Best Australian books

 A_Fortunate_LifeA FORTUNATE LIFE,  A.B. Facey

A Fortunate Life is an autobiography by Albert Facey, published in 1981, nine months before his death. It chronicles his early life in Western Australia, his experiences as a private during the Gallipoli campaign of World War I, and his return to civilian life after the war. It also documents his extraordinary life of hardship, loss, friendship and love.

During the initial days of its publication, Albert Facey became a nationwide celebrity. Despite his renowned life, Facey considered his life to be simple and “had no idea what all the fuss was about”. When asked on an interview, where the name of the book originated. He replied, “I called it ‘A Fortunate Life’ because I truly believe that is what I had”.

After its great reception it has become a classic piece of Australian literature and is one of Australia’s most beloved books. Since its publication in 1981 it has become a primary account of the Australian experience during World War I.
Buy paperback from Penguin books ISBN-13: 978-0140081671


book cover ga;;o[p;oGALLIPOLI,  Alan Moorehead

When Turkey unexpectedly sided with Germany in World War I, Winston Churchill, as Sea Lord for the British, conceived a plan: smash through the Dardanelles, reopen the Straits to Russia, and immobilize the Turks.

On the night of March 18, 1915, this plan nearly succeeded — the Turks were virtually beaten. But poor communication left the Allies in the dark, allowing the Turks to prevail and the Allies to suffer a crushing quarter-million casualties.

A vivid chronicle of adventure, suspense, agony, and heroism, Gallipoli brings fully to life the tragic waste in human life, the physical horror, and the sheer heartbreaking folly of fighting for impossible objectives with inadequate means on unknown, unmapped terrain.
Buy Paperback from Dymocks



  Alan Marshall was an Australian writer, story teller and social documenter. His best known book, I Can Jump Puddles (1955) is the first of a three-part autobiography. The other two books are This is the Grass (1962) and In Mine Own Heart (1963).

When Alan Marshall was six years old he contracted polio leaving him with a physical disability that grew worse as he grew older. From an early age, he resolved to be a writer, and in I Can Jump Puddles he demonstrated an almost total recall of his childhood in Noorat. The characters and places of his book are thinly disguised from real life: Mount Turalla is Mount Noorat, Lake Turalla is Lake Keilambete.

Alan Marshall wrote numerous short stories, mainly set in the bush. He also wrote newspaper columns and magazine articles. He travelled widely in Australia and overseas. He also collected and published Indigenous Australian stories and legends.


170px-CarpentariaCoverCARPENBTARIA,  Alexis Wright

The novel tells the interconnected stories of several inhabitants of the fictional town of Desperance, situated on the Gulf of Carpentaria in northwest Queensland. There, the Aboriginal people of the Pricklebush clan are engaged in a number of argumentative conflicts with various enemies in the community, including the white inhabitants of Desperance, the local law enforcement and government officials, and a large multinational mining operation that has been established on their traditional sacred land.

The narrative chronicles the interpersonal relationships shared between three men embroiled in these disputes: the wise, pragmatic, and blunt Normal Phantom; the nomadic, overzealous shamanic practitioner of Aboriginal traditional religion, Mozzie Fishman; and Norm’s son, Will Phantom, who deserted his father’s house to undertake a cross-country spiritual journey with Fishman, but who has now returned home with something of Fishman’s character in him.



Andrew Mcmillan

This is a fascinating account of black-white encounters in the Northern Territory, on Groote Eylandt and the nearby mainland, from the beginning.

Andrew McMillan has lived in the Territory since 1988 and through Aboriginal friends has learnt about a region little known to outsiders. Drawing on his own first-hand experiences and numerous historical sources, this story of contact covers the Indonesian trepang fishermen of the past, the incursions by pearlers, prospectors, cattlemen and punitive expeditions early in the twentieth century, the impact of missionaries, the killing of Japanese fishermen in the 1930s, the flying boat bases of World War II, and the rise of mining, land rights and the land councils.

