Category Archives: Top 10 lists

Top 10 Australian books.

Australian Books JellicoeLast year the First Tuesday Book club conducted a survey to discover Australia’s favourite all-time books. These were the top ten Aussie books to read before you die:

1. Cloudstreet – Tim Winton
2. The Book Thief – Markus Zusak
3. A Fortunate Life – A.B. Facey
4. The Harp in the South – Ruth Park
5. The Power of One – Bryce Courtenay
6. Jasper Jones – Craig Silvey
7. The Magic Pudding – Norman Lindsay
8. The Slap – Christos Tsiolkas
9. The Secret River – Kate Grenville
10. Picnic at Hanging Rock – Joan Lindsay

These books were vigorously debated by the panel on the show and like many readers I question a couple of the inclusions, but I am more astounded at some of the omissions: books by Peter Carey, Geraldine Brooks and Nobel Prize winning Patrick White.

Since the announcement of these top ten Australian books I have been pondering my own favourites and have come up with my Top 10 Australian books. My choices are based on the memories these books evoke (something I wrote about here) and the pure joy they have elicited. So, after much deliberation and angst, here are my Top 10 Australian books:

1. A Town Like Alice by Neville Shute.
I have long been intrigued by all history regarding the Second World War. Perhaps this is because growing up I heard many stories from family members relating to that era. For me, the World War Two era is history within touching distance – only one or two generations removed from my reality. I remember reading A Town Like Alice as a teenager and I simply adored it. I loved the history, the scenery, the romance and most of all the characters. Joe Harman is the quintessential Aussie digger and Jean Paget remains one of my all-time heroes, featuring in my list of Top 10 heroes from literature, where I wrote “As a teenage girl I was mesmerised by Jean in A Town Like Alice. She spent three years as a POW being marched around Malaysia, surviving the brutalities of war. Later when she finds out Joe Harman is still alive, she travels half way around the world to a very foreign country to find him. She endures the harshness of outback Australia with dignity and humour, and shows entrepreneurial skill in an era when women garnered little co-operation or respect in doing so. She is one tough lady”.

2. On the Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta.
This features in my Top 10 favourite books of all time, where I wrote: “Whilst she is better known for her other works such as Looking for Alibrandi, for me Jellicoe Road is Marchetta’s best work. The plot is original and the narrative structure is perfect. When I first read this book I was so moved and excited by it that I wanted to share it. I gave it to an English teacher at my school, who returned it unread. I promptly gave it back to her, insisting “you must read this book”.
She returned the book to me with tears in her eyes saying “thank you for making me read this book”. Years later she met Melina Marchetta and told her the story. Marchetta signed a copy of the book for me with the inscription “I’m glad you thought it was worth the journey”. It was and I treasure that signed copy”.

3. The Women in Black by Madeleine St John.
Published in 1993, I only discovered this book a couple of years ago. I love it for the magic and romance it evokes. Set in a Sydney department store in the 1950’s The Women in Black provides a snapshot of a more innocent city, with brilliant observations of the human spirit, underscored by St John’s superb wit.

4. Grand Days (The Edith Trilogy) by Frank Moorhouse.
I read this book within the last year (you can read why here). Set in the 1920’s amid the establishment of the League of Nations in Geneva, the story centres around an ambitious young Australian woman named Edith Campbell Berry. She is quite simply one of the most entertaining and engaging characters I’ve ever read.

5. For Love Alone by Christina Stead.
This was one of my English texts during my final year of school. As a teenager, I found the protagonist quite intriguing: Teresa Hawkins, a strong-willed young woman willing to defy societal norms to follow her heart to London. Though her passion may have been misguided, the book for me was about the ability of a woman to reject expectations in order to discover her own fulfilment. Way ahead of its time (first published in 1945), I probably didn’t fully appreciate the strength of Teresa as a young girl, but this book always brings back memories of my before school English classes with my brilliant English teacher Mrs Wade.

Australian Books Alice

6. A Fortunate Life by A. B Facey.
I read this book as a teenager and I believe it captured my imagination due to my own grandfather’s story. Whilst I have written about my grandfather’s rich reading history here, I failed to mention his days as a young man in the Depression traipsing around the countryside looking for work. Much of A Fortunate Life made me think of my own Pop and as a teenager living a comfortable life, reading about the hardships of others is a humbling experience (which is why I believe so many teens have embraced Ahn Do’s The Happiest Refugee). At one stage the sum total of my grandfather’s possessions was his bicycle and swag, and he had to rely on the generosity of strangers or the luck of his rabbit trap for a meal. Yet like Mr Facey, my grandfather believed he lived a fortunate life.

