Booksellers' Book Club: October

Chloe

Welcome back to our new monthly feature - The Booksellers' Book Club. Here you will find out what Avid staff members are currently reading, have just read, and plan on reading next.  

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CHLOË - Avid social media manager, website assistant, bookseller

Just Read:

The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge

Everyone assumes that Faith is a bland and dutiful daughter. But when her family suddenly pack up their lives and move to a remote island, Faith can't help but try to unravel the mystery of why. When her naturalist father is found dead in curious circumstances, Faith must also discover the mystery of his death... Or was it murder? Faith uncovers her father's biggest secret - a tree that feeds on lies and reveals hidden truths to those who eat of its fruit. This thrilling book is filled with mystery, magic, and lots of kickass feminism. [Young Adult/ Horror]

White is for Witching by Helen Oyeyemi

White is for Witching is gothic fiction at its best. Oyeyemi's work has been described as Angela Carter meets Edgar Allen Poe - it is fantastical, uncanny, and peculiar. In this spine-tingling tale, our 'heroine' Miranda lives in a haunted house with a terrible eating disorder called pica - the persistent eating of substances with no nutritional value. In Miranda's case, she develops a taste for chalk that begins to transform into something more sinister. [Gothic Fiction]

Bright Air Black by David Vann

This book is for the next Young & Restless book club on November 2nd. In sparkling poetic prose, Vann retells the ancient Greek myth of Medea - a tormented woman who dismembers her brother and slaughters her children. In this tale, Vann paints a new portrait of one of Greek mythology's most fascinating and notorious figures. While the prose is beautiful and the mythology fascinating, I found the story too slow and the descriptions too repetitive and self-indulgent. [Fiction/ Horror]

Currently Reading:

The Inner Life of Animals by Peter Wohlleben

The Inner Life of Animals is the latest book from the bestselling author of The Hidden Life of Trees. I've only just started it, but I'm already enjoying it immensely. I am a huge animal lover and rights activist, so this book both fills me with joy and makes me realise how much we humans don't deserve animals. We like to pretend that animals are below us to make us feel better about exploiting them, but this book shows that they love, grieve, and feel as wide a range of emotions as we do. Read this now and change your perspective. [Science]

La Belle Sauvage: The Book of Dust 1 by Philip Pullman

I've almost finished Philip Pullman's latest book! I loved His Dark Materials, so I could not wait to jump back into this wonderful world. The book is set ten years prior to Northern Lights, and follows young Malcolm and his daemon Aster as they are forced into a dangerous mission to save a baby named Lyra (yes, the Lyra) from a terrible fate. It's just such a wonderful tale - courageous, beautiful, exciting... everything you would expect from Pullman and his mysterious worlds. [Young Adult/ Fantasy]

To Read Next:

Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer

I am very excited to start Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer - the first book in his Southern Reach Trilogy. VanderMeer is a spectacularly talented and wildly imaginative science fiction/ speculative fiction writer. This year I read his book Borne, and was completely addicted and absorbed by it. Annihilation looks to be just as transfixing. Plus, it has just been made into a movie with Natalie Portman and Oscar Isaac! The book is about a mysterious and remote disaster zone called Area X. A secret government agency has sent eleven expeditions to investigate the area, all of which have ended in disaster and death. This story follows the twelfth expedition into the unknown. [Science Fiction]

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TRENT - SF expert, author, bookseller

Just Read:

Tales from Earthsea and The Other Wind by Ursula K. Le Guin

I’ve just finished reading Ursula K. Le Guin’s Tales from Earthsea, as well as her novel The Other Wind. They’re the last two books in the Earthsea series. To my shame I hadn’t read them despite adoring the previous books. They’re a beautiful meditation on what it means to give up power unjustly gained, and how to address the sins of previous generations. They may have dragons, and wizards, and kings, but these are progressive and timeless works that also speak to the moment we are living in. The Wizard of Earthsea is a book I come back to time and time again, and it was a delight to finally get around to reading these last volumes in a series that is as important to Twentieth Century fantasy as anything that J.R.R. Tolkien or C.S. Lewis wrote, and continues to be vital into this century. [Fantasy]

