Category Archives: Awards

Loading your e-reader for Summer holiday reading: the best summer books

The sun is shining and the beach is beckoning us to enjoy the warm Australian summer. While 2020 was a year like no other, some of us are now able to head out (safely) and enjoy the outdoors. Summer has always been the perfect time to catch up on some reading, whether it’s book recommendations we have received from friends throughout the year, the lure of a new release in a bookstore or a bookclub read we are behind on. If you’re anything like us, Summer sees us fly through books at a record pace so instead of carrying around a pile of physical books this summer how about you load up an e-reader with your entire reading list? We’re heading off on a road trip and with the dog in the back so space will be limited making it an e-reader library for us this summer. 

Here are our top picks: 

American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins

Vivid, visceral, utterly compelling, American Dirt is the first novel to explore the experience of attempting to illegally cross the US-Mexico border. Described as ‘A Grapes of Wrath for our times’ it is a story that will leave you utterly changed. Yesterday, Lydia had a bookshop. Yesterday, Lydia was married to a journalist. Yesterday, she was with everyone she loved most in the world. Today, her eight-year-old son Luca is all she has left. For him, she will carry a machete strapped to her leg. For him, she will leap onto the roof of a high speed train. For him, she will find the strength to keep running.

The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman

Who said old age has to be dull? In a peaceful retirement village off the A21 in Kent, four unlikely friends meet up once a week to investigate unsolved killings. But when a local property developer shows up dead, ‘The Thursday Murder Club’ find themselves in the middle of their first live case. Elizabeth, Joyce, Ibrahim and Ron might be octogenarians, but they still have a few tricks up their sleeves. Can our unorthodox but brilliant gang catch the killer, before it’s too late? A page-turning murder mystery in the tradition of Christie, and a joyful, laugh-out-loud celebration of modern Britishness and the power of friendship, The Thursday Murder Club is a true classic in the making.

The Good Sister by Sally Hepworth

Fern Castle works in her local library. She has dinner with her twin sister Rose three nights a week. And she avoids crowds, bright lights and loud noises as much as possible. Fern has a carefully structured life and disrupting her routine can be … dangerous. When Rose discovers that she cannot fall pregnant, Fern sees her chance to pay her sister back for everything Rose has done for her. Fern can have a baby for Rose. She just needs to find a father. Simple. Fern’s mission will shake the foundations of the life she has carefully built for herself and stir up dark secrets from the past, in this quirky, rich and shocking story of unexpected love.

Leave the World Behind by Rumaan Alam

Amanda and Clay head to a remote corner of Long Island expecting a holiday, a quiet reprieve from life in New York City, quality time with their teenage son and daughter and a taste of the good life in the luxurious home they’ve rented for the week. But with a late-night knock on the door, the spell is broken. Ruth and G. H., an older couple who claim to own the home, have arrived there in a panic. These strangers say that a sudden power outage has swept the city, and with nowhere else to turn they have come to the country in search of shelter. But with the TV and internet down, and no phone service, the facts are unknowable. Should Amanda and Clay trust this couple and vice versa? What has happened back in New York? Is the holiday home, isolated from civilisation, a truly safe place for their families? And are they safe from one another? An impossibly compelling literary thriller about the world we live in now, Rumaan Alam’s novel is keenly attuned to the complexities of parenthood, race and class. Leave the World Behind explores how our closest bonds are reshaped in moments of crisis  and how the most terrifying situations are never far from reality.

A Promised Land by Barack Obama

This is a whopper of a book and you’ll be happy to buy it as an ebook rather than a hardback! This is a riveting, deeply personal account of history in the making from the president who inspired us to believe in the power of democracy. Barack Obama tells the story of his improbable odyssey from young man searching for his identity to leader of the free world, describing in strikingly personal detail both his political education and the landmark moments of the first term of his historic presidency. Obama takes us on a compelling journey from his earliest political aspirations to the pivotal Iowa caucus victory that demonstrated the power of grassroots activism to the watershed night of November 4, 2008, when he was elected 44th president of the United States, becoming the first African American to hold the nation’s highest office. Reflecting on the presidency, he offers a unique and thoughtful exploration of both the awesome reach and the limits of presidential power, as well as singular insights into the dynamics of U.S. partisan politics and international diplomacy. Obama brings us inside the Oval Office and the White House Situation Room, and to Moscow, Cairo, Beijing, and points beyond. We are privy to his thoughts as he assembles his cabinet, wrestles with a global financial crisis, takes the measure of Vladimir Putin, overcomes seemingly insurmountable odds to secure passage of the Affordable Care Act, clashes with generals about U.S. strategy in Afghanistan, tackles Wall Street reform, responds to the devastating Deepwater Horizon blowout, and authorises Operation Neptune’s Spear, which leads to the death of Osama bin Laden. A Promised Land is extraordinarily intimate and introspective, the story of one man’s bet with history, the faith of a community organiser tested on the world stage.

