100 great reads from Australian women in 2020
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. While last year we expanded our list to include gender diverse authors as well, this year we have made a separate list of 15 great reads from gender diverse authors from around the world. Find it here.
Here are 100 great reads by Australian women authors published in 2020. The following books are displayed in no particular order and include fiction, biography, poetry, children’s novels, history and more.
Please note that as ever, this is not a complete list of every such read published this year. You can find more books from local authors published in 2020 here.
And for those looking to read more books from culturally diverse Australian writers of all genders, we’ve also put together a list of 50 great reads by First Nations writers and Australian writers of colour published this year. Find it here.
1. Hysteria by Katerina Bryant
This memoir tells the story of Katerina Bryant’s experience with mental illness, and traces the lives of women from history diagnosed as hysterical.
2. The Mother Fault by Kate Mildenhall
This gripping novel depicts a sinister near-future Australia in the grip of a controlling government and an ecological crisis.
3. Your Birthday Was The Best! by Maggie Hutchings & Felicita Sala
This delightful and energetic picture book has the power to please all ages with its hilarious story of an optimistic cockroach crashing a birthday party, with silly and cute results. For ages 3 and up.
4. Cherry Beach by Laura McPhee-Browne
In this debut novel, Laura McPhee-Browne tells the story of best friends Hetty and Ness as they leave everything behind and move from Australia to Canada. A beautifully-expressed and tragic novel of friendship and heartbreak.
5. A Lonely Girl is a Dangerous Thing by Jessie Tu
This electrifying debut is a coming-of-age story about Jena, a young violinist who fell from grace as a child prodigy. Now, years later, Jena is a sex-addicted young woman who is preparing to return to the stage.
6. You Can Change The World by Lucy Bell
This lovely book is a guide to all of the little things we can do to make the care for the Earth and make it a kinder, safer and more sustainable place for all.
7. The Coconut Children by Vivian Pham
A tender, coming-of-age novel which tells the story of two Vietnamese-Australian families living in Cabramatta in the late nineties.
8. Rural Dreams by Margaret Hickey
The varied short stories in this charming collection all have a focus on the people and landscapes of rural Australia.
9. Respect by Aunty Fay Muir, Sue Lawson & Lisa Kennedy
A young girl is encouraged to respect culture, stories, song, ancestors, Elders, and Country in this tender and thoughtful story by Boonwurrung Elder Auny Fay Muir and Sue Lawson, with vibrant illustrations by artist Lisa Kennedy. For ages 3 and up.
10. Grandmothers: Essays by 21st-century Grandmothers by Helen Elliott
In these thought-provoking essays, grandmothers with a diverse range of lived experiences offer up their wisdom.
11. Tiger and Cat by Allira Tee
Best friends Tiger and Cat recognise the value of their close friendship when they endure separation for the first time in this sweet and very sensitive debut picture book that champions acceptance and expressing feelings. For ages 3 and up.
12. The Octopus and I by Erin Hortle
While coming to terms with her post-cancer body, Lucy develops a strange connection with a cephalopod. This is an atmospheric novel about growth and finding your place in the world.
13. Phosphorescence by Julia Baird
What can we do to make our experience of life better, even when darkness prevails? This book is a reflection on the author’s search for inner-happiness and light.
14. How to Write the Soundtrack to Your Life by Fiona Hardy
Young bedroom musician Murphy forms new and sometimes tricky friendships while defending herself from accusations of song plagiarism in this funny and moving mystery with beautifully developed characters and huge amounts of heart. For ages 9 and up.
15. The Spill by Imbi Neeme
Stemming from the moment of a non-fatal crash in 1982, this is a story of memory, family and two sisters reconciling past regrets.
16. Smart Ovens for Lonely People by Elizabeth Tan
This enchanting collection of short stories is a hilarious examination of modern life in unusual circumstances.
17. The End of the World is Bigger than Love by Davina Bell
Surreal, epic and wholly unique, this apocalyptic story of two identical twin sisters surviving in the strangest of circumstances is full of sumptuous language, classic literary references and big emotions. For ages 14 and up.
18. A Testament of Character by Sulari Gentill
This latest book in the Rowland Sinclair Mysteries involves a journey across America, a suspicious death and a baffling disappearance.
