About Eloise Keating

Eloise Keating is the former news editor for Books+Publishing. Follow @ellykeating on Twitter.

Top reviews of 2012

As another year draws to a close, we thought we would look back on some of our reviewers’ top picks from 2012. From selkies to family dramas, YA adventures and beautiful picture books, there was something for everyone in Australian books this year.

In our Summer 2011/2012 issue, reviewer Amelia Vahtrick gave Margo Lanagan’s Sea Hearts (A&U) five stars, describing Lanagan’s prose as ‘hauntingly beautiful [and] darkly atmospheric’. ‘The book would be appropriate for sophisticated teen readers, as well as adults in search of beautiful prose,’ wrote Vahtrick.

In February/March, our reviewers picked out Patrick White’s The Hanging Garden (Vintage)—‘a Patrick White novel we can all read with pleasure’—M L Stedman’s The Light Between Oceans (Vintage)—‘fascinating and so beautifully told’—and Gerald Murnane’s A History of Books (Giramondo)—‘there is no greater living Australian writer’—as their top picks.

In April/May, The Forrests by Emily Perkins (Bloomsbury) received five stars from reviewer Angela Meyer, who described the book as ‘a work of art as well as a successful narrative’. ‘It is nuanced, compelling and a treat for the mind, senses and emotions,’ wrote Meyer. In Junior, two Jackie French books—Pennies for Hitler and Dingo: The Dog Who Conquered a Continent (both HarperCollins)—received five-star reviews.

Our June/July issue featured a whopping six five-star reviews: Nine Days by Toni Jordan (Text), The Oldest Song in the World by Sue Woolfe (Fourth Estate), Gaysia: Adventures in the Queer East by Benjamin Law (Black Inc.), City by James Roy (UQP), Friday Brown by Vikki Wakefield (Text) and Unforgotten by Tohby Riddle (A&U).

In August/September, Lily Brett’s Lola Bensky (Hamish Hamilton) received five stars from reviewer Pip Newling. Newling described Brett’s book as ‘an entertaining story that is also full of heart’ which ‘should appeal to a wide readership’. In Junior, our reviewers’ top picks included Little Elephants by Graeme Base (Viking), Tree: A Little Story about Big Things by Danny Parker & Matt Ottley (Little Hare) and The Crystal Code: The Billionaire Series Book Four by Richard Newsome (Text).

And finally, in our October/November issue, reviewer Portia Lindsay gave five stars to The 2013 Voiceless Anthology (selected by J M Coetzee, Ondine Sherman, Wendy Were & Susan Wyndham, A&U). Lindsay described the anthology as ‘an important collection of writing’ and urged readers to ‘be challenged’ to consider their own relationships with animals. In Junior, reviewer Hilary Adams was particularly taken with Cuckoo! by Fiona Roberton (Viking). ‘Fiona Roberton has triumphed again in writing a story about finding that special someone who understands us perfectly,’ wrote Adams.

What were your favourite Australian titles for 2012? Let us know in the comments.

BOOK REVIEW: The Rise of the Fifth Estate (Greg Jericho, Scribe)

The Rise of the Fifth Estate is a well-researched and engaging look at the world of social media and blogging in the context of the Australian political system, and author Greg Jericho (aka political blogger Grog’s Gamut) makes a convincing case that social media has been a positive force. The book opens with a comparison of how different media outlets—both ‘new’ (online) and traditional—have reacted to recent leadership spills in our major political parties, before presenting a snapshot of the current state of the Australian political blogosphere and twittersphere. Jericho also picks up on some of the important issues facing new media platforms such as the apparent lack of female voices in online political discussions, the increasingly nasty nature of online comments, and the ongoing battle between amateur and professional political writers. While the book’s casual tone might not appeal to everyone, its strength lies in the personal experience that informs it. Jericho has had first-hand experience of the battle between bloggers and the mainstream media: as Grog’s Gamut he is an avid blogger and tweeter (with close to 13,000 followers) and writes a weekly column for the ABC’s The Drum. The Rise of the Fifth Estate is an important contribution to our knowledge of how Australian politics and the Australian media operate, and is a book that all media professionals, and indeed anyone who is interested in politics and the media, should have on their shelves.

