Looking for a book recommendation? Staff from Readings bookshop share what they’ve been reading this month, with the return of our monthly spotlight on ‘What We’re Reading’.
Robbie Egan, shop manager at Readings Carlton:
After three years of study and full-time work I found myself struggling to get back into reading mode. So I picked up last year’s Crime Writers’ Association Gold Dagger winner, Life or Death by Michael Robotham, assuming it would be the right kind of cracking read to get me back on track. Fortunately it was, and I devoured the book in days.
The set-up is straightforward enough – Audie Palmer has escaped from jail the day before he is officially due for release. Why? Well, that’s the point. This is an expertly-written, perfectly paced crime novel. It put me in mind of The Shawshank Redemption, a sometimes maligned tale that is a wonderful example of popular storytelling. Is it manipulative? Hell yes. Far-fetched? You betcha. Hugely entertaining? Bloody oath.
Bronte Coates, digital content coordinator:
I’m not often tempted to pick up history books but the premise of Finding Eliza caught my interest. Aboriginal lawyer, writer and filmmaker Larissa Behrendt uses the story of Eliza Fraser – who was purportedly captured by the Butchulla people after she was shipwrecked on their island off the Queensland coast in 1836 – as a starting point to interrogate how indigenous people have been portrayed in their colonisers’ stories.
It makes for fascinating reading, not at all dry or dense. Behrendt’s arguments on how storytelling impacts on our laws and societal expectations are succinct, articulate and compelling.
Nina Kenwood, marketing manager:
I was lucky enough to receive an advance copy of Rajith Savanadasa’s upcoming debut novel Ruins recently. While its release date is a long way off (it’s not available until July) I wanted to give it a shout-out now so that readers will have it on their radars. I can absolutely say that this is an Australian debut novel to look out for later in the year.
Set in Colombo, Sri Lanka, it’s a family drama that looks at class, wealth, inter-generational conflict, cultural conflict, and more. I found it to be a real page-turner, filled with flawed, interesting characters who I kept thinking about (and worrying about!) long after finishing the book.
Leanne Hall, grants officer for the Readings Foundation:
Kirsty Eagar’s Summer Skin is an up-close look at university residential college life with all its messiness, hooking up, friendship pacts, tribal behaviour, part-time jobs, exams, and yes, plenty of drinking. Eagar zooms in on intimacy, sex, sexism, social media and trust through the unlikely relationship between mouthy-yet-vulnerable Jess and mouthy-yet-vulnerable Mitch. Sorry, did I say relationship? I actually meant ‘love-hate volcanic explosion’!
I suspect if I’d been able to read Summer Skin in my late teens, it might have prepared me to stand my ground more in my own relationships. I certainly would’ve felt more equipped to have some difficult but necessary conversations.
Ed Moreno, bookseller:
Historical fiction doesn’t usually grab me but Alexander Chee’s The Queen of the Night made for obsessive reading. I’m a fan of nineteenth-century French realism (especially Émile Zola) so the time and setting appealed, but the subject matter (opera) was new to me. However, the author piqued my interest and I’m so glad I picked this one up.
The writing and the story are magic – I spent several nights reading well into the early hours of the morning because I just couldn’t put this book down. Highly recommended.
Holly Harper, children’s bookseller:
I picked up Catlantis for two reasons: one, there’s a cat on the cover. Two, it’s published by Pushkin Press, so I had a strong suspicion it was going to be delightfully odd. And I was right – Baguette the ginger housecat seeks to woo his kitty love Purriana, but in order for him to do that, he has to perform a feat in her honour. That’s how he finds himself travelling back in time to the lost island of Catlantis to save the lives of cats everywhere with the help of a magical flower.
Like I said, delightfully odd. Perfect for the crazy cat lady, man or child in your life.
Lian Hingee, Digital marketing manager:
My last breakup is thankfully a distant enough memory that I can recount outrageous stories to my friends and laugh along with them, but the 13 true stories in Jennifer’s Wright’s book, It Ended Badly, really do a magnificent job of putting even my worst breakups in perspective.
For instance, I’ve never replaced an ex with a life-size sex doll that I took to dinner parties. I’ve also never sent clippings of my pubic hair to my ex, along with a letter asking for them to return the favour with a bit of blood. I’m not Timothy Dexter (go ahead and google him, you won’t regret it), and as bad as some of my exes behaved at least none of them stabbed me twice during a party… and got away with it (I’m looking at you, Norman Mailer).
Jennifer Wright is deliciously funny, chatty and sympathetic, and lends a fabulous feminist spin to stories that we’re so often used to hearing only from a male perspective. I want to bulk buy copies of It Ended Badly so that I’ve got an endless supply to gift my girlfriends every time they find themselves single again.
Amanda Rayner, bookseller:
This month I read The Women in Black by Madeleine St John, which has recently been adapted for the musical Ladies in Black by Tim Finn and Carolyn Burns. Many of my colleagues have enjoyed this book and I too adored it – for its memorable characters, witty dialogue, and heart.
If, like me, this book has been on your reading list for a while I urge you to take the plunge! And the musical production is wonderful too…