Posted by: Lisa Hill | April 13, 2011

The Best Australian Essays, a Ten-Year Collection (2011), edited by Peter Craven et al

The Best Australian Essays: A Ten-year CollectionThis is a terrific collection.  The essays have been selected from the annual Best Australian Essays series and there are contributions from some of Australia’s most eminent writers and thinkers.

I like the essay form.  So much of what passes for journalism in daily newspapers is, these days, superficial and/or partisan, and that’s partly because of the limitations of space and partly because editorial independence is not what it was under great editors such as Creighton Burns.  So publications like Quarterly Essay are filling a gap in the Fourth Estate and it’s good to have the best of these essays in a more permanent form that will last the distance on the shelves.

I haven’t read all of the essays yet; this is a collection to keep on the coffee table and dip into from time-to-time.  Of those I have read, these are my favourites:

  • Thomas Keneally writes about how he met the man who inspired him to write Schindler’s List
  • David Malouf explores the transition of Anzac Day from moribund in the 50s to national obsesssion in the 21st century
  • Inga Clendinnen writes movingly about the ‘family’ of people who’ve had liver transplants
  • Barry Humphries writes about his last meeting with Arthur Boyd, and
  • David Marr writes irresistibly about those precious Patrick White papers recently unearthed.

My favourite is by Jessica Anderson, writing about abandoning her old Hermes typewriter and learning to use a computer at the age of 70.  I loved reading about the arrangements she had for her writing: the desk, the chair, the ‘little printer’ and so on. 

The Best Australian Stories: A Ten-Year CollectionBlack Inc have also released The Best Australian Stories, A Ten Year Collection and I’m happily reading one of those every day or so too.  I’m especially enjoying sampling authors I haven’t read before, for example, Anna Krien writing rather eerie fiction rather than non-fiction.  More about this one later.

The Best Australian Essays: A Ten-year CollectionEditors: Peter Craven, Robert Dessaix, Drusilla Modjeska, David Marr and Robert Drewe
Title: The Best Australian Essays, A Ten Year Collection
Publisher: Black Inc 2011
ISBN: 9781863955232
Availabilty: both book and eBook from the Black Inc website, or from fishpond (click on the bookcover).


  1. Great post Lisa! I love this form and we are blessed to have such a diverse range of publications in Australia. I agree with you wholeheartedly on the quality of writing these collections offer and I have been seriously considering giving up my subscription for my daily broadsheet newspaper of which I have been growing more disallusioned with the quality of the journalism recently.


    • Hi Jenny, it’s sad to see the decline of the broadsheets – it used to be such a good part of my day, reading the paper over breakfast before going to work in the morning. But these days it’s just a quick flick through at the headlines, just to check that there isn’t anything important to know about.
      That’s why these essays are so important. In the extended form, writers can give us the brain food we crave!


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