100 great reads from Australian women & gender diverse authors in 2019
Each year we compile a list of great reads by Australian women, originally inspired by the Australian Women Writers Challenge which begun in 2012 and continues to this day. This year we have expanded our list to include gender diverse authors as well.
Here are 100 great reads by Australian women and non-binary authors published in 2019.
The following books are displayed in no particular order and include fiction, biography, poetry, children’s novels, history and more.
1. The Place on Dalhousie by Melina Marchetta
A novel as enveloping as a warm embrace, Marchetta’s latest explores the messiness of families, the slow pull of grief, and the serendipity of second chances with her trademark wit.
2. The Weekend by Charlotte Wood
Quieter but no less complex than The Natural Way of Things, The Weekend is a fascinating chamber piece of four older women and the tectonic shifts they exert on each other’s lives.
3. Black is the New White by Nakkiah Lui
Nakkiah Lui’s sold-out play is a razor-sharp comedy of manners about a high-flying Indigenous woman who brings her unemployed white boyfriend home for Christmas.
4. The Scholar by Dervla McTiernan
The second book in the Cormac Reilly detective series builds on the promise of McTiernan’s debut with a thrilling tale of corporate greed that races to a heart-pounding conclusion.
5. City of Trees by Sophie Cunningham
In this beguiling collection of essays, Sophie Cunningham crosses vast geographic distances and eras to grapple with humanity’s relationship to nature.
6. The Old Lie by Claire G. Coleman
Claire G. Coleman boldly mixes futuristic world building with the history of colonialism in this intergalactic war story that asks, how far would you go to protect your Country?
7. Room for a Stranger by Melanie Cheng
A gentle and humane novel focusing on the tentative connection between a lonely septuagenarian and the international student boarding in her ramshackle home.
8. This Is How We Change The Ending by Vikki Wakefield
An antidote to apathy, this coming-of-age YA takes a clear-eyed look at what it takes to fight for your future and carve out hope against a seemingly uncaring world.
9. There Was Still Love by Favel Parrett
Spanning generations and continents, Favel Parrett’s elegant novel traces the lives of two Czech sisters separated by the inexorable tides of 20th century European history.
10. Wolfe Island by Lucy Treloar
Treloar’s haunting second novel centres on the last inhabitant of a dying island, who is roused from her isolation by the sudden arrival of her granddaughter
11. Stop Being Reasonable by Eleanor Gordon-Smith
In this smart and perceptive debut, Eleanor Gordon-Smith uncovers gripping true stories about the limits of human reason and what it takes for a person to change their mind.
12. Yellow Notebook: Diaries Volume One, 1978-1987 by Helen Garner
Full of startling illuminations into her life as a writer, this first volume of Helen Garner’s daily diaries spans nearly a decade, starting just after the publication of Monkey Grip.
13. Wombat, Mudlark and other stories by Helen Milroy
Written by child psychiatrist Helen Milroy, this delightful collection of children’s stories about Australian animals displays a huge amount of emotional intelligence. For ages 5 and up.
14. Your Own Kind of Girl by Clare Bowditch
An inspiring, candid memoir about finding yourself, small steps and getting through what life throws at you.
15. How it Feels to Float by Helena Fox
A raw, poetic and deeply hopeful YA novel about living with mental illness and the bewildering places loss can take us.
16. The Cherry Picker’s Daughter by Aunty Kerry Reed-Gilbert
A moving memoir of resilience, community and growing up the youngest of eight, by Wiradjuri poet, elder and force of nature Aunty Kerry Reed-Gilbert.
17. Fashionista by Maxine Beneba Clarke
A majestic, eclectic, poetic, electric picture book that celebrates all the different ways children can express themselves through their clothing and style. For ages 4 and up.
18. This is What a Feminist Looks Like by Emily Maguire
In this passionate account of the history of feminism in Australia, Emily Maguire pays tribute to the remarkable women who have protested injustice and fought for change.
