Posted by: Lisa Hill | June 30, 2011

Bragging about Aussie authors on the BookSexy blog!

Last week I received an invitation to be interviewed by Tara from Book Sexy who is one of the most popular bloggers in cyberspace – but she had some tough questions and I had to think hard before choosing the Aussie authors I would brag about.  Getting a mention on the Book Sexy blog is an opportunity for Aussie authors to access international exposure and publicity, but alas, I couldn’t include every author I like.  (Not without writing a PhD thesis, that is, but don’t think I wasn’t tempted).

In the end, these were the authors & books I included:

Henry Handel Richardson’s  The Fortunes of Richard Mahony trilogy (1930)

Brian Castro’s The Bath Fugues (2009)

The 2009 Miles Franklin shortlist

Leslie Cannold  The Book of Rachel (2011)

Susan Johnson’s Life in Seven Mistakes (2008)

Gone by Jennifer Mills (2011)

Snake by Kate Jennings (reissued in 2011)

Glenys Osborne’s Come Inside (2010)

Eliot Perlman Three Dollars (2001)

Joan London’s The Good Parents  (2008)

The Secret River a(2005) nd its successor The Lieutenant, (2008) by Kate Grenville

Kim Scott’s That Deadman Dance (2011) (an indigenous author)

David Musgrave’s Glissando (2010)

Cate Kennedy’s  The World Beneath (2009)

Roger McDonald When Colts Ran (2011)

Short stories by Henry Lawson (1867-1922) Barbara Baynton (1857-1929)

(For the Term of) His Natural Life by Marcus Clark (1846-1991)

Authors that I think really kicked off the Australian literary tradition:

Experimental and challenging writers doing something different

Must read

Most exciting new writer

From the backlist

  • Geoffrey Dutton,
  • Vance Palmer and
    D’Arcy Niland.

In my haste,  I forgot to include my No 1 recommendation for a book for overseas readers: George Johnson’s My Brother Jack and also Julia Leigh whose moody books I really love!   I also should have included the Queens of ChickLit for the Thinking Woman, Jessica Rudd and Toni Jordan, but I’ve sneaked over to Book Sexy and added them in as a comment!

As always, I aimed for gender balance, and I tried to cover established writers and a couple of debut authors.   What do you think of my list – what would you have included in a list of Best Australian Books and who did I leave out?



  1. Lisa, What about Helen Garner? and The Death of a Wombat,
    by Ivan Smith and Clifton Pugh? Great list you’ve posted.


  2. Hi Lesley, oh yes, I have wept over Death of a Wombat many times with my classes at school!
    Which Garner do you think I should have mentioned?


  3. Shamefacedly she replies: the only Garner I have read is The Spare Room,
    ( it was, in my view, a terrific expose on anger, and fear, not exclusively an ‘Australian’ book though).
    I remember she came to prominence about 30 years ago with a book about an ?abuse case at Melbourne University….and what a furore it
    caused….I’m sure it had something to say about the prevailing mores
    in this country of that time, and she was brave enough to lay it out for all to see (and read) The First Stone, that was it! That is the one I think deserves
    a mention.


    • The First Stone, which I read at the time too – a most thought provoking book!


  4. well done ,all the best stu


  5. Lisa –

    You are way too kind! Thank you for the lovely (if slightly exaggerated) compliment. My blog is smaller than you give it credit for – but every little bit helps, right? There’s too much International literature out there that’s not getting the attention it deserves.

    And the list of links you posted above is hugely appreciated!


  6. yes, well done. I found a copy of Anderson’s Tirra Lirra by the River in my mum’s stuff. Looking forward to reading that and Malouf’s Fly Away Peter in July.


    • I’m looking forward to seeing your review, Kinna. Now it’s school holidays, I’m hoping to catch up on some serious reading myself!


  7. I think you did a very good job, we do have so many great authors. I would have also included Katharine Susannah Prichard. Her books on the early years of Australia are excellent. And of course for me, Garner would have been on top of my list.



