ANZLL Books You Must Read

Inspired by the Books You Must Read Before You Die phenomenon, ANZ LitLovers is developing its own Must Read list of Australian and New Zealand titles.

The ANZLL bookgroup (the catalyst for this blog) is a ‘broad church’ of well-read people with diverse tastes in reading – so recommendations represent a range of tastes too. They range from ‘a jolly good read’ and ‘couldn’t put it down’ to challenging books that take some time and effort to read.  They include classics which are as fresh today as the day they were written – and those that have not stood the test of time quite so well but remain an interesting window on Australian writing of the past.  There are titles loved by nearly all of us – and those whose merits or otherwise provoked lively discussion!

What makes Australian literature distinctive?  Read Lisa’s interview with Tara from Book Sexy here.

For a completely different sort of list, see A Suitcase Full of Books.


For those wanting to make a start with the classics, Jane Gleeson-White’s Australian Classics: 50 Great Writers and Their Celebrated Works is excellent.  (See Musings of a Literary Dilettante if you need convincing.) For those who feel a bit daunted by the length of this list, check out the 20 suggestions on my ANZ LitLovers List of Best Australian Books or the suggestions over at Whispering Gums.

Indigenous Authors

I have constructed  a separate page listing literary fiction by indigenous authors of Australia and New Zealand to support an Indigenous Literature Week that I am hosting in July 2012.  For a wider range of indigenous reading choices check out Anita Heiss’s 100 Black Books Reading List.

Multicultural voices

If you are interested in discovering diverse voices in Australian writing, visit Tseen Khoo’s list of Australian women writers of diverse heritage – one day when I get time I will construct a similar sort of page which will include male authors as well.  It’s on my To Do List!

Links in the list below are to Lisa’s reviews  – just one opinion and not to be taken as authoritative – but a search on Wikipedia will lead to more information about almost all of these authors, thanks to a wonderful team of contributors who are building a comprehensive online resource about Australian and New Zealand authors and their work.

Transparency statement: Please note that I receive affiliate payments from Fishpond, see the About page for further information.

*A never-ending, time-consuming and very boring task.  I work at this every now and again but not often enough to get it finished.  If there is no link click through to Fishpond from the logos in the RH menu or to Booko in the blogroll.

“Read the best books first, or you may not have a chance to read them all” –Henry David Thoreau

Nominations so far include the titles below.  NZ titles are in italics.


LITERARY FICTION (including short stories)

