off onto another tangent. I wanted to read a book about the psychology of fashion, but it isn’t available on iBooks.

Books Read in 2017

It was a year of reading non-fiction, particularly about art. I managed to read more fiction during my five months break. It’s always easier to read it when I’m not writing it.

Steal Like an Artist Austin Kleon
Show Your Work! Austin Kleon
Art Before Breakfast Danny Gregory
Mage Sign Alan Baxter
The Handmaiden’s Tale Margaret Atwood
Lady Helen and the Dark Days Pact Alison Goodman
The Riddle Alison Croggan
The Crow Alison Croggan
The Singing Alison Croggan
The Mixed Media Artist Seth Apter
Second Skin India Flint
Art as Therapy Alain de Botton
A Journey Through Schmoo Jane Moss (manuscript)
Affluenza Clive Hamilton & Richard Denniss
Gemima Jay Kristoff & Aime Kaufman Denniss
Curing Affluenza Richard Denniss
How Art Can Make You Happy Bridget Watson Payne
Blood & Guts: a Short History of Medicine Roy Porter
Backyard Self-Sufficiency Jackie French

Titles that stood out for me were The Handmaid’s Tale for it’s bleak insights, Backyard Self-Sufficiency for inspiring me to grow more food and Affluenza (despite its flaws) for pointing out things like the reason shops have $10,000 bbqs.

Second Skin was also an inspiring read. But I think I may have reached peak ethical fashion reading. The books coming out now are just repeating everything I’ve read before. Weirdly, I now have a fantasy about writing my own. It will be about how decluttering is a conceit of the affluent and just another retailer ploy to get you to buy more stuff.


A month or two ago I bought this book:

It’s a fun idea, making art materials from scratch. It’s also amusing to see where the author goes in the pursuit of creating them ‘from nature’. Some of the tools used to make them are modern (drills, carving knife), and yet it suggests making glue by melting down animal hoofs, etc.

A friend cut me some of her bamboo so I could try making pens. It was easy enough to carve them. However, the book doesn’t say whether to use fresh or dry bamboo, or what kind. My pens shrivelled out as they dried out:

I don’t think I’ll be getting any nice lines out of these!

I’d like to try making my own paint brush and black ink. Hopefully they won’t be as great a failure as my bamboo pens!

Books Read in 2016

Once more, I only managed to read around 15 books over the year. About half of those were non-fiction.

This post is really just to keep of a record somewhere.

Black Sun Light My Way Jo Spurrier
North Star Guide Me Home Jo Spurrier
Wardrobe Crisis Clare Press
To Die For Lucy Siegle
Overdressed Elizabeth L. Cline
The Alchemist in the Shadows Pierre Pevel
The Dragon Arcana Pierre Pevel
Stitches in Time Lucy Adlington
The Power of Habit Charles Duhigg
Quiet Susan Cain
The Well of Ascension Brandon Sanderson
Lady Helen and the Dark Days Club Alison Goodman
The Hero of Ages Brandon Sanderson
Shadow’s Edge Brent Weeks
Beyond the Shadows Brent Weeks
Perfections Kirstyn McDermott

Books Read in 2016

This is mostly for my records:

Non-Violence Mark Kurlansky
In Brasil Fran Bryson (ms)
The Cardinal’s Blades Pierre Pevel
David and Goliath Malcolm Gladwell
Before They Are Hanged Joe Abercrombie
Last Argument of Kings Joe Abercrombie
Love and Romanpunk Tansy Rayner Roberts
The Book of the Damned Tanith Lee
Days of Blood and Starlight Laini Taylor
Dreams of Gods and Monsters Laini Taylor
Castle of Dark Tanith Lee
The Hare With the Amber Eyes Edmund de Waal
You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost) Felicia Day
Illuminae Jay Kristoff & Aime Kaufman
Throne of Glass Sarah J. Maas
Arkanae Lynette Noni
Hindsight Melanie Casey

So 17 books. Several kinds of books – fantasy, crime, travel, non-fiction, short story collection. A variety of authors – Aussie, French, UK, and US authors, 6 male/9 female authors. I wish I’d read more, but I struggle to read fiction when I’m writing it. Which is where I’m at right now.

