Mark Rubbo

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Twitter: @markrubbo

Mark Rubbo is managing director of Readings. He is a past president of the Australian Booksellers Association and was founding chair of the Melbourne Writers Festival. In 2006 he was awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia.

Reviews

A Room Made of Leaves by Kate Grenville

Kate Grenville returns with a much-anticipated fourth novel considering Australia’s colonial past, and interactions between Australia’s First Nations peoples and colonists. Purporting to be the lost …

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Redhead by the Side of the Road by Anne Tyler

Micah Mortimer ‘… lives alone; he keeps to himself; his routine is etched in stone.’ Micah’s an ordinary man. He dropped out of college to found a start-up with a friend; that failed and since then h…

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Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line by Deepa Anappara

Have you ever been through periods when most books you pick up fail to ignite that magical spark? I’ve just emerged from one and Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line has been my saviour. Set in an imagina…

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Apeirogon by Colum McCann

This is quite a surprising novel in its structure made up of a series of numbered passages. Every passage is connected in some way and at times not in ways that are immediately obvious. It is based o…

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Yellow Notebook: Diaries Volume I, 1978–1987 by Helen Garner

When Helen Garner’s debut novel Monkey Grip was published in 1977, a couple of larrikins made some beer money by publishing a pamphlet, ‘Who’s Who in Monkey Grip’ and there might be a temptation for …

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Finding the Heart of the Nation by Thomas Mayor

In 2017, over two hundred and fifty Indigenous representatives from around the country gathered at Uluru and unanimously adopted the Uluru Statement from the Heart. The last paragraph reads, ‘In 1967…

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Other People’s Houses by Hilary McPhee

At one time, Hilary McPhee’s life was in upheaval and she was struggling with the illness and death of her parents, a bout of cancer and the end of a long marriage. It was a period of deep desolation…

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Maybe the Horse Will Talk by Elliot Perlman

It’s a long time since Elliot Perlman’s last novel The Street Sweeper and it’s so good to see him back. Perlman’s work looks at social issues through the prism of a mighty fine story. He’s looked at …

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Say Nothing by Patrick Radden Keefe

Say Nothing, Patrick Radden Keefe’s examination of the Troubles in Northern Ireland from the late 1960s to the Good Friday Agreement in 1998, won the 2019 Orwell Prize for Political Writing. Keefe, a…

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Harry Seidler’s Umbrella by Joe Rollo

The first thing that strikes you about this book is its sheer beauty. Joe Rollo got his friend and graphic designer Garry Emery to design the book and together they agonised over it. It’s a lovely ob…

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Travellers by Helon Habila

A unnamed narrator accompanies his artist wife who’s been awarded a fellowship in Berlin. She is American, he is Nigerian. After a miscarriage they both feel unmoored; they both react differently: hi…

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Machines Like Me by Ian McEwan

In Machines Like Me, Ian McEwan imagines a world in the past that is also the future. Britain has lost the Falklands War and driverless cars are the norm. Alan Turing, the great scientist, is also st…

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Invented Lives by Andrea Goldsmith

I read an early draft of Invented Lives a year or so ago; it was almost wonderful then but now it really is wonderful. What I like most about Andrea Goldsmith’s work is that it manages to combine a d…

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The Rip by Mark Brandi

If The Rip has any antecedents it’s probably novels like Helen Garner’s Monkey Grip and the late Andrew McGahan’s Praise; its gritty look at the underbelly of our society is raw and unflinching and a…

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Love is Blind by William Boyd

I have to confess that William Boyd is one of my favourite authors; his Any Human Heart is probably his best but Love is Blind comes close. It’s an exotic and sad love story that kept me wanting more…

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21 Lessons for the 21st Century by Yuval Noah Harari

In the beginning of the twenty-first century all we can seem to see is a world of rapid change and turmoil, with the rise of a destructive right-wing nationalism, and technology outpacing our ability…

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Prize Fighter by Future D. Fidel

Future D. Fidel is a refugee from the Congo. Prize Fighter is based on the acclaimed stage play written by Fidel and it too follows the life of Isa Alaki from the war-torn Congo to life in Australia.…

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Origin Story by David Christian

David Christian coined the phrase ‘Big History’ in reference to a project that aims to tell the story of everything that’s happened from the beginning of the universe until now. It’s an idea that cau…

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Reading the Landscape: A Celebration of Australian Writing

The University of Queensland Press was established in 1948 (coincidentally, the year I was born). In the mid-sixties, under the stewardship of American expat Frank Thompson, it started to publish Aus…

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The Madonna of the Mountains by Elise Valmorbida

Set in the Veneto region of northern Italy, this novel about life in rural Italy between the 1920s and 50s is compulsively beautiful. It opens with a young woman, Maria, waiting for her father to bri…

