35 books by women: completing the 2016 Australian Women Writers’ Challenge

Australian Women Writers Challenge 2016 badgeWhen I challenged myself to spend the year reading Australian literature, it seemed logical to also sign up to the 2016 Australian Women Writers’ Challenge — to kill two birds with one stone, as it were.

I thought I should give myself a serious target and aimed to read 30 books by Australian women.

Now that the year is drawing to a close, I’m happy to report I exceeded that self-imposed target: I read 35 books by women — and I loved (almost, but not quite) every one of them.

As well as reading all the titles on the 2016 Stella Prize shortlist, I read a wonderful mix of newly released books and old ones that had been lingering in my TBR for years. These included non-fiction and fiction — mainly literary fiction, with a side order of short stories (I read four collections) and a couple of crime novels.

I really loved taking part in this challenge. It introduced me to some wonderful writers — hello Romy Ash, Jen Craig and Lucy Treloar — and reacquainted me with “old familiars” such as Thea Astley, Marion Halligan and Charlotte Wood.

Here is my comprehensive list. The books have been arranged in alphabetical order by author’s name (click the title to see my full review):

Floundering by Romy Ash

‘Floundering’ by Romy Ash
Heartbreaking novel about two brothers “kidnapped” by their cash-strapped mother one hot summer.

Drylands by Thea Astley

‘Drylands’ by Thea Astley
This Miles Franklin winner looks at the humdrum nature of small town life and what happens when its inhabitants stop reading.

It's raining in mango by Thea Astley

‘It’s Raining in Mango’ by Thea Astley
A no holds-barred fictional story of one Australian family from the 1860s to the 1980s.

Six Bedrooms by Tegan Bennett Daylight

 ‘Six Bedrooms’ by Tegan Bennett Daylight
Collection of short stories about teenage girls growing up in the 1980s.

The Other Side of the World by Stephanie Bishop

‘The Other Side of the World’ by Stephanie Bishop
A deeply melancholy novel about emigration, marriage and motherhood set in Perth, Australia in the early 1960s.

Pathers and the museum of fire by Jen Craig

‘Panthers & The Museum of Fire’ by Jen Craig
A bold experimental novel set on a summer’s afternoon as the narrator walks across Sydney to deliver a manuscript to a bereaved family.

Elemental by Amanda Curtin

‘Elemental’ by Amanda Curtin
Gripping historical novel about a Scottish fisherwoman who escapes her circumstances to start a new life on the other side of the world.

Aunts up the cross by Robin Dalton

‘Aunts Up the Cross’ by Robin Dalton
An outrageously funny memoir about Dalton’s childhood in the 1920s and 1930s in Sydney’s Kings Cross.

Viral by Helen Fitzgerald

‘Viral’ by Helen FitzGerald
A confronting revenge thriller about sexual shaming online.

Hope Farm by Peggy Frew

‘Hope Farm’ by Peggy Frew
Fictional tale of a 13-year-old girl and her single mother living in a hippy commune in the 1980s.

Everywhere I Look by Helen Garner

Everywhere I Look’ by Helen Garner
Collection of essays spanning 15 years of Garner’s journalistic career.

What came before by Anna George

‘What Came Before’ by Anna George
Disturbing psychological thriller about a woman murdered by her husband.

Goodbye Sweetheart by Marion Halligan

‘Goodbye Sweetheart’ by Marion Halligan
Unexpectedly charming tale about one man’s untimely death and the effect it has on his loved ones.

The Dry

‘The Dry’ by Jane Harper
Compelling crime story set in rural Australia during the height of the worst drought in living memory.

A few days in the country and other stories by Elizabeth Harrower

‘A Few Days in the Country and Other Stories’ by Elizabeth Harrower
Collection of exquisitely written short stories mostly about women trying to find their place in the world.

Snake by Kate Jennings

‘Snake’ by Kate Jennings
Deeply affecting portrait of a marriage between two incompatible people in postwar Australia.

The Landing

‘The Landing’ by Susan Johnson
Delightfully funny and poignant story about a newly divorced man trying to recalibrate his life.

A Guide to Berlin by Gail Jones

‘A Guide to Berlin’ by Gail Jones
Unusual tale about six Vladimir Nabokov fans from around the world who gather in Berlin to share stories about themselves.

The Family by Chris Johnston and Rosie Jones

‘The Family’ by Chris Johnson and Rosie Jones
An eye-opening work of investigative journalism looking at a cult led by a woman who believed she was the female reincarnation of Jesus Christ.

Leap by Myfanwy Jones

‘Leap’ by Myfanwy Jones
A story about grief, marriage and parkour set in Melbourne’s inner suburbs.

The world without us by Mireille Juchau

 ‘The World Without Us’ by Mireille Juchau
Beautifully constructed novel about family secrets, love, loss, parenthood and community set in rural NSW.

The Golden Age by Joan London

‘The Golden Age’ by Joan London
Story set in a children’s convalescent home during a polio outbreak in the mid-1950s.

The Mint Lawn by Gillian Mears

‘The Mint Lawn’ by Gillian Mears
Award-winning novel about a young woman trapped in a small town with a husband she no longer loves.

The Latte Years by Phil Moore

‘The Latte Years’ by Philippa Moore
Frank and engaging memoir about Moore’s struggle to lose weight, build self-confidence and live what she calls an “authentic life”.

When the night comes

‘When the Night Comes’ by Favel Parrett
Two intertwined stories about grief, kindness and life on an Antarctic supply ship.

