Looking for a book recommendation? Staff from Readings bookshop share what they’ve been reading this month.
Bronte Coates, digital content coordinator:
If you enjoy inventive literature with rich world-building then you should seek out a copy of The Island Will Sink. I recently read Briohny Doyle’s debut in a few short sittings, and found myself completely sucked into the world she’s so cleverly built within its pages. Her depiction of a near-future is challenging and provocative, and it’s one that will definitely get you thinking about present-day concerns.
I particularly loved how closely Doyle entwined the digital and physical realities, playing around with ideas of place, memory and family dynamics. The Island Will Sink is politically-charged, intellectually-stimulating fiction.
Amy Vuleta, shop manager at Readings St Kilda:
I read and loved Ali Smith’s How to be Both last year, and had a number of full, very rich discussions about the book with two of the book club groups I host at our St Kilda shop. Smith is a masterful, beautiful writer. Her stories are tender, smart and brimming with postmodern word-play that manages to cut right to the heart.
Her latest, Autumn, is the first in a ‘seasonal quartet’ and examines our time, how we are divided and how we connect, love, hope, and the passage of time. I’m about half-way through, and this book is winding its way around my heart, pumping blood to my cheeks, and punching me in the guts, again and again; a familiar and welcome sensation when reading Smith.
Lian Hingee, digital marketing manager:
I read my first Rainbow Rowell earlier this year in preparation for her visit to Melbourne Writers Festival. I picked Eleanor and Park, because everyone told me not to read Rowell’s most recent book, Carry On, unless I’d read Fangirl, and I didn’t really want to read a book called ‘Fangirl’. It turns out my prejudice was totally unfounded because Fangirl is as delightful and complex as Eleanor and Park was.
The ‘fangirl’ in question is Cath – daughter, twin, virgin, and Simon Snow devotee. She writes a hugely successful fanfiction series called ‘Carry On’, based around the magical Harry Potter-esque adventures of an adolescent wizard, and is so caught up in that world that she’s only half living in the real one. She’s a wonderfully authentic character and one that’s close to my heart. I too avoided parties and wrote fanfiction (don’t bother looking, you’ll never find it). Fangirl is a deftly written YA novel that shows that love and life are two things you have to experience for yourself.
Alice Chipkin, bookseller at Readings St Kilda:
I’m excited to have gotten my hands on a copy of iO Tillett Wright’s memoir this month. I’ve been following iO’s work as a photographer and LGBTQ civil rights campaigner for the past few years; I’m even the proud fangirl and owner of a T-shirt from their Self Evident Truths project. This project involved collecting 10,000 photographic portraits of Americans who identify as anything other than 100% straight, in order to challenge narratives of sexuality and gender-based discrimination.
Another reason I’m excited about the memoir is because iO writes beautifully and has a compelling story to tell. Opening in New York in the 80s and 90s, Darling Days tracks their eccentric childhood, growing up with a protective (yet negligent) mum in the midst of drug-addled, punk-edge and art-making worlds. I’m keen to sink my teeth into it over the weekend!
Mike Shuttleworth, children’s and YA specialist at Readings Hawthorn:
I recently went on holiday and took with me Love, Nina by Nina Stibbe. It’s hard to put my finger on exactly why I enjoyed the book so much, but what I do know is that it was an effortless, addictive pleasure.
Nina Stibbe was in her late teens in the 1980s when she was employed to care for the two children of Mary Kay Wilmers – when Wilmers was establishing the London Review of Books – which she still edits today. There is generosity and natural comedy in Stibbe’s sharp-eyed observations of family life that moves Love, Nina way beyond below-stairs literary gossip. The children, Sam and Will frequently take centre stage, while the support cast includes playwright Alan Bennett and the stern but admirable Wilmers. The result is part real-life YA and part fly-on-the-wall social comedy.
Nick Hornby has recently adapted the book for the BBC with Helena Bonham-Carter as Wilmers. The book is a treat.
Adam John Cullen, bookseller at Readings St Kilda:
‘The Rope’ is the subject at the centre of issue three of MacGuffin, an interior design magazine coming out of Holland. The magazine is focused around ‘the life of things’; previous editions include ‘The Bed’ and ‘The Window’. MacGuffin encompasses the knowledge and practice of various artists, designers and architects, and uses a specific object as the focal point. It is the most interesting and refreshingly unpretentious interior design magazine around. This issue looks at the cross-cultural uses of rope, both practically and symbolically.
Jan Lockwood, human resources manager:
How eloquent, imaginative and downright brilliant is Hannah Kent? I’ve just put down The Good People, her brand-new historical tale of real and imagined characters in early nineteenth-century rural Ireland. Historical fiction isn’t my usual choice – the book starts with the lyrics to a traditional ballad from 1600, followed by some quotes and the news that the year is 1825. But, having really enjoyed Burial Rites (Kent’s gripping debut set in Iceland, 1829), I was interested to see where she took me this time. I’m totally won over.
Kent is a master at expanding a snippet of factual historical information into a totally believable world. From the very start of this story I was sucked into the landscape and way of life of this small community. There’s conflict between the Catholic church and the old superstitions, and the increasing pressure adds to the tough living conditions that the locals already endure, with tragic consequences. The Good People is a slow build with plenty of scene setting, which ensured I was truly empathetic by the time the crux of the story arrived. While this may be a historical tale of fiction, it’s given me a lot to think about in the context of today’s fear and intolerance of the unknown.