Category Archives: Memoir

Bill Hayes’ new memoir, “Insomniac City: New York, Oliver and Me”

Just out: a memoir from photographer (and partner of neurologist Oliver Sacks), Bill Hayes. Peppered with his own street-life shots from his adopted city of New York, Bill writes about his move to the Big Apple from San Francisco, and his relationship with the very private Sacks. You can read an excerpt here, including a visit to Björk, and experience a bit of vicarious glitterati living. It’s getting rave reviews already, and is a lovely hardback with a gorgeous photo-cover under the dust jacket.

Insomniac City: New York, Oliver, and Me – Bill Hayes – Bloomsbury – HB – $30

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Indie Book Awards: Winners announced!

And the winner of the Indie Book of the Year is… Jane Harper’s The Dry: for the best Australian writing of 2016, as chosen by Australian independent booksellers. Our congratulations to Jane — we’ve barely been able to keep her book in stock since it came out!

Other prize winners this year:

* Fiction: The Last Painting of Sara de Vos by Dominic Smith
* Debut fiction: The Dry by Jane Harper
* Non-fiction: Everywhere I Look by Helen Garner
* Children’s: Circle by Jeannie Baker
* Young Adult: Words in Deep Blue by Cath Crowley

All titles in-store now, or on order in desperate haste if we’ve sold out! Let us know if you want any of the prize-winners put aside for you, and come enjoy some great Australian writing.

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Filed under Australian Women Writers Challenge (AWW), Book Group titles, Crime Fiction, Gift Ideas, Memoir, Picture books (0-5 years), Teen Fiction, Young Adult (14+)

Fiona’s best books for 2016


Fiona’s best books
Commonwealth – Ann Patchett – TPB – $30
The Glorious Heresies – Lisa McInerney – PB – $20
The Hate Race – Maxine Beneba Clarke – TPB – $33
– Louise Erdrich – TPB – $33
Our Souls at Night – Kent Haruf – PB – $20

Stay tuned for Jess’s best books tomorrow…

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Dick’s best books for 2016


Dick’s best books
Ghost Empire – Richard Fidler – HB – $4o
Lab Girl – Hope Jahren – TPB – $33
The Midnight Watch – David Dyer – TPB – $33
The Road to Winter – Mark Smith – TPB – $20
Stiletto – Daniel O’Malley – TPB – $30

Stay tuned for Fiona’s best books tomorrow…

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Filed under Fiction Reviews, Gift Ideas, Memoir, Non-fiction Reviews, Teen Fiction, Xmas Gift Ideas, Young Adult (14+)

Heather’s best books for 2016


Heather’s best books
Days Without End – Sebastian Barry – TPB – $33
The Dry – Jane Harper – TPB – $33
Everyone Brave is Forgiven – Chris Cleave – TPB – $30
The Sympathizer
 – Viet Thahn Nguyen – PB – $23
To the Bright Edge of the World – Eowyn Ivey – TPB – $33

Stay tuned for Dick’s best books tomorrow…

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Our best books for 2016

2016-staff-best-booksThe Fairfieldbooks staff have put our heads down, and we’ve each come up with our five top titles for 2016. You can see most of our choices in the lovely display (above). We’ll post one list every day over the next week, and do come in and tell us what your favourites have been this year!

Stay tuned for Heather’s best books coming tomorrow…

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Filed under Crime Fiction, Fiction Reviews, Gift Ideas, Junior Readers (8-11 years), Memoir, Non-fiction Reviews, Picture books (0-5 years), Teen Fiction, Tweens (11-14 years), Xmas Gift Ideas, Young Adult (14+)

Nature writing boom – reviews

helen macdonald h is for hawkIn the last few years there has been a boom in nature writing, mostly coming out of the UK. The title which caught most people’s attention was the sleeper success H is for Hawk by historian Helen MacDonald, which went on to win the 2014 Samuel Johnson prize for nature writing and the same year’s Costa Book of the Year. MacDonald recounts the year or so following the unexpected death of her father, blended with an account of her training the goshawk she names Mabel. She counterpoints these with an examination of novelist T H White, author of Arthurian romance and erstwhile goshawk trainer himself. While the blend of grief memoir, goshawk training account and White biography may sound like a bizarre combination, MacDonald’s writing is simply inspired, and the combination of the personal and the historical sings. She’s also a delightful interviewee, as in this Guardian Books podcast. This was one of my favourite two books from last year, and I’ve yet to speak with a reader who didn’t love it.

