Booksellers' Book Club: April

Chloe

Welcome back to The Booksellers' Book Club. Here you will find out what Avid staff members are currently reading, have just read, or plan to read next.

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KEV - co-owner

Prize Fighter by Future D. Fidel

I saw La Boite Theatre's production of the Prize Fighter when it debuted in 2016. Now, award-winning playwright Future D. Fidel has adapted the play for his debut novel.

Prize Fighter is inspired by Future's own story and those of people he has known. Prize Fighter starts with a ten year old Isa Alaki in the Congolese city of Bukavu prior to the outbreak of civil war. With his mother and sister murdered by the rebels Isa and his older brother Moise are ordered to bury their father alive. Then, the brothers are ordered to pick up guns and become child soldiers. After years of horror Isa escapes making his way to Australia via Kenya leaving behind only memories of Moise. 

Arriving in Brisbane Isa must adjust to an alien environment and to his memories. He is consumed with discovering the fate of Moise and the only way he can raise the money for a search is to become a boxer.

Prize Fighter is an emotional and moving novel that builds on the success of the stage play.

Future D Fidel will launch Prize Fighter at Avid Reader on Wednesday 27 June. Book here.

The Love That I Have by James Moloney

In 1944 young Nazi Margot Baumann has left school to take a job in the mailroom at Sachsenhausen concentration camp near Berlin. She is a naive true beliver of the Furher. While she has no contact with prisoners she does handle their mail, most of which she is ordered to burn. 

Margot steals a few letters and comes to know prisoner Dieter Kleinschmidt through the beauty and the passion of his letters to his girlfriend also called Margot. It is like reading love letters written for her. She writes back to Dieter and becomes obsessed, willing to risk everything.   

With The Love That I Have multi-award-winning author James Moloney has given us a beautifully written and powerful story of love, loss and hope. 

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KRISSY - bookseller & events manager

Staying: A Memoir by Jessie Cole

I just endured a long haul flight to Slovenia and the only thing that kept me sane was reading Staying: A Memoir by Jessie Cole. It is a memoir about family by a woman whose older sister killed herself. This led to her father's slow descent into madness and, eventually his own suicide. But how do you make sense of all this when your adolescent is bracketed by these two violent deaths? Jessie's childhood was an idyllic hippy dream in Northern NSW and maybe her almost religious connection to landscape set her up for extreme resilience. This is a book about surviving, about enduring familial love and about finding yourself in the turmoil of life. In any other hands it could descend into self indulgence, but Jessie Cole is a fine writer and she has the lightest of touches.  The book managed to touch my heart without sinking me into tears and self pity. I found myself wondering about resilience, why do some people survive their family whilst other's don't. I highly recommend this book to anyone who has a complicated family relationship, and honestly, who doesn't?

Warlight by Michael Ondaatje

The last leg of my flight lead me to pick up Warlight, Michael Ondaatje's latest book. I expected greatness and so far it hasn't disappointed. It is the story of a young boy, Nathaniel and his older sister Rachel, living in post war England who are suddenly abandoned by their parents into the hands of the upstairs lodger who Nathaniel refers to as The Moth, a man who may or may not be a criminal. There is something odd in the life of Nathaniel's mother, who was possibly a spy in the war. She packs for a trip to Singapore, allowing the children to help her pack her large steamer trunk, weaving stories around every dress and jacket and book that she will take, but then Nathaniel finds the trunk hidden in the basement, full of all the lies that she told them. This is a book full of mysteries and secrets told by one of my favourite writers. I am loving this book, savouring every word.

The Death of Noah Glass by Gail Jones

I am about to read The Death of Noah Glass by Gail Jones. I am a big fan of Gail Jones' work. She has the heart of a poet and her work always inspires me in my own writing. This book will be the perfect accompaniment to my adventures researching my own book in Slovenia. 

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CHLOE - bookseller, social media manager, & website administrator

Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado

Everyone is raving about this collection of short stories and now I will officially join their ranks. It is fantastic. These stories are a curious mixture of science fiction, gothic, horror, and fairy tales that are both strange and relatable. As the title suggests, women's bodies are a recurring theme throughout. Women are being wiped out of existence, or literally disappearing into thin air. They are assaulted, loved, harassed, and adored.

Fans of Shirley Jackson, Angela Carter, and Helen Oyeyemi will love this collection.

The House of Impossible Beauties by Joseph Cassara

I picked up this book and wasn't expecting to like it. But I was wrong. I loved it. It really got inside me and I was fighting back tears in the end (something I haven't experienced for a while during my reading). It's set in the 1980s in New York City and follows a handful of queer and transgender latinos as they navigate the drag scene and discover their sexuality during the tragic HIV/AIDs epidemic. The glitzy, glittery drag scene is juxtaposed with drug addictions, death, homophobia, and racism. This book makes a big impression. It will fill your heart and then break it, just a little.

Eleanor Oliphant is Complete Fine by Gail Honeyman

This book has been appearing on "must read" lists since it was published so I decided to read it just to see what all the fuss was about. I was completely ready to dismiss it as feel-good fluff, so I was completely unprepared to utterly adore it. Eleanor Oliphant leads a very structured, but simple, life as an accounts manager. She wears the same clothes everyday, eats the same foods, and avoids small talk with any of her co-workers (or anyone at all, for that matter). Every Friday, she buys two bottles of vodka and spends her weekend blackout drunk before sobering up to start the work week all over again. She doesn't need anything and she doesn't want anything. That is, until one simple act of kindness makes her realise that her finely curated existence is a facade for the issues stemming from her troubled past. She starts to realise that maybe she isn't "fine" after all. 

