BOOK REVIEW: The Amateur Science of Love (Craig Sherborne, Text)

Craig Sherborne, poet and author of memoirs Hoi Polloi and its sequel, Muck, has turned his hand to fiction with The Amateur Science of Love. It follows the see-saw relationship of naive but cocksure Colin and eccentric artist, Tilda. Colin pursues an initially reluctant Tilda and they start a new life together in the country and along the way deal with isolation, illness, infidelity and their everchanging feelings. I can’t fault this book—the characters are solid and believable, the storyline unpredictable and the rural Australian imagery vivid. The science of love and lust in its many forms is played out convincingly through Colin and Tilda and is not told in an overly soppy or trite way—it’s tangible, and that’s what works so well. In my opinion, books with ‘love’ in the title don’t tend to reflect real relationships, or none I’ve had knowledge of, but this one does. I admit I haven’t read any of Sherborne’s previous books but after thoroughly enjoying this absorbing tale, I will be tracking down his other work tout suite.

Katie Horner is presently on maternity leave from her role as assistant editor of Bookseller+Publisher.

Most mentioned this week

Jennifer Egan’s A Visit from the Goon Squad (Corsair) circles the lives of Bennie Salazar, an ageing former punk rocker and record executive, and Sasha, the passionate, troubled young woman he employs. Also in the most mentioned chart, Fred Vargas’ Commissaire Adamsberg travels to London, where a routine conference draws him into a disturbing investigation in An Uncertain Place (Harvill Secker). Rohan Wilson’s The Roving Party (A&U) is about John Batman and his ‘roving party’, which sets out to hunt and kill the Aborigines of Tasmania. In Matt Nable’s Faces in the Clouds (Viking), twin brothers live in a world of barracks, bunks and barbecues. But then their parents are killed in a car accident and the boys are sent to stay with people they barely know. Craig Sherborne’s The Amateur Science of Love (Text), which is about Colin who escapes his parents’ New Zealand farm to London, where a disastrous stage audition leads him to find romance with beautiful Tilda–Media Extra.

Bestsellers this week

The Throne of Fire (Rick Riordan, Puffin),  Book 2 of ‘The Kane Chronicles’, is top of the fastest movers chart followed by Water for Elephants (Sarah Gruen, A&U), a novel told in flashback by 90-year-old Jacob Jankowski about his time spent with a travelling circus during America’s Great Depression. Charlaine Harris’ vampire fantasy novel Dead Reckoning is at the top of the bestsellers chart followed by Jamie Oliver’s cookbook Jamie’s 30-minute Meals (Michael Joseph). The Rogue (Trudi Canavan, Hachette), the second volume of the ‘Traitor Spy’ trilogy, is top of the highest new entries chart–Weekly Book Newsletter.

Most mentioned this week

Part one of the TV mini-series dramatisation of Tim Winton’s Cloudstreet (Penguin) screened on pay-TV channel Showtime on Sunday and became a recurring theme in book news this week. Tina Fey, star of comedy TV-series 30 Rock, has written the humorous memoir Bossypants (Sphere), which is high on this week’s most mentioned chart. In Atka Reid’s and Hana Schofield’s Goodbye Sarajevo (Bloomsbury), 12-year-old Hana is put on one of the last UN evacuation buses fleeing war-torn Sarajevo in 1992. Her 21-year-old sister Atka must say goodbye and stay behind to look after their five younger siblings. A A Gills’ Here and There: Collected Travel Writing (Hardie Grant) is a collation of travel pieces selected from his monthly column in Australian Gourmet Traveller. James Gleick’s The Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood (HarperCollins) also made the most mentioned chart this week–Media Extra.



Cassandra Clare

Cassandra Clare, author of ‘The Mortal Instruments’ series, answers a few questions…


What would you put on a shelf-talker for your book?

This prequel to ‘The Mortal Instruments’ contains a brave heroine, a magical, gaslit London, romance, automatons, handsome Shadowhunters, Magnus Bane, a vampire ball, and has been known to cure Demon Pox.

If you had to spend the rest of your life on a book tour, where would you go?

I want to say Australia to earn brownie points but I’ve never been there yet! I would say Italy because the food is so good.

What is the silliest question you’ve ever been asked on a book tour?

Someone asked if they could smell my neck.

And the most profound?

Someone once asked me if I would prefer that people take away answers from my books, or take away questions. I thought that was a nice way of putting it. I would say questions.

What are you reading right now?

Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi (Little, Brown).

What was your favourite book of the past year?

White Cat by Holly Black (Victor Gollancz).

What was the defining book of your childhood?

Five Children and It by E Nesbit (Random House).

