24 May 2009

David Dale's list of best books about Australia

In the Sun-Herald (Sydney Morning Herald's Sunday edition) today, and compiled with the assistance of readers of his column

1. 1788, by Watkin Tench: a new edition of his two books A Narrative of the Expedition to Botany Bay (1789) and A Complete Account of the Settlement at Port Jackson (1793), edited by Tim Flannery).

2. The Fatal Shore, Robert Hughes: "probably the most readable history of colonial NSW and Tasmania ever written ... let academics argue over its worth, but no one will doubt its value as an introduction to Australian history" (says Peter).

3. A Fortunate Life, Albert Facey: a "down-to-earth, first hand account of the life of a rambler in early twentieth century Australia" (says GC).

4. My Place, Nadia Wheatley: "a beautiful view of the many people who have made this place home" (says Kate). And another book called My Place, by Sally Morgan: "important for understanding the Aboriginal Australian's perspective of their changed homeland and the difficulties they face in trying to keep their self-worth and their families together" (says Jane).

5. Maestro, Peter Goldsworthy: "His beautiful prose makes the city of Darwin as important a character as the main protagonist" (says Beckala).

6. The Magic Pudding, Norman Lindsay: A hilarious tale of mateship and madness and the source of Australia's national metaphor.

7. For the Term of his Natural Life, Marcus Clark: "read it in the Botanical Gardens and be transported back in time" (says Chris Fuller).

8. They're A Weird Mob, Nino Culotta: The first celebration of a diverse Australia as a nation of immigrants.

9. Kangaroo, D. H. Lawrence: "It was written in 1923 but it so fresh and vivid and relates to many events happening today" (says Shirley).

10. Eucalyptus, Murray Bail: "What could be more Australian? Hopefully Rusty Crowe never gets his plans for a film version off the ground" (says Darren).

11. The Lost Continent, Terry Pratchett: "a hilarious look at everything we think makes us Australian" (says Brett).

12. Devil's Hill (Nan Chauncy): "contains wonderful chapters filled with Aussie perseverance taming a wild Tasmania - 'There's a leech having a free beer on your leg, son'" (says Dragonfly).

13. The Future Eaters, Tim Flannery: "a somewhat dry but thorough and profound discussion of the ecology of Australia, and goes a long way towards describing how we have tried to adapt to the bush" (says Nathan).

14. Grand Days, Frank Moorhouse: "quite possibly my favourite Australian novel, with a wonderful heroine ... it shows Australia as once being an important and respected part of the world stage, and it really makes me regret the insularity of modern Australia" (says tqd).

15. Cloudstreet, Tim Winton: "voted Australia's favourite book a couple of years ago," says Julie, but adds: " very different but just as good is The Shark Net by Robert Drewe. Both are set in Perth in the time frame of Eric Cooke the serial killer who was the second last man to be hanged in Australia."

Cloudstreet is a great novel. What a shame works by Xavier Herbert, Patrick White and Katherine Prichard didn't make his list.

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