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

Machines Like Me by Ian McEwan

Reviewed by Mark Rubbo

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

Reviewed by Mark Rubbo

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

Reviewed by Mark Rubbo

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

Reviewed by Mark Rubbo

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

Reviewed by Mark Rubbo

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

Reviewed by Mark Rubbo

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

Reviewed by Mark Rubbo

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

Reviewed by Mark Rubbo

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

Reviewed by Mark Rubbo

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

Reviewed by Mark Rubbo

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

Reviewed by Mark Rubbo

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

Reviewed by Mark Rubbo

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

Reviewed by Mark Rubbo

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

Reviewed by Mark Rubbo

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

Reviewed by Mark Rubbo

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

Reviewed by Mark Rubbo

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

Reviewed by Mark Rubbo

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

Reviewed by Mark Rubbo

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

Reviewed by Mark Rubbo

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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Utopia for Realists by Rutger Bregman

Reviewed by Mark Rubbo

Most of the highly paid jobs in our new economy are bullsh*t jobs. The best and the brightest are paid huge amounts of money, yet they don’t create anything of value. Rutger Bregman is a young Dutch …

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Last Words by Barry Dickins

Reviewed by Mark Rubbo

It is 50 years since Ronald Ryan became the last person to be hanged in Victoria. Ryan was serving an 8-year sentence for breaking and entering and together with another inmate broke out of Coburg’s …

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Press Escape by Shaun Carney

Reviewed by Mark Rubbo

Shaun Carney started his career in journalism as a 20-year-old cadet at Melbourne’s Herald and moved a few years later to the Age. After a 26-year career there, holding many influential positions, Sh…

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The Boy Behind the Curtain by Tim Winton

Reviewed by Mark Rubbo

Helen Garner’s Everywhere I Look, a collection of personal essays and diary notes, delighted readers and it went on to become one of our bestsellers. I’ve got a feeling that Tim Winton’s collection, …

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We Are Not Such Things by Justine Van der Leun

Reviewed by Mark Rubbo

In the final days of apartheid a young American student, Amy Biehl, was murdered by a black mob in one of Cape Town’s townships. Three young men were convicted of her murder but the case was a strang…

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The Hate Race by Maxine Beneba Clarke

Reviewed by Mark Rubbo

Maxine Beneba Clarke’s father was the first in his family to go university. They were working class, from Tottenham, a suburb of London. He’d shown a talent for mathematics and became an academic; he…

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A Long Time Coming by Melanie Joosten

Reviewed by Mark Rubbo

My father’s former partner died a few years ago at the aged care home her 90-year-old cousin, Eric, and I had been forced to place her in. Whenever we’d visit her, Eric would invariably shudder and s…

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Everywhere I Look by Helen Garner

Reviewed by Mark Rubbo

We know Helen Garner best for her novels and her harrowing dissections of human dramas. She has a way of describing the world with such wisdom and candour and, sometimes, delight, that it takes one’s…

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When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

Reviewed by Mark Rubbo

This is a short but profoundly moving and powerful book. Kalanithi, a young and brilliant neurosurgeon, is confronted by what proves to be his own terminal cancer. In his undergraduate days he had co…

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Second Half First by Drusilla Modjeska

Reviewed by Mark Rubbo

Most of us, I imagine, reflect only fleetingly on our lives, and few of us, thank god, do it in print, but when a writer of Drusilla Modjeska’s skill does it is something very special. Second Half Fi

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Island Home by Tim Winton

Reviewed by Mark Rubbo

This book reveals two Tim Wintons. There is the wordsmith we feel we already know well through his renowned and evocative fiction, but this book also reveals a person who thinks very deeply about his…

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News

Mark’s Say: June 2019

by Mark Rubbo

Not that I take much notice of them, but company mergers have always seemed fraught; the merger of two of the greatest English language publishers, Random House and Penguin, in 2013 was one I did take a keen interest in. The process took many years and the Australian divisions of the two companies didn’t seem to be immune from some strife. When they merged they ended up with two publishing depart…

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Mark’s Say: The London Book Fair

by Mark Rubbo

I hadn’t been to London or the London Book Fair since 2011; that had been a miserable visit. The weather was cold and drizzly; the book industry was going through an existential crisis as an avalanche of ebooks seemed to presage the demise of the printed book and of bookshops. A few months later the then minister for small business famously predicted that online sales would wipe out all but a few…

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Mark’s Say, 50 Years of Readings

by Mark Rubbo

This year marks Readings' 50th birthday. In his March letter, our managing director Mark Rubbo reflects a career spent championing Australian writers and publishers, and being part of a community united by the drive to make the world a better place through the dissemination of ideas.

Readings was opened by Ross Reading in 1969 at 388 Lygon Street with his wife Dorothy Reading, and friend Peter…

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Mark’s Say, February 2019

by Mark Rubbo

A recent study by the Authors Guild in the United States has shown that the median income for writers in the US dropped 42% between 2009 and 2017. The director of the Authors Guild, Mary Rasenberger, said that in the mid-twentieth century a good literary fiction author could earn a middle-class living just by writing. Royalties and advances are down almost 30% and other sources of income from new…

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Mark’s Say, November 2018

by Mark Rubbo

Not many of you will have heard of Patricia O’Donnell, who sadly passed away last month, and that’s the way she liked it. However, she had a huge impact on Melbourne’s cultural and culinary life that needs to be recognised. My first recollection of meeting Trish was during the Queenscliff Carnival of Words, which Trish initiated. I’d originally known Trish’s sister, Mietta, the proprietor of Miet…

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Mark’s Say, October 2018

by Mark Rubbo

Victoria’s State Library is undergoing a massive transformation with internal spaces being reconfigured and others reopened and repurposed, including the glorious Queens Hall. The design of the refurbishment is a collaboration between Australasian design firm Architectus and Scandinavia’s Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects. The first stage of the redevelopment was completed in late September with t…

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