Which is your favourite bookstore?

I couldn’t pick! If you’re a bookstore, you’re automatically my favourite kind of store.

Who would you like to challenge to a literary spat?

Lord Byron! He famously boxed, but I think I could take him.

Facebook or Twitter?

Twitter—it’s the best way to get news out, and these days one of the best ways to pick up on news. It’s how I found out Prince William got engaged!

If I were a literary character I’d be …

I would want to be Lyra from ‘His Dark Materials’ but would probably end up being a girl Adrian Mole.

In 50 years’ time books will be …

Absolutely relevant, just as they are today. Even if they’re digital.

Cassandra Clare is the author of ‘The Mortal Instruments’ series and its prequel ‘The Infernal Devices’ series (all published by Walker Books). She is a guest at the Sydney Writers Festival and the Auckland Readers & Writers Festival in May. This questionnaire first appeared in the March issue of Junior Bookseller+Publisher magazine. Sign up for the free fortnightly Junior Bookseller+Publisher newsletter here.


Last year we spoke to Fatima Bhutto, author of Songs of Blood and Sword (Vintage), for our ‘on tour’ interview. Bhutto was due to appear at the Byron Bay Writers Festival, but was forced to pull out in the last minute. Happily, she has finally arrived in Australia, this time as a guest of the Sydney Writers’ Festival.

Who is the ideal reader for your book?
Anyone curious about Pakistan. Or the devastating effects of power.

What do you think of the Australian cover?
I’m thrilled—can’t wait to finally come and see the Australian print of the book in person as opposed to tiny email attachments …

What’s the best thing about book tours?
Best thing?

And the worst thing?
You’re away from writing, you have to speak to journalists all day long, there’s no time to read, I could go on …

What are you reading right now?
Before Night Falls
by Reinaldo Arenas (Serpent’s Tail) and The Memory of Love by Aminatta Forna (Bloomsbury).

What book do you wish you could have written?
The History of Love
by Nicole Krauss (Penguin). It’s such a beautiful, tender novel. It’s in my top five.

What book would you want with you on a desert island?
Can I not have a shelf? Something to keep the gloom away by David Sedaris. Fitzgerald for warmth. Alain de Botton to keep my questions alive.

Typewriter or computer?
Computer, no doubt.

Hardback, paperback or digital?
Hardback. Never, ever digital.

If you weren’t a writer, what would you be?
I wouldn’t.

If I were a literary character I’d be …
My favourite character of all time is Atticus Finch. I wish I could be him.

2011 APA Book Design Awards winners

The following titles were recognised at this year’s Australian Publishers Association Book Design Awards, presented on 19 May as part of the Sydney Writers Festival.

Best Designed Book of the Year Quay: Food Inspired by Nature (Peter Gilmore, Murdoch Books) designed by Reuben Crossman Best Designed Cover of the Year Hand Me Down World (Lloyd Jones, Text) cover designer W H Chong
Best Designed Children’s Cover of the Year The Staring Owl (Luke Edwards, Omnibus) cover designer Luke Edwards Best Designed Children’s Fiction Book The Midnight Zoo (Sonya Hartnett, Viking) Tony Palmer
Best Designed Children’s Non-fiction Book (joint winners)
Somme Mud: Younger Readers’ Edition (Will Davies, Random House) designer Liz Seymour, Seymour Design Wicked Warriors and Evil Emperors (Alison Lloyd, illus by Terry Denton, Puffin) designer Adam Laszczuk
Best Designed Children’s Picture Book The Tomorrow Book (Jackie French, HarperCollins) designer Natalie Winter Best Designed Children’s Series The ‘Moorehawke’ trilogy, Vols II & III (Celine Kiernan, A&U) designer Bruno Herfst & Elise Hurst
Best Designed Young Adult Book Graffiti Moon (Cath Crowley, Pan Macmillan) designer Melanie Feddersen of i2i Designs Best Designed Fiction Book Jasper Jones (Craig Silvey, A&U) cover designer Lisa White, internal designer Bookhouse
Best Designed Specialist Illustrated Book Mari Funaki: Objects (Jane Devery, NGV) designer Dirk Hiscock Best Designed Cookbook Quay: Food Inspired by Nature (Peter Gilmore, Murdoch Books) designer Reuben Crossman
Best Designed General Illustrated Book Shack (Simon Griffiths, Lantern) designer Allison Colpoys Best Designed Literary Fiction Book Hand Me Down World (Lloyd Jones, Text) designer W H Chong
Best Designed Non-fiction Book A Life in Frocks (Kelly Doust, Murdoch Books) designer Zoe Sadokierski Best Designed Reference & Scholarly Book ‘Pocket History’ series (various authors, Murdoch Books) designer Jenny Grigg
Best Designed Primary Education Book The Bug Club (various authors, Pearson) designer Kath Greenough, Lisa Austin Best Designed Secondary Education Book The Food Book (Leanne Compton, OUP) designer Regine Abos
Best Designed Tertiary and Further Education Book News as it Happens (Stephen Lamble, OUP) cover designer Regine Abos, internal designer Damage Design
Young Designer of the Year Emily O’Neill for Ape House (Sara Gruen, A&U), Journey to the Stone Country (Alex Miller, A&U), Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand (Helen Simonson, A&U), and The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (Mary Ann Shaffer & Annie Barrows, A&U).

