March saw ten us of read nine VERY different non-fiction titles.
Amy and Sandi remind us that children’s non-fiction can be just as interesting, diverse and important as adult non-fiction. Amy reviewed The Internet is Like a Puddle by Shona Innes which is a timely reminder to parents, grandparents and teachers about how to talk to young children about safe internet use. While Sandi reviewed Westy the Western Swamp Tortoise by Cathy Levett. Westy was born in Perth Zoo but was recently relocated to the wetlands. The book details this journey in a suitable way for young readers and their teachers.
Kim and Tracy both reviewed The Suitcase Baby by Tanya Bretherton, a true crime story featuring the tragic tale of one of the large number of infants found washed up on Sydney beaches and in waterways during the 1920’s. Bretherton discusses the police investigation along with the subsequent ‘media circus’ and court case within the historical and social context of the times.
Tears Laughter Champagne by Karen Downing is a recipe book with a difference. Nine of the women who survived the 2003 Canberra bushfires formed a support group that became known as the Singed Sisters. Jennifer tells us that,
From tea and tears in the months following the fires to champagne and laughter as they moved into newly built homes, this book is the story of that journey and the recipes that helped along the way.
As devastating bushfires become part of life for so many communities around Australia this book will serve as a reminder of the enduring nature of friendship, good food and great champagne in tough times.
This book is also a chance for the Singed Sisters to pay forward the charity and kindness they received in the aftermath of the fires.
Diversity was explored in Beyond Veiled Cliches: the Real Lives of Arab Women by Amal Awad. Anna found the book to be “an interesting read, providing insights into the lives of Arab women in an effort to counter the stereotypical views and cliches that exist about these women.”
I covered off the gardening side of non-fiction this month with a review of the 2018 Indie Illustrated Non-Fiction Award winning book Native: Art and Design with Australian Plants by Kate Herd and Jela Ivankovic-Waters. For anyone interested in growing Australian natives this is a must-read book designed to whet your creative appetites. It’s also full of lots of gorgeous pics of plants and gardens.
Christy had one of those weird book experiences where the book blurb and media surrounding the book didn’t quite met her expectations. Women of a Certain Age edited by Jodie Moffat, Susan Laura Sullivan and Maria Scoda claimed on the back cover to be a collection of essays in
‘celebration, affirmation and survival about what it is like to be a woman on the other side of 40, 50, 60, 70…’ To my disappointment, however, many of the essays seem less interested in the authors’ current reality and experience than in relating stories from their childhood, adolescence and young adulthood – sometimes with only a short final paragraph linking this to their current age or viewpoint.
I’m sure that many of us could write our own very essay on reaching ‘a certain age’. In fact, I think it would be a fascinating exercise…what do you think?
Another weird book experience can occur when the book leaves you with more questions still to be answered, or as Jennifer said in her review of The Media and the Massacre by Sonya Voumard, ‘for me Ms Voumard’s book is a starting point, not a conclusion.’ Perhaps the how’s, why’s and wherefore’s of such horrific events like the Port Arthur massacre can never be fully understood or resolved?
Finally, Calzean wonders along with Dr Nikki Stamp Can You Die of a Broken Heart? A Heart Surgeon’s Insight Into What Makes Us Tick. Calzean summarises the book succinctly with,
The author explains how the heart works (as far as medical science knows), what can go wrong and what can help to minimise the risk of heart problems. Spoiler Alert: a balanced diet, exercise and management of stress. There’s no pictures (probably a good thing) and the author does a good job in trying to keep things as simple as possible.
During March a few more shortlists were revealed.
The CBCA have announced their various shortlists, however the one that is particularly pertinent to us is the Eve Pownall Award for information books. Three of the six nominations were for Australian women writers – Left and Right by Lorna Hendry (Wild Dog Books), Amazing Australians in Their Flying Machines by Prue and Kerry Mason (Walker Books) and Koala by Claire Saxby. Winners to be announced during Book Week in August.
The NSW Premier’s Literary shortlists were also announced during March. The Douglas Stewart Prize for Non-fiction included five AWW with Victoria: The Woman Who Made the Modern World by Julia Baird (Harper Collins Publishers), A Passion for Exploring New Countries: Matthew Flinders & George Bass by Josephine Bastian (Australian Scholarly Publishing), The Enigmatic Mr Deakin by Judith Brett (Text Publishing) and The Green Bell: a Memoir of Love, Madness and Poetry by Paula Keogh (Affirm Press) all being nominated. Winners to be announced during the Sydney Writer’s Festival in May.
What will you be reading this month?
About Bronwyn: I have been a book blogger at Brona’s Books since 2009 and a bookseller (specialising in children’s literature) in Sydney since 2008. Prior to this I was as an Early Childhood teacher for 18 years in country NSW.
I joined the AWW team in 2015 as the History, Memoir, Biography editor. In 2017 I became the General Non-Fiction editor.
I taught myself to read when I was four by memorising my Dr Seuss books. I haven’t stopped reading since.
You can find me on Twitter @bronasbooks and Litsy @Brona.
I don’t think I’ll be reading a lot of non-fiction this month. After reading a lot of non-fiction last year (admittedly mostly memoirs and biographies) this year has seen a return to more fiction which is where I prefer to be (albeit I like to read some non-fiction.
Sounds like Women of a certain age is disappointing – an opportunity gone missing. And Sonia Voumard’s book – longlisted for the Stella last year I think – is probably intended to ask questions? Not that I’ve read it!!
I’ve read some good reviews on Women of a Certain Age, so I’ll hold my judgement until I read it. I know it has a Stella nominee in it 🙂 And yes, books often leave us asking questions – is that a plus or a minus? Usually a plus for me. I tend to favour fiction over non-fiction also.
I’m not sure why this is true, but I’m fascinated by books about women who are older than I am. I think part of it is getting to explore many possible experiences of aging in advance of getting there myself. It also feels important to me to value older women and to have their voices be heard. Whatever the reasons, I’m interested in reading Women of a Certain Age, but sorry to hear the focus was more on their earlier years.