Stitchy Gift

While I was crafting around work in Ballarat last month I listened to a few podcasts. One was the Craft Sanity podcast, and I particularly enjoyed the interview with Rebecca Ringquist. So when I saw her book in a shop I suggested Paul get it for me for Christmas.


I listened to the interview at a point where I was assessing my own interest in embroidery – and craft in general – and a quick look at the book in the shop told me it was something I needed to read, rather than simply for project inspiration and instruction.

You see, while I don’t necessarily want to produce the style of embroidery Rebecca makes in this book, it’s more a book about an approach to embroidery than making the example projects. It says it’s “a ‘bend-the-rules’ primer”, and that’s what I’m after.


When I look at what I’ve enjoyed and succeeded in making with embroidery so far, a few common elements emerge. When the projects have been small, they’ve been detailed and precise. When they’ve been larger, they’ve been looser and more about texture and colour than representation.

I feel like I’m wasting my time if I’m not working on something useful. That is, either embellishing a garment or bag, or making jewellery. The few times I’ve made artwork, it’s either been intensely personal (the cats) or I’ve intended to make it into something eventually even if I don’t yet know what. While Rebecca suggests letting go of the notion of the piece having a purpose, I’ve recognised that for me that is a creativity-blocker. I’m the same with colouring books. Only when I turned the pages into greeting cards did I enjoy colouring them.

You see, we have so much artwork already that I freeze in horror at the thought of accumulating more.

Time seems to be an cause of me losing interest, as well. The books I write, the portraits I paint, and the sort of weaving I’m exploring now tend to take a long time, on a scale of months to years. I acknowledged years ago that I need some of the craft I do to provide quick satisfaction. Not necessarily instant, but a scale of days and weeks would be nice. And sometimes I have no energy for thought and planning, and it’s good to be able to pick up something and just stitch.

So I’m looking for embroidery projects that are reasonably fast, that can be done in front of the tv or fit in my handbag for waiting rooms and airport lounges, and that has a use at the end. And aren’t old fashioned or twee.

That pretty much eliminates most designs on the market.

I’m happy to design my own projects, but that does require some thought and planning. However, Rebecca’s approach also appeals because it has a freeform spirit to it. Just take a thing and embellish it. Doodle with stitches. Enjoy texture and colour and accident. I love how she says don’t bother fixing a mistake, just stitch over it. And I love her for saying it’s okay to use knots. Honestly, I’ve been hung up on the whole ‘to knot, or not to knot’ question for ages, because I don’t want to put a whole lot of work into embellishing a garment only to have the ends come loose in the wash. Rebecca even suggests putting the knots on the front of the work. I love that!

So I wrote in my visual diary a list of likes and dislikes:

The textural look of kantha and boro
The enhancing of fabric in sashiko and kogin
The simplicity of stitch in tambour and blackwork
The modern look of ‘new’ crewel and the colour in ethnic embroidery
Unconventional materials and scale, as in stitching greeting cards or giant cross stitch.
And, conversely, finer and realistic work if it’s tiny, as in jewellery
Fast projects
Portable projects
Projects with no use
Using no hoop

Fussy, precise work
Traditional and old fashioned (unless subverted)
Collage-like overly busy work
Slow projects
Cumbersome projects
Worrying about knots

Since then I’ve looked in my wardrobe, gone through my old sketchbook, and peered at my to-do list, considering what I could stitch. I’m looking at long delayed sewing projects with fresh enthusiasm, if they provide opportunity for embellishment. And that’s led to some pattern purchasing, downloading, and printing – and planning a sewing day.

Crafty plans for 2016 are well underway.