Eloise Keating is a journalist with Bookseller+Publisher. You can follow her on Twitter at @ellykeating. This review first appeared on the Bookseller+Publisher website in July. View more pre-publication reviews here.

BOOK REVIEW: Hannah & Emil (Belinda Castles, A&U)

Hannah & Emil is the third novel from Vogel Literary Award winner Belinda Castles, and is inspired by the events of her grandparents’ lives. In a similar style to Anna Funder’s All That I Am, the novel begins in contemporary Australia—with newly immigrated Flora discovering journals and keepsakes from her grandmother Hannah’s life—before transporting the reader back to early 20th-century Europe, where we meet Hannah, in England, and Emil, in Germany, as children. The chapters alternate between the two characters as they grow up and begin their journeys to the point where their lives will cross; Hannah as she seeks out independence through her career in the trade union movement, and Emil as he returns to a devastated Germany after fighting in World War I and gradually becomes involved in resistance activities against the increasingly powerful Nazi regime. When World War II breaks out both Hannah and Emil are forced to set out on another journey, albeit a more dangerous one. In the final pages of her story Hannah reflects that she has made ‘a home in movement’. It’s an apt description of her life, and Emil’s, but this sense of movement could also be used to describe Castles’ novel. It never sits still and the reader is left feeling they have travelled as far as the main characters. Fans of historical fiction will enjoy this novel, which celebrates both the everydayness of building a life with someone, and the extraordinary feat of overcoming great obstacles to that life.

Eloise Keating is a journalist for Bookseller+Publisher. This review first appeared on the Bookseller+Publisher website. View more pre-publication reviews here.

PANZ Book Design Awards 2012 winners

The winners of the Publishers Association of New Zealand (PANZ) Book Design Awards were announced on 5 July.

The winning titles are:

Gerard Reid Award for Best Book sponsored by Nielsen Book Services, and Scholastic New Zealand Award for Best Children’s Book


Two Little Bugs (Mark & Rowan Sommerset, Dreamboat Books), designed  by Rowan Sommerset





HarperCollins Award for Best Cover



Tupaia (Joan Druett, Random House New Zealand), designed by Saskia Nicol








Mary Egan Award for Best Typography and Random House New Zealand Award for Best Illustrated Book



Fleur (Fleur Sullivan, Canterbury University Press), designed by Alan Deare, AREA Design








Hachette New Zealand Award for Best Non-Illustrated Book



Janet Frame in Her Own Words (Janet Frame, Penguin New Zealand), designed by Anna Egan-Reid








Pearson Award for Best Educational Book



He Kōrero – Words Between Us: First Māori-Pākehā Conversations on Paper (Alison Jones & Kuni Jenkins, Huia New Zealand), designed by Sam Bunny







Also awarded was the Awa Press Young Designer of the Year Award, which was presented to Megan van Staden from Random House New Zealand. Some of Megan’s designs can be seen online here.

PM’s Literary Awards 2012 shortlists announced

The shortlists for this year’s Prime Minister’s Literary Awards have been announced.

The shortlisted titles in each of the categories are:



  • Ashes in the Air (Ali Alizadeh, UQP)
  • Interferon Psalms (Luke Davies, A&U)
  • Armour (John Kinsella, Picador)
  • Southern Barbarians (John Mateer, Giramondo)
  • New and Selected Poems (Gig Ryan, Giramondo)


  • A Short History of Christianity (Geoffrey Blainey, Viking)
  • Michael Kirby Paradoxes and Principles (A J Brown, Federation Press
  • When Horse Became Saw: A Family’s Journey Through Autism (Anthony Macris, Penguin)
  • Kinglake-350 (Adrian Hyland, Text)
  • An Eye for Eternity: The Life of Manning Clark (Mark McKenna, MUP)

