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 “For service to the community through fostering an awareness of Australian literature as a bookseller, literary critic, and promoter and supporter of Australian writers.”

Reviews

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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Warning: The Story of Cyclone Tracy by Sophie Cunningham

Reviewed by Mark Rubbo

It’s almost 40 years since Cyclone Tracy destroyed the northern city of Darwin on the night of 24 December, 1974. Australia had not known a natural disaster like it since European colonisation. Seven…

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Lygon Street - Si Parla Italiano

Reviewed by Mark Rubbo

Surely everyone loves Italy and the Italians; the country has given us pasta, pizza, coffee, and, of course, Lygon Street in Melbourne. Lygon Street – Si Parla Italiano is a delightful homage to the …

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The Tainted Trial of Farah Jama by Julie Szego

Reviewed by Mark Rubbo

In 2008, a young Somali man was convicted of the rape of a 48-year-old woman at a Doncaster nightclub. The woman had been found unconscious in a locked toilet cubicle with her pants down: she had no …

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A Mad And Wonderful Thing by Mark Mulholland

Reviewed by Mark Rubbo

It’s a strange irony that Bernard McGinn died of natural causes just a few months or so back; Mcginn was part of an IRA group of snipers based in South Armagh, Northern Ireland, on the Irish border. …

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My Promised Land by Ari Shavit

Reviewed by Mark Rubbo

My Promised Land is a profoundly inspiring and challenging book. It is an intensely personal impression of a country, for which the writer has intense admiration and affection but also grave misgivin…

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News

Mark Rubbo interviews Richard Flanagan

by Mark Rubbo

Our Managing Director Mark Rubbo chats with Man Booker prize winning author Richard Flanagan about his new genre-bending novel, First Person. Your new novel First Person has some connection to your own experience, in that it is about a young writer who is commissioned to ghostwrite the memoir of a notorious conman. You were commissioned to ghostwrite the memoir of notorious conman John Friedri…

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A letter from Mark Rubbo on Indigenous Literacy Day

by Mark Rubbo

Dear friends,

Today is Indigenous Literacy Day. I am writing to you to seek your support for the work the Indigenous Literacy Foundation (ILF) does to foster literacy in remote communities around Australia.

The ILF achieves their goal through three programs: Book Supply which supplies age and culturally relevant new books to over 250 remote communities each year; Book Buzz which is an early lit…

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Mark’s Say, September 2017

by Mark Rubbo

Three and a half years ago, a great big, fat, intimidating-looking economics book burst onto the scene and changed the economic discourse. Based on years of research, its findings were that, over time, the rate of return on wealth has been greater than the rate of return on economic growth, leading to greater and greater inequality. The book argues that, unless capitalism is reformed, the very de…

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Mark’s Say, August 2017

by Mark Rubbo

I’m looking forward to the Melbourne Writers Festival: still going strong, since 1986. It’s director Lisa Dempster’s last MWF, and she and her colleagues have combined their creative talents to make sure her last Festival will be truly memorable. This year’s theme is Revolution. Lisa writes: ‘When systems fall into crisis and we are entrenched in the politics of despair, literature becomes a plat…

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Mark’s Say, July 2017

by Mark Rubbo

The world moves in mysterious ways sometimes. Some time ago, we received a complaint from the Anti Defamation Commission (ADC) about some wrapping paper on sale in our St Kilda shop. Produced and designed in the UK, the paper featured a series of ‘quaint’ illustrations of characters from history and contemporary popular culture. At a glance, it seemed just the ticket to wrap a gift in. But if you…

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Mark’s Say, June 2017

by Mark Rubbo

A year ago I joined the board of the Indigenous Literacy Foundation. In May, I went with the Foundation on a field trip to Melville Island, the largest of the Tiwi Islands. Melville has two primary schools and a secondary boarding school, Tiwi College, on the island. The main purpose of the trip was to run programs for both primary schools and the College. We were accompanied by singer and ILF am…

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