Power-through: Reading list

With so many events on the bill, we thought we’d make your pre-Festival reading easier. Cue our power-through reading list. Read on to decide which books you want to read, and make the most of your Festival experience. 

The Trauma Cleaner

This book was written by Sarah Krasnostein

I found this book on the Festival shelves after I’d noticed staff praise its author for this, her first book, every chance they get.

What struck me most about the book was Sandra Pankhurst’s journey to not only survive painfully traumatic events, but also positively impact the lives of others. 

This book reminded me of how lucky I am to have found work for an organisation where sharing stories is not only valued but imbedded in everything we do.  

It’s good for a book club read. Members will no doubt thank you for introducing them to two extraordinary women – writer Sarah Krasnostein and her compelling subject, Sandra Pankhurst. 

If I could ask the author one question, I’d want to know more about the impact that observing Sandra undertaking her trauma cleaning work, has had on her personally and professionally. 

An American Marriage

This book was written by Tayari Jones

I found this book when I was given a proof by a friend in publishing. She’s my early proof dealer.

What struck me most about this book was how timely it felt.

This book reminded me of how thrilled I am that Jones will be at Sydney Writers’ Festival this year and to reread her backlist.

It’s good for people who like a sobering dose of reality with their fiction.

If I could ask the author a question, I’d want to know whether Jones set out to write such an urgent, political book.

Ghosts of the Tsunami

This book was written by Richard Lloyd Parry

I found this book after reading Richard Lloyd Parry’s long read for The Guardian, ‘The School beneath the wave: the unimaginable tragedy of Japan’s tsunami’. 

What struck me most about this book was the countless number of ways in which people respond in the face and aftermath of natural disasters.  

This book reminded me of the book I read prior to it, The Trauma Cleaner, and how both authors explore real-life examples of the power of resilience in response to extreme hardship. 

It’s good to use as an entry point into a conversation about the hugely destructive impact of environmental disasters.  

If I could ask the author one question, I’d want to know why he thinks people are so often reluctant to believe that they will ever be directly affected by a natural disaster (even in a country like Japan, known for its powerful earthquakes). 

My Cat Yugoslavia

This book was written by Pajtim Statovci

I found this book when I was reading an issue of The New Yorker, where it was called “strange and exquisite” by the reviewer.

What struck me most about this book was the elegant and sassy line-drawn cat in a suit on the cover.

This book reminded me of nothing I’ve ever read before. It beautifully and devastatingly articulates experience of immigration and exile, in two parallel narratives: one is a magic realist story of a young man’s relationship with an anti-immigrant, homophobic, anthropomorphic talking cat called Yugoslavia, whom he meets at a gay club; the other is a realist tale of an Albanian mother who flees to Finland with her family in the 1980s. 

It’s good for reading over a quiet weekend at home, when you have the time to become fully absorbed in the strange and affecting twin narratives.

If I could ask the author one question, I’d want to know what plans he has for a follow-up novel, and when I’ll be able to read it.



This book was written by Emma Glass

I found this book when it was very enthusiastically pushed into my hands by Emma’s publishers.

What struck me most about this book was how visceral it is. It’s not for the squeamish, but there’s an incredible lyricism to Emma’s prose.

This book reminded me of Eimear McBride’s A Girl is a Half-formed Thing.

It’s good for a deliberately uncomfortable reading experience, that will reaffirm the extraordinary power of literature.

If I could ask the author one question, I’d want to know why she abandoned the manuscript for almost a decade, and what made her return to it.

My Absolute Darling

This book was written by Gabriel Tallent

I found this book when I looked up the 2017 BookExpo Book Editor’s Buzz Books selection, which names the six titles that are expected to be the biggest books of the year. Of that excellent list, this was the book that really piqued my interest.

What struck me most about this book was how brutal the story is, but how completely addictive a read it is despite that.

This book reminded me of To Kill A Mockingbird for its plucky heroine, who’s reminiscent of Scout Finch, and A Little Life for the trauma. 

It’s good for a completely immersive reading experience. This book isn’t for everyone, but if it is for you, you’re going to want to whip through it in a day. 

If I could ask the author one question, I’d want to know how he plans to follow up such a hugely-hyped debut, and whether he thinks there’s a chance he’ll manage to get another Stephen King endorsement for his next book.

Call Me by Your Name

This book was written by André Aciman

I found this book when I was trawling through the Sydney Writers' Festival bookshelf looking for something to read over a long weekend in Tasmania. 

What struck me most about this book was how well it captures the indifference of time and the fierceness of desire, with prose so poetic it makes you wonder why you never knew that words could be arranged so beautifully.

This book reminded me of how far away my life is from an Italian villa overlooking the ocean (one of two reasons you will ugly-cry throughout this book).

It’s good for a cathartic release: it infiltrates your psyche to locate emotions and memories you didn’t even know existed (the other reason).

If I could ask the author one question, I’d want to know if he can eat peaches as innocently as he did before writing the book?