  • The Household Guide to Dying by Debra Adelaide, see my review
  • Serpent Dust by Debra Adelaide, see my review
  • Figurehead by Patrick Allingham, see my review
  • The Long Hot Summer by Barbara Anderson
  • Tirra Lirra by the River by Jessica Anderson
  • Drylands by Thea Astley
  • The Kindness Cup by Thea Astley
  • Eucalyptus by Murray Bail
  • The Pages by Murray Bail, see my review
  • Rocks in the Belly by Jon Bauer, see my review
  • Bush Studies by Barbara Baynton, see my review
  • Robbery Under Arms by Rolf Boldrewood, see my review
  • The Cardboard Crown (the Langton Quartet) by Martin Boyd
  • A Difficult Young Man (the Langton Quartet) by Martin Boyd
  • Outbreak of Love (the Langton Quartet) by Martin Boyd
  • When Blackbirds Sing (the Langton Quartet) by Martin Boyd
  • Lucinda Brayford by Martin Boyd
  • March by Geraldine Brooks
  • People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks
  • Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks
  • True History of the Kelly Gang by Peter Carey
  • The Chemistry of Tears by Peter Carey, see my review
  • His Illegal Self by Peter Carey
  • Oscar and Lucinda by Peter Carey
  • The Art of the Engine Driver by Steven Carroll
  • Spirit of Progress by Steven Carroll, see my review
  • The Time We Have Taken by Steven Carroll
  • The Gift of Speed by Steven Carroll
  • Prints in the Valley by Robert Carter
  • In a Fishbone Churchby Catherine Chidgey
  • For the Term of his Natural Life by Marcus Clarke
  • Slow Man by J.M.Coetzee (yes, we’re claiming books he’s written since becoming an Australian citizen)
  • Elizabeth Costello by J.M.Coetzee
  • The Pillow Fight by Matthew Condon
  • The Trout Opera by Matthew Condon, see my review
  • Wake in Fright by Kenneth Cook
  • Come in Spinner by Dymphna Cusack and Florence James
  • No Barrier by Eleanor Dark
  • Night Letters by Robert Dessaix
  • Running Backwards Over Sand by Stephanie Dowrick
  • Once Were Warriors by Alan Duff
  • Keep Him My Country by Mary Durack
  • The Company by Arabella Edge
  • Oracles and Miracles by Stevan Eldred-Grigg
  • Spinner by Ron Elliott, see my review
  • The Seal Woman by Beverly Farmer
  • Death of a River Guide by Richard Flanagan, see my review
  • The Sound of One Hand Clapping by Richard Flanagan
  • Gould’s Book of Fish by Richard Flanagan
  • Wanting by Richard Flanagan, see my review
  • The Glade within the Grove by David Foster
  • Sons of the Rumour by David Foster, see my review
  • The Book of Emmett by Deborah Forster, see my review
  • An Angel at my Table by Janet Frame
  • Owls Do Cry by Janet Frame
  • To the Is-Land by Janet Frame
  • In the Memorial Room by Janet Frame, see my review
  • My Brilliant Career by Miles Franklin
  • Such is Life by Joseph Furphy
  • Cosmo Cosmolino by Helen Garner
  • The Children’s Bach by Helen Garner
  • The Spare Room by Helen Garner, see my review 
  • Going West by Maurice Gee
  • Plumb by Maurice Gee
  • Under the Mountain by Maurice Gee
  • Maestro by Peter Goldsworthy
  • Three Dog Night by Peter Goldsworthy
  • Potiki by Patricia Grace, see my review
  • Lillian’s Story by Kate Grenville
  • The Secret River by Kate Grenville
  • The Idea of Perfection by Kate Grenville
  • The Lieutenant by Kate Grenville, see my review
  • Siddon Rock by Glenda Guest, see my review
  • Love Without Hope by Rodney Hall
  • The Last Love Story by Rodney Hall
  • Spider Cup by Marion Halligan
  • Dissection by Jacinta Halloran, see my review
  • Pilgrimage by Jacinta Halloran, see my review
  • The Dressmaker by Rosalie Ham
  • There Should Be More Dancing by Rosalie Ham, see my review
  • The Scent of Eucalyptus by Barbara Hanrahan
  • Power without Glory by Frank Hardy
  • Like Being a Wife, by Catherine Harris, see my review
  • Of a Boy by Sonya Hartnett
  • The Great Fire by Shirley Hazzard
  • The Evening of the Holiday by Shirley Hazzard, see my review
  • The Transit of Venus by Shirley Hazzard
  • Capricornia by Xavier Herbert
  • Poor Fellow My Country by Xavier Herbert
  • Orpheus Lost by Janette Turner Hospital
  • The Bone People by Keri Hulme
  • All the Godwits by Robin Hyde
  • How the Light Gets In by M.J.Hyland
  • The Whale Rider by Witi Ihimeara
  • Napoleon’s Double by Antoni Jach, see my review
  • Slow Water by Annemarie Jagose, see my review
  • My Brother Jack by George Johnson
  • The Shag Incident by Stephanie Johnson
  • Life in Seven Mistakes by Susan Johnson, see my review
  • An Innocent Gentleman by Elizabeth Jolley, see my review
  • The Newspaper of Claremont St by Elizabeth Jolley
  • The Well by Elizabeth Jolley
  • The Book of Fame by Lloyd Jones 
  • Hand Me Down World by Lloyd Jones, see my review
  • Mr Pip by Lloyd Jones
  • The Chant of Jimmy Blacksmith by Thomas Keneally, see my review
  • Schindler’s List by Thomas Keneally
  • The World Beneath by Cate Kennedy, see my review
  • The Captive Wife by Fiona Kidman
  • The Book of Secrets by Fiona Kidman
  • The Vintner’s Luck by Elizabeth Knox
  • Dreamhunter by Elizabeth Knox
  • Highways to a War by Christopher Koch
  • The Pea Pickers by Eve Langley
  • While the Billy Boils by Henry Lawson
  • Disquiet by Julia Leigh, see my review
  • The Hunter by Julia Leigh
  • Vertigo by Amanda Lohrey, see my review
  • Gilgamesh by Joan London
  • The Good Parents by Joan London, see my review
  • Other Halves by Sue McCauley
  • My Crowded Solitude by Jack McLaren, see my review
  • Fly Away Peter by David Malouf, see my review
  • Remembering Babylon by David Malouf
  • The Great World by David Malouf
  • The Conversations at Curlew Creek by David Malouf
  • Ransom by David Malouf, see my review
  • In a German Pension by Katherine Mansfield, see my review
  • Harlequin Rex by Owen Marshall
  • Loving Daughters by Olga Masters
  • Amy’s Children by Olga Masters, see my review
  • Conditions of Faith by Alex Miller
  • Landscape of Farewell by Alex Miller, see my review
  • Lovesong by Alex Miller, see my review
  • The Orchard by Drusilla Modjeska
  • Man Alone by John Mulgan
  • Barley Patch by Gerald Murnane
  • Inland by Gerald Murnane, see my review
  • The Plains, by Gerald Murnane, see my review
  • Tamarisk Row by Gerald Murnane
  • Fredy Neptune (a verse novel) by Les Murray
  • Glissando by David Musgrave, see my review
  • Death of a Whaler by Nerida Newton, see my review
  • The Lambing Flat by Nerida Newton
  • The Shiralee by D’Arcy Niland, see my review
  • Ice by Louis Nowra, see my review
  • The China Garden by Kristina Olssen, see my review
  • Come Inside by G.L. Osborne, see my review
  • Virtuoso by Sonia Orchard, see my review
  • The Harp in the South by Ruth Park, see my review
  • Swords and Crowns and Rings by Ruth Park, see my review
  • Not Her Real Name by Emily Perkins
  • Novel about My Wife by Emily Perkins, see my review
  • Seven Types of Ambiguity by Elliot Perlman
  • Three Dollars by Elliot Perlman
  • Vernon God Little by D.B.C. Pierre
  • Coonardoo by Katherine Susannah Pritchard
  • The Fortunes of Richard Mahoney by Henry Handel Richardson
  • The Getting of Wisdom by Henry Handel Richardson
  • Maurice Guest by Henry Handel Richardson, see my review
  • On Our Selection by Steele Rudd, see my review
  • Benang by Kim Scott, see my review
  • That Deadman Dance by Kim Scott, see my review
  • Glory Days by Rosie Scott
  • The Women in Black by Madeline St John, see my review
  • Season of the Jew by Maurice Shadbolt
  • A Town Like Alice by Nevil Shute
  • The Far Country by Nevil Shute
  • On the Beach by Nevil Shute
  • In the Wet by Nevil Shute
  • The Man Who Loved Children by Christina Stead, see my review
  • The Little Hotel by Christina Stead, see my review
  • Seven Poor Men of Sydney by Christina Stead
  • Jonah by Louis Stone
  • Merry-go-round in the Sea by Randolph Stow, see my review
  • To the Islands by Randolph Stow, see my review
  • Ride on Stranger by Kylie Tennant
  • The Philanthropist by John Tesarsch, see my review
  • Fugitive Blue by Claire Thomas, see my review
  • Everyman’s Rules for Scientific Living by Carrie Tiffany
  • A Fraction of the Whole by Steve Toltz, see my review
  • Dead Europe by Christos Tsiolkas
  • The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas, see my review
  • Dangerous Desires by Peter Wells
  • The Aunt’s Story by Patrick White
  • The Eye of the Storm by Patrick White
  • A Fringe of Leaves by Patrick White
  • Happy Valley by Patrick White, see my review
  • Riders in the Chariot by Patrick White
  • The Solid Mandala by Patrick White, see my review
  • The Tree of Man by Patrick White
  • The Twyborn Affair by Patrick White, see my review
  • The Vivisector by Patrick White
  • Voss by Patrick White, see my review
  • Breath by Tim Winton, see my review
  • Cloudstreet by Tim Winton
  • Dirt Music by Tim Winton
  • The Riders by Tim Winton
  • I for Isobel by Amy Witting, see my review
  • Isobel on her Way to the Corner Shop by Amy Witting
  • Bereft by Chris Womersley, see my review
  • The Children by Charlotte Wood, see my review
  • The Submerged Cathedral by Charlotte Wood
  • Carpentaria by Alexis Wright
  • The Book Thief by Markus Zusak


