With over 400 of the world's leading literary luminaries and public intellectuals coming together for the 2019 Sydney Writers' Festival — and just five short weeks to get reading — honing that bedside table of books is no mean feat. To make things a little easier, we're compiling some of our favourite picks, genre-by-genre.

This week, we get In Deep Lit with narrative non-fiction from some of the Festival's standout speakers. 


The Beekeeper of Sinjar, Dunya Mikhail 

In The Beekeeper of Sinjar, acclaimed poet and journalist Dunya Mikhail tells the harrowing stories of women from across Iraq who have managed to escape the clutches of ISIS. Since 2014, ISIS has been persecuting the Yazidi people, killing or enslaving those who won't convert to Islam. These women have lost their families and loved ones, along with everything they've ever known. Dunya weaves together the women's tales of endurance and near-impossible escape with the story of her own exile and her dreams for the future of Iraq.

“Anger at injustice and inequality is in many ways exactly like fuel. A necessary accelerant, it can drive — on some level must drive — noble and difficult crusades. But it is also combustible, explosive; its power can be unpredictable and can burn.”

Rebecca Traister, Good and Mad

Good and Mad: The Revolutionary Power of Women's Anger, Rebecca Traister 

Long before Pantsuit Nation, before the Women’s March, and before the #MeToo movement, women’s anger was not only politically catalytic – but politically problematic. The story of female fury and its cultural significance demonstrates the long history of bitter resentment that has enshrouded women’s slow rise to political power in America, as well as the ways that anger is received when it comes from women as opposed to when it comes from men. With eloquence and fervor, Rebecca Traister tracks the history of female anger as political fuel — from suffragettes marching on the White House to office workers vacating their buildings after Clarence Thomas was confirmed to the Supreme Court. She deconstructs society’s (and the media’s) condemnation of female emotion (notably, rage) and the impact of their resulting repercussions.

Dope Sick, Beth Macy

In Dope SickBeth Macy takes us into the epicenter of America’s twenty-plus year struggle with opioid addiction. From distressed small communities in Central Appalachia to wealthy suburbs; from disparate cities to once-idyllic farm towns; it’s a heartbreaking trajectory that illustrates how this national crisis has persisted for so long and become so firmly entrenched. From the introduction of OxyContin in 1996, Macy parses how America embraced a medical culture where over-treatment with painkillers became the norm, where the unemployed use painkillers both to numb the pain of joblessness and pay their bills, and privileged teens trade pills in cul-de-sacs, and even high school standouts fall prey to prostitution, jail, and death. 

"Though there are tens of thousands of murders a year in Mexico, it is not every day that state forces disappear forty-three students. What was it about that night that provoked such a crackdown? The most likely explanation … is that the students had unwittingly commandeered a bus carrying a load of heroin worth millions of dollars."

Anabel Hernández, A Massacre in Mexico

A Massacre in Mexico, Anabel Hernandez 

On September 26, 2014, a party of students from the Ayotzinapa Rural Teachers’ College were en route to a protest when intercepted by local police. A confrontation ensued. Come the morning, the students were nowhere to be found. The crime that had transpired and the resultant cover-up brought the profound depths of corruption in the Mexican government and police force – as well as the vulnerability of ordinary Mexicans  into stark relief. Investigative reporter Anabel Hernández reconstructs the terrible events of that night and its aftermath. Following the role of the various Mexican state agencies through the events in remarkable detail, A Massacre in Mexico shows with exacting precision precisely who is responsible for this monumental crime and who needs to be held accountable. 

The Library Book, Susan Orlean

After moving to Los Angeles, Susan Orlean became fascinated by a mysterious local crime that has gone unsolved since it was carried out on the morning of 29 April 1986: who set fire to the Los Angeles Public Library, ultimately destroying more than 400,000 books, and perhaps even more perplexing, why? With her characteristic humour, insight and compassion, Orlean uses this terrible event as a lens through which to tell the story of all libraries  their history, their meaning and their uncertain future as they adapt and redefine themselves in a digital world.