BOOK REVIEW: The Bit in Between by Claire Varley (Review by Andrew Cattanach)

Andrew Cattanach finds plenty beneath the surface of local author Claire Varley’s debut The Bit in Between

the-bit-in-betweenIn The Bit in Between, Claire Varley explores the trials and tribulations of the talented and tortured young writer Oliver, as his ambitious prospective writing retreat is turned upside down by the enigmatic Alison, who enters his world in the most spectacular, stomach churning of ways.

It’s always a treat when a book surprises you, but rarely are you surprised by what you’re surprised by in a book that surprises you. Surprising way to start a review?

Well, blame Claire Varley’s The Bit in Between. It’s not your average book.

You see, I knew it was going to be well written, even before I’d read Varley’s recent answers to our Ten Terrifying Questions (they’re pretty amazing). I had heard from some astute folks within the book industry that this was something special, and sure enough it was.

I also knew what to expect, with early noise about it being the Australian equivalent David Nicholl’s One Day being dead on. The writing is sharp, the characters witty and the story is alive in an assured, pacey manner that belies the author’s relative inexperience in long form fiction.

What surprised me about what surprised me about The Bit in Between was the changing trajectory of the novel, what it strode for, what story it told. Rarely do you finish a relatively mainstream novel, love it, yet still turn to someone and say, can you read this and tell me what you think? Is it a love story? Is it a story of loss? Is it cutting travel writing? Is it a meditation on self discovery? Is it a love letter to the writing life?

The truth is that it’s all these things and more. This is the first glimpse of an exciting new local talent, equal parts accessible, ambitious, fun and challenging.

One Day was good, and had its moments, although it never resonated with me like The Bit in Between did. Perhaps it’s the local flavour, perhaps it’s the nods to the art of writing, but I’ll take The Bit in Between every day.

Grab your copy of Claire Varley’s The Bit in Between here

the-bit-in-betweenThe Bit in Between

by Claire Varley

Writing a love story is a lot easier than living one.

There are seven billion people in the world. This is the story of two of them.

After an unfortunate incident in an airport lounge involving an immovable customs officer, a full jar of sun-dried tomatoes, quite a lot of vomit, and the capricious hand of fate, Oliver meets Alison. In spite of this less than romantic start, Oliver falls in love with her.

Immediately. Inexplicably. Irrevocably.

With no other place to be, Alison follows Oliver to the Solomon Islands where he is planning to write his much-anticipated second novel. But as Oliver’s story begins to take shape, odd things start to happen and he senses there may be more hinging on his novel than the burden of expectation. As he gets deeper into the manuscript and Alison moves further away from him, Oliver finds himself clinging to a narrative that may not end with; happily ever after.

Grab your copy of Claire Varley’s The Bit in Between here

The Best Books of 2015…so far

Voracious reader and office loudmouth Andrew Cattanach lifts the lid on his favourite books of the year, so far!


quicksandQuicksand by Steve Toltz

I had my doubts about Steve Toltz even attempting to write a follow up to A Fraction of the Whole. Not only did he write it, he might have a Miles Franklin winner on his hands. Savagely witty and chaotically brilliant.

Aldo has been so relentlessly unlucky – in business, in love, in life – that the universe seems to have taken against him personally. Even Liam, his best friend, describes him as ‘a well-known parasite and failure’. Aldo has always faced the future with optimism and despair in equal measure, but this last twist of fate may finally have brought him undone…more


the-first-bad-manThe First Bad Man by Miranda July

Sad, funny, gorgeously self deprecating in a kind of ‘this character isn’t me but she kind of is’ way. I loved The First Bad Man from the very first line.

Here is Cheryl, a tightly wound, vulnerable woman who lives alone, with a perpetual lump in her throat. She is haunted by a baby boy she met when she was six, who sometimes recurs as other peoples’ babies.

