Evie Wyld.

Evie Wyld.

PETER CAREY

In a year when I wrote more than I read, one novel stood out, not simply because it was brave and confident and deeply imagined, but because one writer recognised, on the page in front of him, a younger writer who might teach him something. I admire Rachel Kushner's The Flamethrowers (Vintage) without reservation, even when, from time to time, the wheels of her beautiful motorbike go a little wobbly. Here's to her, and all the great work we can confidently expect in the years ahead.

Peter Carey's most recent novel is The Chemistry of Tears (Penguin).

Karl Ove Knausgaard.

Karl Ove Knausgaard.

CLARE WRIGHT

These are the books that have given me the most pleasure this year: Kitty's War (UQP) by Janet Butler is a work of deep scholarly integrity, wrought in beautiful prose, that explores the World War I experiences of Anzac nurse Kit McNaughton. With the centenary of the war and its avalanche of military histories bearing down upon us, Kitty's War is an important reminder that women were there, too. Krissy Kneen's first "non-erotic" novel, Steeplechase (Text), floored me with its imaginative flair, yet utter lack of pretentiousness. It's pretty sexy, too. Fiona Capp's Gotland (Fourth Estate) provides a satisfying meditation on the gifts of privacy in the age of celebrity. I gobbled up The Rosie Project, by Graeme Simsion (Text), and swooned over Burial Rites, by Hannah Kent (Picador).

Clare Wright's The Forgotten Rebels of Eureka is published by Text.

Hannah Kent.

Hannah Kent. Photo: Sahlan Hayes

GERALDINE BROOKS

It's been a rich year for reading. The Orphan Master's Son (Black Swan), by Adam Johnson, is a masterpiece of voice; an agonising exploration of how love endures in the most brutal of totalitarian dictatorships. That it is, by turns, horrifying, heartfelt and occasionally even hilarious, is the measure of Johnson's achievement, which, to me, has placed him in the same game as Kafka and Orwell. Somewhat similarly, in The Round House (Constable & Robinson), Louise Erdrich tackles the issue of legal jurisdiction after a brutal rape on Indian lands, yet through the voice of her young narrator, she leavens the narrative with the heart and wit of a fully faceted, thoroughly imagined life. Jo Chandler's non-fiction Feeling the Heat (MUP), came out in 2011, but I only caught up with it this year. It's a journey on the front lines of climate science that masterfully weaves highly compelling data into an accessible and engaging story.

Geraldine Brooks' novel Caleb's Crossing is published by HarperCollins.

Geaeme Simsion.

Geaeme Simsion. Photo: Michael Clayton-Jones

HELEN GARNER

I discovered with intense, envious pleasure At Mrs Lippincote's (Virago Modern Classics) by English novelist Elizabeth Taylor (1912-1975). She's brilliant about the helpless fluctuating of women's moods, which can be hilarious when written about, but not quite so pleasurable when lived. Flipside of this were A Death in the Family and A Man in Love (Harvill Secker), the first two volumes of Karl Ove Knausgaard's thrillingly shameless super-male memoir, My Struggle. Apropos extreme maleness and its secret fits of conscience, The Bouncer (Finch Publishing) is Heath Lander's account of his years in crowd control at Melbourne nightclubs. It's hair-raisingly funny, sometimes grotesque, and surprisingly touching: a remarkable piece of writing.

Helen Garner's most recent book is The Spare Room (Text).

Krissy Kneen

Krissy Kneen

LISA GORTON

David Malouf, who turns 80 next year, published a chap book called Sky News in Vagabond Press' Rare Object series. Handmade limited editions, signed, printed on beautiful stock with cover art by Kay Orchison, and inexpensive, these really are rare objects, and illustrate one way poetry will work in a digital age. Another standout this year was Judith Bishop's Aftermarks – but the beauty of Malouf's poems works perfectly here: their song-like cadences and their tone, melancholy and glad together, like the late perspectives of Thomas Hardy.

Lisa Gorton's Hotel Hyperion is published by Giramondo.

JAMES BRADLEY

One of the highlights of my reading year was Mark Cocker and David Tipling's magnificent exploration of birds and the human imagination, Birds and People (Jonathan Cape), a book distinguished by its physical beauty, encyclopaedic range, and the way it marries a poet's sensibility to the wonders of natural history. I was deeply impressed by the focused fury of Tim Winton's Eyrie and the mingling of the fantastic, the satirical and the prescient in Kathryn Heyman's Floodline (Allen & Unwin), both of which marry a profound despair about the environmental conflagration taking place around us to a broader critique of the moral vacuity of contemporary Australia. In a different vein, Matt Fraction's whip-smart, acutely funny and surprisingly moving series Hawkeye (the first year of which is now available in collected form in Hawkeye: My Life as a Weapon and Hawkeye: Little Hits) continues to rewrite the rules about what superhero comics can be.

