CategoryThe Reading List

This reading list is a contribution to the sharing of books. All sorts of books make their way to my bedside table. Some are sent, some recommended, some given as gifts or lent by someone who has enjoyed reading them.

Others (let’s be frank – many) I see on a bookstore shelf, find irresistible and bring home. A few of these become family members who may not leave my bookshelf, but can be read by guests who stay. Some wander on to other homes and hearts.

If you have books you’d like to talk about contact me via the web contact form.

Stephanie Parkyn – The Freedom of Birds

Allen & Unwin, Australia, 2021
Cover design Lisa White

Stephanie Parkyn has chosen the failing years of the Napoleonic Empire as the period for this historical fiction, a sweeping tale of cultural theft, love and betrayal, abandonment and refuge.

The story follows the fortunes of storytellers Rémi and Pascal, whom we first meet as orphans working in the comedia dell’arte theatre of Gianni. They are soon joined by Saskia, a Russian travelling circus performer who had been kidnapped and mistreated by a mysterious religious Father.

Barbie spoke to Stephanie Parkyn about The Freedom of Birds
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Angela Taylor – The Machinery Shed

Self-published, Australia, 2021
Artwork by theillustrators.com.au

On one level this is a picture book made for country kids, especially those who live on working farms. It presents the day to day lives of such children in a way that mainstream picture books and other children’s literature do not, thus acknowledging and valuing their real world experiences.

Barbie talks to Angela Taylor about The Machinery Shed
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Michael Burge – Tank Water

Midnight Sun Publishing, Australia, 2021
Cover design Kim Lock

This is a fine crime fiction novel (it happens to be a debut), one that has clearly sat with its author and matured as would a cellared wine.

The plot of this story springs from rural gay hate crimes and hence it is destined to be classified as LGBTQIA+ literature, as well as crime fiction. I’ve spoken in other places about my issues regarding the boxing of works into evolving genre conventions and I raise the same concerns here.

Barbie spoke to Michael Burge about Tank Water
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Samara Parish – How to Survive a Scandal

Hachette Book Group, USA and Australia, 2021
Cover design Daniela Medina

This debut Regency romance by Samara Parish is also a good publishing story about someone who wrote, worked on despite discouragements and then hit paydirt with an American contract for a 3 book series. One can but revel in this.

Samara Parish talks to Barbie about How to Survive a Scandal
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Scott Leggo: Australia – A Photographic Journey

Scott Leggo PL, Australia, 2021
Book design Kristin Thomas

What better time to produce a coffee table option for travellers? This book is sumptuously full of photographs of magnificent Australian landscapes – it could be either a temptation to travel or a substitute for it in times of restricted movement like those pressed on us by COVID-19.

Scott Leggo takes Barbie on a tour of the book and gallery
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Tania McCartney – Plume world explorer

Hardie Grant Explore, Australia, 2021
Design Jo Hunt

Tania McCartney is both author and illustrator of this book, a story which delights in individuality, cultural diversity, travel, an adventuresome spirit, reading, sharing of experiences and the power of the image.

Tania McCartney tells Barbie about Plume world explorer
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Berndt Sellheim – The Fatal Dance

Harper Collins, Australia, 2021
Cover Design gray318

Huntington’s Disease is the driver of this story, an inherited condition the randomness of which is a metaphor for the equally unequal and unjust fall of events in human lives.

Berndt Sellheim talks to Barbie about The Fatal Dance
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Melanie King – The Secret History of English Spas

Bodleian Library Publishing, UK, 2021
Cover design Dot Little, Bodleian Library

This book is a pleasure both to hold and to read, its exquisite production just what we might expect from the Bodleian. The aim of this press is to make accessible things which otherwise might be the province of academic research, to bring to the public some of the ‘riches of Oxford’s libraries’ (https://www.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/about/work-with-us/bodleian-library-publishing). I for one am deeply grateful for this.

Barbie spoke to Melanie King about The Secret History of English Spas
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Inga Simpson – The Last Woman in the World

Hachette, Australia, 2021

Post-apocalyptic, post fires, post COVID, allegorical, this novel should be fantasy, but we have experienced these things and seen both the reduction and the exaltation of human beings and society, and so we read this work as highly possible, highly probable, as real.

Inga Simpson talks about The Last Woman in the World
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Hugh Watson – The Silo

Halstead Press, Australia, 2021
Designer Mark Rashleigh

Two brutal murders begin this story, set in north-west NSW. As we know the identity of the perpetrator, the focus of this book is not on discovery of the criminal but rather on understanding his character, on following the much-thwarted police investigation into an ever-mounting number of deaths surrounding him, on political and financial corruption and on the lives of the landowners and the rural community.

Barbie spoke to Hugh Watson about The Silo
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Alister Nicholson and Tom Jellett – Cricket, I just love it!

Allen & Unwin, Australia, 2021

This picture book, written by sports journalist and commentator Alister Nicholson will delight many children, not least because it is about something they enjoy and relate to – playing sport with their friends.

It’s illustrated by Tom Jellett in a lively and amusing manner with animated young cricketers of all sorts happily playing the game in school yards, backyards, at the beach and on sports fields.

Alister Nicholson talks to Barbie about Cricket, I just love it!
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Jennifer Congdon – Woodstock: Farm, food and family

Independently published, Australia, 2021

The subtitle says much about this book, which is not simply a family history but a social history of the Riverina region where the Woodstock Farm is situated.

Details of how the farm estate has changed over the years also perforce chronicle the major events of the times, both internationally and nationally – the wars, the Depression, the droughts, the changing agricultural scene.

Jennifer Congdon talks about Woodstock: Farm, food and family
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Sandi Wallace – Black Cloud

Next Chapter Publishing, internationally, 2021

This is the fourth in a series with protagonists Georgie Harvey, journalist, and John Franklin, cop, in this case working more separately than together to solve a set of linked crimes in rural Victoria. Don’t worry if you haven’t read the first three, as this book is perfectly comprehensible as a stand-alone.

Barbie talks to Sandi Wallace about Black Cloud
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