19. Living on Stolen Land by Ambelin Kwaymullina
A significant and important look at contemporary Australia through a First Nations lens, this book brings to light the ongoing legacy of colonialism.
20. Peta Lyre’s Rating Normal by Anna Whately
In this joyful and honest debut novel, neurodivergent Brisbane student Peta Lyre follows her therapist’s rules of ‘normal behaviour’, until a year of change and a new relationship causes her to focus more on staying true to herself. For ages 13 and up.
21. Talkin' Up to the White Woman (20th Anniversary Edition) by Aileen Moreton-Robinson
Just as relevant now as it was upon its release two decades ago, this is a brilliant profile of the exclusionary nature of white feminism.
22. The F Team by Rawah Arja
Rawah Arja’s debut novel is a lively and hilarious portrait of Tariq Nader and his rambunctious group of friends as they try to improve the image of their Sydney high school, and face up to the challenges in their lives. For ages 13 and up.
23. Loner by Georgina Young
Lona has left art school and doesn’t know what to do with herself. This is a perfectly awkward novel of growing up and finding yourself despite feeling out of place.
24. Future Girl by Asphyxia
This remarkable Own Voices story about a Deaf girl is set in a near-future inner-city Melbourne where food security is under threat, and is styled as a stunning full-colour art journal, complete with portraits, garden maps and stencils. For ages 12 and up.
25. The Case of George Pell by Melissa Davey
As bureau chief at Guardian Australia Melissa Davey covered the case against George Pell. This book looks at that case, and more broadly how the legal system treats survivors of sexual abuse.
26. Dreams They Forgot by Emma Ashmere
This debut collection of beautiful short stories spans twenty years of the author’s writing life, bringing together tales of love, loss and feeling out of place.
27. The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Dangerous Animals
Sami Bayly follows up her wonderful The Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Ugly Animals with an equally impressive second book that takes a richly illustrated and fascinating look at dangerous animals from around the world. For ages 7 and up.
28. The Carbon Club by Marian Wilkinson
For twenty years, Australian governments have ignored and undermined the science around climate change. This book reveals the extent of Australia’s shameful record of climate abuse.
29. Where The Fruit Falls by Karen Wyld
In this soaring novel, a young Aboriginal woman travels across Australia in search of self-acceptance, belonging and a brighter future.
30. Please Don’t Hug Me by Kay Kerr
Erin writes letters to her absent brother Rudy in this perfectly balanced funny-serious story about coping with the challenges and changes of the final year of school. For ages 14 and up.
31. Stone Sky Gold Mountain by Mirandi Riwoe
When two siblings migrate from rural China to gold rush-era Queensland in search of their fortunes, they struggle to find acceptance in the community.
32. Top End Girl by Miranda Tapsell
Here, star writer, actor and activist Miranda Tapsell writes about a life spent dreaming of making it big, and how it felt when those dreams came true.
33 Across the Risen Sea by Bren MacDibble
Courage, loyalty and resilience come to the fore as Neoma sets off on a solo mission across the risen sea, determined to save her best friend and her village in this post-climate crisis adventure. For ages 9 and up.
34. Vegan With Bite by Shannon Martinez
The third recipe book from the vegan chef behind sensational vegan restaurants Smith & Daughters and Smith & Deli. This book shows that cooking vegan can be simple, cost-effective and delicious.
35. On Beverley Farmer: Writers on Writers by Josephine Rowe
In Black Inc.’s Writers on Writers series, a contemporary Australian author writes about a fellow author who has inspired them. In this latest volume, Josephine Rowe pays tribute to Beverley Farmer.
36. A Question of Colour by Patricia Lees & Adam C Lees
Pattie Lees was separated from her family and made a ward of the state when she was just ten years old. This is her account of being a member of the Stolen Generations.
37. Fathoms: The World in the Whale by Rebecca Giggs
This incredibly beautiful work of narrative non-fiction will teach you everything you’ve ever wanted to know about whales.
38. What’s Out There by Nicole Stewart
Take a very deep dive into Australia’s history in this gorgeously illustrated book that journeys from the time of Gondwanaland and megafauna through to today, exploring plants, animal fossils and the continuing culture of our First Peoples. For ages 6 and up.
