There’s this thing that’s been happening on Facebook lately, the’ tag and annoy your mates’ type of challenge that usually dissipates overnight. But this one has hung around, and I’m glad. The “ten books that impacted you the most” challenge has given me insight into the reading habits of friends and acquaintances and spurred me to seek out some books I’d never heard of. I thought about participating, but then changed my mind. I mean, how many more times do the virtues of Salinger, Hemmingway and Fitzgerald need to be sung? Everyone already know they’re immortal word gods. So, instead, I decided to list some top AUSTRALIAN books that have impacted me (note I said “some” ‘cos my list is way over 10 and I had to cull in the first 2 minutes of jotting notes. There may be, like, 15 or so…).
I opted for the Australian book theme because I’m an Australian writer, I love what Aussies write, and we don’t often get much space in the world literary spotlight. So, in no particular order of importance (they’re all fab!) here’s mine – some of which you’ll probably have heard about, others maybe not.
- Space Demons by Gillian Rubinstein – this is a YA novel I read in year 9. It was the first time I saw my world (Australian and characters my age) reflected back at me in a book. I’ve included it because the English assignments I wrote for this novel convinced me that not only did I want to be a writer, but I could do it. It spurred me to write a short story that was published a year later in a national magazine. Gillian Rubinstein has gone on to great literary success as Lean Hearn.
- Kindling Does For Firewood by Richard King – this beautiful modern adaption of the Peter Pan story won the Vogel Literary Award in 1995. It was adapted as a play for the Fringe Festival sometime afterwards.
- The Vodka Dialogue (and all the Cassidy Blair series) by Kirsty Brooks – this hilarious chic-lit crime gives Janet Evanovich a run for her money. Not only Australian, but set in my home town of Adelaide, this series is a riot.
- Praise by Andrew Mcgahan – anyone remember the literary grunge of the 1990’s? This one epitomised that trend for me. Both brutal and beautiful.
- Orpheus Lost / Due Preparations for the Plague both by Janette Turner-Hospital – this woman’s writing is quite simply stunning. I couldn’t choose between these two novels, they’re both as astounding and accomplished as each other. I wept after reading Orpheus Lost because I will never poses her talents or abilities, and after borrowing a copy of Due Preparations for the Plague from the library, had to go and buy my own copy to live on my bookshelf.
- Nights in the Asylum by Carol Lefevre – this novel about characters seeking asylum for different reasons and from different, but equally as abhorrent, problems shone a sympathetic light on one of our biggest social issues – refugees arriving in Australia as boat people. This is not only an incredible book, it also made me look at the issue in an entirely new light. I had the pleasure of participating in a six week writer’s workshop run by Carol Lefevre, and her insights into the craft of writing are amazing.
7. The Old School by PM Newton – I read this book earlier this year and immediately messaged the author on Facebook to tell her how much I loved it. It is gritty, literary crime that nails the police culture impeccably ( I worked for them, so have some insight) and the character of Eurasian “Ned” Kelly is genius.
- How it feels by Brendan Cowell – a kind of updated version of the 90’s grunge, this novel depicts the bonds of male friendship, and the very real love that mates share. Wonderful to have some insight into that relationship that women generally observe from a distance.
- The Rose Grower by Michelle DeKrester – better known for her later work, this early novel is set in the French revolution. I went through a period of fascination with the revolution and read quite a few novels about it. This one stuck with me for its literary style, beauty and the fact a contemporary Aussie could write as well as any French historian.
- Frantic by Katherine Howell – an internationally published crime writer, this is the first of Ms Howell’s books. She wrote her PHD on literary suspense, and this novel is an awesome example of an accelerating story that doesn’t take it’s foot off the pedal until the final scene.
- The Broken Shore by Peter Temple – I like well written crime fiction, something that lifts the genre from the pulp pile. This one did it, and his follow up ‘Truth‘ won the Miles Franklin proving crime fiction has a place on the world literary stage, not just the sensationalist stand.
- The Piper’s Son by Melina Marchetta – this novel basically created a the genre of ‘new adult’. It’s not quite innocent enough to be classified as YA, instead featuring characters on the brink between child and adulthood. It’s a multi-generational, multi-cultural masterpiece, just like her other brilliant books including “Looking for Alibrandi“.
- All I Ever Wanted by Vikki Wakefield – this is a short, raw and gut wrenching YA novel that I could not put down. If you don’t own a teenager, borrow one so you can read this!
- Rohypnol by Andrew Hutchinson – my husband says the most interesting characters in a story are the baddies, and we never get to see things from their point of view. In this one, you do. Despite the evil actions of a group of teen date-rapers, this book is phenomenal.
- The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas – last, but certainly not least, is Christos’s amazing, accomplished, eight chapter novel about a child who is slapped at a family BBQ by someone other than his parent. The social commentary this provoked was unheard of in terms of Aussie books – both about the issue itself, and the author’s use of profane language. Despite the wide-held claim that none of the characters in this book are particularly likeable, they’re all imminently relatable and this is commercial literary fiction at its best.
I’ve capped it at 15, but I could easily go on. And no, I’ve not mentioned Tim Winton or Tom Keneally. Like Fitzgerald and Hemmingway, everyone already knows they’re great! Go read one of these awesome, amazing, un-put-downable books.