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Book recommendations needed: Australian literature

September 17, 2017 Leave a comment Go to comments

Hello everyone,

As the title of my post suggests it, I would like to compile a list of 15-20 Australian books to read in the coming eighteen months. I know I can check out Lisa’s blog (ANZ LitLovers) or Sue’s (Whispering Gums) or Kim’s (Reading Matters) but I don’t know how to narrow down all the Australian books I could find there to a 15-20 books list.

So I need help. I’m open to literary fiction and crime fiction but I’m not good with essays and non-fiction in general. I have already read books by Max Barry, Stephen Orr, Julienne Van Loon, S.A. Jones, Madeleine St John and Toni Jordan.

I’ve read The Magic Pudding, which proved to be a complicated read for a foreigner. I tried to read That Dead Man Dance by Kim Scott but I had to abandon it because it was too difficult to read in the original and it’s not available in French. However, Benang: From the Heart and True Country have been translated into French. Is one of those a must read?

I also know that I should read Tim Winton, but which one?

Clearly, I need help!

So please, leave book recommendations in the comments below.



  1. September 17, 2017 at 9:53 pm

    I’m very ignorant about Australian literature, but recently I bought the following books based on multiple recommendations by Australian friends and bloggers: Elizabeth Harrower – The Watchtower; Miles Franklin: My Brilliant Career; Romy Ash – Floundering; Zane Lovitt – Black Teeth (recent crime fiction).

    Liked by 1 person

    • September 17, 2017 at 10:05 pm

      Thanks! I forgot to mention that I have The Catherine Wheel by Elizabeth Harrower and The Death of Bunnie Munro by Nick Cave on the shelf.
      You need to read Company by Max Barry, especially with your line of work. It’s huge fun.


  2. September 17, 2017 at 9:55 pm

    If you are interested in an older book, I can recommend (For the Term of) His Natural Life by Marcus Clarke.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. September 17, 2017 at 10:06 pm

    Can I recommend Eucalyptus by Murray Bail? It’s short, sweet & fairytale-like.

    Liked by 1 person

    • September 17, 2017 at 10:07 pm

      PS thanks for linking to my blog

      Liked by 1 person

    • September 19, 2017 at 6:49 am

      Thanks for the recommendation, I’ll look it up.


  4. September 17, 2017 at 10:24 pm

    Richard Flanagan : The Narrow Road To The Deep North is brilliant …… and I second Marina Sofias recommendation of My Brilliant Career . I read Cloudstreet by Tim Winton and also loved .

    Liked by 1 person

    • September 19, 2017 at 7:02 am

      Thanks for the recommendations.

      After reading the blurb, I’m not sure I can stomach The Narrow Road to the Deep North.

      Liked by 1 person

      • September 19, 2017 at 8:19 am

        It is harrowing….more emotionally . There’s a bit in that book that still makes me want to cry when I think of it ….. so moving . I’ve not read any of his others but kimbofo raves about him and an Aussie friend told me The Sound Of One Hand Clapping is brilliant .

        Liked by 1 person

        • September 24, 2017 at 10:36 am

          Thanks, Helen. I’ll check out The Sound of One Hand Clapping.


  5. September 17, 2017 at 10:54 pm

    My tastes are rather vintage and I don’t know how easy some of my recommendations will be to get. I also recommend My Brilliant Career by Miles Franklin and its sequel My Career goes Bung. Two other Australian novels I enjoyed were Painted Clay by Capel Boake, and The Three Miss Kings by Ada Cambridge. Another much later novel I really enjoyed was The Idea of Perfection by Kate Grenville. Oscar and Lucinda by Peter Cary I enjoyed very much though others by him not so much. For the Term of His Natural Life by Marcus Clarke is very good too.

    Liked by 1 person

    • September 19, 2017 at 7:11 am

      Thanks a lot. I’m checking books on Goodreads as I read comments and discover the books recommended.

