Looking for a book recommendation? Staff from Readings bookshop share what they’ve been reading this month.
Alison Huber, Head Book Buyer
But, because I’m a bit late to the party and feeling a bit left out, I’m going to do it anyway. Plus, I want to tell every closet cynic who might secretly think to themselves, ‘It can’t be that good’, that, oh yes indeed, it can.
I started it late one evening this week, and read well into the night and long after I should have turned off my light. I was up early the next morning, with a plan to sneak a few extra chapters in on the tram, and read with tears in my eyes – so, yes, it’s that good.
Bishop’s prose is so accomplished, and the emotional lives of her characters so lovingly and honestly investigated. This is a book about longing and memory and the idea of home; I know as soon as I’m finished I’ll be wishing I could read it again for the first time. Please, join us in our love of this book.
And to you, Stephanie Bishop, you and your crazy, beautiful talent: I hope you’re ready for the ride ahead because it’s going to be glorious.
Emily Gale, Online Children’s and YA Specialist
Months ago I was able to sneak a look at the first page of The Accident Season, and it made a strong first impression. The premise immediately appealed – a family (a mother and three teenagers) meet with a series of accidents every single October, during which time their lives are on hold as they obsess over multiple cuts, breaks and bruises, as well as their memories of fatal accidents in the past that have broken them on the inside.
I started to read it on a short plane journey, which probably seems like a poor choice for a nervous flyer, but I had no regrets – it was utterly absorbing, a great mix of contemporary young adult novel and a touch of slightly offbeat. Halfway through, although my feet were by then on solid ground, The Accident Season started to do its best to pull the rug from under my feet with a mixture of startlingly real scenes and dreamlike episodes. At times I worried that the promise of the first half wouldn’t be fully realised, and I’d be left with no answers, just the aftershock of the mounting tension. But I wasn’t disappointed. This is a bold debut, and Moira Fowley-Doyle is definitely one to watch.
Nina Kenwood, Digital Marketing Manager
I’ve just finished reading an advance copy of Fiona Wright’s Small Acts of Disappearance (out in September). I loved this book.
It is made up of ten essays, each one exploring Wright’s eating disorder. The essays are raw and intimate, but Wright’s prose is controlled and thoughtful, so you never feel as though she has revealed too much. Wright is not insular – she’s interested in the disease itself, and what it means to be hungry, and what can lead someone to starve themselves. Some of the best pieces in the book relate to other literature, when Wright reflects on novels she has read that feature characters with eating disorders or addictions that are consuming their lives. Time and again, Wright circles back to how she became anorexic, examining the stories she told herself to explain her behaviour, and the ways she reassured herself she wasn’t really one of those women. It’s fascinating and heartbreaking to read.
This book is good. It’s very, very good, and I hope many people read it.
Alan Vaarwerk, Editorial Assistant for Readings Monthly
I really should be used to it by now, but I’m constantly blown away by the breadth and quality of writing on display in Kill Your Darlings.
In their most recent issue, Gillian Terzis’ exploration of online grief and hashtag activism is thoughtful and resonant as it explores the politics and performative nature of expressing grief on social media, particularly when it comes to violence against women. Omar Sakr is unflinching and passionate in his defence of creative writing programs against the ‘starving artist’ trope. Jessica Au’s short story ‘Those Who Know We Are Here’ is a beautifully written and melancholy meditation on what it means to travel.
I’ve also started reading Tegan Bennett Daylight’s Six Bedrooms – it’s been universally loved at Readings and so far I’m loving it too.
Robbie Egan, Shop Manger at Readings Carlton
Rick Perlstein’s Before the Storm: Barry Goldwater and the Unmaking of the American Consensus is a fascinating work of modern history writing that details Goldwater’s bizarre and incandescent rise through the American conservative movement in the 1960s. A mish-mash of good-old-boy western charm and cold-war extremism (nuking the Russians was a staple), Goldwater marked a turning point for the Republican party whereby they contrived to claim the notion of ‘freedom’ as conservative, anti-government, and partisan in the extreme. Though Goldwater was soundly defeated by Johnson, his rise to Presidential candidate forged a conservative movement that was organised and hungry and driven by a rage against the unions, the Democrats and anything that faintly opposed the ‘freedom’ of the moneyed right to concoct and execute whatever scheme they desired. Thus the road was paved for Reagan’s ‘morning again in America’ and Clinton’s sell out of the left. Rick Perlstein has written a cracking book here – highly recommended.
Amy Vuleta, Shop Manger at Readings St Kilda
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz has been on my to-read list for a while – it’s won a tonne of awards (including the Stonewall Book Award and Lambda Literary Award, and the author is a Pen/Faulkner award winner) and was also highly recommended by one of my queer book club members. The novel is the story of two mismatched teenagers who form an unlikely friendship, and through that they unlock truths about themselves and their place in the world. It’s one of those YA novels that is full of intelligence and humour and beauty that you just feel filled up with all the love and desire and longing of youth. I’ve only just begun reading it, but already this novel is touching, affirming, and has me filled with hope!
Ann le Lievre, School and Libraries Liaison
I love writing that paints a landscape. The Old Ways by Robert Macfarlane has one of my favourite all-time opening chapter. The author goes out very late on a pitch black wintry night to trudge up to the top of a hill behind his house, following the snow-deep prints of an animal. He is here to think, to reflect on the journey he has ahead. As I’m reading his words, I am all alert; the chill air permeates his writing and my imagination. There is also one of my favourite books so far this year: The Fish Ladder by Katharine Norbury in which the author takes me up stream, and down, in the ancient and wondrous landscapes of Wales and the Cairngorms National Park in Scotland.
Now I have The Shepherd’s Life by James Rebanks in my hands. Slow to start, it expands into a gentle and pertinent exploration of the shepherding practices of farmers in the Lakes District of England. Pertinent, because bit-by-bit the author describes how the abrupt demands of modern development rub against traditional farming ways. Rebanks’ family has farmed the area for more than six hundred years, and integral to his story is the picture he draws of his family circle, the unique connection he had with his grandfather and how he grows into the landscape.
Bronte Coates, Digital Content Coordinator
I’ve just read two really excellent books which were important to me in very different ways.
The first is Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me which blew me away. I wrote in my review that I cried for the last 50 or so pages without stopping and this is not an exaggeration. Coates’ words are gripping and passionate, and incredibly powerful. You can read an edited extract from the book here, and I strongly urge everyone to read this book.
Kate Beaton, of Hark! A Vagrant fame, has published her first picture book and it is very funny and very adorable. Beaton is one of the most significant writers in my own reading life. A few years ago, in a bid to explain why this is the case, I wrote: “She makes me feel good about being a girl without feeling patronised or intimidated.” And I’m certain The Princess and the Pony will do the same for other younger readers. You can see a sneak peek inside the book here.