Best Sellers: Fiction

  1. My Brilliant Friend, Elena Ferrante
  2. At the Edge of the Orchard, Tracy Chevalier
  3. Salt Creek, Lucy Treloar
  4. Hope Farm, Peggy Frew
  5. The Life of Elves, Muriel Barberry
  6. A Little Life, Hanya Yanagihara
  7. The Promise Seed, Cass Moriarty
  8. A Few Days in the Country and Other Stories, Elizabeth Harrower
  9. The High Places, Fiona McFarlane
  10. Brother of the More Famous Jack, Barbara Trapido

Patrick Holland’s Shelf Talkers


This month’s author recommendations is from local writer Patrick Holland, who’ll be joining us in-store on April 19th to discuss his upcoming novel One. Click on the image to book tickets to the event!


I read a lot of books at once, bits and pieces of them. Among the most interesting things I’ve read lately are The Collected Stories of Paul Bowles. The stories evoke an atmosphere of North Africa/Tangiers that you feel sure is authentic, even though you’ve never been – and never can go to Tangiers circa 1950. The best stories are a strange as Kipling, but, and this accusation was sometimes levelled at Kipling, the author seems to have no normal human sentiments at all. It’s said the Russian realists devoted themselves to objectivity, but we all know what kind of men Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky were i.e. good men. I have no idea how Bowles feels on any moral issue, at times he’s properly frightening in his coldness, and yet, the stories are incredibly compelling, and the strange distance he puts you at, no doubt contributes to this.

On the other hand, also on Africa (I’m planning to go soon), I’ve been reading Ryszard Kapuściński’s book of travel essays, In the Shadow of the Sun. It’s easily the best travel book I’ve ever read, and I wish I’d read it before I wrote Riding the Trains in Japan. I realise now, the aesthetic principles that govern Kapuściński’s book are the ones I was trying to follow. I love Hemingway and Okri on Africa, but Kapuściński makes you breathe the air and taste the water.

The other book I’ve been picking up when I can is Edward Seidensticker’s translation of Lady Murasaki’s The Tale of Genji. I’ve spent plenty of time in the places this – perhaps the first novel ever written – takes place in. But apart from that simple joy of reading about places you know, I enjoy Murasaki’s weaving of plotlines, concerning dozens of characters, and the minimalist poetry she retains throughout. The effect is completely immersive. Like cycling up a mounting, reading Genji you forgot your troubles for a bit.

Ah, and I’m also reading Robert Dessaix’s Night Letters. I’ve come really late to Dessaix – this is the first of his I’ve ever read, and though I’m only about thirty pages in, it’s already an enthralling meditation. It’s the sort of book that blows any preconceived ideas you have about the thematic and stylistic parameters of Australian Literature out the window.

Top 10: Fiction

  1. The High Places, Fiona McFarlane
  2. My Brilliant Friend, Elena Ferrante
  3. All the Light We Cannot See, Anthony Doerr
  4. The Buried Giant, Kazuo Ishiguro
  5. The Promise Seed, Cass Moriarty
  6. Thirteen Ways of Looking, Colum McCann
  7. The Midnight Watch, David Dyer
  8. The Noise of Time, Julian Barnes
  9. Fates and Furies, Lauren Groff
  10. Salt Creek, Lucy Treloar

Top 10: Fiction

  1. The High Places, Fiona McFarlane
  2. At the Edge of the Orchard, Tracy Chevalier
  3. Brooklyn, Colm Toibin
  4. The Whites, Richard Price
  5. Did You Ever Have a Family, Bill Clegg
  6. A Little Life, Hanya Yanagihara
  7. Angle of Repose, Wallace Stegner
  8. My Name is Lucy Barton, Elizabeth Strout
  9. The Japanese Lover, Isabel Allende
  10. The Natural Way of Things, Charlotte Wood

Our Stella Sparks!

Two more Stella Sparks from our wonderful staff members, both of whom are sharing novels that fueled their love of reading at university.

Leaning Towards Infinity, Sue Woolfe


I was assigned Sue Woolfe’s Leaning Towards Infinity as a university student, and remember being less than enthused at the prospect of reading a book about mathematicians. Numbers have never been my friends. It was, then, a wonderful surprise to discover Wolfe’s ability to weave the language of mathematics into a thing beauty and mystery. I may never be able to solve an equation, but Sue Woolfe altered my view of mathematics from one of abject dread to one of awe. The fact that the book – which won a slew of awards when it was first released twenty years ago – is so difficult to come across now speaks volumes for the importance of programs like the Stella Sparks.


