Pull up a deckchair, roll out the beach towel or unfurl that picnic blanket in the park – it’s time to get comfy. We asked our favourite booksellers across the country to share three summer reading picks, from all-time classics to the best new releases. Here’s the best of the best from those on the frontline.
Chris Crouch, Happy Valley, Fitzroy
Normal People by Sally Rooney
It’s rare customers come back and buy multiple copies of a book they want to give their friends and family. It’s even more rare when it happens on a daily basis. Irish author Sally Rooney’s second novel is about a man and a woman, from very different worlds, who change each other’s lives. It has already appeared on many “best book of the year” lists and it’s easy to see why. Rooney now has two critically acclaimed books under her belt, and at the age of 27 her future looks extremely bright.
Beastie Boys Book by Michael Diamond and Adam Horovitz
This is the perfect summer book, all 571 pages of it. Diamond and Horovitz capture the crazy world of the Beastie Boys in pages that are part coffee-table book, part catalogue, part memoir. It’s also a love letter to New York, the city a constant backdrop as Diamond and Horovitz chronicle the band’s early formation in the ’80s, right up to their eventual worldwide success.
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
Like George Orwell’s 1984 and Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World before it, The Handmaid’s Tale is a dystopian classic highlighting the politically charged environment we live in, where history sadly often repeats itself. If you’ve held off reading the book due to the TV series, now is the time: Atwood is planning a sequel, The Testaments, due to be published in 2019, 34 years after the original.
Dean Allan, Better Read Than Dead, Sydney
Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata
This book is a gem. It may be small but it speaks volumes about unconventional people who find happiness fitting in somewhere, even if it’s a convenience store in Tokyo. Murata’s storytelling is funny and offbeat in a marvellous way and makes you adore everything about this book, leaving you with much to think about afterwards. Perfect summer reading and summer daydreaming material.
Ponti by Sharlene Teo
Very cool; very strange in the right kind of way, from a fresh voice that’s razor sharp. Set in sticky sultry Singapore (making this perfect to read during our summer), Szu is a lonely misfit living with her mother Amisa an ageing former horror-film star. She befriends Circe – another misfit at school – and they delve into a short and intense friendship. Circe is now divorced and working in publicity for the remake of Ponti – Amisa’s dated horror film – triggering guilty memories of her short but intense relationship with Szu’s family. It’s funny, clever and fascinating.
Boy Swallows Universe by Trent Dalton
Every now and then, when you least expect it, a book comes along that absolutely blows your mind. This is one of them. The magic of Dalton’s writing transports you into another world, even if it’s the rough and tumble Brisbane of the eighties. Both heartbreaking and joyous, this is a must-read Australian classic in the making.
The team at Mostly Books, Adelaide
Normal People by Sally Rooney
A tender, serious and intimate book about two young people, Connell and Marianne, who fall into each other’s orbit. Rooney’s writing is assured and perceptive as she explores desire and power, while giving us a masterclass in characterisation. This fresh, funny and intoxicating novel is the perfect gift for lovers of literary fiction.
21 Lessons for the 21st Century by Yuval Noah Harari
Urgent, timely and engaging, the bestselling author of Sapiens has lent his considered mind to the big problems facing humanity today. From AI to democracy and from terrorism to meditation, Harari breaks down these big ideas in an accessible way. Fans of current affairs and modern history will enjoy this thought-provoking read.
The Odyssey translated by Emily Wilson
For the first time, The Odyssey has been translated by a woman, and we love Wilson’s fresh and direct take on Homer’s epic. This clear and modern translation does away with the pomposity of previous editions, while maintaining the lyricism and beauty of the original. Her feminist scholarship shines through as she gives agency to previously unseen female characters and presents a more complex picture of Odysseus. Classics aficionados will find new delights in this retelling, while it is easily the most accessible translation for those reading the Greek myth for the first time.
Fiona Stage, Avid Reader, Brisbane
Boy Swallows Universe by Trent Dalton
Boy Swallows Universe is set in an area of Brisbane that we never hear much about – the outer suburbs of Darra and Bracken Ridge. It’s based on writer Trent Dalton’s real life, but he’s taken this really difficult upbringing and turned it into a story of redemption and love. When Dalton was a child his babysitter was Boggo Road Gaol’s most infamous escapee. His stepfather, the man who taught him to love, was a heroin dealer and his mum was also addicted to drugs and went to jail for dealing. Dalton has turned these true events into a beautiful, magical-realist story.
