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.
Known as the co-founder of the national newspaper for children, Crinkling News, long time journalist and educator Saffron Howden has worked with journalist and TV presenter Dhana Quinn to produce this media literacy handbook, equally useful for children, teachers and parents.
This is a gentle but assertive book. The author, a social psychologist by trade, has produced a work of contemporary philosophy in which he argues that kindness is hard-wired into us as human beings. We are as a species built for co-operation and collaboration, though, of course, we do not always behave in this way.
This superb collection of poetry is about childbearing. The editors speak in their introduction of ‘the ineffable mosaic of wonder, fatigue, love, elation, discomfort and tedium experienced during pregnancy, birth and early parenthood.’ The works selected also speak of the diversity of experience around the whole notion of childbearing – birth, pain, blood, loneliness, heritage, abortion, IVF, infertility, still birth, rape. But also, joy.
Take Me Home is a story of the search for self and family. Our heroine Elle honours the wishes of her beloved grandmother by taking her ashes to her Scottish homeland, which she left at the age of 15 with a mystery in her wake.
Elle’s life to date has been one of feeling like a square peg in her family. Her siblings have all followed academic paths to successful careers; her mother is a bit of a helicopter, wanting Elle to also follow that expected path. Only her dad and her grandma (his mother) seem to understand that she is of a different ilk.
Hachette Australia 2021 Offset by arrangement with Graydon House Books, an imprint of Harlequin, a division of Harper Collins Publishers USA
The Warsaw Orphan joins a growing collection of books about aspects of the Holocaust, this one the Nazi occupation of Poland. It is a story focused on families caught up in the cruelties and privations of the period – the Jews who were placed in the confines of the ghetto in Warsaw and the Catholic Poles living in relative comfort but still under great duress and hardship in the part of the city outside those walls.
This is compassionate writing. There is compassion for the two young Australian women whose search for love and self is the framework of the story, compassion for the cruelly misused Thai tourist trade elephants, for the Thai people whose daily lives are shaped by the demands of Western tourists ever in pursuit of exotic entertainment, for the reader lest we find the harsh reality of the results of our wanton search for pleasure too gruelling to face.
In this, her second novel, Kaneana May brings us a story of family. Most families will experience times of loss, grief, sadness, dispute, misunderstanding, failures of communication and petty bickering. But amidst it all there is usually love. And indeed, this is what we see in the lives of the three women at the centre of this epic tale.
Emma Bowd’s lilting rhymes and Tania McCartney’s jaunty images marry beautifully in this new toddler book.
Who cannot remember their children or grandchildren clomping about in the grown-ups’ shoes? Of perhaps young parents will recall doing this themselves. And this is where the book positions itself, not just with its story of all the wonderful and varied shoes in a normal life, but in the visual perspective of a child, who of course often sees the world by looking up.
Cover and internal design: Ingrid Kwong Lothian Children’s Books, Hachette Australia, 2021
Mike Lucas first started writing silly poems quite a while back to amuse his children. After a time this morphed into writing picture books, many of them full of fun but others also touching on major environmental themes (Vanishing, Midnight Sun, 2018) and love and friendship (Olivia’s Voice, Midnight Sun, 2017).
New Zealand based illustrator Daron Parton has been working as an illustrator since 1990 and is also an illustration tutor at Auckland University of Technology. Daron’s books include The Ultimate Survival Guide to Monsters Under Your Bed and A Crocodile in the Family.
With his previous book Beethoven’s Tenth (self published, 2021), Peter Rodgers has proved himself to be both an astute observer of human nature and contemporary society and a highly skilled and entertaining writer.
This second publication for 2021 reveals the same keen eye and an often wry view of the world around him, but also a practised hand in the art of short story writing. The medium requires discipline in self-editing, precision in the choice of vocabulary and the capacity to quickly and deftly build character.
In her professional life as a counselling psychologist, Judy Rafferty spends a lot of time listening to people. Some of the poetry in this collection is the result of hearing stories from people who needed to share them, to unburden their feelings by talking. The author unburdens hers by writing.
It may seem strange to some regular readers of poetry that AFL footy has found a place in the genre. However, to my mind, the job of the poet is to distil experiences, observations and thoughts to an economical form – and what the subject matter may be is of less importance than the communication itself.
First published 2020 in Malaysia by Strategic Information and Research Development Centre Republished in Australia in 2020 by For Pity Sake Publishing This review by Dr A.T. Ross is republished by kind permission of For Pity Sake Publishing
Despite its catchy and slightly misleading title, this is an important work on a long-ignored part of the Second World War in North Borneo.
Major Tom Harrisson led a party of 42 soldiers sent to gather intelligence prior to the landings of Australian forces in Borneo in 1945. Little was known about the natives, the terrain, or Japanese operations in the area of prime interest, the border ranges of British North Borneo and the Dutch East Indies.
Viking, an imprint of Penguin Books, Australia 2021
Intimacy and loss are the stuff of this compassionate story – love and grief. Taking as its inspiration the true story of the Wind Phone, a real place, in Iwate Prefecture, northeast Japan, the emporium of imagination is a deeply touching piece of magical realism set in Boonah (also a real place in Queensland).
Mira, an imprint of Harlequin Enterprises, a subsidiary of Harper Collins, Australia, 2021
This latest novel by Alli Sinclair joins the slowly growing body of literary works about the role that women played in the two world wars. These stories have remained untold for decades and it is only relatively recently that popular fiction has turned its attention to them.
The women who worked in Brisbane at the rather drably named Central Bureau were responsible for codebreaking in the same way that the women of Bletchley Park were in Britain. Not only during the war but for decades after its end, their work was shrouded in secrecy and they were forbidden to talk about what they did.