Saga Land

Richard Fidler & Kari Gislason     Recommended by    

Broadcaster Richard Fidler and author Kári Gíslason are good friends. They share a deep attachment to the sagas of Iceland – the true stories of the first Viking families who settled on that remote island in the Middle Ages.These are tales of blood feuds, of dangerous women, and people who are compelled to kill the ones they love the most. The sagas are among the greatest stories ever written, but the identity of their authors is largely unknown.

Together, Richard and Kári travel across Iceland, to the places where the sagas unfolded a thousand years ago. They cross fields, streams and fjords to immerse themselves in the folklore of this fiercely beautiful island. And there is another mission: to resolve a longstanding family mystery – a gift from Kari’s Icelandic father that might connect him to the greatest of the saga authors.


Insomniac City

Bill Hayes     Recommended by Luke    

Bill Hayes came to New York City in 2009 with a one-way ticket and only the vaguest idea of how he would get by. But, at forty-eight years old, having spent decades in San Francisco, he craved change. Grieving over the death of his partner, he quickly discovered the profound consolations of the city’s incessant rhythms, the sight of the Empire State Building against the night sky, and New Yorkers themselves, kindred souls that Hayes, a lifelong insomniac, encountered on late-night strolls with his camera.

And he unexpectedly fell in love again, with his friend and neighbor, the writer and neurologist Oliver Sacks. What emerges is a portrait of Sacks at his most personal and endearing, from falling in love for the first time at age seventy-five to facing illness and death (Sacks died of cancer in August 2015). Insomniac City is both a meditation on grief and a celebration of life. Filled with Hayes’s distinctive street photos of everyday New Yorkers, the book is a love song to the city and to all who have felt the particular magic and solace it offers.

A moving, sensory and quite poignant book that I had a lot of fun reading.


The Shepherd’s Hut

Tim Winton     Recommended by Alan    

Loved it. Brutal and lyrical. Read it in two sittings and am about to go again.

In The Shepherd’s Hut, Winton crafts the story of Jaxie Clackton, a brutalized rural youth who flees from the scene of his father’s violent death and strikes out north through the wheatbelt. All he carries with him is a rifle and a waterbottle. All he wants is peace and freedom. But surviving in the harsh saltlands alone is a savage business. And once he discovers he’s not alone out there, all Jaxie’s plans go awry. He meets a fellow exile, the ruined priest Fintan MacGillis, a man he’s never certain he can trust, but on whom his life will soon depend. The Shepherd’s Hut is a thrilling tale of unlikely friendship and yearning, at once brutal and lyrical, from one of our finest storytellers


The Only Story

Julian Barnes     Recommended by Alan    

The Only Story is a piercing account of helpless devotion, and of how memory can confound us and fail us and surprise us (sometimes all at once), of how “first love fixes a life forever.”
One summer in the sixties, in a staid suburb south of London, Paul comes home from university, aged nineteen, and is urged by his mother to join the tennis club. In the mixed-doubles tournament he’s partnered with Susan Macleod, a fine player who’s forty-eight, confident, ironic, and married, with two nearly adult daughters. She is also a warm companion, their bond immediate. And they soon, inevitably, are lovers. Clinging to each other as though their lives depend on it, they then set up house in London to escape his parents and the abusive Mr. Mcleod.

Decades later, with Susan now dead, Paul looks back at how they fell in love, how he freed her from a sterile marriage, and how – gradually, relentlessly – everything fell apart, as she succumbed to depression and worse while he struggled to understand the intricacy and depth of the human heart.

‘Most of us have only one story to tell. I don’t mean that only one thing happens to us in our lives: there are countless events, which we turn into countless stories. But there’s only one that matters, only one finally worth telling. This is mine.’



W. G. Sebald     Recommended by Alan    

The beguiling first novel by W. G. Sebald, one of the most enormously acclaimed European writers of our time. Part fiction, part travelogue, the narrator of this compelling masterpiece pursues his solitary, eccentric course from England to Italy and beyond, succumbing to the vertiginous unreliability of memory itself.

With its melancholy ambivalence – wading through biography and fiction and his interest in images through the text – his work to birthed a genre loved and practiced by such authors as Foer, Teju Cole and Geoff Dyer.

Now, the trilogy (Vertigo, The Emigrants and Rings of Saturn), have been republished by New Directions with covers by acclaimed designer Peter Mendelsund.


