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30 of the Best Australian Books – Chosen by Australian Authors

Who are the homegrown authors that Australian authors turn to when they’re looking for a great book? As part of our recent celebration of Australian authors, we asked each of the Australian writers we interviewed to name their own favourite Australian authors. Here’s what they said:

 

Kate Grenville, author of The Secret River

Patrick White, of course, and Christina Stead, are the classics I go back to. Thea Astley is a daring, outrageous writer, passionate and in love with language.  In terms of contemporary Australian novelists, I am a huge admirer of Helen Garner – and in a younger generation, Carrie Tiffany.

 

Mark Dapin, author of R&R

Cate Kennedy is an elegant, insightful prose stylist; Karen Hitchcock is multi-talented; Ellen van Neerven is poet in harshly beautiful prose; Rob Drewe writes with sinewy grace; Christos Tsiolkas is an angry, majestic prose-master; Thomas Keneally is Australia’s Graham Greene; Chris Flynn is subtle in his apparent unsubtlety.

 

Sandra Leigh Price, author of The Bird’s Child 

Peter Carey is someone I greatly admire. Also, Sonya Hartnett is another Australian writer I admire (I can almost forgive her for putting so many fictional children in danger!). And, historian Grace Karskens – refocusing our national identity in all its complex detail, as something striking and strange and ours. Also, Christine Kenneally (Secret History of the Human Race) and Clare Wright’s work are inspiring.

 

Mireille Juchau, author of The World Without Us

I go back and forth from the classics to contemporary literature. Certain books have become, as Adam Phillips writes, “like recurring dreams we can’t help thinking about”. Patrick White’s mystical Voss, and Riders in the Chariot with its “benedictions of light and water”. Peter Carey’s dynamic His Illegal Self with its exquisitely drawn child protagonist. The work of Michelle de Kretser, Gail Jones, Thea Astley, Gillian Mears. Julia Leigh’s moody The Hunter, Michael Mohammed Ahmed’s intimate portrait of a Lebanese Muslim family in The Tribe, Michelle Moo’s Glory this which captures the insouciant style of Melbourne’s Sharpies.

 

Stephanie Bishop, author of The Other Side of the World

Helen Garner would have to be up there at the top of the list. My mother gave me Monkey Grip to read when I was in high school, I’ve still got the old paperback version with a picture of a Noni Hazelhurst on the front. Other favourites include Christina Stead, Randolph Stow, Drusilla Modjeska and Elizabeth Jolly.

 

Sofie Laguna, author of The Eye of the Sheep

Some Australian writers I admire are Helen Garner, Bob Graham, Thea Astley, Peter Carey, Margaret Wild, Richard Flanagan, Christos Tsiolkas, Martine Murray and Chloe Hooper. This is a mix of writers for children and adults. I think it’s healthy to blur the line that separates them.

 

Pamela Cook, author of Close to Home

Going right back to my childhood, Australian books were always my favourites. Snugglepot and Cuddlepie and Blinky Bill were top of the list. I loved Seven Little Australians. Australian literature was my absolute favourite subject at Uni and vividly remember reading Lucinda Brayford by Martin Boyd and The Man Who Loved Children by Christina Stead. Kenneth Slessor’s poetry always struck a chord with me and Les Murray’s poems are among my favourites. I adore Tim Winton. Cloudstreet is a masterpiece and The Turning is a work of genius. Kate Grenville’s writing is so beautiful and I also love Geraldine Brooks. The Book Thief by Markus Zusack is a work of sheer brilliance. A newer writer I admire is Favel Parett. Past The Shallows is heartbreakingly beautiful and When The Night Comes haunted me for days after I finished it.

 

Ann Turner, author of The Lost Swimmer

A very long list! I’ll just name a few. I recently read an advance copy of Todd Alexander’s wonderful coming-of-age story Tom Houghton. There’s enormous humanity and skill in the writing and the characters spring off the page. It reminded me of the work of Alan Hollinghurst and Armistead Maupin, but with a fresh originality that is Todd Alexander. Kate Grenville is another author I love. The Secret River is one of my favourite books. Hannah Kent’s Burial Rites is another favourite.

 

Emily Bitto,  author of The Strays

There are so many Australian authors I admire! Among the classics, I particularly adore Patrick White and Christina Stead. Among more contemporary writers, David Malouf, Helen Garner, Drusilla Modjeska, Michelle de Kretser, Robert Dessaix, Christos Tsiolkas, Tony Birch, Richard Flanagan, Chloe Hooper… I love a lot of Australian poets, too. Too many to list, really, but some of my favourites include Judith Wright, David Malouf (again), Judith Beveridge, Anthony Lawrence, Bronwyn Lea, Sarah Holland-Batt, Bonny Cassidy, and the relative newcomer, but incredible talent, Zoe Dzunko. There are also a lot of really exciting new fiction writers in Australia. I’ve loved reading Ellen Van Neerven, Chris Somerville, Omar Musa, Abigail Ulman, Liam Pieper, Maxine Beneba Clarke, Ceridwen Dovey… When I was a teenager, I actually thought I didn’t like Australian fiction, because of the books I was exposed to at school. But I certainly don’t feel that way anymore. I do think it’s a particularly vibrant time in Australian literature, too, and I feel very lucky to be a part of it.

 

Li Feng, author of Forged from Silver Dollar

Tim Winton would be my first choice. In 2005 when I became a true Aussie after my citizenship ceremony, a dear friend of mine gave me this awesome photography book called Australian Colours, the Image of the Outback, in which Tim Winton wrote the opening of each chapter. Colleen McCullough was my other favourite. Interestingly enough, my first encounter of her famous Thorn Birds was on Chinese national radio in the early 1990s when a Mandarin broadcaster read this gripping family epic to us in series every day! Today, when I think of my mother, the main character featured in Forged From Silver Dollar, those famous lines in Thorn Birds come to my mind – “But the whole world stills to listen, and God in His heaven smiles. For the best is only bought at the cost of great pain…”

 

Fiona McCallum, author of Leap of Faith

I read widely and voraciously and enjoy the work of many authors from around the world. Some of my Australian favourites are/have been Kerry Greenwood, Joan Lindsay, Monica McInerney, Shane Maloney and Elyne Mitchell.

 

Gwen Wilson, author of I Belong to No One

In the time I have been writing I Belong to No One, I have concentrated mostly on reading memoir, with historical fiction for “fun”. Recently, there have been some stand-out reads, the ones where certain scenes in the book stay with you long after you have read it: The Secret River and Searching for the Secret River by Kate Grenville, and The Ghost at the Wedding by Shirley Walker. The two which impacted me most while in the creation phase were A Fence Around the Cuckoo by Ruth Park, and An Angel at My Table, by (New Zealand author) Janet Frame.

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