Team Booktopia’s 2013 Favourites

The Booktopia team  nominates their favourite titles from a great year of books.

Caroline Baum’s Picks

the-signature-of-all-thingsTHE SIGNATURE OF ALL THINGS
Elizabeth Gilbert

From Caroline’s Book of the Year Review: I’ve said it more than once, and I will say it again, loudly. I ADORE this book. I don’t think it has found the readership it deserves because some people think ‘Oh, she wrote Eat Pray Love, I didn’t like that or want to read that kind of thing so I won’t buy this’ and others think ‘Oh, if it’s not like Eat Pray Love I won’t like it.’ Put your prejudices aside, people!

Treat yourself to the most intriguing, refreshing and original female character of the year…

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DRIVE BYdrive-by
Michael Duffy

From Caroline’s review: You only have to watch the news to see that it does not get more topical than Drive By.

This gritty, complex, multi-layered novel is based on the spate of shootings between rival drug gangs that have riddled the streets of south Sydney in the past couple of years.

Duffy, a seasoned regular observer of the courts, has created two memorable characters: Bec, a part-Aboriginal detective, who has a distinctive vocabulary that wrong-foots her colleagues: and Honest John, a keen Toyota mechanic and member of the Habib family who would really rather not have to think too hard about what his brothers have been up to and just wants to marry his Aussie girlfriend.

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SUGARED ORANGESsugared-orange
Beata Zatorska

From Caroline’s review: Anyone who loved Rose Petal Jam is going to adore this chilly sister volume about the winter foods of Poland. Sydney GP Beata Zatorska is back with more family and carefully chosen classic recipes from around her native country, lovingly collected on journeys through snow and ice.

It takes a lot of love to publish a book that puts so much effort into photography (magical snowscapes by Beata’s documentary maker husband Simon Target) and superb design, creating the effect of a cherished family album.

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I AM MALALAi-am-malala
Malala Yousafzai

From Caroline’s review: Why she didn’t get the Nobel Peace Prize is beyond me. Malala’s story, told in the same unwaveringly forthright voice we have become used to hearing her speak in at her many public appearances is a tribute not only to her personal convictions and courage but to those of her remarkable father.

It also offers an insight into what daily life under the threat of the Taliban really means and how petty their brutality can be. And still, despite the horror of it all, Malala expresses an acute homesickness for her beloved Swat Valley.

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mastering-the-art-of-soviet-cookingMASTERING THE ART OF SOVIET COOKING
Anya Von Bremzen

From Caroline’s review: You know how sometimes you feel a book is so special that it has been written with you and only you in mind?

Well, that’s how I felt about this book. Having known several Soviet citizens at very close quarters, I understand how central food and the lack of it is to the national psyche. And I once celebrated the fall of the Berlin wall with a themed New Year’s Eve dinner of which the centrepiece was a fiendishly difficult dish: Coulibiac, a traditional Russian fish pie with a yeast dough casing that took two days to make and which my friend and I baked in the shape of a hammer and sickle for extra effect. (It was spectacular, I have to say, but never to be repeated.)

So this book had me at hello, comrade.

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THE ROSIE PROJECT
Click here for more details or to buy The Rosie Project Graeme Simsion

From Caroline’s review: When rights to a debut novel are sold in more than thirty countries, you know a book is generating serious buzz. I am glad to say that this feel-good debut delivers what the hype promises.

It’s as light as perfectly baked scone, narrowly avoiding saccharine pitfalls, achieving just the right combo of airiness and substance for the perfect rom-com recipe.

Irresistibly charming, genuinely funny and cleverly plotted this is intelligent romance for grown ups whose arteries have not hardened with cynicism.

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burial-ritesBURIAL RITES
Hannah Kent

From Caroline’s review: This book stinks, in a good way. Of fish and blood and guts and unwashed bodies and earth and death.

In fact, it reeks of those things and more. This austere love letter to Iceland takes a true story of murder as its foundation. Based on records from the trial of the two women and one man convicted of killing and burning two men on a remote farm this is richly and darkly imagined in prose thick with atmospherics.

Kent is a precocious talent who understands how to animate research and transform it into compelling narrative.

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Andrew Cattanach’s Picks

the-narrow-road-to-the-deep-northTHE NARROW ROAD TO THE DEEP NORTH
Richard Flanagan

The book Richard Flanagan had to write. A deeply personal novel that made me drew me in and never let me go. Sure to earn a place as one of the finest Australian novels of our time.

From Caroline’s review: When Richard Flanagan produces a new book, you know it will come freighted with Big Themes. As an essayist, Flanagan is political, provocative, passionate. As a novelist, he is capable of shape-shifting across genres, from high literary gothic to popular psychological thriller.

His latest novel is as eloquent and powerful an affirmation of his empathy and understanding of humanity as anything he’s ever written.

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TENTH OF DECEMBERtenth-of-december2
George Saunders

One of my favourite short story collections of recent times, mixing the absurd with the sweet, I can’t get enough of Saunders’ writing. Read it story by story, or in one big gulp, it won’t disappoint.

From the undisputed master of the short story, George Saunders, comes a dazzling and disturbing new collection. His most wryly hilarious work to date, Tenth of December illuminates human experience and explores figures lost in a labyrinth of troubling preoccupations.

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the-night-guestTHE NIGHT GUEST
Fiona McFarlane

A difficult, emotional read, but on reflection an incredible novel, a brave novel. A wonderful writer that pulls the reader’s strings with extraordinary ease.

