Archives For Books

Each year for the past three years we’ve taken a trip in a bookish time machine to take a look back what readers were devouring 30 years ago (see the bestseller lists from 1983, 1984 and 1985). In 1986, while Mikhail Gorbachev was introducing Perestroika and Glasnost. and the world was being shown a special version of “Australian culture” courtesy of Crocodile Dundee, these were the novels that American readers were enjoying.

 

10. A Perfect Spy by John le Carré

A Perfect Spy by John le Carre 1986

David John Moore Cornwell published his first novel, Call for the Dead in 1961 under the pen name John le Carré. Cromwell served in the Security Service and the Secret Intelligence Service (AKA MI5 and MI6) in the 1950s and 1960s and the author admits that this is his most autobiographical novel, with a large part of the story being a thinly disguised account of his own early life. In A Perfect Spy British Intelligence Officer Magnus Pym mysteriously disappears after attending his father’s funeral. His colleagues soon discover that Pym was a double agent, working as a spy for the Czechoslovak secret service (though this wasn’t a personal experience that the author and Pym shared). le Carré reflected that “writing A Perfect Spy is probably what a very wise shrink would have advised”. Philip Roth described A Perfect Spy as “the best English novel since the war.”
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Hollie Overton - Baby Doll Interview

Hollie Overton is a Chicago-born, Texas-raised writer who has worked on a number of television series including Cold Case, The Client List and Shadowhunters, the series based on Cassandra Clare’s international bestseller The Mortal Instruments.

Hollie’s debut novel, Baby Doll, is out this month. We contacted her to find out more about her experience writing both scripts and books.

You didn’t study creative writing or English Literature at college, but instead acting. Do you think this background as a performer impacts your approach to storytelling? 
Acting was my first love and those skills I learned have been invaluable as both as a TV writer and now a novelist.  I fell in love with performing in middle school and high school.  I learned how to tell stories by analyzing plays, breaking down characters and studying structure. I spent years studying acting and all that knowledge informs everything I write. I visual things that I’m writing, how will it look, is it authentic. The same goes for dialogue.  How would it sound if an actor were saying those words? Even though I didn’t continue my acting pursuits, I’m so grateful for the training and that it led me down this career path.

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Image by Tess Follett Photography

Image by Tess Follett Photography

A review by Shu-Ling Chua

Encouragement, at its heart, represents an attempt to make others feel that they have the strength, wisdom, courage, and ability to solve their problems themselves: it aims not to provide specific solutions but to make others believe that they can find those solutions on their own.

Alex Lickerman, The Undefeated Mind: On the Science of Constructing an Indestructible Self

Use Your Words is all about encouraging others to see themselves as writers and more importantly, to actually write. It doesn’t matter whether you show your writing to anyone; you just need to write. Those who already write may itch to skip ‘Part one: The truth about writing’ but it’s worth being reminded that even writers as prolific as Catherine Deveny – eight books, over 1000 newspaper columns, hundreds of stand-up comedy gigs and counting – share our struggles.

The actual writing is easier than you think. It’s dealing with the emotional stuff around the writing that’s tough. But I’ll give you some reality pills to help you handle it. I’ll bust the myths.

And bust the myths she does, with panache. Deveny knows her stuff and having taught Gunnas Writing Masterclasses for over two years, she addresses the obstacles you’re mostly likely to face.

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We recently asked our Facebook followers which Australian writers they knew and liked. The responses included many familiar names – Peter Carey, Kate Grenville and Tim Winton and others. While these are all, of course, very fine writers, there are many more fantastic authors from our homeland that we would love for our readers to know about.

Here are just some of the great books published in Australia recently, all of which have won major prizes.

Foreign Soil by Maxine Beneba Clarke
Winner of the ABIA Literary Fiction Book of the Year

In this collection of award-winning stories, Melbourne writer Maxine Beneba Clarke has given a voice to the disenfranchised, the lost, the downtrodden and the mistreated. It will challenge you, it will have you by the heartstrings. This is contemporary fiction at its finest.