Cheryl is also obsessed with Phillip, a philandering board member at the women’s self-defense nonprofit organisation where she works. She believes they’ve been making love for many lifetimes, though they have yet to consummate it in this one…more


the-other-side-of-the-worldThe Other Side of the World by Stephanie Bishop

The arrival of a confident, assured and frighteningly talented new voice in Australian Fiction. The Other Side of the World consumed me, it was all I could think about from start to finish. To be quite honest, I’m still reeling from it. Remarkable.

Charlotte is struggling. With motherhood, with the changes marriage and parenthood bring, with losing the time and the energy to paint. Her husband, Henry, wants things to be as they were and can’t face the thought of another English winter.

A brochure slipped through the letterbox slot brings him the answer: ‘Australia brings out the best in you’…more


when-there-s-nowhere-else-to-run-vogel-winner-2015When There’s Nowhere Else to Run by Murray Middleton

One gets the feeling that Murray Middleton is a real student of the craft of writing. When There’s Nowhere Else to Run is tight, confident, brave and precise. Another very worthy recipient of The Vogel’s Literary Award.

A survivor of Victoria’s Black Saturday bushfires takes asylum with old friends in the Dandenong Ranges. An editor-in-chief drives his sister halfway around the country to an east-coast rehabilitation clinic. A single mother flies to Perth with her autistic son for one last holiday. A father at the end of his tether tries to survive the chaos of the Sydney Royal Easter Show. A group of young friends hire a luxury beach house in the final weeks of one of their lives. A postman hits a pedestrian and drives off into the night…more


finders-keepersFinders Keepers by Stephen King

I was never a huge King fan growing up, but I can’t get enough of this new series. King writes with so much energy, combining hard-boiled crime with bookish obsession. I couldn’t put it down.

John Rothstein, a Salinger-like icon who created a famous character, Jimmy Gold, hasn’t published a book for decades. Morris Bellamy is livid, not just because Rothstein has stopped providing books, but because the nonconformist Jimmy Gold has sold out for a career in advertising. Morris kills Rothstein and empties his safe of cash, yes, but the real treasure is a trove of notebooks containing at least one more Gold novel. Morris hides the money and the notebooks, and then he is locked away for another crime…more


a-god-in-ruinsA God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson

Kate Atkinson could write a pamphlet about soil and I would be enthralled. A God in Ruins is a wonderful accompaniment to her breathtaking 2013 novel Life After Life. A brilliant, effortless storyteller at the top of her game.

Kate Atkinson’s dazzling Life After Life, the bestselling adult book this year to date in the UK, explored the possibility of infinite chances, as Ursula Todd lived through the turbulent events of the last century again and again. In A God in Ruins, Atkinson turns her focus on Ursula’s beloved younger brother Teddy – would-be poet, RAF bomber pilot, husband and father – as he navigates the perils and progress of the 20th century. For all Teddy endures in battle, his greatest challenge will be to face living in a future he never expected to have…more


so-you-ve-been-publicly-shamedSo You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson

A mesmerising journey down the rabbit hole and into the world of public shaming with Jon Ronson. Touching in parts, hilarious in others, another thought provoking effort from the acclaimed writer.

How big a transgression really justifies someone losing their job? What about the people who become global targets for doing nothing more than making a bad joke on Twitter, do they deserve to have their lives ruined? How is this renaissance of shaming changing the world and what is the true reason behind it? Simultaneously powerful and hilarious in the way only Jon Ronson can be, So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed is a deeply honest book about modern life, full of eye-opening truths about the escalating war on human flaws – and our very scary part in it…more


hot-little-handsHot Little Hands by Abigail Ulman

One of the best collections of short stories of the year, Ulman has announced herself as one of Australia’s bravest and most inquisitive writers of fiction.

This exceptional collection of stories is about young women of different ages, from their early teens to their late twenties, coming to terms with what it means to desire, and be desired, with funny, surprising and sometimes confronting results. Ulman first made her mark with the story Chagall’s Wife in Meanjin; this collection shows that she’s a young Australian writer to put alongside Ceridwen Dovey, Nam Le and Fiona McFarlane…more


the-most-good-you-can-doThe Most Good You Can Do by Peter Singer

It’s always nice to read a book that you know will change your life forever. Peter Singer does it again.

