What We're Reading 

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


 - Wednesday, May 27, 2015
Tamarra: Longbourn by Jo Baker—An Upstairs/Downstairs in the Bennet Household, this is a re-telling of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice as told by the family servants. The writing is descriptive, gentle and thought provoking.. I loved that the original story kept peeking through with the girls preparing themselves for their lavish balls and in turn the maids going about their business of washing the Bennetts undergarments the next day. I'm Also eyeing off Louise Pfanner's recommendation in last month's Gleaner, What Matters in Austen, which sounds fascinating—asking such questions as 'Why is the weather important?' It was certainly important for those working downstairs.

Andrew: The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid and The First Bad Man by Miranda July—Sometimes when I'm not sure what type of book I am in the mood for reading, I start a couple and read a chapter of each in turn, until attrition dictates which book has engaged me. It didn't work this time around, as I am now about half way through both of these, and they are all still holding my interest. The Hamid book is a political thriller, narrated by a Pakistani/Manhattan big corporate business analyst turned…. well, we're not quite sure what he has turned into yet. But it doesn't sound like it is going to be good. There is a queasy unsettling momentum to the book—not unlike A. D. Miller's Moscow fraudster thriller Snowdrop. Hamid will have delivered the SWF opening address by the time you are reading this, and I am curious as to whether the last half of the book will pack a political punch. Miranda July is an illustrious artist and film-maker and has written an acclaimed short-story collection. She has won prizes at Cannes and Sundance; and created a sculpture garden for the Venice Biennale. She is lauded by the likes of Lena Dunham, A M Homes, and George Saunders, and Lorrie Moore has written a lovely appreciation of her work in the New York Review of Books. It is Moore's recommendation that made me want to pick up this, her first novel. The writing is sharp, and arch, and self-conscious and funny. I am still waiting to figure out what I 'feel' about her work, but Moore says it is ultimately moving 'like an avalanche is moving', and her lines 'sing', and it certainly has me hooked.




1. Forged From a Silver Dollar by Li Feng
2. Windsor's Way by Tony Windsor
3. What Do We Want? A Political History of Aboriginal Land Rights in NSW by Heidi Norman
4. Short History of Stupid, A: All the Things About Modern Life That Make You Want to Scream by Helen Razer & Bernard Keane
5. Unholy Fury:The US Alliance & the Whitlam-Nixon Crisis by James Curran
6. Between You & Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen by Mary Norris
7. H is For Hawk by Helen Macdonald
8. The End of Representative Politics by Simon Tormey
9. Plenty More by Yotam Ottolenghi
10. Landmarks by Robert MacFarlane


1. Sentenced to Life by Clive James
2. The Life of Houses by Lisa Gorton
3. The Strays by Emily Bitto
4. Close to Home by Robin Barker
5. The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
6. The Green Road by Anne Enright
7. A God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson
8. The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan
9. The Wonder Lover by Malcolm Knox
10. Quicksand by Steve Toltz