Booksellers' Book Club: September

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.

CHLOË

Our Life in the Forest by Marie Darrieussecq

In the near dystopian future, a woman runs from her life as a psychotherapist in a controlling city to live with a group of misfits and their clones in the forest. The group form a resistance against the terror of the city and plan to free more clones. But soon, their bodies start to fail them and their clones start behaving strangely. The truth about their lives and their world starts to become startlingly apparently and their worst fears may just be confirmed. A twisted, creepy, and punchy tale that gets weirder and more addictive with every page. I loved it!

Early Riser by Jasper Fforde

Early Riser is Jasper Fforde’s first standalone novel and you can expect the same level of satire, absurdity, and ridicule as his series (The Eyre Affair, Shades of Grey). In a dystopian Wales where humans spend the extreme winter hibernating, Charlie joins the Winter Consul—an elite group tasked with protecting the sleepers from Nightwalkers (zombies), Villains (the English), and Wintervolk (mythological creatures). Soon, Charlie is caught up in conspiracies, viral dreams, and an epic battle against a giant corporation set on monetising people’s misfortunes. This book is perfect for fans of Terry Pratchett and Douglas Adams, or just anyone who loves their fantasy reading more on the hilarious side.

Boom and Bust by Royce Kurmelovs

In Boom and Bust, Royce Kurmelovs delves deep into the lives of politicians, public figures and the general populace to understand more about the people who lived through one of the most turbulent times in one of Australia’s most volatile industries. It’s a brilliant achievement that is both political and conversational. It is an insightful exploration of our culture by one of Australia’s most important socio-political voices and a vital read for anyone who is interested in the real people behind the sensationalist headlines. (See my full review on Kill Your Darlings here.)

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KRISSY

Diving for Seahorses by Hilde Østby and Ylva Østby

Exactly how do we remember and why do we remember the things we do when so much of our life is forgotten? Diving for Seahorses does a deep dive into the history and science of memory, bringing up fascinating case-studies, personal stories and little gems of science along the way. I highly recommend this fascinating book by a duo of sisters, one a writer, and one a neuropsychologist.

Superior Spectre by Angela Meyer

This is Angela Meyer's first novel and so far it is a ripper. I am immersed in this tale of other body habitation and thoroughly enjoying the mind-bending ideas presented here. In 2024 a man escapes the confines of an ageing body and travels back in time to the 1860s to inhabit the body of a Scottish woman from the past. The ideas of intrabody experiences, time travel, scientific advances, class and gender divides are all explored in this fascinating first novel.

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TRENT

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

I’m reading The Hobbit to my newborn baby and she’s loving it, though she keeps wanting to know how they could have possibly thought it was a good idea make the movie adaptation into a trilogy.

Lud-In-The-Mist by Hope Mirrlees

I’m about to reread Lud-In-The-Mist by Hope Mirrlees. It’s an early twentieth century fantasy novel about fairies that may be one of the most influential fantasy novels ever written that you have never heard about. Hope Mirrlees was a fascinating writer, and the novel is note perfect. It’s also just been reissued in a fabulous new paperback with a lovely cover quote by Neil Gaiman, whose novel Stardust was heavily influenced by this book. It’s about a town on the edge of fairy, and what happens to people when they eat the forbidden fairy fruit. It’s fabulous stuff, and one of my favourite novels.

Wintering by Krissy Kneen

Krissy’s incapable of writing a bad book, and Wintering gets to the poetic heart of a thriller. It’s dark, gorgeous and magical.

