10th March 2019
Most Popular books of 2018
Make sure you didn’t miss any of these awesome reads from 2018! These are top three most loaned and requested books from our Biography, Fiction, Graphic Novels, Non-Fic, Poetry, Romance, Sci-Fi & Fantasy, and Cookbook collections.
The Family Law – Law, Benjamin
“Growing up Asian-Australian I think is a slightly disorientating experience,”
Known for his frank writings about being gay and Asian in Australian society, Benjamin Law holds nothing back in this colourful depiction of family life, growing up in a large family in Queensland. As hilarious as it is insightful – if you’ve seen the TV adaptation on SBS, the book is definitely worth a read!
Steve Jobs – Isaacson, Walter
“I want to believe in an afterlife, that when you die, it doesn’t just all disappear… but sometimes, I think it’s just like an On-Off switch. Click. And you’re gone. And that’s why I don’t like putting On-Off switches on Apple devices.”
‘Steve Jobs’ is the authorised biography of the legendary turtleneck-clad, tech-genius, often-idolised, eccentric co-founder of Apple. His ethos of bringing together technology, entertainment and the creative arts revolutionised the way that we use computers today. For all his inspirational creativity, however, there are hundreds of stories that paint him as short-tempered, obsessive, unpredictable, callous, and at times unethical. Whether you view him as a genius or a jerk (or both), this is an engaging read.
Gather Together in my Name – Angelou, Maya
“The naturally lonely person does not look for comfort in love, but accepts the variables as due course.”
This is the second book in Maya Angelou’s seven-part autobiography about growing up in the American South, working through racism, personal trauma and self-identity. Angelou was one of the most influential American poets, writers, and civil rights activists of the Twentieth Century. She’s an incredibly engaging writer; her poetry is also on this most popular list.
Crazy Rich Asians – Kwan, Kevin
“Aiyoooooh, finish everything on your plate, girls! Don’t you know there are children starving in America?”
Who’s surprised to see this book on the popular list? Literally no one. The book is great, the movie was great, and the sequels are great (for the record, China Rich Girlfriend came in at #4 most borrowed in fiction). The book was brought into the library on a student’s recommendation a few years ago, and it’s been popular ever since.
After Dark – Murakami, Haruki
“In this world, there are things you can only do alone, and things you can only do with somebody else. It’s important to combine the two in just the right amount.”
Often heralded as one of the world’s greatest storytellers, Murakami really knows how to make the reader pause to think and feel. His writing is deceptively simple and clear, but always hints at layers upon layers of hidden meaning – often leaving as many questions as it does answers. With the story taking place in the cold hours between 11:56pm and 6:52am one midwinter night, this book plays with the notion of darkness – the darkness of the night, of people, of loneliness, and of morality.
Origin – Brown, Dan
“May our philosophies keep pace with our technologies. May our compassion keep pace with our powers. And may love, not fear, be the engine of change.”
This is the fifth book in the Robert Langdon series (most famous for the Da Vinci code). The novel takes you across Spain – from the Guggenheim in Bilbao, to Seville, Barcelona, and Madrid- and through some deep exploration of religion, science, futurism, and atheism. Translated into 40+ languages and topping bestseller lists all over the globe, this is a great example of Brown’s signature high-suspense, high-entertainment storytelling.
Persepolis – Satrapi, Marjane
“I wanted to be justice, love and the wrath of God all in one.”
Starapi narrates her experiences growing up in Tehran, witnessing the Islamic Revolution, and living through the devastating effects of war. She interweaves personal, real-life coming-of-age experiences, along with political themes of democracy, warfare, freedom, & cultural change. The graphic novel has been well-loved for years, as has the award-winning animated movie.
My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness – Nagata, Kabi
“Maybe the reason I’d been so bad at dealing with people in person, had been how hard I was always trying to make them like me.”
This semi-autobiographical graphic novel was popular all year. The book explores a young woman’s burgeoning sexuality, as well as her journey with self-development and mental health. Nagata tells real-life stories with humour, heart, and great vulnerability – and the two-tone artwork is a millennial pink dream ?
Best We Could Do: An Illustrated Memoir – Bui, Thi
“This – not any particular piece of Vietnamese culture – is my inheritance: the inexplicable need and extraordinary ability to run when the shit hits the fan. My refugee reflex.”
This illustrated memoir details Thi Bui’s relationship with her family’s past. After giving birth to her first child, she wanted to explore her relationship with her own parents, and began years of research to learn about her parents’ and grandparents’ life journeys – their life in Vietnam, experiences of the war, harrowing escape, and steps to begin a new life in the United States. This is a book about family, memory, sacrifice, and hope.
When Breath Becomes Air – Kalanithi, Paul
We’ve talked about this one before – 36-year-old Paul Kalanithi used the last few years of his life to research and write about life, death, work, and how to find meaning through it all. It’s deep, it’s intelligent, it’s engaging, and it’s well worth a read.
“The secret to life is to put yourself in the right lighting. For some, it’s a Broadway spotlight; for others, a lamplit desk. Use your natural powers — of persistence, concentration, and insight — to do work you love and work that matters.”
This one was in our top non-fic books 2017 as well – and deservedly so. Susan Cain’s research into introversion is relevant for all personality types, and provides insight that can help people work better, relate better, and live better.
Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F**K – Knight, Sarah
“I call it the NotSorry Method. It has two steps: 1. Deciding what you don’t give a fuck about, 2. Not giving a fuck about those things”
Even though the title is obviously a satirical reference to Marie Kondo, this book is genuine in its intent and advice. Rather than focusing on decluttering our physical spaces, Knight focuses on decluttering our mental and emotional spaces – setting priorities, moving past guilt and over-commitment, and giving yourself the freedom to say ‘no’. By focusing on what’s really important to us, we can make principled decisions about where to direct our time and energy.
sun and her flowers – Kaur, Rupi
they won’t be here for long
they still choose to live
their brightest lives
Taking the top spot from Rupi Kaur’s Milk and Honey in last year’s most popular booklist, ‘sun and her flowers’ didn’t take long to become a favourite as well. If you’ve even so much as dabbled in contemporary poetry you’ve no doubt seen excerpts of her writing or illustrations – the first book was largely about overcoming pain, while this second book focuses on growth.
Collected poems of Frank O’Hara – O’Hara, Frank
“My heart’s aflutter!
I am standing in the bath tub
crying. Mother, mother
who am I? If he
will just come back once
and kiss me on the face
his coarse hair brush
my temple, it’s throbbing!
then I can put on my clothes
I guess, and walk the streets.”
This collection of Frank O’Hara’s works showcases his work from the 1940s through to the 1960s. As an influential leader in the iconic mid-century New York School of poets, his verses are representative of the art scene at the time –bright, creative, startlingly direct, often experimental yet surprisingly relatable.
Maya Angelou : the complete poetry – Angelou, Maya
“You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.”
This book was recommended by a reader when we established the poetry collection last year, and it’s been well-loved since then. Her poetry is powerful and moving, never shirking away from painful and difficult topics but similarly refusing to ever let go of hope. You’ll likely recognise some of her famous works (e.g. ‘Still I Rise’). Angelou is in the most popular Biography list as well!
Call Me By Your Name – Aciman, Andre
“Most of us can’t help but live as though we’ve got two lives to live, one is the mockup, the other the finished version, and then there are all those versions in between. But there’s only one, and before you know it, your heart is worn out…”
Several readers have returned this book with a warning – it’s beautiful, but it will make you cry! Set on a Cliffside resort in the Italian Riverina in the 1980s, ‘Call Me By Your Name’ centres on the burgeoning romance between introverted, precocious Elio and beautiful, carefree Oliver. This is a stark, heartrending look at intimacy – and yes, by all accounts the film adaptation is just as tear-jerking!
The Sun is Also a Star – Yoon, Nicola
Every moment in our lives has brought us to this single moment. A million futures lie before us. Which one will come true?
The second book from author of the beloved ‘Everything, Everything’, this has been a popular read for years. ‘The Sun is Also a Star’ is about love at first sight: poet Daniel falls head over heels for the sceptical Natasha, who is focussed less on love and more on her troubling immigration status. The story is romantic to its core – optimistic, uplifting, and full of heart, with unfailing belief in the magic of love. There’s a film adaptation coming out this year – and as a fun bonus, check out the cool behind the scenes for the book cover’s string art.
Still Me – Moyes, Jojo
“I thought about how you’re shaped so much by the people who surround you, and how careful you have to be in choosing them for this exact reason, and then I thought, despite all that, in the end maybe you have to lose them all in order to truly find yourself.”
This is the third Lou Clark novel, following on from the sensations ‘Me Before You’ and ‘After You’. We won’t spoil the plot in case you haven’t read the first one, but just know that Lou is as charming, a main character as you could wish for – down-to-earth, funny, and quietly courageous.
Sci-Fi & Fantasy
Name of the Wind – Rothfuss, Patrick
“You have to be a bit of a liar to tell a story the right way.”
This is the first book in a fantasy trilogy which – fair warning – is as yet unfinished. But given that it’s been on popular book lists several times, it’s safe to say it’s worth getting into. Rothfuss’s clever, compelling world is based around ‘sympathy’ magic.
Lord of chaos – Jordan, Robert
“We are always more afraid than we wish to be, but we can always be braver than we expect.”
This is the sixth book in the iconic Wheel of Time series of 14 books published over 23 years – ‘Lord of Chaos’ was first published in 1994, and after 25 years it’s still as popular as ever! This is an epic high fantasy series filled with powerful natural magic, parallel worlds and dreamscapes, High Kings and evil beings, wars and battles, dragons and prophecies.
Mistborn – Sanderson, Brandon
“Our belief is often strongest when it should be weakest. That is the nature of hope.”
Sanderson is probably the most popular fantasy author at Surly – he topped last year’s most popular booklist as well. He’s a fantastic world-builder and storyteller; this series is based on Allomancy, magic of metals.
Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook – Bucholz, Dinah
Hagrid’s rock cakes, Mrs Weasley’s muffins, cauldron cakes from the Train, Harry’s favourite treacle tart… it may be unofficial, but it’s still fun, creative, easy enough to follow, and a little bit magic!
Cooking with kindness – Ahern, Pam
This is a vegan cookbook supporting Edgar’s Mission, the not-for-profit sanctuary for rescued farm animals, up in the beautiful Macedon Ranges. The people at Edgar’s Mission actually sent this book to us as a donation, because they’re so passionate about making sure their healthy, ethical recipes are publically available – so do them (and yourself) a favour and check it out!
This one was popular last year too – it’s a great combination of accessible recipes, vibrant location photography, and intriguing snippets of cultural food history. If you want to get into Japanese cooking, this is absolutely the book for you.
Bonus: Most popular DVDs
Marvel took out all the top 3 most-requested movies in 2018 with Spider-Man Homecoming, Thor Ragnarok, and Black Panther. When it comes to TV Series, most popular were House, The Walking Dead, and of course Game of Thrones.