    • Hello Meg, I’ve never read Susannah Pritchard but I have her Coonardoo on the TBR. (I think Sue at Whispering Gums suggested it?) Another author I belatedly thought of in that vein was Eleanor Dark. I won a copy of The Timeless Land in a school competition many moons ago and have fond memories of it.


      • Hi Lisa, I have just thought of another author which I used to read all the time. I can’t believe I forgot her, Barabara Hanrahan. As I said. I think you did an excellent “brag” list. It just proves that Australia has had in the past, and now in the present many good authors.


        • I’ve heard of, but never read Hanrahan – and another one I might have mentioned is Helen Hodgman? Text is reissuing her novels and I have Blue Skies on the TBR but haven’t got to it yet…


  8. Interesting very comprehensive list, Lisa though a couple of inclusions surprised me such as The slap, as I didn’t think you liked it? Anyhow, I think my list would be as extensive as yours with some minor variations.

    One suggestion though: Authors who kicked off the Australian literary tradition – what about Patrick White?


    • You’re right, I didn’t much care for The Slap. But it was nominated for so many shortlists – and it fitted my theory of Oz writing being characterised by a sense of character in extremis so I felt it would be churlish to leave it out.
      You know I love Patrick White, but I put him in a category all of his own!


  9. Another new to me blog I will need to check out. Obviously out of the loop.


  10. Re. … what would you have included in a list of Best Australian Books and who did I leave out?

    I might have included Alexis Wright’s Carpentaria, because there’s nothing else like it in Australian literature, as far as I know. And if the discussion had extended to poets then I might have mentioned a few more names, and then there’s playwrights (Dorothy Hewett?) and journalists (Garner again?) and children’s books (The Magic Pudding, Blinky Bill, Snugglepot and Cuddlepie: a few others). But I think you’ve done a fine job. “Character[s] in extremis” is a good phrase, and the only major additions I can think of, to your list, off the top of my head are writers who spent most of their time overseas and “lost the opportunity to shape the contemporary Australian literary tradition” in person — Christina Stead, for example, and Robert Hughes.


    • Oops, fancy forgetting Christina Stead and Robert Hughes! It was just a case of their books lurking somewhere none-too-visible on my shelves when I was prowling around trying to choose! This holidays, I’m scheduling a long overdue tidy-up…


    • Yes, DKS, I thought the same re Carpentaria … but one could go on. I could also be provocative and throw in Eve Langley. So unusual … and fascinating for her time (for any time really).


      • Yes, Carpentaria should have been on the list, I loved the structure of that book – like a spiral, like waves curling around on each other as if in a rip.
        Eve Langley – did she write anything else besides The Pea Pickers?


        • Yes, something called The white topee (or somesuch – check Wikipedia – it’s one of the ones I pretty much wrote – but most of her stuff was unpublished and is in ms form at the Mitchell Library I think (but don’t quote me and I’m too lazy to check right now).


  11. What a great list Lisa.
    As usual, I often feel somewhat ashamed because I don’t seem able to make time to read as many books as I would like. DKS above mentions Dorothy Hewett. Her novel ‘Bobbin up’ tells us much about Australian working class women of the fifties and I remembered being astounded when I discovered it took her a mere eight weeks to write. (As someone who takes a minimum of eight weeks to write a novel, it seems almost incomprehensible)
    Christos Tsiolkas definitely deserves his place on the list for his bravery and Elizabeth Jolley for her inimitable style.
    I could go on and on but perhaps I’d better go and write myself a list of ‘must reads’.


    • Ha ha, I have Fridayitis…I meant to say that I am someone who takes a minimum of twelve months to write a novel and, instead, repeated “eight weeks”


      • Actually, Karen, your mention of Bobbin Up (which I read a loooong time ago and don’t remember very well) might prompt Sue to write a blog post about ‘working-class women’ in Oz Lit – she has a better grasp of writing from that period than I do and is very good at pulling together a theme like that. I’m thinking of Oh Lucky Country by Rosie Cappiello, and The Pea Pickers as well, I’m sure there are others – Ruth Park, Olga Masters – I’m brain-dead tonight and can’t think of others!


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