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Looking for a new book, film or podcast? We’ve asked some of our wonderful 2023 contributors to share what they’ve been enjoying recently. Find a funny crime novel, forgotten 90s flicks, the perfect book to be papped with and more!

Left to right: Natasha Sholl, Robert Skinner, Sulari Gentill, Shelley Parker-Chan and Sam Elkin.

Indigo Bailey – ‘Not Showing, Not Telling’

I just read Clarice Lispector’s last novel, Hour of the Star. I found it so absorbing and strangely comforting—so full of life and attuned to the tiniest desires of the protagonist, Macabéa, which are delivered to us by this hilariously cruel narrator. I love Lispector’s prose, which feels both silken and barbed, evasive and straightforward.

I also recently loved the movie Strike!, a cult-worthy 90s comedy about the students of a strict girl’s school revolting against a merger with the nearby private boys’ school, with amazing performances and one-liners from Kirsten Dunst and Gaby Hoffmann.

Lauren Collee – The Last of Us and the Radical Possibilities of Eco-Horror’

After re-reading Wolf Hall earlier this year, I’ve recently picked up Hilary Mantel’s posthumously published A Memoir of My Former Self, a collection of her various writings encompassing film reviews, personal essays and history lectures. My favourites are the obsessive portraits of anachronistic and often regal figures—Marie Antoinette, Princess Diana—which feel like little sketches for other historical trilogies that never were and, given her recent passing, will never be. Mantel has explained Englishness to me better than any other writer, which feels important given that Englishness has insinuated itself into practically every corner of the globe. RIP Hilary, I would have loved to read an essay by you about Jacob Elordi.

I also have been thinking a lot about the ‘Recognising the Stranger’ lecture by Isabella Hammad. The British Palestinian novelist delivered her Edward Said lecture in September of last year and it was later republished in the Paris Review, but it’s the audio format (available on YouTube) that best brings out the way that the essay moves in looping anecdotes—and what it reveals about how narrative (and in particular the narrative principle of ‘anagnorisis’) works on psychic and cultural levels. It has felt difficult to articulate the value of art or literature lately, particularly when narrative devices so often serve the powerful. There’s something illuminating about Hammad’s focus here on just the potential of a single literary principle. In her own words: ‘I retain a kind of faith in at least the possibility of a swift movement from ignorance to knowledge.’

Megan Cheong – ‘Embodied Motherhood in Little Plum

One of my greatest pleasures this summer has been reading all of Claire Keegan’s books in quick succession. I love the clarity of Keegan’s landscapes—both the internal and the material—and how important every moment of every story feels (just as life can feel when given enough attention).

I also enjoyed Jhumpa Lahiri’s Roman Stories, which shares with Keegan’s works a depth of place impossible to glean from the kind of brief visit you might make to Rome or the Irish countryside over the summer holidays.


Nina Culley – ‘Weird is In’

Over the summer I read a lot, but the highlights were Chain-Gang All-Stars by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah and Pink Mountain on Locust Island by Jamie Marina Lau. Both novels are entirely grotesque, they’ll stick to you like a damp, sweaty shirt—you’ll never get the stains out, you’ll never be the same.

To accompany time on the sand, I polished off the latest issue of More Than Melanin (there’s a hilarious and very real dating account ‘South Asians and the City’). For some summer pep, I’ve just started Dallergut Dream Department Store by Miye Lee; it takes place in a quaint store where all kinds of dreams are stored, and so far it’s been delightful. I also adored the comic ‘Why Bring Trees into This?’ by artist Sofia Sabbagh. It captures the warmth and ineffability of the food, stories and company that make a community.

Tylissa Elisara – ‘Reclaiming Indigeneity in the Modern Colony’

As a working (and studying) mum of three, including two little ones under the age of four, my reading has been split between journal articles (mainly on the subject of ‘Indigenous Survivance’ for my summer research scholarship) and children’s stories (The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett was a highlight). I also watched a lot of Christmas movies and listened to the soundtrack of Disney’s Encanto more times than I’m proud of.

