Dear Reader, July 2020
If you feel like your head will explode if you hear the phrases ‘unprecedented times’ or ‘new normal’ again, then you are in the right place. Welcome to an experience that will take you back to a more comfortable era, delivering a familiar kind of ‘old normal’ that should bring you some feeling of nostalgic relief: perusing an excellent edition of the Readings Monthly. This month’s issue is overflowing with staff reviews and news, and includes books hot off the press in July, but also key titles from late May and June that you might be yet to hear about.
Our Fiction Book of the Month is the highly anticipated new work from Kate Grenville, A Room Made of Leaves. As ever, Grenville offers her readers a well- researched and immersive work of historical fiction and we’re lucky to have signed copies on release (strictly limited, so get in quick!). It has been a great few months for Australian fiction, in fact. Debuts from Luke Horton, Jessie Tu, Jo Lennon, and Imbi Neeme (who won the Penguin Literary Prize in 2019 for the unpublished manuscript of her book) already have lots of people talking. Robbie Arnott’s follow up to his acclaimed debut novel, Flames, is The Rain Heron, which our reviewer says has the power to ‘[steady] our world just a little’ (a rather appealing notion, you must agree).
Don’t miss catching up on Chris Flynn’s Mammoth, Patrick Allington’s Rise & Shine, and Elizabeth Tan’s Smart Ovens for Lonely People (what a great title! And already a hot staff pick). The Sweatshop Collective based at the University of Western Sydney has been very busy this year so far, releasing a second issue of the Sweatshop Women anthology in April (we could barely keep enough in stock during lockdown); in June, they released a fantastic anthology of writing speculating on our future circa 2050 called After Australia, written by First Nations authors and writers of colour.
International fiction is full of so many exciting discoveries, including those our reviewers recommend written by Megha Majumdar, Kevin Kwan, Yun Ko-eun, Emma Straub, Samanta Schweblin, Rebecca Dinerstein Knight, and Brit Bennett. Anna Downes’s The Safe Place is our gripping Crime Book of the Month.
The pandemic has diverted a lot of attention away from the climate emergency (here’s hoping our government allows the experts take over on this matter too), so we need Rebecca Huntley’s How to Talk About Climate Change in a Way that Makes a Difference even more than we did when she was writing it. It’s our Nonfiction Book of the Month. Our reviewers also draw your attention to Patrick Mullins’s The Trials of Portnoy, Tegan Bennett Daylight’s The Details, Dara McAnulty’s Diary of a Young Naturalist, and Matthew Colloff’s Landscapes of Our Hearts. We also republish our review of Tom Doig’s Hazelwood, available to readers at last this month. Judith Brett has written about Australia’s addiction to coal in the latest Quarterly Essay. Ambelin Kwaymullina’s Living on Stolen Land is a new kind of Australian history writing. Look out for Julia Gillard and Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala’s essential Women and Leadership in mid-July.
It’s wonderful news that UQP has published a twentieth- anniversary edition of Aileen Moreton- Robinson’s classic analysis of white feminism, Talkin’ Up to the White Woman. This new edition coincides with renewed interest in a whole host of books about racism, many of which were rushed into reprint in recent weeks as readers reached out for books to inform and inspire, spurred on by the Black Lives Matter activism at home and abroad. You’ll find Moreton- Robinson’s book plus some of the other bestsellers featured in this collection.
And finally, dear reader, if one thinks about the year’s passing via literary milestones, it’s noteworthy that many of the year’s literary prize announcements – longlists, shortlists and winners – took place during our store closures. However, you can always catch up on those lists on our blog. With those (and many other) milestones now behind us, I realise, with alarm and relief in equal measure, that we are already halfway through 2020.