Turning the page on two years of FBi‘s Book Club

June 30th 2017

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Over the last two years, FBi’s Book Club has featured 23 wonderful books from all around the world, including 12 local Australian titles.

We’ve featured works by 13 women and 10 men; 15 novels, four works of non-fiction, three short story collections, and one book of poetry. That’s a whole lot of reading! To mark this momentous occasion, hosts Rebecca Slater, Justin Wolfers and Holly Isemonger are taking you through a few of their favourites.

Almost Sincerely –  Zoë Norton Lodge (2015, Giramondo, Australia)

The debut collection of short stories by Zoë Norton Lodge, which flirts between a relatable account of growing up in the suburbs of Annandale and a ridiculous comic romp. The stories are hilarious, and full of the energy Zoë brings to her other gigs on Story Club and ABC’s The Checkout. Recommend for anyone with an interest in Greek-Welsh family relations, childhood clumsiness, and local stories gone mad. –JW

Clade – James Bradley (2015, Penguin, Australia)

This lyrical, ambitious work by James Bradley melds a heartfelt family drama against an impending ecological collapse. The prose is deeply invested in finding meaning in nature, and the story unravels in surprising turns, pushing us further into a feature we’d rather not know about. Great for anyone who wants to think and feel at the same time, loves bees, or just loves a good drama. –JW

The First Bad Man – Miranda July (2015, Faber & Faber, USA)

This first novel from artist-filmmaker-writer Miranda July follows the story of an eccentric, middle-aged woman caught in a love triangle with an older man and younger woman. With martial arts, queer sexual fantasies and creepy talking babies, it’s the kind of book that reviewers like to call ‘quirky’ (though, as we argued, this seems to be a gendered label applied to women writers!). It’s great for fans of experimental, contemporary writers like David Sedaris, Lorrie Moore, George Saunders as well as fans of July’s other work. –RS

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves – Karen Joy Fowler (2013, Serpent’s Tail, USA)

This prize-winning book from Karen Joy Fowler is a sharp and thought-provoking read which explores family and sibling relationships as well as the ethics of scientific testing. It also has a twist so big we felt bad about talking about it on radio… This is one for lovers of smart, contemporary fiction and makes for a compelling holiday read. –RS

An Elegant Young Man – Luke Carman (2013, Giramondo, Australia)

This debut collection of short fiction comes from local Western-Sydney author, Luke Carmen. Drawing on his experiences growing up in Liverpool, Carmen takes us on a tour of the streets, shopping centres and homes of a suburban precinct largely ignored in Australian literature. At times dark, funny and touching, we thought this was an important read for anyone looking for a fresh and diverse picture of modern Australia. –RS

Small Acts of Disappearance – Fiona Wright (2015, Giramondo, Australia)

Small Acts of Disappearance is debut work of personal essays from Sydney-based author and poet Fiona Wright. Bringing together her own experiences of anorexia with broader ideas around the female body, Wright’s essays interweave the personal with the political, literary and academic. We recommended this book for anyone interested in gender theory or mental health, as well as lovers of great non-fiction writing. –RS

My Brilliant Friend – Elena Ferrante (2011, Europa Editions, Italy)

Hailed as a modern masterpiece, this is the first book in the much talked-about series by the anonymous Italian author, Elena Ferrante. The series follows the story of a female friendship over a lifetime, beginning in Naples in the 1950s. We found it lyrical, moving and totally addictive. One for readers who like beautiful writing and being on top of literary trends. –RS

Jasper Jones – Craig Silvey (2009, Allen & Unwin, Australia)

A new Australian classic, now converted to huge success at Belvoir St Theatre, and then for television, Craig Silvey’s classic small-town coming of age story is an absolute breeze. At turns family saga, mystery novel, and cultural satire, we’d recommend this for anyone who wants to get stuck into Australian fiction, starting at the top. –JW

The Guest Cat – Takashi Hiraide (2014, Picador, Japan)

This meditative, delightful little semi-fictional novel is all about the cat. We’ve never read a book that somehow makes a cat’s moods, movements and feelings the most relatable thing in a world, but for the quiet Japanese couple who let Chibi into their home, she’s their daily light. For cat lovers, or soon-to-be cat lovers, as well as those who are in it for the beautiful prose. –JW

Heat & Light – Ellen van Neerven (2016, UQP, Australia)

This debut collection of short stories has a wide range and a delicate eye, in tales of family, young love, queer identity and the farce of Australian politics. Van Neerven, a proud Mununjal woman from South-East Queensland, effortlessly mixes realism, speculative fiction and indigenous storytelling. From van Neerven. Look out for Comfort Food, her collection of poems, as well as an upcoming book of essays. –JW

My Struggle: A Death in the Family – Karl Ove Knausgaard (2009, Vintage, Norway)

The first novel in Knausgaard’s epic series about the trauma of his childhood, A Death in the Family is characterised by its unquenchable thirst for emotionally accurate detail and its author’s obsession with being validated as a great writer. This instalment moves back and forth between a present where Karl and his brother must deal with their father’s passing, and a childhood in which Karl’s need to gain his father’s approval dominates his every waking day. For those interested in the details, Scandinavia, and/or self-involved men. –JW

Everywhere I Look – Helen Garner (2016, Scribe, Australia)