7. The Idea of Perfection by Kate Grenville.
This is another inclusion in my Top 10 favourite books of all time. Set in a small Australian town Harley and Douglas have some serious self-worth issues and both are full of their own inadequacies. I think I love this book because there is something really affirming about thoroughly decent yet less-than-perfect characters.

8. For the Term of his Natural Life by Marcus Clarke.
Published in the 1870’s this is a remarkable story of convict life in early Australia. Following the life of wrongly convicted Rufus Dawes, the book provides a rich history of convict life in the early years of settlement which, as a teenager when I first read this book, I found utterly intriguing.

9. Jasper Jones by Craig Silvey.
This was another hotly contested book by the panel of the First Tuesday Book Club, specifically as it has been referred to as Australia’s To Kill a Mockingbird. I believe this reference does not do justice to the richness of Silvey’s work. Yes the novel explores racism and bigotry, but there is so much more to Jasper Jones than the division of a town. One of the joys of Silvey’s work for me is the beautifully crafted friendship between Charlie and Jeffrey, and the wonderful humour injected by Silvey into this partnership. And I love protagonists who are well-read like Charlie.

10. My Brilliant Career by Miles Franklin.
Published in 1901 and set during the same era, this book about the headstrong and entertaining heroine Sybylla Melvyn and her rural upbringing thoroughly captivated me as a young teenager. I was also intrigued that Miles Franklin was herself a teenager when she wrote this semi-autobiographical novel and that it was published with the help of Henry Lawson.

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Top 10 settings in children’s books.

When it comes to children’s books there are so many wonderful settings to choose from, but after careful deliberation, these are my Top 10.

1. Hogwarts from the Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling. What’s not to love about this amazing setting? Hogwarts has it all in terms of mystery and magic. There is a Great Hall providing sumptuous feasts; a room of requirement which changes its properties just like its designation; common rooms requiring magical entry; secret passages; moving staircases; endless grounds and a Forbidden Forest.

Photo by nathanaels

2. The Magic Faraway Tree by Enid Blyton. The Enchanted Wood itself is a magical place but it is the majestic Faraway Tree with its different land at the topmost branches which has entertained generations of children for nearly seventy years . Enriched by such wonderful characters as Moonface, Silky, the Saucepan Man and Dame Washalot, I spent much of my childhood in the Faraway Tree, as did my own children and countless other generations.

3. Wonderland from Alice’s Adventures by Lewis Carroll. A true fantasy world with a talking rabbit, a smoking caterpillar, a grinning Cheshire cat, a Mad Hatter, a Mock Turtle and a Queen of Hearts whose tarts are stolen by the Knave of Hearts. Sheer nonsense in a perfectly mystical and fantastic setting.

4. Peter’s Rabbit Hole from The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter, because it is the biggest and best animal home ever. It has its own kitchen, furniture and even a shop. Mr McGregor’s Garden is a pretty fun setting too, because it is the scene of great battles between the cheeky Peter Rabbit and the curmudgeonly Mr McGregor.

5. Camp Half-Blood from the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan, because a training camp for the sons and daughters of ancient gods is pretty cool.

6. Treasure Island or Smuggler’s Cove or wherever else Enid Blyton’s Famous Five found themselves: exciting settings complete with a mystery to solve, devoid of pesky interfering parents, and all washed down by lashings of ginger ale.

7. Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. In Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Roald Dahl created a luscious fantasy factory which satiated the appetite not only of Charlie but children everywhere. With rivers of chocolate and edible gardens tended by the curious Oompa Loompas, the factory provided a stark contrast to the poverty of Charlie’s home.

8. The Emerald City, capital of the Land of Oz. In the  Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, the Emerald City is built of green glass, emeralds and jewels,  and its residents wear green-tinted glasses to protect their eyes from the brightness. A magical place at the end of the yellow brick road, it offers hope to Dorothy and friends.

9. Neverland from J. M Barrie’s Peter Pan, the small island upon which the eternal boy spends his endless childhood. I like the fact that each child’s Neverland is unique, according to the whims of the individual imagination. Home to Tinkerbell, other fairies and the Lost Boys, Neverland really is a magical, mystical place.

10. The Underground Fairy City from Eoin Colfer’s Artemis Fowl, because it is full of high-tech gadgetry and is the antithesis of any fairyland in other books.

Special mentions must go to: Narnia from the Chronicles by C.S. Lewis; Misselthwaite Manor from The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett; the Paris of Ludwig Bemelman’s Madeline and the London of P.L.Travers’ Mary Poppins.

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Top 10 book openings

Some time ago I wrote about the Top 10 book endings. Recently I’ve been thinking about the Top 10 book openings; a ‘top 10’ which I found particularly difficult. I used the following criteria: the top 10 lines would be those I easily recalled, (meaning they were especially memorable), or they would be the lines which had most made me want to keep reading.

