Ed Muston is a booklover from Sydney’s inner west who runs a book club for his son’s school.
We interviewed him recently about how the book club works and where his family discover new books
We also asked him for some book recommendations, for both kids and adults. (Click on the titles or covers below to read more about each book.)
Rivertime by Trace Balla, for the quality of its illustrations and its view of the world. ‘The story and its lovely line drawings remind us of the world that lies beyond our hi-tech toys.’ Ed recommends this book for a broad range of ages: it can be read aloud to a four year old, and is a challenging and rewarding ‘read alone’ for older kids.
Stuff Happens: Ethan by Oliver Phommavanh was featured in the book club after Ed’s daughter Sofia and her friends attended a workshop run by the author, as a birthday treat. Ed noticed that Phommavanh was terrific at interacting with kids and enjoyed his rascally sense of humour. The Stuff Happens series appeals to newly independent readers – around 7 and up.
Terry Denton’s Bumper Book of Silly Stuff to Do was enormously popular with the school’s students when it ran on the book club.
Alphabetical Sydney by Hilary Bell and Antonia Presenti, for the stunning illustrations and the Gen-X visual references (including an old-fashioned milk bar and merry-go-round swing ride) which resonate for parents as well as kids.
Six Bedrooms by Tegan Bennett Daylight is one of Ed’s book club picks. A collection of beautiful, linked short stories that take you on a rollercoaster ride through death, teen angst, sickness, it’s ‘a real writer’s book,’ exploring the full spectrum of the emotions and crises in life.
Ed names Thomas Hardy as a favourite ‘classic’ author and in particular Jude the Obscure, ‘one of the truly great moral tales. At the time I read it, I was too young to properly understand Jude Fawley’s disillusionment but it really did resonate with me. It is also one of very few books I have read more than once and, of them, the only one I have enjoyed more the second time around.’
One favourite Australian author is Alex Miller, who ‘has a wonderful ability to depict Australian characters and society in a way which reminds me a bit of the Irish writer Colm Toibin’. Ed recommends The Tivington Nott, which is actually set in a small rural community in the UK. ‘I particularly enjoyed the story because it reminded me a lot of my own experiences working on farms in Australia and the UK in the early 1990s. I have a vague recollection of reading somewhere that Miller considered himself to be a bit of an imposter from the city struggling to pass himself off as a farm labourer and suspect that – whilst I had a ball – I had similar doubts about my authenticity.’
Ed often gives copies of The Leopard by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa to friends as gifts. He says ‘it’s a book that people might not think about reading but most have told me they liked it – at least some of them were probably telling the truth. For me, this is one of the great novels of the 20th century, set in Sicily at the time of Garibaldi’s violent unification of Italy in the 1860s. It is a slightly melancholic book but worth reading even if just for Lampedusa’s beautifully evocative and sensuous writing.’
A copy of The Man with a Blue Scarf, Martin Gayford’s account of the almost-two-year process of sitting for a portrait by Lucien Freud, was tucked under Ed’s arm when we met. He describes it as a fascinating read. It was recommended to him by his mother.