      You have managed to list two books that Lisa has not read (or not listed as Read on Goodreads) Congratulations!


  6. September 18, 2017 at 12:55 am

    *chuckle* I’m going to keep out of this because I’ve more than had my say on my ANZLL Books You Must Read page (which needs updating!).
    Except to say, I’m glad you’re not discouraged by your experience with That Deadman Dance, and also to ask, have you read any of Karen Viggers’ books? They’re all been translated into French and are readily available in Poche editions.

    Liked by 2 people

    • September 19, 2017 at 7:14 am

      I will check your Books You Must Read Page (don’t know how I missed this)

      I may try That Deadman Dance again after I’ve read other Australian books. There were too many things I was not familiar with when I read it and I got lost.

      I’ve never tried Karen Vigger. Which one would you recommend?


  7. September 18, 2017 at 2:38 am

    Amy Witting, Olga Masters

    Liked by 1 person

    • September 19, 2017 at 7:19 am

      Thanks Guy. I have the Nick Cave on my TBR and I’ll read it soon.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. September 18, 2017 at 3:01 am

    I’ve just finished Jen Craig’s Panthers and the Museum of Fire; cannot recommend it highly enough and will now read Jen’s earlier book. Gerald Murnane is a fascinating writer; read his Barley Patch and keep meaning to read more. I’m also intrigued by both Brian Castro and Alex Miller, though I’ve yet to read either; I’ve got The Sitters to read of the latter, and been recommended Double-Wolf of the former.

    Liked by 1 person

    • September 19, 2017 at 7:33 am

      Thanks, Anthony.
      I’m not sure I’m the right reader for Panthers and the Museum of Fire.
      Murnane, Castro and Miller seem to be more my kind of writers.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. September 18, 2017 at 3:07 am

    Guy’s suggestions of Witting and Masters are excellent Emma. Joan London’s Gilgamesh (sorry no review on my site as I read it before I started blogging) is excellent too and is set partly in Europe. Her The golden age is supposed to be good. I just haven’t got to it yet.

    Tim Winton’s most famous is Cloudstreet. It’s long. But he’s also written some novellas that could be a good place to start like In the winter dark and That eye, the sky. They may not be easily accessible.

    Anita Heiss’s “choc-lit” (i.e. chick-lit but with indigenous characters!) books, e.g. Paris Dreaming, might be fun to try. (I’ve reviewed that one).

    I’d also particularly second heavenall’s suggestion of Kate Grenville’s The idea of perfection. I’d add Grenville’s The secret river. It has its controversies but is worth reading I’d say.

    My brilliant career is a must!! A true Australian classic.

    Crime fiction. Peter Temple’s The broken shore is a good one. (I’ve reviewed Truth but I like The broken shore best). And I think you could check out Angela Savage. (I’ve reviewed one of hers). I’m not an expert on Crime though.

    And there are so many new writers. However, the ones we’ve all named here have stood the test of time and are hopefully more easily available. I’ve tried to choose ones that I think would be OK for you in English if they are not available in translation.

    Liked by 1 person

    • September 19, 2017 at 7:41 am

      Thanks for all the thoughtful recommendations.

      I had Anita Heiss in mind, Lisa recently reviewed Barbed Wire and Cherry Blossom and it seems educational for a foreign reader.

      I’ll have a look at The Broken Shore, I enjoy reading crime fiction.


  10. September 18, 2017 at 8:47 am

    I’m afraid I’m going to be of little help with this as my knowledge of Australian lit is very poor. That said, the one I really want to read is Joan Lindsay’s Picnic at Hanging Rock, a book that always seems to garner excellent reviews. Best of luck in compiling your list.

    Liked by 1 person

    • September 18, 2017 at 10:29 am

      I was nearly going to add that one to my list Jacqui. It’s not quite in my “must reads” but it is a good read and is part of what we call Australian Gothic.