  1. The Cook’s Companion by Stephanie Alexander
  2. Bearbrass by Robyn Annear
  3. The Fiftieth Gate by Mark Raphael Baker
  4. The Tyranny of Distance by Geoffrey Blainey
  5. Plenty by Gay Bilson, see my review
  6. Foreign Correspondence by Geraldine Brooks
  7. Drawn from the Heart: A Memoir by Ron Brooks
  8. Dancing with Strangers by Inga Clendinnen
  9. Mermaid Singing by Charmian Clift
  10. Peel Me a Lotus by Charmian Clift
  11. The Road from Coorain by Jill Ker Conway
  12. First Lady by Kay Cottee
  13. Journey from Venice by Ruth Cracknell
  14. Chifley by David Day
  15. Curtin by David Day
  16. A Fortunate Life by A B Facey
  17. Stasiland by Anna Funder
  18. Romulus My Father by Raimond Gaita
  19. Australian Classics: 50 Great Writers and Their Celebrated Worksby Jane Gleeson-White
  20. Classics: 62 Great Books from “The Iliad” to “Midnight’s Children”by Jane Gleeson-White
  21. Joe Cinque’s Consolation by Helen Garner
  22. An Awkward Truth by Peter Grose, see my review
  23. A Very Rude Awakening by Peter Grose, see my review
  24. Ancient Shore, Despatches from Naples by Shirley Hazzard, see my review
  25. 1788 by David Hill, see my review
  26. The Tall Man by Chloe Hooper, see my review
  27. The Lucky Country by Donald Horne
  28. Barcelona by Robert Hughes, see my review
  29. Katherine Mansfield, the Storyteller by Kathleen Jones (a British author, but this bio is a must-read, see my review)
  30. The Great Shame by Thomas Keneally
  31. Te Puea by Michael King
  32. The History of New Zealand by Michael King
  33. Mary Poppins She Wrote, by Valerie Lewis, see my review
  34. The Well at the World’s End by A.J.Mackinnon, see my review
  35. On Experience, by David Malouf, see my review
  36. Home of the Blizzard by Douglas Mawson, see my review
  37. Stravinsky’s Lunch by Drusilla Modjeska
  38. My Place by Sally Morgan
  39. The Dig Tree by Sarah Murgatoyd
  40. The Boyds by Brenda Niall
  41. Flavours of Melbourne by Charmaine O’Brien, see my review
  42. The Place For a Village by Gary Presland, see my review
  43. This Whispering in Our Hearts by Henry Reynolds
  44. Stella Miles Franklin, a Biography, by Jill Roe, see my review
  45. The Life You Can Save, by Peter Singer, see my review
  46. Snake Cradle by Roberta Sykes
  47. Sideshow: Dumbing Down Democracy by Lindsay Tanner, see my review
  48. The Life and Myth of Charmian Clift by Nadia Wheatley


  1. Glide Time, Market Forces by Roger Hall
  2. Poems by Michael Leunig
  3. My Country by Dorothea Mackellar
  4. Foreskin’s Lament by Greg McGee
  5. Fire in the Snow by Douglas Stewart
  6. Don’s Party by David Williamson


