What We're Reading / Best of 2022

Take a look at our favourite reads of 2022 – a haunting Aussie novel, a collection of books exploring Western farming practices, a heartbreaking memoir, a political page-turner, a reflection on fatherhood and more.

Amy Lovat, Professional Development Officer

Favourite book of 2022:

Salt & Skin by Eliza Henry Jones

Salt and skin eliza henry-jones

Ah, choosing the book of the year. One of the most stressful aspects of my job! Made all the more difficult by the fact that 2022 has been my biggest reading year in a while, and 75% of the list were Australian authors. There were some absolutely stellar titles released this year, but my pick of the bunch has to be Salt & Skin by Eliza Henry Jones, published by Ultimo Press in August.

I knew I’d love this book from the outset — set on a remote Scottish island? Tick. Climate change grief and activism? Tick. Seventeenth century witchcraft and mythical folk tales? Tick tick. If you’re unsure how exactly those elements weave together in my favourite book of the year, I urge you to find a copy of Salt & Skin.

It’s a haunting, evocative read that I couldn’t put down, and thought about long after the final page. Set in the present day, newly widowed Luda Managan travels from drought-stricken Australia with her two teenage children, to an island off the coast of Scotland. The cliffs have been ravaged by harsh weather conditions, and Luda is tasked with photographing the changing climate and its effects on the island. Alienated from the community, she becomes fascinated by the history of witch trials on the island, the myths, legends and fragments life stories that haunt the remote place. Her children, Min and Darcy, are dealing with their own grief and long-ago traumas, and they make friends with the wild foundling and local recluse Theo, whose story binds them all together.

Writing this now makes me want to read it all over again. The language is poetic and sensory, the storyline loaded and twisty, and the characters feel so true, I loved and was bruised by them all.

Salt and Skin, Ultimo Press

What I’m reading over the break: Bila Yarrudhang-galang-dhuray (River of Dreams) by Anita Heiss

Bila Yarrudhang-galang-dhuray (River of Dreams) by Anita Heiss

This has been creeping up my TBR pile for the past two years, and the upcoming break is surely the time. I wanted to be able to absorb the writing and the story without distraction, without the real world knocking at my door.

Anita Heiss’ 2021 historical novel won the NSW Premier’s Literary Award Indigenous Writer’s Prize this year and was short- and long-listed for countless others. It’s an epic story of love, loss and belonging set on Wiradyuri country and based on true events.


Jane McCredie, CEO

Favourite books of 2022:

What we're reading: best of 2022

I’ve read a few books this year that have really made me think about the ancient continent we live on and how traditional Western farming practices have damaged it.

One of those was Kate Holden’s The Winter Road, which is part gripping suspense story, part philosophical exploration of Australian attitudes to land ownership and farming practice. In 2014, on a lonely road near Moree, 80-year-old farmer Ian Turnbull shot and killed the environmental officer who had been investigating illegal land clearing on his properties. The murder of Glen Turner exposed the deep rift between historical beliefs in land ‘improvement’ and a more recent (for non-Indigenous Australians) focus on conservation of ecosystems.

In her book, Why You Should Give a F*ck about Farming, Gabrielle Chan explores the economics of modern farming, the pressures that work against sustainable practices, and the inadequate policy frameworks put in place by various governments. Chan, who lives on a farming property on Wiradjuri country in NSW, uses her considerable journalistic skills to expose the tension between a search for ever-cheaper food and the expectation that farmers will protect and restore their environment.

Two books by farmers, David Pollock’s The Wooleen Way and Charles Massy’s Call of the Reed Warbler, both in their different ways evoke a deep love of the land and a grief at what Western agriculture has done to it. Farming on opposite sides of the continent (Pollock in the Gascoyne region of WA, Massy in the NSW Monaro), the two men set out the ways they have changed their own farming methods to protect their environment and the other species they share it with.

No list of books about land management and food production in this country would be complete without a mention of Bruce Pascoe’s Dark Emu. This illuminating book showcases the technologies and practices First Nations people have used to care for Country over thousands of years, not just producing food sustainably but also mitigating natural disasters.

Wherever we live, whatever we eat, we all need to give a f*ck about farming and these books could help show us the way.


Rowena Tuziak, Membership & Operations Manager

Favourite book of 2022:

The Mother Wound by Amani Haydar

The mother wound Amani Haydar

I read so many beautiful books this year, I struggled to find one to single out as my best read of 2022. There was one, however, that gripped me like no other. Amani Haydar’s The Mother Wound is a heartbreaking personal account of her mother, Salwa Haydar’s brutal death at the hands of her father. I usually choose fiction over memoir, but this book had me hooked. Haydar’s finesse, knowing when to hold back information and when to reveal it, is extraordinary, more so when you consider that she was writing it from a place of lived trauma.

