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

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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Under Cover: Adventures in the Art of Editing by Craig Munro

Reviewed by Mark Rubbo

University of Queensland Press (UQP) is a fine independent publisher but from the early 70s to the late 90s in particular it really punched above its weight. At one time or another, its stable of aut…

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Sweet Caress by William Boyd

Reviewed by Mark Rubbo

There’s a small group of us at Readings who are great fans of William Boyd, with one of my colleagues claiming his Any Human Heart as one of her favourite books. Boyd is a master storyteller who weav…

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A Guide to Berlin by Gail Jones

Reviewed by Mark Rubbo

I’ve always felt that Gail Jones is yet to receive the recognition she deserves. This is her sixth novel and it is, I believe, a masterpiece. It is a beautifully constructed novel that builds slowly …

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The Mothers by Rod Jones

Reviewed by Mark Rubbo

I vividly remember Rod Jones’ 1986 novel Julia Paradise, the story of a Scottish psychoanalyst and his eponymous patient set in pre-war China. It quite justifiably caused a sensation with its explora…

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Between You and Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen by Mary Norris

Reviewed by Mark Rubbo

Last night I went to I Gradi for pizza with my son. It was an easy decision for Joe and me to make and we enjoyed the pizzas very much. You, possibly, think I should have written ‘Joe and I’. Well, t…

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The Life of Houses by Lisa Gorton

Reviewed by Mark Rubbo

The Sydney Morning Herald once described Lisa Gorton as ‘one of the most sensuous and cerebral of Australian poets’, praise that could equally apply to her first novel, The Life of Houses. Gorton is …

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One of Us by Asne Seierstad

Reviewed by Mark Rubbo

This is an horrific and tragic book; it is an account of one the most devastating mass shootings in recent history. In July, 2011, Anders Breivik detonated a home made bomb in front of the Norwegian …

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A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler

Reviewed by Mark Rubbo

Anne Tyler writes about families; usually they are quite ordinary, middle-class families. They might have a few quirks but mostly they, like the rest of us, are trying to navigate their lives as best…

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Charlie’s Country

Reviewed by Mark Rubbo

Charlie (David Gulpilil) lives in a small community in Arnhem Land. A sequence of events, funny yet sadly moving, drive him to eschew the community and go bush. But even he can’t survive in the bush …

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Amnesia by Peter Carey

Reviewed by Mark Rubbo

Despite its more serious subtext, Amnesia is a very funny book and is Peter Carey at the height of his powers. I read it a second time because I wanted to savour it again for its structure and its wr…

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News

Mark’s Say, April 2018

by Mark Rubbo

After a hiatus of almost 18 years, this month marks the publication of Issue 66 of the journal Australian Short Stories. The first edition of Australian Short Stories was published at Christmas in 1982 and sported a great cover by Michael Leunig and contributors included David Ireland, Frank Hardy, Manning Clark, and Barry Dickins. Bruce and Lynn loved publishing Australian Short Stories, however…

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Mark’s Say, March 2018

by Mark Rubbo

Last year the manager of Readings Kids in Carlton, Angela Crocombe, attended a children’s book conference in the US. Her American colleagues told her about their Teen Advisory Boards – groups of teen readers who read new Young Adult books and write reviews. Inspired, Angela talked to her Readings colleagues and a call went out, asking teens between 15 and 19 to contact us if they were passionate …

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Mark’s Say, February 2018

by Mark Rubbo

Sydney teacher and writer Catherine Walsh caused a bit of a storm when the Fairfax papers published a talk she gave on volunteering and charities, ‘Volunteering doesn’t make the world a better place’, (Sydney Morning Herald, 5 January). The crux of her argument was that volunteering and donating to charities transfers the collective obligations of society and government to individuals, and those …

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Our best bargain picks for Christmas gifts

by Mark Rubbo

Over the past few weeks, we’ve been compiling a host of gift guides to help you with your Christmas shopping. Here is a list of great books available at super special prices. Keating by Kerry O'Brien $16.95 (was $49.99)

Sadly, they don’t make politicians like this any more – so here is the next best thing. Keating is the life of one of Australia’s most intriguing public figures, former Pri…

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Mark Rubbo chats with Peter Carey

by Mark Rubbo

Our Managing Director Mark Rubbo chats with Man Booker prize winning author Peter Carey about his . A large part of A Long Way from Home takes place during one of the famous round-Australia endurance races of the late 50s, commonly referred to as the Redex Trial. Your descriptions of this race have an authenticity to them that thrills. What kind of research did you undertake to make these scen…

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Mark’s Say, November 2017

by Mark Rubbo

I’ve just read Peter Carey’s latest novel, A Long Way From Home (you can read my short review in these pages) and can highly recommend it. I’ve always loved Carey’s work – some more than others – and admired his way of putting words together in a style that’s distinctly his, yet quintessentially Australian. Up until the sixties, Australia’s pubs had to close at 6pm and workers had little over an …

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