Thinking of moving from Melbourne to Perth… Perth to Alice Springs… or maybe from Brisbane to the Gulf of Carpentaria? Or maybe you are just going on a whirlwind road trip around Australia. If so, here are the books you need to read along the way.
Power Without Glory – Frank Hardy
Set back at a time when Collingwood was not one of the most sought-after locations for homeowners, Frank Hardy’s Power Without Glory was highly controversial when it was released, due to the parallels Hardy drew between the book’s central character and the real-world Australian Labour Party powerbroker John Wren.
Why read this book? Set in a fictional suburb ‘Carringbush’, the book is effectively set in Collingwood/Abbotsford. Get an insight into what life was once like in this part of Melbourne.
Ghost River – Tony Birch
Renowned Indigenous Australian author Tony Birch won the 2016 Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for this book, which takes place predominantly on the banks of the Yarra River.
Why read this book? The book’s two central characters, two young boys, befriend a group of men living down on the banks of the Yarra River. With homelessness in Melbourne and other Australian cities a stirring and important issue, this is just one part of the book which will invite you into a world of true friendships.
Monkey Grip – Helen Garner
Monkey Grip was Helen Garner’s first published book. Giving rise to other books in the broad category of ‘grunge lit’, like Candy by Luke Davies, this book explores the life of a single mother as she manages a dysfunctional relationship with a heroin addict.
Why read this book? It is one of the earlier instances of a scrappy, rough, modern Australian form of literary fiction, rather than a more traditionally English way of writing being forced into an Australian setting.
The Secret River – Kate Grenville
This book follows the life of William Thornhill, an English bargeman who finds himself as a convict in Sydney. The book deals with the central character’s love affair with a new landscape, and his relationship with those who were living there before him.
Why read this book? With an elegant and visceral writing style, Kate Grenville brings Sydney’s penal settlement to life, juxtaposing it and many of its uglier characters with the pristine environment they are new to inhabit.
Looking for Alibrandi – Melina Marchetta
One of the most famous books to be set in Sydney, Melina Marchetta is one of Australia’s most famous and prolific authors. Also made into a movie with the most 90s vibes possible, this book is a coming-of-age tale that anyone can love.
Why read this book? This book will take you right back to your teenage years, when you seemed to be caught between your public self, the one you presented and shaped throughout your school life, and your private self, the one that only your family saw.
The Harp in the South – Ruth Park
This book follows an Irish Catholic family living in Surry Hills, Sydney. At the time the book is set, Surry Hills is a slum, and the characters navigate both the dangers and the adventures that lie therein.
Why read this book? If you live in Surry Hills, you know how beautiful it is. All the more reason to read this book and understand what it was like to live in the same area not too long ago.
The Lucky Galah – Tracy Sorensen
Set north of Perth, The Lucky Galah is a relatively new novel, narrated by a galah. Following a number of families in a tiny town chosen to house a giant dish to help with the 1969 moon landing, this book explores a number of themes, all from the vantage point of a bored and excitable galah.
Why read this book? Beyond getting the point of view of a bird…this is a great book to read during winter, as Sorensen’s descriptions of the West Australian heat will do away with the need for a heater in your room.
The Shark Net – Robert Drewe
Adapted for the screen, Robert Drewe’s The Shark Net is one of his most famous books. A dark tale of murder, this book takes the shine away from sunny Perth, and even more so because it is based on real events.
Why read this book? You will quickly forget this is a memoir, due to the power of the writing, and then on the occasions that you remember that this is based on the author’s childhood, a shiver will run down your spine.
Breath – Tim Winton
Battling Dirt Music for a great novel set in Western Australia, Breath was recently turned into a film by actor and director Simon Baker. Another coming of age tale, with the ocean as its setting.
Why read this book? If you are taking a trip to Perth, you will likely want to make a detour down to Denmark, where the film was filmed for Breath. This book will get you into the mood for the epic coastline WA has to offer. It is also a seamless exploration of a young boy’s journey into adulthood.
Flames – Robbie Arnott
Another new author, Robbie Arnott is a great example of the particular blend of authors that only Tasmania can produce. This book is witty, dark, suspenseful and incredibly lyrical.
Why read this book? If you haven’t read any magic realism before, this is a superb introduction. The book begins by describing how the women of a particular family have a tendency to come back from the dead, and it doesn’t let up from there.
Lion – Saroo Brierley
A true story, this book is set both in Tasmania and India, telling the story of Saroo’s search for family after one day getting lost as a five-year-old boy in India to eventually find himself on the other side of the world.
Why read this book? This is a highly emotional book, focusing on the author’s determination to find his mother and siblings. The ease with which Saroo finds himself lost will never fail to impress upon you as a reader.
Past the Shallows – Favel Parrett
Another dark novel that could only come from Tasmania, Favel Parret has an incredible talent for writing from children’s perspectives.
Why read this book? You will return to a feeling that you might have had as a child, where things just seem to happen to you, and you have very little control over them.
The Salty River – Jan Bauer
A graphic novel, this book follows a solo hiker as he walks the Larapinta Trail, west of Alice Springs along the West MacDonnell Ranges. Along the way, he meets a girl who is also walking the trail.
Why read this book? A great introduction to graphic novels, and an even better introduction to the Larapinta Trail.
Tracks – Robyn Davidson
The true story of Robyn Davidson’s famous trek from Alice Springs to the coast of Western Australia, aided solely by her team of camels.
Why read this book? Davidson has moments of true poetic lyricism in this book, while if nothing else this book will give you a much better idea of just how intelligent and loving camels can be.
This country anytime anywhere
A collection of Indigenous writing that explores a range of themes and spans a variety of landscapes. The authors range in ages and locations and it includes translations of eight Indigenous languages, some of them close to being forgotten.
Why read this book? The stories put forth from its authors range from the natural, the magic, and the brutal physical world today. It is a powerful book to read before visiting or moving to the Northern Territory.
Carpentaria – Alexis Wright
Alexis Wright is one of Australia’s most celebrated authors. Carpentaria is her second novel and won the Miles Franklin Award in 2007. It follows the lives of a number of residents in a fictional town in northwest Queensland.
Why read this book? If you live down on the south end of this continent, reading books about the top end can be like reading about the other side of the world. This is an epic novel, not to put it too lightly.
Johnno – David Malouf
One of Queensland’s most celebrated authors, David Malouf sets Johnno in various places around the world, but always returns to Brisbane.
Why read this book? Because Malouf manages to make the way in which Brisbane’s humidity forces people to sweat from the moment they leave their doorsteps to almost seem idyllic.
Brisbane – Matthew Condon
This book is a part memoir and part tour guide to Brisbane. Matthew Condon is a prolific Australian author and his descriptions of Brisbane will make you sell up and move there immediately.
Why read this book? Didn’t you read the previous line?