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The Death of Bunny Munro

Nick Cave     Recommended by Michael    

Nick Cave brings his talent for exploring the more depraved parts of humanity while maintaining eloquence and a real talent for telling a story to his second novel The Death of Bunny Munro.

The Death of Bunny Munro tells the story of Bunny Munro, a beauty products salesman who travels the South Coast of England hawking his most definitely useless beauty products (he refers to this as “selling hope”) to lonely housewives.

Upon the sudden suicide of his wife he decides to take his son, Bunny Junior, on one final ride through England’s South Coast. I say one last ride because along with an all-consuming obsession with women and sex (especially Avril Lavinge) Bunny is carrying an intense anxiety and dread that soon his life will end.

This is a story of a bad man who was never meant to be a father, his heartbreakingly innocent son and his last ditch effort to outrun a monster he can’t comprehend. He describes it as his own death but we might get the impression he’s running from his own sins, his own guilt and in a tragically doomed way he’s trying to protect his son from a monster he can’t see nor understand.

I’ve always been impressed by writers who can make us sympathise with terrible people, (Cormac McCarthy with his novel Child of God springs to mind) it takes a real understanding of the complexities of people to translate that into writing. This novel could have so easily been, in another less talented authors hands, a trite, crass and shallow mess. But in the hands of a master storyteller like Nick Cave we’re left with a haunting, heart breaking, complex and tragic tale of a man desperate for redemption – even if he won’t admit it to himself.

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Worst Person Ever

Douglas Coupland     Recommended by Rhiannon    

Veteran novelist Douglas Coupland is back with his satirical takes on reality TV shows, the end of the world and political correctness gone mad. In the midst of all this lies Raymond Gunt (synonym fully intended), a B-unit camera man and a B grade human being who manages to find a spot on a Survivor style American TV show and drags along, what is now this reviewers favourite side character of all time, a homeless sage called Neal. From London to LA to a Pacific island paradise, hilarity and mayhem closely follows this pair of idiots. Coupland weaves this tale with a smart, observational take on the often bizarreness of modern life.

The writing is well done and fast paced, with all of the characters, both major and minor, life-like enough to be cutting you off on the freeway or taking a loaded shopping cart into your local express lane. This book is a must read for anyone who thinks the world is quietly going insane or who enjoys a comic tale involving bad things happening to bad people.

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The Complete Maus

Art Spiegelman     Recommended by Lucy    

Justifiably a classic of the graphic novel genre, The Complete Maus interweaves the devastating story of how Art Spiegelman’s parents survived the Nazi death camps, with the often funny frustrations of Art’s relationship as an adult with his elderly father. The black and white line drawings, which represent the Jews as mice and the Germans as cats, look a little like wood cuts and manage to convey settings, emotion, and character with only a few lines. Art’s father, Vladek, is a resourceful charmer and the dialogue between him and Art will make you laugh (and tear your hair out on Art’s behalf).

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The Passage

Justin Cronin     Recommended by Sharon    

The Passage is the first in Justin Cronin’s epic trilogy – what a cracking read!

A gripping tale of catastrophe and survival, The Passage is the story of Amy—abandoned by her mother at the age of six, pursued and then imprisoned by the shadowy figures behind a government experiment of apocalyptic proportions. But Special Agent Brad Wolgast, the lawman sent to track her down, is disarmed by the curiously quiet girl and risks everything to save her. As the experiment goes nightmarishly wrong, Wolgast secures her escape—but he can’t stop society’s collapse. And as Amy walks alone, across miles and decades, into a future dark with violence and despair, she is filled with the mysterious and terrifying knowledge that only she has the power to save the ruined world.

If you haven’t delved into this unputdownable series now is the time.  The sequel, The Twelve, is equally as good and the third and final instalment, House of Mirrors, has just hit the shelves. Happy binge reading!

 

 

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Tough Guys Have Feelings Too

Keith Negley     Recommended by Sharon    

Tough Guys Have Feelings Too by Keith Negley really strikes a chord. This deceptively simple picture book explores male emotions through a range of ‘tough guy’ characters. From wrestlers to ninjas, bikies to superheroes, the characters openly display their feelings showing it’s ok to feel sad or upset.  I absolutely love this book – particularly the gorgeous ending.  Stunningly illustrated with a powerful message.