James Bradley's most recent novel is The Resurrectionist (Pan Macmillan).

ALEXIS WRIGHT

This year brought the joy of: re-reading Satanango (Atlantic), the intensely original and visionary novel of the Hungarian writer Laszlo Krasznahorkai, and now the new English translation of his novel, Seiobo There Below (New Directions); exploring Italo Calvino's works, including his Letters 1941-1985 (Princeton), and Six Memos for the Next Millennium (Penguin); re-reading Seamus Heaney's poetry with even greater affection and gratitude; enjoying the voice in Melissa Lucashenko's beautifully rendered novel Mullumbimby (UQP); loving Gurrumul (ABC) by Robert Hillman, and dipping into Mark Cocker's Birds and People (Jonathan Cape), extraordinary insights collected from more than 81 countries about the roles birds play in the lives of people, and stunning photography by David Tipling. Luke Carman's debut about western Sydney, An Elegant Young Man (Giramondo), is just exciting to read. Read these stories, then watch this young writer over the next few years. My holiday reading includes Thomas Pynchon's Bleeding Edge (Jonathan Cape).

Alexis Wright's The Swan Book is published by Giramondo.

HANNAH KENT

One of the best books I read this year was Evie Wyld's darkly beautiful All the Birds, Singing (Vintage). Wyld twists together the warp and weft of poetic language and plot to create a disquieting, deeply suspenseful novel. It lingered with me long after I finished it. I also enjoyed Eleanor Catton's debut novel The Rehearsal (Granta), and her Man Booker-winning The Luminaries (Granta). Both are works of startling ambition, but The Luminaries could be read and loved for its structural composition alone. Designed in accordance with astrological charts and patterns, its originality floored me. Finally, Patti Smith's Just Kids (Bloomsbury) is a moving and sensitive reflection on art, human connection and New York in the late 1960s and '70s. This is a memoir to be savoured.

Hannah Kent's Burial Rites is published by Picador.

DENNIS ALTMAN

It has been a good year for Australian books, and I am tempted to mention books by friends and colleagues: Andrea Goldsmith's The Memory Trap (Fourth Estate) and Christos Tsiolkas' Barracuda (Allen & Unwin), and two very readable scholarly works, Frank Bongiorno's The Sex Lives of Australians (Black Inc) and Michael Fullilove's Rendezvous with Destiny (Penguin). But the book that most moved me was David Levithan's Two Boys Kissing (Text), an American "young adult" novel that is the deceptively simple story of two schoolboys who decide to break the world record for the longest recorded kiss. But Levithan tells the story in the first-person plural, so that the generation who died from AIDS 20 years ago convey his sense of historical gains and loss together.

Dennis Altman's The End of the Homosexual is published by UQP.

ANDREA GOLDSMITH

I began the year with Ray Monk's magnificent biography of Robert Oppenheimer, Inside the Centre (Vintage). Monk portrays this flawed but deeply moral man with sensitivity, intelligence and insight. I revisited Vera Brittain's Testament of Youth (Virago) and Patrick White's Riders in the Chariot (Vintage), two books that deserve the rank of classic. J.M. Coetzee's stunning novel Childhood of Jesus (Text) excites the mind and troubles the heart, while Fiona Capp's gently paced Gotland (Fourth Estate) is a reminder of the age-old pleasures of fiction.

I was washed through with longing for the olden days of publishing – and fell in love with Roger Straus – with Hothouse, Boris Kachka's dazzling history of Farrar Straus and Giroux (Simon & Schuster). Richard King's On Offence (Scribe), which argues that if there is to be free speech then we must learn to give and take offence, has fired me up for 2014.

Andrea Goldsmith's most recent novel is The Memory Trap (Fourth Estate).

CHRIS WALLACE-CRABBE

My outstanding novel for the year was Hannah Kent's Burial Rites (Picador). What an inexorable, yet subtly modulated evocation of a woman's doom in 19th-century Iceland it is. The book was hard to put down, but still an emotional challenge.

A quirkier evocation of the far north is William Heinesen's The Lost Musicians (Dedalus), set in another poor but archaically villageois community, that of the Faroes where puritanism battled with music: I read it in translation from the Danish. In poetry, I enjoyed the wicked jauntiness of Annie Freud's The Mirabelles (Picador), contrasting utterly with Jakob Ziguras' tough philosophical rigour throughout his Chains of Snow (Pitt Street Poets). The house of poetry has many contrasting rooms, its windows giving views on to wonderfully varied landscapes of the human brain.