Despite these incursions, the Aboriginal inhabitants of east Arnhem Land have been less affected by white society than those in most other parts of Australia. This is a moving and exciting story of warfare, loss, social and cultural struggle, and renewal.


Praise book coverPRAISE,  Andrew Mcgahan

In 1991 McGahan won the The Australian/Vogel Literary Award for unpublished novels with Praise — a semi-autobiographical account of a of a doomed, drug and alcohol-fuelled relationship. It became an Australian bestseller, and is often credited with launching the short-lived Grunge Lit or Dirty Realism movement – terminology that McGahan himself (along with most of the writers to whom it was applied) rejected.

“Andrew McGahan’s prize-winning Praise is a stunningly frank and often darkly humorous novel about being young in Australia. About living in a world where drugs and alcohol dominate, where sex scalds and soothes, where Social Security is easier to get than a job. Where survival means taking nothing and no one too seriously.


all that I am, fiction

ALL THAT I AM,  Anna Funder

  When Hitler comes to power in 1933, a tight-knit group of friends and lovers become hunted outlaws overnight. United in their resistance to the madness and tyranny of Nazism, they flee the country. Dora, passionate and fearless; her lover, the great playwright Ernst Toller; her younger cousin Ruth and Ruth’s husband Hans find refuge in London. Here they take awe-inspiring risks in order to continue their work in secret. But England is not the safe-haven they think it is, and a single, chilling act of betrayal will tear them apart.

Some seventy years later, Ruth is living out her days is Sydney, making an uneasy peace with the ghosts of her past, and a part of history that has all but been forgotten.


cover on book


  In 1975 Anne Summers set out to describe the way in which Australia’s history and culture had limited women’s participation in our own society. The result was a devastating and totally original view of Australia that had a profound effect on a generation of women, a book that stands beside the best of feminist literature and Australian history.

Two decades after Damned Whores and God’s Police was first published, Anne Summers has returned to her classic study, adding two substantial new chapters to the core of her book. Here she assesses what we have achieved and takes an impassioned and heartfelt look at the modern women’s movement. In telling the story of the creation of that movement, Anne Summers provides a call to action for the generation born since Damned Whores and God’s Police first appeared.


Barry OakleyTHE CRAZIPLANE,  Barry Okley

The novel set in Melbourne, centres on the tangled relationship between the middle-aged Frank Minogue, once Australia’s greatest living playwright, and a young Sydney journalist. Michael is an aspiring young writer, commissioned to interview Minogue. After a day and night of boozing and verbal brawling amongst Melbourne’s bohemian set,
Michael and Minogue act out the last part of Minogue’s new play in an effort to find an appropriate ending.

Michael accepts the task of writing a biography of Minogue after he meets Minogue’s attractive wife, Kate. From then on, his life becomes intertwined with that of the playwright and the people who surround him — his wife, son, father, ex-wife, mistress and friends. The results are both comic and disastrous.

A witty exploration of the city’s pub and theatre life of the 1980s, the novel exploits the traditional Melbourne — Sydney rivalry. Oakley’s gifts for satire and for evoking the absurd are seen at their best in his short stories. Frequently using the epistolary form, he interprets various experiences of failure and isolation – discarded husbands, restive priests, failed writers, jaded public servants, tired academics, bored housewives; immediate, ironic, witty and often hilariously comic, they have an underlying seriousness that seems to regard failure as the universal price of being human.



Banjo PatersonThere are a number of different collections of Banjo Paterson’s verse available as eBooks.

A.B. ‘Banjo’ Paterson was the most published of the bush poets whose writing ranged across a love of the outback, bush horse racing, droving, the Boer War and WW1 experience, and social commentary. His best known work ‘Waltzing Matilda’ came from the experiences of the ‘Shearers Strike’. The press of the time tended to pitch Banjo as an adversary of Henry Lawson and others, including a ‘Battle of the Poets’ based on ‘Town’ vs. ‘Outback’.

