From a wartime romance crossing continents to some of the best poetry, children’s fiction and history around, some of the winners of the NSW Premier’s Literary Awards and the NSW Premier’s History Awards tell us what they’ll be reading over the holidays.
Ellen van Neerven
Over the summer I’m looking forward to reading Chappy, Patricia Grace’s latest novel, recently nominated for the 2017 International Dublin Literary Award. My partner and I just came back from a holiday in Wellington, where we picked up books by Maori writers. Chappy begins in the 1920s and follows a Maori family into the 1980s. The other books I have on my 'to read' pile include new Australian novels: The Good People by Hannah Kent and The Easy Way Out by Steven Amsterdam; and poetry: Monsters Ink by Samuel Wagan Watson.
Ellen van Neerven is the joint winner of the 2016 Indigenous Writer's Prize (NSW Premier's Literary Awards) for her novel Heat and Light (University of Queensland Press)
At the moment I’m reading Marie Munkara’s Of Ashes and Rivers that Run to the Sea. I think Marie is one of the most underrated writers in the country. I’m also reading Armenia, Australia and the Great War by Vicken Babkenian and Peter Stanley because one of the world’s greatest massacres occurred there and I know so little about it. It’s embarrassing to find out about Australia’s involvement in it.
Bruce Pascoe is the winner of the 2016 NSW Book of the Year Prize and joint-winner of the inaugural 2016 NSW Indigenous Writers Prize (NSW Premier's Literary Awards) for Dark Emu (Magabala Books)
Dr Merlinda Bobis
I fall into a newly opened book. That first page: a well of no return. So I read on. This was how I felt with Subhash Jaireth’s Incantations and Alison Wong’s As the Earth Turns Silver. I fall into Subhash’s first lyric on Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu, into Alison’s ‘lonely place’ where ‘Jesus-ghosts preach’ about love. I will fall deeper into Subhash’s mini-essays on 20 portraits in the National Portrait Gallery, and into Alison’s love story across China, New Zealand and the battlefields of the Western Front. Subhash is Indian-Australian; Alison, a Chinese-New Zealander in Geelong.
Then I will descend more leagues down in Tremble, the collection of poems that won and were short- and long-listed in the 2016 University of Canberra Vice-Chancellor’s International Poetry Prize — poems ‘from as near as Belconnen, and as far away as Fairbanks Alaska,’ as the Vice-Chancellor says. I will fall further out beyond the self yet deeper within: this is the joy of reading.
Dr Merlinda Bobis is the winner of the 2016 Christina Stead Prize for Fiction (NSW Premier's Literary Awards) for her book Locust Girl: A Love Song (Spinifex Press)
I’d like to revisit an old favourite, The Nargun and the Stars, by my award’s namesake, Patricia Wrightson. I remember this story of an outsider in a remote Australian valley filling me with wonder. It left me captivated by the land and the stone that was older than time itself.
Another one high in my reading pile is Dear Genius (edited by Leonard S Marcus), a book featuring the letters of the revolutionary children’s book editor Ursula Nordstrom. Nordstrom was the bold and brave force behind the publication of classics like Where the Wild Things Are and Charlotte’s Web. A visionary and an inspiration!
Rebecca Young is the joint winner of the 2016 Patricia Wrightson Prize for Children's Literature (NSW Premier's Literary Awards) together with Matt Ottley for their book Teacup (Scholastic Australia)
The three books I’ll be reading are:
Children of Time, by Adrian Tchaikovsky, which looks like a fairly pointed parody of gender and society, Dark Emu, by Bruce Pascoe (I have actually started reading this and it looks like tipping the accepted understandings of pre-colonial Indigenous Australians completely on its head, I’m thoroughly enjoying it). The other book is Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides - it looks intriguing.
Matt Ottley is the joint winner of the 2016 Patricia Wrightson Prize for Children's Literature (NSW Premier's Literary Awards) together with Rebecca Young for their book Teacup (Scholastic Australia)
Dr Tanya Evans
I’ve waited a long time to read Doreen Bates’ diary in print. I discovered her wonderful life story when reading her letters in the Mass Observation archive at the University of Sussex. Discussions with her children resulted in Diary of a Wartime Affair. It is an extraordinarily candid account of a super smart woman’s life during the Second World War. Doreen was a high-ranking civil servant who fell in love with a married colleague and deliberately decided to have his children out of wedlock. The details of their desire, lovemaking and intellectual passion enjoyed while dodging bombs in wartime London are captivating.
I am also excited about finally finding the time to read Gareth Steadman Jones’ biography of Karl Marx, Karl Marx: Greatness and Illusion. But I know this will require commitment so I look forward to Lisa Murray's Sydney Cemeteries dragging me away from my desk and roaming outside with my children throughout the school holidays.
Dr Tanya Evans is the winner of the 2016 NSW Community and Regional History Prize (NSW Premier's History Awards) for her book Fractured Families: Life on the Margins in Colonial New South Wales (NewSouth Publishing)
I am currently reading Conversations with Myself by Nelson Mandela, not just because the author himself is such a widely known personality, but because I am interested to learn more about his strong belief in peace as the most powerful weapon in the search for lasting solutions.
The other book I want to start reading soon is The Happiest Refugee by Anh Do. The book covers Anh's journey as a boat refugee embarking to Australia, settling here and becoming a true citizen.
Noël Zihabamwe is the winner of the 2016 NSW Young People's History Prize together with James Roy for One Thousand Hills (Scholastic Australia)