What we’re reading: Emma Chastain, Sarah Bailey & Simon Rowe

Each week we bring you a sample of the books we’re reading, the films and TV shows we’re watching, and the music we’re listening to.


Nina Kenwood is reading The Dark Lake by Sarah Bailey

The Dark Lake is a terrific Australian crime fiction debut. Set in rural NSW, it opens with a dead body in a lake and a police detective juggling lots of complicated secrets. It has the small town mystery of The Dry, the police procedural element of Tana French’s The Trespasser and a dark and messy protagonist to rival The Girl on the Train. It’s exactly the kind of book I like to curl up with on a cold and wintery weekend, and it’s also a great pick for book clubs.

To hear a great discussion about the book, I recommend listening to the most recent episode of the excellent Australian book podcast, Crime Time.


Robbie Egan is reading Simon Rowe, Meg Howrey and James S.A. Corey

I’ve been reading a few things recently.

Good Night Papa is a collection of short stories set in far flung places, but mainly in Japan and Australia. Author Simon Rowe is a really interesting guy. He has lived in Japan for the past 20 years with his wife and now two children, eking out a living as a writer and teacher. His writing has been published in the Paris Review (he won first prize in the Windows on the World essay competition), The New York Times, and many more places. The title story of his book won the Asian Short Film Script Competition judged by Michelle Yeoh, and Rowe has received a number of other awards for his travel journalism and screenplays. Good Night Papa is evocative and precise, with a tinge of noir crime about it. Rowe is a fine craftsman.

I’ve also now finished reading Meg Howrey’s novel, The Wanderers, which I wrote about for this same column a couple of weeks ago. While this book’s premise is about space travel – three astronauts are chosen to participate in an exhaustive simulation in order to become the first people to travel to Mars – this is not science fiction. Rather, this novel is an exploration of human nature, and of the incongruities of self-perception and the perception others have of us. Questions abound while reading: How real is the simulation? How real are our responses to simulations? How real is reality? Written in multiple perspectives, The Wanderers is beautiful, incisive, provocative fiction. I haven’t read anything like it before.

And finally, I have also recently finished the sixth book in James S.A. Corey’s The Expanse series. I’ve written previously about this series too (see here) but I feel compelled to recommend it again. These books present fantastic speculations of where we may be headed as a species. Smart blockbusters aren’t too common, but that’s exactly what The Expanse series is. Read it.


Leanne Hall is reading Chloe Snow’s Diary: Confessions of a High School Disaster by Emma Chastain

I’m a tough nut to crack, but Chloe Snow’s diary had me crying with laughter on almost every page, mostly because of a deep recognition of my teenage self. I can’t think of another recent book that captures the ups and downs of teenage life so well. Chloe swings with dizzying speed between elation and despair, self-knowledge and delusion, mature insight and absurd trivia, lust and revulsion. I understood her pursuit of the no-good, unworthy bad boy even as I was hoping she wouldn’t go there, I cheered for her rare social triumphs, and I felt sick when her mum let her down yet again.

I also kept a diary religiously when I was a teenager, but later shame and embarrassment caused me to throw them out. I can remember Mum telling me I would regret losing them, and me yelling, ‘I KNOW I’LL REGRET IT BUT I DON’T CARE MUM’, as I flung them into the wheelie bin.


Chris Gordon is reading Helen Garner in The Monthly

Last night I read about how when we neglect someone – when we are not conscious of other people’s lives, their desires and their anguish – then the consequences can so often be grave. Helen Garner’s essay, ‘Why She Broke’ – The woman, her children and the lake: Akon Goude’s tragic story‘, appears in the latest issue of the Monthly and makes for disconcerting reading. Beautifully written long-form journalism like this essay allows us to see what our society has become. In this case I feel we have become separate to those that live near us, even though we’re still close enough to know better.

Chloe Snow's Diary: Confessions of a High School Disaster

Chloe Snow’s Diary: Confessions of a High School Disaster

Emma Chastain

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