Happy Australia Day! 5 Australian Book Recommendations

Today is our national holiday! 

Today is the day we all get a public holiday to eat a sausage sizzle (which is far superior to eating sausage in a hot dog bun), and fight off drop bears to fire up the BBQ. And because this year, 26 January falls on a Thursday, we also spend the majority of our day trying to work out how we can extend our holiday to include the Friday without dipping into our annual leave (sickies all around!).

Therefore, I thought in honour of our national day, I’d run through a listing of my favourite books by Australian writers:

  • Jasper Jones by Craig Silvey. If I had to recommend the most Australian novel I can think of, I’d pick Jasper Jones. It’s set in a small country town in WA and the racial issues are fundamentally Australian. I am also going to see a play on it in February so I’m eager with anticipation.
  • The Book Thief by Marcus Zuzak. This is the novel that was so well received, it caused Zuzak to be unable to spit out a follow up for fear of letting down his fans. Australia isn’t mentioned a lot in novels so I got pretty excited when Liesel moved to Sydney in her old age.
  • Letters from the Inside by John Marsden. I don’t think anyone can grow up in Australia without reading a Marsden novel. They empathise with teenage angst in a way that doesn’t date in a few years so even though there are no references to technology etc it’s still relatable and studied years down the track.
  • The Phyrne Fisher Mysteries by Kerry Greenwood. A female private detective sleuthing around 1930s Melbourne is a delighful change of pace from the American/British private detectives. It’s so tongue in cheek that I couldn’t help but get sucked into the fandom. I’ve got a review here and here.
  • The Happiest Refugee by Anh Do. As someone who is the child of Vietnamese boat people, it meant a lot to me that everyone loved this memoir (it was even nominated by the Prime Minister as one of his favourite books) so I had to read it for myself. Do didn’t downplay the hardships suffered by his parents or by being raised in a new country but he assesses it grace and humour.

    You may notice that I have excluded some notable mentions. For example…

    • I know that everyone raved about The Slap but I thought the multicultural aspects were a little contrived and the author tried to cover too many contemporary issues in a group of friends that conveniently covered a range of demographics but maybe because by the time I read it, it had been overhyped for months. 
    • Also as someone who was educated in the Australian schooling system, it pains me that I have not read Tomorrow, When The War Began or Cloudstreet so I have dutifully added those to my TBR list. 

    Most of our novels revolve around a few themes: rural hardships, military history (Gallipoli, Kokoda), multiculturalism. Which after the first two novels, start to get very repetitive so I’m not as well-versed in Australian fiction/non-fiction as I’d like to be.

    Can anyone give me some recommendations? (I’ve got ‘The Dressmaker’ on my TBR list, if only to read the descriptions of couture). They don’t have to be set in Australia, just written by an Australian. 


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