19. Welcome to Your Period! by Yumi Stynes & Melissa Kang
Full of friendly, practical advice, Welcome to Your Period! is a positive and nurturing introduction for any young reader about to experience their first period. For ages 10 and up.
20. Lapse by Sarah Thornton
Small town secrets come bubbling to the surface in this debut crime novel about a big-shot lawyer turned local footy coach, whose star player disappears on the eve of the finals.
21. Witches: What Women Do Together by Sam George-Allen
Why is women joining forces a thing to be feared? In this accomplished work of nonfiction, Sam George-Allen looks at the shared lives of groups of women, from nuns to weightlifters.
22. Lucky Ticket by Joey Bui
With these stories, Joey Bui proves herself as a talent to watch. Set in Australia and beyond, they focus on issues of race, culture, immigration and community.
23. It Sounded Better In My Head by Nina Kenwood
This debut novel is simply delightful. Here Readings’ own Nina Kenwood tells a story of a girl who is growing up and falling in love, but not in the way she planned to.
24. The Yield by Tara June Winch
This is a moving, deeply fascinating novel about country, language, family and distance. Winch is a much-awarded and beloved author, and this is her first novel since 2016.
25. How to Make a Movie in Twelve Days by Fiona Hardy
This bright, fun novel tells the story of a group of friends who decide to band together and make a movie over the school holidays. A summer read for all kids (including big ones) of age 9 and up.
26. Our Little Inventor by Sher Rill Ng
Nell might be little, but she has big ideas, and an invention that is going to clean up the pollution in her city. An inspiring picture book for children who want to make the world a better place.
27. The Glad Shout by Alice Robinson
Winner of the Readings Prize for New Australian Fiction, The Glad Shout is a novel of climate dystopia that asks how far a mother would go to protect her child.
28. Love Your Body by Jessica Sanders
This gorgeous book is a celebration of bodies of all kinds, introducing key ideas about self-love and body positivity for young readers. For ages 8 and up.
29. Where the Dead Go by Sarah Bailey
Costal crime is going to be just as big as its rural counterpart, and Sarah Bailey is proving herself to be a master of the genre. Read it on the beach if you dare.
30. When One Person Dies The Whole World Is Over by Mandy Ord
This is an expressive and poignant graphic novel from one of Australia’s most revered comics artists, articulating small but significant moments in life.
31. Highway Bodies by Alison Evans
This zombie apocalypse story follows a range of queer and gender non-conforming teens who have all lost their loved ones and must rely upon each other to survive.
32. Gone by Midnight by Candice Fox
When her son mysteriously vanishes, a mother distrustful of the police instead turns to Crimson Lake’s unlikeliest PIs: disgraced cop Ted Conkaffey and convicted killer Amanda Pharrell.
33. Empirical by Lisa Gorton
Lisa Gorton wrote this poetry collection at a time when Royal Park in Melbourne was under threat, and it explores the relationship between memory and landscape.
34. Sick Bay by Nova Weetman
Two very different girls meet in their school sick bay and friendship slowly grows between the pair as they learn about each other – and themselves. For ages 10 and up.
35. Invented Lives by Andrea Goldsmith
Andrea Goldsmith is a masterful storyteller and her latest novel is a heartwrenching story of exile – exile from country, exile at home, and exile from one’s true self.
36. Kindness Makes Us Strong by Sophie Beer
This large format board book from the exuberant Sophie Beer shows how kindness is doing what you can, where you are, with what you have.
37. White Tears, Brown Scars by Ruby Hamad
Here, Ruby Hamad interrogates what happens when racism and sexism collide, demonstrating how white tears have a potency that silences racial minorities.
38. Exploded View by Carrie Tiffany
Set at the close of the 1970s and traversing thousands of kilometres of inland roads, Exploded View is a revelatory interrogation of an Australian girlhood.
39. Shauna’s Great Expectations by Kathleen Loughnan
Shauna is in her final year at an elite private school and has great expectations – but things don’t go as smoothly as she had hoped. This is a terrific YA novel about resilience in challenging circumstances.
