Books Read 2023

The Asparagus War – Carol Major

Again. Got so much more out of it this time after hearing her speak to Pip Williams at BMWF. I am remedial. 

Overdrive ebook

This Is Not About Me – Janice Galloway

Memoir of her very early years. An ‘anti-memoir’ she called it. Brutal reality. Re-imagining before she could remember. Detail, description. Saltcoats by the sea. The terrible older sister. 

Kobo Booktopia

The Importance of Being Seven – Alexander McCall Smith

A 44 Scotland Street novel, gentle, perspicious, character-driven humour as an antidote to the cruelties of the previous. Poor Bertie! Gentle wit, funny. 

Opshop paperback. 

Heather Rose – Nothing Bad Ever Happens Here

Author’s story, brother and grandfather drowned and that tore family apart. Her own journeys all over world, searching, estranged from mother for a long time, children, relationships. Beaut writing, very engaging

Bought paperback

Amy Thunig – Tell Me Again

Retelling of family stories like the day of Amy’s birth and then the actual truth. Most chapters start in present and then go back to past. re-telling of a truly traumatic childhood with addicted parents, also loving wider family, living alone at 15, working, hungry, and then homeless, estranged… and understanding, forgiveness, end when she finishes school. V good

Elizabeth gave me her paperback

My Mother and other Secrets – Wendy Nissan

NZ journo author on what she found out about her mum and dad’s lives and the hardship they went through. Lots about the harshness of her mums upbringing and how that made her hard to live with and cruel to her own kids. Lots of family secrets and trauma as author grew up with disturbed mother. Then a dementia and old age section, bit of a manifesto.

Written very plainly, journalese. 

Library Book A+U 2021

In My Mother’s Hands – Biff Ward

Very moving and disturbing memoir of a family where mother is very mentally ill and only goes to hospital a few times. Central quest is to find out if Biff’s mother killed her first baby Alison at 4 months… and in the end we realise that she probably did, probably had psychosis. Mum was paranoid and OCD and delusional and yet they lived with that as her Dad did a PhD and then lectured at Armidale, his affairs and the traumas that led to, all of it for Biff. Then some reconciling by the end of her parents lives and understanding of what had been happening.

tense and distressed and very beautifully written.

2014 Allen + Unwin 

Library book

All The Unloved – Susan McCreery

A novella about the people who live in a block of flats at Bondi in the 1990s. Exquisitely drawn characters and big stories told in few, careful, touching words.

Spineless Wonders 2023

Bought paperback

Magda Szubanski – Reckoning 

Magda’s memoir is mainly about her father but also very much about her own battles with sexuality and then with being open about that with family and then in general. But the story is very much about her Dad and his role in the war in Poland, then his leaving and never going back, remaking himself and coming to terms with what he had done as a young man. Many threads and lots of detail about her parents marriage and family life, life as immigrants. Of course, I lapped it, up, swallowed it whole. 

Book bought in op shop.

The Breaking – Kathryn Heyman

OMG – such violence and such amazing writing, how horror can be conveyed in so few words. A hard story to read. About a family where dad is violent alcoholic policeman with lockup in garden. Mal (?) and Ruth and Sarah Sweet…. in two parts, first the childhood and then the disastrous young adult like, Sarah turning violent herself. 

Intimidatingly interestingly written.. poetic in parts.. 

Read on Libby app


Stranger Care – Sarah Sentilles

Memoir told in fragments really… the through line is the not being sure if she wants a baby and then deciding she does and then starting to try to foster to adoption… and a baby comes… stays only 10 months and has to go back but then… mother doesn’t cope, ends as they are still trying to get the baby back from the state next door. Bloody hell. Interspersed though with all sorts of wee bits of writing, about how animals care for young, all sorts of stories, just placed side by side… quite extraordinary and very upsetting!!