From Caroline’s review: Writing a novel is like walking a highwire. So when a new artiste makes her debut, you expect a wobble or two. But not in this case. I don’t know where she’s been hiding up to now, but Fiona McFarlane is a bright new star in Australian fiction. She’s got all the assurance and the confidence of a seasoned performer. Here she enters the ring with a story about fear, trust, ageing and death; to borrow from another profession where skill is paramount, she handles her themes with a light deft touch, like an expert pastry chef blessed with cool fingers.

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DELICIOUS: LOVE TO COOKlove-to-cook
Valli Little

My favourite cookbook of 2013. Simple, fun, and gorgeous to look at. Whenever a friend checks out my cookbook collection, this is the book they talk about.

Sharing good food with family and friends is one of life’s great pleasures, but it’s easy to become stuck in the daily routine and lose your passion.

Love To Cook is designed to help you discover (or rediscover) the joy of spending time in the kitchen and at the table. Inside, you’ll find more than 140 recipes – themed by ingredient for easy reference – that will take you from quick weekday dinners with a clever twist to impressive ideas for entertaining.

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murder-in-mississippiMURDER IN MISSISSIPPI
John Safran

I just hope John Safran keeps writing, he’s a natural. I lost myself in this amazing story and the calm, confident writing of the first time true crime writer.

When filming his TV series Race Relations, John Safran spent an uneasy couple of days with one of Mississippi’s most notorious white supremacists. A year later, he heard that the man had been murdered – and what was more, the killer was black.

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AUTOBIOGRAPHYmorrissey
Morrissey

Everything I hoped for and more, Morrissey’s long awaited memoir is full of rich, flowery prose, the story of how a working-class kid from the North became an icon.

Steven Patrick Morrissey was born in Manchester on May 22nd 1959. Singer-songwriter and co-founder of the Smiths (1982-1987), Morrissey has been a solo artist for twenty-six years, during which time he has had three number 1 albums in England in three different decades.

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John Purcell’s Picks

a-meal-in-winterA MEAL IN WITNER
Hubert Mingarelli

The book I wish I had written.

From John’s review: A Meal in Winter is a novella. You can read it in a night. But it punches well above its weight.

I am told A Meal in Winter will be published as a gorgeous little hardcover but I read the proof, a very drab looking proof is was too, and for some reason, even before I read a page, I had the notion that this was a rediscovered work, much like the work of Irène Némirovsky.  To further compound my assumption, as I read, I was reminded of Primo Levi, of Beckett, of Camus… read more


MR. WIGGmr-wigg
Inga Simpson

This is the book I gave to friends to read. An unexpected delight. 

From John’s review: A novel that celebrates the small things in life by a fresh Australian voice.

It s the summer of 1971, not far from the stone-fruit capital of New South Wales, where Mr Wigg lives on what is left of his family farm. Mrs Wigg has been gone a few years now and he thinks about her every day. He misses his daughter, too, and wonders when he’ll see her again… read more


into-my-armsINTO MY ARMS
Kylie Ladd

Read this in a couple of sittings. Ladd’s sharp psychological insights bring a depth to her fast paced narrative. If you want a book for the beach which will give you a shock or three, Into My Arms is hard to beat.

When Skye meets Ben their attraction is instantaneous and intense. Neither of them has ever felt more in synch – or in love – with anyone in their lives. What happens next will tear them both apart.

Into My Arms is a searing love story and a gripping family drama – a shocking, haunting novel in the tradition of Jodi Picoult and Caroline Overington.

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the-wild-girlTHE WILD GIRL
Kate Forsyth

One of those books which wrap themselves around you like a warm blanket on a cold night. Deserves to be read by anyone who re-reads their Austen once a year.

One of the great untold love stories – how the Grimm brothers discovered their famous fairy tales – filled with drama and passion, and taking place during the Napoleonic Wars.

The Wild Girl tells the story of Dortchen Wild. Growing up next door to the Grimm brothers in Hesse-Cassel, a small German kingdom, Dortchen told Wilhelm some of the most powerful and compelling stories in the famous fairytale collection.

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the-young-desire-itTHE YOUNG DESIRE IT
Kenneth Mackenzie

Relive the wonder of first love. No, really.

From John’s review: There is nothing so seductive and yet elusive as the memories of our first experiences in love. We can recall the actions – shared glances, a sweet paralysis, then the first touch, perhaps a chaste kiss – but this is not what we desire. We want to feel again the fear, the pleasure, the tremors and the foreign breath. But it is this that eludes us.

Unless we stumble across an artist who can recreate these feelings for us… read more


Also loved: Rules of Summer by Shaun Tan, The God Argument: The Case Against Religion and for Humanism by A. C. Grayling, Slow Reading in a Hurried Age by David Mikics


Shoshana Booth’s Picks

MY AUTOBIOGRAPHYalex-ferguson
Alex Ferguson

Great read and the perfect gift for any soccer fan. Ferguson’s sheer determination is gripping.

Sir Alex announced his retirement as manager of Manchester United after 27 years in the role. He has gone out in a blaze of glory, with United winning the Premier League for the 13th time, and he is widely considered to be the greatest manager in the history of British football.

Over the last quarter of a century there have been seismic changes at Manchester United. The only constant element has been the quality of the manager’s league-winning squad and United’s run of success, which included winning the Champions League for a second time in 2008. Sir Alex created a purposeful, but welcoming, and much envied culture at the club which has lasted the test of time.

