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.

Karen Viggers – Sidelines

Allen & Unwin Australia, 2024
Cover design Luke Causby/Blue Cork
Cover images Thomas Barwick/Getty Images;/Alamy; Luke Causby

In essence, Sidelines, Karen Viggers’ latest book, is about how hard it is to be a teenager in the 2020s, and indeed how hard it is to be the parent of one. However, I am reminded in reading this novel of the famous opening lines of Anna Karenina: All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.

Barbie spoke to Karen Viggers about Sidelines
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Bruce Nash – All the Words We Know

Allen & Unwin, Australia, 2024
Cover design Design by Committee
Cover illustrations Shutterstock

We find ourselves distracted by the author’s scintillating language games from the fact that this is really a work of crime fiction.

Bruce Nash talks to Barbie about All the Words We Know
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Jack Beaumont – Dark Arena

Allen & Unwin, Australia, 2024
Cover design Design by Committee
Cover images Alamy,, Andris Molygin

Jack Beaumont writes of the shadowland which is the world of the spy, the parallel reality of secrets, international and personal, that is the everyday life of those employed by our secret services.

Barbie spoke to Jack Beaumont about <em>Dark Arena</em>
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Dinuka McKenzie – Tipping Point

HarperCollinsPublishers, Australia, 2023
Cover design HarperCollins Design Studio
Cover images

It is difficult to put a DInuka McKenzie down once started, and Tipping Point, her third Detective Kate Miles crime fiction, is no exception.

Barbie spoke to Dinuka McKenzie about Tipping Point
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Maura Pierlot and Jorge Garcia Redondo – Alphabetter

Affirm Press, Australia, 2024
Cover design and internal Stephanie Spartels @ Affirm Press
Cover illustrations Jorge Garcia Redondo

The question of how early one should teach ethics to children and in what form is at the heart of this book. Maura Pierlot posits a convincing argument with this work for its early introduction.

Barbie spoke to Maura Pierlot about Alphabetter
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Alex Miller – A kind of confession: the writer’s private world

Allen & Unwin, Australia, 2023
Jacket design by Lisa White
Jacket illustration – Edwina Edwards, Blue Trees

A kind of confession provides a glimpse into award-winning author Alex Miller’s life from boyhood to the present, documenting his feelings, ideas about a multiplicity of things and some personal and shared histories.

Barbie spoke to Alex Miller about A kind of confession
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Tilly Pamment – The Plain Cake Appreciation Society

Published by Murdoch Books, an imprint of Allen & Unwin, Australia, 2023
Design Manager and illustrations by Kristy Allen
Designers Trisha Garner and Susanne Geppert
Photography, recipes and styling by Tilly Pamment

Tilly Pamment’s cake cookbook is a beautifully produced work of art with her elegantly styled photographs of every cake, variously accompanied by flowers, fabrics, covetable ceramics and baking paraphernalia.

Barbie speaks to Tilly Pamment about The Plain Cake Appreciation Society
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Best-selling author is new Australian Children’s Laureate

The Australian Children’s Laureate Foundation has announced Sally Rippin as the 8th Australian Children’s Laureate for 2024 and 2025.

Barbie spoke to Sally Rippin about her role as the new Australian Children’s Laureate
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Fleur McDonald – Voices in the dark

Allen & Unwin, Australia, 2023
Cover design Nada Backovic
Cover images Shelly A Richmond; Arcangel; Ewen Bell

This is Fleur McDonald’s 22nd rural fiction novel. In it, along with the expected rural policing story led by the much loved Detective Dave, she delves into the challenges of parenting, various models of the family unit, parent-child relationships, issues of power imbalance – familial, professional and societal – and social mores to do with out of wedlock teenage pregnancy.

Fleur McDonald talks to Barbie about Voices in the dark
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2024 Furphy Literary Award (FLA)

Entries open until 30 April 2024  

The $15,000 Furphy Literary Award encourages Australian writers everywhere to ‘have a go’ and prepare their short story for this year’s competition. The winner a first prize of $15,000, residency at La Trobe University and pride of place in the Furphy Anthology 2024.