Peter Singer, often described as the world’s most influential living philosopher, presents a challenging new movement in the search for an ethical life, one that has emerged from his own work on some of the world’s most pressing problems. Effective altruism involves doing the most good possible. It requires a rigorously unsentimental view of charitable giving, urging that a substantial proportion of our money or time, should be donated to the organisations that will do the most good with those resources, rather than to those that tug the heartstrings…more


mr-huffMr. Huff by Anna Walker

I nearly cried reading this picture book. A gorgeous story that will hopefully find its way into the hands of every child in this strange, and often overwhelming, world.

Award-winning and much-loved author and illustrator Anna Walker gives us a gentle, poignant, affirming and wise picture book sure to delight all ages. Mr. Huff is a story about the clouds and the sunshine in each of our lives.

Bill is having a bad day. Mr Huff is following him around and making everything seem difficult. Bill tries to get rid of him, but Mr Huff just gets bigger and bigger! Then they both stop, and a surprising thing happens…more


Andrew Cattanach is a regular contributor to The Booktopia Blog. He has been shortlisted for The Age Short Story Prize and was named a finalist for the 2015 Young Bookseller of the Year Award. He enjoys reading, writing and sleeping, though finds it difficult to do them all at once.

You can follow his ramblings on twitter at @andrew__cat

BOOK REVIEW: So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson (Reviewed by Andrew Cattanach)

Andrew Cattanach dives into the deep end of Jon Ronson’s latest book, So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed.

so-you-ve-been-publicly-shamedI’ve always been a fan of Jon Ronson’s work, his penchant for exposing the strange, often unsettling, pockets of society. With So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed, Ronson plays to his strengths, reporting dutifully with thick shards of humour, injecting himself into the narrative where needed. So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed begins as many of Ronson’s books do, with a eureka moment, the inspiration that would lead him down the yellow brick road.

Ronson, an avid tweeter, began to notice a parody twitter handle – @jon_ronson – popping up in his feed. The account posted some tweets about food and his love of a good time, particularly of a…homoerotic nature.

Ronson contacted the creators of the account asking for its removal. They refused, calling it a social experiment, although eventually agreeing to meet Ronson in person to discuss why they were so compelled to tweet about goat’s cheese and male genitalia under his name.

Ronson recorded the interaction and posted it on YouTube with their permission, the video went viral and was met which extreme condemnation from Ronson’s fans. The creators of the twitter account, in the wake of the public shame elicited by Ronson’s video, agreed to delete the twitter account.

Jon Ronson

Jon Ronson

This jolts Ronson into the world of Public Shaming, now an everyday occurrence in the world of social media. Reflecting on his own experiences, he tracks down others who have felt the wrath of the mob.

We have Jonah Lehrer, the infamous bestselling pop psychology author, who was caught out inventing a Bob Dylan quote. PR executive Justine Sacco, who wrote a tweet while boarding a plane to South Africa about not catching AIDS because she’s white and was denounced by millions before she hit the ground. Max Mosley, the Formula One supremo outed by the News of the World for a ‘Nazi orgy’, ultimately exposing his parent’s fascist past.

These are moments in time that you will remember, even if your memory, like mine, needs a quick jolt on Google. Ronson’s investigations into these tales, those who shamed and were shamed alike, are utterly absorbing. He examines just how viable the world of extreme honesty is, itself a constant barrage of public shaming if perhaps not on quite as grand a scale.

This is Ronson at his finest. Funny, intriguing and, in some places, downright shocking. A book not to be missed.

Grab your copy of So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed here

Andrew Cattanach is a regular contributor to The Booktopia Blog. He has been shortlisted for The Age Short Story Prize and was named a finalist for the 2015 Young Bookseller of the Year Award. He enjoys reading, writing and sleeping, though finds it difficult to do them all at once.