This collection includes:

The Man from Snowy River, Old Pardon, the Son of Reprieve, Clancy of the Overflow, Conroy’s Gap, Our New Horse, An Idyll of Dandaloo, The Geebung Polo Club, The Travelling Post Office, Saltbush Bill, A Mountain Station, Been There Before, The Man Who Was Away, The Man from Ironbark, The Open Steeplechase, The Amateur Rider, On Kiley’s Run Frying Pan’s Theology, and others.

Australia’s ‘bush poets’ provide a rich, entertaining history of the development from settlement to nationhood for the ‘Lucky Country’. Unlike the classic English poets such as Wordsworth, Keats and Shelley, Australia’s bush poets are largely drawn from the working class of the new society, telling their tales as entertainment.
Hugely popular during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries these bards are little known outside Australia.


landtakersLANDTAKERS,  Brian Penton

Landtakers was published in 1934 as the first of a projected trilogy, but was followed only by Inheritors (1936).

Derek Cabell, arriving in Australia in 1842 intending to make his fortune and return quickly to England. Cabell takes a job as an overseer on Murrumburra station, 40 miles from the penal settlement of Moreton Bay. The convict experience is important in Landtakers because its legacy of conflict and hatred characterises Cabell’s experience of pioneering life and most of his personal relationships.

At Murrumburra, Cabell is bullied by the brutal lessee Bob McGovern, but during a flood manages to engineer his escape and that of the convict Joe Gurney. Together they overland a mob of cattle and sheep into the hinterland of Queensland where, threatened by Aborigines whom Cabell massacres and by a succession of natural and manmade hazards: fire, flood, drought, loneliness and threats to his security by later settlers, he struggles over the next seventeen years to establish himself as a squatter. Recovering from a nightmarish journey in which he gets lost while taking his wool clip down to Brisbane, Cabell encounters Emma Surface, an ex-convict, whose degraded past he does not discover until after their marriage.

Buy ePub from Kobo


I came to say goodbyeI CAME TO SAY GOODBYE,  Caroline Overington


   Caroline Overington’s bestseller is a heart-breaking, utterly compelling novel of a family ripped apart. It was four o’clock in the morning. A young woman pushed through the hospital doors. Staff would later say they thought the woman was a new mother, returning to her child – and in a way, she was. She walked into the nursery, where a baby girl lay sleeping. The infant didn’t wake when the woman placed her gently in the shopping bag she had brought with her. There is CCTV footage of what happened next, and most Australians would have seen it, either on the internet or the news. The woman walked out to the car park, towards an old Corolla. For a moment, she held the child gently against her breast and, with her eyes closed, she smelled her. She then clipped the infant into the car, got in and drove off. That is where the footage ends. It isn’t where the story ends, however. It’s not even where the story starts.


botany bayBOTANY BAY,  Charles Nordhoff & James Norman Hall


“Botany Bay” concerns the colonization of Australia, but what is different about this “pilgrimage” is the type of immigrants that undertook the effort; hardly the same kind that we read about in American History. When one thinks of colonization, an image comes to mind of people seeking a better life of their own volition, such as those who came across on the Mayflower or who moved West on covered wagon trains.

These newcomers were not going there because they wanted to; they were going because England had decided the best way to clean out Newgate Prison was to send the prisoners to the new land of Australia that was badly in need of population. A motley crew they were – and while some were simply petty criminals or merely debtors that had been victimized by England’s strict financial code of ethics, there were also men convicted of more serious crimes, thieves, murderers, and the rest of a population that had existed on the fringes of society through no fault of their own.


man who loved childrenTHE MAN WHO LOVED CHILDREN, Christina Stead


  The Man Who Loved Children is a 1940 novel by Australian writer Christina Stead. It wasn’t until a reissue edition in 1965, with an introduction by poet Randall Jarrell, that it found widespread critical acclaim and popularity. Time magazine included the novel in its TIME 100 Best English-language Novels from 1923 to 2005. The novel has been championed by novelists Jonathan Franzen and Angela Carter. Carter believed Stead’s other novels Cotters England, and A Little Tea, A Little Chat ,and For Love Alone to be as good, if not better than The Man Who Loved Children.

