For teachers, the summer holidays means finally having the time to read all those books you’ve been wanting to get stuck into for months (or years…). We’ve compiled a list of must-read books for lovers of literature to make picking your holiday read as easy as possible. 

1. Black Rock White City by A. S. Patric

The summer holidays are the perfect time to catch up on all those award-winners you’ve been meaning to read. A great place to start is with last year’s winner of the Miles Franklin Literary Award, Black Rock White City. It’s a gorgeous novel about the interrelation between immigrants, trauma and language.

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2. The Watch Tower by Elizabeth Harrower

Text Publishing made the wonderful decision to republish The Watch Tower, allowing a new generation to fall in love with Elizabeth Harrower’s prose. Set in 1940s Sydney, it’s the story of two sisters who are pushed deeper and deeper under the control of an obsessive and cruel man.

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3. The Natural Way of Things by Charlotte Wood

Charlotte Wood’s groundbreaking novel, The Natural Way of Things, is an allegory for the attitudes society has towards women who have been involved in public sex scandals. Gripping, powerful and consuming, this book will stay with you long after you’ve turned the last page.

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4. Voss by Patrick White

Patrick White won the first-ever Miles Franklin Literary Award with his novel about a German explorer named Voss, who embarks on an expedition to cross the Australian desert, and Laura, the young woman who waits for his return. It’s a tale about obsessive love and parallel journeys.

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5. My Brilliant Career by Miles Franklin

My Brilliant Career is arguably the Australian classic, and is a must-read for all lovers (and teachers) of books. The main character is a young woman who defies the gender constraints of her time by rejecting the traditional path of a woman (marriage or a governess) and instead chooses to follow her dreams of being a writer.


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6. Lilian’s Story by Kate Grenville

Born in 1901, Lilian Singer is fiercely intelligent with a burning desire for independence. She rejects the life deemed ‘acceptable’ by society and instead becomes an eccentric – happy and true to herself. Kate Grenville’s captivating first book was inspired by Bea Miles, a familiar figure to Sydney-dwellers, who lived on the streets and recited Shakespeare in exchange for money.

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7. The Man Who Loved Children by Christina Stead

The Man Who Loved Children is Christina Stead’s most brilliant novel – it’s satirical, observational and full of energy. In part inspired by her own relationship with her father, the novel is about a young girl living in a dysfunctional family who struggles to escape her father’s overbearing masculinity and narcissism.

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8. It’s Raining in Mango by Thea Astley

The history of one family becomes a metaphor for the whole country in It’s Raining in Mango. The Laffey’s arrival in Northern Queensland coincides with the massacre of an Aboriginal tribe. We follow the lives of the subsequent generations of both the Laffey family and the Aboriginal family, and see how colonialism shapes their personal histories and the history of Australia.

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9. Carpentaria by Alexis Wright

Carpentaria is nothing short of a masterpiece. Set in the fictional coastal town of Desperance in Australia’s north, it follows a wide cast of characters: feuding Aboriginal communities, the mining company, and the white officials from Uptown. It is a sweeping allegorical epic that captures the interconnectedness of Indigenous myths and history, past and present, and ancestry and trauma.

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10. Tracks by Robyn Davidson

In 1977 Robyn Davidson 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.

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11. The Harp in the South by Ruth Park

In writing The Harp in the South, Ruth Park has vividly recreated what life was like for the residents of Surry Hills, Sydney, in the late 1940s. In amidst the brothels, grog shops, run-down houses lives the Darcy family: Hughie, the alcoholic father, Roie, experiencing first love, Dolour, curious about life, and Mumma who keeps them all together with her love.

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12. Dark Emu by Bruce Pascoe

The history books describe the pre-colonial Aboriginal Australians as nomadic ‘hunter-gatherers’. In Dark Emu, Bruce Pascoe presents evidence that shows our nation’s First Peoples had complex agricultural systems in place before their land was invaded. This book will forever change the way you think about Australian history.

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