book

my favourite books of 2017

books of 2017

 

I can't be the only person rubbing their eyes and thinking "Oh God, how is it the end of February already?!"...but here I am. I've never really managed to do my best books post of the year in a timely fashion - but I'm determined to never let it get to August like I did several years ago. In my defence, I had spent all of that year writing my own book! 

This time, instead of doing a measly Top 10 which is always difficult to whittle down, I'm just going to pick my favourites and tell you why, in the hope that you'll be moved to check them out too.

So here goes, of the 83 books I read in 2017, these were the ones that stood out. And as always, because I read and savour them like novels, cookbooks are included. 

My favourite book of the year - After by Nikki Gemmell

I am still reeling from this gaping wound of a book. Written in the aftermath of her mother's suicide, Nikki's words made me think long and hard about the relationship between a mother and daughter, how it can be so brutal and beautiful. After was absorbing, heartbreaking, thoughtful, tender, anguished and, as always, beautifully written. 

Fresh India by Meera Sodha

Absolutely stunning, and the first cookbook to make me feel hungry again after having the worst flu of my life over Christmas (sob!). I made the temple tomato rasam as a gentle reintroduction to solid food and it was exquisite. The smell of the garlic, ginger, chilli, cumin and curry leaves frying together was so restorative I almost wept. Every recipe of Meera Sodha's I've made - whether from this book or from her Guardian column - has been sensational so I'd highly recommend you check her out if you like to cook. 

The Dry by Jane Harper

I'd heard great things about this book and wasn't disappointed. Even though I'm not normally a crime fiction person, I've been reading more and more of them lately! The Dry was riveting and well-written, brilliantly paced and intricately plotted. I didn't see the twist coming, which is always a good sign. I found the portrait of the claustrophobic, drought-ridden country town very authentic too. 

When It Happens To You by Molly Ringwald

Yes, *that* Molly Ringwald - who is as compelling a storyteller with the written word as she is on screen and stage. I wasn't sure what to expect, but this "novel in stories" had me intrigued from the first page. Over the course of the book, through these stories where the lives of various characters (convincingly) intersect, Ringwald creates a world where these flawed but ultimately good people find their lives punctured by betrayal, in its various forms. It's realistic and compelling reading, and her writing has a lovely lyrical quality in places. The characters are brought to life beautifully, I particularly enjoyed Betty the neighbour, and how the philandering Phillip was welcomed back into his estranged family. It's a book that makes you think, not just about life and family and relationships, but how might you feel, as the title suggests, when it happens to you.

My Life in France by Julia Child (a re-read)

I re-read this last summer in preparation for my first trip to Paris in over seven years. This is one of my favourite books and this read of it reminded me why. It is just pure joy, from start to finish. Julia finds herself in a foreign country, not speaking the language, knowing very few people and wanting to discover her purpose in life. "At age thirty-seven, I was still discovering who I was," she writes. I feel very similarly! Her delight in discovering the pleasures of food and cooking, and her incredible work ethic and refusal to give up on a project she believed in wholeheartedly, is a balm for the soul for anyone feeling a little cynical or dejected. Never give up! 

Island in the East by Jenny Ashcroft

A luscious historical novel that has a bit of everything - love, war, betrayal, heartbreak, tragedy, redemption and hope - resulting in a sumptuous, evocative read with characters that will linger in your mind long after you've finished reading. And, at time of writing, it's only £1.99 on Kindle! 

Little Boy Lost by Marghanita Laski

I heard about this book on the Tea and Tattle podcast special Persephone Books episode, where Miranda and Sophie discussed their favourites. I read it in one weekend. It was absolutely breathtaking. It was desperately sad at times, even depressing, as it follows a father's journey to try and find his missing five-year-old- son after the Second World War, but all in all, it is a stunning novel about loss and hope. I'd even go so far as to say it's a masterpiece. 

The Christmas Chronicles by Nigel Slater

I think Nigel Slater could write a book about paint drying and it would still be a bestseller. This book is magnificently evocative and poetic in true Nigel style as he shares with us a celebration of his favourite time of year - Christmas, and winter in general. A cold Christmas is something I've wholeheartedly embraced living in the UK and for the very first time ever, I looked forward to winter after reading this book. All of his ideas - like enjoying a white port and tonic, in the same way you'd enjoy gin - are delicious and inspiring. A must-read for the colder months.

Between A Wolf And A Dog by Georgia Blain

Sometimes I think the best novels are those that are set over the course of just one day. Let's face it, a lot can happen. Between A Wolf And A Dog explores the goings on of one rainy day (and a little bit into the next) in Sydney, in the lives of several characters in one family, by blood and by marriage. Blain explores the pain and heartbreak of separation and betrayal, how life as we know it can be over in an instant, and captures the minutiae of life, from the sound of the rain falling to the colour of an enamel ring on a character's hand, with a poet's touch. The plight of one character's fate is all the more poignant knowing that Blain herself passed away not long after the novel was published. It's a wonderful book and hammers home all the more that the Australian literary community lost someone very special indeed with her passing.