      Liked by 1 person

    • September 19, 2017 at 7:42 am

      Thanks Jacqui. I already have a nice list and I haven’t even checked Lisa’s Must Read Page.

      I knew I’d get a good variety of recommendations when I wrote this billet. It’s so much better than looking for ideas on the internet.


  11. Jonathan
    September 18, 2017 at 3:04 pm

    I really enjoyed A Fraction of the Whole by Steve Toltz. I haven’t read his more recent work yet.

    Liked by 1 person

    • September 19, 2017 at 7:44 am

      Thanks, I think I’d love Toltz’s book. I’m even surprised that Guy has not read it yet.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Jonathan
        September 19, 2017 at 8:05 am

        I think you might like it, and Guy might as well. It’s very funny.

        Another favourite of mine is Nick Cave’s first novel And the Ass Saw the Angel, it’s a very dark Southern Gothic book but I’m not sure if you’re into such books.


        • September 24, 2017 at 11:18 am

          I have The Death of Bunny Munroe on the shelf, I’ll start with this one but I have to say And the Ass Saw the Angel is the kind of book title that would catch my attention.


  12. September 18, 2017 at 7:41 pm

    I would recommend Oscar and Lucinda by Peter Carey and also The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan.
    You could also check out the guest post that Sue at Whispering Gums did for me which contains recommendations – https://bookertalk.com/2014/10/06/a-view-from-here-books-from-australia/

    Liked by 1 person

    • September 19, 2017 at 7:45 am

      Thanks for the link to your post, I’ll have a look at Sue’s list.

      Wasn’t Flanagan’s book a bit gruesome?


      • September 19, 2017 at 7:57 pm

        No I didn’t find it so. There are books about Japanese prisoners of war that are very detailed about their conditions and I do find them hard to read but in this book, that section wasn’t very large and wasn’t in too much detail


        • September 24, 2017 at 11:19 am

          Thanks, it’s good to know.


  13. September 19, 2017 at 9:00 am

    My favorite is Thea Astley….
    my thoughts: https://nancyelin.wordpress.com/2017/09/18/the-slow-natives/

    Liked by 1 person

    • September 21, 2017 at 8:04 am

      I was going to suggest Astley too as I love her, but I think if Emma found Kim Scott’s That deadman dance tricky to read in English, she’d probably find most of Astley so too. But if any of hers were translated into French, then I’d say go for it. One that would probably work well for Emma in English is Coda.


      • September 24, 2017 at 11:24 am

        No Thea Astley available in French. What was difficult in That Deadman Dance were all the descriptions of the landscape and my absolute ignorance of Australian history. I couldn’t picture the landscapes in my head because I missed too many words and I couldn’t make the link between the story and the big historical picture. That’s probably a book to read after I’ve read others to give me more background.


        • September 24, 2017 at 11:56 am

          Thanks for explaining that Emma. That makes sense. It probably does, I guess, assume at least a knowledge of our history. I think Astley would be a challenge in English too, because of her “densely woven grammar” (as one critic calls it) and highly “imagistic language” (as she herself called it). Her writing drives Helen Garner beserk!!


          • September 25, 2017 at 8:51 pm

            From your description, I think she’s not for me. It makes me think of Marilyn Robinson.


            • September 26, 2017 at 12:15 am

              I think she’s very different to Robinson, Emma, from the little I’ve read of Robinson, but I think you’ve made the right call, much as I love that your commenter recommended her!


          • September 25, 2017 at 11:01 pm

            Sue, maybe a short not too heavyweight history might be a good idea? Have you read Girt? Is it any good?

            Liked by 1 person

            • September 26, 2017 at 12:20 am

              Yes, a very good idea Lisa, but no I’m afraid I haven’t. Hmm, a good short history is a challenge. Might need Janine for this.

              Liked by 1 person

              • September 26, 2017 at 12:39 am

                There’s Blainey’s one, but that was awful.


              • September 26, 2017 at 12:40 am

                I didn’t read it! Sounds just as well.