This isn't your average feel-good book. It is complex, deep, and utterly real. It's also very funny and very touching. I adored it.

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TRENT - bookseller

Skinful of Shadows by Francis Hardinge

Gothic Fantasy set during the English Civil War. It’ll grip you from the start, not just from the internal battles of the main character Makepeace, but the battles gripping England as well.

No Point in Stopping by Samuel Maguire

A brilliant memoir that tackles Bipolar through a fantasy lens. It’s a fast paced, cracking read set in Brisbane, Ipswich and the dark, but sometimes gorgeous, spaces of the mind. I’ve not read anything quite like it, nor can I recommend it enough. Samuel writes with wit, heart, energy and honesty.

These are the Names by Tommy Wieringa

I stopped halfway through reading this a year back, but finally got around to finishing it. A haunting tale of immigration and the lengths people will go to find a home. Completely topical, and compassionate, it doesn’t find any easy answers for these characters trapped in corrupt and cruel world. It reads as something of a fever dream, but that could just be the fever I’ve had these last few days.

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BRI - bookseller, events coordinator

Miss Ex-Yugoslavia by Sofija Stefanovic

I've just finished Miss Ex-Yugoslavia by Sofija Stefanovic ahead of the event I'll be running with her when she comes to town in May. (For full disclosure: I've know Stefanovic for a few years now and consider her a friend.) This book is such a wonderful work of memoir--a strong example of how a life is formed by many small moments that gain significance when examined and written well. Stefanovic grew up in a country that would soon no longer exist and this is a coming-of-age story plus migrant story plus examination of modern political history. There are so many heartbreaking, touching moments with her parents in particular--one of whom adjusts to the move to Australia much better than the other. The book is a portrait of a life with a foot in each place, and of a child struggling to define themselves as not only distinct from her parents but also national identity. The final few chapters are the strongest. 

Selfie by Will Storr

I want to tell the whole world about Selfie by Will Storr. It's an examination of how America (with most discussions being applicable to Australians as well) became so self-obsessed - both for better and for worse. The internalised neo-liberalism I see in my peers, the constant drive for self-improvement made possible with fitness devices tracking us, the ability to re-write our personal histories through social media accounts... it's all interconnected. Storr isn't really judgmental about any of this stuff, he just seeks to understand. I didn't feel like I was being patronised, which often happens with this type of "why are we like this?" books written by people a few decades older than me. This book helped me understand myself a bit better. It's also really entertaining, with the perfect amount of Storr's own story leaving you wanting more. I wish they'd given it a better title.

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SPENCER - bookseller, events assistant

Do No Harm: Stories of Life, Death and Brain Surgery by Henry Marsh

I have just finished Do No Harm: Stories of Life, Death and Brain Surgery by acclaimed neurosurgeon Henry Marsh. A memoir of a life in neurosurgery, Marsh writes with great honesty and humanity. He vents at the bureaucracy of the NHS and attempts to make sense of his mistakes. He reflects on a career where he is in the morning, a saviour to one family, and in the afternoon a murderer to another, while appreciating that to become a great neurosurgeon – you must make mistakes. A rare account of a doctor breaking his silence, it is little wonder Do No Harm is an international bestseller.

Accidental Icon by Iris Apfel

Lately, I have been reading Iris Apfel’s Accidental Icon. Part memoir, part fashion, part wisdom - Accidental Icon is as lively as Iris herself. The book features plenty of pictures of - her clothes, her fabrics and assorted treasures, as well as sage advice from a ‘geriatric starlet’ – including the importance of appreciating the pleasures of a good cheese sandwich.

Of Human Bondage by Somerset Maugham

I am currently reading Of Human Bondage by Somerset Maugham. Of Human Bondage chronicles the life of Philip Carey as an orphan, a wayward artist and trainee doctor. Although a work of fiction, it is suspected to be Maugham’s most autobiographical work.

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KATHLEEN - bookseller, events co-ordinator

The King's English by Kingsley Amis

Opinionated, stubborn, affectionate, dismissive, jaunty, insightful, pragmatic: this is a delightfully useable style guide (if also the sort you'd like to fight occasionally). Often entertaining, sometimes thought-provoking, it stands as an entertaining prose work quite apart from its utility. For those inclined to amateur linguistics, however, it also provides a window on English of a particular era. 1994, as viewed by a writer in his '70s, is a dizzyingly long time ago.

Every Dead Thing and Dark Hollow by John Connolly

Excellent but grimly meandering Gothic modern detective thrillers - at this stage in the series, just beginning to turn from grisly serial killings to look askance at the shadows in the corner of the room, and what might be there. 

Yours Always: Letter of Longing ed. Eleanor Bass

Love letters, but not the sweet kind: this is a collection of letters of fraught, unrequited, doomed and unequal loves. It looks like a gift book, but it's the sort you'd give someone who knows they're well clear of a relationship. It is, however, a fascinating look at the jagged edges of some famous humans' hearts.

Tell the Truth, Shame the Devil by Melina Marchetta

Melina Marchetta's first adult crime novel, this was just a delight. I haven't worked out a way to describe it that doesn't make it sound Worth(TM) when it's straightforwardly charming and gripping and horrible and delightful. I both cried and clapped at several points. It's like a contemporary British noir miniseries if you found yourself actually hoping most of the characters would turn out okay. I want MORE of this crime-roadtrip-terrorism-rainmaker-thriller-novel genre whatever it is.

Death of a Gossip by M C Beaton

The first Hamish Macbeth novel (somehow I've never watched the series). If now slightly dated, it is intriguingly so, and the central characters are extremely endearing. Also the fastest-paced murder mystery I've read about fishing in Scotland.