Showing all posts tagged: books

The 2022 Miles Franklin longlist

24 May 2022

The 2022 Miles Franklin Literary Award longlist was announced this morning. An annual award, the Miles Franklin recognises outstanding works of Australian fiction.

Some familiar titles there, some new ones, either way time to update those to-be-read lists. The shortlist will be announced on Thursday 23 June 2022.

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2022 Australian Book Industry Awards (ABIAs) shortlist

23 May 2022

The 2022 Australian Book Industry Awards (ABIAs) shortlist has been announced. Sixty-five titles are vying for recognition in thirteen award categories, including audiobook, biography, fiction, non-fiction, children, and literary fiction.

Across these categories, together with The Matt Richell Award for New Writer of the Year, shortlisted titles — in no particular order — include:

The winners will be named at a ceremony on the evening of Thursday 9 June 2022, at the ICC Sydney.

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Red, a novel by Felicity McLean, the Ned Kelly story retold

23 May 2022
Red, by Felicity McLean, bookcover

A novel that is a contemporary re-telling of the story of nineteenth century Australian bushranger and outlaw Ned Kelly? Ok, you have my attention. Such is the premise of Red (published by HarperCollins, 18 May 2022), the second novel by Sydney based Australian writer and journalist, Felicity McLean.

But McLean isn’t flippantly bandying about references to Ned Kelly merely to, you know, attract attention, she has partly based her protagonist Ruby “Red” McCoy, on the contents of Kelly’s 1879 Jerilderie letter.

It’s the early 1990s and Ruby ‘Red’ McCoy dreams about one day leaving her weatherboard house on the Central Coast of New South Wales, where her best friend, Stevie, is loose with the truth, and her dad, Sid, is always on the wrong side of the law. But wild, whip-smart Red can’t stay out of trouble to save her life, and Sid’s latest hustle is more harebrained than usual. Meanwhile, Sergeant Trevor Healy seems to have a vendetta against every generation of the McCoys.

So far only a few reviews of Red have been published, but Australian author John Purcell holds McLean’s writing in high regard:

But the novel’s greatest strength is the voice of narrator Red. I know it is loosely based on Ned Kelly’s voice from the famous [Jerilderie] letter, but it goes well beyond that. Red speaks to us as a fully formed living entity with her own ticks and wisdom. So much so that I started to believe McLean must have suffered from some kind of unholy possession throughout the writing of the book. Red’s narration overflows with colourful anecdotes, cheek and bravado. McLean’s use of language is ceaselessly inventive, coming up with the goods time and time again.

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Time is a Mother, By Ocean Vuong

17 May 2022
Time is a Mother, By Ocean Vuong bookcover

Time is a Mother (published by Penguin Random House, 5 April 2022), is a collection of poetry written by Northampton, Massachusetts based Vietnamese writer Ocean Vuong, following the death of his mother in 2019.

In this deeply intimate second poetry collection, Ocean Vuong searches for life among the aftershocks of his mother’s death, embodying the paradox of sitting within grief while being determined to survive beyond it. Shifting through memory, and in concert with the themes of his novel On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous, Vuong contends with personal loss, the meaning of family, and the cost of being the product of an American war in America. At once vivid, brave, and propulsive, Vuong’s poems circle fragmented lives to find both restoration as well as the epicenter of the break.

Isabella Cho writing for The Harvard Crimson, says Vuong channels fear to bring forth this bold new collection of work:

The finale of Vuong’s sprawling poetic vision is at once dangerous and peaceful, elegiac and triumphant. Vuong’s text pulses with an attentiveness to fear. It is through this emotion that he renders such luminous meditations on his life, and of the people who have come to change it. Vuong fears, which is to say, he refuses to not love.

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The Opera House, a book by Peter Fitzsimons

16 April 2022
The Opera House, by Peter Fitzsimons, book cover

The Opera House, written by Sydney based author and journalist Peter Fitzsimons, and published by Hachette Australia, takes a behind the scenes look at the design and construction of the Sydney Opera House, one of the most recognisable buildings in the world.