This is a collection of essays, reviews and diary entries from much-loved Australian author, Helen Garner. From essays on Russell Crowe and Rosie Batty to reflections on her mother, it’s kind of a hodge-podge of work, but Garner gets away with it through being brilliant. This is one for seasoned fans Garner’s work, rather than first-timers. –RS

What Belongs to You – Garth Greenwell (2016, Pan Macmillan, USA)

Set in Sofia, Bulgaria, this novel is an exquisite portrayal of the delicacy of sexual desire – in which love, possession and submission are constantly becoming contaminated. Told with sensitivity and sophistication, Greenwell’s debut novel is a queer coming of age story for the Skype generation. –JW

I Love Dick – Chris Kraus (1997, Semiotext(e), USA)

Despite being first published in 1997, Chris Kraus’ book has enjoyed a recent cult-like revival in feminist reading circles. The book follows a married woman’s infatuation with a writer named Dick and is told through a series of letters and reflections. We felt this book was a kind of antidote to the trope of creepy male stalkers and was valuable for its bold expression of female desire and sexuality. This is one for anyone who wants to be looked at funny while reading on the bus. –RS

The Island Will Sink by Briohny Doyle (2016, The Lifted Brow, Australia)

The debut novel is set in a near future where cars drive themselves, kitchens prepare our meals for us, and for lack of any interaction with the natural environment, we watch immersive disaster films about far-off places being destroyed, while we survive to tell the tale. The novel is a close look at the relationship between intimacy and technology, and is a deliciously cinematic vision of the future. For anyone who is worried using their phone too much is making them a zombie, or those interested in what cinematic fiction might be. –JW

The Natural Way of Things – Charlotte Wood (2015, Allen & Unwin, Australia)

An Australian tale of women living in a dystopian world that is born from the sexism and misogyny of our contemporary society. We thought it was rich and thought provoking— a great read to pair with The Handmaidens Tale. –HI

Known and Strange Things – Teju Cole (2016, Random House, USA)

A beautiful, sophisticated and far-reaching debut collection of essays from Nigerian-American writer, photographer and critic Teju Cole. The book is loosely categorised as a mixture of literary criticism, photography criticism, and travel writing – but each essay is also historically aware, politically astute, and personally revealing. A true asset for anyone interested in contemporary culture. –JW

Lemons in the Chicken Wire – Alison Whittaker (Magabala, 2016, Australia)

Lemons in the Chicken Wire is Allison Whittaker’s first collection of poetry. It is formally experimental, lyrical, rich in images yet accessible. She explores the limits of language and intersections between the land and life as a queer Gomeroi woman living in Sydney (on Wangal land). Whittaker is an exciting new voice in Australian poetry — we recommend this to everyone, whether you are familiar with poetry or not. –HI

The Sellout – Paul Beatty (2016, Oneworld, USA)

This Booker-prize winner satire is hilarious and unrelenting, and a truly exception critique of American race relations. Beatty never leaves a sentence flat, in a book frenetic with cultural references and hell-bent on subverting how we talk about race, subjugation, intersectionality. Ahead of its time, in the sense that it’s a conversation we all should be having, but aren’t. –JW

Down the Hume – Peter Polites (2017, Hachette, Australia)

The debut novel from Sweatshop’s Peter Polites. It is a novel full of sharp and raw detail exploring the life of a queer man in Western Sydney. If you want to read more contemporary Australian literature, Down the Hume is a great place to start. –HI

Transit – Rachel Cusk (2016, Vintage, UK / Canada)

The latest novel from British author Rachel Cusk. The novel is built around observations and characters rather than traditional plot. She is a woman trying to rebuild her life after a divorce and her sense of self is shaped by interactions with those around her. Transit it cutting yet compassionate and filled with a deep sense of wisdom. We all loved it and it’s a delight to read! We recommend this to everyone, but it’s a particularly good read if you are feeling lost or alone. –HI

Between a Wolf and a Dog – Georgia Blain (2016, Scribe, Australia)

Georgia Blain’s last novel, shortlisted for the Stella Prize is a beautifully wrought story of a dysfunctional family in Sydney. The prose is delicately detailed yet Blain still depicts the ways people are cruel to each other with an unflinching eye. We recommend reading this on a rainy night in some cosy pyjamas for a great (if bleak) start to winter. –HI

The Plains by Gerald Murnane (2017 [1982], Text, Australia)

This re-issued classic by Gerald Murnane is a strange, hypnotic re-imagining of inner Australia, if it was inhabited by aristocrats interested in polo and art collecting. Narrated by an ambitious film-maker who ventures into The Plains to unravel its mysteries, and by turns poetic and mundane, and full of intriguing descriptions of landscape, this novel is for anyone interested in how European history has entered the Australian psyche. For related reading, we recommend Dark Emu by Bruce Pascoe, The Bush by Don Watson, and for another take on mixing history with imagination, Rings of Saturn by W.G. Sebald. –JW

Huge thanks to our former host Rebecca Slater, our anchors and producers past and present, Samantha Groth, Samira Farah, Ancika Mester, Zacha Rosen and Krishtie Mofazzal, as well as our wonderful Program Director Caroline Gates.

Tune in on the first Sunday of each month to hear FBi’s Book Club at 9am.  To shoot through any requests or books you’d like to see featured, get in touch at bookclub@fbiradio.com


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