39. Ordinary Matter by Laura Elvery
These enchanting short stories depict the lives of women in science. Some are re-imaginings of factual and famous lives, including Marie Curie and Elizabeth Blackburn.
40. The Killing Streets by Tanya Bretherton
This true crime thriller tells the story of a string of murders that rocked Sydney, beginning with the killing of a young woman in December of 1932.
41. Vida: A Woman for Our Time by Jacqueline Kent
Here, the supremely talented biographer Jacqueline Kent writes the life of Vida Goldstein, one of Australia’s earliest and most prominent women’s rights activists.
42. It’s Been A Pleasure, Noni Blake by Claire Christian
A sassy and sexy queer romantic comedy about growing older, starting over and trying to catch up with the one who got away.
43. What Zola Did on Tuesday by Melina Marchetta
Beloved YA author Melina Marchetta turns her hand to junior fiction for the first time, with a warm story of a close-knit family, gardening and community. For ages 5 and up.
44. A Different Kind of Seeing by Marie Younan, Jill Sanguinetti
Before she came to Australia as a refugee, Marie Younan relied on her family for everything due to her blindness. Here she tells the story of how she gained her independence.
45. A Repurposed Life by Ronni Kahn, Jessica Chapnik Kahn
The founder and CEO of Oz Harvest, one of Australia’s biggest food rescue organisations, tells the story of how she took a stand against inequality and food waste.
46. Unseen by Jacinta Parsons
In this memoir of chronic illness, Jacinta Parsons details her experience of life with an invisible disability, and the challenges that she’s faced and overcome.
47. Infinite Splendours by Sofie Laguna
In this powerful new novel, a young man finds healing through art as he attempts to move on from a trauma suffered in childhood.
48. One Day I’ll Remember This: Diaries 1987-1995 by Helen Garner
Get a look inside the mind of one of Australia’s greatest writers. This is the second volume of Garner’s collected diary entries, and a little piece of literary history.
49. Jane in Love by Rachel Givney
In this entertaining novel, Jane Austen falls forward in time to the modern day. When she unexpectedly finds love, she must decide to stay in the future, or go back to ensure her literary fame.
50. Riptides by Kristen Alexander
After causing a fatal car crash, siblings Abby and Charlie decide to flee the scene. But the consequences of their actions will follow farther than they could ever anticipate.
51. Nonna Knows Best by Jaclyn Crupi
This adorable book is filled with wisdom from the old country - garden, kitchen, and beyond, Nonna has you covered.
52. The Bass Rock by Evie Wyld
This slow-burning novel weaves together the narratives of three women living in coastal Scotland generations apart.
53. The Salt Madonna by Catherine Noske
This lyrical novel tells the story of a small town thrown into chaos after a series of rumours, and an apparent string of miracles.
54. Melting Moments by Anna Goldsworthy
Beginning in Adelaide in 1941, this novel tells the life story of one woman as she starts a career, begins a family, and eventually grows into old age.
55. Almost a Mirror by Kirsten Krauth
Set in the bohemian fringes of 1980s Melbourne (and beyond) this is a novel of love, creativity and moving through life with music.
56. To Asia, with Love by Hetty McKinnon
In this collection of modern, simple and flavoursome Asian recipes, each dish is an ode to the cultural connection that can come from food. An instant classic.
57. A Treacherous Country by K. M. Kruimink
Winner of this year’s Vogel Prize, this novel is a historical dive into the early colonial days of Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania).
58. The Things She Owned by Katherine Tamiko Arguile
Michiko died years ago, but her many possessions still haunt her daughter, Erika. In this novel, Erika learns the story of her mother’s life via these objects.
59. The Morbids by Ewa Ramsey
After miraculously surviving a car accident, a young woman becomes consumed by fear of death. When a potential romance is on the cards, she must learn to overcome her obsession.
60. Modern Mending by Erin Lewis-Fitzgerald
Clothing waste is one of the greatest environmental issues we face today. This handy little book shows you how to extend the life of your clothing, preventing it from going to landfill.
