The best of non-fiction 2021
Every year our staff vote for their favourite books and music of the past 12 months. Here are our top 10 Australian fiction books of the year, voted for by Readings’ staff, and displayed in no particular order.
Emotional Female by Yumiko Kadota
Yumiko Kadota was a young, gifted medical student - the top of her class - on her way to becoming an outstanding plastic and reconstructive surgeon. For fourteen years she’d studied and worked hard. She put in 70-hour weeks at the public hospital as a plastic surgery registrar, accepted everything her superiors threw at her because that’s what you do to get on, right? Her life revolved around her work, but it was okay because it would all amount to a stellar, dream career down the track. In 2018, she walked away from it all.
Real Estate by Deborah Levy
Following the international critical and commercial success of The Cost of Living, this final volume of Levy’s ‘Living Autobiography’ is an exhilarating, thought-provoking and boldly intimate meditation on home and the spectres that haunt it. It resumes and expands Levy’s pioneering examination of a female life lived in the storm of the present tense, asking essential questions about womanhood, modernity, creative identity and personal freedom.
Black and Blue by Veronica Gorrie
A proud Kurnai woman, Veronica Gorrie grew up dauntless, full of cheek and a fierce sense of justice. After watching her friends and family suffer under a deeply compromised law-enforcement system, Gorrie signed up for training to become one of a rare few Aboriginal police officers in Australia. In her ten years in the force, she witnessed appalling institutional racism and sexism, and fought past those things to provide courageous and compassionate service to civilians in need, many Aboriginal themselves.
Growing Up Disabled in Australia by Carly Findlay
One in five Australians have a disability. And disability presents itself in many ways. Yet disabled people are still underrepresented in the media and in literature. Growing Up Disabled in Australia is the fifth book in the highly acclaimed, bestselling Growing Up series. It includes interviews with prominent Australians such as Senator Jordon Steele-John and Paralympian Isis Holt, poetry and graphic art, as well as more than 40 original pieces by writers with a disability or chronic illness.
Fulfillment by Alec MacGillis
Alec MacGillis’s Fulfillment is not another inside account or exposé of our most conspicuously dominant company. Rather, it is a literary investigation of the America that falls within that company’s growing shadow. As MacGillis shows, Amazon’s sprawling network of delivery hubs, data centres, and corporate campuses epitomises a land where winner and loser cities and regions are drifting steadily apart, the civic fabric is unravelling, and work has become increasingly rudimentary and isolated.
Another Day in the Colony by Chelsea Watego
A ground-breaking work - and a call to arms - that exposes the ongoing colonial violence experienced by First Nations people. In this collection of deeply insightful and powerful essays, Chelsea Watego examines the ongoing and daily racism faced by First Nations peoples in so-called Australia. Rather than offer yet another account of ‘the Aboriginal problem’, she theorises a strategy for living in a social world that has only ever imagined Indigenous peoples as destined to die out.
Adrift in Melbourne by Robyn Annear
Melbourne’s streets have always been marvellous-but the proud facades of the nineteenth-century boom aren’t the half of it. What about the stories behind them? This book contains a series of walks created by Robyn Annear to showcase the hidden histories we might scurry past every day, the buildings now gone and the extraordinary characters who inhabited them. Charming, erudite and frankly gossipy, Annear’s highly entertaining guide to Melbourne past and present need not be experienced on the move.
Seeking Asylum by Asylum Seeker Resource Centre
This beautifully illustrated hardback captures the stories of those who have lived the experience of seeking asylum. In their own voices, contributors share how they came to be in Australia, and explore diverse aspects of their lives: growing up in a refugee camp, studying for a PhD, changing attitudes through soccer, being a Muslim in a small country town, campaigning against racism, surviving detention, holding onto culture, dreaming of being reunited with family.
The Luminous Solution by Charlotte Wood
Drawing on research and decades of observant conversation and immersive reading, Charlotte shares what artists can teach the rest of us about inspiration and hard work, how to pursue truth in art and life, and to find courage during the difficult times: facing down what we fear and keeping going when things seem hopeless.
The Game by Sean Kelly
Morrison understands - in a way that no other recent politician has - how politics has become a game. He also understands something essential about Australia - something many of us are unwilling to admit, even to ourselves. But there are things Scott Morrison does not understand. This is the story of those failures, too - and the way that, as his prime ministership continues, Morrison’s failure to think about politics as anything other than a game has become a dangerous liability, both to him and to us.