Critics' Picks - Better read if dead

There are thousands of new books to browse and read in our Critics’ Picks collection, in the Governor Marie Bashir Reading Room. Every book has been reviewed by top critics, including the Australian Book Review, New York Review of Books, the Times Literary Supplement and the London Review of Books. Have you made any surprising discoveries on our shelves?

Critics' Picks photo - Where the Dead Go by Sarah Bailey

Do you love Dead Central, the Library’s journey back to 19th century Sydney? The Critics’ Picks collection has even more liaisons with the dead – just in time for Halloween.

Sydney’s Central Station now stands on the site of a former cemetery that once held over 30,000 bodies. If you’ve been to our exhibition Dead Central, or listened to The Burial Files Podcast, you’ll know that there’s an intriguing story beneath our streets.

Curator Elise Edmonds used key publications from the Library’s collection while developing this popular exhibition, including Sydney Burial Ground 1819-1901 : Elizabeth and Devonshire Streets and History of Sydney's Early Cemeteries from 1788 by Keith A. Johnson and Malcolm R. Sainty and Lisa Murray’s Sydney Cemeteries: a field guide.

The Critics’ Picks collection in the Governor Marie Bashir Reading Room is filled with other tales - both real and imagined - of lost souls, unsolved crimes, the undead and more earthly horrors.

Here’s a small selection of what you can find on shelf now.


Critics' Picks photo - Trace

Rachel Brown’s Trace: Who Killed Maria James? is based on the exhaustive work of the ABC journalist who spent 16 months putting together the podcast of the same name. Exploring the unsolved murder of single mother Maria James in the back of her Melbourne bookshop in 1980, Publisher’s Weekly says that Brown “skillfully balances an impartial, investigative tone with a more personal perspective.”

Australian author Sarah Bailey has her own ideas about Where the Dead Go, rounding out the trilogy that focuses on her protagonist Rick Fletcher. The Sydney Morning Herald thinks that it works just as well as a standalone murder mystery, adding that it’s an “exemplar of the type of kickass female detective that Australian crime fiction writers are adept at creating.” 

Critics' Picks photo - Highway Bodies

The incomparable Jeanette Winterson gives us her spin on Mary Shelley in the Booker Longlisted Frankisstein: a love story. An unconventional – and unquestionably divisive – love story,  “Intelligent and inventive,” says The Times. “Frankisstein is very funny. There has always been a fine line between horror and high camp, and this is a boundary that Winterson gleefully exploits.”

The Corset by Laura Purcell is a historical slice of supernatural horror fiction, one that mixes phrenology with a seamstress who believes it is possible to kill with a needle and thread. The critical review in The Guardian is impressive: “Vivid and well researched, this book is an evocative portrait of a society that punishes women who dare to contravene social norms.”

Of course, the brand-new Children’s Library has younger readers covered too. As you get lost in the maze of books, you might come across a new edition of Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book, Australian author Alison Evans’ zombie apocalypse book Highway Bodies and many more. Have you had a look yet?


Dead Central runs at the State Library of NSW until May 2020. The Critics’ Picks are always available in the Governor Marie Bashir Reading Room.