  1. Mr Archimedes’ Bath by Pamela Allen
  2. Share Said the Rooster by Pamela Allen
  3. Who Sank the Boat? by Pamela Allen
  4. Sebastian Lives in a Hat by Kerry Argent
  5. Belonging by Jeannie Baker
  6. Why I Love Australia by Bronwyn Bancroft
  7. Reggie Queen Of The Street by Margaret Barbalet
  8. Enigma by Graeme Base
  9. Pearl Barley and Charlie Parsley by Aaron Blabey
  10. Sunday Chutney by Aaron Blabey
  11. A Nice Walk in the Jungle by Nan Bodsworth
  12. Where does Thursday Go? by Janeen Brian
  13. Snake and Lizard by Joy Cowley
  14. Snap! Went Chester by Tania Cox
  15. Hairy Maclary by Lynley Dodd
  16. Dougal the Garbage Dump Bear by Matt Dray
  17. Collecting Colour by Kylie Dunstan
  18. There’s a Hippopotamus on my Roof Eating Cake by Hazel Edwards
  19. Ella Kazoo Will Not Brush Her Hair by Lee Fox
  20. Possum Magic by Mem Fox
  21. Where is the Green Sheep? by Mem Fox
  22. Amy and Louis by Libby Gleeson
  23. Leaf by Bob Graham
  24. Let’s Get a Pup by Bob GrahamEmily Culpepper by Roland Harvey
  25. The Friends of Emily Culpepper by Ann Coleridge
  26. Two Summers by John Heffernan
  27. Poetry to the Rescue by Steven Herrick
  28. Horrible Harriet by Leigh Hobbs
  29. Old Tom’s Holiday by Leigh Hobbs
  30. Family Forest by Kim Kane and Lucia Masciullo
  31. Milli, Jack and the Dancing Cat by Stephen Michael King
  32. Mutt Dog by Stephen Michael King
  33. Too Loud Lily by Sofie Laguna
  34. Eight by Lyn Lee
  35. Emily and the Dragon by Lyn Lee
  36. Are We There Yet? A Journey Round Australia by Alison Lester
  37. Down the Back of the Chair by Margaret Mahy
  38. A Summery Saturday Morning by Margaret Mahy
  39. Applesauce and the Christmas Miracle by Glenda Millard
  40. Refugees by David Miller
  41. Annie’s Chair by Deborah Niland
  42. Baby Bilby, Where Do You Sleep? by Narelle Oliver
  43. The Very Blue Thingamajig by Narelle Oliver
  44. Lizzie Nonsense by Jan Ormerod
  45. The Long Red Scarf by Margaret Power
  46. My Uncle’s Donkey by Tohby Riddle
  47. Irving the Magician by Tohby Riddle
  48. The Great Escape from City Zoo by Tohby Riddle
  49. The Lorax by Dr Seuss
  50. The Lost Thing by Shaun Tan
  51. Aranea: A story about a spider by Jenny Wagner
  52. The Bunyip of Berkeley’s Creek by Jenny Wagner
  53. Kisses for Daddy by Frances Watts
  54. Looking for Crabs by Bruce Whatley
  55. Little White Dogs Can’t Jump by Bruce Whatley
  56. My Place by Nadia Wheatley
  57. Chatterbox by Margaret Wild
  58. Creatures in the Beard by Margaret Wild
  59. Little Humpty by Margaret Wild
  60. Lucy Goosey by Margaret Wild
  61. Seven More Sleeps by Margaret Wild
  62. The Midnight Gang by Margaret Wild
  63. The Pocket Dogs by Margaret Wild

CHILDREN’S NOVELS (These are mostly for older 10+ readers but not Young Adult )

  1. TruckDogs: a novel in four bites by Graeme Base
  2. Snugglepot and Cuddlepie by May Gibbs
  3. Do-Wrong Ron by Steven Herrick
  4. Amelia Dee and the Peacock Lamp by Odo Hirsch
  5. The Naming of Tishkin Silk by Glenda Millard
  6. Sabriel by Garth Nix
  7. The Muddle-Headed Wombat by Ruth Park
  8. Playing Beattie Bow by Ruth Park
  9. Lily Quench and the Dragon of Ashby by Natalie Prior
  10. The Wizard of Rondo by Emily Rondo
  11. Billy Mack’s War by James Roy
  12. Ash Road by Ivan Southall
  13. Hill’s End by Ivan Southall
  14. To the Wild Sky by Ivan Southall
  15. Stella by the Sea by Ruth Starke
  16. Midnite by Randolph Stow
  17. Seven Little Australians by Ethel Turner
  18. Dragonkeeper by Carole Wilkinson
  19. An Older Kind of Magic by Patricia Wrightson
  20. The Nargun and the Stars by Patricia Wrightson

Nominations from non-members are welcome, but fiction nominations must conform to our definition of Australian Literature (see the About page). Please use the comment form below, and please tell me if the author is from New Zealand.

This page was last updated 5/7/13


  1. I’d love to nominate. It looks good so far. About the first book I though of was Voss, but it’s there. I think it’s Nevil Shute isn’t it? And I’m not sure I’d go with two of his, much as I loved him and read every single one of his books when I was a teen. IF I were going to nominate two of his though it would be A town like Alice and On the beach. I’m glad to see Tirra Lirra by the River there.

