Book chat

Book news round-up: May 2022

Here’s something different for you… my covid-woolly brain can’t seem to compose any book reviews at the moment but I can put together a bunch of links. Go figure.

¶ The longlist for the 2022 Miles Franklin Literary Award has been announced. I’ve actually read a few from the list but can’t say anything has particularly wowed me.

¶ Here’s some great recommendations for anyone who loves Japanese literature including new releases and books coming soon.

¶ The winner of the world’s richest literary prize for English-language novels has been named. One to add to the wishlist by the sound of things.

¶ Excited to hear that Australian author Helen Fitzgerald has a new book coming out later this year. I’ve reviewed much of her back catalogue here.

¶ Not really book news, but for copywriters, sub-editors and grammarians alike, this new board game looks brilliant fun!

¶ The Indigenous Literacy Foundation has released two new bilingual books for children. The books are the result of a unique collaboration between children, families, Elders, authors and publishers in the Kimberley region of northern Western Australia.

¶ Love him or loathe him, I’m not ashamed to say I’ve already placed my pre-order for Bono’s memoir, due to be published on 1 November.

¶ This new reprint of a Nancy Spain novel first published in 1950 sounds perfect for cosy crime aficionados. Has anyone read her work before? Why have I never heard of her?

¶ A fireproof edition of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale is going to be auctioned off to raise funds for PEN America. (What does it say about a country that thinks nothing of banning books but won’t do anything to control gun ownership?)

Need a laugh? The 50 funniest books of all time, put together by Penguin Publishing, might provide some inspiration.

The shortlist for the 2022 Australian Book Industry Awards (ABIAs) has been announced. The winners will be named in Sydney on June 9.

The British Library is hosting a new exhibition showcasing 50 gold books, scrolls and documents in its collection.

¶  This one has gone onto my wishlist: The Netanyahus by Joshua Cohen has won the 2022 Pulitzer Prize for fiction.

Book chat

Season’s greetings to you

Sunset over Fremantle Port, taken from my living room window on 22 December 2021

I don’t normally post a Christmas message on my blog, but this year hasn’t followed convention, so why should I?

Anyway, I just wanted to quickly wish you all the best for the festive season wherever you reside and however you choose to celebrate (if you celebrate at all). I hope you’re doing okay and staying safe.

I have 10 days off work and after the craziness of the past few weeks (a new boss, lots of changes in the office and my role) on top of a rollercoaster of a year, I’m looking forward to relaxing, reading lots of books, catching up on reviews and maybe having a little splurge or two in my local independent book store (wearing a face mask, of course).

The air-conditioner is having a workout today because Perth has been hit by a heatwave. It’s going to be 42°C today (107 Fahrenheit) and 44°C tomorrow. Then it’s a week of temps in the high 30s. (I’m writing this at 11am and it’s already 33°C.)

I’m not cooking Christmas dinner because who needs a fan-forced oven pumping out more heat? I have a bag of pre-cooked prawns, plenty of salad leaves, seafood sauce and avocado, so I’ll be tucking into my own take on a prawn cocktail later. This will be followed by meringues I made last night served with cream and fresh strawberries, mini pavlova style.

And there’s plenty of local beer in the fridge.

Now to chill out on the sofa with a good book… it’s hard to choose which one, but I think I might opt for John Banville’s Prague Nights because of its snowy setting. I can dream about cooler temperatures, right?

Thanks for all your comments, likes and follows this year. I appreciate the support. I’ll post my favourite books of the year list on New Year’s Eve. That’s at least one tradition I can stick to!

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Books that Made Us: TV series about Australia’s literary canon set to screen on ABC in November

Earlier today, I was excited to learn (via Instagram) that a new three-part TV series about Australian books will screen on the ABC next month!

Books that Made Us, about great works of fiction and Australian writers, will be hosted by award-winning actor, scriptwriter and producer Claudia Karvan.