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Marcia Langton: Welcome to Country by Marcia Langton

I sense a growing desire for non-Indigenous Australians to know about our Indigenous culture. The recent successes of Growing Up Aboriginal in Australia (one of our bestsellers last month) and Alexis…

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The Death of Noah Glass by Gail Jones

Mattanza is a Sicilian word to describe a seasonal ritual of hunting and killing tuna in the waters around Sicily; it also the term used to describe periodic mafia killings. Noah Glass, an art histor…

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The Shepherd’s Hut by Tim Winton

Jaxie’s dad ‘wasn’t always a c#%t. Like he was probably decent once and you were happy and so was your mum.’ But he is now, or was; he’s dead now and Jaxie Clackton, 16 and desperate, is on the run –…

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On Borrowed Time by Robert Manne

The publisher describes this book as a ‘stunning new collection of essays’ and the hyperbole is certainly justified. The essays range over a number of topics that matter to Robert Manne and, on readi…

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Enlightenment Now by Steven Pinker

In 1784, philosopher Immanuel Kant asked, ‘What is Enlightenment?’ It was, he argued, humankind’s emergence from its submission to the ‘dogmas and formulas’ of religious or political authority. The E…

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A Long Way from Home by Peter Carey

One of my favourite books is Peter Carey’s Illywhacker, with its outrageous narrator Herbert Badgery and the sprawling basalt plains of Bacchus Marsh. It was a riot of fun that hid a message about th…

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First Person by Richard Flanagan

Probably Australia’s largest fraud case involved John Friedrich, executive director of the National Safety Council of Australia. Friedrich embezzled almost $300 million from a number of banks through…

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On the Java Ridge by Jock Serong

Jock Serong’s books don’t shy away from tackling topics that affect contemporary society and in On the Java Ridge, although this doesn’t dominate the narrative, they are there. In Quota, it was the e…

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Defectors by Joseph Kanon

Simon Weeks and his older brother Frank had promising careers in the United States intelligence services. Members of a respected Boston family, their careers and life trajectories were mapped out for…

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A Writing Life by Bernadette Brennan

I have to admit that I loved this book; I’m an unabashed fan of Helen Garner’s work and have been ever since the publication of her first book, Monkey Grip. As a young Carlton bookseller in 1977, the…

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News

Mark’s Say, August 2020

by Mark Rubbo

If you’ve been a customer at Readings you’ve come across Alison Huber, either directly or indirectly. She’s been with us since 2003. For many of those years, she moonlighted from her day job as an academic at the University of Melbourne. Prior to that, she worked at the Melbourne University Book Room and the Dymocks at Melbourne Central (now gone). Bookselling just didn’t seem to let her go. In 2…

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Mark’s Say, July 2020

by Mark Rubbo

You might recall that in my last column I contemplated what the impact of the escalating COVID-19 crisis might be and grappled with how we would cope. As we went into lockdown, I was going to read Middlemarch and hoped that some of you might go on a similar journey. Our shops might have been closed but, wonderfully, many of you shifted to buying from us online. It was so heartening, but the numbe…

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Mark’s Coronavirus Diary, Thursday 27 March 2020

by Mark Rubbo

I email our accountant asking how long can we trade without any income? What are our liabilities? What can we do for our staff? We have a number of casuals with no leave provisions, how can we help? Who needs help? What about our publishers and authors? How will we sell their books? How will we let you know about them? How can we get them to you?

My dear son Joe says these times will test our re…

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An important message to all Readings customers

by Mark Rubbo

Dear Friends of Readings,

In 51 years of business Readings has really only closed its doors on Christmas day (apart from the time when Carlton’s sewer burst – that was unpleasant). We pride ourselves on supplying books, music and film to the public of Melbourne and Australia.

We have remained open during the current crisis, partly because our job is selling books, but also because we know that …

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Mark’s Say, March 2020

by Mark Rubbo

One of the booksellers at Readings Kids suggested in early January that we do something to support the bushfire victims. We decided to put the money we raised from gift wrapping in January towards bushfire relief. We also decided that Readings would match the amount collected. In a normal January we collect about $1000. We were thrilled that in response to our call the amount raised this January wa…

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Mark Rubbo recommends nine favourite reads from 2019

by Mark Rubbo

Readings Manager Director Mark Rubbo recommends a sample of nine favourite books he’s read this year – including fantastic Australian fiction, a sprawling family epic, two brilliant crime novels, Helen Garner’s diaries, and more. Invented Lives by Andrea Goldsmith

Set in the mid 1980s as the Cold War rages and the crisis of AIDS is unfolding, Invented Lives is the eighth novel from Andrea G…

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