Dear Reader, with Alison Huber

As I write, it does feel like things are, ever-so-slowly, coming back to life in Melbourne. More people are out and about, dinners are being had, and there’s something approaching a renewed confidence in this (possibly temporary?) status quo. As far as books go, though, it’s all systems go, and March is full of big ones. Margaret Atwood, as our reviewer points out, needs no introduction, so her essay collection, Burning Questions was always going to be our Nonfiction Book of the Month, even before the publisher decided to publish it. Atwood is a peerless international literary figure, but she also manages to feel like a dear friend to generations of us, having written books that feature so prominently in our personal reading biographies. We also feature staff reviews of publisher and writer Phillipa McGuinness’ Skin Deep, and biographer Brenda Niall’s memoir, My Accidental Career. Also out this month is a collection of essays voicing the experience of disabled parents, We’ve Got This (read an extract here); Troy Bramston’s biography of Bob Hawke; a book revealing the astronomical knowledge of First Nations peoples, The First Astronomers; the second volume of Lydia Davis’ essays; a collection of nonfiction from Elena Ferrante (yes, really!); and don’t forget, folks, The Future Is Fungi. (It’s autumn and the season is about to kick off!)

Our Fiction Book of the Month is Rhett Davis’ Hovering, an outstanding debut that resonates in unexpected ways with our times (eyes here for my full review). We also have hearty staff recommendations for three other local debuts: the wonderfully titled collection of short stories, Sadvertising by Ennis Ćehić; acclaimed poet Omar Sakr’s debut novel, Son of Sin; and literary thriller A Great Hope by Victorian-born but London-based writer Jessica Stanley. Yumna Kassab’s debut, The House of Youssef, was on our Readings Prize shortlist in 2020, and her follow-up collection of stories is called Australiana, while Robert Lukins also has a second book, the gorgeous- sounding Loveland. Our reviewer admits Kári Gíslason’s The Sorrow Stone is the book she’s been most looking forward to reading this year (and it didn’t disappoint). Meanwhile, Miles Franklin-winning author Steven Carroll releases the final in his Eliot Quartet (our reviewer, Mark, reassures readers that they can approach this as a standalone novel – and also made a beeline for me earlier this week to tell me how wonderful it is).

I’m so glad that early readers (among them our esteemed staff reviewer, but also my mum who borrowed my copy) have loved Audrey Magee’s The Colony as much as I did: this is a special book. (Mum didn’t want to finish the book because she was enjoying it so much!) Julie Otsuka’s The Swimmers is strange and wonderful. The cover of Julia May Jonas’ Vladimir is bound to raise eyebrows, but it’s also a top-notch campus novel. There are yet more reviews from our staff for new books from Julia Armfield, Daisy Buchanan, Mona Awad, Patrick Gale, Fernanda Melchor, Ryan O’Connor, Karen Joy Fowler, and Ayanna Lloyd Banwo. Also out this month is the second book in Marlon James’ Dark Star Trilogy, Moon Witch, Spider King; a new novel from the author of Mister Pip, Lloyd Jones (The Fish); and a local edition of a National Book Award finalist, Zorrie by Laird Hunt. All crime readers’ eyes should be trained on When We Fall by Aoife Clifford, our Crime Book of the Month. In poetry, our reviewer recommends And to Ecstasy by Marjon Mossammaparast. A posthumous collection of Les Murray’s poems also makes its way to the shelves this month.

And finally, dear reader, if that’s not enough action to sate your fiction desires, please refer to our annual 3-for-2 offer on fiction favourites, available for browsing in real life in all our beautiful stores.

Alison Huber is the head book buyer at Readings.

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Rhett Davis

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