March highlights

Well, it behoves me to mention, first of all, the latest work by one of Readings’ own , namely, children’s book buyer Emily Gale, who has penned two books for younger readers: Eliza Boom’s Diary: My Explosive Adventure and Eliza Boom’s Diary: My Fizz-tastic Investigation. Having witnessed firsthand her agony at having to order her own book for the shops, all I can say is that she ordered very conservatively for what will surely be an immensely popular new series.

This month also marks the (gulp!) twentieth anniversary of my employment at Readings. That’s a lot of new releases I’ve seen in my time! But for those like me with bookselling in their blood, the curiosity and excitement about new fiction and non-fiction never really ebbs, which is why we just keep going and going and going …

First up this month, I would have to note the publication of Paul Toohey’s Quarterly Essay entitled That Sinking Feeling: Asylum Seekers and the Search for the Indonesian Solution. Not that the issue is at all a new one, but the Orwellian doublespeak we now hear on an almost daily basis to legitimise current practices on our borders would seem to represent a particular nadir in this country’s democracy – investigative journalists like Toohey are about all we have to get closer to the truth. A potentially more positive note will be struck by Masha Gessen’s analysis of the Pussy Riot phenomenon in Words Will Break Cement, as the women involved have now won their freedom; though, democratic prospects for Russia remain dim I fear, particularly for all the propaganda success the recent Sochi sideshow will no doubt reap. A final political book also worth mentioning: 774 ABC’s Rafael Epstein, with Prisoner X, digs deep into the murky tale of the Australian Mossad operative Ben Zygier. Epstein reveals new information from the case, and the events surrounding his death in 2010 in an Israeli high-security prison cell.

In terms of fiction, March is largely a month of much-loved authors returning with much-anticipated books. Lorrie Moore publishes her first new short-story collection in 15 years with Bark; Siri Hustvedt delivers a major new novel with The Blazing World; and Karen Joy Fowler, author of the 2004 bestseller The Jane Austen Bookclub, has a novel that is already getting a rather ecstatic early reception – the suitably titled We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves.

Locally, and as is only appropriate, we celebrate the eightieth birthday of David Malouf in style: a new (and exquisite) poetry collection, Earth Hour, and a collection of personal essays, A First Place – both of which I’m happy to say Readings will be able to offer as signed editions. An inspiration for writers and readers alike, let’s hope David still has many more books in him yet!

Finally, from Sasha Grishin and the veritable Miegunyah Press: a magnificent new volume entitled Australian Art: A History. Our reviewer describes it as an ‘an important and good-looking contribution to the understanding of Australian art’, notable in particular for its scope and the collaborative approach the author has taken, from consulting with tribal elders for the Indigenous section, to engaging with art professional respondents for the contemporary chapters. It looks set to be the standard work for many years to come.

Martin Shaw is Readings’ Books Division Manager.