Dear Reader, June 2021
I am delighted to begin my column this month with heartfelt congratulations to our programming and events manager, Chris Gordon, who has been shortlisted for the 2021 ABA Bookseller of the Year award. You can’t really think of Readings without thinking of Chris and her boundless energy, her passion for books and their writers, and her natural gift for hospitality, all of which she channels into producing our incredible events program. While events held in person (preferably with many friends in attendance and glass of wine in hand) are of course Chris’s specialty, she was quick to adapt to pandemic conditions in 2020, and ran more than 170 Readings events over Zoom which were attended by many thousands of people from Melbourne and around the world. I don’t think the impact of this work can be underestimated: she enabled our community to keep engaging with authors and their work during incredibly difficult circumstances, and did so with charm and good humour to boot. Chris is such a warm and generous colleague, friend and mentor to so many of us in the book industry, and it’s fitting that her excellence is being recognised in this way. Congratulations, Chris, and to all the shortlisted booksellers – oh what a year!
Alice Pung is an accomplished writer and a Readings favourite author, and it’s hard to remember a time without her books on our shelves: her memoirs Unpolished Gem and Her Father’s Daughter are now Australian classics, as is her YA novel Laurinda, and the groundbreaking collection she edited, Growing up Asian in Australia. This month, Pung publishes her debut novel for adults, One Hundred Days. Our reviewer reminds us of the quality of Alice’s writing, describing it as ‘liltingly lovely’ (what a gorgeous description!), so naturally it’s our Fiction Book of the Month; we’ll have signed copies in our shops and online (while stocks last).
Our staff recommends more new Australian fiction from Briohny Doyle, Michael Mohammed Ahmad, Michael Fitzgerald, and Campbell Mattinson, as well as Tony Birch’s first collection of poetry, Whisper Songs, and the graphic novel from Lee Lai, Stone Fruit. We also have reviews highlighting an array of international fiction from Taylor Jenkins Reid, Joan Silber, Alaa Al Aswany, Emily Itami, Kristen Arnett, Mieko Kawakami and Zakiya Dalila Harris, while one of our team revels in his discovery of Jerome K. Jerome’s classic, Three Men in a Boat. I can’t not point out Animal here, the debut novel from Lisa Taddeo, the writer of the nonfiction bestseller Three Women. If you read that impressive book (and so many of you did), you must be at least a little curious about what Taddeo does with fiction: bookclubs at the ready, it’s going to be big. Meanwhile, all our Dead Write-r’s dreams have come true, with the release of the second book from R.W.R. McDonald, Nancy Business, our Crime Book of the Month.
Readings has been a hotbed of Deborah Levy fandom for many years now, so it’s not surprising that many of our staff and customers have been eagerly anticipating the final instalment of her three-part ‘living autobiography’, Real Estate. More than a memoir, our reviewer praises Levy’s project as, ‘a re-evaluation of what it means to write about the self’. It’s our Nonfiction Book of the Month (and if you haven’t read the other books, Things I Don’t Want to Know and The Cost of Living, don’t be deterred because they do stand alone).
Bri Lee, known most widely for her excellent memoir, Eggshell Skull, turns her sharp intellect to the question, Who Gets to Be Smart Our reviewer recommends Beeswing, musician Richard Thompson’s memoir of the heady years in London’s music scene from 1967 to 1975 (the advance copy of this book was passed between a number of our booksellers and music specialists, who have been discussing it excitedly). Also out this month: a warm and revealing memoir from comedian Sinéad Stubbins (In My Defence, I Have No Defence); an account of the lives of Australian literary luminaries Leslie Rees and Coralie Clarke Rees (A Paper Inheritance); a book about the friendship and rivalry of Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton (the brilliantly titled Three-Martini Afternoons at the Ritz); and MELMO, an informative guidebook to Modernist architecture in Melbourne.
As always, there’s a lot more to mention in nonfiction than there is space here (but see for example, new books from Peter Wohlleben, Vivian Gornick, Geoff Dyer, Salman Rushdie, not to mention the whopping great Penguin Anthology of Feminist Writing), but I’d especially like to draw your attention to our Art and Design guru Margaret Snowdon’s wonderful wrap-up of highlights from the first half of 2021’s publishing in illustrated books.
And finally, dear reader, it’s officially winter, and who knows when and for what reason one might need to stay indoors for an extended period of time, so I urge you to take advantage of our 25% off fiction favourites offer – there’s something for everyone there, and if you need any help navigating what’s on offer, just ask our brilliant staff for recommendations: it’s what we love to do!