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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I find poet Lizz Murphy’s latest volume the wear of my face to be a literary manifestation of the photographer’s capacity to quietly observe – everything from the banal to the exalted is the stuff of her poetry. She writes so beautifully it makes me ache.
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.
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.
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.