Showing all posts tagged: books

Shepard and What Should I Read Next book discovery tools

21 July 2022
Bookshelves in bookshop, photo by wal_172619

Image courtesy of wal_172619.

Bodies of Light by Jennifer Down, was named winner of the 2022 Miles Franklin literary award yesterday. As I’ve said before, the long and short lists of literary awards are great places to find reading inspiration. But, if, unlike me, you’re a fast, prolific reader, you might run out of ideas quickly. There’s always Goodreads or StoryGraph (which isn’t half bad), but they’re not the only options for finding something new to read.

Shepherd, founded by Boulder, Colorado, based American entrepreneur Ben Fox, offers reading suggestions based on the recommendations of authors. Fox thinks searching for a book should be fun, an element he believes many online bookshops, and social cataloguing websites, lack.

As a reader, I am incredibly frustrated with the bleak wasteland that is online book discovery. The big bookstores sell books the same way they sell toothpaste, without passion. And, Goodreads makes finding new books about as much fun as browsing a spreadsheet. How you find a book is important. That search is the start of a journey and it should be fun.

In creating Shepherd, Fox hopes to bring the IRL bookstore experience online, and imbue some of the in-store spontaneity to the book discovery process.

What Should I Read Next (WSIRN) works a little differently. Rather than offering author recommendations as Shepherd does, WSIRN will make new reading suggestions based on titles you’ve read previously that you liked.

Enter a book you like and the site will analyse our huge database of real readers’ favourite books to provide book recommendations and suggestions for what to read next.

And it’s not just three or four titles either. For example, typing in Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney, returns an extensive list of suggestions.

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Bodies of Light by Jennifer Down wins the 2022 Miles Franklin literary award

20 July 2022
Bodies of Light by Jennifer Down bookcover

It’s a red letter day in Australian literature, with Bodies of Light, by Jennifer Down being named winner of the 2022 Miles Franklin Literary Award.

Here’s the book trailer for Bodies of Light, followed by an outline of the premise.

So by the grace of a photograph that had inexplicably gone viral, Tony had found me. Or: he’d found Maggie. I had no way of knowing whether he was nuts or not; whether he might go to the cops. Maybe that sounds paranoid, but I don’t think it’s so ridiculous. People have gone to prison for much lesser things than accusations of child-killing.A quiet, small-town existence. An unexpected Facebook message, jolting her back to the past. A history she’s reluctant to revisit: dark memories and unspoken trauma, warning knocks on bedroom walls, unfathomable loss. She became a new person a long time ago. What happens when buried stories are dragged into the light?

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Going blue for Miles Franklin week 2022

18 July 2022
disassociated Miles Franklin week logo

The winner of the 2022 Miles Franklin literary prize will be announced on Wednesday 20 July 2022, and to mark the momentous occasion I’ve remixed the disassociated logo with the Miles Franklin hues of blue for this week.

I’m a big fan of literary awards, as they’re great places to find quality reading suggestions. Of the six titles on the 2021 shortlist, I’ve so far read The Labyrinth by Amanda Lohrey, the 2021 winner, plus Lucky’s by Andrew Pippos, The Inland Sea by Madeleine Watts, and The Rain Heron by Robbie Arnott.

To date I’ve not been disappointed. But for more recent reading ideas, check out the 2022 Miles Franklin longlist, announced in May, and the shortlist from last month.

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Naomi R. Mercer: why should you read The Handmaid’s Tale

9 July 2022

The Handmaid’s Tale, speculative fiction novel written in 1985 by Margaret Atwood, is set in the fictitious Republic of Gilead — usually referred to as Gilead — a totalitarian patriarchal theocracy, occupying much of what is the continental United States. Gilead is a place where even the most basic rights and liberties of many, particularly women, have been curtailed.

But the recent decision by the Supreme Court of the United States to overturn the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling giving women the constitutional right to terminate a pregnancy, has stoked fears of a Gilead-like regime becoming reality.

Talk of other long standing rights — including access to contraception, and same sex marriage — possibly being rescinded, is doing little to quell such concerns.

I first read The Handmaid’s Tale in 2019, weeks before Atwood announced she was publishing a follow-up, The Testaments. If you haven’t already read her 1985 novel, I recommend it to you, and a TEDEd video presentation Naomi R. Mercer made in 2018, is an excellent introduction.

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Mal Peet’s Beck, a book finished posthumously by another author

6 July 2022
Beck, by Mal Peet and Meg Rosoff, book cover

When late British author Mal Peet died in March 2015, his final novel, Beck, remained unfinished.