john lewis-stempel meadowlandAnother book I was introduced to by Guardian Books is Meadowland by John Lewis-Stempel. A farmer from Herefordshire, the area his family has lived and worked in for over 700 years, Lewis-Stempel’s gorgeous memoir is subtitled The Private Life of an English Field, and it is just that. It’s a diary which examines the creatures, tasks and lives which take place in one of his fields over the course of a year, with excursions into history, toponymy, etymology, sociology and meandering thoughts along the way. It is a relaxed and learned read, a wonderful evocation of a place and one person’s deep love of it, and at the back are pleasing lists of the flora and fauna he sighted during the year. No wonder it won the Thwaites-Wainwright Prize for travel and nature writing. I’ve shared it with contemplative farmers and city friends — to equal acclaim — and I already have a lovely hardback tucked aside for another friend’s birthday. Beautiful.

james rebanks shepherd's life

My latest read of these nature writers, just finished last night, is James Rebanks’ The Shepherd’s Life. Rebanks and his forebears have been shepherds in the Lakes District and Eden Valley for the last 600 hundred years. Rebanks, a UN researcher in addition to his farmlife, came to fame with his Twitter account @herdyshepherd1, and was invited to write about his view on the Lakes District and the world. While Rebanks also follows a year of shepherding, collecting the sheep from their ‘fell’ (highland) pastures at the end of summer and bringing them back to valley meadows, his book is a consideration of the shepherds’ historical, emotional ownership of the Lakes District, compared with sense of ‘ownership’ of those inspired by the Romantic Poets. His pride in being a farmer and continuing a long-lived and valuable way of life is most evident, and it is an excellent read.

sooyong park great soul of siberiaAnd finally, the one we can’t wait to read, is Sooyong Park’s The Great Soul of Siberia: In Search of the Elusive Siberian Tiger. Park is a Korean researcher who has spent six months of every year, for the last 20 years, in Siberia tracking and observing the endangered Siberian tiger. With only 350 animals remaining in the wild, Park aims to learn as much as possible before poaching and habitat destruction spell the tiger’s end. It looks like a powerful read, it very highly reviewed, and has amazing photos from Park’s own observations.

H is for Hawk — Helen MacDonald — Vintage — PB — $23
Meadowland: The Private Life of an English Field — John Lewis-Stempel — Black Swan — PB — $23
The Shepherd’s Life: A Tale of the Lakes District — James Rebanks — Allen Lane — PB — $25
The Great Soul of Siberia: In Search of the Elusive Siberian Tiger — Sooyong Park — William Collins — HB — $25

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How to be Happy by David Burton

How to Be Happy is a memoir written by first time author David Burton. It broke ground last year by being the first non-fiction manuscript to win the Text Prize for children and young adults. David is now in his late 20’s but the memoir focuses on his school and university years, and the few years following that. To say he was an angsty teen would be understating the case. He struggled with his identity, and trying to figure out whether he was gay or not was a major preoccupation during that time. He had girlfriends, but could never really commit to them, withdrawing from the relationships and causing heartache for the girls more than once. Of course, that added to his burden of guilt and worry. His parents, ever supportive, continually offered their own help, and provided professional help which he sometimes accepted. His parents were quite heroic really, as they struggled with their own depressions and two younger sons both of whom were diagnoses with Aspergers when quite young. So their plate was very full, but they never gave up on him.

All of the above might sound a bit grim, but the book is really well written, and as he goes through his different phases of ‘Crazy Drama Dave’ then ‘Gay Dave’, their is s lot of humour as well as the sadness and confusion. He doesn’t shy away from his struggles, but he got through them, and is now a happy and well functioning adult. No doubt, he still has his off days, but the story is an uplifting one of hope and encouragement.

It isn’t just for struggling teens, the book is for anyone because it is a good story. I highly recommend it. Lots of adults will enjoy How to be Happy too. $20how to be happy

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My Salinger Year by Joanna Rakoff

salingerMy Salinger Year is a memoir of a young woman, Joanna Rakoff,  who having  recently graduated from college doesn’t really know what she wants to do with her life. She gets a job in a literary agency, without having much idea as to what a literary agency might do. When she starts work, her boss gives her lengthy and repeated lectures about how she mustn’t talk to Jerry, or make Jerry wait on the phone. She must immediately pass Jerry onto her boss, and NEVER EVER tell him about how she would love it if he read her own stories. (She has no stories to show him anyway) It is a while before Joanna realizes that Jerry, is JD Salinger.

Part of Joanna’s job is to deal with Salinger’s fan mail. The Agency has strict and very clear instructions that fan mail will never be passed on to the author. Their main job is to protect him from the public, and especially, journalists. There is a form letter which Jo is supposed to send to the fans, but as she reads more and more of the letters, she finds if harder to do that, and starts to write responses of her own.

Meanwhile, Joanna is living with Don, a would be author who has written and extremely dense and obscure, probably un-publishable novel and the relationship is very one sided. Her year with the agency teaches Jo a lot about life, and helps her work out what she wants to do with her own.

It’s terrific.  $28

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