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Meet The Most Underrated Books Of 2020

Selected by bookstore owners


By Felicity Robinson & Anna Saunders

Book tours and signings are an essential way for publishers and authors to promote new books, but thanks to Covid-19 lockdowns, they were mostly cancelled this year. And while big releases like Craig Silvey’s Honeybee and Trent Dalton’s All Our Shimmering Skies received plenty of publicity, lots of smaller – but still brilliant – releases missed out on a lot of love. So we asked four of our favourite booksellers to share the quiet achievers that we should definitely pick up for summer.

Anna at Paperback Bookshop, Melbourne, recommends The Fogging; What Are You Going Through; Late In The Day; and Ostro

“We love a debut novel by a local author and The Fogging by Luke Horton is one of our favourites for 2020. It follows couple Tom and Clara on holiday in Indonesia and is an absorbing exploration of intimacy and isolation.

Sigrid Nunez has been a favourite at The Paperback since the publication of her 2018 novel, The Friend. What Are You Going Through is a beautiful, empathetic novel about close friendship.

Tessa Hadley’s most recent novel, Late in the Day, is one of our favourite books to recommend at the moment. Despite the critical acclaim it’s received internationally, this wonderfully observed book about long friendships, love and jealousy, has been a slow burner which is just now beginning to take off.

Finally, we loved Julia Busuttil Nishimura’s previous cook book, Ostro. Her new book, A Year of Simple Family Food is just as enticing and it’s impossible to flick through it without feeling hungry for good, seasonal food made with love.”

Kate Mayor of Dymocks recommends The Last Migration and Lucky’s

“With all the big books out this year it was hard for Aussie debuts to stand out. The Last Migration by Charlotte McConaghy is set in Greenland and follows a woman called Franny who is trying to talk her way onto a fishing trawler so she can track the last migration of arctic tern birds. It’s such an expertly plotted and quietly beautiful novel. It’s already been picked up for a film starring [The Crown’s] Claire Foy.

The other book I loved – because it’s hard to choose! – is Lucky’s by Andrew Pippos. It’s a really exciting Australian debut set in Greek cafes. It’s such a fresh, vibrant story that you just fall for.”

Laura Brading of book subscription service, Well Read picked Weather by Jenny Offill 

“This gem of a book was published in March, just as the pandemic blew up and everyone’s attention spans went out the window. But you should read it now.

Told in brief snippets, Weather follows Lizzie Benson, a librarian who is enduring life in Trump’s post-truth landscape of contemporary America. Sounds bleak I know (a reviewer described the book as the ‘Five Stages of Climactic Grief‘), but this small novel transcends bleak – and produces something incredibly human and illuminating and surprisingly hilarious. Don’t come to the book for the linear narrative or busy plot (those who have read Offill’s excellent Dept. of Speculation will know that this is simply not her style), but do stay for that perfect balance of wit and wisdom that characterises Offill’s writing, and holds a mirror up to modern living.”

Chris Crouch of Happy Valley, Melbourne, recommends Is This Anything?; The Monocle Book of Gentle Living; Earthlings; and Ghosts.

“One of two personal favourites released this month is Jerry Seinfeld’s Is This Anything? Seinfeld has selected his favourite material, organised decade by decade. He gives us his insights into the thrilling but unforgiving art of writing stand-up comedy.

The other book we’re enjoying is from Monocle Publications (who put out a monthly magazine): their new coffee table book The Monocle Book Of Gentle Living. It’s a guide to slowing down, enjoying more and being happy. This is Monocle’s handbook  to help you think about how to reconnect, make good things happen, to do something you care about and discover nice places and extraordinary people along the way.

In terms of new fiction we highly recommend Earthlings from Japanese author Sayaka Murata, author of the off-kilter Convenience Store Woman and Dolly Alderton’s debut novel Ghosts.”

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BY Felicity Robinson & Anna Saunders

Felicity and Anna are the co-founders of PRIMER

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