Mark Rubbo

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Twitter: @markrubbo

Mark Rubbo is Managing Director of Readings. He is a past president of the Australian Booksellers Association and was founding chair of the Melbourne Writers Festival. In 2006 he was awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia “For service to the community through fostering an awareness of Australian literature as a bookseller, literary critic, and promoter and supporter of Australian writers.”

Reviews

The Boy Behind the Curtain by Tim Winton

Reviewed by Mark Rubbo

Helen Garner’s Everywhere I Look, a collection of personal essays and diary notes, delighted readers and it went on to become one of our bestsellers. I’ve got a feeling that Tim Winton’s collection, …

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We Are Not Such Things by Justine Van der Leun

Reviewed by Mark Rubbo

In the final days of apartheid a young American student, Amy Biehl, was murdered by a black mob in one of Cape Town’s townships. Three young men were convicted of her murder but the case was a strang…

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The Hate Race by Maxine Beneba Clarke

Reviewed by Mark Rubbo

Maxine Beneba Clarke’s father was the first in his family to go university. They were working class, from Tottenham, a suburb of London. He’d shown a talent for mathematics and became an academic; he…

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A Long Time Coming by Melanie Joosten

Reviewed by Mark Rubbo

My father’s former partner died a few years ago at the aged care home her 90-year-old cousin, Eric, and I had been forced to place her in. Whenever we’d visit her, Eric would invariably shudder and s…

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Everywhere I Look by Helen Garner

Reviewed by Mark Rubbo

We know Helen Garner best for her novels and her harrowing dissections of human dramas. She has a way of describing the world with such wisdom and candour and, sometimes, delight, that it takes one’s…

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When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

Reviewed by Mark Rubbo

This is a short but profoundly moving and powerful book. Kalanithi, a young and brilliant neurosurgeon, is confronted by what proves to be his own terminal cancer. In his undergraduate days he had co…

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Second Half First by Drusilla Modjeska

Reviewed by Mark Rubbo

Most of us, I imagine, reflect only fleetingly on our lives, and few of us, thank god, do it in print, but when a writer of Drusilla Modjeska’s skill does it is something very special. Second Half Fi

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Island Home by Tim Winton

Reviewed by Mark Rubbo

This book reveals two Tim Wintons. There is the wordsmith we feel we already know well through his renowned and evocative fiction, but this book also reveals a person who thinks very deeply about his…

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Under Cover: Adventures in the Art of Editing by Craig Munro

Reviewed by Mark Rubbo

University of Queensland Press (UQP) is a fine independent publisher but from the early 70s to the late 90s in particular it really punched above its weight. At one time or another, its stable of aut…

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Sweet Caress by William Boyd

Reviewed by Mark Rubbo

There’s a small group of us at Readings who are great fans of William Boyd, with one of my colleagues claiming his Any Human Heart as one of her favourite books. Boyd is a master storyteller who weav…

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A Guide to Berlin by Gail Jones

Reviewed by Mark Rubbo

I’ve always felt that Gail Jones is yet to receive the recognition she deserves. This is her sixth novel and it is, I believe, a masterpiece. It is a beautifully constructed novel that builds slowly …

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The Mothers by Rod Jones

Reviewed by Mark Rubbo

I vividly remember Rod Jones’ 1986 novel Julia Paradise, the story of a Scottish psychoanalyst and his eponymous patient set in pre-war China. It quite justifiably caused a sensation with its explora…

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Between You and Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen by Mary Norris

Reviewed by Mark Rubbo

Last night I went to I Gradi for pizza with my son. It was an easy decision for Joe and me to make and we enjoyed the pizzas very much. You, possibly, think I should have written ‘Joe and I’. Well, t…

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The Life of Houses by Lisa Gorton

Reviewed by Mark Rubbo

The Sydney Morning Herald once described Lisa Gorton as ‘one of the most sensuous and cerebral of Australian poets’, praise that could equally apply to her first novel, The Life of Houses. Gorton is …

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One of Us by Asne Seierstad

Reviewed by Mark Rubbo

This is an horrific and tragic book; it is an account of one the most devastating mass shootings in recent history. In July, 2011, Anders Breivik detonated a home made bomb in front of the Norwegian …

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A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler

Reviewed by Mark Rubbo

Anne Tyler writes about families; usually they are quite ordinary, middle-class families. They might have a few quirks but mostly they, like the rest of us, are trying to navigate their lives as best…

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Charlie’s Country

Reviewed by Mark Rubbo

Charlie (David Gulpilil) lives in a small community in Arnhem Land. A sequence of events, funny yet sadly moving, drive him to eschew the community and go bush. But even he can’t survive in the bush …

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Amnesia by Peter Carey

Reviewed by Mark Rubbo

Despite its more serious subtext, Amnesia is a very funny book and is Peter Carey at the height of his powers. I read it a second time because I wanted to savour it again for its structure and its wr…

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Warning: The Story of Cyclone Tracy by Sophie Cunningham

Reviewed by Mark Rubbo

It’s almost 40 years since Cyclone Tracy destroyed the northern city of Darwin on the night of 24 December, 1974. Australia had not known a natural disaster like it since European colonisation. Seven…

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Lygon Street - Si Parla Italiano