Some of the novelists that will feature include Richard Flanagan, Alexis Wright, Helen Garner, Tim Winton, David Malouf, Kate Grenville, Christos Tsiolkas, Thomas Keneally, Liane Moriarty, Trent Dalton, Kim Scott and Melissa Lucashenko. What a line-up!

A book to accompany the series will also be published. It’s billed as “a cultural history of Australia told through our fiction”.

According to the blurb, it will touch on…

colonial invasion, the bush myth, world wars, mass migration, the recognition of Indigenous sovereignty and the emergence of a modern, global, multicultural nation. Carl [Reinecke, the author] examines how these pivotal events and persuasive ideas have shaped some of Australia’s most influential novels, and how these books, in turn, made us.

You can find out more about the TV series via this ABC podcast that was first broadcast in August.

Books that Made Us will premiere on ABC TV and ABC iView at 8.30pm on 23 November.

UPDATE:

Have now found a clip on YouTube about the series…

Book chat, News

A literary cause to support: the ‘Freadom Inside’ project

Image by Maaark from Pixabay

 

Imagine being stuck in prison with nothing to read. No opportunity to escape to a different world. No opportunity to better yourself.

This is obviously something that has crossed the mind of Australian writer Bri Lee (whose books I have reviewed here). Bri has set up the ‘Freadom Inside’ project, which is designed to provide women incarcerated in NSW jails the opportunity to read books that have been bought for them by the public. It is being backed by Independent bookseller Glee Books, in Sydney, which is covering the postage and dispatch of the books.

Writing on her Instagram account last week, Bri said: “What I found when researching #WhoGetsToBeSmart [her latest non-fiction book about power, privilege and education in Australia] was shocking, and I have chosen to commit to this work as one concrete way I can help share learning + resources instead of hoarding them.”

The project will be officially launched next week, on October 28, via Zoom. You can find out more and book tickets here.

In the meantime, if you would like to donate a book (or books) to the project, visit this page on the Glee Books website, choose from the preselected range (which has been approved by Corrective Services), purchase online using the “freadom” coupon code and Glee Books will cover the postage and dispatch. Find out more here.

As someone who has a TBR that spans two continents (!!), I cannot begin to imagine what it would be like to exist without access to reading material. I tend to buy at least a couple of books, both new and used, per month, so I have put my money where my mouth is and ordered Tara June Winch’s Swallow the Air, a book I read last year and really loved, for the project.

[Hat tip: I first read about this literary project on Australian writer Charlotte Wood’s Instagram account.]

Book chat

When should you give up on a book?

Man sitting on a park bench reading a book. It is a moody black and white scene.
Image by José Manuel de Laá from Pixabay

Once-upon-a-time I would persevere with a book, no matter how much I was hating it, in the belief that it might get better the further I progressed. Often I was rewarded. Many of the books I considered abandoning turned out to be wonderful reads. Some examples include Peter Fröberg Idling’s ‘Song for an Approaching Storm’,  David Park’s ‘The Truth Commissioner’ and John MacKenna’s ‘The Space Between Us’.

But lately, I’ve abandoned several books^, because I simply wasn’t enjoying them. It hardly seemed worth persevering when there are so many other books vying for my attention. Does this now make me a fickle reader? Or maybe a lazy one? Perhaps it was simply a case of right book, wrong time?

Apparently, crime writer Mark Billingham recently told the Cheltenham Literary Festival that if a book hadn’t gripped you after 20 pages, then it was OK to give up on it and “throw it across the room angrily”. I think we can do without the violence, but I’m beginning to think he’s onto something. But maybe 50 pages is a more realistic measure…?

How about you? Do you have any rules about when you should give up on a book, or do you keep going until the bitter end?

^ I’m not going to mention the titles here (head to my Facebook page if you’re really interested), because it’s not fair on the writers, plus I don’t want to put people off reading something that might really “wow” them. Just because they didn’t work for me, doesn’t mean they won’t work for you. Books are the meeting of two minds — the author’s and the reader’s — and sometimes, for the slimmest or most personal or ridiculous of reasons, the alchemy just doesn’t work.