Commonwealth – Ann Patchett

A domestic tale of two families, an affair and the effect that it has for decades afterwards… where everyone ends up… six children, their cruelties, the parents terrible behaviour, having to live so far away… an affair with an older writer who tells the whole story of the family and the death of Cal… impeccable, fascinating and profound … domestic drama and honest truths, beauty and love and all of it.,


Love and Other U-Turns – Louisa Deasey

A memoir about throwing it all away for love. Louisa left her home and work in Melbourne to go on the road with a comedian boyfriend. Travelled all over Oz, freelancing with difficulty. Eventually it ended. Madcap romantic road trip comedy. Fun and some good insights into remote and rural Oz and men/women in the bush. And lovely place writing.  But too much repetition! 

Bought book. 

Dustfall – Michelle Jonston

A novel set in WA, a doctor not dealing well with trauma, and the effects of dust and asbestos, some polemic about mining companies. 


Drop Your Weapons – Sarah Sentilles

A complex book of braided memoir and essay writing – about violence, love and peace. ‘A meditation on art and war.’ Which I need to reread. 


Floodline – Kathryn Heyman

Story of a religious sect and a flood, families and secrets and lies. 


Skin Deep – Philippa McGuiness

Everything about skin… so much to learn, enjoy the lively and learned style. 


Trespasses – Louise  Kennedy

Fantastic novel set in Northern Ireland in the Troubles, a family saga, telling broad stories within the love affair a young teacher has across the sectarian divide. Gripping/ 


This Is Not A Pity Memoir – Abi Morgan

Screenwriter Abi Morgan tells the story of her husband’s collapse and coma… and then partial recovery. Dispassionate but relentless, the detailed daily tales of dealing with brain damage which will not get better. 


Ultra-Processed People – Chris van Tulleken

Huge book about junk food – oh dear.



Waterlog – Roger Deakin

Wonderful wonderful swimmer and naturalist wanders, eccentric and knowledgeable, just fantastic! 

Paperback – press from Mo

Captain Starlight’s Apprentice- Kathryn Heyman 

Dazzling tale across two times, a 19th century trick rider and an ill new mother newly migrated to Australia, with everything falling apart. Terrific.

Library ebook

The Byline Bible – Susan Shapiro

How-to guide on getting published in US magazines and newspapers, with a view to having memoir commissioned. 


Operation Jungle – John Shobbrock

Shocking tale of police corruption and attempts to curb it in 1970 Brisbane – which fail!!


Urning: Queer Identity in the German Nineteenth Century – Douglas Pretsell

Early gay rights awareness and activistsm in Germany in the late 19th century. Douglas’s PhD turned into a book which will be officially published in April next year. Fascinating for general reader, an important historical period told from many original sources. A clear explained and well-written eye-opener for yours truly.

Queer Voices in the Works of Richard von Krafft-Ebing 1883-1901 – Douglas Pretsell

Letters sent to this psychiatrist. History comes alive – cliché but 100% spot on. 

Drink the intimate relationship between women and alcohol – Ann Dowsett Johnston

Author’s sobriety story plus loads of interviews and the full journo treatment on women drinking more and the consequences, etc etc


A Kind of Magic – Anna Spargo-Ryan

A memoir of madness, of terrible anxiety anyway. Well written and thought-provoking. 


This Much Is True – Miriam Margolyes

Fascinating autobiography from everyone’s favourite Jewish lesbian entertainer. Her early life in Oxford was captivating to me. 


Vintage Roger – Charlie Mortimer

The letters of Roger Mortimer sent during the four years he was a POW in Germany. Marvellous.



Lucky Lupin – Charlie Mortimer

Charlie Mortimer’s memoir of his dissolute life, as seen in the Dear Lupin letters book. Swinging London and AIDS and eccentric English upper class life, a poor show at Eton!


Marram – Leonie Charlton

The story of a journey by pony through the Outer Isles, with many characters, beautiful nature writing and a deep love of her horse and friends and family. 

Mairi’s book

Dear Stumpy – letters to a disobedient daughter. Louise Mortimer

Wonderful letters from Roger Mortimer to his daughter Louise, so hilarious, charming and eccentric. 


Diary of a Nobody –  George and Weedon Grossmith

The classic comedic story as serialised in Punch 1888-1889.


The End of Alzheimers – Dr Dale Bredesen 

How to avoid… ie live a healthy life…. not great.


