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.

Storytorch Press grows wings

Canberra publisher launches new books in 2022
First event at Book Cow in Kingston, ACT, on Saturday 29 January 2022 at 3pm

Author Samantha Tidy was inspired by the positive community reaction to her book Our Bush Capital (2020), She decided to re-invest her author royalties from this and her other published books and to open her boutique publishing house Storytorch Press to public submissions.

Samantha Tidy talks to Barbie about Storytorch Press
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Lucy Neave – Believe in Me

UQP, Australia, 2021
Cover design by Sandy Cull, gogoGingko; cover artwork by Sarah Jarrett

Professor Gail Jones’ front cover endorsement of Lucy Neave’s Believe in Me describes it as ‘astute, tender and wise’. Spot on.

Lucy Neave demonstrates a finely tuned capacity to draw us into not merely the story but also the inner worlds and societal atmospheres of the times and places of her telling. We feel acutely the stifling confinement, the sense of loss and abandonment of the lives of the three women whose story this is.

Barbie spoke to Lucy Neave about Believe in Me
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The Furphy Anthology 2021

Hardie Grant, Australia, 2021
Cover design and illustrations Design by Committee

The Furphy Literary Award was established in 1992 for writers of all ages in the greater Shepparton region. It was inspired by the Furphy family’s interest in story-telling. In 2020 the award was expanded and entries were welcomed from across Australia. The topic for 2021 was Australian Life in all Its Diversity.

Furphy Anthology winner Thomas Alan talks about his work
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Steven Miller – The Exhibitionists

Art Gallery of New South Wales, Australia, 2021
Design Dominic Hofstede (Mucho)

No-one could be better placed to produce a history of the Art Gallery of New South Wales, celebrating its 150th year, than long serving Chief Archivist Steven Miller.

Catchily titled, The Exhibitionists is at once a social history of those years and an examination of the changes in the nature and purpose of the gallery – this one and, by association, others in Australia.

Barbie spoke to Steven Miller about The Exhibitionists
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Colin Campbell – Poems

Stringybark Publishing, Australia, 2021

Poems is an intimate and affecting collection of work by a poet with an assured mastery of the English word and phrase. Many of the poems speak of his love for his mother and for the Suffolk countryside of his boyhood, often felt to be one and the same.

There are constant echoes of Gerard Manley Hopkins and Dylan Thomas in Colin Campbell’s beautiful language, along with the lilt and fall of the Suffolk dialect he sometimes employs in his story telling. For this is what these poems are, the stories of his life and loves, from the sadness and shame of his unmarried mother to the cruelty of the cane-wielding school master.

Colin Campbell talks to Barbie and reads some of his poems. Music is from Dubussy’s Clair de Lune
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Barry Maitland – The Russian Wife

Allen & Unwin, Australia, 2021
Cover design Nada Backovic

I’m coming late to the David Brock and Kathy Kolla party, a fact I deeply regret. I hope to make amends by getting my hands on as much of Barry Maitland’s back catalogue as possible.

The Russian Wife is a cracking crime read, a suave amalgam of elegant writing, fast flowing action and pleasingly complex characters. I was immediately wedded to the welfare of our leads, despite only just now meeting them, 27 years into their on-page careers.

Barbie talks to Barry Maitland about The Russian Wife
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Fiona Palmer – The Long Weekend

Hachette, Australia, 2021
Cover design Christabella Designs

In her real life, Fiona Palmer has her feet firmly on the ground – or more accurately on the floor of large agricultural machinery or the pedals of a racing car, but in her fictional world she does love a good romance and at the same time takes a look at contemporary concerns, many of them urban.

Barbie talks to Fiona Palmer about The Long Weekend
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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

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’ ( I for one am deeply grateful for this.

Barbie spoke to Melanie King about The Secret History of English Spas
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