Find some time over the festive season to read a couple of great books. To help you choose, we've put together some recommendations.
Manhattan Beach, Jennifer Egan
Egan’s 2011 Pulitzer Prize-winning A Visit From the Goon Squad was praised for its daring inventiveness and completely original form, but Manhattan Beach is Egan’s first historical novel. It’s an absolute classic: supremely accomplished from the first sentence to the last, full of beautifully aching sentences, with the pace of a thriller. It’s destined to be remembered as one of the best novels about New York.
The Life to Come, Michelle de Kretser
Michelle de Kretser’s first novel since the Miles Franklin-winning Questions of Travel is the perfect companion to a Sydney summer. It’s a deliciously fragrant book that spans decades and continents, from Sydney to France and Sri Lanka. This work is also a reminder that de Krester is a master of characterisation and scene setting, and this is a novel that shines with acerbic humour and observation (Sydney Writers’ Festival does not escape unscathed), all the while maintaining a deep empathy for the five characters whose intersecting lives make up this story.
What We Lose, Zinzi Clemmons
You might only recently have heard of 32-year-old writer, Zinzi Clemmons, when she posted a statement online declaring she would no longer be writing for Lena Dunham and Jenni Konner’s online feminist weekly newsletter Lenny Letter due to what she’s described as Dunham and her friends’ “hipster racism”. A word of advice: keep reading Clemmons. Set aside enough time to read her staggering debut novel, What We Lose, in one sitting this Summer. Described by Man Booker prize winner, Paul Beatty, as “transfixing and bursting with emotion,” Clemmons wrote in short bursts either side of her own Mother’s death, piecing together short, experimental vignettes to produce a novel that closely reflects her own experience. A meditation on race, identity, relationships, and the impossibility of filling the void that comes with grief. Vogue has called it “the debut novel of the year” - and it just might be yours, too.
Demi-Gods, Eliza Robertson
Canadian writer, Eliza Robertson’s “unofficial bio” on her website reads, “I'm a writer/ teacher/astrologer-in-training. My PhD is in rhythm. My sun is in Sagittarius. I also dance.” Her official bio, however, is a slightly longer list of impressive accolades, followed by a brief mention of her debut novel, Demi-Gods. Receiving the Man Booker Prize scholarship whilst studying creative writing, Robertson soon thereafter published Wallflowers, her first short-story collection. Her new debut novel simply doesn’t put a foot (or word) wrong. Demi-Gods traces the lives of sisters Joan and Willa, and their increasingly troubled, often sadistic, relationships with their two stepbrothers over a number of decades. Opening in their British Columbia summer home in the 1950’s, Robertson’s debut novel renders a haunting undertone that will find you reminding yourself to take regular breaths in order to see it through to its gripping end.
The Long Goodbye: Coal, Coral and Australia's Climate Deadlock, Anna Krien's Quarterly Essay
Not your traditional beach read, but what better place to contemplate the imminent death of the Great Barrier Reef? Anna Krien is one of Australia’s very finest writers, and we’re lucky that she’s so prolific, too. For her second Quarterly Essay, Krien forensically examines the politics, economics, personalities, policies and mythologies that make Australia’s inertia on climate change so rage-inducing.
Call Me By Your Name, André Aciman
First published in 2007, this is a cult coming-out, coming-of-age novel set over one restless summer on the Italian Riviera in the mid-1980s, when precocious 17-year-old Elio falls in love for Oliver, the 24-year-old house guest of Elio’s academic father. The film adaptation (directed by Luca Guadagnino) opens in Australia on Boxing Day, and is already one of the most hyped awards season films. This is a glorious and tender queer love story, that notably isn’t overshadowed by horror or tragedy. Read it before you see the film.
A Loving, Faithful Animal, Josephine Rowe
Rowe’s exquisite first novel was published last year by UQP, and released this year in the US to rapturous acclaim. The New York Times called it, “a work of such well defined characters, each so carefully drawn as to breathe,… a work so full of stark emotional moments.” It’s a beautiful, hypnotic, stark exploration of intergenerational trauma, in a small family that remains under the long shadow cast by the Vietnam War. Rowe’s previous works of short fiction and prose poetry are extraordinary, too, but her first novel is truly remarkable.
Her Body and Other Parties, Carmen Maria Machado
Nominated for the National Book Award for Fiction, this debut blends horror, psychological realism, science fiction, fairy tale, queer theory and comedy to create a unique collection of eight stories unlike. Sexy, strange, unabashedly feminist and delightfully twisted, Machado provides us with a warped reflection of our world.
In The Dark Spaces (Young Adult), Cally Black
The 2017 Ampersand winner is a tautly written story set in deep space and a pleasure to read for any sci-fi fans. Cally Black tells a gripping tale of Tamara, a space stowaway, who finds herself separated from her young brother when an alien race of Crow People attack the freighter she is hiding on. Her only solution to survive and get back to her brother is to learn to speak “Garuwa” and so she becomes a lynch pin in communicating the competing interests of each race. Black’s original depiction of a deep space world is a compelling vision of a dystopian future and is an original addition to the sci-fi canon.
Nevermoor (Middle Grade Fiction), Jessica Townsend
The hottest middle grade fiction title of 2017, Nevermoor deserves its status. Jessica Townsend has constructed a highly visual and imaginative world for heroine Morrigan Crowe to navigate. Comparisons to the Harry Potter series are inevitable but there is something wholly original in Townsend’s creation of fascinating characters with some wonderful flights of fancy in its settings. This is sure to be popular with your upper primary school reader.
Boogie Bear (Picture Book), David Walliams
Super popular middle grade author and recent visitor to our shores, David Walliam’s recent publication Boogie Bear is a sure-fire winner for the young set. This story manages to mix an ecological message with humour and lightness. Beautifully illustrated by Tony Ross, the great rhyming and energetic illustrations would make a lovely gift for the under fours.