Authors share what they’re been reading in isolation

We’ve shaken up our regular What We’re Reading column to include recommendations from the borders beyond our shop walls. This week, we’ve invited some authors and publishers to share what they’re reading.

Katya de Becerra is reading…

I’m currently reading The Sharp Edge of a Snowflake by Sif Sigmarsdottir. I’ve been following her on social media for years, and I’m so glad I finally picked up her latest book – it’s electric! It’s set in Iceland and described as the feminist, Nordic YA thriller.

From other recent YA releases, Sarah Epstein’s Small Spaces is definitely a favourite, alongside Rachael Craw’s The Rift and Neverworld Wake by Marisha Pessl. I love everything by Pessl and can’t wait for what she comes up with next.

I’ve also been reading middle grade novels a lot lately. I recently came across Dominique Valente’s Starfell series; its first instalment is such a clever, deceptively quiet, magical book. It’s kept me company on long flights when I was on tour in the United States earlier this year. Can’t wait for the second book to release in 2021.

Alicia Jasinska’s debut, The Dark Tide is my most anticipated YA fantasy of 2020. I was lucky to read an advanced reader copy and immediately fell in love with this eerie, lyrical, sapphic retelling of Beauty and the Beast, set on a drowning island which is enchanted as much as it is cursed. Everyone should pick up a copy when this book is out in June.

Katya de Becerra’s latest book is Oasis.

L.A. Larkin is reading…

This is what I’m reading in my seclusion.

I’m currently reading two Sisters in Crime novels, Emma Viskic’s Darkness For Light and Sulari Gentill’s A Testament Of Character. These fabulous authors have had book events cancelled because of the Coronavirus threat. But the great thing about books is that you can enjoy them when you’re locked away at home and through their stories you are transported to another world.

The other novel I’m reading is Nothing To See Here by Kevin Wilson. I’ve almost finished it and it is irreverent and moving and bizarre and funny. Totally my kind of escapist read.

L.A. Larkin’s latest book is Prey.

Natalie Conyer is reading…

I’ve just started Hilary Mantel’s The Mirror and the Light, and am also reading The Second Cure – it’s about a pandemic virus!

Just finished Emma Viskic’s Darkness For Light and Karina Kilmore’s Where the Truth Lies. Both fantastic. Next are the Dervla McTiernan and the Pat Barker.

Natalie Coyner’s latest book is Present Tense.

Eliza Henry-Jones is reading…

Books I’ve read recently and loved:

Below Deck by Sophie Hardcastle
The Animals in That Country by Laura Jean McKay
When Life is Not Peachy by Pip Lincolne
Deep Water by Sarah Epstein
Grief is the Thing with Feathers by Max Porter
Sheerwater by Leah Swann
Loner by Georgina Young (available in June)

Books I’ve got on my reading stack:

The Dutch House by Ann Patchett
Weather by Jenny Offill
The Bass Rock by Evie Wyld

Eliza Henry-Jones’s latest book is How to Grow a Family Tree.

Chris Flynn is reading…

It’s a weird time to be an author with a book coming out. Much as I was looking forward to launching Mammoth at Readings, the event was cancelled, along with several dozen other events I was excited to do. I get it, it’s just a book and we’re all trying not to wind up in a 28 Days Later scenario where we get a hankering for each other’s tasty brains. Still, Christos was going to ply me with wine and questions in the upstairs bar at Jimmy Watson’s (not a euphemism). All my friends would have been there. Maybe even some enemies! There could have been a brawl, my stalker might have turned up or a child could have been conceived. We’ll never know. None of that will happen with a Zoom launch. Maybe it’s for the best. Thank you, COVID-19. You’ve saved us from so many potential lawsuits.

Unlike most writers (and by that, I mean all writers), I am an optimist. A glass half-full guy. My not-so-misery memoir would be called Silver Linings: How to look on the bright side when life keeps kicking you in the gonads. So, we’re all social distancing (my, my, what a shock to the system for freelance creatives) and hunkering down in our bunkers with tins of chick-peas and the smoothest four-ply money can buy. Great! Assuming the NBN reaches critical mass and you can’t even binge the latest season of Ozark, here are five recommendations for books to read. Readings will mail them to you quick smart.

