Mark Rubbo

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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

Bedtime Story by Chloe Hooper

How does one react when one’s partner is diagnosed with cancer? In her new memoir Bedtime Story, Chloe Hooper is forced to grapple with that question when her partner, Don, is diagnosed with a parti…

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On Helen Garner: Writers on Writers by Sean O’Beirne

Sean O’Beirne first read Helen Garner when he was 17 years old. Reading Monkey Grip, what struck him immediately was the voice, the confident voice stating, ‘this is me, this is what and who I am, an…

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Son of Sin by Omar Sakr

Omar Sakr won the Prime Minister’s Literary Award for poetry in 2020 for his collection The Lost Arabs, and this is his first major work of fiction. Son of Sin follows a young gay man navigating his …

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Goodnight, Vivienne, Goodnight by Steven Carroll

This is the final novel in Steven Carroll’s series based on T. S. Eliot’s Four Quartets. Carroll hadn’t intended to write a quartet but after the publication of the first book, The Lost Life, a chanc…

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Dancer: A Biography for Philippa Cullen by Evelyn Juers

The dancer, Philippa Cullen, died tragically in India at the age of 25. Evelyn Juers’ biography of this complex young woman runs to 550 pages. You may think, do Cullen’s life and achievements justify…

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Small Joys of Real Life by Allee Richards

When you read Allee Richards’ first novel, it’s tempting to make comparisons with Margaret Drabble’s groundbreaking The Millstone and Helen Garner’s Monkey Grip. In The Millstone, a brief relationshi…

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China Room by Sunjeev Sahota

My son-in-law’s cousin was married a few months ago to a Punjabi man she’d never met. The marriage, by her own report, is going well. For some of us in the West, the idea of an arranged marriage seem…

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Return to Uluru by Mark McKenna

By most measures Uluru is just a few hundred kilometres from the geographic centre of Australia. The location of the centre fascinated explorers such as Charles Sturt and Cecil Madigan. It’s held an …

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The Committed by Viet Thanh Nguyen

Viet Thanh Nguyen won the Pulitzer Prize in 2016 for his novel The Sympathizer and the titular character of that book returns here in The Committed. This time the Sympathizer has surfaced in Paris in…

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One Day I’ll Remember This: Diaries 1987–1995 by Helen Garner

This is the second volume of Helen Garner’s Diaries to be published and covers the years 1987–1995. The Helen in these entries is more mature, more established, and perhaps not as happy. Professional…

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The Living Sea of Waking Dreams by Richard Flanagan

Families are funny things; they can be the source of great strength, but also great cruelties, humiliations, and sadness. In a soulless Hobart hospital, Francie’s three adult children gather round he…

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The Tolstoy Estate by Steven Conte

It’s 1941, in the depths of the Russian winter, and the beginning of the end of the German advance on Russia. A German medical unit stumbles through the gates of Yasnaya Polyana, Tolstoy’s country es…

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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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News

Mark’s Say: May, 2022

by Mark Rubbo

In 2001, to mark International Women’s Day, our events manager Chris Gordon organised a panel at Readings Carlton to discuss why women writers were largely overlooked when the major literary prizes were awarded. ‘We were pissed off,’ Chris says. From that night, the Stella Prize was born, and this year marks the awarding of the 10th Stella Prize. Stella drives significant cultural change by eleva…

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Mark’s Say: April, 2022

by Mark Rubbo

Pre-Covid, publishers would occasionally take booksellers out for drinks or dinner with one of their authors. Several years ago, Text Publishing had a function for Helen Garner. Sean O’Beirne, who also works as a bookseller, attended and was placed next to Helen. The two hit it off ; Sean, Helen and another writer began to meet regularly to talk about all sorts of things. Helen would read Sean’s…

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Mark’s Say: Readings Foundation

by Mark Rubbo

Around 2008, when it became apparent that thanks to the community’s support, Readings would survive the onslaught of Borders, we decided we needed to acknowledge that support and the efforts of our staff in a tangible and ongoing way. We resolved to give a total of 20% of our profits to the community and staff each year. A year later in 2009, we established the Readings Foundation to support lite…

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Mark’s Say: February, 2022

by Mark Rubbo

As I mentioned in one of my columns last year, the lockdowns had a terrible impact on the sale of books in bricks-and-mortar shops. For books that were first published during that period, they may never recover those lost sales. New South Wales and Victoria account for around 60% of all books sold nationally, so to lose a substantial amount of those sales is fairly significant. For most first-tim…

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Mark Rubbo’s best of 2021

by Mark Rubbo

Below our managing director Mark Rubbo shares his favourite reads from 2021. Wild Abandon by Emily Bitto

Will flees to the US to escape the misery of a breakup; a road trip across America will set him straight. Stuck in Littleproud, Ohio, he runs into an eccentric and charismatic private zoo owner and gets drawn into his bizarre world.

The Magician by Colm Toibin

This fictionalised accoun…

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Mark’s Say: October, 2021

by Mark Rubbo

Twenty years ago, there were well over 15 bookshops in Melbourne’s CBD. They included iconic names such as The Technical Bookshop, McGill’s, Angus and Robertson, Collins, Reader’s Feast and The Little Bookroom. Of those bookshops only a few remain, such as The Paperback, Dymocks Melbourne and The Hill of Content. The ones that disappeared were likely victims to a combination of rising rents and f…

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