In a phone call Peet made to friend and American born, London based writer, Meg Rosoff, shortly before his death, he expressed a desire to finish writing Beck, but didn’t think he’d be able to. At that point Rosoff offered to step in.

At the time of their conversation, Rosoff knew nothing about the novel, or how much progress Peet had made. But this posthumous collaboration paid off. Beck was well received. In August 2016, the Sunday Times named Beck their Book of the Week, describing it as “powerful, shocking, uplifting, funny and beautifully written.”

But this is not the first time one person’s novel has been finished by another, because of death or incapacitation. Realising illness would prevent him finishing works in The Wheel of Time series of fantasy books, late American author Robert Jordan, prepared extensive notes, allowing Brandon Sanderson to conclude the fifteen book series.

British writer Siobhan Dowd died in 2007, before A Monster Calls, which she was working on at the time of her death, was finished, a task that Patrick Ness took on.

In some cases though the quantity of notes written by a deceased author have been enough for another to create books from scratch. The works of British author J. R. R. Tolkien are a case in point. After Tolkien’s death in 1973, his son Christopher wrote a number of Tolkien novels including, The Silmarillion and The Fall of Númenor.

Despite the success some have enjoyed, taking over another author’s part-finished manuscript remains a process fraught with difficulty. How exactly can one writer step into the shoes of another? How do the creative visions of two artistic people align? And perhaps, most crucially, how does one author assume the voice of another?

It was a question Rosoff grappled with, when picking up Beck where Peet left off. But the solution soon came to her: “the answer, I discovered, is not to.” It seems then, if an author is sufficiently in synch with the person whose work they are continuing, a book finished posthumously by another author can do well.

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The 2022 Ned Kelly Awards shortlists

6 July 2022

The 2022 Ned Kelly Awards shortlists have been announced by the Australian Crime Writers Association. This year the work of nineteen writers has been shortlisted in four categories.

Best debut crime fiction

  • Sweet Jimmy, by Bryan Brown
  • Shadow Over Edmund Street, by Suzanne Frankham
  • Cutters End, by Margaret Hickey
  • Banjawarn, by Josh Kemp

Best true crime

  • The Mother Wound, by Amani Haydar
  • Larrimah, by Caroline Graham and Kylie Stevenson
  • Banquet: The untold story of Adelaide’s family murders, by Debi Marshall
  • A Witness of Fact, by Drew Rooke

Best international crime fiction

  • Case Study, by Graeme Macrae Burnet
  • The Heron’s Cry, by Ann Cleeves
  • The Maid, by Nita Prose
  • Cry Wolf, by Hans Rosenfeldt

Best crime fiction

  • The Enemy Within, by Tim Ayliffe
  • The Others, by Mark Brandi
  • You Had it Coming, by B M Carroll
  • The Chase, by Candice Fox
  • Kill Your Brother, by Jack Heath
  • The Family Doctor, by Debra Oswald
  • The Deep, by Kyle Perry

The winners will be announced in early August 2022.

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Books to read by Indigenous authors suggested by Anita Heiss

6 July 2022

We’re in the middle of National Aboriginal and Islanders Day Observance Committee week, or NAIDOC week, in Australia, which is a celebration of the history, culture, and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

It’s also a good opportunity to focus on the literature of Indigenous and First Nation people, and Twenty reasons you should read blak, by author and activist Anita Heiss, is an awesome starting point. The suggestions were made during a speech Heiss gave at the Blak and Bright Festival in 2016.

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Goodreads members favourite books half way through 2022

5 July 2022

Goodreads has published a list of members top book choices so far, for 2022, across six genres. To Paradise by Hanya Yanagihara, The Maid by Nita Prose, Sea of Tranquility by Emily St. John Mandel, and The Nineties by Chuck Klosterman, are among titles at, or near, the top of their category.

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The Eulogy, new autofiction by Jackie Bailey

4 July 2022
The Eulogy, by Jackie Bailey, book cover

The Eulogy, published by Hardie Grant in June 2022, is the debut autofiction novel of Australian author Jackie Bailey, and if the description autofiction is indicative, then the story is based, in part at least, on Bailey’s own life:

It’s winter in Logan, south-east Queensland, and still warm enough to sleep in a car at night if you have nowhere else to go. But Kathy can’t sleep. Her husband is on her blocked caller list and she’s running from a kidnapping charge, a Tupperware container of 300 sleeping pills in her glovebox. She has driven from Sydney to plan a funeral with her five surviving siblings (most of whom she hardly speaks to) because their sister Annie is finally, blessedly, inconceivably dead from the brain tumour she was diagnosed with twenty-five years ago, the year everything changed. Kathy wonders – she has always wondered – did Annie get sick to protect her? And if so, from what?