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The Romanovs: 1613-1918

Simon Sebag Montefiore     Recommended by Sharon    

The Romanovs were the most successful dynasty of modern times, ruling a sixth of the world’s surface.  This is the intimate story of twenty tsars and tsarinas, some touched by genius, some by madness, but all inspired by holy autocracy and imperial ambition. Montefiore’s gripping chronicle reveals their secret world of unlimited power and ruthless empire-building, overshadowed by palace conspiracy, family rivalries, sexual decadence and wild extravagance, and peopled by a cast of adventurers, courtesans, revolutionaries and poets, from Ivan the Terrible to Tolstoy, from Queen Victoria to Lenin.

Having taught high school history in my former life, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on this one.  Well, you certainly do not need a history background to enjoy this book – it did not disappoint!  The Romanovs is informative, entertaining and highly readable.  No doubt a compelling read for anyone with even a passing interest in this fascinating topic.

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Sirocco: Fabulous Flavours From The East

Sabrina Ghayour     Recommended by Sharon    

Sirocco is the eagerly awaited follow-up to the bestseller Persiana and has been met with rave reviews.   Much more than just a beautiful cover, Sabrina Ghayour gives us a book full of delicious and accessible recipes.  Dishes range from classics and comfort food to salads and sweet treats.  Yum!

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My Brilliant Friend

Elena Ferrante     Recommended by Sharon    

My Brilliant Friend is the gripping first volume in Elena Ferrante’s widely acclaimed Neapolitan Novels. This exquisitely written quartet creates an unsentimental portrait of female experience, rivalry and friendship.  The story of Elena and Lila begins in the 1950s in a poor but vibrant neighbourhood on the outskirts of Naples. They learn to rely on each other and discover that their destinies are bound up in the intensity of their relationship.

I found this book utterly gripping.  Elena and Lila are the quintessential ‘frenemies’ with a relationship which is simultaneously beautiful and brutal. One friends success evokes both joy and jealousy in the other. Similarly ones girls failures lead to both sorrow and smug satisfaction from her friend. These characters are so powerfully and honestly written that it was almost confronting to read.  Set against the back drop of poverty, violence and a rapidly changing social and political environment, My Brilliant Friend is a must read.

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The Morbid Anatomy Anthology

Edited by Joanna Ebenstein     Recommended by Sharon    

Since 2008, the Morbid Anatomy Library of Brooklyn, New York, has hosted some of the best scholars, artists and writers working along the intersections of the history of anatomy and medicine, death and the macabre, religion and spectacle. The Morbid Anatomy Anthology collects some of the best of this work in 28 lavishly illustrated essays. Included are essays by Evan Michelson on the catacombs of Palermo; Simon Chaplin (head of the Wellcome Library in London) on public displays of corpses in Georgian England; mortician Caitlin Doughty on demonic children; and Paul Koudounaris (author of Empire of Death) on a truck stop populated with human skulls. In addition are pieces on books bound in human skin, death-themed cafes in fin-de-siècle Paris, post-mortem photography, eroticised anatomical wax models, taxidermied humans and other animals, Santa Muerte, “artist of death” Frederik Ruysch, and much more.

This book is a treasure trove for lovers of the macabre!

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Archivist Wasp

Nicole Kornher-Stace     Recommended by Jess    

In a future Earth where ghosts from “before” roam the post-apocalyptic landscape, a religion has sprung up around the mystery of these troublesome ghosts and the past they belonged to.  Wasp is the current ‘Archivist’, divinely-appointed to trap and research ghosts before dispatching them.  Every year she fights younger temple novices for her title, and every year she gets slower, and death comes a little closer.  So when the ghost of a super-soldier seeks her help in finding his fallen comrade in the Underworld, Wasp strikes a deal which she hopes will buy her escape from the temple and a life that she hates.

Nicole Kornher-Stace has crafted a fascinatingly realised world, blending genres to create a strikingly original novel. Through Wasp’s journey we explore questions about friendship, morality and personal agency in the face of institutionalised power.

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