After much thought, I eventually came up with the following list:

1. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

 

2. It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

 

3. Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

 

4. In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since.

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

 

5. “Call me Ishmael”

Moby-Dick by Herman Melville

 

6. Alice was beginning to get very tired of sitting by her sister on the riverbank, and of having nothing to do: once or twice she had peeped into the book her sister was reading, but it had no pictures or conversations in it, ‘and what is the use of a book’, thought Alice, ‘without pictures or conversation?’

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

 

7. Once upon a time, there was a woman who discovered she had turned into the wrong person.

Back When We Were Grownups by Anne Tyler (2001)

 

8. All children, except one, grow up

Peter Pan by J.M.Barrie

 

9. In an old house in Paris that was covered with vines lived twelve little girls in two straight lines.

Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans

 

10. Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J.K.Rowling

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Top 10 movie adaptations from children’s books

With the current hype about The Hunger Games movie, I’ve been thinking a great deal about the best movies made from books. As such, I’ve compiled this list of my Top 10 movie adaptations from children’s books. I’ve used very unspecific criteria such as entertainment factor, quality of story-telling, and overall translation from the printed page to the big screen.

Here are my Top 10 movie adaptations from children’s books:

1. The Wizard of Oz (1939 film) based on the book The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum.

This is a standout as far as I’m concerned, though Hollywood’s translation of the flying monkeys terrified me as a child.

 

2. The Harry Potter movies based on the books by J. K Rowling.

Unlike others, I cannot separate or rank the movies. The casting for the Harry Potter movies remain their greatest strength; I can no longer re-read a Harry Potter book without seeing Daniel Radcliff roaming the halls of Hogwarts.

 

3. Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971 film) based on the book Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl.

The original movie captures the essence of Dahl’s work, however, no-one can deny the brilliance of Tim Burton’s 2005 adaptation.

 

4. To Kill a Mockingbird (1962 film) based on the book of the same name by Harper Lee.

I debated whether to include this in the Top 10 children’s list. However, as so many secondary students study Mockingbird as a text and Scout and Jem are children, I believe this adaptation belongs on this list.

 

5. The Jungle Book (1967 animated film) based on the 1894 book by Rudyard Kipling.

This animation may not be as true to the book as many would like, but Disney films have a way of making great stories accessible to children and that is the genius of the Jungle Book. And who doesn’t love “The Bare Necessities”?

 

6. Charlotte’s Web (1973 animated film) based on the book by E.B. White.

Whilst I really enjoyed the 2006 film, the original adaptation remains my favourite.

 

7. Mary Poppins (1964 film) based on the the book series of the same name by P. L. Travers.

Disney knows how to make children’s movies and how to adapt a book to the big screen. This film remains a firm favourite in my house and is trans-generational in its appeal.

 

8. Bambi (1942 animated film) based on the book Bambi, A Life in the Woods by Felix Salten.

A beautiful animation, with one of the saddest cinematic scenes ever.

 

9. Oliver Twist (1948 film) based on the novel by Charles Dickens.

The original and the best, with Sir Alec Guinness as Fagin. Classic Dickens, classic movie making.

 

10. James and the Giant Peach (1996 film) based on the book of the same name by Roald Dahl.

Tim Burton’s film-making genius shines in this excellent adaptation.

 

With nods to: Chronicles of Narnia – The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe; Disney’s Alice in Wonderland and, of course, The Hunger Games.

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Top 10 books borrowed by boys

We are well past the half-way point of Term 1 and it’s time to look at what the boys are borrowing in the library:

1. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

No surprises here. The imminent movie release has increased interest in this exciting read. I have multiple copies in the collection and still cannot meet the demand. Lots of boys have a reservation on this one too.

 

2. Once by Morris Gleitzman

This is driven by Year 7 interest. The younger boys have really taken to Gleitzman’s trilogy, and it’s not hard to see why – Felix is such an appealing character which softens the content matter.

 

3. Cabin Fever by Jeff Kinney

The latest in the Diary of a Wimpy Kid franchise, these books are always popular.

 

4. Tomorrow When the War Began by John Marsden.

I don’t think this book is ever out of the Top 10.

 

5. The Death Cure by James Dashner

The very brilliant final instalment in the Maze Runner trilogy.

 

6. Department 19 by Will Hill

This book has been hugely popular since its introduction into the collection last year. Jamie Carpenter’s story has huge appeal for teenage boys, no doubt helped by the inclusion of Frankenstein. (Read my review of Department 19 here).The interest in this franchise will only increase with the release of the next instalment The Rising.

7. The Sleepwalker by Robert Muchamore

Part of the ever popular Cherub series. Cherub needs no promotion – it sells itself through word-of-mouth advertising amongst the boys.