Wild Man by Alecia Simmonds

‘Wild Man’ by Alecia Simmonds
A compelling true crime story that follows the coronial inquest into the death of a mentally unstable man shot dead by police on a remote farm.

A Pure Clear Light by Madeleine St John

A Pure Clear Light’ by Madeleine St John
A domestic black comedy about middle-class life in 1990s London.

Reckoning by Magda Szubanski

‘Reckoning’ by Magda Szubanski
Extraordinary memoir about Szubanksi’s life lived in the shadows of her father’s war-time activities in Poland.

Dying A Memoir by Cory Taylor

‘Dying: A Memoir’ by Cory Taylor
Heartfelt and brutally frank memoir by a leading Australian author diagnosed with terminal cancer.

Salt Creek

‘Salt Creek’ by Lucy Treloar
Superb historical novel about one family’s attempt to settle a remote area on the South Australian coast and the dreadful, heartbreaking repercussions that follow.

Hush Little Bird by Nicole Trope

‘Hush, Little Bird’ by Nicole Trope
Deliciously suspense-filled tale about two women sent to prison for two separate but shocking crimes.

Hot Little Hands

‘Hot Little Hands’ by Abigail Ulman
Effortlessly readable collection of short stories about teenage girls or young women trying to find their way in the world.

The media and the massacre by Sonya Voumard

‘The Media and the Massacre’ by Sonya Voumard
A hard-hitting look at the relationship between journalists and their subjects in the context of Tasmania’s Port Arthur massacre.

The Natural Way of Things by Charlotte Wood

The Natural Way of Things’ by Charlotte Wood
Award-winning dystopian novel set in a remote prison for women who have been sexually shamed.

Small Acts of Disappearance: Essays on Hunger by Fiona Wright

‘Small Acts of Disappearance’ by Fiona Wright
Surprisingly gripping collection of 10 essays about the author’s struggle with an eating disorder.

Have you read any of these books? Or care to share a great read by an Australian woman writer? Or any woman writer, regardless of nationality?

By the way, I plan on signing up for the 2017 Australian Womens’ Writers Challenge in the New Year. If you want to join me, you can sign up via the official website.

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23 thoughts on “35 books by women: completing the 2016 Australian Women Writers’ Challenge

    • That’s one of the reasons I wanted to post this list: to help people discover some great books by great writers they might not otherwise come across. Hope you find some gems here, Susan.

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  1. Given I concentrate on translated literature & poetry, I’m quite surprised that I have read five of these, but then again I did try to get to a few Stella Prize longlisted books.

    The challenge looks tempting indeed, not sure if I’ll join in, simply because I don’t have enough on my TBR piles!!!

    Great reading and congratulations on a massive female representation, maybe you should be a Stella judge?

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  2. Well done, Kim, I’ve read quite a few of these but won’t list them all. I don’t do this (or any other) challenge but I am pleased to find at the end of 2016 that my reading has been 50/50 male/female without any conscious effort on my part. There have been some really good books released this year, and some impressive debuts. (And yes, Music and Freedom is among them).

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      • In the 1980s I went through a phase of reading almost nothing but women writers: Jolley, Weldon, Lurie, a bunch of NF feminist texts. I still have them all on my shelves, representing a formative stage in my reading, transitioning from mostly classics into contemporary authors. I wish I’d kept a reading journal back then.

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  3. That’s a fantastic number of Aussie female authors – very impressive. I have read 29 books by Australian authors this year and 24 of these were written by women. I have read 10 of the books you have listed above – it’s hard to pick a favourite of those although Elemental is a strong contender. I also thought Reckoning, Salt Creek, Small Acts of Disappearance, Dying, Everywhere I Look and The Golden Age were brilliant (wow, that’s 7 out of the ten!). I tried and abandoned another 2. Of the ones I haven’t read I’m most interested in The Dry and Aunts Up the Cross.

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  4. I’ve only read a couple of these. Salt Creek has been on my radar for a while, and I’d forgotten Small Acts of Disappearance. I’ll read all of Harrower and Astley one day. The Panthers one I hadn’t heard of but looks interesting. I checked out your review of The Golden Age. I had a classmate with polio in the late 1950s but I remember my (school teacher) father being more worried about TB.

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  5. Thanks so much for joining the challenge this year, Kimbofo, and for giving it an oomph as a result. I’m so glad you enjoyed it and plan to join in again next year. As I think I’ve told you I’ve read 30 Aussie women writers this year, but of yours here I’ve only read 9 or 10, and several of those not this year. So many Aussie women to read. It’s wonderful/

    Ever since the 1980s I’ve tended to make a point of reading more women writers. I do read men of course – there are some great ones (!) – but I do like reading contemporary women and, particularly, catching up on past writers.

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  6. Hello Kim I’ve enjoyed reading this post and looking at my own reading journal for the year. I’m able to account for twelve books by Australian women writers. Top for the year would be The Museum of Modern Love by Heather Rose. Have a lovely New Year :)) and ignore the blog address on this WordPress account please, I’m between alternative emails.

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  7. Oh, Small Acts of Disappearance by Fiona Wright. It took me nearly a month to finish the memoir because I found it so moving and impactful. Sat down many times to try and write out some reflections, but found I lacked to words to explain myself.

    I do have several more of the titles you listed here on my to-read shelf so thank you for bringing them to my attention this year. Have to say, following along with your year of reading Australian lit has been quite a detriment to my wallet. So few of the titles are published in the US and, therefore, not available at my public library. 🙂

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  8. So many different and intriguing books. I haven’t read any of them but now that I know about them adding them to my list, will read some. Thanks for this gem post 🙂 Wish you a happy 2017.

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