Booksellers' Book Club: September


Welcome back to our 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.  



Just Read:

Hannah Green and her Unfeasibly Mundane Existence by Michael Marshall Smith

I just finished Michael Marshall Smith’s Hannah Green and Her Unfeasibly Mundane Existence which pushed all my stories featuring the Devil buttons, and journeys into Hell buttons. It’s a fun airport read that fans of Neil Gaiman will enjoy. [Fantasy]

Motherland Garden by Grace Dugan

Before that I was lucky enough to read a draft of Grace Dugan’s new novel Motherland Garden. It’s going to be published by the very excellent Twelfth Planet Press next year. Grace’s first novel was the Silver Road, which is still one of the best SF debuts I’ve ever read. Motherland Garden is an even richer novel, and I expect it to be on all of the Australian SF award shortlists in 2019. The book it brings to mind is Ursula Le Guin’s ‘The Dispossessed’ if you mixed it, just a little, with the world of Earthsea. I’m still thinking about this book, and I finished it several weeks ago. [Science Fiction/ Fantasy]

The Godless by Ben Peek

A truly epic piece of Fantasy storytelling, and very different to the other books we have read in the Avid SF Bookclub. I’ve really enjoyed the very wide range of SF as practiced by Australian authors. Ben is a great writer, and a very interesting one, and the world building that has gone into the Children Trilogy is remarkable. It’s rich and deeply thoughtful, with a lot of very contemporary issues writ large, doing what great fantasy is very good at - holding our world before us, adding the fantastic (in this case, giant, slowly dying gods, and their squabbling offspring) and then shaking it all together. [Fantasy]



Just Read:

The Ticking + Baby Bjornstrand by Renee French

Baby Bjornstrand takes the cake for weirdness being about a group of friends who find a strange aquatic birdlike creature that can mesmerise them. But The Ticking won my heart. It is about a boy who is born with a weird head and his father tries to keep him away from people who might laugh at him, and makes him wear a mask and tries to make him have surgery to fix his face.  It is really all about accepting your difference and it is beautifully illustrated. Renee French is very David Lynchesque. [Graphic Novels]

Currently Reading:

Mysteries of the Quantum Universe by Thibault Damour and Mattieu Burniat

Quantum physics is very complicated and if you want to get your head around it it feels much better to be in the company of an equally bemused narrator called Bob and his dog Rick who is both alive and dead at the same time. This book is a nice companion piece to Unflattening by Nick Sousanis which is about seeing things in multiple dimensions. [Graphic Novel]

Staying With The Trouble by Donna Haraway

I am also close to finishing Donna Harraway's Staying With The Trouble. This is a book that has had me racing to read the work of Ursula le Guin amongst others. It is about the Chthulucene which Harraway dubs the era that comes after the Anthropocene which is our current time right now.  She suggests that we will need to realise that humans are just one in a network of creatures and that knowledge cannot be centralised. She celebrates critters like octopuses and ants and plants and the knowledge they bring with them to the conversation. Harraway wants us to find kin - creatures that we can connect with and feel close to and share information with. Strings of desperate creatures learning from each other and bringing other strings with them. [Culture]

Quarterly Essay: Moral Panic by Benjamin Law

I am deep in the wonderful essay Moral Panic by Benjamin Law and it is a smart and well researched but also personal and engaging essay about the Safe School's program and the furore around it. Seems timely when the LGBTIQ are having to hold up under the stress of the whole nation voting on who they can or cannot marry. Bullying in schools really happens and we know this as the nation is bullying Queer folk publicly and unashamedly whilst this ridiculous postal survey is metered out. I suppose you can tell I'm cranky about all this, but I am glad that we have people like Ben Law bringing the conversation to the table in such a clear and thoughtful way. [Culture]

In the Darkroom by Susan Faludi

I have also just begun Susan Faludi's In the Dark Room, the fascinating portrait of her transgender parent and the complicated relationship Faludi had with him as a child and that she then had with her as an adult who reappeared in her life after years of absence. [Biography]

The Restorer by Michael Sala

I am finally reading Michael Sala's The Restorer. I know one of Fiona's bookclubs read and loved it but the recent BWF prompted me to read it. It is dark and resonant and reminds me of some of the best of Sonia Hartnett's writing. A family reconciles after a period apart due to domestic violence and they move to a small town to restore a very damaged house. The house is a metaphor for the family itself. The beauty of the book is in the simple evocative prose. I am loving it. [Crime]



Just Read:

City of Crows by Chris Womersley

City of Crows artfully mixes historical fiction, magic, and superstition to create a fast-paced and utterly addictive read. The story, set in the 17th Century, follows Charlotte Picot as she flees her village in France with her only remaining son in an attempt to avoid an outbreak of the plague. Soon, however, Charlotte is attacked and her son stolen by slavers. Desperate to save her son, Charlotte enlists the help of witches, demons, and black magic. Womersley transforms Paris into the stinking cesspool of depravity and devilry. He writes so well that you will wonder what is real and what is imagined. This book is incredible and I would highly recommend it to all lovers of historical fiction, magical realism, and the gothic. [Historical Fiction]