Chris Wallace-Crabbe's New and Selected Poems is published by Carcanet.

KERRY GREENWOOD

The high point of the year for me was the publication of Ben Aaronovitch's new book in the Peter Grant series, Broken Homes (Gollancz). This book follows the investigations of a young police officer, who – showing some talent for the supernatural – is seconded to The Folly, home of English wizardry, personified by Nightingale, the last practising wizard. Aaronovitch is quick, sarcastic, writes beautiful loaded prose, and tells a wonderful story, which I can never second-guess. He loves London like a bride. I adore his quick wit. And his understanding of how police operations really work. However, he has ended this book on a cliffhanger's cliffhanger, so I would be obliged to him if he got on with the sequel before I undergo spontaneous human combustion.

The other high point is a new book by Terry Pratchett. I suspect this might be valedictory. He has used almost his whole cast of characters in a charming story about what happens to Discworld when one of those horny-handed sons of toil actually makes steam work. That would be Raising Steam (Transworld) and, if it is his last novel, then it's a bloody good one.

Kerry Greenwood's 20th Phryne Fisher novel, Murder and Mendelssohn, is published by Allen & Unwin.

ROBERT ADAMSON

Anthony Lawrence's Signal Flare (Puncher & Wattmann) is an exemplary book of poetry, easily his best. The Best Australian Poems 2013 (Black Inc) was edited by Lisa Gorton who has enlivened this selection with her introduction, noting how various this enjoyable anthology is, packed with "lyrics that explode the idea of what a lyric can say, and be". Christopher Barnett's When They Came For You: Elegies of Resistance (Wakefield Press) is a tour de force, a poem memoir of great accomplishment. Toby Davidson published Beast Language (Five Islands), his first book of poetry, plus a brilliant study Christian Mysticism and Australian Poetry (Cambria Press). Other exceptional collections this year were The Book of Ethel (Puncher & Wattman) by Jordie Albiston and Ephemeral Waters (Giramondo) by Kate Middleton.

Robert Adamson holds the CAL Chair in Poetry at the University of Technology, Sydney.

EMILY MAGUIRE

I had a truly wonderful reading year in 2013. Among the most memorable were Anna Goldsworthy's smart, reverent motherhood memoir Welcome to Your New Life (Black Inc), and Marie Darrieussecq's raunchy, unsentimental novel about being underage and out of your mind with desire, All the Way (Text). The book that left the biggest impression of all, however, was Eimear McBride's A Girl Is A Half-formedThing (Text). Reading it was like having ants crawling over and then under my skin, and yet I did not want it to end. A month down the track, I keep picking it up to re-experience the electric shock of the language a paragraph or page at a time.

Emily Maguire's most recent novel, Fishing for Tigers, is published by Picador.

ANDREW RIEMER

Most books – like most works of art – are soon forgotten. A few stay in the memory for a year or two; fewer still achieve what Dr Johnson called “continuance of esteem”. One novel that came my way this year seems to me a candidate for that kind of fame: J.M.Coetzee's lithe and luminous fable The Childhood of Jesus (Text). Some readers will, perhaps, continue to remember William H.Gass' deeply idiosyncratic tale of music and American self-fashioning, Middle C (Knopf), or Eleanor Catton's jumbo-sized astrological extravaganza The Luminaries (Granta). Yet, these unusual and absorbing books – like The Quarry (Little Brown), Iain Banks' last novel, or Big Brother (Fourth Estate), Lionel Shriver's disturbing survey of American obesity – will fade away. On the other hand, Coetzee's marvellous novel will, I trust, enjoy continuance of esteem, the one sure sign of literary value.

Andrew Riemer is the Herald's chief book reviewer.

BRENDA NIALL

Forget the awkward title. The Love-Charm of Bombs (Bloomsbury) by Lara Feigel is brilliant. It draws on the wartime letters and diaries of four British literary celebrities, Graham Greene, Elizabeth Bowen, Henry Green and Rose Macaulay, and Austrian Jewish exile Hilde Spiel. Their lives intersect on a night of heavy bombing in September 1940. Against a backdrop of ruined London, we see the transforming power of danger on life, love and creativity. I thought we’d had enough about Henry James. Michael Gorra’s Portrait of a Novel: Henry James and the Making of an American Masterpiece (Norton) proves me wrong. It follows James as he writes Portrait of a Lady.  It is biography, cultural history and much more, written with engaging ease. Applause, too, for Last Friends (Little, Brown), the final volume in Jane Gardam’s wonderful Old Filth trilogy. 