40. The Trespassers by Meg Mundell
Fleeing their pandemic-stricken homelands, a shipload of migrant workers departs the UK, dreaming of a fresh start in prosperous Australia.
41. Playing with Collage by Jeannie Baker
This is a brilliant how-to guide to making your own collages, brimful of fascinating hints and tips from a master of the genre. For ages 5 and up.
42. Cooee Mittigar by Jasmine Seymour
Mulgo (the black swan) takes readers on a tour of Darug country in this beautiful picture book, describing the landscape, skyscape, and the totems that inhabit the Nura (Country). For ages 3 and up.
43. A Constant Hum by Alice Bishop
An elegy for the Black Saturday disaster told in short story form, A Constant Hum was shortlisted for this year’s Readings Prize for New Australian Fiction.
44. A Curse of Ash and Embers by Jo Spurrier
Witchcraft, curses, fantastical creatures, demonic trees and more all feature in this fantastic fantasy novel, and the first in a new magical series for teen readers.
45. Death on the Derwent by Robin Bowles
Robin Bowles presents another riveting true crime read with Death on the Derwent, following the circumstances of the mysterious 2009 disappearance of a man from his yacht in Tasmania.
46. The Little Wave by Pip Harry
In this first verse novel from Pip Harry, a Manly school sets out to bring a country class to the city for a beach visit, bringing three very different kids together. For ages 8 and up.
47. This Taste for Silence by Amanda O'Callaghan
An exquisite collection of short stories from a first-time author, Amanda O'Callaghan’s writing as been compared to the work of literary giant Alice Munro.
48. Elementals: Scorch Dragons by Amie Kaufman
This is the second book in Amie Kaufman’s epic middle fiction fantasy series featuring ice wolves, dragons and complicated friendships. For ages 8 and up.
49. Eight Lives by Susan Hurley
David Tran becomes the Golden Boy of Australian medical research when he invents a drug that could transform immunology – but when he dies in baffling circumstances, things take a deadly turn.
50. The Surprising Power of a Good Dumpling by Wai Chim
The second novel from YA author Wai Chim, this is a nourishing tale about the crevices of culture, mental wellness and family, and the surprising power of a good dumpling.
51. Mindcull by K.H. Canobi
In this twisty and sophisticated cyberpunk YA thriller, teenaged Eila must figure out what is true and what is not, and decide how far she will go to protect the innocent.
52. Say Hello by Carly Findlay
A memoir by award-winning writer and appearance activist Carly Findlay in which she shares what it’s like to with a highly visible different appearance due to a rare skin condition.
53. Beauty by Bri Lee
Bri Lee grapples with society’s obsession with thinness and asks how an intrinsically unattainable standard of physical ‘perfection’ has become so crucial to so many.
54. You Must Be Layla by Yassmin Abdel-Magied
Sudanese-Australian media presenter and writer Yassmin Abdel-Magied brings all her humour and warmth to her first children’s book which touches on the migrant experience. For ages 10 and up.
55. You Don’t Know Me by Sara Foster
When Noah and Alice meet each other on a holiday, they fall fast and hard, but can they learnt to be honest about their pasts? The latest thriller from Sara Foster simmers with secrets and dark desires.
56. Islands by Peggy Frew
Peggy Frew has crafted a powerful story of a family in crisis. A troubled marriage, distracted parents, and the trauma of tragedy all play a role.
57. As Happy as Here by Jane Godwin
Three teenage girls from very different backgrounds stuck in a hospital ward together witness a crime in the park below their window, and they bond over trying to solve it. An empathetic read for ages 11 and up.
58. Beyond Words by Jacqueline Kent
Jacqueline Kent tells the story of her relationship with the author Kenneth Cook, and also shines a light on Australian literary culture in the 1980s.
59. Bruny by Heather Rose
With her new book, Stella Prize winning author Heather Rose has gifted readers an explosive, political thriller that is certain to generate discussion.
