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.

Maya Cifali – The Silver Bracelet: An Egyptian Girlhood

Cheops Australia, 2017

This is a memoir of a life of migration stretching back to Maya’s forebears, but it is also a fascinating history of the Middle East, especially Egypt, seen from its impact on the ordinary citizen.

Brought up by grandmothers due to the circumstances of war, Maya had heritage in both French-Jewish and Italian-Roman Catholic traditions. This strong maternal influence has carried through generations and doubtless contributed richly to Maya’s own outlook on life.

Maya Cifali talks about The Silver Bracelet
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Sara Dowse – West Block

New edition
For Pity Sake Publishing, Australia, 2020
Reviewed by Dorothy Johnston

In 1983, when West Block was first released, there had been very little prose fiction set in Australia’s national capital.

The first published novel to be set in Canberra was Plaque With Laurel, by M.Barnard Eldershaw, the pen name of Marjorie Barnard and Flora Eldershaw. It appeared in 1937.

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Petronella McGovern – The Good Teacher

Allen & Unwin, Australia, 2020

This is a thrilling second novel from the author of the best-selling Six Minutes.

Beginning in a distinctly domestic milieu with a primary school teacher suffering the breakdown of her 20 -odd-year marriage, the story moves inexorably into the dark realms of sociopathic crime. We feel our hackles rise as we live this story with Allison Walsh. It’s an emotionally demanding book with layer upon layer of conflicting emotions for the reader to navigate.

Petronella McGovern talks about The Good Teacher
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Jill Baker – A Dog Called Harry

Hachette, Australia, 2020

One would expect an award-winning journalist to write well, and indeed we are not disappointed with Jill Baker’s engaging and moving book, A Dog Called Harry.

Jill’s comfortable and happy life as editor of major newspapers and magazines, married to George and living contentedly and healthily on a small farm, was suddenly brought to an end with two major life events – the sudden death of her husband due to an Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm, quickly followed by her own diagnosis of breast cancer and subsequent chemotherapy treatment. She had well and truly lost her joy in life.

Jill Baker talks to Barbie about A Dog Called Harry
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Milena Cifali – Mallacoota Time – the lost summer of 2020

Echo Books, Australia, 2020
Available in soft and hardback editions
Design by Peter Gamble, Canberra
Cover art by – soft back Milena Cifali; hardback Ishak Masukor

Part memoir, part hymn to Mallacoota, part account of the fires of the Australian summer of 2019-2020 and the devastation and loss that resulted, Mallacoota Time is a beautifully written passage through grief.

The author aims to help others who have suffered loss through the fires, or other grief, to heal. She writes honestly of her own losses, fears and struggles and in this she invites us to feel our own – whatever they may be.

Milena Cifali talks to Barbie about Mallacoota Time
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Rawah Arja – The F team

Giramondo Publishing Company, University of Western Sydney, Australia, 2020
Design Jenny Grigg
Cover illustration Ben Juers

This is Rawah Arja’s debut novel and what a superb novel it is! Ostensibly and billed as YA fiction, The F Team has much to say to all readers.

The story hangs on a group of four Lebanese Muslim boys from Punchbowl High School whose behaviour (and potential) brings them to the notice of the school hierarchy in the context of a possible school closure. They are teamed up with four lads from rival school Cronulla to form a rugby league team for an inter-school competition and we follow the ups and downs of this process along with the challenges of the personal lives of each.

Barbie talks to Rawah Arja about The F Team
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Eddie Jaku – The Happiest Man on Earth

Pan Macmillan Australia, 2020

If you buy just one book in this COVID-19 year, please let it be this one. Eddie Jaku’s memoir is at once a hopeful and a horrifying account of his 100 years on earth.

It relates, of course, his and his family’s experiences leading up to and including his imprisonment in 1943 in the Nazi regime concentration camp of Auschwitz  – he is an ‘Auschwitz survivor’. But he, and it, are so much more (if there can be more than that).

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The Bushfire Book – How to be aware and prepare

By Polly Marsden and Chris Nixon
Lothian Children’s Books, Hachette, Australia, 2020
Front cover design and illustrations by Chris Nixon
Full cover and internal design by Liz Seymour

A book for children and adults about bushfire preparedness is highly appropriate at this time as we reach Spring 2020 and face the coming summer.

The summer of 2019, for some people and communities one like no other, highlighted for the nation how climate change has brought a new ferocity to our fire season. Many people and homes were lost in different parts of Australia.

Chris Nixon talks about The Bushfire Book
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Dr Anita Collins – passionate about The Music Advantage

Allen & Unwin, Australia, 2020

Known to ABC television audiences for her role in the Don’t Stop the Music series and to thousands for her TED music education talk, Anita Collins is a passionate and knowledgeable music educator.

In this book, intended for both parents and educators, she takes us through the basics of significant and approachable current research into the benefits of an education which includes music learning (not just appreciation).

Dr Anita Collins talks to Living Arts Canberra about The Music Advantage
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Caroline Beecham – Finding Eadie

Allen & Unwin Australia 2020

This is Caroline Beecham’s third historical fiction novel. Set mostly in 1943 London, it is a tale of baby farming, betrayals, friendships, war-time and the publishing industry.

Held together by the novel’s heroine, Alice Cotton, who works in a London publishing house and who finds herself inconveniently pregnant, the story delves into the grim reality of unwedded motherhood at the time. It is largely driven by Alice’s quest to find her baby, taken from her almost immediately after her birth – Eadie.

Barbie speaks with Caroline Beecham about Finding Eadie
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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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