Looking for a book recommendation? Staff from Readings bookshop share what they’ve been reading this month.
Nina Kenwood, Marketing Manager
This has been a terrific year for short-story collections by women. I’ve read and loved Hot Little Hands by Abigail Ulman, Six Bedrooms by Tegan Bennett Daylight and Single, Carefree, Mellow by Katherine Heiny (one of my absolute favourite books of the year.) I’m pleased to say I can now add Lauren Holmes’ Barbara the Slut and Other People to my highly recommended list.
This is a fresh, funny and very contemporary collection. The stories are unfussy and understated slices of life. Like all collections, some stories are stronger than others – ‘Desert Hearts’ left me rather unmoved, but the opening story of the collection, ‘How Am I Supposed to Talk to You?’, is one of my favourites and it broke my heart a little. Holmes is funny, and her relaxed style of writing has really grown on me. I am thoroughly enjoying this book, and looking forward to finishing it over the weekend.
Holly Harper, Bookseller
One of the first things I did when I was a brand new resident of Victoria was visit Sovereign Hill in Ballarat. I loved it: the old-fashioned lolly shop, the candle-making, the panning for gold. But I never really understood the history behind the place since I was never taught anything of the Eureka Stockade in high school.
Clare Wright’s We Are The Rebels has finally filled in a lot of the gaps in my historical knowledge with the concise younger readers’ edition of her Stella Prize winning novel The Forgotten Rebels of Eureka. Wright paints a powerful picture of life in the goldfields: the disease that ran rife through the camps and arriving ships; the fraught relationships between Chinese and European workers; and the mounting tensions that led to the Eureka Rebellion.
This is a fascinating book for teens that captures the essence of the times while never once feeling like a dry history book.
Chris Somerville, Online Team Member
The other night, while waiting for the Liberal party to oust its leader, I picked up and read the entirety of Richard McGuire’s Here to distract myself. At first it was hard to tell what was happening and whether there was an actual plot (there is, but events are scattered and sometimes linked to create multiple narrative strands), but by the final page, the story had became something quite moving and emotional, reaching the same heights that great art can.
Focusing on a single location, the one corner of a room, we get glimpses of what’s happened in this one spot over the years. What McGuire captures so well in this graphic novel are mostly small exchanges: a joke told in the 1980’s, a bird flying into the room in the 60’s, people playing a board game 100 years in the future. These exchanges are at once mundane and resonating. The limiting of location in Here is the real trick; by showing us so little McGuire manages to reveal so much. This is undoubtedly a book that will offer more upon re-read.
Alan Vaarwerk, Editorial Assistant for Readings Monthly
Later this week I’m heading to Newcastle for the National Young Writers Festival, part of This Is Not Art. One of my favourite things about the festival is how the regional, historically industrial city opens itself up to artists and creative types from all over Australia, with shopfronts, pubs and even carparks converted into festival venues. Marcus Westbury, a Newcastle native and a founder of This Is Not Art, also founded Renew Newcastle, an urban renewal scheme that takes abandoned or neglected urban spaces and repurposes them for artists and cultural projects. The program has been hugely successful and has spread to cities and towns across the country.
Creating Cities is the story of that success and a treatise on how communities can reclaim their public spaces from developers, bureaucracy and commerce – ‘a plea to rediscover the possibilities of people in a world designed around capital’. As a minor urbanism buff I’ve been a fan of Westbury’s writing on public space and culture ever since referencing a blog post of his in my honours thesis and I can’t wait to dive into Creating Cities. Coming from a regional town whose last bookshop has just closed down, Westbury’s strategies for creative renewal are inspiring, realistic and highly readable.
Chris Gordon, Event Manager:
If you enjoy the romance of dappled light, the glory of mixed leaves and the sanctuary that a garden can provide, Wendy Whiteley and the Secret Garden is for you.
I simply cannot get enough of this book. It is the most glorious release of the year. The photos of Wendy’s garden, combined with the images from Brett’s collection give the book a sense of lushness not seen often enough in a gardening book. The story is deeply moving – a garden created from a rubbish tip – and touches on big themes such as the sadness of losing loved ones. Ultimately, here is a book about a woman taking control of her environment and allowing something to grow where before there was only dust.
Amy Vuleta, St Kilda Shop Manager
The End of Everything is singular – a portrayal of suburban teenage girlhood that is deeply troubling. A pre-pubescent teen goes missing, and this event is seen through the perspective of her best friend, who is trying to make sense of her own coming of age at the same time. Abbott’s trademark slow, dark, prickling intensity is at its best here. I think I love her writing for its pace and tone more than anything. She stretches her stories out so much, and so gently, that like a band pulled taut, they strain precariously – ready to snap back and sting you at any moment.