60. Nintirringanyi Ngurra Ku. Learning On Country by Children’s Ground
This book is an exciting collaboration between mothers and grandmothers, and aims to enrich reading and literacy as a culturally relevant experience for First Nations children.
61. Unconditional Love by Jocelyn Moorhouse
Screenwriter and director Jocelyn Moorhouse is also the parent of autistic children. This warm memoir tells of her life in filmmaking, and in motherhood.
62. Ivanhoe Swift Left Home at Six by Jane Godwin & A. Yi
Ivanhoe has said farewell to his parents and gone out into the world on his own. This is a delightful, colourful book about leaving home, and coming back again. For ages 5 and up.
63. Act of Grace by Anna Krien
This novel, Krien’s first, tells the story of three very different people who are surviving trauma. A timely and moving read.
64. From Here on, Monsters by Elizabeth Bryer
This is a noir mystery of ancient books, disappearances and strange lapses in memory. A fascinating read from a writer to watch.
65. Unlike the Heart by Nicola Redhouse
Unlike the Heart is an absorbing memoir of mental illness and motherhood. Redhouse’s writing is sharply intelligent and insightful.
66. Prisoncorp by Marlee Jane Ward
The final instalment in Marlee Jane Ward’s Welcome to Orphancorp trilogy, Prisoncorp is gritty, dystopian YA at its best.
67. Here Until August by Josephine Rowe
A new collection of short stories from a true master of the form. Rowe’s writing beautifully captures small moments.
68. White Horses by Rachael Treasure
From one of the nation’s most beloved authors, White Horses is a sweeping story about a woman forced to forge a life for herself amid rural Australia.
69. The Search for the Silver Witch by Sally Rippin
Polly and Buster are determined to prove that witches and monsters can be friends in this heartwarming finale to Sally Rippin’s bestselling series. For ages 7 and up.
70. Half Moon Lake by Kirsten Alexander
On a summer’s day in 1913, four-year-old Sonny Davenport walks into the woods near Half Moon Lake, Louisiana and never returns. Two years later, he is found again – but is it really Sonny?
71. See What You Made Me Do by Jess Hill
Journalist Jess Hill reveals the many horrifying forms of domestic abuse that occur in our society every single day in her confronting and deeply researched work,
72. The Wailing Woman by Maria Lewis
In her latest feminist urban fantasy, Maria Lewis tells the tale of a teenage banshee navigating the paranormal politics of Sydney.
73. Six Minutes by Petronella McGovern
This suspense-filled suburban thriller sees a small child disappear from a playgroup, stirring up a flurry of police and media, and plenty of suspicious questions.
74. Devil’s Ballast by Meg Caddy
Based on the true story of Anne Bonny, this YA novel thrillingly brings to life one of history’s most fascinating anti-heroines.
75. All the Tears in China by Sulari Gentill
Sulari Gentill’s Rowland Sinclair mysteries are an absolute pleasure to read. In the latest addition to the series, our intrepid hero travels to Shanghai of 1935.
76. Under the Stars: Astrophysics for Bedtime by Lisa Harvey-Smith & Mel Matthews
Astrophysicist Lisa Harvey-Smith combines astrophysics and bedtime stories into one unique book, featuring illustrations from the talented Mel Matthews.
77. I Don’t Understand How Emotions Work by Fury
In this experimental graphic memoir about navigating the medical world as a trans person, Fury questions the legitimacy of identity, memory and emotion.
78. Baz and Benz by Heidi McKinnon
This cheeky picture book looks at what to do when your best friend happens to be really, really annoying. For ages 2 and up.
79. Fridays with my Folks by Amal Awad
Amal Awad furthers the discussion around ageing and sickness with this nuanced book, drawing from her own experiences as well as those of others in similar situations.
80. Going off Script by Jen Wilde
17-year-old Bex is thrilled when she gets an internship on her favourite TV show, Silver Falls – but when she gets stuck picking up the coffee she realises she’ll have to fight for her voice to be heard.