Prize for Australian History

  • 1835: The Founding of Melbourne and the Conquest of Australia (James Boyce, Black Inc.)
  • The Biggest Estate on Earth: How Aborigines Made Australia (Bill Gammage, A&U)
  • Breaking the Sheep’s Back (Charles Massy, UQP)
  • Indifferent Inclusion: Aboriginal people and the Australian Nation (Russell McGregor, Aboriginal Studies Press)
  • Immigration Nation: The Secret History of Us (Renegade Films Australia)

Young adult fiction

  • A Straight Line to My Heart (Bill Condon, A&U)
  • Being Here (Barry Jonsberg, A&U)
  • Pan’s Whisper (Sue Lawson, Black Dog Books)
  • When We Were Two (Robert Newton, Penguin)
  • Alaska (Sue Saliba, Penguin)

Children’s fiction

  • Evangeline, the Wish Keeper’s Helper (Maggie Alderson, illus by Claire Fletcher, Viking)
  • The Jewel Fish of Karnak (Graeme Base, Viking)
  • Father’s Day (Anne Brooksbank, Puffin)
  • Come Down, Cat! (Sonya Hartnett, illus by Lucia Masciullo,Viking)
  • Goodnight, Mice! (Frances Watts, illus by Judy Watson, ABC Books).

The winners of each of the categories will receive a tax-free cash prize $80,000, with each shortlistee receiving $5000 tax-free.

As previously reported by Bookseller+Publisher, this is the first year that a poetry award has been offered as part of the Prime Minister’s Literary Awards. The Prime Minister’s Prize for Australian History has also been incorporated into the awards this year.

For more information about the Prime Minister’s Literary Awards, click here.

INTERVIEW: Meet Laura Kroetsch, director of Adelaide Writers’ Week

Adelaide Writers’ Week is just around the corner (3-8 March). Eloise Keating spoke to new director Laura Kroetsch about her first festival, her favourite sessions and the themes behind this year’s program.

What do you think will be the highlights of this year’s Adelaide Writers’ Week?
For much of our audience the highlights will be discovering new writers and some really great books.  Among our many treasures, I think audiences will fall in love with American novelist and short story writer Ron Rash. Rash is a gorgeous speaker and his books are a delight. I’m also predicting people will be quite enchanted by Israeli short story writer Etgar Keret. Keret’s oddly funny and always surprising. I think our audiences will be as charmed by our two titans’ of Spanish literature, Javier Cercas and Juan Gabriel Vasquez. I’m also predicting that our audiences will love British biographer Selina Hastings, and her terrific biography, The Secret Lives of Somerset Maugham (John Murray).

What sessions or which authors do you think will attract the big crowds?
We have some truly wonderful big-name writers coming this year and we are expecting big crowds for Kate Grenville, Alan Hollinghurst, Frank Moorhouse, Les Murray and the crime-writing superstar Jo Nesbo. I also think Glen Duncan will pull in the numbers as his recent novel, The Last Werewolf (Text), has enjoyed huge success. We’re also expecting big numbers for Greg Chappell in a session that will see him in conversation with Malcom Knox, we’ve never really celebrated sports writing at Writers’ Week and we are hoping for a good crowd. We also feel confident that our speculative fiction writers will also enjoy big audiences, in part because Robert Shearman’s ‘Doctor Who and Daleks’ was our first ticketed session to sell out.  I’m hoping for big audiences for Kelly Link and Margo Lanagan, two great writers who deserve the huge audiences they enjoy.

What about your personal picks? Which authors are you most looking forward to hearing talk about their work?
There are some writers that you get a bit selfish about, and these are, for me, my more recent discoveries. I’ve loved Kate Grenville for over a decade, probably longer, but I only met Jenny Erpenbeck as a writer last year. Her novel Visitation (Portobello Books) is one of the best I’ve read in years.  Technically I began reading Michael Crummey about 10 years ago, but he’d slipped from my mind. Fortunately a mutual friend told me to read his novel Galore and I’m so delighted he is coming to Adelaide. I’m huge fan of noir novels and so am really looking forward to meeting Megan Abbott—she is the real deal. Poetry is a passion and among our poets the one I most look forward to meeting is Dionne Brand. Her long poem ‘Ossuaries’ is a must read—even for those who don’t think they like poetry.