61. Meeting the Waylo: Aboriginal Encounters in the Archipelago by Tiffany Shellam
In early nineteenth century Australia, First Nations people were hired as guides to the land. This book reframes the narrative around those ‘guides’ and explores the reasons why they chose to travel around the country.
62. When Life is Not Peachy by Pip Lincolne
A practical, heartfelt guide book filled with wisdom for the tricky periods in life. Perfect for 2020!
63. Women in Boots: Football and Feminism in the 1970s by Marion Stell & Heather Reid
In the 1970s, it was nearly impossible to buy a pair of women’s football boots. This book gives a look at how women overcame this and other obstacles to play their sport.
64. Blueberries by Ellena Savage
This polished collection of essays brings together writing themed around work, memoir, womanhood and what is meaningful in life.
65. Counting Our Country by Jill Daniels
A gorgeously bright alphabet book that features playful paintings of animals, the numbers from 1 to 10 and animal names in Ritharrnu and English. For ages 0 and up.
66. Women and Leadership by Julia Gillard, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala
In this book, women leaders from around the world are interviewed about what makes them successful, and the hurdles they’ve overcome.
67. Beatrix Bakes by Natalie Paull
This gorgeous book is filled with intricate-yet-achievable recipes from the legendary Melbourne bakery, Beatrix.
68. She I Dare Not Name by Donna Ward
This considered memoir/personal essay hybrid is a meditation on a life lived beyond patriarchal expectation as an older woman without a partner or children.
69. The Grandest Bookshop in the World by Amelia Mellor
This unique fantasy adventure takes the real-life history of Melbourne’s Coles Book Arcade and injects it with magic and mystery, as a family of very brave children battle a sinister villain. For ages 9 and up.
70. The Altar Boys by Suzanne Smith
In Newcastle, NSW, dozens of men took their lives due to being sexually abused by the local Catholic priest. Here, investigative journalist Suzanne Smith reveals their stories.
71. Kokomo by Victoria Hannan
When Mina hears her agoraphobic mother has finally left the house, she rushes home from London. And as she grapples with a life left behind, so does her mother.
72. The Erasure Initiative by Lili Wilkinson
Teenager Cecily wakes up on a self-driving bus with amnesia in this sophisticated thriller that combines ethics, group dynamics, technology, ruthless ambitions and romance to nail-biting effect. For ages 13 and up.
73. Metal Fish, Falling Snow by Cath Moore
Dylan dreams of France, but instead she gets an Australian road trip with her stepfather Pat, and a journey into family truths and a part of herself she’s never wanted to own. For ages 14 and up.
74. None Shall Sleep by Ellie Marney
Award-winning YA crime author Ellie Marney has created a chilling story of two teens thrust into the FBI’s hunt for a new killer, in this stunning thriller that tips its hat to The Silence of the Lambs. For ages 16 and up.
75. Sweatshop Women: Volume Two by Winnie Dunn
This second collection of writing from the Western Sydney writers institution features work from a diverse range of writers and genres.
76. This One Wild and Precious Life by Sarah Wilson
From anxiety to philosophy, science to wellness, poetry to climate crisis, and beyond, Sarah Wilson searches for ways connect in this hectic modern life.
77. The Details: On Love, Death and Reading by Tegan Bennett Daylight
This is an absorbing meditation on the power of books and being a reader from an author who has spent a lifetime working closely with words.
78. Willy Willy Wagtail by Helen Milroy
A bushfire prompts Willy Wagtail, Gusto, Crow and the rest of the Bush Mob animals to learn each other’s languages and work together in this highly illustrated story by respected author and child psychiatrist Helen Milroy. For ages 5 and up.
79. The Year the Maps Changed by Danielle Binks
Eleven-year-old Winifred grapples with her changing family circumstances, and learns about the experiences of recently arrived Kosovar refugees, in this empathetic story that respects the leaps of understanding that kids take as adolescence looms. For ages 10 and up.
80. As Fast As I Can by Penny Tangey
Penny Tangey’s trademark blend of heart and humour works wonderfully in this story about young Olympic wannabe, Vivian, whose running dreams are shaken by the diagnosis of a family illness. For ages 8 and up.