 

8. Then by Morris Gleitzman

The sequel to Once and possibly the saddest book I’ve ever read.

 

9. The Angel Experiment by James Patterson

The first book in the Maximum Ride franchise. This series has always been strong and continues to entice new readers. The eighth book, Nevermore, is due out in August. The boys also like the Graphic Novel adaptation of this series.

 

10. Artemis Fowl: the Opal Deception by Eoin Colfer

The fourth book in the Artemis Fowl franchise. This series is eternally popular with the boys and it’s no wonder. Artemis Fowl is a brilliant character: intelligent, witty and calculating. It’s a pity he’s a criminal mastermind.

 

This list has few surprises, but in some ways I find it a little disappointing. I love the fact that the boys are reading and embracing the wonderful series that exist in the world of Young Adult fiction, however I wish there were more new titles on the list. The Maze Runner and Department 19 were the big hits of 2011 so I can only hope that there will be some equally exciting new releases in 2012.

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Top 10 reads for summer

This list is my personal one. As much as I enjoy young adult fiction, the summer break means I don’t have to read as much of it and can enjoy a few indulgences. These are the books I am going to read, re-read or that I read last summer and now recommend to you:

1. Shall we Dance? by Maggie Alderson.

I read this last summer and it was divine. Maggie Alderson weaves the romantic world of vintage fashion into the modern world of motherhood and relationships. I loved this book so much it deliberately takes first place at the top of the list.

 

2. Death Comes to Pemberley by P.D. James

This is wrapped and waiting under the tree for me. It’s P.D James appropriating the characters of Pride and Prejudice to create a classic murder mystery, set in 1803.

 

3. The Shadow Girl by John Larkin

I had to put one young adult fiction on the list. Read my review of this wonderful book here.

 

4. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

It’s time to re-read this in preparation for Baz Luhrmann’s movie in 2012. I last read Gatsby in 1986, so it’s definitely time for a re-visit.

 

5. All that I Am by Anna Funder

This is another one on my summer wish list. I have read numerous glowing reviews of Anna Funder’s first novel, which has been compared to Suite Franҫaise and The Reader.

 

6. Lola’s Secret by Monica McInerney.

Summer wouldn’t be summer without Monica McInerney. For twenty years she has moved between Australia and Ireland, working as a writer and producing best-selling novels. I secretly covet her life.

 

7. How Now, Brown Frau by Merridy Eastman

This is the third memoir by Merridy Eastman, following There’s a Bear in There and Ridiculous Expectations. This one caught my interest as it recounts Merridy’s move to Bavaria to begin a new life with her German fiancé. Having lived in Bavaria for a short time as a teenager, I knew I would connect with Merridy’s experiences. What I didn’t expect was to enjoy her humour and wit so much.

 

8. Worse Things Happen at Sea by William McInnes and Sarah Watt.

Part biography, part love story, this is a poignant collection of reminiscences. Sarah Watt, the celebrated filmmaker, died from breast cancer earlier this year. For this reason alone, the book is somewhat confronting, but it is also a powerful salute to the vitality of the human spirit and the beauty of love.

 

9. Emma by Jane Austen

I re-read an Austen every year, and this year it’s Emma’s turn.

 

10. Explosive Eighteen by Janet Evanovich.

What can I say? Stephanie Plum, Lulu and Grandma Mazur just make me laugh.

 

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Top 10 book endings

I find it difficult to finish a book I’ve loved, as closing the book feels like farewelling a good friend. There are some books that will stay with me forever, whose endings I cherish for their simplicity, veracity or beauty.

These endings are among my favourites:

1. So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past. The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald.

2. But wherever they go, and whatever happens to them on the way, in that enchanted place on the top of the Forest, a little boy and his Bear will always be playing. House at Pooh Corner, A.A Milne.

3. But, in spite of these deficiencies, the wishes, the hopes, the confidence, the predictions of the small band of true friends who witnessed the ceremony, were fully answered in the perfect happiness of the union. Emma, Jane Austen.

4. The scar had not pained Harry for nineteen years. All was well. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, J. K. Rowling.

5. Young girl. New frock. Box of chocolates. That’s all just as it should be! The Women in Black, Madeleine St John.

6. After all, tomorrow is another day. Gone With the Wind, Margaret Mitchell.

7. What would YOU do if your mother asked YOU? The Cat in the Hat, Dr Seuss.

8. It is not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a good writer. Charlotte was both. Charlotte’s Web, E.B White.
 
9. Bindy Mackenzie talks like a horse and I hope she never stops. The Betrayal of Bindy Mackenzie, Jaclyn Moriarty.
 
10. “Anything to eat?” cried Charlie laughing. “Oh, you just wait and see!” Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Roald Dahl. 

 

 

 

 
 

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