Martin Shaw

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Twitter: thebooksdesk

Martin Shaw is the Books Division Manager at Readings. He is what they call a ‘career bookseller’, which might be an interesting concept as the world turns ‘E’. Formerly an avid fiction reader, now active pursuer of a particularly curious 17-month-old.

Reviews

Demons by Wayne Macauley

Reviewed by Martin Shaw

At the beginning of the year, in a column on my ‘most anticipated books of 2014’, I wrote: ‘In recent years, Wayne Macauley has well and truly arrived as one of our most exciting prose practitioners.…

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Foreign Soil by Maxine Beneba Clarke

Reviewed by Martin Shaw

Recently, and rather controversially, a reviewer of Black Inc.’s The Best Australian Stories 2013 complained there was little that was memorable amid last year’s crop of ‘best’ short fiction. Be that…

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Boyhood Island by Karl Ove Knausgaard

Reviewed by Martin Shaw

At last it’s here – the third volume in Karl Ove Knausgaard’s My Struggle series, perhaps the most significant literary project in contemporary letters since the late W. G. Sebald’s extraordinary oeu…

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Barracuda by Christos Tsiolkas

Reviewed by Martin Shaw

After the success of 2008’s The Slap, Christos Tsiolkas could be excused for feeling he had nothing more to prove. Perhaps, though, it was that unexpected good fortune that planted one of the seeds f…

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A History of Silence by Lloyd Jones

Reviewed by Martin Shaw

When I was about 19, I sought refuge one afternoon from what I felt to be the misery of my family home by going to my sister’s house, located on the other side of town in Christchurch, New Zealand. F…

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The Engagement by Chloe Hooper

Reviewed by Martin Shaw

To follow up an acclaimed debut must be one of literature’s fraughtest feats. When a proof copy of The Engagement landed on my desk, my first response was simply joy – for it’s a good 10 years now si…

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HHhH by Laurent Binet

Reviewed by Martin Shaw, Readings Carlton

‘I would like a copy of that H book, please’: I’m fully expecting to hear a lot at our front counters this year. HHhH - it’s certainly an intriguing title, isn’t it? I might add that the UK publisher…

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What We Talk About When We Talk about Anne Frank by Nathan Englander

Reviewed by Martin Shaw, Readings Carlton

On my very first visit to New York in 1999, I decided to go to a book launch one hot summer evening in a little store in Greenwich village, just to compare it to our own author events here at Carlton…

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The Last Thread by Michael Sala

Reviewed by Martin Shaw, Readings Carlton

‘Australia Fair Lookout. Introspection strictly forbidden,’ reads a favourite Leunig cartoon of mine. I thought of this when reading Michael Sala’s fine debut novel, The Last Thread, for in it he su…

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News

November Highlights

by Martin Shaw

Well just the other day we announced the winner of the inaugural Readings New Australian Writing Award, which goes to Sydneysider Ceridwen Dovey for Only the Animals. I was genuinely thrilled by this, her second published work: Michelle de Kretser has described it as ‘wholly extraordinary’, and that really is the only suitable epithet for this amazing book. I was disoriented at first – animal nar…

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October Highlights

by Martin Shaw

A couple of years back I had the honour of judging the Commonwealth Book Prize for a best first book. When it came to final deliberations, it was an almost unbearable choice between two of the regional winners: Lisa O’Donnell’s terrific The Death of Bees, and Nayomi Munaweera’s wondrous Island of a Thousand Mirrors. O’Donnell got the gong, as it turned out, but I’m ever so glad to see that Munawe…

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Martin Shaw’s top picks for September

by Martin Shaw

Shortly after you read this column, the shortlist for the Man Booker Prize 2014 will be announced. Due to a quirk in the prize’s eligibility criteria (namely, to allow not-yet-published works), several of the longlistees are only just now being published. We’ve reviewed two that are released in September (with more to come in October) – Joseph O’Neill’s The Dog and David Mitchell’s The Bone Clock

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Martin Shaw’s top picks for August

by Martin Shaw

It’s been a sombre couple of weeks in the Australian book trade, with two tragic passings: the highly respected Melbourne novelist, critic and educator Liam Davison (on the ill-fated MH17); and Matt Richell, the widely admired CEO of Hachette Australia, whose passion for publishing, and commitment to emerging Australian talent in particular, was utterly infectious. This column is dedicated to the…

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Martin Shaw’s top picks for June

by Martin Shaw

Of all the book titles I’ve ever come across, Janet Frame’s You Are Now Entering the Human Heart remains one of my all-time favourites. It’s wonderful news then that the Text series of generally overlooked Australian and New Zealand classics now includes Frame’s debut novel, Owls Do Cry. Evocatively, Angela Meyer in her review writes: ‘At the end, you are lying down, there is weight on your chest

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May Highlights

by Martin Shaw

Several books likely to make my best-books-of-the-year list are released this month – and also several surely bound for literary prize shortlists. It really is an extraordinary offering!

So, let’s dive in to the exceptionally strong range of new Australian fiction. First up is a debut from Maxine Beneba Clarke, Foreign Soil – a short-story collection that forswears any sort of literary comfort z…

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