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He Wrote What He Knew: Trent Dalton shares list of books that influenced him as a teen

July 3, 2018

About the author

Trent Dalton is a staff writer for The Weekend Australian Magazine and former assistant editor of The Courier Mail. He’s a two-time winner of a Walkley Award for Excellence in Journalism, a three-time winner of a Kennedy Award for Excellence in NSW Journalism and a four-time winner of the national News Awards Features Journalist of the Year.


Your Boy Swallows Universe alter ego Eli is a teenager when we meet him. What books were important to you as a teenager?


Papillon – Henri Charriere

My dad handed me this book when I was a kid. He thought the themes of prison escape and freedom might appeal to a skinny Bracken Ridge tearaway. He was right. You’re a butterfly. And butterflies are free to fly.

All Quiet on the Western Front – Erich Maria Remarque

Reads like pure journalism, like the greatest long form feature you’ve ever read. Puts you right inside the German trenches and suddenly the only side you’re on is humanity’s.

The Harp in the South and Poor Man’s Orange – Ruth Park

Irish Catholic family struggling to make ends meet in old Surry Hills. Hughie was my dad. Hughie was all our dads.

The Silence of the Lambs – Thomas Harris

Dream date: FBI agent Clarice Starling, dinner, some mood music, a nice chianti and some good chat about those lambs she saw being slaughtered as a kid. Do the screaming lambs represent all those helpless victims she’s trying to save as an agent? Or is all that lamb stuff more about the men who do the slaughtering? How could those men do that to those lambs? How can men possess brutality and tenderness at the same time? And maybe if she knew that then maybe she could know how someone could kill her beloved old man?

The Basketball Diaries – Jim Carroll

Meant the world to me when I was going through my teenage William Burroughs Junky phase inspired by an older girl in high school who was way out of my league and into stuff far above my pay grade.


  1. Cherie Watkins

    I hope there is another book coming in the future! Amazing!!

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