    • September 24, 2017 at 11:21 am

      Thanks Nancy!

      Liked by 1 person

  14. September 19, 2017 at 3:51 pm

    I’ve got nothing really, though Narrow Road was highly recommended to me too. My impression is that it is gruesome in places, but not relentlessly or gratuitously so.

    Liked by 1 person

    • September 24, 2017 at 11:25 am

      Thanks Max. This one seems to make many lists…


  15. September 19, 2017 at 11:18 pm

    I recommend a great classic, so good at describing the essence of Australian landscape: The Tree of Man (1955) by Patrick White (1973 Nobel Prize): https://wordsandpeace.com/2013/04/22/book-review-the-tree-of-man/
    I have also just read Salt Creek, depressing, but very good too: https://wordsandpeace.com/2017/09/06/book-review-salt-creek/

    I also liked: https://wordsandpeace.com/2012/01/28/review-3-2012-remembering-babylon/

    And if you have not read her yet, a big Australian author right now is Kate Morton – all her books are worth reading

    Liked by 1 person

    • September 21, 2017 at 8:05 am

      I realise that I’d forgotten David Malouf. Another of his that is great is Fly away Peter.


    • September 24, 2017 at 11:34 am

      Thanks Emma. I think I’d like the Malouf.


  16. Tony
    September 23, 2017 at 1:56 pm

    For Tim Winton, I’d go for ‘The Riders’, and I’d also recommend Elliot Perlman’s ‘Seven Types of Ambiguity’ (although it’s fairly long in the original!).

    Liked by 2 people

    • September 24, 2017 at 11:39 am

      Thanks Tony. The Winton sounds great.

      Elliot Perlman’s book is available in French. But still…856 pages! It’s kind of daunting.


      • Tony
        September 27, 2017 at 10:11 am

        My edition is about 650-700 from memory, but yes, it’s a lot of reading in a foreign language (I’ve just reread ‘Buddenbrooks’ in German, so the feeling is still fresh…).

        Liked by 2 people

  17. September 24, 2017 at 11:45 am

    For completeness sake, I’ll add the recommendations that Vishy gave me on Twitter:
    (1) True Country by Kim Scott
    (2) The Eye of the Storm by Patrick White
    (3) True History of the Kelly Gang by Peter Carey
    (4) Dirt Music / The Riders / Breath by Tim Winton
    (5) Three Dollars by Elliot Perlman
    (6) Taming the Beast by Emily Maguire
    (7) The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough
    (8) Walkabout by James Vance Marshall
    (9) Ransom by David Malouf
    (10) The Crimson Petal and the White by Michel Faber
    (11) A Short History of the World by Geoffrey Blainey (nonfiction)

    Liked by 1 person

    • September 24, 2017 at 1:25 pm

      Some good ones here, Emma and Vichy (though I don’t believe no. 10 is Australian.) I think Three dollars is a particularly excellent suggestion for Emma’s purposes.

      Liked by 2 people

      • September 24, 2017 at 9:12 pm

        I think that Three Dollars will make the list.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Vishy
        September 24, 2017 at 9:28 pm

        I partially agree with you on #10. Michel Faber is regarded as Scottish by some, Dutch by some and Australian by some. Australians themselves regard him as Australian because he spent most of his childhood years in Australia, went to school and college in Australia and started his career in Australia and lived in Australia till his middle 30s. Faber doesn’t identify himself with any nationality and regards himself a global citizen. He has a Dutch passport. I find that he is a fascinating writer of our times, refusing to get confined to a particular nationality box inspite of our best attempts to put him there.

