Looking for a book recommendation? Staff from Readings bookshop share what they’ve been reading this month.
Lian Hingee, digital marketing manager
I’m a bit late to the party on The Ghost Bride, as it came out a few years ago and somehow slipped under my radar. I can’t understand how because it’s got everything I love in a book: a good mystery, a bit of romance, some fantastical elements, and a grounding in history and folklore. Li Lan’s family has fallen on hard times, and consequently her prospects for making a good marriage are fading fast. Then the influential Lim family approaches her with a proposition: become the ‘ghost bride’ of their recently deceased son and she’ll want for nothing for the rest of her life. Horrified by the suggestion, Li Lan refuses. But the shade of Lim Tian Chiang isn’t easily dissuaded and Li Lan soon finds herself battling against a ghostly suitor who’s clearly not used to hearing the word ‘no’.
Based in colonial Malaysia, The Ghost Bride borrows heavily from Chinese mythology and using superstition that was rife in the late nineteenth century to seamlessly blend history and fantasy together. My own family is Chinese, so I’m finding it really enjoyable to read a novel where the fantastical elements are appropriated from the East and informed by Chinese traditions and spirituality.
Chris Gordon, events manager:
I picked up The Ice Age, Luke Williams’ memoir about his addiction to crystal meth, for a couple of reasons. First, I heard Luke speaking on the radio and was impressed by his candour. Second, I have two wonderful teenage kids and I want them to be terrified of ice. I want them to be as scared as I was about heroin when I was growing up. I want them to believe that all they have to do is look at ice and they will suffer grave consequences. Gone are my days of sugar-coating tough issues for them – now I aspire to scare them shirtless.
And Luke’s book is an eye-opener. He writes about his experiences with grace, gravity, humour, and alarming honesty. Reading this book has shocked me, petrified my kids, and worried my bloke. I call this whole experiment where I read moments from the book aloud to them all – ‘Another fun family moment with Mum’. I’m glad of being able to have it. I reckon this should be essential reading for all of us.
Bronte Coates, digital content coordinator:
My colleague Nina gifts me amazing pop culture recommendations all the time, and most recently she put me on to Witch Please – a fortnightly podcast about the Harry Potter world by smart, sassy lady scholars Hannah McGregor and Marcelle Kosman. While I don’t agree with all their arguments, I’m always engaged and fascinated by their insights gained from a close readings of these texts. Some of them are brilliantly on point and hilarious (Gary-Oldman-as-Sirius’ sex eyes!) and others are genuinely horrifying (Umbridge and the centaurs). I’m relishing being back in the world of Hogwarts, and have to resist bringing my new thoughts on Harry Potter up at every possible opportunity. (I rarely succeed.)
Robbie Egan, operations manager:
I have just finished Gathering Prey, the latest in a very long line of Prey novels from John Sandford. Sandford is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist whose fictional detective hero Lucas Davenport has also made him a rich man. I’ve read every book in his series, and they are exceptional page-turners. Most of us have a favourite airport read and mine are Sandford’s Davenport vehicles which have covered decades of the fictional detective’s life. If you want time to fly, your bad guys to be bad and your good guys to be willing to step over the line, then Sandford is well worth a try.
Stella Charls, marketing and events coordinator:
I read and adored Olivia Laing’s new book. Laing artfully blends travel writing, art criticism and memoir, and the result is simultaneously a fascinating analysis of a string of visual artists, and a moving, personal account of living with loneliness, both online and in a crowded city like New York. I wrote about ways in which Laing explores the connection between loneliness and creativity in my review, but there are so many layers to Laing’s book that I’m finding myself still thinking about The Lonely City more than a month after reading it.
I’ve spent hours googling images of the artwork Laing reflects on (Edward Hopper’s paintings, David Wojnarowicz’s ‘Arthur Rimbaud in New York’ series, Zoe Leonard’s ‘Strange Fruit’) and the YouTube videos that Laing writes about watching on repeat in her tiny New York sub-let (Klaus Nomi’sfirst appearance at Irving Plaza, or documentaries about internet entrepreneur Josh Harris). I’ve poured over Wojnarowicz’s devastating autobiographical graphic novel, 7 Miles a Second, written during the last years before his AIDS-related death, which is up there with the most heartbreaking and stunningly beautiful work I’ve ever read.
Isobel Moore, children’s bookseller at Readings St Kilda:
I’ve recently been lulling myself to sleep in the best possible way with Nigel Slater’s A Year of Good Eating – part cookbook, and part beautiful, deliciously-detailed musings on food. Slater is unpretentious and funny, and his writing is so personable that it feels like I’m sitting at his kitchen bench with a big cup of tea, listening to him natter away while I snack on whatever he puts in front of me. Reading about food can either make you feel hungry or sated, and this is certainly the latter. The added bonus is that it feels so very British (as am I!) but rather than making me homesick, this cookbook makes me feel like I’m taking a little holiday home by reading it. The book is laid out like a diary and I’ve been reading one month each night, right before I turn my light out to sleep. It’s the perfect bedtime story.
Nina Kenwood, marketing manager:
This book…. Oh man, I LOVED this book. The Other Side of Summer is Emily Gale’s new novel for readers aged 11+. It tells the story of Summer and her family, who are trying to recover from the tragic death of Summer’s older brother, Floyd. Summer’s father has decided they need to move from England to Australia for a fresh start, and once in Australia, Summer discovers a mystery she has to solve, which involves Floyd’s treasured guitar. Gale balances and interweaves the narrative elements of the novel beautifully, and she writes like a dream — there were so many lines I wanted to underline or go back to later.
This is a book that touches on grief and death, and you can read this terrific article on why Gale thinks writing about death for kids and teens is important. I’m not going to lie — I cried while reading The Other Side of Summer, many times. But if you don’t like sad stories, don’t let that put you off because the novel is also delightfully funny, and ultimately uplifting in exactly the right way. Every relationship feels true and important, and I cared so much for Summer and her family right from the very start. There’s also some excellent, heartbreaking mother-daughter angst in this book, and I am total sucker for mother-daughter angst.
If you enjoy reading literature for young people, or you know a young person who enjoys literature, this is the book you should be reading (or buying for them to read). Highly recommended.