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SARAH

Women Talking by Miriam Toews

Based on the true crime of the mass assault and rape of the women in a Mennonite community, where over several years a group of their own brothers, fathers and sons drugged each of the women and assaulted them during the night, and the religious leaders (all men) dismissed the women as lying, as imaging things, as God punishing them for their sins. Women Talking takes this premise and imagines where the women can go from there; their attackers are returning to the community on bail and the women have a choice - stay and forgive the men, stay and fight, or leave and start their own new community. The entire novel takes place in an attic over a couple of days where the women meet and discuss religion, philosophy, forgiveness, and women's rights, without even knowing what women's rights are; these women's whole life has been their religion and obeying their husbands, and suddenly they have to question everything they have been taught. As an atheist I found the conversations incredibly insightful, the women are strong but indoctrinated, philosophical but illiterate, their stories tied together by a Mennonite man who has recently returned to the community as a teacher after his family was excommunicated - as he cannot farm he is seen not quite fully male and is taking notes on their meeting. It's a book I can't stop thinking about, and although it was short I wanted to savour reading it.

Friday Black by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah

A collection of stories on race and capitalism that are brutal and cut deep, Friday Black is an uncomfortable but important read for a privileged white person like myself. The semi dystopian stories seem to take the headlines and push them to the extreme, while keeping them chillingly close to home. The opener, "The Finkelstein 5" follows a young man who has been trained since birth to control how his blackness is perceived by others (job interview - dress smart, put on his white person voice, blackness at 5.6. Wears a hoodie - blackness jumps to 7.2) as the city disintegrates into violence following the acquittal of a man who murdered 5 black children with a chainsaw because as an American he felt threatened by there mere existence. It's like a season of Black Mirror, after each story you might need a day or two to decompress.

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SPENCER

Ayiti by Roxane Gay

I have been reading Roxane Gay’s collection of short-stories, Ayiti. Exploring the Haitian diaspora experience, Gay’s stories confront immigration, identity and the ‘American dream’. Some of the stories are only a page long and others much longer, but they all provide a unique and at times confronting picture of Haitians at home and abroad. These fifteen contemporary short-stories are vivid and political, and a testament to both Gay and the short-story.

Fear by Bob Woodward

I have just started Fear By Bob Woodward. Much anticipated and much debated, Woodward’s abilities have struck fear into eight administrations. Focusing on the Trump administration’s first year in office, Woodward reports on Trump’s domestic and foreign policy decisions, and how his administration manages the President himself. In parts, Woodward provides a day by day account of Trump’s approach to North Korea, Afghanistan and Russia. He also provides intimate accounts of the personal dynamics between Trump and his advisors, from Bannon to McMaster, Mattis and Gary Cohn. If you read one book on the Trump White House, it should probably be this one. Woodward has the ability to make people talk.

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INDY

Lagoon by Nnedi Okorafor

Adaora, Anthony and Agu are serendipitously brought into each other’s lives when a meteorite hits the beach of Lagos, Nigeria. Amongst the dynamics of their new relationships, together they must navigate the ethics and politics of an impending alien invasion. Okorafor crafts eco sci-fi about human destruction and our responsibility to our physical as well as intangible surrounds, blurring the line between the two. Okorafor’s important ecological message is distilled in her beautiful and fluent allegories, which are a pleasure to get lost in.

Swim by Avi Duckor-Jones

When his estranged mother falls ill, Jacob returns to his home town in New Zealand after years of sojourning and open water swimming. Meeting the people whom he willingly and collaterally left behind so long ago, Jacob grapples with distance in a less physical and traversable way than he is used to. Duckor-Jones is a lyrical magician and it would be ideal if he writes plenty more books.

Turning by Jessica Lee

Jessica Lee recounts her experiences swimming the lakes of Berlin in her debut creative non-fiction. Lee’s self-devised ritual brings her moments of clarity about the importance places have in shaping our identities. While Lee’s meditations are drawn from quite personal experiences, they seep beyond herself and her surroundings, into wider pools of thought.

RISINGTIDEFALLINGSTAR by Phillip Hoare

I really like books that don’t try to be something expected or expectable. Perhaps my interpretation of such a book is still just constructed by smart jacket designs, including pictures and not putting spaces between words, but I think in this case the aesthetic reflects the content appropriately. Hoare’s writings flicker between history, arts, biographies and personal narrative. Water is the permeable thread that brings these things together. My favourite thing about this book is how the writing style has been infused by the topic, water. The result is delightful, aqueous prose that takes on and reflects different lights easily.