Samantha Forge, Contributing Editor
I’ve been working in a library lately, and wandering the stacks shelving books (so much shelving! Who knew how much effort was involved in simply keeping books on the shelf?) has led me to stumble across some titles I mightn’t have otherwise found. One such is Janet Frame’s Towards Another Summer, an autobiographical novel from the 1960s that was apparently deemed so personal it wasn’t published until after Frame’s death in 2004.
It’s about a homesick Kiwi novelist with writer’s block, set in London over the course of a weekend, and I loved it both for its hauntingly beautiful prose and the fact that Frame wrote it while procrastinating from writing the novel she was supposed to be working on – a sentiment I very much identify with.
Alice Cottrell, Publication Manager
I’m currently reading Dark Emu by Bruce Pascoe, a brilliantly researched survey of agricultural practices in pre-colonial Aboriginal society. This book presents the evidence that Aboriginal people across the continent were using domesticated plants, sowing, harvesting, storing and irrigating, challenging the hunter-gatherer label given to Aboriginal people by European colonists. Pascoe reevaluates the journals and diaries of these explorers and colonists, and, in his words: ‘by adjusting our perspective by only a few degrees, we see a vastly different world through the same window’. Reading this book it becomes clear how much evidence has been obscured or ignored to fit the broader narrative of terra nullius. This is an important, accessibly-written book that I’d recommend to all Australians.
A recent week’s sick leave also gave me the opportunity to binge on TV shows I’ve been meaning to watch, the best of which was the HBO adaption of My Brilliant Friend. I totally adored Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels and this adaption of the first book is an atmospheric and engrossing pleasure.
Jane Howard, Contributing Editor
At a time where it can just feel like the world is falling apart, I’ve found something strangely comforting in listening to a podcast about ways I could die, but most probably will not. This Podcast Will Kill You is a conversational science podcast which strikes just the right balance between levity and information, hosted by two epidemiologist friends named Erin. The Erins take a historical overview (largely) of infectious diseases, tracing from their emergence in human populations to today – hopefully with a discovery of a vaccine in the middle. In a year where the World Health Organisation listed “vaccine hesitancy” as one of the world’s biggest health risks, This Podcast Will Kill You is a gentle but rigorous explanation of just how vaccines work, without demonising anyone who might not be sure. It warms the science nerd in my heart, while being a wonderfully accessible podcast no matter your levels of science literacy. Most diseases they tackle probably won’t kill you anymore – but at least you’ll be prepared if they do.
Meaghan Dew, Podcast Co-ordinator
This book doesn’t need me weighing in on it – it’s on the Stella Shortlist for a reason – but I have really enjoyed reading Melissa Lucashenko’s Too Much Lip. The scattered, dysfunctional family drawn back to their childhood home by a significant event and forced to face what tore them apart is a classic, and Lucashenko makes it feel fresh. This family is charismatic, lost, brash, criminal, bible-thumping, kind and foolhardy in turns. Despite opinions formed early on about seemingly villainous characters I was soon rooting for all of them, and for whatever could help their family to reconcile. It’s so readable and funny it’ll take a while before you realise it’s going to tear your heart to shreds.
This month I finished Lara Elena Donnelly’s Amberlough, first book in the Amberlough Dossier trilogy, and I can see why it was shortlisted for the Nebula. As a fantasy reader completely hooked on Babylon Berlin last year it did feel like this book was made for me. Espionage! Politics! Showgirls! Romance! Corruption! It’s a melodramatic mix of Cabaret meets Game of Thrones, and best of all a book with a map at the front. I’m on tenterhooks for the second book Armistice, 25 per cent to see if political stability returns, 75 per cent to see if master spy Cyril and smuggler/cabaret MC Aristide can find each other again and admit they’re madly in love. If any of that sounds appealing, now’s a good time to jump in – the third book in the trilogy, Amnesty, is out in April.
Alan Vaarwerk, Editor
Following on from Alice’s recommendation last month, I’ve been devouring The Dropout podcast – it’s a perfect addition to our current cultural obsession with scams and Silicon Valley hucksters getting their comeuppance, though there are elements I feel are unexplored – this article goes a lot more into the gender politics of a company that was fronted by a young woman but backed by a cabal of powerful, almost exclusively elderly white men.
I’ve also been enjoying Kate Disher-Quill’s beautiful book Earshot, a collection of photography, writing and illustration telling the stories of people who are Deaf or hard of hearing. Disher-Quill’s photography is stunning, and the first-person stories of its subjects are variously insightful, funny and heartbreaking. The collection shows the diversity of D/deaf experience – not only in terms of things like class, race and gender, but the respondents’ varying attitudes to things like hearing aids, sign language, and the way these intersect with other aspects of their identity. I’d also recommend this excellent interview with the author for more of an insight into how the book was put together and some examples of her photography.
Ellen Cregan, KYD First Book Club Co-ordinator
Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid tells the story of a rock band who had it all for a brief window in the 1970s, and is filled with sold-out arenas, trashed hotel rooms, and screaming fans. Jenkins Reid writes equally brilliantly about the dramatic lives and relationships of the band members, and about the music itself – both its creation and performance. At the heart of this novel is a sense of how we all want what we can’t have, and Jenkins Reid perfectly keeps the tension between this idea and the extravagant rock star lifestyle. If you’re interested in stories of longing, betrayal and rock and roll, I highly recommend reading this book.