Reviewed by Mark Rubbo

Surely everyone loves Italy and the Italians; the country has given us pasta, pizza, coffee, and, of course, Lygon Street in Melbourne. Lygon Street – Si Parla Italiano is a delightful homage to the …

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The Tainted Trial of Farah Jama by Julie Szego

Reviewed by Mark Rubbo

In 2008, a young Somali man was convicted of the rape of a 48-year-old woman at a Doncaster nightclub. The woman had been found unconscious in a locked toilet cubicle with her pants down: she had no …

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A Mad And Wonderful Thing by Mark Mulholland

Reviewed by Mark Rubbo

It’s a strange irony that Bernard McGinn died of natural causes just a few months or so back; Mcginn was part of an IRA group of snipers based in South Armagh, Northern Ireland, on the Irish border. …

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My Promised Land by Ari Shavit

Reviewed by Mark Rubbo

My Promised Land is a profoundly inspiring and challenging book. It is an intensely personal impression of a country, for which the writer has intense admiration and affection but also grave misgivin…

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Coal Creek by Alex Miller

Reviewed by Mark Rubbo

Alex Miller migrated to Australia when he was only 16 and his first job was as a ringer in outback Queensland. That early experience in the Australian outback informs a number of his works, including…

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Far from the Tree by Andrew Solomon

Reviewed by Mark Rubbo

I heard Andrew Solomon talk about his book earlier this year at the Jaipur Literature Festival. He was so inspirational that I had to buy it. In 1993 Solomon was asked by the New York Times to write …

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Gotland by Fiona Capp

Reviewed by Mark Rubbo

In 2009, Fiona Capp spent part of a summer at the Baltic Writers and Translators Centre in Visby on the Swedish island of Gotland. Her time there has provided an exotic and compelling backdrop for he…

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No Safe Place by Jenny Spence

Reviewed by Mark Rubbo

Elly Cartwright writes software manuals for Soft Serve. On returning home one evening after having a meeting with Carlos, the company’s brilliant and reclusive programmer, her Brunswick neighbour is …

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Life in Ten House by Sonya Hartnett

Reviewed by Mark Rubbo

Coming in at just over 70 pages, this latest addition to the Penguin Specials range is an evocative glimpse into a writer’s life.

Sonya Hartnett’s has been a rather peripatetic one, having lived in …

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Left Hand Drive by Craig McGregor

Reviewed by Mark Rubbo

Craig McGregor is a writer and academic whose career has spanned many years and many iterations. He started as a journalist in the early 60s, wrote books on contemporary Australia, became a freelance…

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Amrita Sher-Gil: A Life by Yashodhara Dalmia

Reviewed by Mark Rubbo

Amrita Sher-Gil was born in Budapest in 1913. Her mother was Hungarian and her father was from a noble Sikh family. The family lived in Hungary, India and Italy at various points. From an early age, …

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News

Mark’s Say, October 2016

by Mark Rubbo

By the time you read this Readings will be on the brink of having two new shops and a slightly changed Carlton one. I’ve just returned from the first few hours of our new shop at Westfield Doncaster; it was a mighty morning welcoming the people coming to look at the shop and to buy. We were thrilled and so were they – a feeling of mutual excitement! And lots of discussions about books, about eboo…

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Today is Indigenous Literacy Day

by Mark Rubbo

Today is Indigenous Literacy Day.

Literacy unlocks the keys to learning; without those keys the choices available to children are severely limited. As the world becomes more complex and connected it is more important than ever that all our children have access to the education that will help them make the choices that are appropriate to them. Statistically, there has been no significant improvem…

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Mark’s Say, September 2016

by Mark Rubbo

As President Obama’s term comes to an end you get a sense of the wellspring of goodwill toward the President. It’s in stark contrast to Bill Clinton and George Bush, whose presidential legacies were tainted by tawdriness and disastrous foreign expeditions respectively. Obama is seen by most as an honourable person who despite being frustrated by a resistant legislature has managed to push through…

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Mark’s Say, August 2016

by Mark Rubbo

Later this month sees the Melbourne Writers Festival return to Federation Square with a great line up of Australian and International guests. The Festival gets off to a wonderful start on 26 August with the announcement of the winner of the Miles Franklin Award and an address by Maxine Beneba Clarke, author of the powerful new book The Hate Race – if you haven’t seen Maxine speak before I urge yo…

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Mark’s Say, July 2016

by Mark Rubbo

I was lucky enough to meet Nicola Hill, marketing director for the Penguin Press in the UK, recently. Nicola looks after the wonderful books that come out of the Penguin Classic and Allen Lane lists. Part of the challenge for publishers these digital days is to reinforce the idea of the book as a beautiful and interesting object and Penguin with their rich backlist have a lot to work with. You ma…

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Mark’s Say, June 2016

by Mark Rubbo

I’ve just been to a book nerd’s paradise, a bookshop called Fang Suo Commune in Chengdu in Sichuan Province, China. Founded by Mao Jihong, owner of high-end fashion label Exception de Mixmind (China’s first lady is dressed by Mr Mao), Fang Suo is a giant space of 3800 square metres in the basement of an up-market shopping centre. It is a spectacularly beautiful and dramatic space with over 70,000…

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