You can follow his ramblings on twitter at @andrew__cat

An Interview with Young Australian Bookseller of the Year Finalist – Booktopia’s Andrew Cattanach

I owe books much more than they owe me. I spend every day trying to repay that debt.

Booktopia’s Andrew Cattanach was recently named a finalist for the ABA Penguin Random House Australia Young Bookseller of the Year Award.

The award recognises and rewards the excellence of a bookseller 35 or under, and promotes bookselling as a career choice for young people. We chatted to him about his life as a bookseller.


What does being a finalist for the Young Bookseller of the Year mean to you?

It’s a huge honour. I love being a part of the book industry but I never thought I would ever be recognised like this. The winner, Gerard Elson, is an amazing bookseller and does so many things in and around the industry. I’m incredibly grateful just to have my name mentioned alongside as a finalist. And my dad may forgive me now for not playing cricket for Australia.

When did you decide you wanted to be a bookseller?

For most of my childhood I was over an hour’s drive from the nearest library, and nearly two hours away from the nearest bookstore. It’s always been like this in remote areas, not a lot of people realise that. I knew early on that being an avid reader helped me immeasurably in and outside of the classroom, even if it meant reading my parents’ books over and over again. It gave me a scholarship to a good school and some perspective on life and dealing with things as a child. From an early age I always wanted to help rural areas have better access to books.

After completing my English degree, I started working at Booktopia, which meant I could put books in the hands of people who have always struggled to find them, and in the hands of children who might have otherwise neglected reading and subsequently struggled with literacy into adulthood. It’s a common story around rural Australia.

I owe books much more than they owe me. I spend every day trying to repay that debt.

What are some of your favourite books of 2015 so far?

Oh wow, where do I start? Quicksand by Steve Toltz is a brilliant, manic masterpiece, my favourite novel of the year so far. The First Bad Man by Miranda July is also gigantically underrated. I’m a sucker for short stories so Murray Middleton’s When There’s Nowhere Else to Run and Abigail Ulman’s Hot Little Hands have been a joy.

On the non-fiction front, Jon Ronson’s So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed should be read by everyone with a social media account and Peter Singer’s The Most Good You Can Do has already changed my life.

And just think, it’s only May!

Any words of wisdom for anyone wanting to be a bookseller?

In Bukowski’s poem So You Want To Be A Writer, he writes “if it doesn’t come bursting out of you in spite of everything, don’t do it”. The same philosophy applies to being a bookseller.

The hours are long and the money is less than what your friends are making, but reading, writing and talking about books is more than a job. For some, and certainly for me, it’s a compulsion, a hole in your heart that needs to be filled.

If you feel the same way, becoming a bookseller is the best thing you will ever do.

 You can follow Andrew’s ramblings on twitter at @andrew__cat

Andrew Cattanach with bestselling author John Flanagan and Booktopia's John Purcell

Andrew Cattanach with bestselling author John Flanagan and Booktopia’s John Purcell

My Favourite Australian Authors of 2014

2014 was a huge year for Australian authors. There seems no better time, January being our month of Australian Stories, to reflect on my favourite Australian authors of 2014.

So many Australian authors had career defining years in 2014, but these are a few that made a huge impact with their work both on and off the page.

Confused about the concept? So am I, but we’ll get there.


SonyaSonya Hartnett

I’ve bored everyone with my constant proclamations that Sonya Hartnett’s Golden Boys was the best novel of 2014. It’s an amazing book that we’ll be hearing more about as the awards season heats up. Hartnett also gave us The Wild One, teaming up with Lucia Masciullo to produce of the most beautiful picture books of the year.

She was also the subject of a wonderful piece by Stephen Romei in The Australian, where she gave the best quote about childhood I’ve heard for a long time. ‘‘Children live in a very animal world, one that’s constantly on the verge of war. You look at childhood and think, how do any of us survive that sort of shit?’


