Last month I shared suggestions for your summer fiction reads. Now I'm back with a few more suggestions of the non-fiction kind for readers young and not-so-young.
For the history-lovers
As a historian, of course I’m starting with the history recommendations! One of my favourites is Kaz Cooke’s, You’re Doing It Wrong: A History of Bad and Bonkers Advice to Women. Using the collections of the National Library, as well as finds from Australia’s State Libraries, this hilarious, engaging and enraging book showcases the weird and wonderful items in our country’s libraries, as well as the bad and bonkers mansplaining women have put up with over the centuries. Plenty of room for the reader to pencil in their own marginalia, unless you’re reading the Library’s copy, in which case, grab yourself a free Clever Thinking notepad and pencil to take notes!
If you want some adventures on the high seas, Kate recommends Rob Mundle’s Bligh: Master Mariner, which she says is “history presented in a way that is both accessible and entertaining”. As the cover alludes: “There’s a lot more to Captain Bligh than mutiny, rum and convicts.” Indeed! Kate assures us that this history is in fact:
“A thumping good read filled with all the romance, mishaps and rollicking adventures you could wish for while sailing the high seas.”
For more adventures on the high-seas as well as those on “the grimmer shores of the brutal penal colony of Norfolk Island”, Ian recommends Ten Rogues: The Unlikely Story of Convict Schemers, a Stolen Brig and an Escape from Van Diemen’s Land to Chile by Peter Grose. This “roller-coaster tale” of a book “has everything – defiance of authority, treachery, piracy and mutiny, escape from the hangman’s noose, and even love”.
If your New Year Resolution is to drink less wine, you may want to approach Kelly’s recommendation with caution lest it gets your tastebuds salivating. Stalin’s Wine Cellar by John Baker and Nick Place is the recounting of Baker’s endeavours to authenticate the “mysterious wine catalogue detailing the contents of the long-lost wine cellar of Nicholas II, the last Tsar of Russia”.
“This book details the wild adventure Baker and his associates went on to verify the authenticity of the collection and whether it could be bought and shipped to an action house, a journey full of colourful complications… [with] a very surprising ending.”
After spending the 2021 lockdown working on transcriptions for the Library’s Hazel de Berg oral collection, I am most excited by these recommendations of more Australians reflecting on their lives. The immigrant experience is captured “beautifully” in Lihong’s recommendation, Stranger Country by Monica Tan.
“Because of her Chinese heritage and her experience of living in China, she obviously struck a cord with me. In this book there are many interesting things/conversations uncovered by Tan. I also read one of the most beautiful meanings I’ve heard about ‘Country’.”
James’ recommendation, Tell Me Again by Gomeroi/Gamilaroi/Kamilaroi yinarr woman, Amy Thunig, is a “deeply reflective” memoir in which Dr Thunig:
“Contextualises the impacts of colonisation, dispossession, racism, inequality and imprisonment, Thunig reflects on how character is not determined by the place you find yourself, in a world that was never intended for you, but shown through how you care for those around you – even in spite of that.”
For readers young and old, Sam recommends It’s Ok to Be Me!, a picture book by “superhero Glambassador, Wonder Mama”, aka Renny Roccon, a story “to remind every child that they are perfect, just the way they are”.
And it’s not an Aussie summer without a cricket read, right? For cricketing fans, Anything but…: An Autobiography by the late Aussie cricket legend Richie Benaud and the anecdote-filled That’s Out! by the great Dickie Bird are must reads.
New Year Resolutions Inspiration and Guides
Did anyone make a New Year’s resolution? In case you have, here are a few recommendations based on two common resolutions one makes – money and health.
Matthew has been reading The Barefoot Investor: The Only Money Guide You’ll Ever Need, which he uses for his “summer breathing space life admin stuff”. While there are many books on how to sort your personal finances, this “book has useful information about things I never knew existed and wish I’d known about earlier”.
For those like Felicity who says “finance is not at all my strong suit”, you may find Victoria Devine’s She’s on the Money: Take Charge of Your Financial Future your go-to guide.
“It’s not filled with financial jargon and is broken into really useful chapters and feels like a chat with a friend”.
Who plans to eat healthier this year? I was intrigued by Sam’s recommendation of Mikey Robins’ Seven Deadly Sins and One Very Naughty Fruit, which is described in our catalogue as an “irreverent romp through the history of food via the Seven Deadly Sins” and which Sam says will make you “want to eat a nice, clean salad after reading this fascinating, gastric-juice rolling cornucopia of foody goodness”. As someone who prefers their veggies covered in cheese and their fruit chocolate-covered; challenge accepted!
If the only green ‘food’ you like is, for example, green icing atop a yummy chocolate cake, then maybe Abbey’s recommendation will suit you better. Bake Australia Great by Katherine Sabbath features “cakes inspired by classic Women’s Weekly recipes” and Abbey’s team has successfully “tested” Sabbath’s Fairy Bread Cake, Fantales Choc Chip Biccies and Redback Spider Cupcakes during team meetings and celebrations.
Too Hot Outside? How about a Summer Film Marathon
Not a fan of the summer heat? Maybe you can plot your own summer film marathon with this suggestion from Christine, Showgirls, Teen Wolves and Astro Zombies: My Year-Long Quest to Find and Watch the Worst Movie Ever Made by Michael Adams.
“From laugh-out-loud bad to the merely appalling, Adams writes about hundreds of these films and makes them entertaining… while weaving in stories of his life… and [contemplating] how do you tell your partner you have spent over $5,000 buying bad movies?”
Or you could go a bit more high-brow with inspiration for your film marathon via Konrad’s pick of Adrian Martin’s essays, Mysteries of Cinema: Reflections on Film Theory, History and Culture. Konrad describes Martin as “erudite, perceptive and unlike some film critics… he is not a snob”.
Non-fiction in the Main Reading Room Kids’ Corner
I haven’t forgotten our younger readers! For those of you with a sense of adventure, Stephanie Owen Reeder’s Will the Wonderkid: Treasure Hunter of the Australian Outback tells the story of Will Hutchison who discovered opal in an area we now know as Coober Pedy. (Read Stephanie’s article about researching Will’s story here.) Lennie the Legend is another true story told by Reeder, this time of Lennie Gwyther, a nine-year-old who travelled 1,000km on his pony from Victoria to see the opening of the Sydney Harbour Bridge in 1932.
You can also learn about Australia’s Wild Weird and Wonderful Weather; or anything about Australia’s history in Peter Macinnis’ The Big Book of Australian History, which features photographs and items from the Library’s collection.
Maybe you have been thinking about what it means to be Australian? Then Mem Fox’s I’m Australian Too, Charles Hope’s Culture and Bruce Pascoe’s Young Dark Emu, amongst many others, may be right up your alley. As well as Culture, Charles Hope has written over 50 gorgeously illustrated books, many of which are in Kids Corner, on space exploration, koalas, honeybees, language and words, primates, shipwrecks, you name it, he’s written about it!
The Librarians’ non-fiction and fiction selection in Kids Corner will keep you entertained and inspired long enough to cool down from the heat outside. Help yourself to a free notepad and pencil, and you’ll find activities and colour-ins to while away some time as well.
Planning a visit?
Visit us in the Main Reading Room during the summer holidays for a bit of relief from the heat and enjoy one of the book recommendations from our Librarians in a quiet corner.