Explore the 2024 Program

Beyond the Bookshelf: Part 2

The latest literary news, analysis and writing

For the second year running, women have dominated the Booker International Prize shortlist. 2020 Festival guest Ellen van Neerven has been announced as the winner of the inaugural UQP Quentin Bryce Award for their poetry collection Throat. Ellen’s new piece ‘social distancing as an act of love’ is a powerful evocation of home, connection and isolation in the new everyday reality of COVID-19.

Excellent company can be found in new writing from 2020 Festival guests Bernardine Evaristo and Julia Baird. Kristen Roupenian, a 2019 Festival guest, offers a new short story, while George Saunders’ letter to his students is a warm and timely reminder of the importance of bearing witness (“...this is when the world needs our eyes and ears and minds.”). And writer Chris Bohjalian reflects on having just published a novel with a pandemic plotline, and reminds us that “history is a river in which we always are wading”.

You should have no trouble finding the perfect book for comfort and escapism, with recommendations coming thick and fast from the likes of editors and writers from the Books desk of The New York Times and novelists including Hilary Mantel, Mark Haddon and Marlon JamesThe Guardian’s vital selection of Australian books for the coronavirus lockdown includes titles from 2020 Festival guests Ellena Savage, Victor Steffensen, Ronnie Scott and more.

From Rachmaninov and dressmaking to painting tutorials and the importance of boredom, writers Anne Enright, Simon Armitage, Jeanette Winterson and others reveal how they’re surviving the corona crisis. The Academy of American Poets is asking readers to share poems of courage and solace with the hashtag #ShelterInPoems, and 37 TV writers imagine how some of our most beloved TV characters would navigate COVID-19.