What We're Reading / July 2021

Take a look at the great things we’ve read in July — a book-length essay by one of Australia’s award-winning critics, a bestselling guide to investing, novels that defy genre and more!

No Document by Anwen Crawford

Julia Tsalis, Program Manager

Anwen Crawford is one our great critics and essay writers. Her reviews of music, art and popular culture in the Monthly are insightful, beautifully written, and often introduce me to things I didn’t think I was interested in.

She has recently published, No Document, a book that breaks most of the ways in which it could be categorised. A book length essay that weaves poetry through memoir, news reports, political speeches, and letters. It is a lament for the loss of a great friend and artistic partner that explores art history, politics, protest movements, and climate change. This book is small and powerful, bursting with thought and creativity.  

Another Country by James Baldwin

Martyn Reyes, Project and Communications Officer

I have just finished reading Cleanness by Garth Greenwell and subsequently listened to as many interviews with the author as I could. When questioned about his writing practice, Greenwell references James Baldwin as a major inspiration, particularly for his beautifully constructed sentences which are careful, longwinded and complex. The only piece of writing I had read from James Baldwin was his outstanding essay ‘Notes of a Native Son’ so I went to my local bookshop to get my hands on anything else he had written, and left with a copy of Another Country.

Another Country was described as the essential American drama of the century, and explores love, hatred, violence, queerness and race within the setting of New York’s bohemian underworld in the late 1950s. Interestingly, according to Wikipedia, the book was banned in Australia until 1966, as the Literature Censorship Board deemed it “smeared with indecent, offensive and dirty epithets and allusion.” Baldwin, who himself was Black and queer, explored the issues of this complex identity in his work. He is remembered as an important activist for Black rights, who fought, challenged and revolted against oppressive social norms at the time. Another Country is a wildly entertaining and important read that provides audiences with a glimpse into race relations in the US, that is still very relevant today. Baldwin’s sentences are to-die-for and his characters break your heart, leaving you reflecting on his words for days. 

The Barefoot Investor by Scott Pape

Anita Matthews, Administration Officer

I highly recommend The Barefoot Investor by Scott Pape, a non-fiction book about growing one’s money. To digress slightly, the name ‘non-fiction’ has always seemed like an apology for not being the real deal, ie fiction. In India they call meat dishes ‘non-vegetarian’, so can we also hear it for books of ‘fact’ and ‘non-fact’?  The Barefoot Investor was first published in 2017, and according to a study made by a Queensland library, is the highest grossing book by an Australian author of the 2010s. The cover of my 2019 edition boasts sales exceeding 1.6 million copies. In fact, by cutting through the mumbo jumbo of personal money management, Scott Pape is on his way to cult-status. His passion to educate and encourage young people to become financially savvy may also render him the Jamie Oliver of financial health in Australian schools. Pape claims the number-one question The Barefoot Investor readers have is “Why didn’t I get taught this stuff at school?” As a result he is gathering signatures to have his ‘Money Movement Manifesto’ edified in schools, as well as eliminate the presence of (fee-grabbing) banks in the classroom. As he says in his change.org campaign “Having banks teach our kids about money is like having Ronald McDonald teach them about nutrition.” 

Maybe future writers will benefit from such a program. Currently more than half of Australian full-time writers earn less than $15,000 a year, according to a 2020 survey by the Australian Society of Authors, and that’s not including the effects of the pandemic on author incomes. It might just be the time to put down the fiction you’re reading and give fact a shot. 

The Mother Fault by Kate Mildenhall

Rowena Tuziak, Membership and Operations Manager

The Mother Fault is a divergence from Kate Mildenhalls’s coming of age debut work Skylarking. Part literary thriller and dystopian adventure, The Mother Fault is a page turner. 

In an Australia that is governed by the Department, a totalitarian regime that has slowly eroded personal freedoms, its microchipped citizens waive their rights for bonus points and the convenience of knowing they can always locate their family. But when Mim’s husband, an offshore miner goes missing, the Department arrive at Mim’s door. By the time they leave, Mim has surrendered more rights, along with their passports. 

Unnerved by the Department’s visit, not knowing where Ben is or what he has done, Mim takes the kids and finds herself on the run in a state where there is no escape from surveillance. 

Weaving in themes of environmental destruction, refugees, corporate greed, consumerism and political control, the story at its heart is an acknowledgement of motherhood. The daily realities of motherhood, the sore tummies and lost toys, set alongside a courageous but perilous journey that could end in salvation or sacrifice. 

Like all of us, Mim is flawed. Impulsive and naïve in parts. She fiercely protects her children at sometimes irreparable cost to those around her. As the journey unfolds, it is by tapping into the woman she once was, before she was a mother, that she finds the resilience and capacity to keep her family safe. In a way, The Mother Fault is a like a reverse coming of age novel. 

Part way through this novel I did wonder if this was suitable pandemic reading. Unlike Mim, we would be wise to stay at home right now! But with such evocative descriptions of land and seascapes, it is ideal indoor reading.  


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