Reading, Watching, Listening: 2018

As the end of the year approaches, lots of bloggers are doing reviews of the year gone by, and I have to confess, I am jumping on that particular bandwagon as well. I stopped doing my monthly posts on what I had read, watched and listened earlier this year as I was finding I was getting nothing out of writing the posts, and often struggling to comment on things. In addition, I listen to basically listen to the same podcasts, week in, week out (as you will see below) so there was very little new to write about in that area. Anyway….here are my favourites from 2018.


There were a lot of good books this year, and here are a few in no particular order:

  • Peter Høeg The Susan Effect  – a thriller with a twist, and set in Copenhagen
  • Alex Miller The Passage of Love – one of my favourite books this year, autobiographical fiction with vivid descriptions that made you feel you were in Australia in the 1950s and 60s. Great writing and a great read.
  • Tom Hanks Uncommon Type – a collection of short stories that make you smile and think, all connected by typewriters featuring somewhere.
  • David Mitchell Black Swan Grace – I picked up this book in a book swap at work and really enjoyed it. First published in 2006, it is a semi-autobiographical account of a young boy growing up in 1980s England.
  • Anthony Bourdain Kitchen Confidential – with the sad death of Bourdain, it made sense to pick this up again.
  • Two books by Sally RooneyConversations with Friends and Normal People.  I enjoyed both of these books, though I know a couple of my friends who just did not like the characters. I kind of know what they mean, but I have to say that they actually felt like real people. Anyway, try them yourself!
  • Lilian Jackson Braun and the ‘cat who’ series – just the thing to pick up on a dull day, at the end of a hard week. I read a few more this year and will be no doubt picking up a few more in 2019.
  • Alan Hollinghurst The Sparsholt Affair – another book I could not put down, though at times I found some of the characters a bit annoying. Really worth a read.
  • Pierre Szalowski Fish Change Direction in Cold Weather – a short, light, uplifting read for a Sunday afternoon, I enjoyed this little book about people helping each other out in a snow storm.
  • CK Stead The Necessary Angel – four academics in Paris, all discussing literature. There is a mystery as well, and great characterisation.

It is hard to say what were my favourites – how we feel at the time of reading plays a part, as well as what we remember. I’m going to say The Passage of Love and The Necessary Angel for now….and risk changing my mind next week! (Note: Joshua Ferris’ The Dinner Party, featured in the picture above was on my long list).


I confess here that this will by no means be a definitive list as I know once I publish this post, a hundred other things will come to mind. Let’s start with films.

Next up, five top things in the theatre:

  • Betroffenheit – Theatre maker Jonathon Young and Canadian choreographer Crystal Pite’s piece – stunning! Seen as part of the New Zealand Festival.
  • Strength and Grace – an evening of 4 pieces by women choreographers, celebrating the fact that New Zealand was the first country to give women the vote
  • A piece by theatre artist Geoff Sobelle co-commissioned by the New Zealand Festival, Home. A house appears on stage, and the audience watches it fill room by room as generations of inhabitants move in, grow up, get old, argue, do laundry, fall in love, work and party. Also seen on the New Zealand Festival.
  • The New Zealand School of Dance The Tradition evening of dance by the classical students. Quite a lovely set of dancers graduating and coming up the ranks.
  • World of Wearable Art which is always entertaining – a mix of theatre, creative costuming and spectacular.

And finally, the small screen, where things get tricky, so will keep the list to ten things I enjoyed…but I am absolutely positive there are things I have missed here! In fact I know there are things missing like various comedy, cooking, gardening and house renovation programmes for example. Anyway, all titles have links taking you to information about the series – and yes there is only one US series on the list, with 1 French, 1 Norwegian and 2 Swedish.



Five podcasts I have listened to for ages and five new ones.

  • The longest running radio series The Archers. I can’t miss this and catch up every day. Really.
  • 99% Invisible an always fascinating series on design.
  • The women in food show Radio Cherry Bombe.
  • The Moth story telling podcast.
  • The Mustards because when it is Monday morning, all the possibilities are possible.
  • And new to me, Desert Island Dishes, a wonderful series of interviews with chefs, cooks and writers talking about favourite dishes and sandwiches, based on the long running BBC radio show, Desert Island Discs.
  • Unravel – an Australian true crime series
  • Podcast Radio Hour – a great way to discover new podcasts (how I found Desert Island Dishes).
  • The Boring Talks – which are anything but boring. Another BBC podcast.

What have you enjoyed this year? Recommendations and comments are always welcome!

You can find Thistles and Kiwis on Facebook, and also on Instagram@thistleandkiwis.  As for Twitter….am totally inactive these days.  If you want to get in touch, email me on



A Very British Scandal

The Informer

Stranger Things series 2


Aber Bergen

Mash report

Two Doors Down



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