The Sea Wolves – A History Of The Vikings – Lars Brownforth 

Book by historian, my starter Viking history. Next one was more comprehensive. 


Found, Wanting – Natasha Sholl

A grief memoir, about not coping, going mad, and recovery. Natasha Sholl’s partner died unexpectedly aged 27…. her pain, gradual changes, and the nature of love, loss and grief explored in lovely writing. 


Don’t Be Too Polite Girls – Wendy McCarthy

A chunky memoir, more of an autobiography of her life, written at 80. Childhood, study, teaching, marriage, children, working, Womens Electoral Lobby, Family Planning, lots of boards, business, family, friendship. Moving and illuminating esp end of friendships

  • saw her talk at library and bought the book. 

Can’t You Just Get Over It? by Angela Kehler

This is a book about being brought up in a very strict Christian religious community in the US with a charismatic leader. The author left when she was 18 or 19 – self published.

Apple Books – self published 

How To Kill Your Family – Bella Mackie

Black comedy from English journo author. Enjoyed very much. 

Library ebook


The Man Of My Dreams

Curtis Sittenfield 

So well written, clear simple prose

Coming of age of a tricky person in messy circumstances, a girl who is a bit difficult in various stages of her life, childhood, college, adult life.

Op shop buy

And The The Land Lay Still – James Robertson

Epic, thralling, history of postwar Scotland told through intertwining tales. Mesmerising. panoramic. Loved.

Paul’s paperback

On Drugs – Chris Fleming 

Giramondo Kindle

Sydney academic on long drug history. Very academic, all show no tell. Final recovery bit most interesting. 

The Bookseller of Inverness – SG Maclean

A post-1745 thriller, spies and murders and blood-soaked history in the Highlands. Fantastic. 


Kate Grenville – Lilian’s Story

A tour de force, what a novel. Not easy reading, upsetting but dazzling. 

Op shop paperback

No One Is Talking About This – Patricia Lockwood 

Hmmm…. not sure at all. Not my cuppa, or not for my age group. It was interesting on the infertility themes, but overall not my fave.

Paperback library 

The Seeker – SG MacLean

Set in London in time of Cromwell. Complex murder/crime thriller. Very dark character Damian Seeker who is Captain of Cromwell’s guard. Love historical detail and complex plot. 


This Is Not A Book About Benedict Cumberbatch Tabitha Carvan

Enjoyable memoir, great author voice, weird and odd and interesting, a bit here and there themewise, but well done Tabitha Carvan, your first memoir and it raises many themes and issues for modern women. 

Library ebook

Lets Pretend This Never Happened – Jenny Lawson The Bloggess

Crazy tales of growing up in small town Texas with a taxidermist dad and massive anxiety. Daft stories, ‘I’m so crazy’ stories. Did not read it all.

Library book 

The Bookbinder of Jericho – Pip Williams

Wonderful, loved it. Oxford! Jericho! The canal! Somerville! All set during WW1. A twin struggles to get out of the bindery. Suffragettes, degrees. Fantastic. So enjoyed it..

Library book


The Black Friar – S.G.MacLean

Second in Seeker series, set in 1655, manly plots against Cromwell, Royalists and mad Christian sects, and within it a murder mystery and disappearing children mystery – very complex… also a love story! How does she do it?

Kindle ebook

Children of Ash and Elm – Neil Price

Massive book by a university proff all about everything Viking… everything! Learned a lot about the extant texts, esp early Arab writers contemporaneous accounts. Lots of archaeology too.

17 hours Audible audio book!

The Passion of Private White – Don Watson

Story of Don White, Vietnam conscript then anthropologist and his long links with Arnhem land township. heartbreaking and loving, as told by Don. Portrait of man, a place, a people and lots of mistakes in aid.

Audible audio book

Restless Dolly Maunder – Kate Grenville

Her grandmother’s story, fictionalised. Inside the head of a very frustrated women Norn with very few options, who takes risks as much as she can, always restless. Grumpy and difficult at times too. Money earned and lost again, a faithless marriage that disintegrates int he end. Terrible hardship.