The Handbag of Happiness by Alannah Hill

The Handbag of Happiness (and other misunderstandings, misdemeanours and misadventures) is a collection of rollicking, defiant, punked-up real-life stories where life-changing moments are found in the absurd, and self-improvement is inconvenient and unpleasant. From The Bathing Costume of Calamity to The Apron Strings of Lament and The Brassiere of Lovelessness, Alannah Hill shares hard-won wisdom from a career in the fashion world, and tells us, in her own imperfect way, how she overcame adversity and sometimes didn’t, despite her best intentions. A breath of fresh air in a world full of self-improvement courses, wellness retreats and oppressive rules, Alannah flouts convention. She’s irreverent, ironic and self-deprecating. She’s upbeat and fearlessly frank. She says out loud what other women are thinking. She flirts with trouble and finds the black humour in modern-day chaos and, in doing so, lets readers see that being a bit wrong can sometimes be right.

Enjoy!

Goodreads Choice Awards Winners

Do you use Goodreads?  Goodreads is popular book recommendations and cataloguing website. It’s a great place to find book reviews and recommendations, and you can also use it to keep track of books you have read, owned, or want to read.
Goodreads also runs the annual Goodreads Choice Awards, one of the biggest popularly-voted book prizes around.  There are 20 different categories, and winners are chosen in November each year.  For your reading inspiration, here’s a selection of the winners from last year:

The Testaments by Margaret Atwood (Winner for Fiction)

Margaret Atwood was inspired to write this sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale when its TV adaptation resonated so strongly with audiences around the world. The Testaments is set 15 years after the events in Handmaid’s Tale, and is ostensibly the story of how Aunt Lydia – the highest ranking female oppressor in Gilead – joined the Establishment. In doing so, Margaret Atwood has created a tense and riveting novel that challenges us to question the truth and value of testimony. Besides the Goodreads Choice Award for Fiction, The Testaments was also a joint-winner of last year’s Booker Prize.

The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides (Winner for Mystery and thriller)

The Silent Patient of the title is Alicia, a famous painter married to Gabriel, an in-demand fashion photographer.  Alicia adores Gabriel, and their lives seem perfect, until the day she shoots him and then stops speaking.  Six years later, Theo Faber, a criminal psychotherapist, seeks out Alicia because he is fascinated by Alicia’s crime.  He is determined to make her talk, and thus unravel the mystery surrounding her case.  Alex Michaelides has cleverly built a modern psychological thriller around the ancient Greek tragedy of Alcestis, and his own extensive knowledge of psychotherapy.  In tight, uncluttered prose, he slowly peels back the layers of Alicia’s past, skilfully building tension until the novel’s shocking denouement.

Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo (Winner for Fantasy)

Leigh Bardugo, beloved YA author of the Grishaverse, has extended her range with Ninth House, her first adult fiction book. She brings her immersive world-building into an urban fantasy setting, creating an alternate-Yale that marries the mystique of normal-life social privilege and traditions, with mysterious secret societies that practise powerful magic.  Ninth House skilfully weaves together many elements, including noir, criminal procedural thriller, fish-out-of-water otherness, and personal growth, into a grungy, sinister and alluring story. Compulsively readable.

Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston (Winner for Romance, and best Debut Novel)

Casey McQuiston won both the Best Debut and Best Romance awards for her funny, upbeat romantic comedy, Red White & Royal Blue. Set in an alternate reality, it applies the classic enemies-to-lovers trope to a secret romance between the Prince of Wales and the First Son of the United States.  Full of pop cultural references and a sweet optimism, its popularity exploded by word-of-mouth. Red White & Royal Blue is a great example of queer rom-coms that is adding fresh, diverse fun to the Romance genre.  You can catch Casey McQuiston at this year’s Melbourne Writers Festival Online, later in August.

Dear Girls: Intimate Tales, Untold Secrets and Advice for Living Your Best Life by Ali Wong (Winner for Humour)

Dear Girls is structured as a set of letters to Ali Wong’s daughters, but is definitely not for kids!  Her writing is a direct extension of her raunchy, uncompromising comedy shows, and if you’re already familiar with her work, you’ll be hearing this book in her voice.  Ali Wong uses her sharp, self-deprecating humour to tell wide-ranging, intimate stories about her life, from her sexual experimentation, failed gigs, drug experiences, her heartbreaking miscarriage and the impact of her father’s death.  Dear Girls is also surprisingly inspirational – time and again, Ali Wong turns failure and vulnerability into personal strength and motivation for betterment.

Girl, Stop Apologizing: a Shame-free Plan for Embracing and Achieving your Goals by Rachel Hollis (Winner for Non-fiction)

There’s something about Rachel Hollis’ pithy, down-to-earth, just-between-us-girls voice that is both quote-worthy and has the urgency of a siren.  She is inspirational yet totally relatable – a successful working mom of four who tells it like it is, is full of positivity and isn’t afraid to be vulnerable or to admit failure. Girl, Stop Apologizing is her clarion call to women to stop apologising for their desires, hopes, and dreams, and instead to go after them with passion and confidence. She argues that women are brought up to prioritise the needs of other people, and provide useful strategies to help change this mindset and start prioritising and investing in ourselves.