Wow! What a month we’ve had in general non-fiction.

19 reviews popped up on my screen to warm my heart on this chilly, winter’s night. On closer inspection, I realised that a number of these were older posts from Dark Matter Zine, catching up on their backlog. As there were a number of interesting reviews, commentaries and thoughts not only about books and authors, but about the Australian Women Writer’s Challenge itself, I thought I would include all the links below for you to explore at your leisure. Even though many of the discussions date back to 2012, it was interesting to revisit the reaction of some authors to the advent of the AWW as well as the Stella Prize.

Now on to our regular reviewers and their non-fiction book choices for June.

A number of familiar, well-reviewed books made another appearance this month, so I will focus on the new to the list books in this round up.

Louise @ A Strong Belief In Wicker tackled Serina Bird’s The Joyful Frugalista. She has not only read the book thoughtfully, but is taking on some of the principles in her own life. Read her post and comments to find out how she is progressing.

Louise also got political with Speaking Up by Gillian Triggs. Part bio, part politics, part human rights issues, Louise found that she,

really enjoyed these early, more biographical chapters, but the majority of the book is much more academic and scholarly. Law for the non-lawyer is quite often dry and boring. And how long can anyone really think about Senate Estimates? Gillian Triggs does her best to make this accessible for the average reader, but still my eyes and consciousness glazed over at times.

Yet the subjects that Gillian Triggs addresses are interesting, and clearly important. Family violence, economic empowerment of women, constitutional recognition of indigenous Australians, Aboriginal deaths in custody, refugees, mandatory detention, racism, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, youth suicide, metadata, marriage equality. Gillian wants nothing more than for us to join her in speaking up for human rights. 

Lily Brett’s book of essays, New York is a lighter touch after that, but Kim Forrester @ Reading Matters appreciated this ‘breezy‘ collection from 2001 that is part memoir, part observational humour, part travelogue, part social commentary!

I really enjoyed this collection. Brett’s prose style is clean and effortless, making for an easy read. And while the setting is mainly New York, the topics she covers are essentially universal.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith reviewed Marcia Langton’s Welcome to Country: A Travel Guide to Indigenous Australia.

There are two parts to this beautifully presented book. The first part introduces Indigenous cultures, and the second part explores Indigenous Australia by State and Territory. 

Both Australians and visitors to Australia will find this book useful. For older Australians like me who grew up knowing little about the history of Australia before European settlement, this is an invaluable starting point.

Given that this is NAIDOC week, I was delighted to have two Indigenous titles to highlight this month. Our second offering is by Penny Olsen and Lynette Russel, Australia’s First Naturalists. Cass Moriarty says, 

As author Bruce Pascoe describes the extensive agricultural practices of Indigenous people in his book Dark Emu, this book turns on its head the idea that Australian fauna was only ‘discovered’ (or catalogued) since the arrival of white people to this country, but instead describes not only the rich history of zoological knowledge before that time, but also the important role played by Aboriginal people in creating the vast store of ‘officially recorded’ knowledge since the late 1700’s, through the collection and collation of species, and through sharing their knowledge (with the colonisers) of animals’ habitats, diet, reproduction and unique characteristics. It also explains the close connection not only between Indigenous people and country, but also their spiritual ties with native animals. 

I reviewed a children’s picture book, Waves by Donna Rawlins. It has been shortlisted for this year’s CBCA Eve Pownall prize for Information books. Waves is narrative non-fiction about migration for primary school children.

Each double page spread features a child who has come across the sea to Australia, starting over 50 000 years ago to the present day. Families on rafts, a young sailor, a convict girl, a Chinese grandson determined to find gold to help his family, an Afghan cameleer, war refugees, orphans and asylum seekers all feature here with extra information about the particular time period included in the back pages.

Claire Takacs’ Australian Dreamscapes was also reviewed by me on my Goodreads page. I was

particularly happy to see so much use being made of our native grasses and water-wise plants. And delighted to see so much colour being used in gardens again. After the long reign of architectural gardening, I was beginning to despair of seeing colour in any garden but my own ever again!

Having tried to go completely native in two different gardens, I was also pleased to see a more commonsense approach emerge with the use of natives and exotics together to create gardens that suits their environment, using plants that best fit the climate, soil, space etc regardless of their country of origin.

The diversity and range of possible non-fiction titles being read and reviewed for our AWW challenge is gradually expanding. From politics to lifestyle, migration, gardening, Indigenous culture, tourism and botany, this month is a plenitude of non-fiction delights!

Where will we end up next 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 moved to the General Non-fiction page and in 2018 I picked up the role of editor of Poetry. You can also find me at The Classics Club as one of the new Gen 2 moderators.

dragonflyI 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.