Susan Duncan enjoyed a 25-year career spanning radio, newspaper and magazine journalism, including editing two of Australia’s top selling women’s magazines, The Australian Women’s Weekly and New Idea. She now lives in her own patch of offshore paradise, Pittwater, with her second husband, Bob, in the beautiful home built for poet Dorothea Mackellar in 1925.
1. A.B. Facey: A Fortunate Life
Restores faith in the human spirit and evokes a time in Australia that is gone forever.
2. Jock Serong: Quota
Edits a beautiful quarterly magazine called Great Ocean but this is his first book. Wonderful writing about the underbelly of a small Victorian coastal town where corruption breeds more corruption.
3. Marie Munkara: Every Secret Thing
Funny, at times hilarious, but also tough, tender and poignant, it describes the clash between saving souls (missionaries) and saving culture (Aboriginals), and neither side is sacrosanct for a moment.
4. Joan London: The Golden Age
An exquisitely written account of the young love but so much more. It’s about resilience and building on your strengths to survive.
5. Evie Wyld: All the Birds, Singing
A literary thriller that renders the Australian and English landscape so vividly you could swear you can smell the countryside while you’re reading.
6. William McInnes: Holidays
Made me laugh and cry (happily). A gloriously warm-hearted and funny look at the whole idea of family holidays in Australia the way they were before five star became a catch cry and multi-media toys replaced buckets and spades.
7. Yotam Ottolenghi: Plenty
Made me look at vegetables in a whole new light. His combinations of herbs and spices elevate even the humble cucumber to culinary joy, and open a door to the whole Mediterranean – but with an extra Ottolenghi twist. He got me to eat eggplant, too.
8. Tom Keneally: Australians (Vol.3) Flappers to Vietnam
The years might move on but Keneally proves – with wit, insight and hard facts – that human nature never changes. Power and corruption go hand in hand with public life and somehow, we never learn from past mistakes.
9. Richard Flanagan: The Narrow Road to the Deep North
A book that resonates on every level. Brilliant.
10. Belinda Jeffery: Mix & Bake
The best ever cookbook for beginner cake makers who need a strong cuppa and a lie down if a recipe begins: first cream the butter and sugar. These recipes are quick, easy and failsafe.
11. Moira McKinnon: Cicada
I fell into the wild Kimberley, which I felt was the main character, and longed for the story to keep going and going.
12. Atul Gawande: Being Mortal
Not exactly a light or uplifting Christmas read but it deals with the relationship between medicine and ageing in a realistic and unsentimental way. It reminds us on every page, to seize the day, and doesn’t shy away from the hard questions. Not for the faint-hearted or fantasy-driven, though.