What We're Reading / Best of 2021

Take a look at the great things we’ve read in 2021, and what we’re most looking forward to reading over the Summer break!

Jane McCredie, CEO

Favourite book of 2021:

Song of the Crocodile by Nardi Simpson

My favourite book this year was Nardi Simpson’s Song of the Crocodile. Nardi’s debut novel is a sprawling, lyrical family saga that follows three generations of the Billymil family: their grief, loss, strength and resistance. Set in the fictional town of Darnmoor, on Yuwaalaraay country, it offers a powerful challenge to settler narratives about land and history. 

What we’ll be reading over the break:

Signs and Wonders by Delia Falconer

Over summer, I’m planning to finish reading Delia Falconer’s extraordinary book, Signs and Wonders, which casts a piercing gaze on the beauty of our damaged planet and how the environmental change we have created is in turn changing us. I’m also on the lookout for some entertaining genre fiction, perhaps starting with Jane Harper’s The Survivors.

Martyn Reyes, Project and Communications Officer

Favourite book of 2021:

Afterparties by Anthony Vaesna So

Afterparties is one of the best examples of diaspora writing I have read this year, or perhaps ever. It’s the debut story collection of late Cambodian American writer Anthony Vaesna So. His stories are wildly varied, revealing the multifaceted lives of the Cambodian refugees and their second-generation children, in America after the Khmer Rogue genocide. So does an incredible job at exploring the complexities of philosophy, reincarnation, Cambodian tradition, family, children-of-migrant angst, masculinity and queerness within his many characters. 

Other books I loved this year include: Cleanness by Garth Greenwell, Friends & Dark Shapes by Kavita Bedford, Filthy Animals by Brandon Taylor and Nostalgia Has Ruined My Life by Zarah Butcher McGunnigle.

What we’ll be reading over the break:

Take Care by Eunice Andrada

Take Care is the second poetry collection of Filipina poet Eunice Andrada. I’ve had my copy for a few months now, however I’ve been waiting until the Summer break to go through it, because I know I will want to take my time to read and reread her words. Take Care “explores the magnitude of rape culture in the everyday: from justice systems that dehumanise survivors, to exploitative care industries that deny Filipina workers their agency, to nationalist monuments that erase the sexual violence of war.” If her first collection of poems Flood Damages is anything to go by, then I am sure I’ll be left in awe once again.

Julia Tsalis, Program Director

Favourite book of 2021:

Threads of Life: A history of the world through the eye of a needle by Clare Hunter

Say Nothing: A true story of murder and memory in Northern Ireland by Patrick Radden Keefe

I read a lot this year and I had the pleasure of reading a lot of great books. Two stand out for me as they have fundamentally changed my way of viewing a particular subject. Unusually for me, they are two non-fiction works:

Say Nothing: A true story of murder and memory in Northern Ireland by Patrick Radden Keefe is the remarkable recounting of the Troubles in Northern Ireland. It follows the stories of individuals such as Jean McConville, the Price sisters, and Gerry Adams and illuminates key aspects of this very recent guerilla war – the anti-Catholic agenda, IRA bombings, the hunger strikes, and the actions of Thatcher’s government – and the damage to all those involved. The book unfolds with the pace and structure of a novel, but as is evidenced by the pages of references at the end it is a work deeply grounded in research and fact.

Threads of Life: A history of the world through the eye of a needle by Clare Hunter is a beautifully written book that respects sewing and embroidery as an intensely personal act that is often a shared, inter-generational experience, but establishes it as an artform with a rich social and political history. As she says: “Sewing is a way to mark our existence on cloth: patterning out place in the world, voicing our identity, sharing something of ourselves with others and leaving an indelible evidence of our presence in stitches held fast by our touch.”

Even so, I can’t help but mention two fiction books whose stories keep returning to me – Nardi Simpson’s beautiful chronicle of the Billymil family in Song of the Crocodile and Larissa Behrendt’s exploration of family, trauma, and the power of storytelling in Afterstory.