MaxineMaxine Beneba Clarke

Not content with producing Foreign Soil, one of the most exciting short story collections of the last few years, Maxine Beneba Clarke was called upon to be the voice of many defining moments of 2014.

From her pitch perfect portrait of the late Matt Richell to the dignified protest to Tony Abbott at this year’s Australian Book Industry Awards, Maxine had an incredible, inspiring 2014.

Foreign Soil was a standout, and her highly anticipated 2015 book The Hate Race promises to be even better.


1413331355077_wps_72_epa04446950_Australian_noRichard Flanagan

Okay, okay, I know Richard Flanagan didn’t release a book in 2014, but he still had a pretty solid year, no? His 2013 novel The Narrow Road to the Deep North narrowly missed out on the Miles Franklin, before winning the first truly international Man Booker and sweeping into Australia to not just win a Prime Minister’s Literary Award, but also give his prize money to the Indigenous Literacy Foundation, one of the most important charities around.

He also gave a performance on Q&A during the Sydney Writer’s Festival that elicited a 11pm phone call from my mother to discuss what a genius he is.

Last but not least, Flanagan had this to say on the subject of giving money to important causes. ‘Money is like shit, my father used say. Pile it up and it stinks. Spread it around and you can grow things.’

Absolutely brilliant.


OmarOmar Musa

Sometimes you read a book and you lose sleep hoping that everyone else realises how good it is. Omar Musa’s Here Come the Dogs was that book, and while it should have been talked about more, those who read it couldn’t stop singing its praises.

2014 saw Omar Musa emerge as one of Australia’s most important voices, speaking with passion on issues like immigration, sexuality and violence. He speaks, and writes, with a firm, eloquent authority we can all learn from. Already an accomplished spoken work performer, you’ll be hearing a lot more about Musa in 2015.


Brooke DavisBrooke Davis

Being a novelist is a romantic profession. Millions try, and millions fail. It’s a tough job. So what inspires people to want to be writers?

Stories like Brooke Davis’, and her journey to becoming one of Australia’s bestselling authors of 2014.

Embarking upon her novel Lost and Found as part of a PhD and a form of catharsis after the death of her mother, Davis spent five years writing it, combining teaching with working part-time at a Perth bookshop (shout out to Beaufort Street Books).

The novel was a hit at the year’s London Book Fair, rights being sold into 25 countries and translated into 20 languages for its overseas release. She also showed off her acting chops in some re-enactments on Australian Story.

That’s a pretty handy year. And just in case you weren’t sure, Lost and Found is a wonderful, emotional read, even better than the story behind it. Nice year Brooke.

Love Australian books?

Don’t forget to check out our Australian Stories collection!

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Why Reading More Books is the best New Year’s Resolution

Have you made a New Year’s Resolution yet?

Is it to get fit, eat healthy, save money, manage stress or learn a new hobby?

Our New Year’s Resolution is to read more books. Have you thought about that one? Let’s see how it weighs up against the more traditional resolutions…


Getting Fit vs Reading More Books

Getting Fit

Think of all those hours in a poorly ventilated gym listing to your personal trainer’s mixed tape of techno remixes through a broken speaker.

Think of those long runs in the morning, the long runs in the evening, the long runs at lunchtime.

And don’t forget the pain. So much pain.

tumblr_n1yb3d1pcJ1sw4g6oo1_500

Now think of this…

pushing-daisies-chuck-books1

 WINNER = Reading More Books


Eating Healthier vs Reading More Books

Do you like cheese? Or chocolate? Or wine? Or chips? Or pizza? Or milkshakes? Or ice cream? Or burgers? Or brownies? Or soft drink? Or cake? Or beer? Or bacon? Or pa? Or pancakes?

Well, no more of that for you.

But don’t worry. You’ll love tofu.

tumblr_mjfi29q7lU1rdzuduo5_400

Now think of this…

girl-reading-book1

WINNER = Reading More Books


Saving Money vs Reading More Books

Save money? In this economy? Leave that problem to future you.

