As much as we like exploring the world through books, it can be wonderful to see the world outside the window represented on the page. Found in Melbourne by Joanna O’Callaghan is a beautiful new picture counting book that includes some of Melbourne’s best loved landmarks such as the city, cycling in St Kilda, Exhibition Buildings, Luna Park, the waterwall at the Art Gallery, Puffing Billy and much more. A perfect choice for Melburnians and tourists alike and it comes in both English and a simplified Chinese version.
Something for the grownups is J.M.Green‘s Stella Hardy series. Stella, a social worker in Footscray, is an amateur crime fighter who battles bureaucracy and bad guys with equal ferocity. I started laughing on page 7 of her second novel in the series, Too Easy, and did not stop throughout. As the tagline says ‘The road to hell has to start somewhere’ which probably sums up driving in Melbourne. A thoroughly enjoyable read.
And no discussion of Melbourne and its writers would be complete without the iconic Helen Garner and her work. Fairfield Books was the official bookseller at Northcote High’s recent event that featured Helen and we managed to get her to sign some copies of her fabulous True Stories which is a collection of her celebrated non-fiction from throughout her writing career. We also have copies of her short story collection Stories as well as many of her other titles.
I have been reading Patrick Ness‘s books ever since I was twelve years old. Going into highschool was very daunting for me–as it is for most people–but reading his books and interviews gave me more confidence. Ness often talks about being yourself, so making friends that loved me for who I am made me feel more valued as a person.
Ness’s books often tackle issues that people of many ages face, meaning people of a broad range of ages and personalities fall in love with his beautiful writing. None of Patrick Ness‘s books would be labelled as high fantasy, but do generally fall under genres such as fiction, fantasy fiction and/or science fiction. For example, A Monster Calls is about a young boy whose mother is terminally ill with cancer. When the boy is in bed, a monster visits him and tells him stories which eventually help the boy cope with the reality that his mother is dying, and that it is okay to be angry or sad.
The Rest of Us Just Live Here is more science fiction. This book revolves around a group of friends who tell their stories through the character Mike. The focus of the book is to tell the story of the characters who generally wouldn’t be the ‘main characters’. The characters all have their own problems; Mike suffers with severe OCD, his sister suffers with anorexia and his best friend, Jared, is able to communicate with animals. This particular book of Ness’s is not very well-known, but it is my personal favourite.
In 2010, Ness completed a trilogy called Chaos Walking which is very popular among teenagers and adults. It is set in a dystopian future where everyone can hear each others thoughts but one day the main character, Todd Hewitt, discovers an area of silence.
The way that Patrick Ness writes is so unique–he is able to put across serious points about a number of issues, but still intertwine humour into his books as well. Many of his books are heartwarming and amazingly written. I would recommend Patrick Ness to anyone at the age of twelve or above who is looking for a very down-to-Earth and heartwarming book should definitely turn to Patrick Ness’s writing.
Marcia Langton‘s Welcome to Country is back in stock. This Travel Guide to Indigenous Australia has been very popular with customers. It has two main parts – the first introducing Indigenous Cultures such as Cultures, Languages, Kinship, Art, as well as hard-hitting subjects like Native Title and The Stolen Generations. The second part explores Indigenous Australia in each of the States and Territories as well as the Torres Strait detailing places to visit, festivals, national parks and other places of significance. As Stan Grant says in the foreward this is ‘an ancient book and a modern book…a book of song lines and trade routes.’
Perhaps, a useful companion to Welcome to Country is Nganga by Aunty Fay Muir and Sue Lawson. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander words and phrases such as Aunty, sorry business, deadly marngrook, dreamtime and songlines (which I used in the above paragraph) have become part of our everyday vocabulary but do we grasp their true meaning or know where this comes from. If you want to find out – then this book is for you, as the title Nganga means ‘to see and understand’.
Another recent release is Growing Up Aboriginal in Australia edited by Anita Heiss. An anthology with over forty contributors, some well known and high profile, others newly discovered, write about their lives and experiences. Designed to enlighten, inspire and educate about the lives of Aboriginal people in Australia today, this is an important and groundbreaking book.
As the weather gets colder, our minds turn to cooking and cookbooks. While we love pouring through the big name chefs’ books (new Ottolenghi book coming soon), sometimes you just want a great solid cookbook with recipes that you use time and time again. Here are some of our favourites.
In The Kitchen by Michele Curtis and Allan Campion. First issued 15 years ago, it is back with updated recipes in a lovely new reprint. This is The Bible of Home Cooking and that perfect present for a new cook, housewarming, wedding or really any occasion. A labour of love from these two Melbourne based foodies, this is sensible, tasty cooking at its best. Every recipe tried and true.