What we’ll be reading over the break:

Voss by Patrick White

Over summer I’m looking forward to finally exploring the work of Patrick White. He’s an author who I attempted to read long ago and didn’t respond to, but this summer I’m going to try his work again and plan to read Voss. Also, in the category of books-not-yet-read I’m planning to read The Brothers Karamazov, after being strongly encouraged by my uncle. I’m also really looking forward to How to End a Story, volume 3 of Helen Garner’s diaries and Piranesi by Susanna Clarke.

Amy Lovat, Program Officer

Favourite book of 2021:

Betty by Tiffany McDaniel

For a few years now, I’ve been keeping a list of ‘books read’ in my phone, so that I can quickly whip it out when someone asks me, What was your favourite of the year? So, I have the list. But the answer is more difficult. In 2021, I read some amazing Australian fiction – the likes of Nothing But My Body by Tilly Lawless, Boy from the Mish by Gary Lonesborough, Love & Virtue by Diana Reid, and (finally) The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart by Holly Ringland, after watching her incredible ABC series ‘Back to Nature’. However, I’m putting my vote forward as best book of 2021 to something further afield. Betty by Tiffany McDaniel had me utterly consumed from the first page, right through to the final line. At times, I cried – nay, wept! – so loud while reading in the backyard that my neighbour popped his head over the fence to see what all the fuss was about.

Betty is based on a true story of the author’s own mother, who was born in a bathtub in 1954, to a Cherokee father and white mother, the sixth of eight siblings. They live among poverty, violence and racism in a rural Ohio town for much of Betty’s life. What truly undid me throughout was the beautiful relationship between Betty and her father, who teaches her the ways of the world through a Native American lens of story, spirituality, and connection to nature.

What we’ll be reading over the break:

The Luminous Solution by Charlotte Wood

Love Stories by Trent Dalton

I have both The Luminous Solution by Charlotte Wood and Love Stories by Trent Dalton sitting next to my bed and I’m so excited to sink into them when I have the time and space to really absorb the words. Charlotte Wood’s new book is all about creativity, inspiration, art and life. She shares insights she’s gained during her award-winning career – about how she’s learned to pay attention to her own mind, the world around her, and the way others work. You might have heard that Trent Dalton sat on a street corner in Brisbane with a typewriter for three months, asking people to tell him love stories. Hence the title of the book. It’s a collection of snippets he learned over those months, the stories of others and his own musings on love, what it means, and how we share it with the world. I really think this will be a soothing holiday balm after a weird couple of years!


Rowena Tuziak, Membership & Operations Manager

Favourite book of 2021:

Song of the Crocodile by Nardi Simpson

Choosing a book favourite is never easy, but for me, Nardi Simpson’s Song of the Crocodile was hard to surpass as my 2021 favourite read. Lyrically and skilfully written, both heart-wrenching and warming, this immersive examination of intergenerational trauma and the legacy of colonisation stayed with me long after I closed its cover.

Following closely behind were the positively lupine, Wolfe Island by Lucy Treloar, and Charlotte McConaghy’s Once There Were Wolves. The first, an evocative environmental dystopia had me exposed to the elements as Kitty and her wolfdog journeyed through a fictional yet familiar north-east coast of America, facing persecution and rising tides. In the latter, I walked with wolves as Inti’s environmental rewilding project carried me to the Scottish Highlands to release apex predators into an environment they haven’t seen for centuries.

What we’ll be reading over the break:

The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart by Holly Ringland

The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart by Holly Ringwald

Now we have all been released back into the wild, I’m looking forward to my summer reads. The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart by Holly Ringland has been sitting on my TBR pile for a while, so I will be taking it away with me to read by a campfire. I’d also like to read Amani Haydar’s The Mother Wound after hearing her powerful words at this year’s Boundless Festival.


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