Autofiction, in case you’re wondering — as I was — is term first used by late French author Serge Doubrovsky, when he published his novel Fils in 1977, although he by no means pioneered the genre. The autofiction like blending of autobiography with fiction, can be found in the writing of Sappho, a Greek poet who died in around 570 BCE.

Autofiction combines two mutually inconsistent narrative forms, namely autobiography and fiction. An author may decide to recount their life in the third person, to modify significant details and characters, using fictive subplots and imagined scenarios with real life characters in the service of a search for self.

Some titles by James Joyce, and Jack Kerouac, who both worked and died well before 1977, can be seen as examples of autofiction, while On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous, written in 2019 by Ocean Vuong, and Outline, from 2015, by Rachel Cusk, are more recent instances.

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Book detective Toby Wools-Cobb will help find that lost book

1 July 2022

It sounds like a scene from Adam Brooks’ 2008 film Definitely Maybe, where Ryan Reynolds’ character trawls through American bookshops, searching for a particular copy of Jane Eyre. But for Launceston, Tasmania, based bookshop owner Toby Wools-Cobb, it is something the self-professed book detective does all the time.

Mr Wools-Cobb uses the investigative skills from his career as a librarian and the archaeological expertise from his studies in Egyptology to find copies of books from his shop, Quixotic Books. Special algorithms help him scan the millions of titles listed in publisher databases, but he also must understand the “life cycle of books to figure out where they may have ended up”.

Some of Wools-Cobb’s clients are people who sold a little-known book, perhaps at a garage sale, and are trying to locate it years later. And incredibly, he often succeeds in tracking down a copy.

“I managed to find some information that the author had partnered with a book chain to do a promotion,” he said. He tracked down the shop and asked the staff if any promotional stock had been left behind in the storeroom. “They were saying, ‘Oh, we don’t have it in stock on our system’, but sure enough, they go out and sheepishly come back and say, ‘We’ve got a whole box of them’.

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The 2022 Miles Franklin shortlist

23 June 2022

The 2022 Miles Franklin Literary Award shortlist was unveiled this evening, with the following five novels making the cut:

Awesome to see Grimmish by Michael Winkler, on the list, now the first self-published novel to reach the Miles Franklin shortlist.

The winner will be named on Wednesday 20 July 2022.

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Male authors name their favourite woman writers

1 June 2022

Men don’t seem to read too many books written by women. Why this should be, who knows. But if I were to take a guess at it, I’d say men are more likely to be given recommendations for books authored by men, from their male friends. Then there’s also the point that it may not occur to men to read titles written by women in the first place, which is unfortunate.

Some of my recent reads include novels by Sally Rooney, Sophie Hardcastle, Susanna Clarke, Jane Caro, Holly Wainwright, Katherine Brabon, and Madeleine Watts.

British author and journalist Mary Ann Sieghart, writing for The Guardian, notes “studies show men avoid female authors,” while “women read roughly 50:50 books by male and female authors; for men the ratio is 80:20.”

To redress the imbalance, Sieghart spoke to male writers including Ian McEwan (who I’ve read), Salman Rushdie, Richard Curtis, and Lee Child among others, asking them to name their favourite women authors. There’s some solid reading ideas here.

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The 2022 Melbourne Rare Book Fair

30 May 2022

The Melbourne Rare Book Fair returns in 2022 after a COVID enforced break, and takes place at the University of Melbourne, from Thursday 7 July 2022 until Sunday 9 July.

The Melbourne Rare Book Fair is the major annual book fair of ANZAAB and one of only a few rare book fairs in the Southern hemisphere. Now in its 49th edition, and 50th year, the Melbourne Rare Book Fair will again feature rare and wonderful books, manuscripts, ephemera, prints (and much more) from the best rare book and antiquarian dealers across Australia and New Zealand and overseas.

If newer and bountiful aren’t your thing, then the Rare Book Fair may be the place for you.

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The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood unburnable edition

30 May 2022

With books being banned or burned, or both, in some parts, Toronto based Canadian poet and author Margaret Atwood has published a fireproof limited edition of her 1998 novel The Handmaiden’s Tale, which is, surprise, surprise, among titles banned in some jurisdictions. Coated with a fire retardant material, the book is able to withstand the fiery force of a flamethrower.

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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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