Australian Reading Hour 2023: Wheeler Reads
For Australian Reading Hour, we asked the Wheeler Centre team what books were top of their reading lists this year.
Celebrated on 9 March, Australian Reading Hour is a national celebration of reading and storytelling. In the spirit of sharing the literary love, we asked the Wheeler Centre team what books were top of their reading lists this year.
Diem Nguyen, Programme Coordinator
I am reading Shirley Le’s debut novel Funny Ethnics. It’s familiar and fun. Each chapter is a snapshot of the protagonist Sylvia Nguyen’s life as she meanders from her tween years to her early twenties. Some experiences and thoughts mirrored moments of my own life which caused me to cringe but also laugh out loud. Representation won’t save me but it sure feels good to be seen! I will always read coming-of-age stories by Asian diaspora writers, and what a delight that this one has a bubble tea drinking bin chicken on the cover.
Daniel Coghlan, Head of Digital and Marketing
As someone who has a terrible habit of reading multiple books at once, I am currently being spooked by Bora Chung’s surreal short stories about life’s real horrors in Cursed Bunny; traversing and rediscovering queer and trans histories with the entertaining, informative and beautifully designed Rainbow History Class by Hannah McElhinney; and rethinking my rules to live by with the refreshing and practical help of Chris Cheers’ The New Rulebook.
Natalie Williams, Digital and Marketing Coordinator
I’m not usually the type to have a few books on the go, but some are so good I simply can’t resist diving in! I’m currently transfixed by the inner world of Coral in Laura McPhee Browne’s Little Plum, feeling all my emotions as I re-read Hazel Hayes intimate love story told in reverse in Out of Love; and thoroughly enjoying the complicated lives of women in history in Letters to My Weird Sisters: On Autism and Feminism by Joanne Limburg.
Veronica Sullivan, Head of Programming
Ronnie Scott’s Shirley is a resonant, stylish, achingly recognisable novel about cats, mothers, work, care, food, loneliness, duplicity, independence and connection, set in that weird hazy summer between bushfires and pandemic. Scott’s prose is not obnoxious or showy but it would have every right to be – he’s a masterful writer and Shirley is disarming and deeply affecting. I’m also loving Omar Musa’s ruminations on colonisation, memory and heritage in Killernova, an idiosyncratic book that melds poetry, prose, and Musa’s vibrant woodcut illustrations.
Jamila Khodja, Programming Manager
I’m currently reading Bless the Daughter Raised by a Voice in Her Head by Warsan Shire. I rarely read poetry and feel that I must be missing out on so much, so I’m attempting to work my way through this incredible collection. Shire’s poems are full of descriptions of young womanhood, questions of heritage, belonging and motherhood. An ambitious start to reading poetry, perhaps, but well worth it!
Joe Toohey, Head of Finance
I’ve just started reading Maame by Jessica George. The story follows Maddie Wright, a 25-year-old British Ghanaian woman navigating office work and social life alongside caring responsibilities for her father, as well as complicated relationships with her often-absent mother and brother. I’m only a few chapters in, but so far I’m really enjoying the use of humour (and Google search results) to tell a challenging story.
Xanthea O’Connor, Programme and Special Projects Producer
I just finished David Sornig’s Blue Lake after a Next Chapter alumnus recommended it to me – thank you Sam Elkin! Blue Lake illuminates the overlooked lives of early 20th century people living on the West Melbourne Swamp, a large saltwater wetland between the CBD and Footscray that was drained and destroyed through the period of colonisation that continues to this day.
I’d avoided reading this book in the past, worried it would be dense and difficult, but the writing was beautiful and the historical figures were evoked so compellingly that I found myself savouring every chapter. I’ve often gotten lost in this area of Melbourne, wrangling my bike over muddy footpaths and wondering what was trapped under the mass of concrete, so I’m grateful to know a little more about why this area feels so neglected, chaotic and haunted.
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