Goodness, the year is all of a sudden drawing to a close! This means, of course, a plethora of great new books destined for your summer break and Yuletide gift-giving; not to mention immediate consumption.
But before getting to those, let’s reflect on those books that have appeared in the last year though perhaps didn’t get quite the exposure they deserved.
In these times of fickle media coverage and myriad cultural diversions, it can too often be a book’s fate to be largely overlooked, with only a prize shortlisting bringing renewed exposure. This is where the Small Press Network (SPN) has stepped in with its Most Underrated Book Award (won last year by Wayne Macauley for his novel The Cook).
The shortlistees for the 2013 award are:
The winner will be announced at a free gala during SPN’s wonderful Independent Publishing Conference this month – an event that is a must for all those with any interest in the contemporary publishing scene in Australia.
(You can read more about the shortlisted titles here.)
November’s international fiction highlight must surely be the long-awaited new Donna Tartt novel, The Goldfinch, which rivals Booker Prize-winner Eleanor Catton’s for size at a hefty 771 pages, and delivers handsomely for all those fans of The Secret History.
At quite the other end of the scale in extent, but certainly not in achievement, is a new story by Zadie Smith – The Embassy of Cambodia – now published in book form. Our reviewer considers it ‘a tiny masterpiece’.
On the local stage, a number of Australian writers have contributed to an important anthology – A Country Too Far, edited by Tom Keneally and Rosie Scott – with their response to the fraught asylum seeker debate that continues to play out in this country. I’m sure one of the contributors to that volume, Christos Tsiolkas, would approve of me mentioning it ahead of his own, extraordinary new novel, Barracuda. Suffice to say I believe them both to be among the essential reads of the year!
Christos Tsiolkas signing copies of Barracuda.
Noteworthy also are two new additions to the Text Classics range by the redoubtable Elizabeth Harrower (Down in the City) and Gerald Murnane (A Lifetime on Clouds); and Garry Disher returns with a new crime novel, Bitter Wash Road.
And in non-fiction, we have offerings as disparate as Clare Wright’s The Forgotten Rebels of Eureka, revealing the heretofore unwritten story of the women involved in the rebellion; Germaine Greer’s monument to Australian flora and fauna, White Beech; and Gabrielle Carey’s family memoir, Moving Among Strangers, which resurrects the life and work of that other classic Australian writer, Randolph Stow.