Let’s face it: most people’s summer holidays revolve largely around eating, and as the great C. S. Lewis once said, ‘Eating and reading are two pleasures that combine admirably’. So it’s no surprise that we devoured plenty of delicious books as well as festive food over the holiday period!
Here’s a peek at what’s been gracing our bookshelves, beach towels, and bedside tables over summer.
Jane McCredie, Executive Director
Magda Szubanski’s memoir, Reckoning, is a brave and thought-provoking account of her attempts to come to grips with her father’s history as a partisan in World War II Poland, as well as her own struggles with depression, sexuality and weight gain. In this beautifully written book, she describes a 1495 painting by Hieronymus Bosch called The Extraction of the Stone of Madness. In the 15th century, itinerant surgeons claimed they could cure mental illness by cutting through people’s skulls and removing this mythical stone. “I swear sometimes I can feel that stone in my head,” Szubanski writes. “A palpable presence, an unwelcome thing that I want to squeeze out of my skull like a plum pip, using nothing but the sheer pressure of thought and concentration.”
Coincidentally, I’ve also been reading another gem of a book about food, hunger and our relationship with our bodies, Fiona Wright’s Small Acts of Disappearance.
Julia Tsalis, Program Manager
I am in the final pages of reading Hanya Yanagihara’s A Little Life (the book itself is not little). It is a beautiful story of the friendships between four men, revolving around one of them, Jude, who has been profoundly damaged by his childhood. It is a sad, delicate, and completely engrossing story. I don’t think I have read a book that so powerfully captured the depth and tenderness of male friendships.
Over the holidays I finished reading Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan quartet. What an experience that was. The books follow the lives of two best friends – Lila and Lenu, their families, and their community. It is a beautiful telling of a deep and fractured friendship beginning in the 1950s in a poor and violent neighbourhood. It is also a reflection on the social and political climate in Italy over those decades. They are beautiful books that you won’t be able to put down.
Bridget Lutherborrow, Projects & Communications Officer
I’m less than halfway through a re-read of Isobelle Carmody’s Obernewtyn Chronicles. I read the first four as a teenager, and rediscovered them at uni when The Stone Key came out. Now they’re finally finished and I’m yet to read the last two instalments! Since it’s been so long, I’ve had to start from the beginning again. It’s been 13 or 14 years since I first discovered these books, and they’re as engrossing as ever.
Ashley Kalagian Blunt, Program Officer
I recently came across a copy of Peter Carey’s 30 Days in Sydney. I’ve never read Carey, but was interested to see what I might learn about one of my favourite cities. It turned out to be so much more than I would have imagined. Despite being a relatively new city by world standards, Sydney has many layers of complex and surprising history, as Carey reveals. Carey shows himself to be a surprising writer as well, weaving his dreams of scaling the Harbour Bridge with historical facts as well as unmarked dialogue from the people who share his 30 days.
After seeing Candice Fox speak at Newtown Library late last year, I read her first book, Hades, a serial killer saga set in Sydney. Now addicted, I’m reading Eden and will soon be on to her latest, Fall. Fox’s books provide all the dark delights of the genre along with snappy writing. Her plots are well-paced, her characters intriguing. Her series offers the plot twists and sense of place of John Sandford’s Prey series, with the snow drifts of Minneapolis exchanged for the sparkling bays of Sydney.
Sherry Landow, Membership & Administration Officer
This month I fell in love with Margaret Atwood’s latest novel The Heart Goes Last. Set in a dystopian future, this story follows married couple Charmaine and Stan as they step into a world of conformity, obsession and social experiments. Reader beware: this book is likely to make you late to all commitments and question if it is really that important to leave the house when you can stay home and read instead.