For once, some of these were actually published in 2008. I haven’t included books I re-read – notably The Corrections (Franzen) and The Book of Illusions (Auster).

1. Sweet / Tracy Ryan (2008 )
A compelling novel about three women held in the thrall of a Baptist minister, it depicts the politics and psychology of fundamentalism.

2. Underworld / Don De Lillo (1997)
I tried to give it up, but I’m glad I didn’t, because in its sprawl it tells the story of America after WW2, as well as showing how we live, how we age.

3. Merry go round in the sea / Randolph Stow (1965)
Beautiful prose so rich I feel obliged to go slowly as Stow captures childhood in Geraldton during World War Two.

4. Narziss and Goldmund / Herman Hesse
An exploration of meaning in life, depicting the options of hedonism, art and religious devotion.

5. Status anxiety / Alain De Botton
De Botton writes compellingly as he traces the problem of success orientation in our society.

6. Notes on a Scandal / Zoe Heller (2003)
Heller has such a wonderful grasp of behaviour and nuance as well as building a compelling story of a teacher’s affair with a student, as narrated by another teacher obsessed with her.

7. Breath / Tim Winton (2008 )
The only novel about surfing I’m ever likely to read, it’s as good as the critics say. (I didn’t review it on this blog because I didn’t have anything new to say and I like to focus on neglected books.)

8. The Dig Tree / Sarah Murgatroyd (2002)
A perfectly-timed narrative of the Burke and Wills expedition, capturing the absurdity and politics, the drama and co-incidence.

9. The Ern Malley Affair / Michael Heyward (1993)
The ‘fake’ modernist poems which rocked Australia in the 1940s have a lot to say about literature, media and history – but also show that once anything gets in the popular media’s hands, it’s pretty much wrecked. The hoaxers were critiquing the excesses of modernism; the media reduced it to the populist lesson that any difficult art is worthless.

10. The Post-Birthday World / Lionel Shriver (2006)
An undisciplined yet insightful, quotable novel about relationships and the choices we make in life.