2019: A year in (book) review.

Addicted? by Matt Noffs & Kieran Palmer

Anais Gschwind
5 min readDec 13, 2019

Books offered a welcome reprieve from the mighty hospitality summer that raged on through January. Having only just completed a course in community services I remained preoccupied with the psychology surrounding trauma, family violence and addiction issues. These themes were not strangers to the industry I repeatedly found myself returning to.

At some point in 2018 I quietly quit smoking and there is still a part of me that mourns the camaraderie of the shared cigarette. Staring at the world through a phone screen does not offer the equivalent intimacy. This book made me wonder about the many ways, socially sanctioned or not, we seek dopamine.

Becoming by Michelle Obama

In February the height of summer fades, fatigue sets in. What else? Is this my life? Did you know that even Michelle Obama has bad days? What a relief.

I spent a week in Yamba with two old friends. What about teaching? Why didn’t we do teaching? I enrolled in a full time masters program online that week. What’s two years?

Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Someone Who’s Been There by Cheryl Strayed

Tiny Beautiful Things is a less self-serving version of Wild (which is a book I enjoyed more much than I like to admit). It is as delightful as it is raw, heartbreaking and stitch-you-back-together-feel-good all at once served in dive-in-anywhere, bite-size pieces. I can attest to the fact that it is best enjoyed in the bath and then passed on with loving haste to a treasured friend.

Eggshell Skull by Bri Lee

Heavy with the weight of truth that is consistently ignored, reading this book wasn’t easy. Neither was April during which I spent most of my time wrestling with academic articles and churning out mediocre essays in my study dungeon.

There are so many ways institutions support a system that seeks to silence women’s voices and if you are not interested in understanding how then this book isn’t for you.

‘But I’ve never been/felt/experienced discrimination as a woman!’ is not a good enough excuse to remain ignorant.

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

Eleanor Oliphant is the perfect antidote to the crushing despair you will experience while reading Eggshell Skull. Take yourself to the cafe alone, settle in and really enjoy this book. It will remind you about all the good things in life that we can continue to enjoy despite the world’s harshness: friendship, kindness and vulnerability.

The Art of Gathering by Priya Parker

In June I entertained fantasies of creating an Australian iteration of Outstanding in the Field. They host gorgeous long table lunches in beautiful places. It combines my shared passions of people, places, spaces, conversation, food and wine. Cal and I often make plans only to tuck them away for later.

This book talks about the majesty of holding space in very pragmatic terms whether it be a conference, dinner party or work meeting. It also helped me understand my urge to skip small talk to get straight to the good stuff and how to make that happen.

No Friend But the Mountain by Behrouz Boochani

This book was utterly inhospitable in every way. Boochani wrote this book via a series of text messages from his phone while detained on Manus Island. In it, he describes the grim reality that is life in detention with no end in sight. I struggled to finish this book which I read alongside writing my final assessment for semester one.

This is not enjoyable reading but rather responsible reading for anyone who wishes to know the horror the Australian government inflict on asylum seekers with our mute consent.

Dalit by Yashica Dutt

Two weeks is not nearly enough time to become acquainted with the complexities of Indian society but Yashica Dutt’s book offered some valuable insight into the caste system. Spoiler alert: it’s complicated doesn’t even begin to explain.

You can read more about our Indian experience here.

The Thinking Woman by Julienne van Loon

I liked this book much more than I expected to. It is an easy romp through the lives and experiences of six female writers and thinkers. Van Loon explores their ideas on love, sex, friendship and life in general through extended interviews that are peppered with her own personal anecdotes.

In September I was tired and this book was a happy refuge to curl up with on the couch.

Three Women by Lisa Taddeo

I loved every part of this book. This was a compelling read from start to finish and I read the entire thing one day in bed, cover to cover. I was enthralled by its searing honesty, unsettled by its unflinching examination of the nature of human relationships and utterly absorbed by the inherent contradictions of these women’s lives. This book has all the good stuff from desire and unrequited love, to misery and deceit, sex, love and everything in between.

Friends and acquaintances have offered mixed reviews and they only serve to reinforce my staunch advocacy. I can’t wait to read this book again and I make no apologies for my evangelical outpourings. DM for more, I’m still not sick of talking about it.

Vignette by Jane Lopes

I’ve become rather enamored with wine this year, for better or worse. I completed my WSET Level 2 somewhere among the chaos of student teacher training and I’ve become hungry for knowledge on things wine related.

Jane Lopes book is a cracking introduction to the world of wine and spirits that is packaged in a thoroughly delightful hardcover edition that chronicles her journey through hospitality as a sommelier.

New plan? Study viticulture and becoming wine maker/sommelier.

Damascus by Christos Tsiolkas

It’s December and the bush is on fire everywhere. I bought Damascus a good few weeks ago and I can’t find any traction with it. I carry it around everywhere with me and often only get a few pages at a time. Turns out the time of Christ was a bloody morbid, desolate time. Everyone is tortured, sodomised, angry, defiled or hungry. I feel like I should like it more but it doesn’t seem to be working out.

It’s hospitality summer once more and we sneak in lunches of oysters and wine or morning swims and iced coffees before the endless march of dinner service, dreaming of February when the last of the holiday makers have returned home.

Special mention to The Weekend by Charlotte Wood which I also read sometime in there and thoroughly enjoyed, especially for its matter-of-fact depiction of female friendship in later life.