1. A Thousand Moons by Sebastian Barry

I loved Days Without End so much. I was scheduled to interview Barry and Jane Smiley on stage at Adelaide Writers Week in 2017. I was pumped. I read all his books, plus three bricks by Smiley. Total page count of prep: a touch over 2000. Barry pulled out at the last minute. Gutted. Then on the day, Jane Smiley fell asleep in the park and didn’t turn up to the event. Oh, what japes! Still, I am now a Barry expert, so his sequel to Days Without End was much anticipated. A Thousand Moons is the more personal story of Ojinjintka, the Lakota girl adopted by Thomas McNulty and John Cole at the end of the previous book. The Civil War is over. Racism and resentment simmers in the new American democracy. Damn, Barry is good. You can just hear his booming voice reading these lyrical sentences aloud. Maybe one day I will.

2. Actress by Anne Enright

Enright won the Booker Prize back in 2007 for The Gathering and it doesn’t take long to see why. She’s one of the most piercingly intelligent writers alive. Her latest sees Norah, the daughter of famed (fictional) flame-haired Irish theatre actress Katherine O’Dell telling her mother’s life story. 265 pages of character description might seem a bit much for some, but the detail and life behind this cover is incredible. As a walker of the boards myself back in the old country, I love a good thespian tale and this one hits its marks, making you wonder if you can ever know anyone at all, under our masks. ‘You have no idea what it is like, sitting next to someone at dinner who thinks they are superior to you, that they have been superior to you for centuries, no matter what you achieve and they fail to achieve, not just in the world but in their own horrible little hearts.’

3. Low by Jeet Thayil

I had the misfortune to be sitting next to Jeet at the signing table in Brisbane back in 2012. He’s so smart and handsome, it’s disgusting. Plus, instead of just signing his name like a normal person, he drew everyone a cartoon on the title page of his book at the time, Narcopolis. His new one sees poet Dominic Ullis wander the streets of Mumbai, consumed by grief. He snorts his dead wife’s ashes, as well as any other illicit substance he can get his mitts on, in particular new dissociative drug meow meow. Since it might be a while before any of us can get on a plane again and travel to India (will airplanes even exist soon?), Jeet’s book is the next best thing. Get drunk and read it.

4. The Wild Laughter by Caoilinn Hughes

There are some tricky Irish character names in Mammoth , so to save you any embarrassment, this author’s name is pronounced HEWS. Just kidding. Her first name is KAY-LIN, more or less. Her debut was the smart, weird and sexy Orchid & the Wasp, and her new one is about what happens to a country when the rug gets pulled out from under everyone’s feet. Which historically has happened to Ireland on a regular basis, and which the rest of the world is now experiencing. Sharp dialogue, wicked humour, awkward sexy times – did I mention she was Irish? Is she the new Eimear McBride? Could be. That’s pronounced MACKBRYYD, in case you were wondering.

5. Mammoth by Chris Flynn

Look, it’s funny. If all the doom and gloom is getting you down, you’re guaranteed not only some LOLZ but also that you’ll feel much better about climate change. It’s narrated by a 13,000-year-old mammoth skeleton on sale at a 2007 auction in New York. You got your Ice Age shenanigans back when he was alive, your early years of American democracy foolishness when he was dug up in 1801, the French Revolution, the attempted second Irish Revolution, the Lewis & Clark expedition, the origin of bourbon, some Nazis, a penguin, a pterodactyl, a Tyrannosaurus who learnt to speak English in Miami. I mean, it’s your typical earnest literary release, with a few tweaks to the formula. What’s more, it’s all true. Well, most of it. They are cloning mammoths back to life to save the world. No, really, that’s happening. More deets within. A cool change is coming.

Chris Flynn’s latest book is Mammoth.

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