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the-yellow-birdsTHE YELLOW BIRDS
Kevin Powers

This book really, really disturbed me. I had to remind myself to unclench my toes and keep breathing.

A soldier’s broken promise … a mother’s loss … an agonizing truth.

The Yellow Birds gives a powerful, emotional insight into the human cost of war – its impact on soldiers, their families, and most of all what it is like to return home, but never be able to leave the memories behind. Kevin Powers served two terms as a machine gunner with the US army in Iraq. On his return, he was asked one question more than any other: “What was it like over there?”

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QUESTIONS OF TRAVELquestions-of-travel
Michelle de Kretser

Such a moving novel, it reminded me of Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Namesake and Lloyd Jones’ Hand Me Down World. A pleasure to read.

A mesmerising literary novel, Questions of Travel charts two very different lives. Laura travels the world before returning to Sydney, where she works for a publisher of travel guides. Ravi dreams of being a tourist until he is driven from Sri Lanka by devastating events.

Around these two superbly drawn characters, a double narrative assembles an enthralling array of people, places and stories – from Theo, whose life plays out in the long shadow of the past, to Hana, an Ethiopian woman determined to reinvent herself in Australia.

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friday-brownFRIDAY BROWN
Vikki Wakefield

This book for is fans of Melina Marchetta and John Green. It has that same touch of surrealism and an unforgettable female voice.

Seventeen-year-old Friday Brown is on the run – running to escape memories of her mother and of the family curse. And of a grandfather who’d like her to stay. She’s lost, alone and afraid.

Silence, a street kid, finds Friday and she joins him in a gang led by beautiful, charismatic Arden. When Silence is involved in a crime, the gang escapes to a ghost town in the outback. In Murungal Creek, the town of never leaving, Friday must face the ghosts of her past.

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THE NEW CLASSICSthe-new-classics
Donna Hay

Delicious recipes in Donna Hay’s simple, clean style. Do not make the mistake of reading this while you are hungry.

For Isabella Beeton in 1861 it was Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management, for Stephanie Alexander in 1996 it was The Cook’s Companion and for Maggie Beer in 2007 it was Maggie’s Harvest. These books went onto become bestsellers, staples in every home; they were the one-stop recipe books that defined these authors’ work and became essential everyday reference books for their time.

Now in 2013, Australia’s leading cookbook author Donna Hay reveals her landmark book, The New Classics, a definitive collection of classic recipes for every modern cook.

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Christopher Cahill’s Picks

the-tournament-unsigned-copyTHE TOURNAMENT
Matthew Reilly

From John’s review:  Bestselling author Matthew Reilly is one of Australia’s most reliable writers.

Every couple of years he delivers his fans quality popular fiction and every couple of years he can be counted on to break Australian sales records. But till now, all of his successes, Ice Station, Seven Ancient Wonders, Temple, The Five Greatest Warriors, Scarecrow, to name just a few, have one thing in common, the breakneck speed of their narrative.

The Tournament is a departure for Reilly, gone is his trademark breakneck speed. Instead we find a narrative with gravitational pull. Enter The Tournament’s orbit and you cannot escape, you must read on to the final page… read more

To download a FREE prequel to The Tournament, click here


GURRUMUL: His Life and Musicgurrumul
Robert Hillman

“… you will surrender to the greatest voice this continent has ever recorded” – Bruce Elder, Sydney Morning Herald

On a November afternoon in 2010, Gurrumul sat in a studio in Sydney to be photographed for the cover of Rolling Stone. The studio was 3000 kilometres from where he was born on Elcho Island off the coast of East Arnhem Land.

A bare three years had passed since the release of Gurrumul, his critically acclaimed debut solo album. Those years of critical acclaim, all the years before them, and the illness that threatened to end it all, combine in one of the most inspiring music stories of our generation.

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lonely-planet-s-beautiful-worldLONELY PLANET BEAUTIFUL WORLD

40 years of passion and experience has been poured into Lonely Planet’s Beautiful World.

We witness fiery volcanic eruptions; wind-sculpted icebergs in the Antarctic; mind-blowing migrations of wildlife large and small; natural wonders from Belize’s Great Blue Hole to Yellowstone in Wyoming; also the imprint that humanity has made on the planet.

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SEASONAL KITCHENseasonal-kitchen
Serge Dansereau

The new cookbook from Serge Dansereau of Australia’s iconic Bathers’ Pavilion.

Seasonal Kitchen gives you 220 new recipes that celebrate Australian produce. In this eclectic collection of recipes, which draws its inspiration from the Mediterranean, as well as India and China, Serge continues to use his chef know-how to demonstrate how to turn modern-day classics from good dishes into great ones. Capitalising on his reputation as the ‘father of the fresh food movement’, Serge moves us through the year, listing in-season produce and offering us recipes that will show them at their best.

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Elizabeth Earl’s Picks

hyperbole-and-a-halfHYPERBOLE AND A HALF
Allie Brosh

Hyperbole and A Half is a blog written by a 20-something American girl called Allie Brosh. She tells fantastically funny, wise stories about the mishaps of her everyday life, with titles like ‘Why Dogs Don’t Understand Basic Concepts Like Moving’ and ‘The Go of Cake’. She accompanies these with naive drawings using Paint on her PC.