        Liked by 1 person

        • September 25, 2017 at 12:18 am

          Interesting Vichy, thanks for this. I must say that I’d never thought of him, or heard of him, as Australian, in my circles, though I did like Crimson petal…

          Liked by 1 person

        • September 25, 2017 at 8:53 pm

          And I thought that with a name like Michel, he must have some French in him. 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

          • Vishy
            September 25, 2017 at 8:56 pm

            Ha, ha, ha! Yes, his name does look very French ☺

            Liked by 1 person

      • Vishy
        September 24, 2017 at 9:39 pm

        Sue, I just discovered that you are Australian. So if you say Michel Faber is not Australian, it must be true. I apologize for jumping the gun and writing a long comment about him 🙂


        • September 25, 2017 at 12:22 am

          Oh, no apologies at all Vichy. Please don’t apologise. I was really surprised when you named him, that I didn’t even look him up. I usually know the “contentious” Australians like MJ Hyland and Evie Wyld but Faber had never come up (for me in this respect). You taught me something.

          Liked by 2 people

  18. Vishy
    September 24, 2017 at 12:18 pm

    Emma, thanks for adding my suggestions here. Will add a few more comments and suggestions.

    (1) Patrick White won the Nobel prize and so I am guessing any book by him is good.

    (2) Peter Carey is a two time Booker prize winner for ‘True History of the Kelly Gang’ and ‘Oscar and Lucinda’. I see others have also recommended the second one.

    (3) Tim Winton has won four Miles Franklin awards which is one of Australia’s highest literary awards.

    (4) Three Dollars by Elliot Perlman was especially recommended by Lisa. It is a brilliant book.

    (5) Marcus Zusak is also Australian. So in case you haven’t read The Book Thief, you can give it a try.

    (6) Geoffrey Blainey is Australia’s foremost historian. He also wrote a book on Australian history called ‘The Tyranny of Distance’.

    (7) Shaun Tan’s The Arrival is a brilliant, surrealistic, graphic novel about immigration. It is one of the finest books I have read. It has beautiful, stunning artwork.

    (8) Bryce Courtenay’s The Power of One is a beautiful novel about childhood and boxing. I haven’t read it but my friend whose reading taste I admire recommends it highly.

    (9) Bruce Chatwin’s The Songlines is a travelogue set in Australia. It was highly acclaimed when it came out but I am not sure about its reputation now. Also Chatwin is British and so his point of view is that of an outsider’s. We need to ask Lisa on whether this is a good book from an Australian perspective.

    Happy reading, Emma!

    Liked by 1 person

    • September 24, 2017 at 9:11 pm

      Thanks for all the recommendations, Vishy. I’m amazed at the response this billet received.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Vishy
        September 24, 2017 at 9:44 pm

        Happy reading, Emma! I will look forward to finding out which books you choose to read. I totally forgot Shirley Hazzard, Emma! She is one of the great Australian writers. Her books ‘The Transit of Venus’ and ‘The Great Fire’ are both critically acclaimed and won literary awards.


        • September 25, 2017 at 8:56 pm

          Another one on the global list! I’m struggling to compile everything and I’ll have a hard time downsizing the list from 70 books or so to 15-20. *sigh* I wish I had more time for books.

          Liked by 1 person

    • September 25, 2017 at 11:11 pm

      Hi Vishy, I love your recommendation of Shaun Tan’s The Arrival. I think it’s universal in its themes:) Songlines, yes – and no. Every Australian and visitor should know what the Songlines are, so that they can understand and respect our pre-colonial history but Chatwin’s book is problematic, see here: https://anzlitlovers.com/2013/04/30/the-songlines-by-bruce-chatwin/

      Liked by 3 people

      • Vishy
        September 27, 2017 at 2:11 pm

        Thanks so much for sharing the link to your review of ‘The Songlines’, Lisa. I loved your review! It looks like a beautiful book, though clearly with its flaws and imperfections. I will look forward to reading it. Thanks so much!