This is your first Adelaide Writers’ Week. Is there anything new or different that you have introduced?
We’ve changed a lot—not what makes this event great—but a lot nonetheless. We’ve redesigned the site. We’ve traded the tents for sail cloth, we’ve moved the booktent and the caterer to another part of the garden in an effort to make the site more comfortable and we’ve even got new chairs—they’re green. We are thrilled to be hosting our first kids program—it will run alongside the regular program on Sunday 4 March and will include a story tent, a giant Leafy Sea Dragon and some very clever craft. We’ll also, in an effort to attract office workers, run a series of lunchtime and early evening sessions designed to appeal to office workers, or indeed anyone who has never been to a literary festival before. The series will feature both fiction and nonfiction and we hope to see a few suits in our new green seats.

There has been a trend towards issues-based programs at recent writers’ festivals. Are there any particular issues or themes that inform this year’s event?
The demand for issues-based conversation is a fascinating one, and yes, we now have a focus on nonfiction that we haven’t had in past festivals. Among the many issues that I hoped to present is a conversation about religious tolerance, and in doing so to attempt to provide a counter-balance to the story so popularly presented by Richard Dawkins in 2010. That answer comes from two extraordinary journalists, Eliza Griswold and M J Ackbar, both of whom are writing about the religious tensions in the Middle East with insight and generosity.  Like everyone else in Australia I too burn to know more about China, and am delighted to be presenting both Jianying Zha and Paul French. I realise now, looking back over the program, that I have a lot of writers coming who in both fiction and nonfiction write about the experience of immigration, and as a new migrant myself, it strikes that this is, for this nation of immigrants, one of our most enduring questions.

For more information on Adelaide Writers’ Week visit the website here

National Year of Reading 2012

The National Year of Reading 2012 (NYR2012) initiative will be officially launched on 14 February. The year-long campaign is about teaching children to read, helping readers rediscover the joys of reading, and creating a national reading culture.

The initiative was founded by various libraries and library associations, and brings together government, media, and the bookselling and publishing communities as well as community groups, with more than 100 organisations signed on as partners. Funding partners include the federal Office for the Arts, the federal Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations, the Copyright Agency Limited, the Australia Council for the Arts and the Sidney Myer Fund. Dymocks, Walker Books, Scholastic, Creative Kids Tales and Disney are also official partners.

Author and actor William McInnes is the NYR2012 patron, and is joined by 18 national ambassadors. State and territory ambassadors have so far been announced for New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, the Australian Capital Territory, Western Australia and the Northern Territory, with more expected to be announced soon.  A complete list of ambassadors can be seen here.

So how can you get involved?

Our Story

NYR2012 is searching for eight books that represent Australia – one from each state and territory. You can vote on shortlists for each state and territory at your local library or bookshop, or by visiting the ABC website here. But be quick – voting closes on 6 January. The winning books will be announced on 14 February.

The Reading Hour

The Reading Hour will take place on Saturday 25 August 2012 between 6-7pm, and is designed to promote the idea that everyone can benefit from reading for at least an hour a week. Special events will be held in bookshops, libraries and schools to mark the occasion and the Disney Channel will run a dedicated NYR2012 program. More information about the event will be announced on 14 February.

Are We There Yet?

Starting in the Northern Territory in February, primary school children will be able to enter a competition by creating postcards, letters, drawings and photos about their home town or a special place they have visited in Australia. The competition is based on Alison Lester’s book Are We There Yet? (Viking).

Creative Reading Prize

Teenagers can get involved by participating in the National Year of Reading Creative Prize, an extension of the Creative Reading Prize run by the Centre for Youth Literature at the State Library of Victoria. Participants nominate one book they think their peers should read in 2012 and then provide an argument about why the book should be read in the form of a creative response. Visit Inside A Dog to see how the competition has been run in previous years.