Brosh’s website receives millions of visitors a month and hundreds of thousands of per day.

Now her full-colour debut book chronicles the many “learning experiences” Brosh has endured as a result of her own character flaws. It includes stories about her rambunctious childhood; the highs and mostly lows of owning a mentally challenged dog; and a moving and darkly comic account of her struggles with depression.

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DOCTOR SLEEPdoctor-sleep-the-long-awaited-sequel-to-the-shining
Stephen King

An epic war between good and evil, a gory, glorious story that will thrill the millions of hyper-devoted readers of The Shining and wildly satisfy anyone new to the territory of this icon in the King canon.

King says he wanted to know what happened to Danny Torrance, the boy at the heart of The Shining, after his terrible experience in the Overlook Hotel. The instantly riveting Doctor Sleep picks up the story of the now middle-aged Dan, working at a hospice in rural New Hampshire, and the very special twelve-year old girl he must save from a tribe of murderous paranormals.

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the-bling-ringTHE BLING RING
Nancy Jo Sales

It’s 19 September 2010, and 21-year-old Rachel Lee has emerged from Los Angeles Superior Court, having just been sentenced to four years behind bars.

A few months earlier, she had been running the Bling Ring: a gang of rich, beautiful, wild-living Valley teens who idolised celebrity, designer labels and luxury brands. Who, in 2009, became the most audacious thieves in recent Hollywood history.

But what made these kids–all of whom already enjoyed designer clothes, money, cars and social status–gamble with their lives at such high stakes?

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PAPER TO PETALpaper-to-petal
Rebecca Thuss, Patrick Farrell

An inspiring book featuring 75 unique and captivating paper flowers.

Filled with beautiful photography, this book will feature simple accessible ideas, over-the-top aspirational ideas, and everything in between. The book begins with a lush gallery of images of the flowers, including a flower inspired by a Dr. Seuss book, an oversized holiday wreath, beautiful floral table decorations, and easy-to-make flowers for embellishing gift packages.

The gallery will be followed by a techniques section and thorough step-by-step instructions for all flowers and projects with accompanying templates.

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world-war-zWORLD WAR Z: AN ORAL HISTORY OF THE ZOMBIE WAR
Max Brooks

It began with rumours from China about another pandemic. Then the cases started to multiply and what had looked like the stirrings of a criminal underclass, even the beginnings of a revolution, soon revealed itself to be much, much worse.

Faced with a future of mindless, man-eating horror, humanity was forced to accept the logic of world government and face events that tested our sanity and our sense of reality. Based on extensive interviews with survivors and key players in the 10-year fight-back against the horde, World War Z brings the very finest traditions of American journalism to bear on what is surely the most incredible story in the history of civilisation.

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Hayley Shephard’s Picks

THE CUCKOO’S CALLINGthe-cuckoo-s-calling
Robert Galbraith (a.k.a J.K. Rowling)

From Hayley’s review: From the outset I want to say I’m a HUGE J.K. Rowling fan, but I’ve never really been a fan of crime fiction, and as I started reading The Cuckoo’s Calling, I wondered if Rowling would win me over. With the words over-flowing I asked myself whether I would be able to keep track or even remember the many characters who could possibly be attached to the apparent suicide of one model named Lula Landry.

But as I kept reading I found myself more interested in the story and more eager to follow Detective Cormoran Strike in his quest to find the killer, which at first even he is sceptical exists.

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my-dad-still-thinks-he-s-funnyMY DAD STILL THINK HE’S FUNNY
Katrina Germein

Sequel to the side-splitting, bestselling My Dad Thinks He’s Funny.

My dad says, ‘I’ve told you fifty million times, don’t exaggerate.’

Dad is back by popular demand with more hilarious material. And yes, my dad STILL thinks he’s funny.

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NODDY CLASSIC COLLECTIONnoddy-classic-collection
Enid Blyton

This classic collection of Enid Blyton’s Noddy stories features the much loved original artwork. The books in this collection are perfect for young readers or young children who love story time – and are stored safely in the stunning flip-top box!

Packed in a very special flip-top slipcase, this Noddy collection is a perfect gift.

Enid Blyton’s master storytelling and the adorable artwork have made the Noddy series an enduring children’s classic.

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shakeSHAKE
Carli Davidson

Original, amusing, and brilliantly documented, Shake is a heartwarming collection of sixty-one beguiling dogs caught in the most candid of moments: mid-shake. This glorious, graphic volume will stop you dead in your tracks as you are presented with images of man’s best friend caught in contortion: hair wild, eyes darting, ears and jowls flopping every which way.

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THE HUNTERthe-hunter
Monica McCarty

The war for Scotlands freedom continues as King Robert the Bruce battles on. At his command is an elite army of trained warriors, soldiers dedicated to their king, their country and to the remarkable women they love.

Prized for his unbeatable tracking skills, Ewen “Hunter” Lamont accepts a dangerous assignment: locate a missing undercover courier. By this is no ordinary target. Ewen has met his prey before as Sister Genna, a fiery, forbidden woman forever etched in his memory after one stolen, sinful kiss.

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Caroline Overington : Who Has Time to Read?

Author: Caroline OveringtonWalkley Award-winning journalist and bestselling author Caroline Overington ponders the age-old question, who has time to read?

Do you know that I’ve done in the last two months?

I’ve read three books.

That’s probably not amazing to anyone that reads a book a month – or even a book a week – or to people who have several books on the go at once … but it’s pretty amazing for me.