On a sacred site on the land of the Gadigal people, Tubowgule, a place of gathering and storytelling for over 60,000 years, now sits the Sydney Opera House. It is a breathtaking building recognised around the world as a symbol of modern Australia. Along with the Taj Mahal and other World Heritage sites, it is celebrated for its architectural grandeur and the daring and innovation of its design. But this stunning house on what is now called Bennelong Point also holds many sorrows, secrets and scandals.

Fitzsimons also asks a question that’s perhaps overshadowed by statue of the building itself, and the dispute between Jørn Utzon, the Danish architect who drew up the original building plans, and the NSW state government:

How the hell did 1950s Sydney, surrounded by a white picket fence, eating meat and three veg, first sign off on, and then BUILD the exquisite Jewel for the Ages that is the Sydney Opera House?

Yes, now that you put it that way…

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Publishing trends emerging from the 2022 London Bookfair

16 April 2022

Sarah Shaffi, writing for The Guardian, identifies five publishing trends to emerge from the 2022 London Bookfair, which ran from 5 to 7 April 2022.

  • More books written by celebrities can be expected
  • There will be increased interest in books relating to Ukraine
  • Books based on Greek Myths, with a modern re-telling, will remain popular
  • More novels will feature women who are threatened or in peril
  • A more topical range of self-help books, for a troubled world, will be published

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A History of the World (in Dingbats), by David Byrne

16 April 2022
A History of the World (in Dingbats) by David Byrne, by Steven Carroll, book cover

David Byrne, the Scottish-American musician, and co-founder of defunct American band Talking Heads, recently published a hardcover book, A History of the World (in Dingbats), a meditation of life during the recent pandemic imposed lockdowns.

Through striking and humorous figurative drawings, the iconic artist and musician David Byrne depicts daily life in intriguing ways. His illustrations, created while under quarantine, expand on the dingbat, a typographic ornament used to illuminate or break up blocks of text, to explore the nuances of life under lockdown and evoke the complex, global systems the pandemic cast in bright light.

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Rising numbers of books have been banned in American schools

12 April 2022

In the period 1 July 2021 to 31 March 2022, some 1,145 book titles were banned in American schools, according to PEN America, an authors, and free speech advocacy, group.

In total, for the nine-month period represented, the Index lists 1,586 instances of individual books being banned, affecting 1,145 unique book titles. This encompasses different types of bans, including removals of books from school libraries, prohibitions in classrooms, or both, as well as books banned from circulation during investigations resulting from challenges from parents, educators, administrators, board members, or responses to laws passed by legislatures.

Titles featuring LGBTQ+ characters, and people of colour, are among many of the books that have become the subject of bans. PEN America notes that while challenges or objections to books made available to school students are within the rights of parents, the number of titles that have been challenged “expanded rapidly” during the nine month reporting period.

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Where the Crawdads Sing tops Dymocks Top 101 books 2022 poll

5 April 2022

Where the Crawdads Sing, by American novelist Delia Owens, has emerged as the winner of the Dymocks Top 101 books 2022 poll. A film adaptation, directed by Olivia Newman, will show in Australian cinemas from Thursday 14 July 2022, by the looks of things.

Also among the top ten titles voted for in the Australian bookshop’s poll, are The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid, The Dictionary of Lost Words by Pip Williams, and The Happiest Man on Earth, by Eddie Jaku.

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The Ukraine, an excerpt from the novel by Artem Chapeye

5 April 2022

An excerpt from The Ukraine, written by Ukrainian author Artem Chapeye, published in The New Yorker. Chapeye is currently serving in the Ukrainian army, fighting the Russian invasion. He also spoke with Deborah Treisman, fiction editor for The New Yorker, about defending Ukraine, and expresses a sentiment that may resonate with some:

What’s most amazing, I think, is that most of us didn’t even expect so much resistance and solidarity from ourselves.

The Ukraine will be published in English in 2023.

