Mark’s Say: Political memoirs from women
What do you do when an invitation to meet a former prime minister arrives in your inbox?
It might depend which PM, but if you’re a bit of a sycophant like me, you might press reply near immediately. Random House Australia recently invited booksellers from across the country to assemble in Sydney and meet former Prime Minister Julia Gillard; the occasion was to formally announce the publication of her memoir, My Story, due out in October. The title is perhaps not very imaginative, but it is to the point, considering this is her account of her three years as prime minister. As Gillard said: ‘I want to give people a sense of what it was like to be prime minister in the broadest way. What it was like on a day-to-day basis, and also how one dealt with policy decisions and political negotiations.’ Gillard told the gathered booksellers that she had been working fulltime on the book since January, supported by cups of tea brought to her by Tim – she was, she said, enjoying the experience. She wasn’t going to pick through the entrails of political events, and those looking for dirt would be disappointed. She noted that she is an admirer of Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, and wants her book to have a similar positive message for women, especially younger women, aspiring to positions of leadership in society. The former PM’s address was prefaced by a Skype endorsement from IMF chief Christine Lagarde: ‘A woman is a bit like a tea bag; you only know how strong she is when you put her in hot water … The waters were certainly hot for Julia.’ Readings and The Wheeler Centre will be hosting a joint event with Gillard in October, so keep an eye on out for more news on this.
Two other prominent women in politics have books out this year. Both Hillary Clinton and Elizabeth Warren are being put forward as possible Democrat presidential nominees for the 2016 US election. Warren is a former law professor at Harvard University, where she specialised in bankruptcy, particularly its impact on the middle class. Her book is A Fighting Chance. Clinton’s book, Hard Choices, is an account of her four years as US secretary of state.
In other news, last month saw the annual conference of Australia’s independent booksellers, at which Nielsen BookData presents an award for the best regional and metropolitan bookshop in Australia. Judged by publishers, the award recognises excellence in bookselling. I was very pleased that two Victorian bookshops took home the awards this year: Torquay Books won the regional category, and one of my favourite city bookshops, Readings Carlton, won for metro store of the year.
Mark Rubbo is the Managing Director of Readings