Looking for a book recommendation? Staff from Readings bookshop share what they’ve been reading this month.
Holly Harper, Children’s Specialist at Readings Carlton:
No author holds a place in my heart quite like Tamora Pierce. When I was eleven I’d devour her tales of mages who could speak to animals and girls who dressed like boys to train as knights. But somehow I never got around to reading her Protector of the Small series. When a colleague of mine (who has an equally big place in her heart for Tamora) discovered this, she shoved the first book in my hands and ordered me to read. I’m so glad she did, because now that I’m working my way through the rest of the series, I’m reminded exactly why Tamora Pierce was such a huge part of my tween years.
In book one, First Test, Kel becomes the first girl to legally train as a knight in Tortall, and despite the overwhelming odds she faces from those who believe a female has no business wielding a sword, she triumphs time and time again. These are the books that really made me fall in love with reading when I was a kid, and it’s wonderful to know that my feelings haven’t dimmed over the years.
Chris Somerville, Online Team Member:
I was a big fan of Denis Johnson’s Jesus’ Son years ago when I read it, and possibly let it have a disastrous effect on my life. I’ve since followed Johnson’s career idly, not reading all his books but taking them up now and then. Most recently, I picked up Train Dreams.
In Train Dreams, Johnson covers a man’s unremarkable life, around the turn of the century, following his work on the railway line, then as a logger, then as a delivery man. There are no tricks here, although the events are sometimes presented in a straightforward, unadorned way. The times we actually get the protagonist’s opinion on things, which is only a handful of times, he comes across as a vaguely simple individual. Yet there are strange and wonderful visions too, with ghosts and wolf-like people, and touches of humour – especially the story of a man who was shot by his own dog, and our protagonist’s first flight on a bi-plane at a state fair. These moments are what make Train Dreams such a remarkable book, with moments of true beauty rising up out of the mundane.
Alan Vaarwerk, Editorial Assistant for Readings Monthly
Largely flying under the radar in Australia since its low-key release in December 2014, Young Skins has garnered a lot of critical attention elsewhere, winning the Guardian First Book Award and the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award – the Big One in the world of short fiction.
The stories are all centred on Glanbeigh, a fictional small town in rural Ireland and its disaffected young inhabitants – boy racers, small-time criminals and petrol station attendants – that feels archetypal of so many dying regional towns, including in Australia. Barrett’s writing smashes together modern realism with the pastoral and folkloric in a style which echoes the American short fiction masters as much as the lyrical Irish novelists that came before him. Young Skins is the sort of collection I could revisit regularly, each time finding new routes through the streets of Glanbeigh.
Bronte Coates, Digital Content Coordinator:
Fates and Furies is one of the funnest adult fiction books I’ve read all year. A kind of literary version of Gone Girl, this is the story of the marriage between Lotto and Mathilde – the first section (‘Fates’) is from Lotto’s perspective until a shifting focus reveals Mathilde’s perspective in the second section (‘Furies’). Groff is a gorgeously imaginative writer, and she has a keen sense of empathy and understanding for her characters that gives the book depth, even as the plot veers into soap opera territory. (I actually rather enjoyed this aspect of the novel after the starkly, bleakly, realist novels that have been in the spotlight recently.) As with Gone Girl, the central question of this novel is about marriage and what it means to be part of one.
Stella Charls, Marketing and events coordinator:
I’m pretty late to the party, but I am pleased to announce that I’ve fallen head-over-heels in love with Jenny Offill’s Dept. of Speculation. This gorgeously designed little book (in both paperback and hardback) has sat next to my bed for over a year, and now that I’ve finally finished it I can safely say that it’s the best thing I’ve read in recent memory. If I’d initially read it when I first bought it all those months ago, I feel like I would have made the time to read it another handful of times by now. I urge you to read this dazzling book for yourself – and give a copy to a friend so that you have someone to discuss it with afterwards!
Jason Austin, Buyer at Readings Carlton:
The supernatural thriller is a genre that I could never live without. Whenever I am feeling disenchanted by whatever I am reading, I often regress to my teenage self and bury my head in a Stephen King novel.
I recently travelled to Bendigo and needed some escapism for the trip. After remember how a colleague has raved to me about The Three last year, I decided to give it a go. It turned out to be exactly what I needed – although I am glad that it was a train read and not a plane read as the opening of the book depicts a plane crash in wonderfully graphic detail.
This plane is not the only one to have crashed and the media quickly label the day in which four passenger planes drop out of the sky, ‘Black Thursday’; the trio of children who are the only survivors of these disasters are simply called ‘The Three’. Rumours abound about how the children survived. Anxiety seeds itself in the community when an Evangelist names them as three of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Their individual guardians notice that they are in fact acting rather strange: one of the kids seems to be able to heal his grandfather’s Alzheimer’s.
The author has nestled the novel in the guise of a work of non-fiction; a collection of interviews by a journalist and it’s a very clever storytelling device that allows the reader to get first-hand confessions from all of the characters involved. The Three is a classic page-turner and as I discovered, the perfect antidote to literary ennui.