We asked some of our favourite Australian authors to select the books they’re most excited about in 2021.
This book was one of my absolute favourites this year, and its publication was so horribly ruined by the lockdown that I feel it hasn’t gotten the attention it deserves. It is a whip-smart, self-aware, witty and heartfelt meditation on what it is like to be in one’s 30s, and a brilliant snapshot of the Millennial mindset.
But even though it has large generational themes and is full of interesting intellectual musings, it is the family anecdotes and self-deprecatory personal disclosures which give the book so much life. Bridie has the most terrific writing voice. Every line of prose resounds with the strength of her personality. She also has a David Sedaris-like ability for comic writing and capturing the ridiculous in the everyday. Oh, and this book also has the cover of the year, in my opinion.
My favourite book his year is a quiet one. The Dogs by John Hughes.
It didn’t make any noise as it slipped into the world, and that’s a tragedy. It’s a beautifully moving examination of family secrets and the chasm that can exist between parents and children.
Hughes’s last book, No One, was shortlisted for the Miles Franklin but he’s not the kind of writer to be greeted with bells and whistles. His publishing circumstances remind me of the quietness, humility and persistence surrounding this year’s Nobel laureate, Abdulrazak Gurnah, whose long time editor, Alexandra Pringle, said of his award: “He is one of the greatest living African writers, and no one has ever taken any notice of him … and it’s just killed me.”
Everywhere I look, everyone is talking about Diana Reid’s Love and Virtue. It’s a campus novel (one of my favourite genres) about two young women navigating the fall-out of an assault suffered by one of them.
It explores themes of consent, sexuality, feminism and what it means to hold two competing truths simultaneously as women in a world that continues to force them into a single narrative. I can’t wait to dig into it and join the discussion.
Claire Thomas, the author of The Performance, is excited about the forthcoming book Australiana by Yumna Kassab
The book I am most looking forward to reading very soon is Harrow by one of my favourite writers, the American genius, Joy Williams. It’s her first novel since the extraordinary The Quick and the Dead, and I expect to be once again riveted by her characters, her singular imagery, and her darkly idiosyncratic approach to eco-fiction.
I’m also really looking forward to Australiana, the first novel from Yumna Kassab whose collection of short stories, The House of Youssef, was very impressive. A nuanced evocation of small town life, Australiana is out early next year with Ultimo Press, a new publisher doing some exciting things in the local literary landscape.
I am counting down to the release of Ann Patchett’s new non-fiction collection in November. I adore everything she writes but especially her essays, which are always profound and clever, and funny and wise. And this time, Patchett has narrated the audiobook, so I will absolutely need that edition as well as the paperback.
Amani Haydar, author of The Mother Wound recommends Sara Saleh’s forthcoming novel.
I’m excited about Sara Saleh’s debut book which has just been acquired by Affirm Press. Sara is an Arab-Australian human rights activist, organiser and award-winning poet.
Her novel, Songs for the Dead and the Living will tell the story of a Palestinian family in Western Sydney. I love books that deal with intergenerational trauma and bravely tackle complex personal and political themes. It’s been said that Arab-Australian authors are having ‘a moment’, embellishing the literary landscape in with the richness of their stories, both fiction and non-fiction.
I’m especially excited to see complex stories by women from marginalised communities taking up more space in Australian publishing. Our children will thank us for this gift.