If our literature functions as a mirror to our reality, then a glance at the list of titles reviewed in the non-fiction genre for 2013 gives us a great indication of what has happened in Australia over the past few years.
In 2013, we had 66 reviews submitted in the non-fiction genre, all on 55 different titles by 54 authors, some of whom were co-authors or editors.
We have been reading more non-fiction. In 2012, we had 48 reviews of 40 titles by 39 authors, the most reviewed author being Charlotte Wood who had her book Love and Hunger reviewed five times.
2013 saw us broaden our horizons a bit more in what we wanted to read so there was fierce competition for the coveted spots of most reviewed author and most reviewed title. By December 31, there was naught for it but ties. Kaz Cooke, Anna Krien, Annabelle Brayley and Belinda Hawkins all had three reviews each.
But it was yet another three way tie between Anna Krien’s Night Games, Annabelle Brayley’s Bush Nurses and Belinda Hawkins’ Every Parent’s Nightmare, all with three reviews each.
What else can we see when we look at the list? We are politically concerned. Kerry-Anne Walsh’s The Stalking of Julia Gillard was reviewed twice and was in the pleasant company of A Country Too Far: Writings on Asylum Seekers (edited by Rosie Scott) and Pamela Williams’ Killing Fairfax and the delightful additions to the list of Jane Caro’s Destroying the Joint: How Women Have to Change The World and The Misogyny Factor by Anne Summers.
We are interested in true crime – something noticed when the first round up of the genre was done in April 2013. In addition to Meaner than Fiction by Lindy Cameron and Rough Justice by Robin Bowles, we have Belinda Hawkins‘ Every Parent’s Nightmare and P D Martin’s When Justice Fails.
We love to eat. Katie Quinn Davies tells us What Katie Ate, while Jui-Shan Chang gets straight to Making A Meal Of It. And wash it down with Mel Campbell’s Out of Shape.
We value creativity and have a desire to know how to become creative and how others became, were or dealt with being creative in some way. Enter Janine Burke’s two offerings Dear Sun and The Art of Birds and Anne-Marie Priest’s Great Writers, Great Loves followed quite quickly by Ramona Koval’s confession on all things literary and loved, literally in By The Book. Marieke Hardy and Michela McGuire corral those they think of as women of letters and set them to work in the epistolary Yours Truly while Marion Halligan tries her hand at much the same in Storykeepers and Kate Grenville lifts the curtain on her writing experiences in Searching For The Secret River.
We also want help of both the practical and spiritual kind. Enter Kaz Cooke’s Up The Duff, and then (for when you have had the kid) Mind Your Mental Health and Monica Dux follows up with Things I Didn’t Expect When I Was Expecting (unfortunately there is no Spanish Inquisition joke in the subtitle but perhaps that will be rectified in the next edition). Better sex comes by way of Moments of Desire by Susan Hawthorne and Jenny Pausacker and we ponder the meaning of life by thinking about death in Bianca Nogrady’s The End: The Hidden Experience of Death. Both Rhonda Byrne’s The Secret and Jo-Anne Berthelesen’s Soul Friend attempt to help us be a bit more in tune with our higher selves and purpose and of course, the universe.
At the end of it all, there are two great titles that are worth keeping an eye out for. One we came across early on in 2013 – Tamzyne Richardson’s book about her home town My Home Broome written when she was nine. The other was Eliza Sarlos’ Amazing Babes – a book for children about high achieving women in different fields.
The former is inspired and in itself inspiring, the latter continues to educate and no doubt will inspire many more young writers.
And so should they be inspired to write at whatever age, regardless of gender. As the list shows, Australian women write about what matters to a wide range of people and cover a wide range of interests. They educate, they inform, they reveal, they help, they inspire, they entertain.
Nelly Thomas’ What Women Want is also on this list of non-fiction reviewed in 2013. Suffice it to say the list helps encapsulate that as well. Thank you, readers and reviewers, for diving into the non-fiction genre in 2013. In 2014, I hope we all continue to discover more subjects, topics and niches that Australian women are willing to explore and explain to us: their readers.
Links to reviews can be found on the Nonfiction Review Listing page.
Marisa Wikramanayake is a freelance journalist, writer and editor. She published her first book at 17, has lived on three different continents, been in ground zero of a bomb blast twice and is currently based in Perth, Australia. She’s also been freaked out by the Scientologists, helped run national publishing conferences and currently sits on the Society of Editors (WA) and WA Media Alliance committees. She writes book reviews for The West and the ABR, science news for Science Network WA and writes novels in the spare time that’s left over after painting, dancing, gaming and mentoring. She contributes her two cents as non-fiction editor at Australian Women Writers and lends her geek goddess expertise to the Guys Read Gals project and the Society of Editors (WA). You can catch her on her blog at marisa.com.au or on Twitter @mwikramanayake
This is a very interesting overview. What struck me was that missing from this are books about the environment and gardening. I suspect that many people have gardening books but it doesn’t occur to them to review them. The environment is a hot topic so I’m sure that people are reading books about climate change, conservation of natural environments etc. It would be good if readers could share their thoughts on such books in 2014.
This is true. It is a bit of an odd gap in the list. I’m hoping the variety & numbers continue to increase in 2014.