Looking for ideas for what to read this summer? Here are a few recommendations from the SWF team…
Charis Holt, Programming Coordinator
Summer is my favourite time of year. Not only for the mangos, cherries and trips to the beach, but because it’s the time of year for indulgent reading. A time when I finally get to one of those books on my bedside table that I have been promising to read and, best of all, a time to re-read! This summer I cannot wait to start Henry James’s The Portrait of a Lady. I’ll also be dusting off the covers of my Harry Potter books to relive the magic of seven years at Hogwarts.
Jemma Birrell, Artistic Director
This summer along with ocean swims and lying in parks, why not try a short story collection or two. I think short stories are having a renaissance. Over the past few years there have been some incredibly exciting collections. The sly, dry stories of Lydia Davis, Australian writer Josephine Rowe (last Festival’s writer in residence) whose stories are still making waves around the world, the brilliant Lorrie Moore’sBark, which comes out this March, Etgar Keret (try absolutely anything of his, I particularly recommend The Nimrod Flipout or Suddenly a Knock at the Door), and the gobsmackingly thrilling George Saunders with Pastoralia and the more recentTenth of December, which has to be one of the most-loved and talked-about collections out in recent times.
Ben Strout, Executive Director
Friends gave me a copy of Bill Bryson’s One Summer: America 1927 as a gift and it’s a typically entertaining read. Bryson draws portraits of almost every popular (and unpopular) icon of the era—Babe Ruth, Charles Lindbergh, Henry Ford and Calvin Coolidge, to name a few—and laces their stories together over the course of one monumental summer in US history. Don’t get dissuaded by any questions over whether it’s a perfect history: Bryson captures your attention with the amazing confluence of big names doing big things. As it happens, it’s the summer my mother was born, so I’ve been keen to know more.
In terms of some good fiction, I am not supposed to talk about the book that’s moved me most in the past few months — an expansive novel that is at once devastating and uplifting, a boy’s own adventure and yet a journey of everyman. We’re hoping the author will come to the Festival next May and then you’ll all be introduced to another great book to read. Until then, in our house we’ve all loved Hannah Kent’s beautifully atmospheric Burial Rites.
Ainslie Lenehan, Head of Marketing
James Wood (The New Yorker), one of the world’s most admired literary critics, came to the Festival this May. I saw his great conversation ‘Why Criticism Matters’ with Susan Wyndham, which you can watch here if you like. When I heard about his ‘five page rave’ of praise for Rachel Kusher’s novel The Flamethrowers I was intrigued and had to find out more about this novel. Now that I have, The Flamethrowers is on top of my to-read list for these holidays.
The novel is narrated by motorbike riding Reno, a young woman out of art school, hoping to be an artist and looking for life experience. Apparently The Flamethrowers is an exploration of the feminine mystique, the fake, the terrorist, which appeals to me. It is a big novel and moves from the first world war to the New York art scene in the 70s.
Natasha Younger, Administrator
I just finished reading the first Cemetery of Forgotten Books book ‘The Shadow of the Wind’ by Carlos Ruiz Zafon…once I was pulled into the tale I was reading as I walked to and from the ferry, as I ate lunch, as soon as I got home and every spare moment that I could in order connect with the characters and that world.
My summer reading continues with the next two books from the Cemetery of Forgotten Books The Angel’s Game and The Prisoner of Heaven, I am so looking forward to more time with the Sempere’s and musing on life and time and discovering the puzzle of the story.
Ashlea Wallington, Partnership Manager
This Christmas I am on a mission to scour every bookshop in Sydney and Melbourne to find The Club Dumas by Arturo Perez-Reverte, apparently perfect for those who loved The Shadow of the Wind. I’ll also be burying my head intoLongbourn. I loved the Austen event at this year’s Festival and can’t wait to read the perspective of the maid in Pride and Prejudice as told by Jo Baker. The other book on my reading list is A House Somewhere, a compilation of essays by prominent authors and travel writers about setting up a home abroad. It’s the best way to travel the world without leaving your chair.