Coercive control has been identified as a precursor in acts of physical violence in relationships, and The Mother Wound examines its complexities. Last month, NSW passed a coercive control law making it an offence to carry out repeated abusive behaviours in current or former intimate partner relationships. There is still a way to go in terms of consultation and reform in this area, but it is a start.

The Mother Wound is a powerful, vulnerable, intimate, and skilful work that I haven’t been able to get out of my head.


Keira Baker, Project and Communications Officer

Favourite books of 2022:

What we're reading - best of 2022

2022 has definitely been a year of comfort reads for me – revisiting old favourites and books from my childhood. Despite that, there’s a couple of new(ish) titles that stood out this year:

Non-fiction: Stolen Focus by Johann Hari.
I loved Lost Connections and Hari has followed it up with another timely, thought-provoking exploration of the attention economy and its impact on our mental health.

Fiction: A Great Hope by Jessica Stanley
I read A Great Hope during the height of the election in May – an interesting backdrop to the book’s convergence of the personal and political. Jessica Stanley’s debut novel is set in 2010 amongst the political infighting of the Rudd/ Gillard era. John is a troubled politician who falls to his death from a roof – at first, it seems a terrible accident. Or was it murder? The book not only explores the circumstances around his death but how it effects the people around him – his wife, his mistress, and two adult children.

Short stories: She is Haunted by Paige Clarke
There was a lot of hype around the release of Paige Clarke’s debut short story collection, which can sometimes be more of a curse than a blessing. But She is Haunted doesn’t disappoint. The collection traverses everything from relationships and obsession to race, god, ghosts, and cloning elderly chihuahuas. Clarke’s voice is wry and oblique, the stories darkly funny. I’m excited to see what she comes out with next.

An oldie but a goodie: A Fraction of the Whole by Steve Toltz.
Ahead of the release of Toltz’s new book Here Goes Nothing earlier this year, I re-read A Fraction of the Whole. I’d forgotten how completely nuts it is. I loved it. It’s ridiculous and dark and funny, spanning three generations of the eccentric (but genius) Dean family, growing up in a small Australian town.
The book is epic, teetering – even the subplots have subplots. But any slow points are excused by the sheer pleasure Toltz takes in his writing and in wandering off down these strange rabbit holes.
Mad and brilliant. I loved it just as much the second time around!

Stolen Focus, Bloomsbury 

A Great Hope, PanMacmillan

She is Haunted, Allen and Unwin

A Fraction of the Whole, Penguin

Isaac Wilcox, Administration and Digital Services Officer

Favourite book of 2022:

The Other Half of You by Michael Mohammad Ahmad

The Other Half of You by Michael Mohammad Ahmad

It was the right time to read Michael Mohammad Ahmad’s The Other Half of You. With one kid running amok and another on the way – it was a timely moment to reflect on fatherhood. It’s about a dad reflecting on his own life and telling it to his son.

The area I grew up in Glasgow was vaguely similar to the Bankstown Ahmad writes about – a pocket of diasporic, principally Islamic culture within a large white anglophone city, around the nineties and early noughties. A place where the culture of parents was different from those of their children, who were negotiating a space between two cultures. I’ve read Ahmed talk about the sound of these spaces before, and that’s what I remember as well. So, in a way the first two books in the House of Adam series were easy to read – here was a friend, Bani, telling me all about it. Maybe in a way, as a small pasty Scottish child on the floor of Awais’s family’s house, I’d been told similar stories.

The Other Half of You was a much more difficult read. In this book, Bani is retelling his post-pubescent life to his son. I’m aware that some of the points that move Bani away from his family, are some of the reasons I disappeared from that community. I was out in the larger more homogenised white society of university and the rest of the city. I didn’t recognise the moments and references anymore, that part of my conversation had rusted.

As ever the writing is poised and Ahmad’s joke telling ability is great, and although much of the book is about hard times, it’s kind of the most romantic. Not in the gritty ethnic vibe that the gentrifiers of my former home are seeking, in a real lyrical, compassionate, lump in the throat, flowers romance. At the end of the day, it’s a love story. It’s a letter of love to his son, his wife and his family. This is a great story about fatherhood and fathering and the choices you make and don’t make.

The Other Half of You, Hachette

What we're reading - best of 2022

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