I did manage to pick up a copy of Before the Coffee Gets Cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi when I was at the airport recently. Considering my busy life, I enjoyed the simplicity of a story that’s centred around an appreciation for coffee and never really leaves the cafe. I also enjoyed that it was written by a non-Western author.

Other than that, I enjoyed listening to Brisbane’s rain over the holidays and if I’m not already overstimulated, I listen to lo-fi music. I find it quietens my thoughts and is one of the few ways I can trick myself into relaxing.

Sam Elkin – ‘Trans Histories and the Legacy of Jack Jorgensen’

This summer, I’ve enjoyed reading Transland, an immersive, soulful trip into the Canadian queer BDSM scene by Naarm-based Mx. Sly. I also loved The Call-Out, a novel in rhyme by small press publishing stalwart Cat Fitzpatrick, a laugh-out-loud tragicomedy about warring radical trans women in Brooklyn.

I’ve also been on an all-consuming Hilary Mantel audiobook binge to be fully primed for her posthumous collection, A Memoir of My Former Self.


Sulari Gentill – ‘Show Your Working’/The Mystery Writer

This summer the biting wit of Naked Ambition by Robert Gott (the tale of a politician who poses nude for an Archibald portrait) had me laughing and wincing as I read. The novel perfectly captures the style and joy of drawing-room comedy in a uniquely Australian story.

I also watched What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?, to which I came thirty years late. A heartbreaking poignant story, beautifully acted. It’s made me wonder what other gems I missed in the 90s.


Em Meller – ‘The Humiliation of Writing Fiction’

This summer, I was—for the first time—a permanent full-time employee, and so my usually sprawling and financially precarious summer was compressed into ten days of paid leave. Instead of indulging my usual impulse (‘important’ or ‘difficult’ books that cause my annual breakdown over a rapidly declining attention span), I gravitated to slender and stylish books, the kind I would be clutching if—as I sometimes fantasise about—I were surreptitiously photographed by paparazzi while at Bronte.

These included: Lives of the Saints by Nancy Lemann (a fever-dream of a book), Dead Animals by Phoebe Stuckes (a close friend, this book is deeply smart and with excellent descriptions of working in the service industry), Paradise Estate by Max Easton (our era’s defining novel of inner-west share housing), Brat by Gabriel Smith (everyone will be obsessed soon), Speedboat by Renata Adler (re-read, at night, with my windows wide open). I read this essay by Becca Schuh on working in hospo, a new story by Ben Lerner and every interview with Caroline Polachek.

And then the book I thought about most: The Story of a Brief Marriage by Anuk Arudpragasam. A kind of love story set during the final days of the Sri Lankan civil war, it’s about (at least in part) what war does to people, what it takes, what it leaves behind. Things that have happened, and are still happening.

Shelley Parker-Chan – ‘Finding Ourselves in Formula’

This summer, I doubled down on works by the wildly talented fantasy prodigy Ava Reid: A Study in Drowning and the forthcoming retelling, Lady Macbeth. Not since Elana K Arnold has a fantasy author so powerfully infused the gothic fairytale form with the strangling emotional realities of domestic terrorism and sexual violence. And yet dark as Reid’s stories are, her young female protagonists always find their escape. They emerge bruised and bloodied, perhaps permanently scarred by their trauma—but powerful as they never dreamed they could be.


Roumina Parsa – ‘Say Goodbye to the Sad Girl’

Françoise Sagan’s Bonjour Tristesse is a book made for the summer. It’s best read at dusk on one of those days when the heat is as inescapable as what the protagonist fights against: growing up. I also read Woman, Life, Freedom by Malu Halasa: necessary and moving, it is a collection of the voices at the heart of the Iranian movement for liberation. And I recommend the Madame Psychosis Substack: penned by an anonymous author, it is my go-to for surefooted reflective prose. Equal parts ‘of the times’ and emotionally universal.