Brenda Niall’s True North is published by Text.

JENNIFER MAIDEN

As usual, this lists which poetry engrossed me most, being not necessarily the best, as there is no best and I haven’t read everything. J.S. Harry’s Public Private (Vagabond Press) has none of her ‘‘rabbit’’ poems, but succeeds as drolly, discerningly and uniquely as ever. Lisa Gorton’s Hotel Hyperion (Giramondo) develops diction and phrasing very strongly in the context of art as a fated ship. Kate Middleton’s Ephemeral Waters (Giramondo) fascinates about the fascinating and also fated Colorado River. Lesley Lebkowicz’s The Petrov Poems (Pitt Street Poetry) gives empathetic, skilful depiction, if from a deliberately microcosmic viewpoint. Geoff Page’s 1953 (UQP) also chooses microcosm to depict the long effect of war, and Sarah Day’s Tempo (Puncher & Wattmann) microcosmically justifies observant compassion.’’ 

Jennifer Maiden’s Liquid Nitrogen is published by Giramondo.

ALEX MILLER

Tony Birch’s tense narrative held me in thrall from the first page of Blood (UQP) to the last. The utterly authentic voice of the young boy Jesse will remain with me for a long time. These two children, Jesse and his sister Rachel, must either find the hero within themselves, the place of their personal courage, or become absorbed into the broken shadows of their caste. It is a beautiful, tough, sincere book written in a simple direct style, its truths delivered without the distraction of either literary artifice or authorial intervention. Blood is a masterpiece of clarity by one of our greatest storytellers. Jonathon Sperber’s Karl Marx: A 19th-Century Life (Norton) is at last a biography of Marx that presents him to us as a thinker firmly located within the social and historical realities and influences of his own time, rather than as an icon of modernity. A revelation. A wonderful book. 

Alex Miller’s new novel, Coal Creek, is published by Allen & Unwin.

ROMY ASH

Claire Keegan’s Foster (Faber & Faber) is a long short story. I love that there’s a place on the bookshelf for such an awkward length. The writing is subtle and resonant. Laura Jean McKay’s short-story collection, Holiday in Cambodia (Black Inc), would make perfectly unsettling holiday reading. Night Games (Black Inc) by Anna Krien is important reading; it sits in the belly like a stone. David Vann’s Goat Mountain (Text) is a step into a strange boy’s world. I thought I’d finish the book covered in welts, dirty and with blood on my hands. Jessie Cole’s Darkness on the Edge of Town (HarperCollins) is a wonderful read. Set in northern NSW, it’s a book that speaks to my heart.

Romy Ash’s Floundering (Text) was shortlisted for the Miles Franklin Literary Award.

JAMES BUTTON

Two books that had a huge impact on me in 2013 were A Death in the Family and A Man in Love, the first translated volumes of Karl Ove Knausgaard’s six-part saga, My Struggle (Vintage). Knausgaard meditates on philosophy, rants against his fate pushing a pram through Stockholm, and remembers his father’s dismal end. It’s a stunning portrait of one man’s mind and life. Two very different books, Richard Flanagan’s desolate and haunting novel, The Narrow Road to the Deep North (Vintage), and Alistair Thomson’s blend of reported history and memoir, ANZAC Memories (Monash University Publishing), made me think differently about Australians at war. Economist Tyler Cowen’s Average is Over (Dutton) is scary on the coming workforce driven by machines. And I read George Eliot’s Middlemarch (Penguin) again after 30 years: brilliant then, better now. 

James Button is the author of Speechless (Melbourne University Press).

LUKE DAVIES

It might not be a book, but Anthony Lawrence’s Blake Poetry Prize-winning poem Appellations is brilliant, and strong, and packs so much into its 87 lines that it’s about as protein-rich as a big satisfying novel. Paul Fussell once said that for a poem to attain success and permanence, its ‘‘predications, metaphors and rhythm’’ must be so tightly interwoven that ‘‘the separate strands resist unravelling, and, as it were, transform themselves into each other’’. Lawrence ticks those boxes in this moving poem that reminds us how we are ultimately ‘‘... for all our need to take control, / most likely not the ones in charge’’. Other reading whose densities I enjoyed included Heinrich Zimmer’s decoding of mythological motifs of evil, The King and the Corpse (Princeton University Press); Simone Weil’s analysis of The Iliad, The Iliad or the Poem of Force (Peter Lang); Rudolf Otto’s The Idea of the Holy (Oxford University Press); and John Berryman’s searing poetry. 

Luke Davies won the PM’s Literary Award for Interferon Psalms (Allen & Unwin).

