Reviewers’ top picks from the current issue

In the November issue of Bookseller+Publisher magazine Avid Reader’s Paul Landymore was mightily impressed with Brendan Cowell’s How It Feels (Picador, November), a debut novel that opens in Cronulla in the early ’90s and follows central character Neil as he decides to study theatre in Bathurst. ‘Given that Cowell is a well-known actor (who also grew up in Cronulla and studied theatre in Bathurst), it would be natural to look for the autobiography in this story, but the characters are strong enough to tell their own stories,’ writes Landymore. ‘The characters are well defined and the connections between them true, difficult and sometimes inexplicable—so like life itself.’

Also in fiction, Kimberley Allsopp predicts Kate Morton’s fans will not be disappointed by The Distant Hours (A&U, November)—’an engrossing tale full of secrets waiting to be told’. Likewise, those who enjoyed Death Most Definite, the first in Trent Jamieson’s ‘Deathworks’ series will enjoy his follow-up Managing Death (Orbit, December), with Coaldrakes’ Chris McDonough writing that it ‘really picks up the pace’ from its predecessor.

In nonfiction, Max Oliver admires Street Fight in Naples (A&U, October), Peter Robb’s history of a ‘great and terrible city’ with a focus on the 16th and 17th centuries. ‘Don’t expect an easy read: do expect to be informed, entertained and transported to a particularly resilient people and place,’ says Oliver.

Landymore also reviewed Chris Bray’s The 1000 Hour Day for us (Pier 9, November). One-time ‘Young Adventurer of the Year’ Bray and a friend embarked on a 1000km walk across Victoria Island in the Canadian Arctic—’a feat the locals cheerfully tell them on arrival will result in their deaths,’ Landymore explains. ‘If you like tales of derring-do in the company of charming, enthusiastic companions, then this book is for you,’ he writes.

Also recommended for those with a spirit of adventure is Is That Thing Diesel? (Paul Carter, A&U, November), the subtitle of which, ‘one man, one bike and the first lap around Australia on used cooking oil’, should say it all. ‘But if you’ve read Carter’s previous books (Don’t Tell Mum I Work on the Rigs, She Thinks I’m a Piano Player in a Whorehouse and This Is Not a Drill) you’ll know there is much more to his stories than simply getting from A to B,’ writes Fullers’ Clive Tilsley of the book. ‘If Carter can have a crazy adventure on the way, he will.’

As our reviewer Dani Solomon of Readings Carlton writes, ‘it was only a matter of time before someone released a cookbook parody’. Audrey Gordon’s Tuscan Summer (Audrey Gordon & Tom Gleisner, Hardie Grant, November) was written by the team behind the ‘Jetlag’ series and ‘what could have been a cheap spoof full of easy jokes and bad puns is instead a clever satire with just the odd bad pun—a forgivable crime,’ writes Solomon.

Rachel Wilson liked The Gruen Transfer (Jon Casimir, ABC Books, November). ‘The book naturally uses the knowledge and opinions of the show’s “stars” and its thoughtful structure allows the reader to dip in and out,’ she writes. ‘Author Jon Casimir (also a producer of the TV show) has done a great job in capturing the tone of the show and I’d have no trouble recommending this to anyone—not only fans of the TV program.’

Other books impressing our reviewers were Peter Brock: Road to Glory (Colin Fulton, photos by Terry Russell, A&U, November), which Bob Campbell of The Pitstop Bookshop says ‘will appeal to Brock fans and to those who are curious about where he came from’, as well as ‘those who miss the fun and friendly rivalries of a less professional age of motor sport’; Savage or Civilised? Manners in Colonial Australia (Penny Russell, NewSouth, November), which Paula Grunseit says is ‘meticulously researched, informative and entertaining’; Seeking the Sacred (Stephanie Dowrick, A&U, November), which Sherri Kalow of Watermark Books says ‘can be confronting reading, presenting Western culture as primarily self-absorbed and with an endemic need to blame others for the world’s ills’ but ‘immediately inspires contemplation’; and Spheres of Influence: Writings on Cricket and Its Discontents (Gideon Haigh, Victory Books, November)—’when it comes to reviewing a book by Gideon Haigh, the question is never going to be whether the book is any good, but just how good it will be,’ writes Fiona Crawford.

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