Anything You Do Say by Gillian McAllister

A completely gripping and engrossing novel with two parallel narratives. In the style of Sliding Doors, you see two storylines playing out if the protagonist, Joanna, had made a different decision. That decision is whether to leave the scene of a crime, or to dial 999 and hand herself in. I was completely engrossed in this novel as the story played out and Joanna grappled with the aftermath of this incident in both scenarios. The anxiety, guilt and fear that she feels - in both storylines - is palpable and will have you turning the pages! It's the sort of story that certainly makes you wonder how you would react if you were ever in the same situation. At the time of writing, it's only 99p on Kindle which is an absolute bargain!

Love Warrior by Glennon Doyle

Having written a book about self-discovery after a marriage breakdown myself, I knew I'd enjoy this (and undoubtedly think "oh, she put that so much better than I did!"). I found it relatable on so many levels, not just the marriage breakdown side of things because ultimately this is a book about learning to save yourself, rather than a marriage, or anyone else. It's courageous and candid, and I'd highly recommend it if you've found yourself at a crossroads in life and need to see that it is possible to find your way through to the other side. 

Talking As Fast As I Can by Lauren Graham

A fabulous read - what a warm, witty writer Lauren Graham is. I especially liked the sections of the book that reflected on her own writing practice. It revolutionised my own writing practice last year and reacquainted me with the idea of good old fashioned discipline! Funny and inspiring.

Upstream by Mary Oliver

Normally I gulp books down in a day or two, sometimes hours, but occasionally one comes along that demands careful savouring. This was one of them. One of my favourite poets, Mary Oliver turns her exquisite touch to essays in this collection which covers everything from the creative life, meditations on the work of her own favourite writers like Poe and Whitman, or observing nature, such as a spider making a web in the stairwell of a rented house at 5am each day.  I love her boundless curiosity, and how she lives so thoughtfully and intelligently.

Option B by Sheryl Sandberg

One of the best books on grieving, trauma and healing that I've ever come across. Within just a few pages I was trying not to cry as Sheryl shared the terrible story of her husband's sudden death and the painful aftermath of it. It's a very readable and relatable book with lots of personal insight, research and practical advice - even, believe it or not, humour (she uses sarcasm to great effect in places!) - which anyone navigating a loss I'm sure will find helpful and of comfort.  It's a real tribute to human resilience. 

So, not a bad reading year....and my favourites only had one bloke (and a fabulous bloke at that) among them! In 2018 I'd like to read more British women writers and more women in translation. 

Have you read any of these books? What did you think? What were your favourite reads of last year? Do you have any goals for your reading this year? Do let me know!

The links to the books in this post are Amazon Affiliate links. 

The Latte Years is on sale this weekend!

image.jpg

It's April 25 on Monday and it will be TEN years since I reached my goal and began living a completely different life.  A sweet friend from my blogging days in Melbourne dubbed it "Phil's Revolution Day" and I thought was a most apt description!

To celebrate, The Latte Years e-book is discounted on Kindle, iBooks and Kobo all weekend

And make sure you pop back on Monday because there will be an extra surprise for you!

Happy Phil's Revolution weekend to you all xx

 

where two roads diverged: the latte years hobart launch

The Hobart launch of The Latte Years a few months ago was not unlike a wedding - gathering in great excitement with my parents and siblings at the family home beforehand, with sparkling wine and hair and makeup preparations; a fancy car to take us right to the door; getting my photo snapped the minute I alighted outside Fullers Bookshop; speeches; even a CAKE (!); but most of all, seeing the faces of so many people I love and knowing they were all there to celebrate something very special.

Also like a wedding, it's amazing how suddenly you get so incredibly nervous, knowing that everyone's there because of you! 

But it was wonderful, utterly wonderful, in every way. Like my wedding day, I'd do it all again tomorrow and wouldn't change a thing.

An aside: towards the end of 2004, as it began occurring to me that I needed to start at least trying to extricate the shit out of the blades of the fan that was my life, I joined a T.S Eliot appreciation group that met once a week at Fullers Bookshop in Collins Street, Hobart. I was the youngest person in the group, by about a quarter of a century, but I loved it. Our leader was passionate and inspiring, and it was rocket fuel for my brain that had been lying dormant since graduating from uni two years before. The discussions always ended in the Afterword Cafe, where we were given coffees and slivers of fudge. So to say it was surreal, just over 11 years later, to be back there launching my own book, is something of an understatement! 