Now in its fifth year as a national competition, the Furphy Literary Award is judged by Anson Cameron, John Harms, Margaret Hickey, Stephanie Holt, John Kerr and Thornton McCamish.

Following the judging a shortlist is announced on June 30, and a gala winners award ceremony is held in late July in Shepparton, Victoria.

Last year there were more than 620 entries, all responding to the topic of Australian life in all its diversity. The Anthology is published in hardback format of the top 16 stories of the year.

The Furphy Literary Award is named in honour of Australian writer Joseph Furphy, who wrote the classic Such is Life in 1903 under the pen name Tom Collins.

In WW1 Australian soldiers congregated at the back of Furphy water carts, manufactured by Joseph’s brother John, to trade speculative and wild rumours and stories, which became known as ‘furphies’. Jointly honouring the author of Such is Life, and ‘the furphy’ that was born from water cart tales, the Furphy Literary Award promotes and extends the tradition of storytelling embedded in Australian life. 

Sam Furphy, a great, great, grand-nephew of Joseph Furphy and Co-Director of The Furphy Foundation which administers the Award, said, ‘What we’re noticing is that a community of writers and readers has developed around The Furphy Literary Award, and we’ll do our best to nurture that community.

‘We’re committed to providing opportunities to both emerging writers and established writers and we hope that, as the Anthology is more widely read, keen writers will have a crack. It costs nothing to enter.’

 Competition details

  • Theme: Australian life in all its diversity  
  • Maximum Length: 5,000 words  
  • Entry Deadline: April 30, 2024 
  • First Prize: $15,000, a La Trobe University Residency and publication in the 2024 Furphy Anthology 
  • Second Prize: $3,000 plus publication in the 2024 Furphy Anthology 
  • Third Prize: $2,000 plus publication in the 2024 Furphy Anthology 

For more information, please visit: 

Cate Whittle and Nicky Johnston: Millie – The Cutest Puppy in the World

Scholastic, Australia, 2024
Book design by Sofya Karmazina

Artist Nicky Johnston is undoubtedly one of the children’s picture book world’s queens of cuteness. Thus the combination of her sweet anthropomorphic representations of Millie with Cate Whittle’s gentle story is a marriage made in heaven.

Cate Whittle talks to Barbie about Millie – The Cutest Puppy in the World
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Kell Woods – After the Forest

Harper Voyager, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers, Australia, 2023
Cover design and illustrations by Andrew Davis

It would do this luscious book a disservice to describe it as a retelling of a fairy tale. After the Forest is a beautifully written historical fantasy which plumbs the depths of human psychology and experience.

Kell Woods talks to Barbie about After the Forest
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Lee Christine – Glenrock

Allen &, Australia, 2024
Cover design by Nada Backovic
Cover images Getty Images/Liliya Krueger (model); David Diehm Photography (background)

Lee Christine’s latest crime thriller is an exercise in comparative morality. It’s a fast-paced delve into the nefarious deeds and nasty people in places of power, high and low, touching on the justice system, organised crime and to a lesser extent by implication, the police force and prison system.

Lee Christine talks to Barbie about Glenrock
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Léonie Kelsall – The Blue Gum Camp

Allen & Unwin, Australia, 2024
Cover design Nada Bakovic
Cover photos Getty Images; Kim Miller; iStock, Unsplash
Inside back cover photo Taylor Portelli

True to the Trojan Horse approach adopted by so many contemporary Australian rural romance writers, Léonie Kelsall has incorporated a number of significant social and human issues into this novel.

Léonie Kelsall talks to Barbie about The Blue Gum Camp
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Erina Reddan – Deep in the Forest

Pantera Press, Australia, 2023
Cover design Elysia Clapin
Cover image Shutterstock/Shift Drive

What a clever author Erina Reddan is! Whilst this novel is an edge of the seat thriller, highly filmic and so visually graphic it could easily be a television drama series, it is also a beautiful literary work, rich in imagery and complex in its themes and motifs. It’s delicious reading.

Erina Reddan talks to Barbie about Deep in the Forest
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