We hope that over the coming weeks you have some time to relax. We've put together a list of some AuSI team picks for reading over the end of year holiday period - featuring (mostly) Australian authors. Enjoy!
Professor Paul Pickering (Director): Steven Carroll, The Year of the Beast (2019)
Steve taught me English at Broadmeadows High School (ranked as the worst school in the State of Victoria) when I was 15. He also taught me the basics of playing the electric bass guitar, which became my passion for the next four or five years.
He’d say I was a very promising bassist but a mediocre writer. Fair cop. I’d say Steve was an accomplished rock musician and has proven to be a multi award-winning author, but was a mediocre English teacher. Fair cop? And, he became my friend.
Professor Shirley Leitch: My recommendation is a trilogy: The Rosie Project, The Rosie Effect, and The Rosie Result by Graeme Simsion.
Dogs on laps and excellent flat whites in hand, a friend and I had just settled in outside Muse in Canberra when interrupted by a passing stranger. ‘Is there anything better?’ he observed before disappearing into the bookshop. Twenty minutes later he emerged with two books in hand: The Rosie Project and The Rosie Effect.
Our stranger was Graeme Simsion, now bearing signed copies of the first two books in his Rosie series. Up to that point, I’d resisted the books, annoyed by some gushing reviews. Now I was almost honour bound to read them. I held out for a full week before settling down with a pot of tea and low expectations. Five pages in, I was chuckling, a further five and I was laughing out loud. A charming, funny antidote to the 2020 blues.
PS: Like many great Australians, Simsion was born in Auckland, New Zealand.
Professor Mark Kenny: Want something quite out of the ordinary - something deep and yet still terrifically engaging? Try Dennis Glover’s brilliant 2018 offering, The Last Man in Europe (A Novel) from Black Inc.
Part historical fiction, part biographical fiction, it tells the story of George Orwell’s personal struggle against mediocrity through newspapers and other publications – marked mostly by underperformance in his own eyes – towards his final triumph, Nineteen Eighty-Four.
Glover’s marvellous book plays out against the bloody, violent backdrop of wars in Europe – the great contests between fascism and communism and democratic liberalism.
Just as Orwell himself used fiction to impart a serious message, Glover erects a minimal scaffold of dialogue and other narrative devices to animate this intensely human and important story.
This opens up, in sometimes granular personal detail the ways in which the cataclysms of the 20th century destroyed the lives of countless millions.
Ultimately, this is a story of how a tuberculosis-ravaged Orwell – a man of the Left and prescient anti-communist – finds a way of illuminating a looming future of human debasement through propaganda, surveillance and thought-control.
Dr Elisa deCourcy: I could not limit myself to just one ‘holiday reading recommendation’, the undeniable pleasure of the holiday season being the ability to devour multiple books, when at any other point in the year a novel or anthology would take me the better part of a few months.
I’ll be reading the trilogy based on the life of Danish poet and author, Tove Ditlevesen (‘Childhood’; ‘Youth’ and ‘’Dependency’). Ditlevsen’s first memory was watching her socialist father reading the day’s paper that reported on the signing of the Treaty of Versailles. The trilogy follows her life as she carved a career for herself in writing, against the backdrop of mid-century consumerism and in heady Copenhagen.
I also have Alice Procter’s ‘The Whole Picture’ on my reading stack. Procter grew up in Sydney but now lives in London where she offers ‘Uncomfortable Art Tours’ taking groups of tourists around the British Museum, the Tate and the Portrait Gallery and relaying “alternative histories” of the colonial art on display.
Procter’s book has stirred controversy, not just over how these pieces were originally acquired but also around questions of who is best placed to illuminate their significance as works of indigenous art?
I’m looking forward to reading her account for myself.
Jemima Parker (Marketing & Communications Officer): My recommendation is 'Bake Australia Great', by Sydney-based dessert extraordinaire Katherine Sabbath. A delightful collection of classic Australian icons, re-imagined as edible creations.
Challenge yourself to a baking day, or just enjoy browsing the possibilities.
I know I'll be reading this one several times over the holidays with my small nieces. (They're angling for the blue koala holding an iced vovo.)
Best wishes and happy reading,
The AuSI Team