 

The Bush: Travels in the Heart of Australia by Don Watson
Winner of the Indie Book of the Year 

A milestone work of memoir, travel writing and history, The Bush takes us on a profoundly revelatory and entertaining journey through the Australian landscape and character.

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In Defense of Not Rereading - Photo by Lleven Van Melckebeke

Stuttgart Library by Lieven Van Melckebeke via Creative Commons
A guest post by Maggie Libby Davis

In a class a few semesters ago, our professor asked the timeless and, in my mind, answerless question: “What is your favorite book?” I don’t want to name a favorite. My favorite book today might change tomorrow, and what if I haven’t read my favorite book yet? It’s too much pressure. My professor pushed for an answer, offering at she thought was a lifeline with, “What book do you reread, over and over, just because you must, because your mind demands to hear the story again?”

Reread? Was she crazy? Who had time to reread when there were so many still to read the first time? Don’t misunderstand: I’ve read books multiple times. Dr. Seuss books, Judy Blume books, Lucy Maud Montgomery books. But in my adult reading career? No.

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It’s time for our annual look back at the 1980s, to see whether the bestselling novels of the era have stood the test of time, or if they were starting to show their age (and their shoulder pads). In between watching Back to the Future and trying out New Coke, here’s what American readers were enjoying in 1985.

10. The Class by Erich Segal

The Class by Eric Segal

Readers of the 1980s loved a multi-decade saga and The Class well and truly fitted the genre. Written by Erich Segal, the author of Love Story, The Class follows the intertwined fates of five fictional members of the Harvard Class of 1958, culminating with their class reunion in 1983. Described by Publisher’s Weekly as “an absorbing  page-turner” The Class is filled with all the tragedies, turmoil and dramatic turning points one might expect from a popular fictional novel of this era.

 

9. Family Album by Danielle Steel

Family Album by Danielle Steel

Danielle Steel’s recipe of romance, suspense and high drama has made her one of the world’s bestselling authors, with current estimates indicating her novels have sold well over 650 million copies around the world. In Family Album, her 18th novel in 12 years, Steel tells the story of Faye Price, from World War II to the present day. Writing in Christian Science Monitor, reviewer Jaye Wilson said “like the heroines in earlier Danielle Steel books, Faye Thayer embodies the ‘fantasy, recovery, escape, and consolation” which Tolkien describes as necessary constituents of a good fairy tale. Victorious in her new challenge, Faye seems as well to represent an updated, flip side of the old Horatio Alger characters who inspired the pre-Yuppie generation of men in gray flannel suits (whose sisters were still being silver-spoon fed on the old version of Cinderella’s tale).”

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 The Art of Writerly Procrastination, or How I Write My Books While Appearing to Do Nothing
Paddy O’Reilly is an Australian writer of fiction, non-fiction and screenplay. Her latest novel, The Wonders, is published in the United States this week by Washington Square Press. Here she shares an insight into her writing process.

Allow me to introduce you to one of the ways I spend my writing time – observing chickens. My two chooks are called Toni and Guy. I named them after a hairdressing firm in honour of their excellent plumage.

When I’m writing, I often find it necessary to spend time with Toni and Guy. I feed them from my hand and listen to their snuffly nose breathing as they peck at the seeds. I watch as they travel the morning yard, inspecting the grass for bugs that have landed in the night and not yet made their escape. The girls accompany me as I pass through the garden pulling weeds; or tickling a male flower’s stamen with a feather from Toni and Guy’s coop then transferring the collected pollen to the pistil of a female flower; or nipping the laterals off a plant; or harvesting tomatoes and zucchini and peppers into the basin I carry around each morning in summer.

As I pick my way through my garden tasks, they meander in my wake, tilting their heads to see better because their vision is alien to mine. Chickens can see ultraviolet light. They have better motion-sensing ability than me – they know a crow is in the sky well before I have any idea. When I want to see something close up, I lower my head and look with both eyes. When the girls want the same thing, they often tilt their head sideways to focus the fovea of a single eye, which we humans cannot do. But at night their vision falters. I have to make sure they are protected from predators who can clearly see their sleeping bodies in the dark.

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