The novel tells the story of a highly dysfunctional family, the Pollits. The story centers on the father Sam, an idealistic buffoon who can’t provide for his family, the situation made worse by the mother Henny’s snobbish inability to budget for the household. Stead details the parents’ marital battles and the various accounts of the blended family’s affections and alliances. The character Sam is largely based on Stead’s own father, marine biologist David Stead. The Man Who Loved Children was originally set in Sydney but the setting was altered to suit an American audience — somewhat unconvincingly due to linguistic nuances. Unsparing and penetrating, Stead reveals, among other things, the danger of unchecked sentimentality in relationships and in political thought.



The Thorn Birds,  Colleen McCulloughThorn_Birds_bookcover


The epic begins with Meghann “Meggie” Cleary, a four-year-old girl living in New Zealand in the early twentieth century, the only daughter of Paddy, an Irish farm labourer, and Fee, his harassed but aristocratic wife. Although Meggie is a beautiful child with curly red-gold hair, she receives little coddling and must struggle to hold her own against her numerous older brothers. Of these brothers, her favourite is the eldest, Frank, a rebellious young man who is unwillingly preparing himself for the blacksmith’s trade. He is much shorter than his brothers, but very strong; also, unlike the other Clearys, he has black hair and eyes.

Paddy is poor, but has a wealthy sister, Mary Carson, who lives in Australia on an enormous sheep station called Drogheda. One day, Paddy receives a letter from Mary offering him a job on her estate. He accepts, and the whole family moves to the Outback.

Here Meggie meets Ralph de Bricassart, a young, capable, and ambitious priest who, as punishment for insulting a bishop, has been relegated to a remote parish in the town of Gillanbone, near Drogheda. Ralph has befriended Mary, hoping a hefty enough bequest from her to the Catholic Church might liberate him from his exile. Ralph is strikingly handsome; “a beautiful man”; and Mary, who does not bother to conceal her desire for him, often goes to great lengths to see if he can be induced to break his vows. Ralph blandly shrugs off these attentions and continues his visits. Meanwhile, he cares for all the Clearys and soon learns to cherish beautiful but forlorn little Meggie. Meggie, in return, makes Ralph the centre of her life.


UNREliable memoirsUNRELIABLE MEMOIRS,  Clive James


Before James Frey famously fabricated his memoir, Clive James wrote a refreshingly candid book that made no claims to be accurate, precise, or entirely truthful, only to entertain. In an exercise of literary exorcism, James set out to put his childhood in Australia behind him by rendering it as part novel, part memoir.

Now, nearly thirty years after it first came out in England, Unreliable Memoirs is again available to readers and sure to attract a whole new generation that has, through his essays and poetry, come to love James’s inimitable voice.


Inside Mystic LodgeINSIDE MYSTIC LODGE, Marcus Clark

“When I was twelve years old, I almost killed my sister. I sometimes thought it might have been better if I had, instead I turned her into a paraplegic. We were down at the creek, jumping in and out of the water. I told her I would race her to the other side of the creek from the big tree. I pretended to do a running dive, but stopped at the last second; she didn’t. Cheryl dived into the shallow water, the sound of my laughter in her ears, and came up a paraplegic.”

Kent Alpine has a debt to repay to his sister. His life’s mission is to find a way to help her walk again. At first he studies medicine, but realising he is not as gifted as other students, he turns to the thing he excels in: psychic healing. He joins a mysterious group working to improve the health of children who have terminal illnesses. In the meantime, his fiancee runs off with a more worldly acquaintance. More . . .

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