Trying to start a “What we’ve been reading” post in the year of 2020 without mentioning that this year has been long and tumultuous and that reading is one of the few things that have buoyed us throughout, is difficult to say the least. But clichés are such for a reason – books and essays and articles and comics are some of the things we have found comfort in throughout an increasingly heavy year.

Considering that, combined with the fact that our reading habits each have fluctuated with waves, weather and work of all kinds, we haven’t necessarily pulled together our favourite releases of 2020. Instead, we have focused on the things we simply read and loved this year, and what we’re looking forward to getting stuck into over summer. So, here they are, a few reflections on reading from some of the EWF Team.

Dani, Marketing and Publicity Coordinator 

Between poetry books, I’ve been getting my way through Catherine House by Elisabeth Thomas. It’s like a secret society meets Gossip Girl meets alien cult book set in a spooky gated university. The story takes its time to unravel and unwind, but it’s very enchanting and really builds up a sinister world you fall into. Once I finish this, I’m determined to queer up my Summer reading list. I’ve got Tomboy Survival Guide by Ivan E. Coyote and Frankissstein by Jeanette Winterson excitedly waiting on my bedside table to be devoured.

Millie, Program Coordinator

I know the idea of books about the pandemic and its effects has already prompted many eye-rolls and please-don’ts (is it enough to live it once or are we just not ready?), but as someone who reads to better understand what is going on around me, I eagerly gulped down Zadie Smith’s compact yet sprawling book Intimations in an afternoon. Its reflections written during (and about, and around) this year’s lockdowns are crisp and prove that, of course, if anyone is going to succeed at writing personal, clear-eyed portraits about this moment, it’s Zadie Smith – but I’m also keen to read what other writers will begin to make of it.

Another small book that is not new, but was the best book that I (finally) read this year, was Jamaica Kincaid’s A Small Place– a blistering letter about colonialism to the tourist who seeks ‘paradise’ in a ‘beautiful small place’, while ignoring the injustices of its actual residents, like Kincaid and her home island Antigua. Her prose is exquisite – acerbic and lyrical, and I can’t wait to begin reading all of her other works. I reckon this one is required ‘holiday reading’ for everyone who hasn’t already read it, in more ways than one.

The novels I loved most this year were sweet, sharp stories about women, friendship, love and longing – Cherry Beach (Laura McPhee-Browne), Kokomo (Victoria Hannan) and Chemistry (Weike Wang).

There were also TOO MANY brilliant new essays to name that were published over the year by emerging and established writers and literary journals across the continent, but I particularly loved numerous recent works published through Sydney Review of Books, Feminist Writers Festival, LIMINAL, Footscray Community Arts Centre, Overland and Kill Your Darlings. And finally, I can’t not mention the beautiful works that have been coming out of the Vignettes podcast and Postcards project here at EWF! These stories will make for some great summer reading and listening. 😉

Ruby, Artistic Director and co-CEO

Short stories, essays, YA and poetry tend to be my summer go-tos as I can read them quickly and switch between them as I please.

I’ve just finished Night Sky With Exit Wounds Ocean Vuong. I read out the second last poem in the collection, ‘Someday I’ll Love Ocean Vuong’, out to one of my housemates the other night and we are going to scan it right from the book (to include important annotations and underlining, of course) and put it up on the wall above our desks. I feel like I’m the last person to read it, but I would 10/10 recommend this beautiful poetry collection, as well as his novel On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous which I read earlier in the year.

I’ve got a number of anthologies and collections stacked up by my bed and the first one I’m excited to get stuck into is Collisions, the beautiful anthology from LIMINAL. The collection features work from both emerging and established writers of colour. I’m especially into the way the book is divided up into themed sections.

I also loved Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi so much and will be reading their YA novel Pet ahead of getting my hands on a copy of their latest book, The Death of Vivek Oji and in anticipation of their recently announced poetry collection and nonfiction book.

Online, I’ve loved so many things this year, here are two favourites I will likely be revisiting over summer:

We hope you find some recommendations for summer reading here, and have a restful few weeks. We will see you in the new year!