81. Other People’s Houses by Hilary McPhee
Fleeing the aftermath of a failed marriage, Hilary McPhee embarks on a writing project and a journey. This is a memoir about what happens when your life falls apart, and how to pick up the pieces.
82. Moving Your Body by Beci Orpin
In this first board book from designer-illustrator Beci Orpin, readers are encouraged to explore movement and bodies. For ages 0 and up.
83. Kindred by Kirli Saunders
This is the debut poetry collection from Kirli Saunders, a proud Gunai woman, with ties to the Yuin, Gundungurra, Gadigal and Biripi people.
84. The Blue Rose by Kate Forsyth
Moving between Imperial China and France during the French Revolution, Forsyth’s new novel was inspired by the true story of the quest for a blood-red rose.
85. Ghost Bird by Lisa Fuller
Lisa Fuller was the recipient of the 2017 David Unaipon Award for an Unpublished Indigenous Writer for this young adult mystery novel.
86. Catch a Falling Star by Meg McKinlay
This is a heartfelt coming-of-age story that explores loss, grief and resilience for ages 11 and up.
87. Troll Hunting by Ginger Gorman
Journalist Ginger Gorman provides a window into not the mindset of trolls, as well as the profound changes in the way we live and work in a post-internet world.
88. Dolores by Lauren Aimee Curtis
When a pregnant teenager arrives at a remote convent of nuns, she is named Dolores and taken under their care. This is an exciting taut novella from a new Australian voice.
89. When Billy Was a Dog by Kirsty Murray
In this charming and whimsical picture book, Billy wants a dog but when he can’t get one he decides on the next best thing: to be a dog. For ages 3 and up.
90. Olive Cotton by Helen Ennis
In this moving biography, Helen Ennis tells the life story of pioneering modernist photographer Olive Cotton, and reflects on the remarkable and enduring influence of Cotton’s images.
91. The Future Keepers by Nandi Chinna
In this poetry collection, Nandi Chinna’s navigates her embodied experiences of change and succession – trawling through Kings Park, the Beeliar Wetlands, and the poet’s own inherited landscapes.
92. My Father’s Shadow by Jannali Jones
A midnight wakening and unexplained journey, a father mixed up with dangerous criminals, and an unreliable teenage narrator suffering from PTSD make this teen thriller an edge-of-your-seat read.
93. Paper Emperors by Sally Young
Sally Young tracks the corporate and political history of Australian newspapers, spanning 140 years and revealing how our media came to be dominated by a handful of empires and family dynasties.
94. The Day We Built the Bridge by Samantha Tidy & Fiona Burrows
This stylish picture book tells the story of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, from its inception as an idea in 1890, to its completion as a real-life bridge in 1932. For ages 4 and up.
95. The Dog Runner by Bren MacDibble
This thought-provoking middle fiction adventure is set in the near-future after a fungus has devastated the world and follows Ella and her brother Emery on their search for Emery’s mother. For ages 1- and up.
96. Fake by Stephanie Wood
When journalist Stephanie Wood meets a former architect turned farmer she embarks on an exhilarating romance – one that is eventually revealed to be not all that is seems.
97. You Might Find Yourself by Tai Snaith
Featuring the gorgeous mixed media illustration style of Tai Snaith, this creative picture book explores compassion, empathy and the power of the imagination. For ages 3 and up.
98. Nothing New by Robyn Annear
Melbourne historian Robyn Annear dives into the jumbled history of second-hand in this quirky history book; Nothing New is a treasure store of anecdotes and little-known facts.
99. Hasina: Through My Eyes by by Michelle Aung Thin
In this powerful book, Michelle Aung Thin takes a sensitive and realistic look at the plight of the Rohingya people and their daily life. For ages 10 and up.
100. The Hackathon (Girl Geeks, Book 1) by Alex Miles
Developed in partnership with Girl Geek Academy, this is the first book in a delightfully geeky new series about a gang of girls who love to design, make, game, hack, code and more. For ages 9 and up.