Book recommendations from the EWF programming team

The team at Emerging Writers’ Festival have been spending their time looking after their houseplants, planning their entirely online festival for 2020 and of course, reading. Here’s what they’ve been sinking their teeth into during isolation.

“Carmen Maria Machado is such an awe-inspiring (and I usually hate that phrase!) writer and her experimentation with form is chef’s kiss. She’s probably one of my favourite writers and I’ve been waiting eagerly for this book since it was announced. I often find it difficult to focus on one text at a time but I read this in one day. Every single part of In The Dream House undid me from the inside out before gently piecing me back together.”

Ruby-Rose Pivet-Marsh, Artistic Director

“I’m currently attempting to read my way through all the books on the 2020 Stella Prize shortlist and have just started Tara June Winch’s The Yield. It’s been on my ‘to read’ list for a while and, after reading Winch’s short story collection After the Carnage last year, I have been super excited to jump into her newest novel. I’m expecting it to be beautiful, visceral, heart-breaking and powerfully engaging.”

Alice Muhling, Executive Director

“At the launch for Blueberries Ellena Savage said, this might be the last book launch for a while. That was my last outing, almost six weeks ago, and her book was a perfect way to start my self-isolation reading. A collection of experimental non-fiction about class, privilege, violence, womanhood, art and being an artist – Savage is an astute thinker who sees everything and questions everything, including herself, and I know I’ll return to many of her passages often. Also, of course, I’m hopeful and excited for the rise of many digital book launches and to continue celebrating books in different ways online!

Other books I’ve recently enjoyed include Heart Berries by Therese Marie Mailhot, a lyrical memoir by a First Nations woman addressing a lover about her own trauma, mental illness and family history – it’s a tiny book with a lot of weight, and Fleishman Is In Trouble by Taffy Brodesser-Akner, when I was craving something lighter, a great contemporary novel about a marriage breakdown full of smarts and humour – it made me laugh out loud and (almost) forget about the crises of the world. And when I’m ready to read something more pandemic-y, to help make sense of it all, I’m really looking forward to reading Severance by Ling Ma.”

Millie Baylis, Program Coordinator

“I’m about 45 pages from finishing My Sister the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite and it’s all I can think about. It’s absolutely fantastic. I’m normally such a non-fiction nerd, so I was looking for a thrilling and well-written novel, which My Sister the Serial Killer certainly is. Braithwaite has an incredible ability to write such high-stakes content in a distinctively low-stakes tone. I’m so keen to get the end!

I’ve also managed to answer the impossible question, ‘what should I read next?’, and next on my list is Come: A Memoir by Rita Therese. I’ve been a fan of hers since I saw her at a reading at National Young Writers’ Festival last year – she was so hilarious and honest and I found her writing style so engaging. I’m really excited to read her memoir about sex work, grief, mental health and heartbreak. My ‘to-read’ list is getting impossibly long, but I’m so excited about having my head in these two for the next couple of weeks.”

Dani Leever, Marketing and Publicity Coordinator

“I just finished reading Ellena Savage’s collection of essays, Blueberries. I loved the essay ‘Notes to Unlived Time’. She so aptly describes the act of writing memories and notes: "They are the insisted-upon valour of making the (always-broken) promise that they’ll be returned to, retrieved, revised.” As someone with around thirty volumes of journals, this struck a real chord!”

Pip Grylls, Digital Producer

“I’m currently reading The Course of Love by Alain de Botton. I’m loving the mix of philosophy, psychology and fiction, and am finding the characters and their experiences really relatable. I’m also reading (well listening to actually) Mating in Captivity by Esther Perel, a book exploring sex and intimacy. I love Esther’s work and it’s been the perfect thing to listen to during my neighbourhood iso walks.”

Zoe Rabb, Operations Manager

The Emerging Writers’ Festival is one of Australia’s most established and well-respected literary festivals. EWF 2020, an innovative eight-day on-line program will take place from 16 – 23 June via the EWF website.

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Ellena Savage

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