Honeybee, Craig Silvey’s eagerly anticipated follow-up to Jasper Jones, is about 14-year-old Sam, who is trans. They live with their troubled mum and their brutish stepfather and are battling shame and guilt as they struggle to find their identity. They meet a trio of characters who teach them how to love and be loved. A deeply moving story about kindness and empathy told with sensitivity and compassion.
Yuwaalaraay writer Nardi Simpson’s exquisite debut, Song of the Crocodile, is about three generations of strong Indigenous women who battle tragedy and prejudice in a NSW rural town. Simpson explores the enduring legacy of violence and racism, in a narrative enriched by beautiful descriptions of the landscape. Meg Mason’s Sorrow and Bliss, meanwhile, is a clever, witty, poignant portrait of a woman trying to save herself and her marriage.
Colum McCann’s Apeirogon is based on a true story about the improbable friendship between an Israeli man and a Palestinian who have both lost young daughters in the Arab-Israeli conflict. United in grief, they seek peace not revenge. McCann weaves references to art, history, politics and philosophy throughout. A remarkable, beautifully told story.
Brit Bennett’s extraordinary The Vanishing Half is a powerful examination of race, gender and identity. It follows identical twin sisters whose lives diverge when one passes herself off as a white woman.
What would you do if a terminally ill friend asked you to be there when they took a euthanasia pill? The prize-winning author of The Friend, Sigrid Nunez, explores the boundaries of friendship and the importance of empathy and being there in What Are You Going Through.
Acclaimed Ghana-born, American writer Yaa Gyasi tackles family, addiction, neuroscience and human behaviour in Transcendent Kingdom, the story of an African family who migrate to the United States, where tragedy befalls them.
Sue Miller’s Monogamy is an emotionally rich portrait of a long marriage where she explores the extent to which even the closest of spouses know and understand each other. Profound.
Journalist Stuart Rintoul’s biography of Lowitja O’Donoghue, Lowitja, sets the story of her remarkable life against the background of Indigenous politics, charting her rise from domestic servant to senior public servant. A highlight is the account of her reunion with her mother, more than 30 years after her white father gave her away to missionaries. Outstanding.
Multi-award-winning Australian novelist Alex Miller turns to non-fiction with Max, an account of the life of his best friend Max Blatt, a Jewish resistance fighter tortured by the Gestapo during World War II. A powerful, humane portrait of a man who suffered immense loss.
Son of the Brush, the frank memoir of Tim Olsen, John Olsen’s son, charts his tumultuous life from the highs of mixing with Australia’s artistic and social elite, to the lows of his battles with alcoholism and depression.
Bestselling crime writer Jane Harper is at the top of her game in her fourth book, The Survivors, set in a small seaside town in Tasmania. When a body turns up on a beach, many of the town’s secrets start to unravel. As always, brilliantly plotted, full of red herrings and surprises, and characters you care about. The perfect summer read.
In Trust, Aussie rural noir writer Chris Hammer, author of the excellent Scrublands, switches from his usual setting of the outback to the upper echelons of Sydney society, with judges, politicians and lawyers implicated in murder and corruption. A clever, entertaining page-turner.
Julia Ostro’s A Year of Simple Family Food is a collection of rustic, unfussy, home-style recipes drawing on her Italian, Japanese and Maltese influences. With an emphasis on fresh, seasonal produce and not a fancy ingredient to be seen, this timeless cookbook will delight both the seasoned home cook and the novice.
To turn on dinner parties that will really wow your friends, look no further than Always Add Lemon by Danielle Alvarez, head chef at popular Sydney restaurant Fred’s, and formerly of The French Laundry and Chez Panisse. Helpful tips, great photos and a good selection of recipes, ranging from the challenging to the homely. A great gift for the foodie in your life.
The Palace Letters is Jenny Hocking’s riveting account of her successful legal battle to gain access to correspondence between former governor-general John Kerr and Queen Elizabeth II prior to the Whitlam government’s dismissal in 1975. Hocking argues that the documents disprove claims by Kerr and the Royal Family that the latter knew nothing about the dismissal in advance. Vital Australian history.
Journalist and writer Malcolm Knox examines the debate about freedom of expression and freedom of religion triggered by Australian rugby union player Israel Folau in Truth Is Trouble. Knox interrogates his own response to the case in a thoughtful, nuanced account that exposed fault lines of Australian society.
In A Life on Our Planet, David Attenborough spells out in devastatingly calm, clear and accessible arguments how humanity has arrived at the brink of mass extinction and what that looks like. He says it’s not too late to pull back and outlines how we can restore biodiversity. An urgent appeal with a positive message.
Books on books
Treat the bibliophile in your life to Australian writer Tegan Bennett Daylight’s essay collection The Details, a glorious hymn to the joys of reading. Daylight writes of the authors who have moved her and describes how her late mother’s love of literature shaped her.
Mantel Pieces by Hilary Mantel is a fabulous collection of 20 reviews and essays for the London Review of Books that showcases the fine mind and sharp wit of the twice Man Booker Prize winner. Mantel turns her attention to contemporary and historical topics, from Madonna to Kate Middleton, from the fatwa on Salman Rushdie to the murder of toddler James Bulger. Crisp, clear prose laced with wisdom and humour. Gold.