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.

Laura Imai Messina – The Phone Box at the Edge of the World

Translated from Italian to English by Lucy Rand
Manilla Pres, Great Britain, 2020

This was a book so beautiful that, when I finished reading it, I felt I had lost something precious. I deliberately read it slowly to hold onto it for as long as possible – a bit like the grieving and their grief, so delicately portrayed in this story.

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Jeanie Green – The House Sitter

Author Academy Elite, USA, 2019

Jeanie Green’s debut novel draws on her vast expertise with all things equestrian and her own life experiences in Scotland and semi-rural Victoria. She weaves her love of horses, dogs and other animals into this fast-moving tale of things fractured and repaired.

Barbie talks with Jeanie Green, author of The House Sitter
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The Other Side of Absence – Discovering my father’s secrets

By Betty O’Neill
Impact Press, an imprint of Ventura Press, Australia 2020

To create a work which is at once beautiful and terrible is indeed a mark of literary talent and Betty O’Neill achieves this to perfection with The Other Side of Absence.

Barbie talks to Betty O’Neill about The Other Side of Absence
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Paul Kelly – the Man, the Music and the Life in Between

By Stuart Coupe
Hachette, Australia, 2020

For those who read Paul Kelly’s autobiography How to make Gravy (Penguin, 2018), Stuart Coupe’s latest book Paul Kelly, will fill many gaps in the narrative of this musician’s life.

Barbie talks to Stuart Coupe about Paul Kelly the Man, the Music and the Life in Between
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The Last Lighthouse Keeper – a memoir

John Cook with Jon Bauer
Allen & Unwin Australia, 2020

This beautifully told story of John Cook’s time as keeper of remote lights off the Tasmanian coast is both a history of the lighthouses and a slightly fictionalised autobiography. Working collaboratively with British author, Jon Bauer, John Cook has retold the minutiae of lighthouse life, but has also delved into his own turbulent feelings during those 25 years in the service of sea safety.

Barbie speaks with John Cook about The Last Lighthouse Keeper
British author Ben Bauer talks about his collaboration with John Cook on The Last Lighthouse Keeper
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The Tale of Barnaby Glurp – The Boy who Burped

Felicity McVay (words) and Caroline Seltz (pictures)
New Holland Publishers, Australia, 2020

Gosh! We are all in need of a bit of fun right now (and always) and The Boy who Burped is guaranteed to inject a dose of this for its readers and listeners. Most small children are rather interested in bodily functions, and those involving embarrassing noises always invoke hilarity.

Barbie speaks with Felicity McVay, author of The Boy Who Burped
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Peter O’Brien – Bush School

Allen & Unwin, Australia, 2020
Available for pre-order

This is a book so near to my heart that I find it hard to write impartially – in fact, I will not try.

Peter O’Brien’s memoir, Bush School, is mostly an account of that part of his life when as a 20-year old single young man he was sent in 1960 to Weabonga, one teacher school in a remote area out of Tamworth.

As one whose first teaching post in 1972 was a four teacher school, though not particularly remote, I felt such a deep sense of familiarity with everything he writes that I was immediately transported back to my 20s and the challenges of beginning teaching.

Barbie talks to Peter O’Brien about Bush School
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Ashley Dawson-Damer – A Particular Woman

Ventura Press, Australia, 2020

Memoir is an interesting form of writing, as one always speculates what has been left unsaid. In A Particular Woman, we fancy this is also true but Ashley Dawson-Damer has generously shared a great deal.

She speaks with honesty and heart about many aspects and periods of her life and times (she was born in 1945, as she once proudly announced in a Board meeting, when her capacity and experience were subtly called into doubt).

Ashley Dawson-Damer talks to Barbie about A Particular Woman
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Laura Bunting and Nicky Johnston – Coco: Big City Kitty

Scholastic, Australia, 2020

This charming book is both beautiful to look at and highly appropriate in its message  – ie that we all need to be prepared for change and able to adapt to new circumstances. This moral is, of course, not just one of our times, but is a particularly salutary one for both young and old in the COVID-19 world.

Barbie speaks with Nicky Johnston about Coco: Big City Kitty
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Darleen Bungey – Daddy Cool

Allen & Unwin, Australia, 2020

I must admit I was taken by surprise by this book. It is truly a beautiful, deeply personal work by an awarded biographer known for her writing about two of our most beloved artists – Arthur Boyd and John Olsen.

Daddy Cool is much more than a biography of the man who was first Bob Cutter, top night club singer in the USA, and then Lawrie Brooks, suburban father and proof-reader in Australia. This is a search for the unspoken parts of her father, a pilgrimage to the secret lives of her parents. And it moved me to tears more than once.

Barbie speaks with Darleen Bungey about Daddy Cool
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Kayte Nunn – The Silk House

Hachette, Australia, 2020

This is Kayte Nunn’s third historical novel, an intriguing tale set in the present and in the second half of the 18th century. I found it to be one of those books one is impelled to read on and on into the wee small hours, reluctant to leave before each small resolution and then the final revelation in the last few pages.

Kayte Nunn talks about The Silk House
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Jane Godwin – When Rain Turns to Snow

Lothian, an imprint of Hachette, Australia, 2020

Between the beautiful cover artwork of Allison Colpoys lies an equally beautifully told story of the adolescent search for identity, family and connection.

Jane Godwin tackles many issues of social significance in this book including the difficult question of social media and its potentially dire effects on its users. Trolling, shaming, the sharing of inappropriate images, exclusion and manipulation all come under scrutiny.

Jane Godwin talks to Barbie about When Rain Turns to Snow
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Josephine Moon – The Cake Maker’s Wish

Michael Joseph, an imprint of Penguin Books,  Australia, 2020

This book is beautiful both outside and in. Set briefly in Richmond Tasmania and then mostly in the imaginary village of Stoneden in the Cotswolds, the story is deeply rooted in a sense of place.

In fact, it is the search for her place in the world and for a family she feels she has always lacked, that drives our heroine Olivia, a cake maker, to apply to be part of a social experiment aimed at the economic revitalisation of this small dying community.

Barbie speaks with Josephine Moon about The Cake Makers Wish
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