A Room Made of Leaves, Kate Grenville, Australia, 2020

A Room Made of Leaves, Kate Grenville, Australia, 2020

Kate Grenville’s latest book can best be described as fictional history. It follows the life of Elizabeth (Veale) Macarthur from her life as a more-or-less orphaned child in Devon to her life in Sydney and Parramatta as the wife of the insensitive, brutish and unpredictable John Macarthur. Macarthur’s name is now firmly connected to the …

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Be Happy, Always, Xandria Ooi, USA, 2019

Be Happy, Always, Xandria Ooi, USA, 2019

This is a delightful book about living life in ways that will engender, not destroy, happiness. Some of it is obvious, but much of it presents things we thought we knew but from other perspectives. It is a book that can be read cover-to-cover or that can be delved into in small bits. I read …

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Where the Crawdads Sing, Delia Owens, USA, 2018

Where the Crawdads Sing, Delia Owens, USA, 2018

On one level, I enjoyed what this book was trying to say; on another level, I found it extremely disappointing. I experienced it as two separate stories, one focused on the information about the North Carolina marsh and the creatures that live there; the other, a fairy story that quite often descends into ‘chick lit’, …

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Any Ordinary Day by Leigh Sales, Australia, 2018

Any Ordinary Day by Leigh Sales, Australia, 2018

In this thought-provoking book, journalist and television commentator Leigh Sales interviews a number of people, each of whom has experienced a life-changing event – often a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time – in an effort to find out whether it is possible to move on after experiencing such trauma. …

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Dark Emu, Bruce Pascoe, Australia, 2014

Dark Emu, Bruce Pascoe, Australia, 2014

Like Pemulwuy: The Rainbow Warrior by Eric Willmot, Dark Emu should be compulsory reading for all Australians. While Pemulwuy looks at the first years of European colonization and the dreadful impact it had on the Indigenous people, Dark Emu examines the theory that the Aboriginal people were not primitive hunters and gatherers (as we have …

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The Best Kind of Beautiful, Frances Whiting, Australia, 2019

The Best Kind of Beautiful, Frances Whiting, Australia, 2019

The Saint Claires are well-known entertainers. The family – father, Lucas, mother, Amanda, and the three children, Florence, Isolde and Puck – comprise the Saint Claire Swingers, a name that Florence, the pivot of the story, hates. Although singing and performing is all that Florence has ever known she leaves the family business in her …

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Night Train to Lisbon, Pascal Mercier, Germany, 2004

Night Train to Lisbon, Pascal Mercier, Germany, 2004

Pascal Mercier is the pseudonym of Peter Bieri, who is a Swiss philosopher, and Night Train to Lisbon is an amazing investigation of life and love and what it is to be human. I came to Mercier’s book via the film of the same name, which was beautifully imagined and crafted and which motivated me …

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The Futurological Congress, Stanislaw Lem, Poland, 1971

The Futurological Congress, Stanislaw Lem, Poland, 1971

One of the world’s greatest science fiction writers, Stanislaw Lem has with The Futurological Congress produced a short (129 pages) satirical work that can be equated to a roller-coaster ride where, at times, the carriage in which one is riding swerves off the rails and heads for outer space only to suddenly do an about-turn …

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The Deals that Made the World, Jacques Peretti, UK, 2017

The Deals that Made the World, Jacques Peretti, UK, 2017

“A country run as a business does not have to concern itself with the tropes of post-war liberal inclusiveness (tolerance, open borders, a welfare state, even taxation) only with its shareholders: the voters” P.294 Although interesting, this is definitely not a light read, and most of the time it is downright depressing. Peretti puts forward …

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Pemulway: The Rainbow Warrior by Eric Willmot, Australia, 1987

Pemulway: The Rainbow Warrior by Eric Willmot, Australia, 1987

If anyone believes that the conquest of Australia was fair and just, this is the book to right such ignorance. After lamenting the fact that Australian schoolchildren know more about American Indians – names, places, battles – than they do about Australian Aboriginal history, Willmot gives a balanced, and detailed, account of the early years …

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