Our brilliant Writers Weekend programmer, Gillian, has put together a list of her top 6 books for your summer reading. Take them with you on warm weather adventures, to the beach, on a road trip, or to the living room for a cosy moment on the couch.
G: This summer feels like it’s been a long time coming and I can’t think of a better way to spend it than surrounded by a stack of great books.
So much to choose from this year as writers all over the world have responded to strange times with inspired stories, some of which are a direct response to the state of the world, others, escapism, pure and simple.
Among them is a wealth of stunning debuts both here in WA and further afield. It shows once again, there’s something in the water when it comes to writing talent here.
With such a wealth of bookly treasures at our feet, I have picked some of my favourites for your summer pile.
1. Karen Herbert's 'The River Mouth'
This cold case murder mystery set in the Pilbara is seriously creepy, and it has so much atmosphere. It took me back to childhood adventures running wild along riverbanks, old tyres swinging from trees and the smell of peppermint in the air. In this haunting debut from Karen Herbert, an investigation into a 15-year-old boy’s murder is reopened ten years after his body is found in the local river, and his mother discovers there are more secrets in her community than she could have imagined. Karen is one of an exciting cohort of brilliant WA women debuting great crime, including Sally Scott and Lisa Ellery.
2. David Allan-Petale's 'Locust Summer'
A beautiful and moving coming of age story about making peace with the past. Set in the 1980s, Rowan Brockman is reluctantly drawn back to the family farm in the wheatbelt to help with the final harvest before the farm is sold. David wrote most of this book travelling around Australia with his young family in a caravan and crafted one of the best debuts out of WA this year. Locust Summer is a book about family ties, grief and identity, a novel to curl up with for the day, to immerse yourself in completely.
3. Elfie Shiosaki's 'Homecoming'
This exquisite book stayed with me long after I put it down. I can’t forget it. Elfie Shiosaki is a Noongar and Yawuru writer, who has woven together fragments of stories about four generations of Noongar women from her family, offered through spoken histories, archival material, poetry, and short fiction. These stories are filled with fierce, unwavering dignity and resistance. Of love without end. This is a remarkable work.
4. Jaqueline Maley's 'The Truth About Her'
Walkley award winning Sydney journalist, Jacqueline Maley has written a blistering and witty debut about guilt, shame, and mothering. When journalist and single mother, Suzy Hamilton finds out the subject of one of her reports is dead, she is forced to examine the consequences of her actions. It’s an utterly absorbing exploration of stories, who owns them and who has the right to tell them. This is a smart, entertaining, and very topical book to really sink your teeth into this summer. I loved it.
5. Maria Papas's 'Skimming Stones'
Maria Papas won the 2020 City of Fremantle Tag Hungerford award with this heartfelt and elegant debut about the impact illness can have on a family. We meet Grace, whose sister had cancer as a child and the story explores the ripple effect of that experience on Grace’s life and choices. It’s a such an underexplored area, and a book that could so easily be heavy and mired in sadness but is affirming and filled with hope. Quietly stunning.
6. Hannah Kent's 'Devotion'
This beautiful book! If you are looking for epic historical fiction, interwoven with folklore and legend, then this one by the author of Burial Rites and The Good People is for you. It follows the journey of a Wend and a Lutheran family from 19th century Prussia across the ocean to South Australia and includes a magical twist I didn’t see coming. It’s easy to see why Hannah Kent is one of Australia’s best loved story tellers.
7. Lech Blaine's 'Car Crash: A Memoir'
This is one of the standout books of the year. Lech Blaine was 17 when he walked away from a car crash that killed three of his best friends and left two in comas. He turned to alcohol to absorb the trauma and curated his grief on social media. This is gripping, timely, heartfelt, and even darkly funny at times, a story of family and friendship, of trauma and recovery. It’s so brilliantly written, it flew by. I want everyone to read it immediately, especially those with teenage boys in their life.
Can't get enough of literature and ideas? Have a look at our full Writers Weekend program!