Library paperback

Chai Time at Cinnamon Gardens – Shankari Chandran

I thought this was a light-hearted cosy old folks mystery and it has some elements of that. But the theme of the war in Sri Lanka and the appalling cruelties on all sides is the backbone. Easy to read, and it swept me away, but very troubling. 

Library book

Destroying Angel – S.G.MacLean

Third in the Seeker series, this one set in York and Yorkshire. Another complex plot with Royalists, mad religious people, interesting characters and such a complex plot. Read a lot at 3am awakenings.


The Bear Pit 

4th Seeker – another ripping yarn set in Cromwell’s England. 


House of Lamentation – SG MacKean

Fifth and final Seeker. Set in Bruges. Super complex and gripping.


All The Little Bird-Hearts – Viktoria Lloyd-Barlow

Wonderful book about an autistic mother and her daughter and a couple who move in next door and take over. All about relationships. Author is autistic. Fantastic.

Library book

Whatever You Love – Louise Doughty 

After seeing her talk on structure and how she sorted this one out. Preface – before, after, before, after. 

Girl knocked down, brings divorced parents together. 

Library book


Secrets Beyond The Screen – Anita Jacoby

Both Anita’s own story and her father’s, she unearthed a lot of info about him after his death. Enjoyed a lot. Ventura

Kindle ebook 

Dominion – Tom Holland

Massive tome about how Christianity has had a huge total impact the Western mind. So many stories! And now must read more about the Jewish religion, and Islam. 

Borrowed paperback

Lies My Mirror Told Me – Wendy Harmer

Memoir – really an autobiography I think – about her whole life and its many ups and downs. Such a hard start in life and she has worked so hard and done so much. Wise and lively woman!

Library ebook on Libby

The Hummingbird Effect – Kate Mildenhall

Womens’ stores cross four time periods, working class Melbourne, present and future. Very deft and interesting and literary. Master storyteller. 

Libby ebook

Trust – by Jeanne Ryckmans

One of those books that astound… the story of the author being sucked in by a charming academic conman, then investigating his many crimes and misdemeanours in relationships and in academia. Very bold, well told and startling.


Bila Yarrudhanggalan/River of DreamsAnita Heiss

The story of the Gundagai flood and the indigenous men who saved many lives, going on to the imagined life of the daughter of one of them, moving to Wagga Wagga. The injustices of the colonial period are astounding and horrendous. 


Walking With Ghosts Gabriel Byrne memoir

Memoir, mostly about childhood and characters in Ireland, interspersed with stories from early acting life, alcoholism, Hollywood success. Great – and that voice. 


Ladies’ Rest and Writing Room – Kim Kelly

Novella about two young women, about grief. Won 20/40 prize. Wonderful!

-paperback bought Bathurst Library

Mrs D Is Going Without – Lotta Dann

A sober diary, taken from an anonymous blog written by Lotta Dann when she stopped boozing in 2011. Enjoyable and funny at times. 


Edenglassie – Melissa Lucashenko 

Magnificent. A sweeping tale of Brisbane in early colonial days and then present-day, five generations later. Very distressing at times, fascinating details of indigenous life in the past, magnificent female characters. Excellent. 

Library ebook


Euphoric AF – Karolina Rzadkowolska

A bit of a memoir but mostly a self-help book. Why and how to stop drinking, by a sober coach. Aimed at young go-getters ie not me. 

Paperback – sent to me

Binding, More Than A Motherhood Memoir – Lynn Garlick

Very good memoir, story of a marriage, abuse and escape, the difficulties of managing motherhood and a career, a lot about social work and social attitudes. 

Paperback – bought from author

Wild Abandon – Emily Bitto

A coming of age, road novel. Heartbroken, Will escapes Melbourne and is caught up in hedonistic excess in New York, then leaves there and ends up helping a Vietnam veteran out with his dozens of exotic animals. Emily Bitto’s self-described ‘baroque sentences’ took a bit of getting used to. By the end I was swept away and really enjoying this book, though I struggled at the start. 

Second hand bookshop paperback


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