    But, enough of that. There has to be Thea Astley. She won 4 (FOUR!!) Miles Franklin Awards and no-one ever thinks of her. Why is that? Anyhow, I think Drylands is a must. I also think her The kindness cup is wonderful.

    Then there’s Elizabeth Jolley. Like Astley she has a wonderful body of work and it is hard to choose, but perhaps for a starter The well would be good, though my personal favourite of what I’ve read to date is The newspaper of Claremont St.

    And, while I’m on Australian women writers, I’ll add:
    Loving daughters, by Olga Masters
    The pea pickers, by Eve Langley
    Ride on stranger, by Kylie Tennant

    There are so many. How many do you plan to come up with. Not 1001 I presume?

  2. Oh, and Helen Garner of course: The children’s Bach. If we are also doing non-fiction, and I notice there is Facey up there, I’d add Joe Cinque’s consolation. But where to stop…

  3. It IS tricky…because we could then get into histories…You could do categories: literary fiction and nonfiction. I think children’s literature should be included. And, I just thought of another: My brilliant career, by Miles Franklin!

  4. Thanks for the tip about Nevil Shute, it’s so long since I’ve read him I didn’t notice the mis-spelling. I read everything that I could find by him too! (It’s the Blyton Syndrome *chuckle*).
    I only thought of developing this list today, and so we haven’t yet had the conversation about how many to have on the list and what the criteria for inclusion should be ….
    1001 would be absurd, since that would imply very little reading time for international literature – and all of us at ANZ LitLovers like that as well. But can an Australian call herself well-read if she has read very little OzLit? I don’t think so, and I think we should be asserting the place of Australian literature in the marketplace, the universities and schools and in any other forums that we can…
    How many is a difficult question indeed. 10% of what an average LitLover reads per year, multiplied by an average lifetime of reading years? 20%? 50%? It’s going to be an interesting discussion, eh?
    So will the criteria. Should we include children’s books? Should we limit it to one book for each author? How would we choose which one? What’s the definition of literary fiction anyway?
    At the moment I’m just adding all the nominations as they come in *chuckle*

  5. Should we include non-fiction? If so, you can’t go past A Journey from Venice by Ruth Cracknell. This book details the story of Ruth and her husband, on holiday in Venice, when he is diagnosed with a fatal illness. Ruth’s journey home with her husband and his death is told with an openness that will touch you all.

    Also, how can we nominate 1000 must read books without paying tribute to a wonderful playwright like David Williamson? I have notice that in other lists Shakespeare’s plays have been nominated. Don’s party by Williamson also deserves recognition.

  6. Oh dear, yes, Facey did sneak in, didn’t he, and he’s not literary fiction. But A Fortunate Life is definitely a Must-Read. This is trickier than I thought!

  7. I think Alexis Wright’s Carpentaria should be here. Also, if we are talking plays there’s Douglas Stewart’s Fire in the snow. As he was born in NZ he is truly representative of this list! (PS I agree Lisa that an Australian can’t be called well read if she hasn’t read a goodly representation of Aus Lit).

  8. Thanks I didn’t see that. I voted YES but have some qualms about it. What is iconic? Is Manning Clark’s History of Australia, Donald Horne’s The lucky country, Geoffrey Blainey’s The tyranny of distance? Still, if we are listing what a well read Aussie should read then some of these works need to be here.

  9. Indeed yes, Helen. Williamson has written some wonderful plays…

  10. I think you’d better vote, Sue! See the poll on the sidebar …

  11. When I started this (a hasty impulse on a hot day when sitting in front of the computer was a cool thing to do LOL) I was thinking only of novels because I have been asked a number of times to recommend ‘great Aussie novels’ by overseas friends. I felt that any list we developed would be a good one because the collective wisdom of our very widely read and discerning group would mean it would be comprehensive.
    I still think I’d rather leave a non-fiction list to someone else or some other time because ANZLL is a group focussed on literary fiction – but the N/Fs suggested so far do deserve to be widely read, and I admit I’d hate to take off A Fortunate Life,
    Perhaps when we decide how many to have on the list, the issue will take care of itself.

  12. I’m inclined to agree with you. I think the easiest thing would be to stick with fiction and make no exceptions, really.

  13. FYI To the Is-Land by Janet Frame is not a novel – it’s her first volume of memoir so belongs in the non-fiction list (should you decide to include non-fiction!)

  14. Thank you, ChookHouse from NZ!

  15. Ah, it’s looking good – and you’ve alphabetised it too. Good ON you!

  16. What a fantastic idea. Thank you for taking the time to list these. I can see myself being a frequent visitor to this page. I am shamefully poorly read in this area – but no time like the present to begin!

  17. Christina Stead, The Man Who Loved Children deserves a place on this list.

  18. Yes, indeed, Marnie, and I have added it, feeling somewhat embarrassed by its omission! A couple of us in ANZLL are planning to read this over the summer holidays as a small group read. I recently read my first Stead, The Little Hotel, (see and thought it was brilliant writing, so I am looking forward to The Man Who Loved Children. I also have Hazel Rowley’s biography of Stead on my TBR, so it was just an accidental omission, I assure you!

  19. Robert Carter, Prints in the valley
    Beverley Farmer, The seal woman

  20. Christina Stead, Seven poor men of Sydney

  21. Thanks for these suggestions, Lesley. I think I’ve read The Seal Woman, but not the other two. Is Robert Carter a contemporary novelist?

