What We're Reading 

Hidden gems, hot favourites, slow burners and the odd guest columnist.

June 2018

 - Monday, May 28, 2018
Stef: Educated by Tara Westover:   I read this story in shock and awe. What a story,  what a life.  And what a transformation.  Tara Westover was the youngest child borne into a large Morman family,  raised in Idaho,  with limited opportunities to be part of a wider community.  She was born at home, she has no birth certificate, no medical records, no school records, according to the state of Idaho and the federal government she does not exist. She along with three of her siblings, she is one of seven, was home schooled by her mother and believed what her over zealous father preached. Her father was preparing for the end of days, fearing the outside world’s influence would lead to corruption and the rejection of his beliefs. They stockpiled food, water, ammunition and fuel. An all controlling and at times an incredibly dangerous man, he drip fed them fear and paranoia for the world. Despite this, through her own incredible determination Westover managed to school herself to a level that she wins a place at Brigham Young University in Utah and it is here that her education begins. Not just academic (she gets a BA, is awarded a Gates Cambridge Scholarship & was a visiting fellow at Harvard University)—but she has to learn how to live in a world that is unfamiliar to her— how to behave, how to dress, how to make friends, how to interact within a community and belong. This would be perfect book for a book club.

John: The Cuban Missile crisis in 1962 looms large in our collective memory even for those of us too young to have our own memories of the momentous events of that year. As a young person in the late 70s and early 80s I was sure that world would end with a nuclear holocaust, and that it would probably be soon. After the invasion of Afghanistan on Christmas Day 1979 Doug Mulray doing his best Malcolm Fraser impersonation declared war on the Soviet Union, for a few moments I imagined Russian submarines launching missiles on Pine Gap and Sydney. In his book 1983: The World at the Brink Taylor Downing describes just how close to armageddon we came in that year. Setting the year against the personalities of the new American President, Reagan, and Soviet leader and former head of the KGB, Yuri Andropov. It was the year Korean Airlines KAL007 was shot down by a Russian fighter. All on board were killed including a US Congressman. Arms controls talks were suspended and NATO exercises were almost interpreted by the Soviets as the ‘real thing’ It was the year a very brave Russian Lieutenant Colonel held his nerve after multiple false alarms of US ballistic launches. I had a notion of some of the events of 1983 but Taylor Dowling manages to place them in time and context. A fascinating read, that left me wondering how many other near misses there have been.  


Jack:  "If you follow their rules, they make more rules. You have to fight people or you end up with nothing." 

The Mars Rooms is the saddest song I have heard all year. It shares with other songs of desolation (novels such as Rohinton Mistry's A Fine Balance and Colson Whitehead's Underground Railroad) an unflinching ambition and anger that dares you to hold it in your hands and marvel at how the light gets in.   

Louise: Youth may be wasted on the young, but Sally Rooney's protagonist Frances, in Conversations with Friends, is experiencing most of its highlights, as well as several low moments. She's broken up with her girlfriend - but still performs spoken word with her; she's fallen in love with a handsome man, and goes to the south of France with him and his wife. Humour, yearning, and gender politics abound in this surprising and gritty first novel. I loved it!