Jennifer Byrne's guide to the Festival

Having presented ABC TV's The Book Club for a decade, beloved journalist and bibliophile Jennifer Byrne has some valued insight on all things literary. She spoke to us about her top picks for this year's Festival. (And if you want to catch her in the interviewer's seat, see her in conversation with Jennifer Egan and Emily Wilson). 

Christos Tsiolkas on Patrick White

The talented, big-brained Christos Tsiolkas couldn’t have a dull thought and I’m dead keen to hear his account of his year immersed in the writings of Australia’s grandest old man of letters, Patrick White. Not first on everyone’s reading list these days, let’s be honest, but Christos offers us the opportunity to rediscover the imaginative power of Australia’s first Nobel Laureate, and what his writing means to us now.

Why We Read

After 'hello', it’s about the first thing passionate readers say to each other: 'what are you reading, and why?' Opening a universe of possibilities and fresh paths. I’m bringing an open mind, pen and paper to hear this crack panel – including the brilliant Dominican-born Junot Díaz, who won the Pulitzer with his first novel  share their thoughts on the way literature changes lives.

On the Record: Historical Fiction

Now that’s a line-up. Star American author Jennifer Egan and the hugely-lauded Min Jin Lee, together to discuss what it takes to write resonant historical fiction. Both come to the festival on the back of sweeping, acclaimed novels with families at their focus and I’m fascinated to learn how they found and researched their subjects, making what happened then seem utterly fresh now.

Sarah Ferguson: On Mother

We know she’s a great journalist. She was also a loving daughter, and when her mother Marjorie died suddenly – shockingly – alone in hospital last year, Sarah was moved to write about the woman who shaped and inspired her. Who had loved politics, moved to Nigeria after her marriage, and refused to go “home” to England for Sarah’s birth. Whose love was “the surest thing on earth that I have known”. I suspect this will be an extraordinary session, closely followed by ….

Emily Wilson: Translating The Odyssey

I know, I know. Sounds scary. A session on one of the west’s cultural landmarks, Homer’s Odyssey – written in ancient Greek, no less. But join me for this one because Emily Wilson is the first ever female to translate it and, yes, she does it differently. It’s a lean and galloping version and puts an intriguing new emphasis on women like Helen of Troy and Penelope, who were doing a lot more than spinning during Odysseus’ 10-year journey home.