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Q&A with Ailsa Piper on the Australian Reading Hour

September 11, 2017

Thursday 14th September 2017: pick up a book and read for an hour.
Find out more about the Australian Reading Hour here.

What is Australian Reading Hour?

It’s like the reverse of the Earth Hour concept. That asks us to turn off the lights for an hour to conserve ourselves and the planet. Reading Hour asks us to turn on our own inner light – the part of us that reflects and imagines, which is the animating part of us. It’s the part that empathises and en-light-ens. Switch that on for an hour and the world can’t help but be improved.

What are some of the benefits of reading?

Reading is like a blood transfusion for the mind and spirit – it brings new life and invigorates the weary or stale bits of us. It refreshes our thinking and enlarges our humanity. And it is just great fun – which giving blood is not, even though the cup of tea is nice.

When and where is your favourite place to read? 

On my sofa, in the late afternoon sun, watching kookaburras and lorikeets land in the tree outside my window. Then forgetting to watch them because the book is so good!

Where will you be reading on Thursday, 14 September?

Hopefully on that very same sofa!

Why are Australian stories and Australian books important?

Because they are us. They are grown from this soil, watered and fed on red dust and eucalypt and white sand and blue water. They are island stories, even when they are urban, and they are like no other stories on earth. And because, slowly but surely, they are leading us home so that we can hear the stories of the origins and originals of this land.

What is your favourite Australian book?

Impossible to pick one, but the two that have called to me, and instructed me, for decades are – My Place by Sally Morgan and Monkey Grip by Helen Garner. Both by strong, remarkable women, and both carved from the sweat and love of real life, whether memoir or fiction. I re-read them over and over.

What will you be reading on 14 September?

I will be nearing the end of Sofie Laguna’s new novel, The Choke. I am waiting to open it until after I return from a festival and can devote myself to her singular voice.

Why are bookshops and shopping centres such important community hubs?

Bookshops are sacred places for me, because, like libraries, they hold our stories. Any place that can keep safe the stories of the world is, for me, holy. Libraries and bookshops introduce children to reading, and remind adults of the joy to be found inside the covers of a book, as they watch the little ones make discoveries. From Homer to homeboys, bookshops guard our most precious memories and light the way toward a brighter future. They continue the task of enlightenment.

Ailsa Piper’s latest book, The Attachment, is published by Allen & Unwin.



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