Sunday, December 9, 2012

10 Aussie Books To Read Before You Die.

Reading By Moonlight
Last night I watched a recording of the first Tuesday Night Book Club’s “10 Aussie Books to Read Before you Die.” For much of this year the show’s website asked people to select their choice from a list of 50 Australian authored books.

I voted a while back and I can’t remember if I went for The Fatal Shore by Robert Hughes, The True History of the Kelly Gang by Peter Carey or Capricornia by Xavier Herbert. At the time I had read nine of the books on the list, I have since read one more.  

After the program had listed ten to five, I was thinking how well read I am, as I had read three of the six books (The Secret River, The Slap and The Power of One). I was very hopeful that The True History of the Kelly Gang would be number one. But I had forgotten about Cloudstreet by Tim Winton which consistently wins polls for favourite Aussie novel.  

The ten books people selected were:

1. Cloudstreet - Tim Winton
2. The Book Thief - Markus Zusak
3. A Fortunate Life - A.B. Facey
4. The Harp in the South - Ruth Park
5. The Power of One - Bryce Courtenay
6. Jasper Jones - Craig Silvey
7. The Magic Pudding - Norman Lindsay
8. The Slap - Christos Tsiolkas
9. The Secret River - Kate Grenville
10. Picnic at Hanging Rock - Joan Lindsay

I had never heard of The Book Thief or Jasper Jones. I plan to one day read Cloudstreet and The Harp in the South.

My Ten Aussie Books.

If they opened the list up to all Australian authored books then my list of the ten Aussie books people should read before they die would look like this:

1. The Sea and Summer - George Turner
2. The True History of the Kelly Gang – Peter Carey
3. Capricornia – Xavier Herbert
4. The Fatal Shore – Robert Hughes
5. The Slap – Christos Tsiolkas
6. Power Without  Glory – Frank Hardy
7. Genetic Soldier – George Turner
8. Blood – Tony Birch
9. Things We Didn’t See Coming – Steve Amsterdam
10. The Waterboys  – Peter Docker.

My list is of books that I think say something about Australia and what is to be an Australian, unlike a few of the books in the First Tuesday list. My selections cover our past, present and future, whereas the future is not touched in the First Tuesday list. My list would be different if I was just selecting my favourite Aussie Books.

About a third of the books I read are written by Australians. I worry that a lot of Australian writers and wannabe authors appear not to read Australian authored books and somehow find more relevance in books written overseas.


Anthony J. Langford said...

I was pretty disappointed by their list.
I read the Book Thief and began Jasper Jones, and I thought they were average. Polls like this are often affected by recent books, which those two are.
I hadnt read Cloudstreet either. I tried too a year ago. It felt too old school, or old fashioned or something. Perhaps that style was fresh 25yrs ago but its not now. (Its set in the late 50;s i think, prob when Winton grew up). Yeah, good on ya cobber! That sort of thing.

Personally I dont see how they could pass The Fatal Shore, one of the best books ever written, though it isn't a novel and also A Short Life by Ian Jones, a brilliant insight into Ned Kelly.

I recently read a Light between Oceans which is doing really well overseas - definitly a chicks book - lol. It was okay, but not really my thing.
I havent read alot of yr list.

Personally Im over TNBC. Can't stand Marieke Hardy. She makes me gag. A pity as I like the others.

Graham Clements said...

Hi Anthony,

I don't mind Marieke Hardy, she has strong opinions which often differ with mine. I think Jason Steger is too worried he will offend authors much of the time.

When I am on my next Ned Kelly binge I will have a look at A Short Life.

Agree about The Fatal Shore, it should be read by all Australians so they get an idea of our convict past.

Helen V. said...

I was pretty disappointed too. I didn't enjoy "The Book Thief" (though having Death as the narrator was clever). I didn't like Jasper Jones much either. I haven't read The Slap but if the television series was anything to go on I don't consider that a loss (and I do realise that makes me out of step with most people). I'm not a fan of Bryce Courtney (with the exception of April Fools Day) so The Power of One wouldn't have got my vote. I've never read The Magic Pudding or The Secret River so I can't comment on them. Cloudstreet is a period piece and I enjoyed it when I read it some years ago.The remaining three -A Fortunate Life, The Harp in the South and Picnic at Hanging Rock I like very much.
I like a lot of the books on your list, Graham, and that makes me want to read those I haven't so far like those by George Turner.

Graham Clements said...


I often mention George Turner on his blog. If you can get a copy of his A Pursuit of Miracles that will give you a very good idea of what his writing is like. It is a collection of eight short stories - three of which he later extended into novels. One became The Sea and Summer and another became Genetic Soldiers.