The Joyce Thorpe Nicholson Hall of Fame Award, presented periodically to a designer whose work has made a significant contribution to book design in Australia, was awarded to Sandy Cull at this year’s ABA Book Design Awards. Cull has been working in publishing for over 20 years. She runs her book design company gogoGingko and is a multiple winner of the APA Best Designed Book of the Year Award.

Celebrating the Man Booker International shortlist

One of the interesting things about the Man Booker International Prize is that it’s open to any author whose work is available in English, which includes translations. This makes it a much more diverse prize than most literary awards, which are usually for one recently published book. But where to start? Fortunately at this year’s prize announcement, judge chair Rick Gekoski was happy to share his favourite titles from the 13 shortlisted authors. We think they would make a pretty fine shelf display …

  • Philip Roth (USA): American Pastoral and Nemesis (both Vintage)
  • Wang Anyi (China): The Song of Everlasting Sorrow (Columbia University Press)
  • Juan Goytisolo (Spain): The Garden of Secrets (Serpent’s Tail)
  • James Kelman (UK): How Late It Was, How Late (Vintage)
  • John le Carré (UK): The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (Viking)
  • Amin Maalouf (Lebanon): Balthasar’s Odyssey (Vintage)
  • David Malouf (Australia): Remembering Babylon (Vintage)
  • Dacia Maraini (Italy): The Silent Duchess (Arcadia Books)
  • Rohinton Mistry (India/Canada): A Fine Balance (Faber)
  • Philip Pullman (UK): ‘His Dark Materials’ trilogy (Scholastic)
  • Marilynne Robinson (USA): Home (Virago)
  • Su Tong (China): Rice (Simon & Schuster UK)
  • Anne Tyler: Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant and The Amateur Marriage (both Vintage)

More information about the shortlisted authors can be found here.

Bestsellers this week

Jamie’s 30-minute Meals (Jamie Oliver, Michael Joseph), an instructional cookbook designed for the time-poor chef, is still at the top of the bestsellers chart this week, followed by Jodie Picoult’s novel Sing you Home (A&U) in second, and Charlaine Harris’  Dead Reckoning (Hachette), in third. Singer Shania Twain’s autobiography, From this Moment on (HarperCollins), is top of the highest new entries chart followed by YA fantasy novel, The Throne of Fire (Rick Riordan, Puffin). The CSIRO and Baker IDI Diabetes Diet and Lifestyle Plan (Peter Clifton, Penguin), a guidebook to prevention and control of Type 2 diabetes, is top of the fastest movers chart this week–Weekly Book Newsletter.

BOOK REVIEW: Charlie Burr and the Three Stolen Dollars (Sally Morgan, Ambelin, Blaze & Ezekiel Kwaymullina, illus by Peter Sheehan, Little Hare Books)

Sally Morgan and her children Ambelin, Blaze and Ezekiel drew on their own childhood experiences to create this brand new series for younger readers. Set in the Australian outback, the series follows its narrator, Charlie Burr, on his accidental adventures in the bush. The first adventure involves three stolen dollars, some missing gold, a twohumped camel and a naughty little dingo pup: Charlie isn’t sure how he’s going to explain the missing money and the new pup to his mum and things seem to go from bad to worse. This is a lively and entertaining book. Spike the dingo is a perfect companion to the mischievous Charlie, as is Rosy the two-humped camel to his friend Johnno. Despite its distinctly outback setting, Charlie Burr will ring true to any child who has ever done something that they know is going to land them in hot water with Mum. Charlie’s dad is a loveable larrikin who tries to keep the peace but, like Charlie, ends up in even more trouble. The outback setting is perfect for the high-spirited exploits of Charlie and his friends, which will ignite the imaginations of its readers.

Bec Kavanagh is a freelance reviewer and writer and former bookseller living in Melbourne. This review first appeared in the April issue of Bookseller+Publisher magazine.