My favourite podcast of late is Celebrity Memoir Book Club. It offers a combination of my three favourite things—pop culture, literary analysis and quick wit. For knowers of the Caroline Calloway lore, the episodes on her (and featuring her!) are irreplicable works of unserious art.

This summer, I’ve also been watching everything I can on Palestine: South Africa’s ICJ case livestreamed on YouTube, updates from on-the-ground journalists such as Bisan Owda and Motaz Azaiza, Tiktoks by Palestinians in diaspora. Treating media solely as entertainment is a privilege, as recent events have highlighted.

Katelyn Phillips – ‘Getting Cosy at the End of the World’

Summer is usually a time when I like to get through a bunch of fun reads. This year, though, I’ve found myself unable to concentrate on much other than the horror unfolding in Gaza. To that end, I picked up Minor Detail by Adania Shibli (translated into English by Elisabeth Jaquette) after it won a major literary award in Germany; the ceremony at the Frankfurt Book Fair was indefinitely postponed. What struck me was the book’s deliberate use of language, particularly in the way it depicts the dehumanisation of Palestinians and the everyday indignities of living under Israeli occupation. I also read Against the Loveless World by Susan Abulhawa. Abulhawa’s prose is lyrical and full of emotion (anger, nostalgia) whereas Minor Detail is sparse, but both books were amazing reads.

Turning to lighter reading, I’ve picked up a few short story collections recently. My favourite was Bliss Montage by Ling Ma. I loved her first novel, Severance (picked up unwisely during the 2020 lockdown), and the same sharp and surreal social commentary is present here, along with deceptively moving themes. I also loved Every Version of You by Grace Chan, which is about consciousness, climate grief and what it means to be human in a changing world. It’s so exciting to see Australian speculative fiction getting some well-deserved recognition!

Seth Robinson – Succession and the Disenchantment of the American Dream’

This summer, I’ve been catching up on my Australian fiction. It’s a long list, but some of my favourites have been Too Much Lip by Melissa Lucashenko, Limberlost by Robbie Arnott, Why We Are Here by Briohny Doyle and Lola in the Mirror by Trent Dalton. Each of these stories allows my imagination to explore, from the salty river mouths of the NSW North Coast to the Huon pines of Tasmania, to the golf courses and scrap yards of our cities. What’s more, each of their authors has sprinkled a healthy dose of magic in with their realism.

In terms of TV, I’ve binged two book adaptations. Slow Horses is based on the spy thriller by Mick Herron. Lessons in Chemistry, the novel by Bonnie Garmus. They feature nuanced, well-rounded protagonists, and I’m now eager to go back and read the books.

Natasha Sholl – ‘Writing People You Know’

Everyone and Everything by Nadine J Cohen is the book that got me out of my reading slump. I churned through it in two days and then was devastated that I couldn’t spend any more time with Yael, the main character. The Jaguar, Sarah Holland-Batt’s Stella Prize-winning book of poetry, has felt like a privilege to read. The Rachel Incident by Caroline O’Donoghue is heartbreaking and funny, and was made all the more enjoyable by listening to the audiobook version. I’m of the opinion that all audiobook narrators should have Irish accents.

I’m late to the party, but I also binged all five seasons of Better Things which has felt like a life-affirming balm in the last few months. Watching Pamela Adlon in the kitchen is my version of meditation.

Robert Skinner – ‘Shelf Reflection’/I’d Rather Not

I keep trying to read Bohumil Hrabal’s comic novel, I Served The King of England, but I have lost two copies and counting. (One on a train, one in a bookshop.)

I have also been reading every gardening book I can get my hands on. I am transforming my share house garden into a vegetable wonderland, and am currently attempting to lure in every pollinator in a 5km radius. Hannah Maloney’s Good Life Growing is wonderful. And the op shop shelves, it turns out, have been filled with $3 gardening books this whole time, I just never noticed…