  22. I’ve travelled over via dovegreyreader from England and am excited about exploring Australian literature, but this list is a little overwhelming and I’m not sure where to start- I notice you have your top 10 reads each year but what I’m looking for is a starter list on ANZ literature- except for Miles Franklin I’m woefully ignorant.

    • Hello Cheryl (I hope I’ve got your name right?) and welcome!
      You’re right, this is a big list.
      It’s a bit tricky without knowing what your tastes are, but here are my suggestions for a start. They’re a mixture of contemporary and classic OzLit, and I’ve chosen some that will introduce you to a bit of Australian history (while being a jolly good read as well).
      1. My Brother Jack by George Johnson
      2. The Secret River by Kate Grenville
      3. The World Beneath by Cate Kennedy
      4. The Fortunes of Richard Mahoney by Henry Handel Richardson
      5. Cloudstreet by Tim Winton
      6. The Great World by David Malouf
      7. Highways to a War by Christopher Koch
      8. The Well by Elizabeth Jolley
      9. The Man Who Loved Children by Christina Stead (This is a bit cheeky of me because I haven’t read it yet, but it’s a classic that everyone says is brilliant, and I’m about to read it this holidays).
      10. If you like modernism, try something by Patrick White: Voss is currently my favourite but I love them all.
      I’ll be interested to hear which ones you try and if you like them:)
      Best wishes

  23. Thanks Lisa, I promise to get back to you with how I get on.

  24. of course I’m now totally in love with Australian fiction but managing not to read any of the ones you mentioned- I read Ransom because when I went to look up the David Malouf you mentioned it shouted out at me and I was blown away by it. I’ve recently finished The Trout Opera and feel astonished that it hasn’t been Booker listed or anything and I read Lovesong by Alex Miller which after reading your review I found, grabbed and devoured in one sitting. Now I have a pile of David Malouf, a pile of Alex Miller, Cloudstreet, Highways to a war ( I loved the film of The Year of Living dangerously so I bought that as well). Kate Grenville doesn’t do it for me for some reason but I love everything else I’ve tried and am now suffering because ANZ fiction is so hard to get hold of over here with a few exceptions.

  25. I fogot to say that it has also given me an ambition to visit your beautiful country

  26. Hi Cheryl, I am so glad you are enjoying our literature – and I hope you do make it downunder some time and we can meet up!
    Wouldn’t that be nice:)

  27. Are you planning to include a young adult list?

    • Hello, JR as in James Roy who wrote Billy Mack’s War? Fabulous book, I read it to my Year 5-6 students and they loved it.
      Re YA books: I hadn’t thought about it before now! I feel a bit hesitant, because I don’t read much YA and would have to rely on recommendations from other people whose opinion I trust and that could be a bit risky. These lists are recommendations, and recommending YA books without having read them myself could get me into trouble if some parents or teachers don’t think the book is suitable for under 18s. Also, although a few children’s books and some non-fiction has strayed onto this list, the focus of this blog is adult literature. That’s where my interests lie and that’s what I feel comfortable with.

  28. I’ve only read 30 odd from all of the categories so you’ve given me a few to look out for and made me feel totally unread. Just recently discovered Gould’s book of fish – so Flanagan’s works will be next for me.

    One I’d add to the list:

    Maybe Xavier Herbert’s huge tome – Poor fellow my country? It has the same setting and almost identical cast to Capricornia but has a much more epic scope and if you stick at it enough to get into it you find it hard to leave the main characters behind. Makes me curious to see the top end one day too.

    You said you won’t, but if you were going to have a list of YA fiction I’d have to suggest the Marsden series – Tomorrow when the war began. Too violent for young kiddies and too full of coming of age angst for grown-ups. I only discovered them in my early twenties during a homesick European winter. Set in the bush of southeastern Aus where I used to hike and the kids talk like they’re from the eighties – not a bff or mobile phone between them.

    No. 24 of Children’s picture books is incomplete btw.

  29. Hello Possum, nice to ‘meet’ you:)
    I’ve added Poor Fellow My Country – it’s on my TBR but my goodness, it’s a very big book as you say! One for the summer holidays, I think, not for toting about in a handbag LOL.
    I’d really like it if someone who has an interest and a bit of expertise in YA had a list like this on their blog, and then I could link to it. The Marsden series is excellent, and it deserves to be promoted too.
    I’ve fixed the missing no 24: It was The Friends of Emily Culpepper which appears to be out of print – what a shame, it is a lovely little book for exploring friendship and not being possessive about friends.

  30. Roger McDonald Mr Darwin’s Shooter… brilliant and a great contribution to Australian history as well. I haven’t read The Ballad of Desmond Kale but also historical.

    John Marsden Home and Away… Picture Book (older children… late Primary)
    “what would happen if a typical Australian family found themselves refugees?” It’s very powerful.

    • I liked mr Darwin’s Shooter, but oh dear, The Ballad of Desmond Kale told me more about sheep than I really wanted to know LOL…but I know other people who thought highly of it so don’t take any notice of me!
      I read Home and Away to my year sixes last year and they were quite sobered by the issues it raised. Some of these topical ‘issues’ picture books can be a bit heavy-handed, but Marsden’s is superb and the pictures contribute to the discusson too.

