Must-read Australian fiction, non-fiction and memoir
Australia has a thriving book industry and Christmas is when lots of big new titles are released. But there are also Australian classics worth rediscovering, along with under-the-radar books you might have missed. Here are some we think would make wonderful gifts or holiday reads.
For the true crime lover
Suburban Noir: Crime and Mishap in 1950 and 1960s Sydney by Peter Doyle tells the story of two of the city’s most notorious crimes. The author has delved into public records and the archives of his uncle, assistant commissioner of police Brian Doyle, and written a true-crime story that brings mid-century Sydney to life – a gripping read.
The Claremont Serial Killer, now known as Bradley Edwards, terrorised the city of Perth for years. But what many people don’t know is that his first victim tried to warn the police that he was a dangerous man, only to be dismissed. In this memoir, Don’t Make A Fuss, It’s Only the Claremont Serial Killer, former social worker Wendy Edwards finally tells her side of the story.
Classic Australian memoir
A true Aussie battler and World War One veteran, AB Facey’s story of making a go of it as a young man is as captivating as ever, and A Fortunate Life has well and truly earned its place as an Australian classic. This hardback edition makes a beautiful gift.
In telling the story of her grandmother’s life in My Place, Sally Morgan discovered the truth about her family and the ongoing impact of the Stolen Generations. Heartbreaking and immensely readable, this is a book for everyone who wants to understand Australia’s history a little better.
The Happiest Man on Earth won biography of the year at the ABIA awards in 2021, and it’s easy to see why. Eddie Jaku was imprisoned in Auschwitz, but survived and ended up in Australia, where he died in 2021 at the age of 101 after a long and happy life. His life story is beautifully told and an uplifting celebration of resilience, courage and love.
Father of the Lost Boys by Yuot Alaak tells the story of Yuot’s father, who led thousands of boys, including Yuot, to safety from war torn Southern Sudan to Kenya. Written from his new home in Australia, where he and his family now live, it’s an incredible story of survival and a fascinating insight into the Second Sudanese Civil War.
Biography and autobiography
Christmas is when superstars release their biographies, and there are some local Australian treasures to read about, too. Art lovers will enjoy hearing from artist, gardener and wife of the late Brett Whitely in A Year With Wendy Whitely – Conversations about Art, Life and Gardening, while sporting fans will appreciate No Spin, the newly released commemorative autobiography from the late Shane Warne, along with Ash Barty’s new book, My Dream time – a memoir of tennis and teamwork.
If medical memoir is more your style, Under Her Skin shines a light on the fascinating work and life of world-leading burns specialist and surgeon Dr Fiona Wood.
Big crime books
Australian crime queen Jane Harper’s new book, Exiles, is out, as is Tilt from journalist-turned-author Chris Hammer. And if you’re looking for something a little gothic, Denizen from the Penguin Literary Prize winner James McKenzie Watson is worth a look – both a gripping crime novel and an unforgettable portrait of rural Australia.
In The Labyrinth, which won the 2021 Miles Franklin Award, Tasmanian author Amanda Lohrey beautifully depicts the healing power of creativity and a fractured relationship between a mother and her adult son.
Happy Hour by Jacquie Byron is both funny and heartbreaking – the main character, Franny Calderwood, has lost her beloved husband and is determined to shut herself off from her friends and family in favour of drinking alone, painting and talking to her husband’s portraits – until a single mum and her kids move in next door and appear determined to get to know her.
Fans of historical fiction will enjoy two new books from established authors about racing – Horse, the latest offering from bestselling author Geraldine Brooks, looks at the story behind the greatest racehorse in American history. Robert Drew of Shark Net fame covers similar themes in Nimblefoot, which looks at the life of Ballarat man Johnny Day, who won the Melbourne Cup in 1870.
Who have we missed?
What are you reading this holiday season, and what author would you always be happy to find under the Christmas tree?