As well as these new projects, NYR2012 will also be showcasing existing projects and organisations that promote reading and literacy across Australia, including the Indigenous Literacy Foundation, the Australian Literacy & Numeracy Foundation, and the Smith Family. For more ways to get involved, visit www.love2read.org.au.

BOOK REVIEW: The Good, the Bad & the Unlikely: Australia’s Prime Ministers (Mungo MacCallum, Black Inc.)

Writing an entertaining book about all of Australia’s prime ministers is an ambitious task, but one that political writer Mungo MacCallum pulls off brilliantly—this book is packed with all the charm, wit and expert knowledge readers have come to expect from MacCallum’s writing. The Good, the Bad and the Unlikely offers a brief chapter on Australia’s 27 prime ministers, from Edmund Barton, nicknamed ‘Tosspot Toby’ because of his fondness for a drink, who dedicated his political career to Australian federation and became the nation’s first prime minister; to Billy Hughes and Joseph Lyons, remembered as ‘the great Labor rats’; Robert Menzies, our longest serving PM who was ‘British to the bootstraps’ and once attempted to have Australia’s decimal currency renamed the Royal in honour of the royal family; Francis Forde, who managed just eight days in office; Bob Hawke, ‘the hard-drinking larrikin’ who ‘surpassed all expectations’; and our current PM Julia Gillard, the first woman to take on the job. While politics junkies will love this book for its amusing anecdotes and careful analysis, The Good, the Bad and the Unlikely will also be a valuable resource for students and those wishing to improve their trivia skills.

Eloise Keating is a journalist with the Weekly Book Newsletter and Bookseller+Publisher. This review first appeared in the Summer issue of Bookseller+Publisher magazine.

A Factory of Stories

In May this year, the Sydney Story Factory was officially launched. The factory is a not-for-profit centre designed to help children and young adults, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds, with writing.

The centre is getting ready to open its writing centre and shop—the Martian Embassy—in Redfern in 2012. Pilot programs are being held in local schools in this area, and this week the factory is holding an art exhibition and auction called Judge a book, buy its cover.

The exhibition showcases work by local artists who have recreated the covers of books selected from a list of Sydney’s 50 favourite books (as voted by readers of the Sydney Morning Herald). There’s 25 new book covers: from classics such as Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre and George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, to contemporary favourites like Tim Winton’s Dirt Music and Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. To see the artworks, click here. To see the complete list of 50 books, click here.

The Sydney Story Factory was founded by Sydney Morning Herald journalists Catherine Keenan and Tim Dick, and is inspired by similar projects in the United States. A number of Australian writers support the centre, including Geraldine Brooks, Markus Zusak, Peter FitzSimons, Anna Funder, Leigh Sales, James Bradley, Tom Keneally, Malcolm Knox, Gail Jones, Mardi McConnochie, Debra Adelaide and Michael Robothom.

To find out more about the Sydney Story Factory, visit www.sydneystoryfactory.org.au.

BOOK REVIEW: Women of Letters (Michaela McGuire & Marieke Hardy, Viking)

Women of Letters is a collection of letters penned by well-known Australians, originally performed at a series of events of the same name. Curated by Michaela McGuire and Marieke Hardy, these events began in 2010 as a fundraiser for the Victorian animal shelter Edgar’s Mission. The idea was to celebrate the art of letter writing and showcase local talent by asking prominent Australian women—and some men in a special Men of Letters event—to write a letter on a particular theme. When you read this book you will: laugh out loud at actor Noni Hazlehurst’s letter to her first boss and comedian Fiona Scott-Norman’s letter to her nemesis; wish your 12-yearold- self could have received a letter like the one penned by musician Jen Cloher; come close to tears over the letter former politician Mary Delahunty wishes she had written; and if you are the romantic sort, fall a little in love with entertainer Eddie Perfect, whose letter is written to the woman who changed his life. Readers of all ages will get a glimpse of themselves in this surprising, thoughtful, funny and inspiring book, which deserves to find a place in everyone’s home.

Eloise Keating is a journalist with the Weekly Book Newsletter and Bookseller+Publisher. This review first appeared in the October issue of Bookseller+Publisher magazine.