  31. I am ashamed to say that I have only read 26 books on the literary fiction list, but am back studying again. I would like to make a few comments. I thought Murray Bail’s ‘Eucalyptus” a little too red-faced, middle-aged and fisherman’s cap, put Julia Leigh’s ‘The Hunter’ up close to Richard Flanagan – this is a woman writing about a man who (walks) all over Flanagan’s blokes. Put in Helen Garner’s ‘Monkey Grip’ for the younger folk. And I loved ‘Joe Cinques’s Consolation’. I thought Kate Grenville’s ‘Searching for the Secret River’ (hope that title is correct) was much better than ‘The Secret River’. Finally, try to read ‘Capricornia’ by Xavier Herbert, don’t bother with Randolph Stowe ‘To the Islands’ and then put Alexis Wright’s ‘Carpentaria’ way back up the list – she rocks! Follow her storyline without trying to ‘Other’ the dreaming narrative.

    • Hello, and welcome to the conversation:)
      As we say, ANZLL is a broad church and so this list reflects a variety of tastes, though I like to think that all the books are worthy one way or another. BTW The list is merely alphabetical by author, so there isn’t any order of merit…
      BTW if you loved The Hunter, I recommend Leigh’s new one, Disquiet. I thought it was brilliant. See

  32. I agree with many on the list, but would like to offer up the following for consideration. I’d recommend some of Frank Moorhouse’s earlier work, especially The Americans, Baby and Forty-Seventeen–risky, adventurous writing, and funny to boot. Tsiolkas first three novel are all better than The Slap, with Dead Europe probably his best, IMO. Amanda Lohrey’s first three novels are all very good, and her second novel The Reading Group–a dystopian dissection of the collapse of post-60s Left wing activism–is criminally ignored. Andrew McGahan’s work is well worth dipping into. His first two ‘grunge’ novels are quite hilarious, and his latest speculative fiction, is fascinating.

  33. Thanks for these suggestions, Michael – I’ll add them to the list when I get back home. Hotel internet is ruinously expensive.

  34. Sad not to see any books by the late Barbara Hanrahan on the list. At least ‘The Scent of Eucalyptus’? Just a thought. Love your blog, just discovered it!

    • Hello Brenton, thank you for contributing this: I had never heard of Hanrahan but did a Google search and discovered a web-page dedicated to her memory ( and a Google Books preview ( which gives a sense of her style. I’ve added your suggestion above, and I’ll look out for her work.

  35. Ah yes, she’s one I’ve been wanting to read for a while. I have The scent of eucalyptus in my pile. She was also an artist and did some pretty strong “feminist” oriented work.

    • Barbara Hanrahan wrote 13 novels and 2 autobigraphies. Many are no longer in print, but ‘The Sceent of Eucalyptus’ still is. A new biography has been published by the Wakefield Press. The National Gallery of Australia has a complete collection of her prints.

    • I’ll be watching out for your review, Sue!

  36. […] somewhat different tack. She is developing a List of Australian/New Zealand Books You Must Read. Go check it out – and if you’d like to make a suggestion, please do […]

  37. Why do people always ignore ‘The Riders’ when discussing Tim Winton? It’s a breath-taking book, possibly the best Australian novel I’ve read.

    And if you’re including Tsiolkas’ ‘The Slap’, ‘Dead Europe’ is way better :)

    • Ah well, Tony, truth be told I’m no fan of Winton, and although I’ve read The Riders I wouldn’t recommend it myself! I know, I know, Winton is Australia’s best-loved and all that, but we’re all different and his books just don’t do anything for me.
      As for The Slap, well, hmm, its inclusion above isn’t my recommendation either, and I haven’t read Dead Europe.
      But – because (a) I can’t possibly have read everything that’s good and (b) I’m not setting myself up as an expert who can specify what an Australian canon should be – this is a page where I welcome suggestions from well-read people that I trust, and I shall happily add both your suggstions to the list because (as I say at the top) those who love Australian literature form a broad church and the more the merrier.
      (Within reason LOL).

  38. Don’t know how I missed this. The biggest problem with this list for me is that there should have been about 4 more novels by Patrick White. One book that should be included is “Fredy Neptune” by Les Murray and at least one book by MJ Hyland.

    • Thanks for these suggestions, Tony, I don’t need much encouragement to add more Patrick White LOL, but I’ve never read Les Murray and didn’t know until I looked it up just now that Fredy Neptune is a verse novel so appreciate the tip. Which Hyland would you suggest? I have one of hers on my TBR (How the Light gets In).

      • For the Hyland, I would go with “How the Light Gets In”, because it is about an Australian high school student as an exchange student in Chicago, so it is probably the most Australian of her books.

        • Ok, will do – thanks!

  39. Lisa – I picked up Gilgamesh by Joan London at the library last weekend having never heard of it before. The first thing I did before starting it was pop over here and was reassured to see it on your list! It’s a lovely book and I’m on the lookout now for The Good Parents, especially after reading your review & the Tolstoy references. I found her writing in Gilgamesh non judgmental as well, accepting of whatever choices her characters made – writing like that is usually a winner for me 0:)

    • Hi Tracey, I think Joan London is a terrific writer so I’m delighted to hear that you’re enjoying Gilgamesh:)

  40. What about Ivan Southall? Storm Boy is just wonderful!

    • Hello Jeanne, thanks for your suggestion:)
      I agree, I think he was a great writer, and I used to read his books to my classes. Ash Road was a favourite. But sad to say, kids today are not as interested in his books, and many of them have sat unread on my library shelves for five years or more.

