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Reading tips from the Brisbane Writers Festival

Authors from the Brisbane Writers Festival recommend some books, plus Richelle Mead, author of Blood Promise...

Peter Fitzsimons is a Sydney Morning Herald journalist and author of numerous books, inlcuding Kokoda, a history of the Australian army campaign against the Japanese in New Guinea in WW2 on the Kokoda Track. His biographies include one of Nancy Wake, and another of Kim Beazley, the former Australian Labor Party leader. His latest is a biography of a pioneer aviator, Sir Charles Kingsford Smith and Those Magnificent Men. As far as favorite books went, P.J. O’Rourke’s Holidays in Hell was a long-term favorite, and he also liked The Collected Works of Guy de Maupassant, and Somerset Maugham’s last book Summing Up.

Kirsten Reed, author of debut novel The Ice Age, said she liked a novel called Blue Mondays by Arnon Grunberg. This was a debut novel about a slacker who haunts the red light districts of Amsterdam.

Tania James is the author of debut novel Atlas of Unknowns. She recommended The Ms. Hempel Chronicles by Sarah Shun-lien Bynum.

Irfan Yasuf is the author of Once Were Radicals. He had a list of recommended reading in his book, but he singled out Leo the African by Amin Maalouf.

Craig Silvey, whose second novel is Jasper Jones, liked Happy Baby by Stephen Elliott.
Travel writer Andrew Westoll is the author of The Riverbones, about his trip through Suriname. He particularly admired the travel books of Peter Matthiessen, because of the way he included science in his travel writing. He also liked Bruce Chatwin.

Norb Vonnegut is the author of a debut novel Top Producer. “It’s a story about friendship, betrayal and Wall Street,” he told me. He liked anything by Carl Hiasson, like Double Whammy. He also liked John Irving and Stieg Larsson.

Josephine Emery wrote her memoir The Real Possibility of Joy about her gender transition which she started in 2005. She liked the 1934 modernist novel Weymouth Sands by John Cowper Powys.

Catherine Therese wrote The Weight of Silence about family alcoholism. She liked Street of Crocodiles by Bruno Schulz. She also liked Mark Doty’s book of poetry, My Alexandria. Nabakov was a favorite author, for example, Speak, memory: an autobiography revisited. Also she liked the poet Adrienne Rich.

Gary Crew is the author of The Children’s Writer. He liked The Road by Cormac McCarthy, and The Book Thief by Markus Zusak.


As a bonus for this issue, a few days after the writers festival, the author of the Vampire Academy series, Richelle Mead was appearing at a book store in Adelaide Street, Brisbane. Her latest novel, her fourth, is Blood Promise. Her fans are completists when it comes to reading the books in her vampire series, and most of her readers in the lunchtime queue at the bookstore, mainly women in their twenties, were carrying a couple of books for signing.

I asked her to recommend some obscure books she’d liked over the years. Ms Mead said that in the 1980s she really liked the Dragonlance series of books, by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman. She said this would probably be obscure to many of her readers, because most of them probably hadn’t been born back then.