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Riveting reads for the summer holidays

Books & Poetry

Looking for holiday reading inspiration? We asked Adelaide booksellers and literary experts to share some of their favourite recent titles – from fierce, thrilling and laugh-out-loud fiction to true tales of love, war, fire and forests.

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Jason Lake, Imprints (Hindley Street)

Axiomatic, by Maria Tumarkin
In Axiomatic, Maria Tumarkin takes five well-known axioms and turns them on their head, in the process giving the reader a fascinating new perspective on how we write and think about history. This wonderful and thought-provoking book shows one of Australia’s most original writers and thinkers at her blistering, achingly empathetic, fiercely inquiring best.

Calypso, by David Sedaris
Perfect holiday reading for people who don’t believe in holiday reading, David Sedaris’ new collection of cheerily acerbic stories sees the American humorist at his wryly observational best. The author of many previous books, each superbly crafted to both amuse and shed light on the complexities of being human, Sedaris imbues Calypso with some of his finest and funniest writing to date.

The Silence of the Girls, by Pat Barker
A story of the Trojan War told from the perspective of Briseis and her fellow women. Written by Pat Barker, author of the much-loved Regeneration Trilogy, The Silence of the Girls is a deeply compelling work of historical fiction which feels very fresh in its telling.

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Gavin Williams, Matilda Bookshop (Stirling)

Normal People, by Sally Rooney
In spare, uncluttered prose that sings off the page, Rooney navigates the shifting nature of love, obsession, friendship, desire and estrangement between two friends over a couple of decades. Tender, vicious and heartbreaking all at once.

Flames, by Robbie Arnott
Full of wondrous descriptions of the Tasmanian wilderness, Flames is an amazing and singular work of imagination. While it touches on universal themes of love, loss and grief, Arnott’s startlingly original and luminous prose make this an unforgettable novel.

The Arsonist, by Chloe Hooper 
An unflinching examination of the personal and socio-economic circumstances surrounding the Black Saturday bushfires. Hooper’s clear gaze and uncluttered writing bring to mind Helen Garner. The opening 20 pages will remain in your memory long after you finish the book.

I Can’t Remember the Title But the Cover is Blue, by Elias Greig
An open love letter to the eternal joys and sorrows of bookselling. No book has made me laugh more this year.

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Katherine Arguile, Booknook & Bean (Topham Mall)

The Happiness Glass, by Carol Lefevre
With seamless skill, Lefevre blurs boundaries between memoir and fiction. Her poetic prose is infused with melancholic beauty, and she writes of home, of belonging and of memories lost — and of what it is to be a woman in a patriarchal world. Her heartbreaking account of infertility and adoption will stay with you long after you turn the final page.

The Trauma Cleaner, by Sarah Krasnostein 
Sometimes real stories about real people are more extraordinary than those of fictional characters, and Krasnostein’s skilful telling of the life of Sandra Pankhurst, who cleans up the aftermath of messy deaths, or of a hoarder’s chaos, makes for un-put-downable reading. Pankhurst was born as a boy into a violent household, and Krasnostein weaves us, spellbound, into her past as a husband, civic leader, drag queen and finally a “trauma cleaner”. By the time the book ends, you’ll be so invested in her story that you won’t want to leave her behind.

Farewell, My Orange, by Iwaki Kei 
Written in Japanese and skilfully translated into English by Meredith McKinney, this story set in a small Australian coastal town is about the unlikely friendship between Salimah, a refugee from Nigeria, and Sayuri, a Japanese woman who has come to Australia with her academic researcher husband. It is delicately and thoughtfully told. Exploring themes of isolation, otherness, language and motherhood, Kei’s debut novel has deservedly won two major Japanese literary prizes.

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Mandy Macky, Dymocks Adelaide (Rundle Mall)

Need to Know, by Karen Cleveland
This novel is an unusual mix of family drama and espionage. CIA analyst Vivian is busy trying to manage the demands of a busy family and extricate herself from a treasonous situation resulting from a startling discovery she makes in the course of her research. A riveting page-turner!

Lenny’s Book of Everything, by Karen Foxlee
Lenny is a girl whose younger brother is suffering from a brain tumour which impacts the lives of all those around him. This is a heart-warming and engaging story of love, belonging, surviving and encyclopedias.  Although it was written for older children, it has universal appeal.

Papa Goose, by Michael Quetting
Michael spent 11 months “fathering” seven goslings as part of a scientific project designed to get the birds to wear sensors to assist with determining weather patterns. Being cut off from other people for weeks while living with the animals in the woods gave him a sense of being an integrated part of nature. Full of delightful anecdotes about the challenges of coping with seven different gosling personalities.

Why We Sleep, by Matthew Walker
Neuroscientist Matthew Walker’s book is filled with startling information about the detrimental effects of not getting enough sleep. He presents sleep as a panacea for amazing array of conditions that would otherwise cause the slow deterioration of one’s body and mind.

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Jo Dyer, Adelaide Writers’ Week

As the Christmas break looms large on our horizons, some recommendations for big immersive reads to which the holidays will allow you to devote the time they deserve.  A warning: their heft and the degree of difficulty required to hold them aloft lying on the beach has not been taken into account.

Washington Black, by Esi Edugyan
This book tells the picaresque tale of eponymous hero and runaway slave George Washington “Wash” Black and his adventures in early aviation, arctic expeditions and scientific exploration.

Too Much Lip, by Melissa Lucashenko
A wild, witty ride through family, country, violence and redemption. It’s fierce, sexy and laugh-out-loud funny and, in narrator Kerry, features one of the most charismatic heroines in recent Australian fiction.

My Country: A Syrian Memoir, by Kassim Eid
As we celebrate our slow days under the Australian sun, Kassim Eid’s My Country: A Syrian Memoir is a powerful reminder of the geopolitical ructions that reverberate elsewhere in the world and a devastating personal story of the forgotten victims of the Syrian War.

The Overstory, by Richard Powers
Despite an unfortunate clash with a pre-arranged book tour meaning its author can’t join us at Adelaide Writes’ Week next year, I highly recommend The Overstory. It’s a monumental and profound story that follows the lives of nine Americans as they each re-evaluate their relationships with trees and commit to defending the great, epic role trees play in our world. It’s a celebration of the natural world and a warning about the stakes of its destruction … and a fantastic deep dive over Christmas.

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