  41. Ivan Southall didn’t write Storm Boy – that was Colin Thiele. But it was still a great book.

    • Well spotted, JR, and I should have spotted it too because it was only last week that I was putting Thiele’s books through inventory…
      Actually, I like Thiele’s Sun on the Stubble short stories best: Locked Out was always a favourite with the kids, and there was another one – The Water Trolley(?) about a boy who has to trek for miles across a hostile landscape to bring back water for the homestead after the tank is damaged and his father is injured in the explosion.

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  43. […] ANZLL Books You Must Read […]

  44. A great list I will revisit often, thank you everyone. However, we are told the NZ books are written in italics, but most of them are not, so I hope you can fix this. meanwhile, as a Kiwi, I’m off to find some Aussie reading. Chris

    • Hi Chris, and welcome. My apologies re the missing Italics, I will have a go at fixing it. Sometimes it’s a bit difficult to know, I usually rely on Wikipedia but of course it’s not always right.

  45. […] 2012 and 2013 the reading list is growing. For reasons of space and time and personal preference my ANZ LitLovers reading list is limited to literary fiction titles by indigenous Australian and Ne… but participants are free to choose any form you like – short story, memoir, biography, […]

  46. Hello, discovered you via Winston’s Dad – another new blog to me. I’m a Brit who loves and devours ANZ literature and love much of your list with some heads up to others. I also love Tim Winton, he does everything to me!
    I’m missing about 3 authors from your lists. First Robert Drewe from Perth, and now I think Sydney, I adored Drowner and learnt a lot from it. I’ve also read others of his, particularly one about a missionary who volunteers to go to Tasmania to attempt in his way to ‘save’ aboriginal people forcibly transported there. Second Peter Temple from Melbourne, a master of life and the detective story. Third Wellingtonian Jack Lasenby whose young adult books are second to none. I’ve relished his Traveller series and give them to young readers of my acquaintance despite being hard to track down. There was a culminatory one published very recently that I can’t find though it won prizes. I was loaned the copy I copy I read and loved.

    And Evie Wyld though she’s now seen as Brit too I think.

    • Hello Carol, and welcome! Always nice to meet another of Stu’s friends in this way:) Truth be told, I haven’t updated this list for a while, so that’s a job I need to attend to during the forthcoming school holidays – thank you for bringing my attention to it. You’re right about Robert Drewe, he’s a great writerright, and I shall add his name to the list ASAP. Peter Temple hasn’t made it there because I don’t read crime, and I have to admit to not having come across Jack Lasenby, but I will take your word for it and add them too.
      However, I’m inclined to agree about Evie Wyld, I think she herself identifies as a Brit just as I identify myself as an Aussie despite being born elsewhere.

  47. Hello and thank you so much for the welcome.
    I have only just ie in last year or so, begun re-exploring crime fiction to be quite delighted. As I’m in Edinburgh and the Borders a lot I began with Ian Rankin who is great. I also read John Harvey’s opus, his are mainly Nottingham based where I lived for 4 years and had my first baby 40 plus years ago. A humane writer and I almost believe his main character Resnick exists somewhere. He highly praised Peter Temple so I began reading him before realising he was Australian. He is a superb writer, so much can happen in one short phrase, the characters are life challenged and perplexed as you and I and morality counts…. So I will go on reading his work as and when. Previously I was a strictly literary reader…..
    I definitely think Australian writers are as good as anywhere and I’ve converted friends and fellow readers, and passed on authors’ names to many.
    PS Live in NW London
    hurray for reading

    • Well, Carol, *smile* maybe you should start your own blog specialising in reviews of Crime fiction!
      Maybe we can catch up next time I’m in London. Maybe next year, it depends on how good I am at saving money. (So far, not very good, alas).

  48. But I’m not ‘just’ a crime reader, I’m a bookaholic – quality reading though.
    And you seem to me to be so lovely and a teacher too (I’m a retired one) that I and I know my husband too would love to have you stay at least part of your stay. We could scarcely live in a more convenient and lovely place, what do you think? That is, just on edge of central London, West End in easy walking distance right through Regents Park…. Couple of bus or tube stops anywhere AND it’s peaceful, relatively, someone is always developing, renovating etc., a people watching place too. With an independent book shop. The room would be full of books though, shelved not in piles…
    Start saving your dollars now!
    But meeting up definitely.
    On the other hand I might be in Australia myself ha ha!

  49. Thanks so much for these lists! I confess to knowing very little about Australian and New Zealand literature, so these lists are extremely helpful to me.

    • You’re welcome, Debra!

  50. […] ANZLL Books You Must Read […]

  51. […] ANZLL Books You Must Read […]

  52. Hi there. great list, a few of my favourites are listed. However, I really think you’ve overlooked one of Australia’s most prolific and gifted writers in Colin Thiele… Storm Boy, for example, left an indelible mark on many of us as children, as did Blue Fin and River Murray Mary. Such a wonderful author and important contributions to our literature! Natalie :)

    • Hello Natalie, thanks for your suggestion. You are right, Thiele is a wonderful writer, gifted in many styles and authentically Australian in his settings and themes.

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