The Undercurrent by Paula Weston

I’m also loving Paula Weston’s The Undercurrent, we’ll be talking about it at the next SF bookclub (the last one of the year). [Science Fiction]

La Belle Sauvage: The Book of Dust 1 by Philip Pullman

I may have bought a copy of the new Philip Pullman, on account of Marina Warner’s review in the Guardian today. I only meant to have a quick look and I’m already a hundred pages in. It’s a cracker. I’d forgotten how wonderful an invention the daemon’s were, and Malcolm Polstead is a fabulous hero, and anyone who loved the first series (particularly the The Northern Lights) will adore this. I was a bit dubious going in, on account of it being a prequel, but it’s completely enchanting, beautifully plotted (Pullman understands the poetry of suspense), and completely gripping. [Young Adult/ Fantasy]

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KRISSY - events manager, author, bookseller

Just Read:

Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado

When a short story collection gets shortlisted for the prestigious National Book Award you need to take a second look. Her Body and Other Parties is a strange visceral experience. It is very much set around the intersections between the human body and the outside world. Each of the stories starts deep in the flesh and bone of a protagonist. In one story a woman recounts her sexual encounters one by one as a terrible virus sweeps across the globe killing a huge proportion of the population. Touch is the thing that makes us human even though touch can be a death sentence in this story. In another story women start to fade away to nothing but allow themselves to be sewn into the lining of graduation dresses so that only the dresses give them form. In yet another story a woman finds love and makes a family and the relationship is perfect as long as her husband does not touch the ribbon she wears around her neck, but the lure of the unknown is just too much for him. These stories are strange and beautiful but it is the voice that gives them life. Machado is a writer I immediately want to hear more from. This book has turned up on so many 'books of the year' lists and I am joining the ranks of the fans. [Short stories]

Monograph by Chris Ware

I have long been a fan of graphic novelist Chris Ware. His book Jimmy Corrigan is still one of my favourite books of all time. His more recent Building Stories took him off the shelf and into a box with a collection of posters, books, pages, magazines, and images that could be picked up and read in any order that brought you the life of one grand old building and its residents. Now Ware is tackling the form of memoir with this oversized and gorgeous book 'Monograph'. It is packed with the beautiful structured images that Ware fans know and love and gives you an insight into Wares work, life, and mind. It is an object that deserves pride of place on a coffee table. In fact it is so large, put a couple of milk crates under it and it could be a coffee table. Don't miss out on the first print run of this highly collectable work of genius. [Art]

Dancing at the Edge of the World by Ursula K. Le Guin

I have just been reading Ursula K. Le Guin's Dancing at the Edge of the World. These are essays about science fiction, feminism, politics and humanity. she is the wisest soul. Reading her essays makes me love her more. I find myself nodding and underlining so much of the text. I don't think I will be able to speak in public without quoting Le Guin. This book was written in 1989 and has recently been updated. Le Guin speaks to herself in italics throughout the text so that we see how her ideas on age, feminism, and gender have moved on in the intervening years. The evolution of her thinking just makes me love her more as she acknowledges that truth is an ever shifting thing and that it lives in lock-step with culture and our collective ideas at any given time. [Essays]

To Read Next:

Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders

One of my books of the year just won the Mann Booker prize. I have decided to re-read this amazing book immediately. In fact, I am also going to start listening to the audio book which is read by an all-star cast including Julianne Moore, David Seders, Miranda July, Carrie Brownstein, and Lena Dunham. I have never read a book like it. It is about the death of Abraham Lincoln's ten-year-old son who is laid to rest beside the restless souls of a bunch of ghosts. Lincoln visits his son in the mausoleum and these ghosts watch the man grieve and find their own ways to deal with the knowledge that they too must be dead. To look at this book seems to be written in play format, with the voices left to speak for themselves. The characters are funny and poignant and entertaining in so many ways and after a few pages you settle in to the style and enjoy this wild and singular ride. There will never be another one like it. Very, very worthy winner! [Fiction]

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KATHY - bookseller

Just Read:

The First Bad Man by Miranda July

I recently read Miranda July's The First Bad Man. July's debut novel, The First Bad Man was released in 2015, but I only recently read it. It follows Cheryl Glick, a middle-aged woman who is infatuated with her boss, and suffers from 'globus' (a debilitating restriction in the throat) which she attempts to cure through 'chromotherapy'. Cheryl also believes she is spiritually connected to a child named Kubelko Bondy, whose soul resides in a number of babies whom she encounters throughout her life. This is largely a love story, both of a romantic and sexual nature, and of a self-love and maternal nature. This book is funny, unnerving, and unusual. [Fiction]

Currently Reading:

Theft by Finding by David Sedaris

I am currently reading Theft by Finding by David Sedaris. This is a collection of diary entries from 1977 to 2002. It is a delightful selection of the wry observations and reflections that Sedaris is renowned for. Comprised of observations on strangers, acquaintances, friends, and loved ones, it is able to be read in a casual, non-linear fashion. However, it also charts the author's progression from a young man preoccupied with substance abuse and alcoholic tendencies, doing irregular jobs and making art intermittently, to the writer whose simultaneously sardonic and poignant voice has made him so beloved. We also see his relationship with partner Hugh progress, and follow his family, including perhaps equally-famous sister Amy. I am excited to read David Sedaris Diaries: A Visual Compendium, which is a stunning companion to Theft by Finding, and is chock-full of images picked from Sedaris' diaries. [Essays]

To Read Next:

Difficult Women by Roxane Gay

I plan on next reading Difficult Women by Roxane Gay. This is a collection of short stories that follows a number of women who defy stereotypes. No matter the genre, Gay has such a command over emotion and humour, and possesses a feminist sensibility that I am certain will be reflected in this collection. [Short Stories]

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SPENCER - bookseller, events assistant

Just Read:

Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami

This month I read Murakami’s novel Norwegian Wood. First published in 1987, it was Murakami’s break through novel – it is said that everyone in Japan has read it. Set amongst the upheaval of the student movement it highlights the tension between the present and the past and the complexity of human nature. A nostalgic novel that confronts themes of death and grief, it is written both thoughtfully and evocatively. It stands testament to why Murakami was this year shortlisted for the Nobel Prize for Literature. I look forward to reading more Murakami soon. [Fiction]

Currently Reading:

I Love Dick by Chris Kraus

I am currently reading Chris Kraus’ I Love Dick. A unique work, much of the story is told through ‘letters’ from an infatuated Chris Kraus to the ‘rogue academic’, Dick. It is bold and according to Chris Kraus herself, somewhat fiction, somewhat non-fiction. [Fiction]

To Read Next:

Chelsea Girls by Eileen Myles

Next on my list to read is Chelsea Girls by American writer and poet Eileen Myles. A rebel with a cause, it documents Myles’ conflicted Catholic upbringing and life as a poet in 1970s and 80s New York. [Classic Fiction]

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MADDY - events coordinator, bookseller

Just read:

The Life to Come by Michelle De Krester

This book is everything good about contemporary literary fiction - it's sharply funny, deeply moving and real. It's a story about different kinds of writers and readers, and people whose inner desires and ambitions don't reflect their outer lives, and their struggle to come to terms with the life they've got. Set mainly in Sydney and France, De Kretser shows us the real world through a more observant person's eye. The characters are flawed and empathetic, if not always likeable, and their backstories and settings are fleshed out with historical research that brings a real richness to the book. I had read a lot about the beauty of De Kretser's prose before reading this book, but was blown away all the same. [Fiction]

Blitzed by Norman Ohler

Just when you think they've run out of things to say about World War II! This has been one of the most popular non-fiction books this year, though I delayed reading it because I thought there might not be much more to say than 'Hitler took drugs'. I was very wrong! This book details the impact that morphine, cocaine and, most prominently, methamphetamine, had on both the Nazi's terrible rise to power and eventual downfall, as well as the way Hitler himself became pathetically dependant on all kind of substances thanks to his shyster personal physician Morell. It was astonishing to read how accepted the use of what we now think of as hard core drugs was not just in the military, but also in German culture at large - and how much hypocrisy there was in the Nazi's dedication to 'purity' while drug dependencies ran rampant. Ohler's dry sense of humour and uncompromising clarity makes this a very easy to read account of an unknown side of one of the most written about parts of history. [History]