Another fab Melbourne culinary duo, Matt Wilkinson and Sharlee Gibb, have produced the lovely Mr & Mrs Wilkinson’s How It Is At Home which is full of tasty family style recipes with practical sections on filling the lunchbox, one pot wonders, cooking during the week and last-minute dinners as well as a chapter all about pies (delicious) and the ever exciting dinners for when the kids are away! We have limited signed copies in store.
Hetty McKinnon is a superstar in our house. I make recipes from her two books Community and Neighbourhood at least once a week. These books are all about salads that can be eaten as the main meal and they are all winners. A vegetarian herself, Hetty, has singlehandedly increased the vegetable quotient in our house including the kids. Each recipe is substantial so there are lots of tasty leftovers to go in lunchboxes the next day. My absolute favourite is Chargrilled Broccoli with Chickpeas, Almonds, Lemon and Chilli and I’m not even that fond of broccoli generally – that’s how good they are. There is a new Hetty book coming out later this year.
And the last cookbook actually came as a recommendation from a customer, who bought is after she had borrowed it out three times at the library. Suitable for anyone who owns a Thermomix or other thermo device, Olivia Andrew’s Healthy Thermo Cooking for Busy Families is great with Every Day Basics, Super Soups, Weeknight Wonders, Slower Dinners and Sweet Somethings. I’ve already cooked three recipes from it and a couple are now going to be added to the weekly dinner roster and one, Greek Style Lamb with Lemon, Dill and Feta, got praise from even the fussier eaters in the family.
Benedict Cumberbatch, better known as Dr Strange and Sherlock Holmes, was asked in an interview once what would be his dream character to play, to which he replied Patrick Melrose. Two years later he’s made the series. Patrick Melrose is the main character of Edward St Aubyn’s unforgettable series, beginning with Never Mind, and ending with five books later with At Last. Mother’s Milk, the fourth, was short-listed for The Booker Prize and is my favourite. We currently have all five books in a two volume format.
Loosely based on St Aubyn’s own life, these books are acclaimed for their caustic wit, viciousness and intensity. A quick warning that at times the books deal in unflinching terms with drug taking and child abuse (both of which St Aubyn himself experienced) while at the same time skewering fancy upper class parties with Princess Margaret. That may sound like an impossible mix but St Aubyn does it effortlessly in some of the most cutting prose you are likely to read. Once read, they are not easily forgotten and definitely worth investigating before watching the TV series.
With Eurovision over for another year, why not take a trip to another country while not leaving your armchair. First lets head to one of Eurovision’s Big Five, France with the award winning French author Pierre Lemaitre. Primarily known for his crime novels, Lemaitre has won the Prix Goncourt, France most prestigious literary award for The Great Swindle. My favourite books of his are the crime trilogy – Irene, Alex and Camille featuring the Commandant Camille Verhoeven, a man who’s mind is as sharp as his stature is short (four feet eleven). Great characters and fabulous twists and turns, this series has picked up two International Dagger Awards from the Crime Writers Association.
Next we head to beautiful Italy with Elena Ferrante‘s Neopolitan Novels. A publishing sensation around the world, the series is seen as a modern masterpiece. Beginning with My Brilliant Friend follows Elena and Lila growing up together in a poor neighbourhood of Naples and is a honest portrait of a longstanding friendship between two girls becoming women. The Australian reviewed it best as ‘fierce, unsentimental glimpses at the way a woman is constantly under threat, her identity submerged in marriage, eclipsed by motherhood, mythologised by desire’.
And last heading to Japan with Haruki Murakami, not a country that’s in Eurovision but seeing Australia is, anything is possible and Haruki used to run a jazz club! An intriguing author, his books are worth picking up for the titles alone. His first novel Norwegian Wood was a massive success and he has gone on to win prizes all around the world for such books as The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle and Kafka on the Shore. His works have been translated into fifty languages and have sold in the millions.
It is always great when one of your favourite authors comes out with a new book. Julia Donaldson is a superstar of the rhyming book world with classics such as The Gruffalo, Stick Man among others. The Detective Dog is another great addition for the library. Detective Dog Nell shares her house with six-year-old Peter, ‘a very nice child but he could have been neater’. Will the two of them be able to find all the missing books from the school?
Jon Klassen has produced fabulous books such as his hilarious Hat series, here he is teaming up again with Mac Barnett in the second of their series on Shapes. This is the story of Square who is discovering that sometimes it is hard to make something as perfect as Square’s friend Circle.
And as exciting as it is to see new books, its also lovely to see old friends. A beautiful 40th Anniversary edition of the masterpiece Each Peach Pear Plum by Janet and Allan Ahlberg. Perfection in a book and this comes with a Limited Edition Print and a letter from Allan Ahlberg.