Every Mother’s Son is Guilty: Policing the Kimberley Frontier of Western Australia 1882-1905

Chris Owen     Recommended by Alan    

Anyone skeptical of the level of violence used in the clearing of Aboriginal people from their land, and the involvement of state in promoting this policy, will be disabused by Chris Owen’s massive contribution to West Australian colonial history.

A compelling account of policing in the Kimberley district from 1882, when police were established in the district, until 1905 when a controversial Royal Commission into the treatment of Aboriginal people was released.  In this period the policing of Aboriginal people changed from one of protection under law to one of punishment and control. The subsequent violence of colonial settlement and the associated policing and criminal justice system that developed into a ‘brutal and outrageous state of affairs’. Every Mother’s Son is Guilty is a significant contribution to Australian and colonial criminal justice history.


True Stories

Helen Garner     Recommended by    

True Stories collects Helen Garner’s short non-fiction written over a period of almost fifty years.

This marvellous book traverses the whole landscape of her writing life.  It includes her most famous essays about family, about love and sex and death, about growing up and growing old, about birth and marriage and separation, about traveling and staying home.

True Stories is the companion volume to Helen Garner’s Stories: The Collected Short Fiction.



Wednesdays With Bob

Derek Rielly & Bob Hawke     Recommended by    

On Wednesdays, Robert J. Hawke – Australia’s 23rd and oldest living prime minister – has welcomed Derek Rielly into his home to share fine cigars and irreverent conversation. On a sun-soaked balcony, the maverick young writer and the charismatic old master talk life, death, love, sex, religion, politics, sport … and everything in between.

On other days, to paint his subject’s enigma from the outside, Rielly interviews Hawke’s Liberal MP rival John Howard, Labor allies Gareth Evans and Kim Beazley, wife and lover Blanche d’Alpuget, live-in stepson Louis Pratt, and friends – diplomat Richard Woolcott, economist Ross Garnaut, advertising guru John Singleton, and longtime mate Col Cunningham.

The result is an extraordinary portrait of a beloved Australian – a strange, funny, uniquely personal study of Bob Hawke ruminating on his (and our) past, present and future.



Yotam Ottolenghi     Recommended by    

In his stunning new baking and desserts cookbook Yotam Ottolenghi and his long-time collaborator Helen Goh bring the Ottolenghi hallmarks of fresh, evocative ingredients, exotic spices and complex flavourings – including fig, rose petal, saffron, aniseed, orange blossom, pistachio and cardamom – to indulgent cakes, biscuits, tarts, puddings, cheesecakes and ice cream.

Sweet includes over 110 innovative recipes with stunning photos by award-winning Peden + Munk – from Blackberry and Star Anise Friands, Tahini and Halva Brownies, Persian Love Cakes, Middle Eastern Millionaire’s Shortbread, and Saffron, Orange and Honey Madeleines to Flourless Chocolate Layer Cake with Coffee, Walnut and Rosewater and Cinnamon Pavlova with Praline Cream and Fresh Figs.

There is something here to delight everyone – from simple mini-cakes and cookies that parents can make with their children to showstopping layer cakes and roulades that will reignite the imaginations of accomplished bakers.

oliver jefferes

Here We Are

Oliver Jeffers     Recommended by    

Insightfully sweet, with a gentle humor and poignancy, here is Oliver Jeffers’ user’s guide to life on Earth. He created it specially for his son, yet with a universality that embraces all children and their parents. Be it a complex view of our planet’s terrain (bumpy, sharp, wet), a deep look at our place in space (it’s big), or a guide to all of humanity (don’t be fooled, we are all people), Oliver’s signature wit and humor combine with a value system of kindness and tolerance to create a must-have book for parents.


Annie Leibovitz: Portraits 2005-2016

Annie Leibovitz     Recommended by    

In this new collection from Annie Leibovitz, one of the most influential photographers of our time, iconic portraits sit side by side never-before-published photographs. Afterword by Annie Leibovitz.

Annie Leibovitz: Portraits 2005-2016 is the photographer’s follow-up to her two landmark books, Annie Leibovitz: Photographs, 1970-1990 and A Photographer’s Life, 1990-2005. In this new collection, Leibovitz has captured the most influential and compelling figures of the last decade in the style that has made her one of the most beloved talents of our time. Each of the photographs documents contemporary culture with an artist’s eye, wit, and an uncanny ability to personalise even the most recognisable and distinguished figures.

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