I’ve been writing a book a year for the past five years.

I’ve also got a job. I’m the associate editor of the iconic The Australian Women’s Weekly.  Just this month, I interviewed Anna Bligh, who is going through cancer treatment, and profiled the world’s richest woman, Gina Rinehart, which involved going out to the Pilbara for several days.

Also this year, I’ve interviewed Ellen DeGeneres, in Los Angeles. And Helen Mirren, in London.  And Ricky Martin … and quite a few other people. I’m also involved in a long-running investigation into Carmel Brookes, a kind-hearted Brisbane woman who is missing at sea. I’m trying to find out what happened to her, and I’ve been to Thailand, trying to retrace her steps.

I also have two children – twins, aged 13. They’re doing year eight, so I’m helping out with homework, and making sure they eat well, and generally loving them a lot.

I have a husband. I’ve got a blue dog, and we’ve got a lizard. I volunteer at our local surf lifesaving club. I go to the personal trainer three times a week. I have friends that I like to see whenever I can … and my family is spread all over the country … so it’s not often that I get time to sit down and really lose myself in a great book, let alone three.

Maybe I just got lucky, but all three of the books I read were brilliant. All were by Australians – and I can’t tell you how wonderful it felt, to be truly lost in their pages. I felt like I was on holidays! Transported. Which is how a good book should make you feel.

Here are the books I read:

Stop PressClick here for more details or to buy Stop Press:The Last Days of Newspapers by Rachel Buchanan: I know Rachel (who, now I think of it, might technically be a New Zealander.) We used to work together at The Age in Melbourne. We were all kids then. The Age had so much money to spend on journalism. Everyone read it. Politicians shook their fists at it. Rachel’s has written about the slow decline in the paper’s circulation, about the giant presses that have fallen silent, and about the challenges currently facing the once-great lady. I wept a bit.

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Click here for more details or to buy The Night GuestThe Night Guest by Fiona McFarlane: the main character is so loveable. She’s getting on a bit, and her husband has recently died. She thinks that a tiger is coming to visit her at night. She can hear it padding about on its big paws, in the lounge room. She tells her son, who lives abroad, and he gets concerned, and the next thing, a government worker turns up, to give the old lady a hand, but pretty much straight away, you can tell that something is not right with this government worker. I wept a bit more. This is a lovely book.

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Click here for more details or to buy Murder in MississippiMurder in Mississippi by John Safran: this is a true crime book about how John met a white supremacist in Mississippi, and later became a Facebook – and even a real friend – of the black man who killed him. I didn’t weep with this one, except at the beauty of it. John’s book is one of the best pieces of sustained, rigorous journalism I’ve read in 20 years. It is absolutely magnificent –  smart, and wry, and emotional too.  Obviously, if you are going to buy one book this Booktoberfest, I think you should buy mine. But if you’ve already gone mine, buy John’s.

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Thank you, Caroline. You’re always welcome on the Booktopia Blog!

Click here for more details about Caroline’s thrilling and controversial new novel No Place Like Home

Click here for more details or to buy No Place Like Home

No Place Like Home

By: Caroline Overington

From bestselling author and award-winning journalist Caroline Overington comes another thought-provoking and heart-rending story, that reaches from the heart of Bondi to a small village in Tanzania.

Shortly after 9.30 in the morning, a young man walks into Surf City, Bondi’s newest shopping complex. He’s wearing a dark grey hoodie – and a bomb around his neck.

Just a few minutes later he is locked in a shop on the upper floor. And trapped with him are four innocent bystanders.

For police chaplain Paul Doherty, called to the scene by Superintendent Boehm, it’s a story that will end as tragically as it began. For this is clearly no ordinary siege. The boy, known as Ali Khan, seems as frightened as his hostages and has yet to utter a single word.

The seconds tick by for the five in the shop: Mitchell, the talented schoolboy; Mouse, the shop assistant; Kimmi, the nail-bar technician; and Roger Callaghan, the real estate agent whose reason for being in Bondi that day is far from innocent.

And of course there’s Ali Khan. Is he the embodiment of evil, as the villagers in his Tanzanian birthplace believe? Or simply an innocent boy, betrayed at every turn, who just wants a place to call home?

About the Author

Caroline Overington is the Associate Editor of the iconic magazine, The Australian Women’s Weekly.

Caroline has won the Walkley Award for Excellence in Journalism twice, and she’s a former winner of the Sir Keith Murdoch prize for journalism, and of the Blake Dawson prize.

She is the author of five bestselling novels: Ghost Child, I Came to Say Goodbye, Matilda is Missing, Sisters of Mercy and No Place Like Home.

Click here for more details about Caroline’s thrilling and controversial new novel No Place Like Home

Guest Blogger John Safran, author of Murder in Mississippi, asks you not to ruin books for him

John Safran presents books-you’re-not-allowed-to-ruin-for-me-if-you-see-me-on-the-tram-or-something-because-I-haven’t-finished-them-but-I-really-am-going-to-and-don’t-tell-me-I-won’t-because-I-once-started-the-Satanic-Verses-and-didn’t-finish-it-and-then-like-seven-years-later-I-started-it-again-and-did-finish-it

Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad. This is, like, 100 pages long and I’m already 42 in, so I’d say 100% I’ll finish it.

