Looking for a book recommendation? Staff from Readings bookshop share what they’ve been reading this month.
Chris Somerville, Online Team Member
I’ve been looking forward to Fiona Wright’s essay collection, Small Acts of Disappearance, since reading different versions of them in various magazines. While being subtitled, ‘Essays on Hunger’ and being based around her struggle with anorexia, the collection, like the best essay writing, covers a wide and varying range of subjects, such as the ethics of using people’s lives for your own gain and living and working as an expat journalist in Sri Lanka. I’m only halfway through the book, but it’s already becoming one of the best I’ve read all year.
Nina Kenwood, Digital Marketing Manager
I was so, so excited to get my hands on an advance copy of the fourth and final book in Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels. I’m trying not to read it too quickly, because I don’t want this book series to end, but it’s hard to stop myself from racing through the pages. From what I’ve read so far, it might be my favourite of all of Ferrante’s books. Though really, all of the books are one long story so it seems a little silly to compare them… But I love ranking things so it’s a conundrum.
The Story of the Lost Child will be released on Tuesday 1 September. If you are a Ferrante fan, or thinking about becoming one, I encourage you to come along to our #Ferrantefever event on Thursday 17 September and celebrate her work with us.
Alison Huber, Head Book Buyer
I don’t usually read in the morning and almost never on public transport, so a book really has to have me in its grips to get me reading it on the tram at 8am. Stephanie Bishop’s The Other Side of the World did it to me last month and now it’s Fever of Animals, Miles Allinson’s forthcoming book, that has me ignoring my sleepy travel sickness.
This work won the Victorian Premier’s Award for an Unpublished Manuscript in 2014, and comes out through Scribe next month. I should say that Miles is a Readings staff member, but I don’t know him at all beyond talking to him on the phone to ask him to transfer a book for a customer, so these words should be taken at face value: Fever of Animals is an incredibly impressive piece of writing! I feel like ringing Miles especially to tell him exactly how good it is. It’s beautifully written, and its insights into love, grief, painting, travel, memory, imagination, ‘the real’, fiction and history have left me rather in awe.
Following A.S. Patric’s also truly excellent Black Rock White City, this is the second book from a St Kilda staff member this year to have me getting evangelical, and not a little curious as to whether there’s something in the water down there… Amazing.
Emily Gale, Online Children’s and YA specialist
I’ve been reading Sister Heart by Sally Morgan, who is word-perfect in this narrative poem about the Stolen Generation; it feels like a very close-up way for upper primary and young teen readers to learn about this aspect of our past. The story of a young girl who is taken far away from her family and her country in the north, is told with a lightness of touch and restraint, allowing powerful emotions to billow around the empty spaces. Like the very moving No Stars To Wish On by Zana Fraillon, light and hopeful humour is used to provide contrast as well as to show the incredible resilience and resourcefulness of the characters. The tone feels very true to the uncomplicated anger of a child taken away from what they know and love, the things they trust and who they are. I thought this book was beautiful.
Alan Vaarwerk, Editorial Assistant for Readings Monthly
I’ve been reading proofs of Beauty Is A Wound, the English-language debut of Indonesian writer Eka Kurniawan, and it’s like nothing I’ve read before. Kurniawan intertwines Indonesia’s transition from colonial Dutch to Japanese occupation and finally independence, with the tragic tale of infamous sex worker Dewi Ayu and her cursed family, in a multi-layered narrative that reads like an old-school gothic folk tale, full of dark magic, hyperbole and gratuitous violence. Horrible things happen to every member of Dewi Ayu’s family – it’s not a book for the faint-hearted – but the story is told with a gleeful, almost comic tone that adds to its fantastical quality. Kurniawan has been hailed as the Next Big Thing in Asian literature, and it’s not hard to see why.
Emily Harms, Head of Marketing and Communication
I really do believe that the world would be a better place if everyone read Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me.
Written in the form of a letter to his adolescent son, Coates attempts to answer the big questions concerning exploitation of the black body through slavery and segregation and why African Americans are still disproportionately threatened, incarcerated and killed in the streets. The shameful parallels between how America treat their black population and how Australia has treated our own indigenous population throughout history, right through to the overt racism recently directed towards Adam Goodes on the footy field. should act as an enormous wake-up call for us all.
Coates is a national correspondent for the Atlantic and author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle. I now need to read every word Coates has had published. His impassioned journalistic writing style makes for an unputdownable reading experience that goes straight for the jugular. I urge you all to read this.
Amy Vuleta, Shop Manger at Readings St Kilda
I’m currently re-reading a book that has stayed with me since I first finished it many months ago. Black Rock White City by A.S. Patrić is a perfect example of contemporary Australian writing – intelligent, compelling, readable and real. Even on the second pass through, I’m finding the characters, narrative and pace of it to be haunting, heartbreaking, breathtaking and beautiful. Propelled by a central, thrilling mystery, this novel captures perfectly the experience of a couple trying to live and sustain love in the aftermath of trauma and loss. This is a novel of immense feeling and depth; Patrić writes with power, precision and grace.
Ann le Lievre, School and Libraries Liaison
In the Quiet by Eliza Henry-Jones is a radiant Australian debut – full to the brim of beautifully-drawn characters, against the backdrop of a semi-rural Aussie landscape. The plot centres around a family of three teenagers, their father and their close friends. Their mother Cate, the narrator of the story, has recently died. The story flickers through time as Cate sees small vignettes of her family and friends on different days and in different settings.
The author takes us to deep places of loss and longing. Love and family connection are curled around the edges like a straining tightrope, trying to hold the characters together. The three central characters, Jessa and her two brothers, are vivid with sadness and yet quiet humour is at play and glimmers of hope appear as they grow into their years. Somehow Jessa reminds me of another character I met this year, Etta in Emma Hooper’s Etta and Otto and Russell and James. One a child, one an old woman, both living with loss and yearning and both setting out to find their place in the world.
Reading In the Quiet reminded me (not that we ever really need reminding) that we gain strength in different ways through our experience of love, of loss and of family.