50 great reads by Australian women in 2016

Each year we compile a list of 50 great reads by Australian women, originally inspired by the Australian Women Writers Challenge.

For this year’s list, we’ve only featured adult books – displayed below in no particular order. And because we also love children’s and YA books, we’ve also included a collection of ‘50 great reads for kids and teens from Australian women in 2016’. You can browse that collection below.


1. Our Magic Hour by Jennifer Down
A gut-wrenching fiction debut that depicts the fall-out of a tragic event on a group of friends.

2. The Birdman’s Wife by Melissa Ashley
A fictional biography of Elizabeth Gould, an exceptional woman whose contribution to her husband’s famous bird monographs has been ignored by history.

3. The Island Will Sink by Briohny Doyle
A sharply funny and politically charged work of dystopian fiction from a fresh new voice.

4. Lemons in the Chicken Wire by Alison Whittaker
An evocative poetry collection that bristles with stunning imagery and gritty textures.

5. The Love of a Bad Man by Laura Elizabeth Woollett
A riveting story collection which explores the lengths some women will go to for the men they love.

6. After the Carnage by Tara June Winch
These remarkable stories ranged from New York to Istanbul, from Pakistan to Australia, as they chart the distances in their characters' lives.

7. The Good People by Hannah Kent
A gripping period drama set set in 1825, Ireland, and the long-awaited second novel from the bestselling author of Burial Rites.

8. Goodwood by Holly Throsby
A small town is rocked by the disappearance of two of its most popular residents in this debut novel from the much-loved Australian singer-songwriter.

9. Music and Freedom by Zoë Morrison
We named this debut novel the winner of our Readings Prize for New Australian Fiction – and it’s an impressive, immersive story of one woman’s life.

10. The Museum of Modern Love by Heather Rose
This novel reimagines the 2010 exhibition of performance artist Marina Abramovic’s most well-known artwork, The Artist is Present, in New York.

11. A Distant Journey by Di Morrissey
An engaging, addictive Australian story set on an isolated sheep station on the sweeping plains of the Riverina in New South Wales.

12. Tell the Truth, Shame the Devil by Melina Marchetta
Melina Marchetta’s first adult book is part family saga, part crime fiction and wholly unputdownable.

13. Dead in the Water by Tania Chandler
An absorbing thriller set in Gippsland populated by flawed, dynamic characters.

14. The Hate Race by Maxine Beneba Clarke
A powerful memoir about growing up black in white middle-class Australia.

15. Finding Eliza by Larissa Behrendt
A vital Indigenous perspective on colonial storytelling.

16. The Promise of Things by Ruth Quibell
A fascinating non-fiction work that invites readers to consider what our possessions say about us.

17. Avalanche by Julia Leigh
A compelling and forthright reflection on the author’s experience with IVF treatments.

18. Yassmin’s Story by Yassmin Abdel-Magied
A frank, funny and fearless memoir from an inspiring young Australian Muslim woman.

19. Fight Like a Girl by Clementine Ford
A call to arms for all women to rediscover the fury that has been suppressed by a society that still considers feminism a threat.

20. Dying by Cory Taylor
A deeply affecting meditation on dying from one of Australia’s finest writers.

21. Atomic Thunder by Elizabeth Tynan
A well-researched account of the Maralinga atomic tests which took place 60 years ago, and wreaked havoc on Indigenous communities as they turned the land into a radioactive wasteland.

22. Position Doubtful by Kim Mahood
A beautiful and intense exploration of memory, landscape, and homecoming.

23. Everywhere I Look by Helen Garner
A collection of non-fiction writing from one of Australia’s finest writers.

24. The High Places by Fiona McFarlane
A collection of cleverly crafted stories that carry an emotional heft with a light touch.

25. Wasted by Elspeth Muir
A haunting memoir in which the author unpacks the death of her brother, and reflects on Australia’s drinking culture.

26. Kings Rising by C.S. Pacat
The thrilling conclusion to the sexy, bloodthirsty Captive Prince trilogy – perfect for Game of Thrones fans.

27. The Science of Appearances by Jacinta Halloran
This novel about two very different twins examines how the complex interplay of heredity and environment makes, shapes, and sometimes breaks us.

28. The Permanent Resident by Roanna Gonsalves
These short stories unearth the aspirations, ambivalence and guilt laced through the lives of twenty-first century immigrants.

29. Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty
A smart and addictive page turner set in the backyards of surburban Australia.

30. Comfort Food by Ellen van Neerven
A vibrant poetry collection inspired by food that offers a cross-cultural vision of the exotic and the familiar.

31. Fine by Michelle Wright
A collection of accomplished stories that shine a light on quiet moments in ordinary lives.

32. The Dry by Jane Harper
This gripping page-turner won last year’s Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for an Unpublished Manuscript, and has already sold the film rights.

33. The Paper House by Anna Spargo-Ryan
The moving story of a woman sinking into the depths of grief, and the desperate efforts of her loved ones to bring her up for air.

34. The Healing Party by Micheline Lee
An electrifying debut novel about faith and lies, the spirit and the flesh.

35. Out of the Ice by Ann Turner
A literary crime thriller set in a remote Antarctic island.

36. Our Tiny, Useless Hearts by Toni Jordan
A sweet and hilarious new romantic comedy, perfect for weekend reading.

37. Between a Wolf and a Dog by Georgia Blain
This character-driven novel takes place over a single rainy day in Sydney, and is a joyous recognition of the profound beauty of being alive.

38. Where the Trees Were by Inga Simpson
This wonderfully restrained novel asks whether we can ever truly make amends for past mistakes.

39. A Loving, Faithful Animal by Josephine Rowe
At once tender and brutal – this novel is a portrait of one family forever scarred by war.

40. An Isolated Incident by Emily Maguire
A psychological thriller about everyday violence and the media’s obsession with pretty dead girls.

41. Georgiana Molloy by Bernice Barry
A biography of Georgiana Molloy – the first internationally successful female botanist in Western Australia.

42. Portable Curiosities by Julie Koh
A bold, funny story collection that critiques racism, class and other important issues in Australia.

43. Skylarking by Kate Mildenhall
This poignant story of a female friendship takes place on an isolated Australian cape in the 1880s.

44. Troppo by Madelaine Dickie
Set in Sumatra, this is an accomplished debut novel about black magic, big waves and mad Aussie expats.

45. Of Ashes and Rivers That Run to the Sea by Marie Munkara
A heartbreaking and darkly funny account of being a young woman caught between two worlds.

46. The Long Run by Catriona Menzies-Pike
This non-fiction read combines memoir and cultural history to explore the rich and contradictory topic of women and running.

47. Letter to Pessoa by Michelle Cahill
The first collection of short stories from the award-winning Goan-Australian poet, Michelle Cahill.

48. Dying in the First Person by Nike Sulway
A haunting novel that unpacks the complex relationships and allegiances of family life.

49. We’re All Going to Die by Leah Kaminsky
An inspiring and joyful book about celebrating life in the face of death.

50. Chasing Asylum by Eva Orner
This a compelling insight into a filmmaker’s journey, and a searing indictment against Australia’s asylum seeker policies.

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The Good People

The Good People

Hannah Kent

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