Booksellers’ Picks: The Best of (the Rest of) 2012

Christmas is here! Yes, we know it’s October … but in bookselling, October marks the beginning of the Christmas period, with publishers releasing their under-the-tree hopefuls onto the shelves. It’s when the big-name authors (like Salman Rushdie, to name just one) bring out their books.

We spoke to some Australian booksellers to ask them which books they’re most looking forward to - and recommending - this summer.

Get out your pens and make a list. There’s plenty of time to check it twice before you do your Christmas shopping …

Embiggen Books
Melbourne, Victoria
Chosen by Warren Bonett

One that has just come out I have yet to start, is Salman Rushdie’s Joseph Anton. The title of this memoir is the alias Rushdie took on when he went into hiding many years ago as a result of the fatwa placed upon him. This is his account of the time he and his family lived under this threat, and, in my sneak peek inside, it also looks to be a strong defense of the ideas behind free speech.

In a similar vein, my next pick is Mullahs Without Mercy by Geoffrey Robertson QC who actually defended Salman Rushdie years earlier against a prosecution for the ancient crime of blasphemous libel. This latest book by Robertson is on the scramble for nuclear weapons by Iran and its ruling Mullahs, which he argues is contrary to international human rights law. The silver lining, if there is one, is that this action by Iran, may force the international community to develop stronger responses to countries that contravene these laws.

Next comes Australia’s answer to Alain De Botton, Damon Young with his latest, Philosophy in the Garden. I’ve been a fan of Damon’s writing on ABC’s The Drum for some time now, and his last book Distraction was excellent. His work sits somewhere in the space between De Botton and A.C. Grayling, being deeper than the former and more accessible than the latter.

Readings Books Music and Film
State Library of Victoria
Chosen by Tom Hoskins

I’m very much looking forward to Chris Ware’s book (box!) Building Stories. What a fantastic way to re-establish the immediacy and vibrancy of print as an artefact and medium and not just a conduit of information.

Also Pete Townshend’s Who I Am, to be read immediately after I finish Neil Young’s Waging Heavy Peace, and Barney Hoskyns’ new Led Zepplin bio Trampled Under Foot!

Yeah, I’m partial to a good rock story …

The Sun Bookshop
Yarraville, Victoria
Chosen by Deb Force, Sarina Gale and Ellen Spalding

I recommend The End of Your Life Bookclub by Will Schwalbe, a remarkable memoir about a mother and son and their love of books and reading. When Will Schwalbe’s mother is diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, he decides to start a book club with only her. What unfolds is a celebration of literature, relationships, family and life. Heart-warming, inspiring and beautifully written. One I will be hand-selling for sure.

Sarina Gale

My 22-year-old son, who has not read a book since he was 17, is racing through Life after Death by Damien Echols, the extraordinary memoir of a young man who spent 18 years on Death Row for a crime he has since been exonerated of. Damien Echols is one of the West Memphis Three. Well written, tragic and absorbing.

And I loved Flight Behaviour, the latest novel from Barbara Kingsolver. It’s the story of a woman dissatisfied with her small farming life, who married too young , too poor, too unchallenged. Her life is changed by a strange phenomena of migrating butterflies and a scientific team who come to study them.

Deb Force

I’ll be coaxing customers in the direction of Lily Brett’s new novel, Lola Bensky. It’s a beautiful combo of self-deprecating humour, late 60s rock gossip and sharp moments of terror, as we get flipped back to Lola’s parents’ Holocaust experience. Lola’s blend of innocence and worldliness makes her so appealing. Her meandering conversation with the fascinating Jimi Hendrix character is a highlight.

Ellen Spalding

Avid Reader
Brisbane, Queensland
Chosen by Chris Currie

The Queen of Katwe by Tim Carruthers is the true story of a young girl’s extraordinary rise from the slums of Uganda to become one of the best chess players in the world. I’m a sucker for chess books at the best of times, but was recently captivated by Katherine Boo’s Behind the Beautiful Forevers, with which this book shares much of its humanity and detail.

I desperately want to read Both Flesh and Not by David Foster Wallace (Penguin, November), a collection of his best non-fiction of David Foster Wallace, not only because I know it will be brilliant, but also because I know Ronnie Scott already has a copy.

A successor to Rufus Butler Seder’s Scanmation books, Dan Kainen’s Safari takes lenticular technology to the next level. Along with information about eight different animals, you are able to watch full-colour Photicular images of each animal move across the page. It’s hard to describe, but you have to see it.

Avenue Bookstore
Albert Park, Victoria
Chosen by Kris Humphries

We can’t wait to get our hands on a copy of Flight Behaviour, set in the Appalachian mountains by the author of the very successful The Poisonwood Bible, Barbara Kingsolver.

I greatly enjoyed a proof of The Happiness Show by Melbourne author and social commentator Catherine Deveny, earlier this year. It’s essentially chick lit, but written in a snappy and smart fashion perfect for the beach this summer. It’s set in Melbourne, London and Bali and looks at what happens when you stumble across the ‘other’ love of your life.

A couple of staff have started on The Laughing Clowns by William McInnes again, set in Melbourne, in the questionable world of property development.

The very bookish Ramona Koval’s biographical opus, naturally titled, By the Book, looks at how books have shaped and informed her life.

Grace: A Life in Fashion by the uber stylish Grace Coddington is already garnering interest and promises to be a riveting read – essentially, this is a cultural history of the last half century populated by the beautiful people of the world of fashion.

We have read enticing snippets of the biography of Frances Birtles by Warren Brown, a man who crossed Australia more than 70 times in the early part of the 20th century - by bicycle and car, pioneered early filming then went gold-mining and retired prosperously. As you do.

And there’s so much to look forward to in children’s books! Aside from the obvious crowd-pleasers: The Third Wheel: Diary of a Wimpy Kid #7 from Jeff Kinney, All the Wrong Questions from the delightfully named Lemony Snicket and the second Ruby Redfort: Take Your Last Look from Lauren Child. We are really keen to read Under Wildwood from Colin Meloy and Ellis Carson (the follow up to Wildwood), as well as Grimm Tales: For Young and Old by Philip Pullman (of Dark Materials trilogy fame).

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