We've compiled some of our favourite reading recommendations for the holiday period, spanning fiction, non-fiction, children's and YA.
This year, it's hard to know whether we'll all want to be thinking hard about what is going on in the world, or whether we will need some beautiful literary distraction. The list of books below deals with both possibilities, whilst some have simply provided the most excellent reading moments of the year for us at Sydney Writers' Festival.
We hope you will go and buy some of these for yourself or as gifts from our friends at Gleebooks, or from your local independent bookshop.
Summer Reading List 2022
Recommendations from Ann Mossop, Artistic Director
Horse – Geraldine Brooks
If superb storytelling that takes you into other worlds is what you are looking for in summer, Horse is a great place to start. As someone who has never understood the Australian obsession with racing, I did not expect to be so enthralled by a book that is built with loving detail around a famous horse. But the unfolding of history, the portraits of the people around the horse, and all of the artefacts of its fame and beauty that have come into the present create a rich and satisfying read that will take you deep into the past, but also reaches into the here and now.
The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida – Shehan Karunatilaka
I know that no-one in the SWF community really needs a recommendation to read the book that has just won the Booker Prize, but I want to make sure, that if, like me, your summer reading sometimes turns in an escapist direction, you don’t miss out on something extraordinary. For those of us who already love Michael Ondaatje, Michelle de Kretser and the other brilliant writers of the Sri Lankan diaspora, Shehan Karunatilaka’s unique voice is a revelation, a new lens on the stories of Sri Lanka. Given that this big, bold book starts with a dead hero, its darkness is no surprise, but its humour is a gift.
All That's Left Unsaid – Tracey Lien
A first novel from Australian journalist Tracey Lien, this book is a brilliant piece of storytelling that will grip you from start to finish. Set in Cabramatta in the 1990s, it is the story of a tragedy that is gradually unravelled and understood by the protagonist, Ky. In the process of finding out what happened to her brother, she shows us the world she grew up in, and what it reflects about Australia. The book is compelling and powerful – a wonderful example of the power of fiction to bring important realities to life at a human scale.
Reasons Not to Worry – Brigid Delaney
When this book was published earlier this year, I pounced on it, as I had been intrigued by what the collision of journalistic livewire Brigid Delaney with the ancient philosophers would produce. It has turned out to be incredibly satisfying, whether you are reading for pleasure and interest, for answers to the big questions or for help navigating the day to day. I have already given several copies as gifts. What is not to love about a book that has epigraphs from both Oscar Wilde and Marcus Aurelius?
Recommendations from Lauren Bennett, Festival Producer
First Nations Food Companion – Damien Coulthard & Rebecca Sullivan
Summer is a time for big books and a time for cooking and eating, and this book has satisfying heft and substance as well as the beautiful cover and illustrations we have come to expect of the best food books. There is tough competition in this space from Karen Martini’s Cook and Matthew Evans’ The Real Food Companion, but for me, this book feels like the missing piece of a culinary education. It is about food with heart, soul and a sense of place, and I certainly plan to spend more time with it in the kitchen over the holidays.
Tell Me Again: A Memoir – Amy Thunig
You may not expect a debut memoir from an academic to be brimming with heart, but Tell Me Again is just that. Through the account of her younger years, Amy Thunig navigates many of Australia’s most challenging systemic and social issues in a balancing act of honest vulnerability and fierce intelligence. With an ability to hold multitudes in every moment, Amy humanises experiences – addiction, incarceration, poverty, racism and more – making for a book that will stay with you long after the summer.
Recommendations from Nathan Luff, Manager of Children's & YA Programs
My Strange Shrinking Parents – Zeno Sworder
(Junior fiction, ages 6+)
It wasn’t until I had a kid (one kid) that I truly appreciated the effort and sacrifices my parents made for me and my brothers (five monsters). This beautiful new picture book and fable encourages kids to appreciate the sacrifice while it’s happening. It draws on the experience of Zeno Sworder’s mother, who moved from China to Australia with the hope of giving her young family a better life. In the story, the parents sacrifice centimetres of their height to pay for food, schooling, etc, and as you would expect, they dwindle in size over time. Perfect for school-aged children, encouraging a less egocentric view of the world.
A Girl Called Corpse – Reece Carter
(Middle fiction, ages 10+)
The cause of an international bidding war, this debut middle grade novel is great, ghoulish fun. It has (deservedly) been likened to the works of Neil Gaiman and Tim Burton. There are compelling characters to meet and excellent world building that promises more tales to come... Corpse has a body of wax, seaweed for hair and abalone shells for eyes. She was once a girl but now she is a lonely ghost with no memory of her past life. In this tale, there are witches to deal with, mysteries to uncover and friendships to be made.
Unnecessary Drama – Nina Kenwood
(Young adult fiction)
I’m a sucker for a good rom-com, I’m not going to lie, and this is a great rom-com! It’s laugh out loud funny but also sweetly romantic. More and more YA stories are being set post-high school in that awkward period of transition from dependent teenager to fully-fledged adult (at 40+ I’m still waiting for this transition to complete). This is Brooke’s story. She deals with constant anxiety but now she must face the added challenge of starting university and moving into a share house with her school friend-turned-enemy, Jesse. Can she follow the share-house rules and avoid any unnecessary drama?
🔊 In need of something to listen to over the holidays? Sydney Writers' Festival podcasts are available on all major podcast platforms.