        Liked by 1 person

        • September 27, 2017 at 11:15 pm

          You’re welcome, VIshy, it’s nice to be able to return the favour for the recommendations you’ve given me:)

          Liked by 2 people

  19. September 25, 2017 at 7:49 pm

    Hi Emma,
    I can highly recommend both of Evie Wyld’s novels. I reviewed her second one here: http://andrewblackman.net/2015/05/review-of-all-the-birds-singing-by-evie-wyld/. She describes herself as Anglo-Australian (born in London, grew up in Australia, lived her adult life in England), and her first novel is set all in Australia and the second is half Australia, half UK. So I think she would count for Australian literature, as long as you’re not being too strict 🙂 I also remember reading some Patrick White novels years ago and liking them, but can’t remember the details now…

    Liked by 3 people

    • September 25, 2017 at 9:00 pm

      Hi Andrew, good to hear from you and thanks for the recommendation.

      Patrick White seems to be a mandatory step. I’ll try one that’s not too long or I’ll get it in French.


  20. October 1, 2017 at 11:57 pm

    Hi Emma, Going back to your question about Benang – since it is translated into French, you simply must read it. Kim Scott is a wonderful writer. And Les Incarnations d’Eddie Twyborn is a Patrick White I would suggest. How do you find the time to read so much and write so much?

    Liked by 1 person

    • October 2, 2017 at 1:03 pm

      Thanks for the recommendations. I’ll get Benang, I need to read at least one in translation.

      How do I find time to read so much and write so much? Compared to other book bloggers, I don’t read or write a lot. I manage to read roughly one book per week and write one weekly billet. How? Simple answer : a wonderful husband and no TV.


  21. bibliofiles13
    October 8, 2017 at 7:11 am

    David Finn is the only Austrailian Author I know of at the moment. He writes fantasy.

    Liked by 1 person

    • October 14, 2017 at 9:34 pm

      Thanks for the recommendation but I’m not a fan of fantasy. I just don’t get along with the genre. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • bibliofiles13
        October 15, 2017 at 7:41 am

        You’re welcome, that’s kind of hilarious the way you put it. I feel that way about westerns.

        Liked by 1 person

  22. November 10, 2017 at 9:23 am

    Hello, I came across your blog by accident. I see you also like to read new authors. My Australian friend, Diana Blackwood, is launching her book, Chaconne, tomorrow. It sits very much in the literary fiction genre. It is coming of age story (as too is My Brilliant Career), but this time is set in France and Germany, albeit the main protagonist is a young Australian woman. I can’t wait to read it. You can download a sample to see if you might like it. https://www.hybridpublishers.com.au/product/chaconne/

    Liked by 2 people

    • November 11, 2017 at 5:01 pm

      Hello, thanks for visiting and for your message. I’m always interested in discovering new writers, so I’ll chekc out Diana Blackwood’s book.

      Liked by 1 person

  23. November 16, 2017 at 5:27 am

    Hi Emma! I am an Australian who reads quite a bit of Aussie literature and crime. Has anyone recommended The Dry and Forces of Nature by Jane Harper for a crime read? I also recommend The Natural Way of Things by Charlotte Wood which won a lot of literary prizes here. I have just blogged about this book and The Dry.

    Some other favourites include Jasper Jones by Craig Silvey which also came out as a movie this year and The Eye of the Sheep by Sofia Laguna which won awards and she has a new book out called The Choke. I am not sure if you would class it as literary but The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas is also a great read. I also really enjoyed an indie book called Goodwood by Holly Throsby. It is a mystery novel set in a small town with a cast of very quirky Australian characters. I could go on but I will leave it there. Let me know if you need any other recommendations.

    Liked by 1 person

    • November 16, 2017 at 10:15 pm

      Hi Jane,
      Thanks a lot for your recommendations. None of them had reached me yet and I enjoy crime fiction too.
      I will add them to the List. (very long list, now…)


  24. December 31, 2017 at 11:01 am

    Anything by Alex Miller. My personal favourite is Conditions of Faith. It about a young Australian woman who goes over to Europe.

    Liked by 1 person

    • January 1, 2018 at 1:02 pm

      Hello, thanks for the recommendation!


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