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.

Wendy Holden – The Princess

Welbeck Fiction Limited, Great Britain, 2023
An imprint of Welbeck Publishing Group
Cover design Simon Michele
Cover images Irene Gittarelli/Trevillion Images, Shutterstock

This is the third of Wendy Helden’s historical fictions focussed on women considered to be disrupters in the glittering sphere of the British Royal family. The Princess is a fictionalised version of the early life of Diana Spencer, the first wife of (now) King Charles.

Barbie spoke to Wendy Holden about The Princess
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Allee Richards – A Light in the Dark

Hachette, Australia, 2023
Cover design Alissa Dinallo
Cover illustration Karin Locke

This is a book about growing up. Allee Richards captures perfectly that teenage girl angst which many of us will remember despite, in some cases, being decades past this time of life.

Barbie talks to Allee Richards about A Light in the Dark
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Tania McCartney – Plume Christmas Elf

Hardie Grant Explore, Australia, 2023
Design Tania McCartney

This is the fourth Plume book and, I believe, the most visually beautiful of the little penguin stories created by author-illustrator Tania McCartney. Clearly Tania is a fan of Christmas and all its celebratory fun and colour, trees, lights and tinsel.

Tania McCartney talks to Barbie about Plume Christmas Elf
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Hema Sukumar – Minor Disturbances at Grand Life Apartments

Coronet, Great Britain, 2023
An imprint of Hodder & Stoughton, an Hachette UK company

This is a book of the utmost charm. It is written with gentle humour and compassion, at the same time as sharp insight. It’s an astute observation of society and how important relationships are within communities and families, how they can be our salvation.

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Susan Duncan– Sleepless in Stringybark Bay

Allen & Unwin, Australia, 2023

We move into this book in the same way we might make our way into a new community; there is a gradual uncovering of place, of personalities and the way things are done. While this is a crime fiction story with a non-police investigator in the persona of an ex-journalist, it is the picture of personal lives and the connecting embrace of community that first commands our attention.

Susan Duncan talks to Barbie about Sleepless in Stringybark Bay
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Sophie Green – Weekends with the Sunshine Gardening Society

Hachette, Australia, 2023
Cover design Christabella Designs
Cover images courtesy Shutterstock

Sophie Green effortlessly draws us into the communities she creates with bold, believable characters and well-drawn settings. Typically, this author brings together a group of (usually all) women with a common interest and we follow avidly the vicissitudes of their lives and the ways they support one another to a happier place.

Sophie Green talks to Barbie about Weekends with the Sunshine Gardening Society
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Bruce Wolpe – Trump’s Australia

How Trumpism changed Australia and the shocking consequences for us of a second term
Allen & Unwin, Sydney, 2023

Australia’s location means that the first thing we often hear or see in the morning is about what happened overnight in US politics. And it likely includes the word Trump.

Richard spoke to Bruce Wolpe about Trump’s Australia
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Tom Taylor and Jon Sommariva  – Neverlanders

Penguin, Australia, 2023
2023 Winner CBCA Book of the Year for Older Readers

It is indeed cause for celebration that a graphic novel has for the first time been awarded this prestigious Book of the Year award. It is acknowledgement of the importance of visual literacy in a world where we are constantly bombarded with images.

Barbie speaks to Jon Sommariva about Neverlanders
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Gabbie Stroud – the things that matter most

Allen & Unwin, Australia, 2023
Cover design Christabella Designs
Cover images Nicola Smith/Trevillion Images

I cannot claim to be impartial when writing about this work. I was a teacher for 34 years before moving into careers in the arts and so when I read this book I know its content and its people from a place of long and deep experience.

Gabbie Stroud talks to Barbie about the things that matter most
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Jane Crowley with Athol Salter – Beeswax and TALL Tales

Ventura Press, Australia, 2023
Cover design Deborah Parry Graphics
Front cover image Alamy; back cover images Keith Salter/iStock

Jane Crowley’s recounting of her dad’s tales from a lifetime working in the antiques, second hand and collectables industry is both a slice of Australian history and a deeply affecting memoir. It pays homage to her father, clearly to the reader a kind and charming man with a good dose of humour, self-deprecation and good old-fashioned gentlemanliness.

Jane Crowley talks to Barbie about Beeswax and TALL Tales
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Shelley Burr – Ripper

Hachette, Australia, 2023
Cover design Alex Ross Creative
Cover images Getty Images, Shutterstock, DanielLerman/Unsplash and Annie Spratt/Unsplash

Dyed in the wool crime readers will recognise in Shelley Burr’s second novel Ripper classic Christie.  Here we have the small rural community of Rainier still affected by an historic crime, a triple murder by a serial killer now in gaol.

Barbie talks to Shelley Burr about Ripper
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Maxine Beneba Clarke – We Know a Place

Lothian Children’s Books, Hachette, Australia, 2023
Cover and internal design by Kinart

We Know a Place joins the cavalcade of books for all ages in praise of bookstores. Maxine has produced both text and pictures for this work.

Maxine Beneba Clarke talks to Barbie about We Know a Place
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Amal Awad – Bitter & Sweet

Pantera Press, Australia, 2023
Cover design Hazel Lam

Bitter & Sweet is a delicate study of grief, the ‘small’ personal griefs we all come to know of the death of loved ones, the breakdown of relationships, divorce, separation, abandonment and absence, the dissolution of dreams.

Barbie talks to Amal Awad about Bitter & Sweet
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Lenny Bartulin – The Unearthed

Allen & Unwin, Australia, 2023
Cover design Sandy Cull
Cover photograph Ryan Jorgensen/Alamy

Lenny Bartulin’s luscious, richly poetic prose is so beautiful one feels drenched in the pleasure of words, words perfectly chosen and placed.

Lenny Bartulin talks with Barbie about The Unearthed
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