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The Gospel of the Eels, by Patrik Svensson

28 March 2022
 The Gospel of the Eels, by Patrik Svensson, book cover

Eels are fascinating creatures, and after centuries — make that millennia — of study, they continue to puzzle scientists. In the past, they’ve piqued the curiosity of Greek philosopher Aristotle, over two thousand years ago, and more recently, Austrian neurologist Sigmund Freud.

Visitors to Sydney’s Centennial Park, may have spotted the long-finned eels who reside in some of the park’s ponds. But they are not Sydneysiders by birth, they were spawned in waters some two-thousand kilometres away, near New Caledonia. Seeking out fresh water, they make the perilous journey to the park, by way of canals, stormwater systems, and even briefly slithering over land from one waterway to another. Once in the park’s ponds, they remain there for decades before returning to the ocean waters they were born in.

The European eel is the subject of Swedish arts and culture journalist Patrik Svensson’s book, The Gospel of the Eels (published by Pan Macmillan, May 2020). These eels are born in the Sargasso Sea, a sprawling area of ocean within the Atlantic Ocean, approximately off the east coast of Central America. They then gradually migrate towards Europe, a journey of over six thousand kilometres, taking about two years. Like the long-finned eels of Centennial Park, the European eels also eventually return to the waters of their birth to reproduce.

Svensson recently spoke to Sarah Kanowski, host of ABC podcast series Conversations, about his book and lifelong fascination with the European eels.

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The most prolific book reader and reviewer in the world

24 March 2022

From a Reddit post I stumbled upon this week, written in October 2018, by Scott Alexander. Read this, your eyes will water:

I don’t know how that author identified the most prolific reviewer at the time but I found one reviewer with 20.8k reviews since 2011. That’s just under 3,000 reviews per year, which comes out to around 8 per day. This man has written an average of 8 reviews on Amazon per day, all of the ones I see about books, every day for seven years. I thought it might be some bot account writing fake reviews in exchange for money, but if it is then it’s a really good bot because Grady Harp is a real person whose job matches that account’s description. And my skimming of some reviews looked like they were all relevant to the book, and he has the “verified purchase” tag on all of them, which also means he’s probably actually reading them.

I like to think I’m a somewhat avid book reader, but I could not — in a million years — come close to matching this sort of… output. Grady Harp, the subject of Alexander’s post, must read in a week what I do in a year. But we’re talking about reading and reviewing eight books daily. I know of some fast readers who can tackle a novel in a day, but this feat is truly incredible.

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2022 Indie Book Awards winners

22 March 2022

Love Stories by Trent Dalton, and Once There Were Wolves by Charlotte McConaghy, are among the 2022 Indie Book Awards winners that were announced yesterday, Monday 21 March.

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2022 Australian Book Industry Awards (ABIAs) longlist

22 March 2022

The 2022 Australian Book Industry Awards longlist (ABIAs) was announced this afternoon.

It’s a big field, with close to one hundred contenders spread across twelve categories including New Writer of the Year, Small Publishers’ Children’s Book, International Book, General Non-fiction Book, and my personal favourite: Literary Fiction Book of the Year.

The Australian Book Industry Awards, or ABIAs, which were established in 2006, recognises the work “of authors and publishers in bringing Australian books to readers.” The shortlist will be released on Monday 23 May, with the winners being named at a ceremony on Thursday 9 June 2022 in Sydney.

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Cats & Books, the book

21 March 2022

If you’ve spent any time on Bookstagram you’ll know cats and books are pretty much synonymous. Enter Cats & Books, filled with images sourced from the #CatsandBooks hastag, is then the logical confluence of such an association.

This charming photo book of precious kitties with books from the popular Instagram hashtag, #CatsandBooks, is a crowd-sourced effort from various owners of both discerning cats and book taste.

Dogs & Books must be next.

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How I was conned by a manuscript thief

16 March 2022

American writer Peter C. Baker on being fooled into handing over a draft of his novel to a manuscript thief. The culprit, known as the Spine Collector, who was finally arrested earlier this year, had tricked numerous other authors, including many who were still unpublished, into sending him copies of their work.