Catch-22 by Joseph Heller. This is humiliating but when I was 15 I went to a solarium and I felt like I was sneaking into a brothel, please nobody see me, please nobody see me. It was the 80s and there was a lot of social pressure to have a tan and if you’ve seen me you know I don’t have a tan. That pasty is chic didn’t happen till 1996 when Trainspotting was released, the movie, and suddenly overnight you could be pale. And I left Catch-22 on the sun bed.

Don Quixote by Cervantes. This came out in 1605 and pretty much every smart aleck breaking-the-forth-wall gag that the first year uni arts students in every generation think they came up with is in this book –and it was written in 1605!

One of the characters goes to a bookshelf and makes a snarky comment about a previous book by Cervantes! – 1605!

This is basically Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. And I’ve read part one but not part two. Maybe in 30 years time you’ll see me on the front porch of a retirement home in a maroon dressing ground and you’ll squint and there in my hands is Don Quixote.

It might be 2043 but I will finish it.

So don’t ruin it for me if you see me on the tram.

Pick up a copy of John’s brilliant book Murder in Mississippi here

Murder in Mississippi

by John Safran

When filming his TV series Race Relations, John Safran spent an uneasy couple of days with one of Mississippi’s most notorious white supremacists. A year later, he heard that the man had been murdered – and what was more, the killer was black.

At first the murder seemed a twist on the old Deep South race crimes. But then more news rolled in. Maybe it was a dispute over money, or most intriguingly, over sex. Could the infamous racist actually have been secretly gay, with a thing for black men? Did Safran have the last footage of him alive? Could this be the story of a lifetime? Seizing his Truman Capote moment, he jumped on a plane to cover the trial.

Over six months, Safran got deeper and deeper into the South, becoming entwined in the lives of those connected with the murder – white separatists, black campaigners, lawyers, investigators, neighbours, even the killer himself. And the more he talked with them, the less simple the crime, and the world, seemed.

Murder in Mississippi is a brilliantly innovative true-crime story. Taking us places only he can, Safran paints an engrossing, revealing portrait of a dead man, his murderer, the place they lived and the process of trying to find out the truth about anything.

Pick up a copy of John’s brilliant book Murder in Mississippi here

 

Ned Kelly Awards 2013 longlist announced

The longlist for this year’s Ned Kelly Awards for crime writing has just been announced.

Established in 1996 by the Crime Writers Association of Australia, the Ned Kelly Awards are Australia’s leading literary awards for crime writing in both the crime fiction and true crime genres.

A huge congratulations to all the writers in the running for ‘Neds’ this year. You can find all the books listed by heading over to our website.

Continue reading

Every Parent’s Nightmare by Belinda Hawkins: A Review from Andrew Cattanach

The story of Jock Palfreeman has captivated Australia. Booktopia’s Andrew Cattanach took a look at award-winning journalist Belinda Hawkins’ account of the harrowing story of a young Australian jailed for murder.

Wrong place, wrong time.

Some phrases are uttered so often in our daily lives that they lose their punch, struggling to convey the real horror behind them.

Sometimes you can be in the wrong place at the wrong time, and be late for work.

Sometimes you can be in the wrong place at the wrong time, and get trapped in an awkward conversation.

Jock Palfreeman was in the wrong place at the wrong time, and now he’s in a Bulgarian prison cell for murder.

Continue reading

Steve Lillebuen, author of The Devil’s Cinema: The Untold Story Behind The ‘Dexter Killer’, Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Steve Lillebuen

author of The Devil’s Cinema : The Untold Story Behind The ‘Dexter Killer’

Ten Terrifying Questions

———————-

1. To begin with why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself – where were you born? Raised? Schooled?

I was born in Edmonton, Alberta, an oil-rich prairie capital a few hours drive east of the Canadian Rockies. After spending my childhood on country acreage, I moved back up to the city, discovered journalism in university, and kept writing for various newsrooms and newspapers until I ended up in Melbourne about four years ago.

2. What did you want to be when you were 12, 18 and 30? And why?

Growing up, I never had an answer to that question — and I still don’t. I guess this has led to a continued career in journalism: everything is of interest and it’s one of very few jobs that exposes someone to all sorts of interesting characters, places, and experiences. One day as a reporter can be spent interviewing a convicted murderer, the next it’s the prime minister. As a journalist, I’m given a front-row seat to all sections of history as it happens, which can be pretty exciting.

3. What strongly held belief did you have at 18 that you do not have now?

I remember my mother once stuck a magnet on the fridge when I was a teenager that quipped, “Better ask your kids now while they still know everything.” I think that sums up the attitude of youth. At 18, I thought I had it all figured out. Today I’m not so sure.

4. What were three works of art – book or painting or piece of music, etc – you can now say, had a great effect on you and influenced your own development as a writer?

Richard Price’s Clockers, a novel examining the lives of American drug dealers and detectives, remains one lasting influence. While the story is fiction, Price certainly did his homework by job-shadowing police officers for years.

I admire the cross-cutting used throughout the book, alternating chapters between two very different perspectives. His writing style also has a beautiful sense of place, and I’ve always felt a good book will use the setting itself like a character.

I’m also a fan of Douglas Coupland’s Generation X, which speaks of a time and place like any great big novel should. Quite funny at times.

And in university, I was an avid film fan and watched a lot of film noir and neo-noir, which I think led to my interest in reporting on the darker side of things. Everyone should watch films like The Night of the Hunter and The Third Man. Hollywood doesn’t tell captivating stories like this anymore.