CHARLOTTE WOOD

I’m often struck by the importance of timing with reading. This year, after several failed attempts when younger, I finally cracked Virginia Woolf with To The Lighthouse (Penguin). Earlier, I found Woolf affected, obscure, shapeless. Perhaps I should be ashamed it took me 48 years to get her, but instead I’m just elated. I’ve never known a book to so accurately replicate thought, in all its mirrored fragments, and yet remain so whole and shapely. To the Lighthouse is wildly adventurous, deeply moving. A powerful feminist novel about art, and whether we can ever truly know another person. My other delight was a Joan London re-reading binge: The Good Parents, The New Dark Age and Gilgamesh (all Vintage). London is the business – one of Australia’s finest. 

Charlotte Wood’s most recent book, Love and Hunger, is published by Allen & Unwin.

GRAEME SIMSION

I’m writing a sequel to The Rosie Project and don’t read much when I’m writing. But I (finally) read and enjoyed Toni Jordan’s Addition (Text), J.M. Coetzee’s Waiting for the Barbarians (Vintage) and John Updike’s Rabbit, Run (Penguin). Tim Ferguson’s Carry a Big Stick (Hachette) filled the bio slot and I also read his The Cheeky Monkey (Currency Press) – probably the best book on writing comedy. Reviewing Matthew Quick’s Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock (Headline) drove me to The Silver Linings Playbook (Picador) – quite different from the film and illuminating to see the decisions made in adaptation, as I’m writing the Rosie screenplay. I also reviewed and liked Ben Schrank’s Love is a Canoe (Text) and Laurie Frankel’s Goodbye for Now (Headline). I’m currently reading What to Expect When You’re Expecting (HarperCollins). For research. 

Graeme Simsion’s The Rosie Project is published by Text.

ADRIAN MCKINTY

In Red or Dead (Faber & Faber), David Peace examines the career of legendary Liverpool FC manager Bill Shankly in a bold, original style heavy with leitmotif. Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch (Little, Brown) imagines a seedy hotel room in Amsterdam where Theo Decker recalls his peripatetic and troubled life. The Broken Road  (John Murray) by Patrick Leigh Fermor is the masterful conclusion to a trilogy of travel books that began with A Time of Gifts in 1977. A young man’s enthusiasm for the road is tempered by an old man’s knowledge and wisdom. The Generals (Penguin) by Thomas Ricks is an important look at the failures in American generalship following the triumphs of World War II and Autobiography (Penguin Classics) is Morrissey’s poisonously brilliant revenge billet mal on anyone who’s ever crossed him. 

Adrian McKinty’s I Hear the Sirens in the Street is published by Serpent’s Tail.

KIRSTEN TRANTER

This year I got around to reading the work of Iain M. Banks, the brilliant Scottish science-fiction author, who died in June. The Hydrogen Sonata (Orbit), the last novel in his series centred around the technologically advanced, anarchistic society known as the Culture, is a sprawling, playful, fiercely intelligent space opera. I adored Anne Kennedy’s Last Days of the National Costume (Allen & Unwin), a sweet and clever story of love in a time of blackouts and high literary theory. I enjoyed two big, clunky bricks of novels by authors I’ve admired for a long time, The Luminaries (Granta) by Eleanor Catton, and The Goldfinch (Little, Brown) by Donna Tartt, both passionately engaged with questions of form and aesthetics. But the revelation of the year for me was Margo Lanagan’s magical Sea Hearts (Allen & Unwin), a modern retelling of the selkie legend about seal-women, trapped in human form, who become tragically divided between their animal and human lives.

Kirsten Tranter’s most recent novel, A Common Loss, is published by HarperCollins.

SHANE MALONEY

North Korea is a place where cruel lies are official truth and reality can scarcely  be imagined. Adam Johnson’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, The Orphan Master’s Son (Black Swan), is a dazzling, often surreal foray into that heart of darkness. Part-thriller, part-romance, intriguing and wholly original. Girt: The Unauthorised History of Australia by David Hunt (Black Inc) cuts an irreverent swath through the facts, fools, fantasies and frauds that made this country what it is today,  hoisting sacred cows on their own petards and otherwise sawing the legs off Lady Macquarie’s chair. I was transported. Perhaps the Catch-22 of the Iraq War, Ben Fountain’s  debut novel, Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk (Allen & Unwin), joins a squad of acerbic, dazzled combat soldiers at the Superbowl on Thanksgiving in a dead-on, hip, poignant and funny takedown of  Bush-era Americana. 

Shane Maloney is the author of the Murray Whelan novels (Text).