The Shepherd’s Hut

Tim Winton     Recommended by Alan    


Loved it. Brutal and lyrical. Read it in two sittings and am about to go again.

In The Shepherd’s Hut, Winton crafts the story of Jaxie Clackton, a brutalized rural youth who flees from the scene of his father’s violent death and strikes out north through the wheatbelt. All he carries with him is a rifle and a waterbottle. All he wants is peace and freedom. But surviving in the harsh saltlands alone is a savage business. And once he discovers he’s not alone out there, all Jaxie’s plans go awry. He meets a fellow exile, the ruined priest Fintan MacGillis, a man he’s never certain he can trust, but on whom his life will soon depend. The Shepherd’s Hut is a thrilling tale of unlikely friendship and yearning, at once brutal and lyrical, from one of our finest storytellers.


Every Mother’s Son is Guilty : Policing the Kimberley Frontier of Western Australia 1882-1905

Chris Owen     Recommended by Alan    

Australian History

Anyone skeptical of the level of violence used in the clearing of Aboriginal people from their land, and the involvement of state in promoting this policy, will be disabused by Chris Owen’s massive contribution to West Australian colonial history.

A compelling account of policing in the Kimberley district from 1882, when police were established in the district, until 1905 when a controversial Royal Commission into the treatment of Aboriginal people was released. In this period the policing of Aboriginal people changed from one of protection under law to one of punishment and control. The subsequent violence of colonial settlement and the associated policing and criminal justice system that developed into a ‘brutal and outrageous state of affairs’. Every Mother’s Son is Guilty is a significant contribution to Australian and colonial criminal justice history.



Peggy Frew     Recommended by Anne    


A novel about a family and a place, Islands is told through many voices, a series of overlapping points of view which gather together to form an intricate whole. Helen and Paul’s marriage ends and their daughters struggle with the aftermath. Junie becomes the tight-lipped observer, and Anna veers into self-destructive secrecy. When she disappears completely the family members each drift further apart, unable to understand each other’s pain. It is compared to both Georgia Blain and Helen Garner, and I think that’s right – the vivid setting, the agonies of adolescents, the essential unknowability of another person’s inner life.  Islands should be a depressing book but the skill in the way each character is fleshed out with their their motivations and resentments, graciousness and yearning, is nothing short of magnificent.


The Library Book

Susan Orlean     Recommended by Anne    

true crime / literaria

This is one of those hard-to-classify non-fiction books, a satisfying mix of history, reportage and true crime which made me feel proud to have a library card. Book people recognize one another, whether they’re librarians, booksellers or readers. Susan Orlean describes her own childhood experiences at her local library and later, the enormous Los Angeles Public Library in central L.A., which in April 1986 was almost completely lost to a spectacular conflagration. Orlean describes the fire and talks with librarians past and present, as well as historical (and sometimes controversial) figures involved in the library’s history. The man accused of starting the fire was a slippery confabulist who may or may not have been involved, and his character is fascinating. Well researched, well written non-fiction.



Timefulness: How Thinking Like a Geologist Can Help Save the World

Marcia Bjornerud     Recommended by Alan    


An elegant book about earth’s geology, and through the prism of this time-scale, points to the changes humans have wrought since the Industrial Revolution. Apart from geologists, few people can conceive of the enormous amount of time there was before humans came onto the scene, and how long-lasting are the changes we are making now will be. Bjornerud argues that having an understanding of the vast amount of geological history is essential to knowing more about our environmental situation in the present. Its a fascinating look at some of the patterns and processes around us, from the raising of mountains over millions of years to the tidal ebb and flow over a single day.


Água Viva

Clarice Lispector     Recommended by Alan    


A book which tries to touch all the senses at once, Água Viva is a painting in prose form which rearranges language and form in an ecstatic stream of consciousness. It has been said to have the qualities of a piece of music, with passages repeating like a chorus. Meditations on life, time and familiar objects unfurl and flicker between observation and inference. Its exceptional, like Pessoa through mercury. First published in 1973, this Penguin Classics edition can be found next to her collected short stories in Fiction.


The Overstory

Richard Powers     Recommended by Alan    


Structured like the rings in a cross-section of a tree’s trunk, The Overstory traces the tales of nine strangers, each meeting a tree which leads them to apprehend the environmental catastrophe looming over us. They are bought together, scientist, artist, soldier alike, to save the last few remaining acres of virgin forest left. The problem is that actually we can’t see the trees for the wood. The Overstory lays out the full human folly of deforestation. Part lament, part call to arms.

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