The Power by Naomi Alderman

I read The Power for last month's book club and thoroughly enjoyed it. Alderman creates a world where women develop the power to create and control electricity. Suddenly, the power paradigm shifts all over the world as women discover their new found strength, and men struggle to adapt to a world where they are no longer feared.  [Speculative Fiction]

Currently Reading:

Memoirs of a Polar Bear by Yoko Tawada

I'm currently reading Memoirs of a Polar Bear for next week's book club. It's wonderful so far. The prose is beautifully constructed and entirely original. The book is split into three parts, told by three different viewpoints. The first part is told by an unnamed polar bear who decides to write her autobiography. The third is told by a circus animal trainer and follows the life of the first bear's daughter. The third, which I'm not up to yet - is about the daughter's son. In this way, we see three generations of polar bears who have grown up in a human world and the consequences of this. Part speculative fiction, part surrealism, this book is immersive and strange (in the best possible way). Fans of Haruki Murakami and Han Kang will enjoy this book. [Fiction]

To Read Next:

We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson

Since studying gothic fiction at university, I am now obsessed with gothic fiction. This book looks fantastic and is a gothic classic, so obviously I need to read it as soon as possible. [Classic/ Gothic Fiction]



Just Read:

The Red-Haired Woman by Orhan Pamuk

Last year I read Orhan Pamuk's A Strangeness in My Mind, a sweeping story of Mevlut, a boza seller who over four decades describes the changes in Istanbul. I have just finished his latest novel The Red-Haired Woman. It is a fable of fathers and sons and their desires. Both novels are aborsing and Pamuk is a master storyteller. [Fiction]

Bluebird, Bluebird by Attica Locke

Bluebird, Bluebird by Attica Locke (due in October) is a crime novel set in the tiny rural town of Lark, Texas where law and order plays by its own rules. Two murders, a black man and white woman, within three days of each other. Are they connect? Are they racially motivated and what role does the KKK play in town? Texas Ranger Darren Mathews is put on the job by officers with their own motives. Attica Locke has written a thriller which won't disappoint. [Crime]



Just Read:

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

I have just finished Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina. A story as much about human nature as it is about love, it offers a charmed but fraught insight into 19th century Russian life. I have to agree with Fyodor Dostoyevsky in saying it is as ‘flawless as a work of art’. I am tempted to turn back to the start! [Classic Fiction]

Currently Reading:

Rules of Civility by Amor Towles

I am currently reading Amor Towles’ debut novel Rules of Civility. Set in 1930s New York it is complete with jazz bars, cocktails and fortuitous encounters. The story of Katey Kontent, a Russian immigrant determined to find her fortune in New York, the story is told from the vantage point of an older woman reflecting on a year of mixed fortunes. I read Towles’ second book A Gentleman in Moscow earlier this year and really enjoyed it and so far, Rules of Civility is proving to be just as engaging. [Fiction]

The Hotel Years by Joseph Roth

On the side, I’ve also been reading The Hotel Years, a collection of essays written in the 1920s and 30s by journalist and novelist Joseph Roth. Detailing his ‘wanderings in Europe between the wars’ Roth provides insight into a Europe recovering from the effects of World War One and preparing for another while providing stories of the idiosyncratic characters he meets on his travels. A journalist he was also a rebel with a talent for observation. Its essay style makes it the perfect ‘in-between’ reading. [Essays]
To Read Next:

Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller

Henry Miller’s controversial Tropic of Cancer. Initially banned in the United States, I decided after shelving it a couple of weeks ago that I needed to read it. [Classic Fiction]



Just Read:

Heather, The Totality by Matthew Weiner 

A little novella by the creator of Mad Men, it's a strange pot of water on the stove that starts very innocent but quickly becomes uncomfortable with some pretty unlikable characters, and a growing obsession over the young daughter Heather which causes the pot to boil over. It's over in a second and I'm not sure how the book made me feel, but I'm still thinking about it. [Fiction]

Currently Reading:

Grace by Paul Lynch

I've just started Grace by Paul Lynch, about the Irish Great Famine of 1845 told through the eyes of a 14 year old girl who one morning is snatched out of bed by her widowed mother, has her head shaved and dressed as a boy, and pushed out into the world to find work. As seems to be the way with Irish writers, there is great beauty in the ugliness of reality and their descent into despair. [Historical Fiction]



Just Read:

The Student by Iain Ryan

I just finished reading The Student by Iain Ryan. Dark and Violent crime from an author originally from Brisbane. It's an extremely easy read despite the grit and gore thanks to Ryan's casually deep and human characters and the fast-paced action that starts practically from page 1. Set in a college at Gatton university in the 90s, many of the references and themes will be very relevant and almost painfully real for locals. [Crime]

Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann

Last month I also read Killers of The Flower Moon by David Grann. A truly fascinating, shocking true story of the Osage Indian nation, and how the discovery of oil on their lands lead to both untold wealth and even more exploitation and danger from America's white settlers. The book also paints a vivid picture of the end of the cowboy frontier culture in America, and the beginning of the FBI lead by the exceedingly shady J Egar Hoover. [History]

Currently Reading:

The Choke by Sophie Laguna

I'm currently reading Sophie Laguna's 'The Choke' - like the Eye of The Sheep it's a story told from the perspective of a young child (in this case 8 year old Justine) in a tense and dangerous family situation trying to make sense of the world and the people who are meant to love them - and the bad things they do. It's a sinister, heartbreaking book but Justine's strength and hopefulness keep you in the story. The Choke is also a story about the damage war does to soldiers even after they return - Justine's grandpa was a prisoner of war on the Bruma Railway, and his trauma effects his son - Justine's violent father - and grandchildren. [Fiction]

To Read Next: 

The Life to Come by Michelle de Krester

I'm about the start reading Michelle De Kretser's The Life to Come - I've never read any of De Kretser's work before, but after reading all the glowing praise for her other books ahead of our event on October 3rd I realised this had to be rectified! [Fiction]



Just Read:

You Play the Girl: On Playboys Bunnies, Princesses, Trainwrecks & other Man-made Women by Carina Chocano

Pop culture critic Carina Chocano merges memoir and commentary to explore how fictional women influences various cultures and in turn shapes ideas about who women are, what they are meant to be, and where they belong. [Culture]

Currently Reading: 

The 7th Function of Language by Laurent Binet

If you are looking for a satirical political conspiracy thriller featuring Michel Foucault, Roland Barthes, Jacques Derrida, Julia Kristeva, and Simon Herzog which also references Mad Max and James Bond on the same page well The 7th Function of Language may just be what you are looking for. This novel takes place in the 1980's Paris and centres around the murder investigation of Rolland Barthes. Could Francois Mitterand or Margaret Thatcher be connected to his death? And can a missing paper be found which uncovers the mysterious seventh function of language – a persuasive function that if mastered would enable a person to convince anyone else to do anything at all in any situation?  The 7th Function of Language is a perfect book to just completely lose yourself in. [Fiction]

To Read Next:

In the Midst of Winter by Isabel Allende (out November)

I first heard of the new Allende novel a few months ago at a publisher Christmas roadshow and couldn't wait to get my hands on an advanced copy. According to The Washington Post In the Midst of Winter “recalls Allende’s landmark novel The House of the Spirits in the way it embraces the cause of humanity, and it does so with passion, humour, and wisdom that transcend politics”. I've enjoyed Allende's recent work as much as her earlier writing and I'm sure this novel which takes place in 1970's Chile and Brazil and present day Brooklyn and Guatemala won't disappoint. [Fiction]



Just Read:

Take Three Girls by Cath Crowley, Fiona Hall, and Simmone Howell

I recently finished Take Three Girls, a collaborative novel by three female greats of Australian YA - Cath Crowley, Fiona Hall and Simmone Howell. This was a compelling read that gave me insight into the impact of cyberbullying amidst teenagers today as its three female protagonists become unlikely friends and targets of a gossip site generated by students from their private girls’ school and their ‘brother’ school. What I really enjoyed about the book was how each character - the disenchanted sports star, popular girl with tumultuous home life and academic achiever who aspires to be a musician, equally show their vulnerabilities and intelligence as they wrestle desires vs. responsibilities, compassion vs. self preservation, and integrity vs. social acceptance all while genuinely trying to figure out who the are. A tall order for a teen! The book also has a spectacular ending that gave me hope and faith in teen girls today. [YA Fiction]

The Perfect Thing by Sally Morgan

At the other end of the spectrum… so many picture books! I’m obsessed with The Perfect Thing by Sally Morgan, a beautifully bold and brightly illustrated picture book about the imaginative adventures of an Aboriginal grandfather and his grand daughter as they make their way to the park and end up walking on rainbows! [Picture Book]

Thank You Bees by Toni Yuly

Thank you Bees by Toni Yuly is a simple but fantastic book that links nature with what it provides for us and instills gratitude in the reader - great to read aloud. [Picture Book]

Ella Sings the Blues by Helen Hancocks

Ella Sings the Blues by Helen Hancocks not only introduces kids to jazz, and its Queen, but also sensitively teaches them about racism and segregation through the story of Ella’s struggles to find performance spaces and how her friendship with Marilyn Monroe helped both women to achieve their ambitions. [Picture Book]