If you've ever been to Fullers, you'll know what an oasis it is. It's one of the world's loveliest bookshops, warm and comforting like a favourite relative's house, and smells like two of my most favourite things in the world - books and coffee.  It was amazing to be there, and to see my book everywhere I looked!

My friend and one of my most favourite writers of all time (if you haven't read Mothers Grimm, go and get it now, it's amazing!), Danielle Wood, officially launched The Latte Years. She began by reading a poem very dear to my heart, Robert Frost's "The Road Not Taken", and these are a few of the very kind words that followed:

Phil’s story is not really so much about health, fitness and body issues, but about a journey every single one of us will understand - the journey to being the very best version of ourselves that we can possibly be.
...we are, every single day of our lives, every single moment, confronted by diverging paths. The choice of what to do, what to say, what to think....with each tiny choice, we are forging our character. And that’s what The Latte Years is really all about.

..it’s not a matter of choosing the steep, difficult and challenging path once. As Phil tells us in The Latte Years, you have to keep choosing it. Every single time two roads diverge in a yellow wood. And that will make all the difference.

And then it was my turn to say a few words and, to be honest, I was quite overcome. I felt overwhelmed with gratitude and love, for everyone in the room. A friend had flown over from New Zealand to be there, another from New South Wales, and another still had flown down from Melbourne that day as a surprise, and casually strolled into Fullers with her baby strapped to her back and into my gobsmacked, overjoyed and utterly overwhelmed arms. There were old friends there, some I've known for 30 years or more; family; former classmates, their partners and children; women who taught me in primary and secondary school; and even a handful of readers I had never met but who wanted to come and say hello (and I'm so glad they did!). It felt strange but unbelievably wonderful that this little book I had drafted and redrafted, smiled and cried over, alone in my study on the other side of the world was now out and being read. It was all now real. It had gone beyond a Word file on my Macbook and was now a real book. I was a real author. And I got to celebrate it by returning to where I'd come from, where the story began.  

Many of you would know that The Latte Years started life as a novel. Fiction is a wonderful vehicle for so many things but in this case, it was a shield. It was a way to distance myself from everything that had happened. I told myself I was trying to make it more universal but in truth it was a way of trying to rewrite the past, to bring everything to more satisfying conclusions than had been reached in real life.

But The Latte Years became the book it was destined to be, and that it needed to be. I had to write this book exactly as it is. Our stories choose us, we don’t choose them.

And the thing about being brave that we’re never told is that it’s not about feeling righteous and invincible, all swords and shields. Being brave is about putting the shield down.

I wrote this book because I knew I couldn’t possibly be the only person in the world who lost their way in their youth and life didn’t turn out as planned. I couldn’t be the only person who went through a divorce in their twenties and had to learn how to heal, trust and love again after heartbreak. I couldn’t be the only one who found out success has a dark side. I couldn’t be the only one who’s had ‘friends’ screw them over. I couldn’t be the only one who has reached a goal, that was once upon a time so out of reach, and then wondered ‘what’s next?’

And it turns out, I’m not. Far from it. The response to The Latte Years has been beyond anything I could have hoped for. I’m so happy that it’s helped so many people, because it’s also helped me. It turns out it was a book even I needed! I needed to remember the strength and power we all have to turn our lives around when we’ve lost our way. I needed to remember how empowering it is to take responsibility for your life and your choices.

Most of all, I needed reminding that the past is the past. I can’t change any of it. And now, I don’t know if I would, even if I could. Because it got me to right here, right now. And I wouldn’t change that for anything.

And then it was time to drink wine and sign some books. By the time we reached the end of the line, my hand hadn't been that sore since university exams in 2001, but it was totally worth it. I was told I had attracted a bigger crowd than Molly Meldrum! Ha ha.

One of the things I didn't anticipate writing a memoir is how INSANELY FUN it is when so many of your 'characters' show up to your book launch...including Sarah and Dave from Canada!! 

How often do you get a  world famous author  show up to your book launch?! I was a squealing fan-girl on the inside!

How often do you get a world famous author show up to your book launch?! I was a squealing fan-girl on the inside!

Fullers were amazing - they even did this gorgeous window display which I couldn't get enough pictures of. Occasionally I stood on the pavement and just stared at it (and got curious stares in return!). 

I know it sounds silly but I'm still having moments of OH MY GOD I WROTE A BOOK IS THIS REALLY HAPPENING? and I have occasional moments of overwhelming pride and disbelief, when I see a picture of it being read somewhere, or my own copy on my shelf in my study, that I wrote that. It's still all sinking in, like I wrote in my last post.

Thank you again Fullers Bookshop and if you were there that night in Hobart, thank you for being a part of it. It was one of the happiest nights of my life. 

Now how about a (virtual) piece of that amazing cake? 

the latte years is out today!