The Great Fire, Shirley Hazzard

great fire

Shirley Hazzard’s The Great Fire was introduced to me via an Australian Literature course at University. At first, I lamented – another book about the Second World War. The power of Hazzard’s prose, however, gripped me from the very start. It wasn’t the plot that hooked me, but the depth and creation of the characters. They move through a world rife with violence and despair, and yet find their humanity within each other, indulging in a love within which age has no bearing. Although the relationship between the thirty-two-year-old Aldred Leith and the teenage Helen Driscoll is a primary focus, The Great Fire is also a novel about civility, humanity, the world that we create for ourselves and the prisons within it that have no bars.



Our Stella Sparks!

Over the next few weeks our staff members will be posting their Stella Sparks, a fantastic initiative of the Stella Prize where readers recommend their favourite book by a female Australian author (our store owner Suzy Wilson is on the judging panel for this year’s award.) Here are a few of the very wonderful books that have been formative in our reading experience.

Snugglepot and Cuddlepie, May Gibbs


As a small child growing up in North Wales my first contact with anything Australian was Snugglepot and CuddlepieWhile I found the book delightful it was not until I came here to live twenty years later that the images resonated and I realised I had a lot of Australian reading to catch up on.  Selecting one “Sparkling”  title out of over forty years of reading is surely an impossible task with such Stellar authors as Kate Grenville, Ruth Park, Joan London, Helen Garner, Mem Fox, Sonya Hartnett, Geraldine Brooks, Chloe Hooper and Madeleine St John to name a mere handful…and of course not forgetting Germaine…and Anne Summers.  So many wonderful authors over so many genres, heavens I cannot even choose a favourite genre!  Too many books, not enough time. My favourite book is usually the one I am currently reading and at the moment that is R A Spratt’s Friday Barnes – Oh it is such fun!


The Man Who Loved Children, Christina Stead

man who

When I was eighteen I came across a discounted copy of The Man Who Loved Children by Christina Stead. I was intrigued by the foreword, a rapturous and lengthy essay by Jonathan Franzen, and that despite the eagerness of Australians to claim any remotely successful creative export as ‘Ours,’ I’d never heard of Stead. The monstrous novel is a confronting, uneasy read, with the outsized characters at its centre dancing a fine line between tragic and farcical. But it’s Stead’s ability to extract pathos from these loathsome individuals that prove her to be a writer in the league of Austen and Dickens: a powerfully imaginative masterclass in making the personal political.


The Forests of Silence, Emily Rodda


I read Emily Rodda’s The Forests of Silence from the Deltora Quest series for the first time when I was ten years old. I was required to read it for an English assignment at the time, and while I was initially reluctant – I’ve never been a fan of fantasy – I was instantly enthralled in the elaborate and spectacular world that Rodda had created. Nine years later, while tutoring a boy who was also tasked with writing an assignment on the novel, I discovered the universal love for the world of Deltora. Lief’s heroic race against the Shadow Lord to retrieve the gems from the belt of Deltora is enough to spark the imagination of any young child. While there are countless incredible books that have shaped my literary palate, the Deltora Quest books are the first I can recall that truly sparked my sense of wonder and my passion for reading.


Staff Shelf-Talker: Anchor Point, Alice Robinson

anchor pnt10 year old Laura lives in the Australian bush with her sister, father and mother. However, after her mother vanishes on a trip to retrieve clay for her pottery, Laura makes a snap decision that will ensure she is never found. This decision haunts Laura for the next four decades as she desperately tries to hold her family together, help her father tame the harsh land and find her place in the world. Robinson beautifully and eloquently portrays the intricacy of familial relationships, and it isn’t hard at all to understand Laura’s determination to keep the peace.

Robinson also paints a painfully honest picture of rural Australia. The terrain is beautiful but untameable and fire and flood both shape the landscape to the extent that it is almost a character in itself. This is the harsh reality for many Australians living in rural areas that are dependent on the unpredictable and unforgiving environment, especially farmers such as Laura’s father.

I was first made aware of Alice Robinson through her cousin, a family friend, who was unable to find a copy of the novel in Hobart. However, while I may not have expected much at first, I was pleasantly surprised by the fresh Australian voice. Robinson is an excellent example of the promising work stemming from debut female Australian authors. Her writing style lyrical and poetic and her protagonist’s quest – for her place in the world, her ‘anchor point’ – is universally shared.