81. The Power of Positive Pranking by Nat Amoore
Three kids taken on a brazen mayor in this uplifting and entertaining tale about how to use pranking, anarchy and mischief-making for community good. For ages 8 and up.
82. Taking Down Evelyn Tait by Poppy Nwosu
Delightfully witty and voice-driven, Poppy Nwosu’s second novel follows self-confessed rebel Lottie on her Machiavellian plan to decouple her best friend Grace from her new girlfriend Evelyn - who just happens to be Lottie’s nemesis and stepsister. For ages 12 and up.
83. The January Stars by Kate Constable
When Clancy and Tash visit their grandfather Goffrey at his aged care home and unexpectedly end up kidnapping him, the three set off on a heartwarming quest to find a greater sense of family and a real home. For ages 9 and up.
84. Landing with Wings by Trace Balla
From the much-loved creator of Rivertime and Rockhopping, this is another gorgeous graphic novel about a young girl and her mum moving to Dja Dja Wurrung country and setting down new roots in a rural community. For ages 7 and up.
85. Fly on the Wall by Remy Lai
Henry Khoo escapes his overprotective family and tries to get to Singapore in the second sweet and funny illustrated novel by talented up-and-coming author Remy Lai. For ages 9 and up.
86. The Safe Place by Anna Downes
When Emily accepts a live-in job at a luxurious property in France, she is excited for a new beginning. But something more sinister is going on at the estate…
87 Song of the Crocodile by Nardi Simpson
In the small outback town of Darnmoor, an Indigenous family weather social and cultural tensions as their ancestors watch over them.
88. The Stolen Prince of Cloudburst by Jaclyn Moriarty
Jaclyn Moriarty excels at hilarious, whimsical and imaginative magical adventures - in this story she follows supposedly ordinary schoolgirl Esther as she tries to save her family, her school and possibly her entire world. For ages 9 and up.
89. Revenge by S.L. Lim
In this powerful novel of feminism and family, a sister is driven to seek revenge after years of being treated as second-best to her brother.
90. A Year of Simple Family Food by Julia Busuttil Nishimura
Following on from her first hit cookbook Ostro, Julia Busuttil Nishimura is back with this refined collection of practical and seasonal recipes.
91. Plastic Free by Rebecca Prince-Ruiz & Joanna Atherfold Finn
From the founders of Plastic Free July comes this book, which tells the story of how a challenge amongst friends turned into a national movement to reduce plastic waste.
92. This One Is Ours by Kate O'Donnell
Uplifting and thoughtful, Kate O'Donnell’s second novel follows sixteen-year-old Sofie on exchange to Paris, where she has her eyes opened to the power of art and activism. For ages 13 and up.
93. How to Talk About Climate Change in a Way That Makes a Difference by Rebecca Huntley
Climate crisis is one of the defining issues of our time. Here, Rebecca Huntley shows how to talk to sceptics about the climate in a way that will help them open their mind to the evidence.
94. Come: A Memoir by Rita Therese
One of Australia’s top escorts tells the story of her career. This memoir is intelligent, emotionally complex, and of course a bit juicy.
95. Who’s Your Real Mum? by Bernadette Green & Anna Zobel
When a friend asks Elvi which of her two mums is her real mum, Elvi unleashes her imagination to deliver playful and creative clues in this celebration of non-traditional families. For ages 3 and up.
96. The Animals in That Country by Laura Jean McKay
As a pandemic that give animals the gift of speech sweeps the nation, Jean drives through the outback in search of her family. A quirky, well-paced novel.
97. Life, Bound by Marian Matta
This debut collection of fictional tales find characters trapped in a moment in time where they must make a break with the past.
98. Howl by Kat Patrick & Evie Barrow
This charming picture book with evocative illustrations celebrates expressing big feelings, as little Maggie turns a little wolfish after a bad day and cavorts with her mum. For ages 3 and up.
99. The Secret Library of Hummingbird House by Julianne Negri
In this brilliant time-slip novel, Hattie fights to save Hummingbird House and her favourite tree by joining forces with a new friend from the past. For ages 10 and up.
100. Show Me Where it Hurts by Kylie Maslen
In this collection of essays, Kylie Maslen writes about her day-to-day experience of a chronic and invisible illness.