Summer Reading, Had Us a Blast

One of the best things about doing what we do is that we get to talk books ALL THE TIME. Well, maybe not all the time, but as a wise kid once said, reading is one of the two best things in the world.

So these holidays, in addition to enjoying a lovely chat with Gerald Richards of 826 National over a bowl of Footscray pho, we all turned in to bookworms.



I read The Illustrated Man by Ray Bradbury. I’ll never look at another person’s tattoos for more than a second again, lest they start moving and talking and telling me spine-tingling tales. I’m a sucker for short fantastical stories, particularly dark creepy ones, and these are some of the best.

100StoryB_The Life


I kicked off my summer reading with two perfectly beachy books: The Life by Malcolm Knox, a novel inspired by the life of tormented Australian surfing champion Michael Peterson; and Jessica Au’s beautiful book Cargo. Both left me wanting to run away to a small coastal town to spend my life catching waves, eating fish and chips and slurping on milkshakes.

flame of sevenwaters


Marillier has been one of my favourite authors since teenage me was transported to medieval Ireland by her first book, Daughter of the Forest. This is the 6th story of the Sevenwaters women and their triumphs over political intrigue, fey meddlings and human failings. Love, love, love it.



My best hammock reads so far this summer have been Theodore Dreiser’s Sister Carrie and Jon Ronson’s The Psychopath Test. Although very different books from very different eras, both books (a) have plenty of things to say about contemporary society, the former about worldiness and the latter about madness, and (b) veer between hilarious and horrifying.

gough whitlam


Over the holidays I read Gough Whitlam – His Time, Vol. II by Jenny Hocking. The book covers the period from the election of the Whitlam Labor government in 1972 to Margaret Whitlam’s death in 2012. Nostalgia for election night; all of the emotion surrounding the dismissal in 1975 and, until recently, the disregard for what was actually achieved. The very last sentence in the book sums up what drew me to Whitlam – his belief “in the power of education as the great leveller, as the path to equal opportunity”.



Finishing Wolf Hall was one of my pleasures – Hilary Mantel’s detailed description of the Tudors spanning Henry XVIII’s transition from Catherine to Anne Boleyn and the political machinations required as told through the eyes of Thomas Cromwell.

This was followed by a number of books with serial killers whilst whiling away time down the coast!!!



I was given The Poisonwood Bible and couldn’t put it down. A tough look at religious colonialism in the Congo from multiple perspectives, and the claim that continent makes on the individuals. Karen Healey’s latest YA When We Wake is set in Melbourne in 100 years – political and provocative.

the engagement


Between surfing, newspapers and Christmas leftovers, I read The Engagement, a psychological thriller set in country Victoria, by Chloe Hooper. I loved the way the language created a highly sensory stage as the story unravelled – I could almost hear, smell, feel and see the harsh, dry, landscape surrounding the creepy, musty old homestead that all but swallows up Liese, a 30-something English girl who is trying to escape her debts … and herself.

life in outer space


I was lucky enough to receive an advance copy of Melissa Keil’s debut YA novel Life In Outer Space to read over Christmas and I loved it to bits! Camilla, the exotic new girl at Bowen Lakes Secondary College, comes crashing into Sam’s life and turns his carefully managed world of computer games, horror movies and general geekishness upside-down. His parents are acting weirder than usual, his best friend is hiding something and since Camilla arrived he isn’t even able to take refuge in World of Warcraft any more! Melissa’s novel is so funny and heartfelt and all the characters feel so real I missed them for days afterwards.



These holidays I re-read the Judy Blume books of my childhood. What was amazing about reading Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, Then Again, Maybe I Won’t and Deenie as an adult was that I noticed each book contained a very different set of family circumstances, class and ethnic backgrounds, and parents with their own quirks. These were things I never noticed as a kid, because I was so smitten with the characters themselves. I realised how rich and complex each book was, and how difficult to write so succinctly. Young Adult literature is really an overlooked art form.