Shell by Kristina Olsson
This is sure to appear on lots of prize lists next year. It’s set in Sydney – beginning in the ’60s. It’s about the building of the Sydney Opera House but there’s a lot more going on around that. It’s so beautifully written you want to go back and re-read pages. It also explores conscription, and because it’s a Kris Olsson book there’s always a lost child – Olsson’s previous book Boy, Lost, a memoir, hinged on the childhood abduction of her older brother, Peter.
Wintering by Krissy Kneen
Krissy Kneen works at Avid and customers have been coming in just to tell her how much they loved Wintering, which is really special. It has amazing characters and an amazing sense of place. It’s almost like a fractured fairytale, and of course fairytales are always cautionary tales. It’s set in a tiny town south of Hobart where nothing and no one are quite what they seem.
Bill Liddelow, Boffins Books, Perth
Found in Translation: 100 of the Finest Short Stories Ever Translated selected by Frank Wynne
Frank Wynne has selected 100 of the best short stories from around the world for this 900-page tome. It’s an exciting and brilliantly varied collection – Pushkin, Flaubert, Tolstoy, de Maupassant, Chekhov and Kafka are all there of course. But you’ll also find great voices from world literature that you may not be familiar with – Shusaku Endo, Herta Muller, Xi Xi to name a few among the hundred authors represented here. From Azerbaijan to Uzbekistan, by way of China and Brazil, and all over the face of the globe – you’ll experience some of the best writing in the world. This is a wonderful gift, if you can bear not to keep it yourself, in a very special hardcover gift edition.
Lateral Cooking by Niki Segnet
Some years ago, Niki Segnet wrote a book called The Flavour Thesaurus, a compendium of food flavour pairings that has become a standby of both chefs and home cooks. Now she has produced an equally tantalising companion volume, designed to help creative cooks develop their own recipes. Don’t be scared off by this. The framework is a set of basic recipes which, when you’re familiar with them, become infinitely adaptable according to what’s in your fridge or what’s in season, or what you feel like making. Usually it just involves a tweak or two in the method or the ingredients. To give an example, if you can get your head around flatbreads then the book will take you along the continuum – crackers, soda bread, scones and their variations and how to improvise on the basic recipes. Segnet’s writing is entertaining and inspirational, delightfully opinionated, and always draws on her deep knowledge of culinary science and history. Even Yotam Ottolenghi is raving about this book, and has said, “As a cookery writer, I am pretty jealous of this achievement”.
Saving Mona Lisa: The Battle to Protect the Louvre and Its Treasures from the Nazis by Gerri Chanel
In August 1939, with Western Europe once again on the brink of war, a small army of dedicated museum staff at the Louvre in Paris were making preparations of their own. This is the remarkable true story of Jacques Jaujard and his dedicated team, which saved the national treasures of the Louvre museum during World War II – including the Mona Lisa. Throughout WWII, the Louvre collection was moved many times, and to various places, sometimes under very precarious conditions in which not only the items but also the people involved were under threat. If caught, these people would have been incarcerated or killed, and the priceless items confiscated. Prior to the liberation of France in 1944, Jaujard played a very dangerous political game of cat and mouse not only with the German hierarchy but also with bureaucrats within the Vichy government who supported the Nazi regime, and their obsession with purloining France’s national treasures. It’s a compelling true story of art and beauty, intrigue and ingenuity, and remarkable moral courage in the darkest of times.
Kathleen O’Connor of Paris by Amanda Curtin
Kathleen O’Connor, daughter of Irish engineer and Fremantle Harbour conceiver C.Y. O’Connor, studied art in Perth under James Linton, and then in London. She lived and exhibited in Paris through to World War Two, returning to Western Australia in the 1950s. She was influenced by the Impressionists, and was close to many famous French painters and sculptors in the interwar years. In this delightful book Amanda Curtin tells Kate’s life story – and, of course, bohemian lifestyles are always fascinating. By all accounts Kate was a complex and at times difficult personality, and that makes for a good story. But the heart of the book is about her painting, and reproductions of her work – lodged in galleries around Australia – are included. This a perfect gift for anyone interested in Australian art, history and biography.
And a must-read from Broadsheet Sydney editor Sarah Norris
Holly Throsby’s Cedar Valley is equally engaging as her debut novel Goodwood. The solo musician, and member of the Seeker Lover Keeper project with Sarah Blasko and Sally Seltmann, has created a delightful page-turner – the perfect summer companion.