5. Considering the innumerable electronic media avenues open to you – blogs, online newspapers, TV, radio, etc – why have you chosen to write a book? aren’t they obsolete??

Only a narrative non-fiction book can transform print journalism into storytelling. In a newsroom, I am often writing articles about facts or policy and rarely get to dive into the lives of the people behind the news. In a book I have space to explore the emotional narrative behind a real-life story. It’s more honest and raw, taking the story to a much deeper level.

6. Please tell us about your latest book…

Taking place in October 2008, The Devil’s Cinema is the bizarre true story of filmmaker Mark Twitchell, a charismatic young man who is accused of turning his move script into a real-life slaying by replicating elements of the Dexter television series.

The narrative explores the lives of the killer, his victims, and the detectives who chased him. But it also gives the reader a rare “insiders account” of everything that happened because I interviewed all the major players over several years, including a year of exclusive contact with the killer himself.

The book details how and why a suburban father with no criminal record could seemingly transform into a wannabe serial killer by stealth. One day he’s a bit of a geek infatuated with Star Wars, and the next he’s charged with murdering a complete stranger. His wife, young child, friends — all had no idea.

Click here to buy The Devil’s Cinema from Booktopia,
Australia’s No.1 Online Book Shop

7. What do you hope people take away with them after reading your work?

Mark Twitchell’s criminal trial drew international attention largely due to its connections with Dexter, the popular TV and book series about a fictional vigilante serial killer. But what I’ve discovered is how my take on the story has resonated with a wider audience who’ve never even heard of Dexter because it is so oddly relatable.

We’ve all had a dream of becoming famous, even if it was just as children. Here we have a group of friends who never grew up, became fanboys, and saw their sci-fi fantasies merge with reality as they reached for Hollywood fame, only to have one of them slowly turn it into something quite strange and in the end, terribly horrific.

8. Whom do you most admire in the realm of writing and why?

I admire any journalist who can remain enthusiastic and passionate despite how toxic the industry has become. There is not a lot of hope out there for non-fiction writers, especially when newspapers are shrinking and shutting down. We need to support those writers out there who are still fighting for good journalism.

9. Many artists set themselves very ambitious goals. What are yours?

I try to set more realistic goals and let others worry about the rest. I just want to be able to keep doing what I love: find interesting true stories, get them published, and hope readers find them fascinating as I do. Everything else is out of my control.

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

Aspiring writers need to write every day, and then write some more. For every book an author has published there is the equivalent of two more in the recycle bin.

Steve, thank you for playing.

TRUE STORY: Gang of One by Gary Mulgrew

GANG OF ONE is an explosive prison memoir with the gritty realism of Midnight Express and the emotional force of The Shawshank Redemption.

Imagine you’re a 35 year old, white, British, middle-class business man sentenced to three years in Big Spring, one of America’s most notorious prisons. You’ve been told that if get into any trouble, your sentence will be doubled. You’ve just said goodbye to your lawyer. You’re on your own.

You are a GANG OF ONE.

In the relentless heat of the desert, seven hundred men were crammed into a space meant for four hundred. Fights, murders and month-long lock-downs were commonplace. The guards – armed, untrained, on low wages – left the running of the jail to the gangs.

Told with wit and humanity, GANG OF ONE shows a man constantly confronted by the moral and physical challenges of prison life, where everyone is encouraged to turn their back and ‘see nuthin”.

Gary’s choice – to walk away and let a man die, or intervene and lose the chance to get home – makes GANG OF ONE a book as unforgettable as it is enthralling.

Click here to pre-order your copy

About the Author: Gary Mulgrew was born in Glasgow in 1962 and lived there until he graduated from the University of Strathclyde. He joined NatWest Bank in 1983 and worked for them in Manchester, London, Tokyo and New York before joining the Royal Bank of Canada in 2000. His banking career ended in June 2002 when he was indicted by the U.S. authorities for allegedly defrauding NatWest.

After years of court battles and a high profile public campaign, he and two other members of the ‘NatWest Three’ were eventually extradited to America. Two years of detention in Houston, Texas were followed by two years in seven different prisons in the United States and England until his full release in early 2010. He now runs a number of successful businesses in the south of England, supported by his bankers, NatWest.

How dare you sell that book!

Up onto the soapbox I go…

On occasion this blog receives the wrong kind of attention.

Some people in the community seem to think that a bookseller personally endorses the views expressed in every book they promote or hold in stock. If this were true a bookseller would need to hold a vast range of very contradictory views at one and the same time. On any one day a bookseller may be stocking books on evolution and creationism, on mining and environmentalism, on left and right politics, on Celine Dion and Kurt Cobain. Whereas it is true that the bookseller may have views on each of these subjects, it would be idiotic to assume they Continue reading

Sins of the Father: The untold story behind Schapelle Corby’s ill-fated drug run by Eamonn Duff


The story behind Australia’s most famous drug case

Controversial findings about the most polarising criminal case since Azaria Chamberlain’s murder trial.

A reckless father, his dark past, an Adelaide drug trafficker and the Gold Coast beauty school dropout who kept her mouth shut. This is the explosive untold story of Schapelle Corby and how she took the rap for her father’s drug syndicate.

The result of a three year investigation, Sins of the Father returns to the beginning of Australia’s most famous drug case, to a time when nobody had ever heard the name Schapelle Corby. Finally, the missing pieces of the jigsaw fall into place as we are led, step by step, through the important weeks, days and hours leading up to her dramatic arrest.