Present you deserves presents…

tumblr_inline_mzs5iwHVZn1rynlhg

 And you know what makes the best present…

books

WINNER = Reading More Books


Manage Stress vs Reading More Books

If only there was some portable device that could take you to far away worlds, help you forget your troubles and fill your heart with joy…

tumblr_m4jcnoS2og1r573sro1_500

If only…

tumblr_mtyx5qwj581sdo33qo4_5001

WINNER = Reading More Books


Learn a New Hobby vs Reading More Books

We’d never ask you to stop learning new things, but the learning process doesn’t need to be like this…

tumblr_mayk53eNjz1ro2d43

It can be like this…

cats_reading_books_19

WINNER = Reading More Books


Conclusion: Books are amazing. You should be reading as many as you can in 2015, more than ever before.

AND books can help you achieve all your other, sadly non-book related, New Year’s Resolutions.

Magic.

matilda-reading

unnamed

Never Mind the Bollocks – Here are Andrew’s Favourite Books of 2014

Favourite BooksThe downside of working in such an exciting place that is growing faster than rhubarb in the dark (look it up, it’s a thing) is that because you’re always on your toes, always being presented with new challenges…

…you’re always trying to find the precious time to read.

But never fear. I’ve managed to squeeze in some fantastic books this year, and I think I’d share my 10 favourite ones with you.

So here they are.


loyal-creaturesLoyal Creatures

by Morris Gleitzman

I read Loyal Creatures the night before interviewing Morris Gleitzman for Booktopia TV. I was terrified at the prospect of grilling one of my childhood heroes. Within a few pages I completely lost myself in the book.

It’s a gorgeous read, another incredible effort from Gleitzman, and I genuinely had to hold back tears at the end of the book.

Click here for more about Loyal Creatures


the-sex-lives-of-siamese-twinsThe Sex Lives of Siamese Twins

by Irvine Welsh

You really should find time to read this caustic gem from Irvine Welsh, although perhaps not at the gym, or an organic cafe, or while watching The Biggest Loser. I say that because Welsh shines his light on the world of militant self-improvement and you may not recover in time.

If you’ve read Welsh, you know what to expect and won’t be disappointed. The only surprise will be just how much he’s matured as a writer, how adept he’s become at taking on the voice of his characters. Sometimes it only takes a mirror to see just how bizarre the world is becoming.

Click here for more about The Sex Lives of Siamese Twins


your-fathers-where-are-they-and-the-prophets-do-they-live-forever-Your Fathers, Where are They?

by Dave Eggers

The full name of Dave Eggers’ work is Your Fathers, Where are They? And the Prophets, Do They Live Forever? Such is his sense of humour I suspect he’s put together this ridiculously long title just to make end of year lists awkward. In fact I’m sure that’s why, and I love him all the more for it.

Made up entirely of dialogue, Your Fathers shines a light in uncomfortable corners while being raucously funny in many places. It’s an easy read in a sense, the real work comes from the time you have to yourself after reading it, reflecting on the world Eggers toys with. If you watch the news and don’t know whether to laugh or cry, this is the book for you.

Click here for more about Your Fathers, Where are They?


a-little-historyA Little History

by Bleddyn Butcher

If the inclusion of this in my ‘best of’ list wasn’t a big enough clue, I’m a pretty gigantic Nick Cave fan. A Little History is an intimate look at the career of Cave and his closest collaborators over the years.

It’s easy to forget how long Nick Cave has been on the scene, his music has always been so innovative and relevant throughout the years. This is a must have for all Birthday Party, Bad Seeds, and Grinderman fans. Cavesters will know what I’m talking about.

Click here for more about A Little History


colorless-tsukuru-tazaki-and-his-years-of-pilgrimageColorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage

by Haruki Murakami

I include this in my list with a caveat. You see I was not, as so many others professed to being, disappointed by Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Year of Pilgrimage. The reason is simple, if a little bit of a backhand to Murakami.

