The 5 best books I read this year are…
How to Be a Woman
by Caitlin Moran
As a feminist, I had become horrified by how few women now would use the word to describe themselves. IT IS THE ONLY WORD WE HAVE THAT MEANS WOMEN BEING EQUAL TO MEN. If you don’t believe you’re a feminist, you might as well be bending over and begging the patriarchy to take your vote and kick your arse.
So How To be a Woman is me thinking of the hardest thing I could do as a writer – try and make feminism sound like a total hoot; the most fun you can have as a lady that doesn’t involve crisps – and make women THRILLED to say “I am a feminist – indeed, a STRIDENT feminist.”
It also allows me to be the first writer – as far as I know – to admit that their first masturbatory experience was thinking of Chevy Chase in “The Three Amigos.”
The Best of Everything
by Rona Jaffe
‘This was New York . . . the marvelous secret things people did inside those tall buildings at the cocktail hour were the things he did every evening, and tonight it was all going to happen to her.’
New York, 1952. Four young women have come to the city: to find love, to build their careers and to savour the indefinable optimism of the times. Caroline is the college graduate, determined to escape the typing pool and become an editor. April is the beautiful country girl with a penchant for disastrous romances. Aspiring actress Gregg is tangled in a dangerous love affair with a playwright; and divorcée Barbara writes about lipsticks by day and cares alone for her daughter by night.
The Best of Everything, Rona Jaffe’s frank, scandalous and thrilling 1958 novel, follows them as they negotiate office romances, workplace politics, broken engagements, tiny apartments, lecherous bosses, heartbreak and lasting friendship.
‘Most career girls, past or present, will respond with the shock of authenticity’
The Saturday Review
‘It harks back to a saner time when choosing progress and modernity was as straightforward as ordering dinner – ‘Two Scotches with water on the side, and two steaks”
The Hunger Games trilogy
by Suzanne Collins
The stunning, gripping, and powerful trilogy is now complete!
The Hunger Games takes place in an unidentified future time period after the destruction of North America, in a nation known as Panem.
Panem consists of a rich Capitol and twelve surrounding, poorer districts. As punishment for a previous rebellion against the Capitol, every year one boy and one girl between the ages of 12 and 18 from each district are forced to participate in The Hunger Games.
This is a televised event where the participants, or tributes’, must fight to the death in a large outdoor arena until only one remains. The story follows fatherless 16-year-old Katniss Everdeen, a girl from District 12 who volunteers for the Games in place of her younger sister, Prim.
How to Make Gravy
by Paul Kelly
This extraordinary book has its genesis in a series of concerts first staged in 2004. Over four nights Paul Kelly performed, in alphabetical order, one hundred of his songs from the previous three decades. In between songs he told stories about them, and from those little tales grew How to Make Gravy, a memoir like no other. Each of its hundred chapters, also in alphabetical order by song title, consists of lyrics followed by a story, the nature of the latter taking its cue from the former. Some pieces are confessional, some tell Kelly’s personal and family history, some take you on a road tour with the band, some form an idiosyncratic history of popular music, some are like small essays, some stand as a kind of how-to of the songwriter’s art – from the point of inspiration to writing, honing, collaborating, performing, recording and reworking.
Paul Kelly is a born storyteller. Give him two verses with a chorus or 550 pages, but he won’t waste a word. How to Make Gravy is a long volume that’s as tight as a three-piece band. There isn’t a topic this man can’t turn his pen to – contemporary music and the people who play it, football, cricket, literature, opera, social issues, love, loss, poetry, the land and the history of Australia … there are even quizzes.
The writing is insightful, funny, honest, compassionate, intelligent, playful, erudite, warm, thought-provoking. Paul Kelly is a star with zero pretensions, an everyman who is also a renaissance man. He thinks and loves and travels and reads widely, and his musical memoir is destined to become a classic – it doesn’t have a bum note on it.
The Taste of River Water
New and selected poems by Cate Kennedy
Disarming, warm and always accessible, Cate Kennedy’s poems make ordinary experiences glow.
Everything that suffuses her well-loved prose is here: compassion, insight, lyrical precision and the clear, minimalist eye that reveals how life can turn on a single moment. Musing on the undercurrents and interconnections between legacy, memory, motherhood and the natural world, the poems in this exhilarating collection begin on the surface and then take us, gracefully effortlessly, to a far more thought-provoking place.
Grounded in lived experience, with all its mysteries and consolations they resonate with a passionate, sensuous honesty.
A short time ago Monica answered out Ten Terrifying Questions – here’s a taste…
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 the Clare Valley wine region of South Australia, where my Dad was the railway stationmaster and my Mum looked after the seven of us before fleeing the house for a quieter job in the local library. I went to primary school at St Joseph’s in Clare and then to Clare High. After I matriculated, aged 17, I left Clare for the bright lights of Adelaide (and my first job as wardrobe girl on the Here’s Humphrey children’s TV program.)
2. What did you want to be when you were twelve, eighteen and thirty? And why?
When I was 12 I wanted to run my own restaurant. I set one up on the side verandah at home but quickly went bankrupt when my family refused to pay for their meals. When I was 18 I wanted to be either married to Bono from U2 or be U2’s backing singer. When I was 30 I wanted to be a fulltime writer.
3. What strongly held belief did you have at eighteen that you do not have now?
That I could stay up all night, dancing and going to gigs and not suffer any ill-effects the next day.
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? Click here for more…
About the Contributor
While still in his twenties, John Purcell opened a second-hand bookshop in Mosman, Sydney, in which he sat for ten years reading, ranting and writing. Since then he has written, under a pseudonym, a series of very successful novels, interviewed hundreds of writers about their work, appeared at writers’ festivals, on TV (most bizarrely in comedian Luke McGregor’s documentary Luke Warm Sex) and has been featured in prominent newspapers and magazines. Now, as the Director of Books at booktopia.com.au, Australia’s largest online bookseller, he supports Australian writing in all its forms. He lives in Sydney with his wife, two children, three dogs, five cats, unnumbered gold fish and his overlarge book collection.