Shedding new light on her long-held claims of innocence, this is the book Schapelle’s army of supporters do not want you to read.

Eamonn Duff has been a journalist for more than twenty years. As a senior investigative journalist at Fairfax for over a decade, he has broken many major stories in areas as diverse as sport, crime, politics and national security.

Click here to order your copy of Sins of the Father from Booktopia, Australia’s No.1 Online Book Shop

Death in Perugia: The Definitive Account of the Meredith Kercher case from her murder to the acquittal of Raffaele Sollecito and Amanda Knox by John Follain

Taking the advice of that horrible fellow on Gruen Planet last night I am putting this up now for fear that in two weeks time no one will be able to remember what the hell it was all about. 

John Follain, who covers Italy for the Sunday Times, tells the definitive inside story of this extraordinary case.

Shortly after 12.30pm on 2 November 2007, Italian police were called to the Perugia home of 21-year-old British student Meredith Kercher. They found her body on the floor under a beige quilt. Her throat had been cut.

Four days later, the prosecutor jailed Meredith’s flatmate American student Amanda Knox, and Raffaele Sollecito, her Italian boyfriend. He also jailed Rudy Guede, an Ivory Coast drifter. Four years later Knox and Sollecito were acquitted amid chaotic scenes in front of the world’s media.

Uniquely based on four years of reporting and access to the complete case files, Death In Perugia takes readers on a riveting journey behind the scenes of the investigation, as John Follain shares the drama of the trials and appeal hearings he lived through.

Including exclusive interviews with Meredith’s friends and other key sources, Death in Perugia reveals how the Italian dream turned into a nightmare.

About the Author

John Follain was born in 1966. He studied at Oxford before joining Reuters, for which he worked as a correspondent in Rome and Paris. He has covered Italy for The Sunday Times since 1998. His previous books include THE LAST GODFATHERS and ZOYA’S STORY on an Afghan resistance fighter, which was translated into fourteen languages. He was voted runner-up for the 2006 Paul Foot Award for Campaigning Journalism, and nominated for the 2008 Magazine Journalism Awards for his interview with the Knox family.

Published in August:

The Fatal Gift of Beauty

by Nina Burleigh

The sexually violent murder of twenty-one-year-old British student Meredith Kercher in Perugia, Italy, on the night of November 1, 2007, became an international sensation when one of Kercher’s housemates, twenty-year-old Seattle native Amanda Knox, as well as her Italian boyfriend and a troubled local man Knox said she “vaguely” knew, was arrested and charged with the murder. The Fatal Gift of Beauty is award-winning author and journalist Nina Burleigh’s mesmerizing literary investigation of the murder, the controversial prosecution, the conviction and twenty-six-year sentence of Knox, the machinations of Italian justice, and the underground depravity and clash of cultures in one of central -Italy’s most beloved cities.

When Perugia authorities concluded that the murder was part of a dark, twisted rite—a “sex game”—led by the American with an uncanny resemblance to Perugia’s Madonna, they unleashed a media frenzy from Rome to London to New York and Seattle. The story drew an international cult obsessed with “Foxy Knoxy,” a pretty honor student on a junior year abroad, who either woke up one morning into a nightmare of superstition and misogyny—the dark side of Italy—or participated in something unspeakable.

The investigation begins in the old stone cottage overlooking bucolic olive groves where Kercher’s body was found in her locked bedroom. It winds through the shadowy, arched alleys of Perugia, a city of art that is also a magnet for tens of thousands of students who frequent its bars, clubs, and drug bazaar on the steps of the Duomo. It climaxes in an up-close account of Italy’s dysfunctional legal system, as the trial slowly unfolds at the town’s Tribunale, and the prosecution’s thunderous final appeal to God before the quivering girl defendant resembles a scene from the Inquisition.

To reveal what actually happened on that terrible night after Halloween, Nina Burleigh lived in Perugia, attended the trial, and corresponded with the incarcerated defendants. She also delved deeply into the history, secrets, and customs of Perugia, renowned equally for its Etruscan tunnels, early Christian art, medieval sorcerers, and pagan roots.

The Fatal Gift of Beauty is a thoughtful, compelling examination of an enduring mystery, an ancient, storied place, and a disquieting facet of Italian culture: an obsession with female eroticism. It is also an acute window into the minds and personalities of the accused killers and of the conservative Italian magistrate striving to make sense of an inexplicable act of evil. But at its core is an indelible portrait of Amanda Knox, the strangely childlike, enigmatic beauty, whose photogenic face became the focal point of international speculation about the shadow side of youth and freedom.

Reviews

“Finally, the twisted tale of Amanda Knox, the all-American college girl convicted of murder in Italy, gets the telling this extraordinary story deserves. Nina Burleigh’s immersion in Italian cultural history provides a context that allows us–first the first time–to understand how this international miscarriage of justice could have occurred. Stirring, compelling, and in the end a tragic tale worthy of Italian opera.” –Joe McGinniss, author of Fatal Vision, The Miracle of Castel Di Sangro and The Rogue

“The global media, in its frenzied coverage of the sensational Amanda Knox murder trial, overlooked what Nina Burleigh has skillfully unearthed and analyzed–a compelling chain of evidence, subtle levels of significance. Her telling of the tale is clearly the only one that gets it right.”–John Berendt, author of The City of Falling Angels and Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil

 

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