My book, The Latte Years, is officially out in Australia and New Zealand TODAY! 

It’s a time of year where a lot of people find themselves thinking about their lives, what they might like to change and do differently in the year ahead. While I don’t think you have to wait for a new year to start changing things, my aim in writing The Latte Years was to share my own story of transformation and growth, and to give hope to anyone who feels a bit stuck or powerless in their life, wanting to change but feeling too overwhelmed to even start.

I know exactly how that feels, because I've been there.

In 2005, I was, as Cheryl Strayed brilliantly put it, ‘a free spirit who didn’t have the balls to be free.’ Due to my low confidence, insecurities and fear of change, my life had moved in very unsatisfying directions. I was overweight and out of shape, breathless after climbing a flight of stairs. I was married to someone I loved but who I knew deep down didn’t want the same things as me. I yearned to see the world but the furthest I’d ever been from my hometown was Queensland. I thought this was as good as it was ever going to get. And I was only 24.

As the fog slowly lifted, I could see why things were the way they were - but that I could change them.  In fact, only I could change them.

The Latte Years is the story of how I did that, and what happened next! (clue: lots of things).

But it’s not a “fat to fit” memoir, because that has only ever been one part of my story. Most weight loss success stories finish with getting to goal, the happy ever after. It wasn’t like that for me at all. In fact, merely weeks after I reached my goal, my life as I knew it was over.  

What happens after the ‘after’ photo is taken? That’s what The Latte Years is really about. 

It’s about going through a divorce in your twenties; starting afresh in a new city and a new country; the nuances, joys and pains of friendships; learning how to love and trust again after you’ve been hurt; the dark side of success; being true to yourself; the search for wholeness, freedom and empowerment and how you can find it in the most unexpected places.

The Latte Years was not a book I intended to write, but ended up being one that I had to write. We don’t choose our stories, they choose us. It’s the twist in the plot you don’t see coming at the time, but ends up being clearly the way things were meant to be all along.

I hope The Latte Years encourages you to cross your own finishing line, whatever it might be.

If you want to get yourself, and every single one of your friends (!), a copy, here's how:

Paperback, in Australia and New Zealand: your local bookstore should have a copy. If they haven't got it in yet, ask them to order it!
Or online, Booktopia

Paperback, rest of the world: it hasn’t been released in bookstores in the UK or US yet but if you’d still like a physical copy you can get one from Book Depository (they ship worldwide) and it also looks like you can get a paperback copy on Amazon US and Amazon UK.

E-book/Kindle:  Amazon UKAmazon USKoboiBooks

Audio book (released 21 January) by Audible

If you get a copy, please tweet me, Facebook me or insta me (and hashtag #thelatteyears) - I’d love to see where it is in the world and who is reading it!

Thank you so much for all the support and being a special part of this journey. I am so grateful for you all xx

A very special announcement

Well, crack open the champagne folks. 

I haven't been the most regular blogger this past year, I know, but a lot of stuff has been going on behind the scenes! 

I am beyond thrilled to announce that, if you live in Australia or New Zealand, you will be able to walk into a bookstore and buy my book The Latte Years which will be published by Nero/Black Inc Books in January 2016.

This is what my publisher (!!) has to say:

Nero publishes exciting and entertaining commercial mass market books. Our authors include the iconic Diane Keaton, actor/singer Lea Michele, Oscar-winner Diablo Cody and proudly now, award-winning and popular blogger, Philippa Moore. An Australian expat residing in the UK, Philippa's forthcoming, frank memoir of weight loss and taking chances will resonate with many. Publisher Jeanne Ryckmans says: "I was taken by Philippa's candour and humour. We are thrilled to be taking Philippa from blog to book and reaching readers who will be as inspired as we were when we first read the proposal". 

I am still pinching myself, to be honest. It is finally starting to sink in that this is real. After years of tapping away in Starbucks after work, scribbling during my lunch breaks, writing hundreds of thousands of words (most of which was just practice as it turned out!), it's actually HAPPENING! My book is going to be REAL and in BOOK SHOPS! This is something I've dreamed of since I was about nine years old! It's been a long, long road to this point but now that I'm here I realise it couldn't possibly have happened any sooner or any other way.

Whether you've been loyally reading my ramblings since my Melbourne days or have stumbled upon me only recently, thank you for your support and encouragement and letting me into your lives. I can't wait to share the next chapter with you all. It's going to be very exciting indeed.

In the meantime, the advice of a dear friend is to "make friends with your deadline", so that's what I'm doing!

My wonderful husband drew this in my honour this morning -  insidemyfred.com

My wonderful husband drew this in my honour this morning - insidemyfred.com

I have so much to say and share with you all, so make sure you check in again. More details coming very soon! xx