Before The Fall by Noah Hawley

This book, by the creator of the TV series Fargo, was released last year without too much fanfare in Australia, but it's as gripping and ultimately, rewarding, a thriller as you'll read. The book begins with a plane crash,and becomes not just the story of how it happened, but how the world reacts to tragedy, and the expectations placed on the people left behind. Hawley takes a strong stance against the modern media's tendency to create news, rather than just report it, and the book shows some of the ugliest sides of American culture. But what keeps you reading are the characters searching for the truth of what happened, and the slow reveal of the events that lead up to the crash. A great summer read for anyone who likes their crime more thinky than bloody. [Fiction]

Currently Reading:

Call of the Reed Warbler by Charles Massey

I've only just started this book, but I'm already fired up! Sustainable and renewable agriculture is a passion of mine - but nowhere near as much as it is for Charles Massey, who's written this beautiful, clear-eyed account of how modern farming practices are damaging to environment and our health, and those amazing farmers who are developing new ways to grow food that respects the land and gives us hope that the future might not be as bleak as it seems, if we make big changes now. One of the most inspiring books I've read since Bruce Pascoe's Dark Emu. [Science]

To Read Next:

Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan 

I liked A Visit from The Goon Squad a lot, though was slightly annoyed by the obvious, dour predictions in the chapters set in the future. Thankfully, Egan's new book is historical fiction! I'm really looking forward to reading it. [Fiction]

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SARAH - head book buyer, bookseller

Just Read:

The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart by Holly Ringland

This month I read The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart by Holly Ringland, a wonderful debut Australian author who I'm expecting big things from. The story starts with a tragedy, and young Alice is sent to live with the grandmother she never knew existed at the family run native flower farm, where in the Victorian tradition every flower has a meaning to say what words can't. As she grows in her new environment, family secrets long buried start to poke through the surface. Alice Hart is vibrant and enchanting, full of love, betrayal, and full of such wonderfully complex characters I feel like I know them all personally. It's not out until April 2018 but mark it in your diaries! [Fiction]

The Travelling Cat Chronicles by Hiro Arikawa

I also read The Travelling Cat Chronicles by Hiro Arikawa‎. My ears pricked up when I heard that this was translated by Philip Gabriel who also translates all of Haruki Murakami's books into English, and after some pretty heavy reads last month I wanted something a bit more uplifting. The Travelling Cat Chronicles definitely delivers, and although it tugs on the heart strings I came away feeling better than I did before I started. Mostly told from the perspective of Nana, a stray cat taken in by the lonely Satoru as they they travel together visiting old friends to find him a Nana new home. Nana's honest cat observations give a witty relief to the emotional depth of the story. I think this will make a wonderful gift and not just for cat lovers. [Fiction]

To Read Next:

My Absolute Darling by Gabriel Tallent

Next on my reading pile is My Absolute Darling by Gabriel Tallent, it's come very highly recommended to me and is a violent book about a 14 year old girl struggling to escape her father's abuse. [Fiction]

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HELEN - special orders expert, bookseller

Just Read:

Alexei Sayle's Imaginary Sandwich Bar by Alexei Sayle

From behind the counter of his imaginary sandwich bar Alexei's philosophical memoir combines a love of sandwiches and pretending; proving there truly is a correlation between capitalism and all-you-can-eat buffets. [Memoir] 

Currently Reading: 

The Relive Box and Other Stories by T.C. Boyle

Boyle is a brilliant short story teller and has a great skill of immersing you into a story quickly. The characters in this collection aren't particularly exceptional rather just ordinary people doing the best they can in an environment the have no control. 'The Relive Box' was first published in The New Yorker in 2014. [Short stories]   

To Read Next:

Fresh Complaint by Jeffery Eugenides

This collection of short 10 stories were written across the expanse of his career. One of the earliest, 'Baster', appeared in The New Yorker in 1996. Could there be a pattern emerging in my reading habits? [Short stories]