This week the Reading Australia team brainstormed a list of our favourite books by our overseas friends then expertly matched them to books written by Australian authors. Whether you’re into romance, Young Adult, memoir, true crime, or completely made up crime – there’s a book on this list for you. So, open up Goodreads, slightly tremble with excitement, and read on to discover seven books to add to your to-read list.
If you loved… The Hunger Games, you will love The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf
The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf is the first in a dystopian series called The Tribe, set 300 years in the future after the world has been devastated by natural disasters and a disregard for the environment. Ashala is an Aboriginal Australian teenage protagonist kicking as much butt (if not more) than the Katniss Everdeen’s of the world. She is the leader of the Tribe, a group of people with special abilities who are hunted, locked in detention centres and experimented on. Like all excellent dystopian fiction The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf is a commentary on contemporary social issues, exploring environmental damage and the refugee perspective.
If you loved… Wild, you will love Tracks
Wild and Tracks are astonishingly similar. They are both memoirs written by women about their individual experiences of cross-country journeys undertaken in isolation and at the mercy of nature. Plus they were both released as films within months of each other. Despite the similarities, Tracks is absolutely Australian. It was written by Robyn Davidson about her 1977 journey across the Australian outback. She crossed the 2700 kilometres from Alice Springs to the shores of Western Australia with four camels and a dog. Occasionally she was joined by a photographer from National Geographic who documented her journey. Her memoir is frank and inspiring and the sense of the Australian landscape is remarkable.
If You Loved… In Cold Blood, you will love The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith
When Truman Capote wrote In Cold Blood it became one of the most successful true crime books of all time, despite his controversial flippancy about sticking to fact. The chilling retelling of the murders of a husband, a wife and their teenage children captivated readers. Thomas Keneally’s The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith features an equally grisly murder scene also inspired by a true story. The title character takes revenge on his employers by calmly killing the women of the household. Instead of solving the crimes, both books strive to understand the motivations and psychological states of the killers.
If you loved… To Kill a Mockingbird, you will love Jasper Jones
When Jasper Jones was published it was marketed as the Australian version of To Kill a Mockingbird. It knowingly references Harper Lee’s novel and characters and features an array of its own uniquely Australian ‘mockingbirds’: Jasper Jones, the half-Aboriginal outcast blamed for every town transgression; Jeffrey Lu, the best friend with a penchant for cricket who faces racial discrimination as backlash from the Vietnam War; and Mad Jack Lionel, the Boo Radley character who all the children are afraid of. Even though it is set in the 1960s, the language and tone have a contemporary feel, forcing us to question how far we’ve come in eradicating racism.
If you loved… The Princess Bride, you will love Eucalyptus
Want a book as dreamy as the fairy tale love story of Buttercup and Westley? As you wish! Eucalyptus by Murray Bail is a modern-day fairytale with the most Australian book title ever. When Ellen turns 19, her father declares that she will only marry the man able to name every species of eucalypt on his property. As there are hundreds of them, this is not an easy task. Ellen is disinterested in the suitors who arrive from all over the world until she meets a handsome and mysterious storyteller.
If you loved… For Whom the Bell Tolls, you will love The Far Road
Hemingway’s experiences during the Spanish Civil War inspired him to write his classic novel, For Whom the Bells Tolls, about an American man who joined the International Brigades to fight against fascism. Like Hemingway, George Johnston was also a distinguished war correspondent and wrote The Far Road after his journey through China towards the end of WWII. He was haunted by what he saw during this time and his writing explores this horror as well as meditates on the ethics of being a journalist reporting on a war in a land foreign to your own.
If you loved… The Maltese Falcon, you will love Truth
Who could we put forward as a contender against real-life private-detective-turned-author Dashiell Hammett, whose short stories and novels redefined the detective fiction genre and made him the literary hero of Raymond Chandler? That would be Peter Temple. Temple forever elevated crime fiction to a new status when his novel Truth became the first ever novel of that genre to win Australia’s most prestigious literary award, the Miles Franklin. In The Maltese Falcon and Truth, the protagonists are cool-headed detectives and morally-flawed anti-heroes. Although Temple’s prose is typified by beautiful, complex sentences, he shares with Hammett a talent for ordinary, yet distinctive dialogue.