I don’t consider him to be a truly great writer.

I think he’s good, very good in fact. Norwegian Wood is one of my favourite books. I don’t, however, think he’s an immortal of the craft. If you are expecting Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki to be one of the one of the finest works of literature created, it’s not. That work only happens once in a generation.

Books are best enjoyed if you’re able to separate the work from the creator, unburden yourself from the shackles of expectation and enjoy the book purely for what is between the covers. If you do that, I’ve no doubt you’ll love Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Year of Pilgrimage, the themes of loneliness and belonging that it ponders, and agree with me that it is comfortably one of the best books of 2014.

Click here for more about Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki


foreign-soilForeign Soil

by Maxine Beneba Clarke

I was privileged to have had the opportunity to not just meet Maxine Beneba Clarke, but interview her for Booktopia TV. It was in the middle of a busy Sydney Writer’s Festival but her energy and enthusiasm for the craft of writing was amazing. I’ve read many short story collections this year, but Foreign Soil was my favourite.

Putting aside just how wonderful her prose is, how seamless her transition between characters and voices is, so much of Beneba Clarke’s stories are for the voiceless and the downtrodden. I’ve no doubt she will fast become one of Australia’s most influential and important writers. I can’t wait to read more from her.

Click here for more about Foreign Soil


lists-of-noteLists of Note

by Shaun Usher

In case you forgot, what you are reading is a list. In all likelihood only my mother and my year 7 English teacher thinks it is of note.

I love lists, I adore High Fidelity almost entirely for the constant lists. I can’t get enough of them, and it seems some of history’s most important figures feel the same way. If there was a museum dedicated to lists (if there isn’t already) this book would be the guidebook. I lost myself for hours in this incredible collection, dedicated entirely to the list.

There’s a list of ‘available names’ Charles Dickens compiled for possible characters in his fiction, Galileo’s list of parts needed to build his telescope, a list of dream lovers a pre-fame Marilyn Monroe wrote with a friend. Quite literally, the lists go on. I absolutely adore this unique collection.

Click here for more about Lists of Note


my-salinger-yearMy Salinger Year

by Joanna Rakoff

For me, my love of books expands far beyond the reading and writing. I’m intrigued by every aspect of their creation. The life of a writer, the printing process, the cover design, the editing process, acquisition meetings…

…and of course, the literary agency responsible for making and breaking so many writers.

This is a beautiful, funny, and at times melancholy look into the world of a New York literary agency in the early 90s, desperately trying to hold onto the ideals of the past. There are long lunches, huge slush piles and not a computer in sight. Oh, and did I mention J.D. Salinger rings occasionally? One for the real booklovers.

Click here for more about My Salinger Year


not-that-kind-of-girlNot That Kind of Girl

by Lena Dunham

How did she do it? How can Lena Dunham have all those expectations and all that money thrown at her (a rumoured advance of over $4mil), and somehow manage to write a brilliantly raw and honest memoir before she’s even turned 30?

I loved Not That Kind of Girl. It reminded me of how important brutal honesty is in any kind of writing, let alone memoirs. It establishes a theme and, despite what seems like endless digressions, never loses its footing. It’s an amazing piece of work. Shockingly funny like few books I’ve read. Incredible stuff.

Click here for more about Not That Kind of Girl


golden-boysGolden Boys

by Sonya Hartnett

Golden Boys is the best novel I’ve read in 2014. There, I said it. I admired Sonya Hartnett’s writing before, now I idolise it. A tender, and at times savage, exploration of lost innocence, told from the eyes of a small group of children in the suburbs of Australia.

Please, I’m begging you, grab a copy of this book and read it. It’s extraordinary. Don’t be put off by the tough subject matter, this is what fiction is for. Exploring worlds we dare not explore ourselves, hearing stories we’d usually shield our ears from. Last year I called The Narrow Road to the Deep North the best novel I’d read for the year, and I’m doing the same for Golden Boys in 2014. A remarkable book.

Click here for more about Golden Boys

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