It was the first book I’d ever tried writing, and, during the previous near-decade, it had become an overburdened locus of my ambitions, hopes, doubts, and fears. Many times, I’d looked at the manuscript and wondered if I was fooling myself. Getting fooled into handing it over made me feel sick.

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Adaptable 2021/22 text to screen longlist announced

11 March 2022

Adaptable is an initiative of the Queensland Writers Centre that connects aspiring screen writers, working across all genres, with film and television producers.

Adaptable seeks material for film or television adaptation. Open to writers across Australia and New Zealand, the contest accepts any genre, fiction or non-fiction, published or unpublished. Queensland Writers Centre also identifes several early career unpublished/emerging writers to pitch their work to screen creatives, with these writers receiving mentorship and advice prior to the pitching sessions.

A longlist of contenders was unveiled this week, with the shortlist to follow shortly.

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Women’s Prize for Fiction 2022 longlist

10 March 2022

The longlist for the 2022 Women’s Prize for Fiction was announced on Tuesday. Just under ten percent of the original one hundred-and-seventy-five submissions were among the sixteen titles selected. A few familiar titles leapt out at me: Great Circle by Maggie Shipstead, Sorrow and Bliss by Meg Mason, The Paper Palace by Miranda Cowley Hellerand, and The Sentence by Louise Erdrich. The shortlist, consisting of six titles, will be announced on Wednesday 27 April.

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We Got This, edited by Eliza Hull

7 March 2022
We Got This, edited by Eliza Hull, book cover

We Got This (published by Black Inc, 1 March 2022), is an anthology by parents with disabilities, edited by Victorian based Australian writer, audio producer, and musician Eliza Hull.

In We’ve Got This, twenty-five parents who identify as Deaf, disabled or chronically ill discuss the highs and lows of their parenting journeys and reveal that the greatest obstacles lie in other people’s attitudes. The result is a moving, revelatory and empowering anthology. As Rebekah Taussig writes, “Parenthood can tangle with grief and loss. Disability can include joy and abundance. And goddammit – disabled parents exist.”

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Do large book reviews result in more book sales?

4 March 2022

Since 2012 the Stella Count has been analysing the number, and length, of book reviews published across twelve Australian publications. These periodicals include regional and national newspapers, magazines, and journals.

Reporting of the counts for the two most recent years — being 2019 and 2020 — has been delayed by COVID imposed restrictions, but they have shown for the first time that reviews of books written by women, has exceeded the fifty percent mark for the first time since the Stella Count commenced.

While on the surface it appears there is finally some parity in book reviews between the genders, being published in the twelve surveyed publications, there is a significant caveat. This comes down to the length of the reviews. While more than half of small and medium sized reviews critiqued the work of women in the 2019 and 2020 period, when it came to large reviews, books by men remained in the majority.

As far as I can tell, the Stella Count only looks at print publications, though I assume these reviews are cross-posted to their online counterparts. While using established periodicals makes for a consistent benchmark to measure comparisons over time, I’m guessing these numbers would be quite different if social media reviews were — somehow — to be included.

The value — and prestige even — of large reviews cannot, and should not, be dismissed, but I wonder what the conversion rate, if you like, of large reviews to book purchases is, compared to small and medium reviews. Research tell us people take more time to assimilate longer articles (consisting of a thousand words or more), than they do shorter, or small and medium, sized write-ups.

This is possibly because large reviews contain more information, and readers perhaps feel better informed if they are making a decision to spend money. If I were making a big purchase, such as a car, I would read as many long-form, in depth articles, about the vehicle I was interested in as I could, but buying a novel would be different.

I tend to read several small book reviews published on social media, and possibly a couple of small to medium periodical articles, before deciding what to do. That way I’m able to get a range of opinions, and quickly, rather than relying on the thoughts of a single reviewer.

Might others of the TL;DR generation agree with me?

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