The 10 books you should read in November – Sydney Morning Herald
And so the countdown to Christmas begins. It’s the last full month of new books and there are still masses due out.
Here are just 10 of them – memoirs, novels, histories – but you’ll find plenty more crackers on the bulging bookshelves of your local bookshop.
The Booklist is a weekly newsletter for book lovers through books editor Jason Steger. Get it delivered every Friday .
Getting Lost , Annie Ernaux
Fitzcarraldo, $27. 99, November 15
There was almost universal rejoicing among literary types when the French writer won the Nobel Prize earlier this month. So it’s timely that this diary, which served as the basis for her autobiographical novel, Simple Passion , should appear in translation now. In the earlier book, she wrote of her affair with a Soviet diplomat; this is the candid account of that relationship. Rereading her diaries of the time, she found a different truth from the novel – “something raw and dark, without salvation, a kind of oblation”.
Nothing Bad Ever Happens Here , Heather Rose
Allen & Unwin, $32. 99, Nov 1
To say this memoir from the Stella Prize-winning author of The Museum of Modern Love is surprising is something of an understatement. When Rose was 12, her beloved brother and grandfather were drowned, an event that has informed her life and sent her off on a search for meaning, truth and comfort. It has also opened her to some remarkable spiritual and hair-raising experiences. And, no, she has said, the title is not ironic.
The Passion of Private White , Don Watson
Scribner, $49. 99, November 2
A new book from Don Watson is always a treat and this is a particularly personal one to him. Watson met Neville White at university. White was conscripted to serve in Vietnam and survived, emerging with PTSD and a desire to “understand more about why people differed”. As an anthropologist, he has worked and lived with the Indigenous people of north-east Arnhem Land, trying to preserve them, their culture and lands, and at the same time heal himself plus mates from Vietnam he encouraged to travel north.
Novelist as a Vocation , Haruki Murakami
Harvill Secker, $35, November 15
The latest book about a writer’s creative process comes from the Japanese superstar novelist who’s loved by millions around the world. The book, which was first published in Japan seven years ago, consists of a series of essays Murakami began in 2010. There’s some pithy stuff here, not least his view that novelists can’t be friends – “writers are basically an egoistic breed, proud and highly competitive”. And he puts great store by his need for physical fitness to boost his mental ability for the rigours of writing.
A Brief Affair , Alex Miller
Allen & Unwin, $32. 99, November 1
The two-time Miles Franklin winner’s last book was Max , a wonderful memoir about his friend Max Blatt. His 13th novel, A Brief Affair , marks a welcome return to his unique sort of meaningful fiction. In it, the particular romantic entanglement of the title leads Frances Egan in order to reconsider all sorts of things in the girl life. She is an academic working in what used to be an asylum. The diary of a former resident who was confined in what is now her office comes to play an equally significant role in the woman life.
Elizabeth & John , Alan Atkinson
NewSouth, $39. 99, November 1
You may have read Kate Grenville’s A Room Made of Leaves , which breathed fictional life into the historical figure of Elizabeth Macarthur, wife of John, the so-called “father of the Australian fleece”. But Alan Atkinson, author of the three-volume award-winning Europeans in Australia , makes a point of taking “everything back to the beginning”, to start a fresh inquiry into the lives from the couple and trawl typically the vast amount of material still extant. He makes the point that the internet has transformed history writing, making “vastly more information easily available”.
Clarke , Holly Throsby
Allen & Unwin, $32. 99, November 1
I really liked Holly Throsby’s first two novels, Goodwood in addition to Cedar Valley . There’s a warm tone to the world of small towns somewhere to the south of New South Wales that she creates. Not so warm, though, that there aren’t mysteries to disrupt the lives of your ex carefully crafted characters such as poor Barney Clarke, who is taken aback when the police arrive at his rented home to search for a missing woman. Throsby’s books seem to have slipped a bit under the radar, yet really deserve more attention.
Wandering with Intent , Kim Mahood
Scribe, $35, November 1
Betty Mahood says she writes about the things she’s passionate about – “art, country, and the interface between Indigenous and even non-Indigenous Australia”. She was brought up in central Australia and wrote a magnificent, prize-winning memoir, Craft for a Dry Lake . These essays were written over a period of about 15 years. She acknowledges the cultural privilege she exercises, nevertheless “the question is whether I exercise this privilege in a way that can be justified”. Read it and judge for yourself.
Boundary Crossers , Meg Foster
UNSW Press, $34. 99, November one
Everyone knows about the Ned Kellys together with Captain Moonlights, but what about all the forgotten bushrangers whose lives have not been mythologised to the same degree? This is the area that Australian Cambridge University historian Meg Foster has spent years researching. In Boundary Crossers the girl unearths the hidden lives and exploits of Aboriginal, African-American, Chinese and female outlaws. A new take on a well-thumbed history.
A Guest at the Feast , Colm Toibin
Picador, $34. 99, November 8
This time last year, this Irish writer’s novel regarding Thomas Mann was published. Now we have a collection of his essays, the bulk of which were written for The London Review of Books , that range from his revealing account of his cancer – “it all started along with my balls” – to be able to his curious encounter together with Irish composer Frederick May in the Stag’s Head pub in Dublin. Diverse topics – sexuality, religion, literature, John McGahern and the controversial Francis Stuart.
The Booklist is a weekly newsletter with regard to book lovers from publications editor Jason Steger. Get it delivered every Friday .
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