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With Library and Information Week running from 17 to 23 May 2021 around the country, it’s a chance to celebrate Australian libraries, and to showcase our collections as well.
To mark the occasion, some of our librarians have selected their favourite thematic books from the Library’s deep collection. From the latest Critics’ Picks to personal favourites from the stack, come with us on a journey through space and time.
All these books are available on the shelf or by request in Reading Rooms. Whatever you are interested in, we guarantee that there’s something there for you.
Have you made any surprising discoveries on our shelves? What are some of your favourites right now? Let us know and be sure to tag us @statelibrarynsw and #LIW2021
by William Gibson
It is difficult to talk about sci-fi without summoning the name William Gibson. Agency is described as both a ‘sequel and a prequel’ to Gibson’s previous novel The Peripheral. It imagines an alternative 2017 and a post-apocalyptic 22nd century. ‘To read this book you have to plunge in and accept the initially unintelligible, and as you keep reading, the time differences and the storyline slowly reveal themselves,’ says librarian Philippa Stevens. ‘I love a book that challenges me a bit as a reader and takes me on a ride. This one is definitely a rollercoaster page-turner that really rewards!’
To Be Taught, if Fortunate
by Becky Chambers
Chambers takes a different view of space and time — instead of space explorers terraforming new worlds, here they must transform themselves to live in the hostile environments of the final frontier. ‘A beautifully written book that provides diverse characters, imagines fantastical landscapes, and offers sorrowful-hope,’ notes librarian Holly Radunz, adding that it’s suitable for young adults and beyond.
‘With a flashy red cover and catchy title this book intrigued me with the idea of what would it be like to live on Mars,’ says librarian Karen Small. ‘The isolation, the challenges — and, of course, the food.’ The writer is involved in NASA’s first HI-SEAS mission where a crew of six are involved in a four-month-long simulation of life on Mars or, in their case, a set of geodesic domes located on the slopes of Mauna Loa in Hawaii. ‘An interesting read about how we are still looking to explore the stars and how this can lead to self-exploration and an understanding of our humanity,’ concludes Karen.
A Memory Called Empire
by Arkady Martine
Martine’s academic background in border politics and narrative theory (writing as Dr. AnnaLinden Weller) informs this politically charged space thriller. Notions of the city, identity and memory are explored in the context of a human ambassador to the Teixcalaanli Empire while investigating the murder of her predecessor. The twist is that she carries around the memories of the deceased - or is at least supposed to. ‘Smart and sophisticated,’ says librarian Richard Gray. ‘I love Martine’s ability to play with linguistic concepts against a massive sci-fi background – and still have characters be amazed by the beauty of poetry.’ It’s a great standalone novel, but Martine expands her worlds in the 2021 sequel, A Desolation Called Peace.
Jane in Love
by Rachel Givney
Over 200 years after her death, Jane Austen continues to find her way into all sorts of genre outings. So, what if Jane Austen travelled through time to the present day and fell in love? Would she choose love and marriage, but in doing so erase herself from literary history, or would she choose to go back but lose her own romantic happily-ever-after? Fans of Lost in Austen will love this unique reimagining by Australian screenwriter Rachel Givney. Librarian and Austen-lover Julie Sweeten says it’s an ‘engaging and cleverly written exploration of the choice between the heart and the pen — but it is so much more. There are interesting modern characters and sub-plots, and even a quirky male librarian who plays a significant role in the outcome! Jane’s wonderment and reactions to the “magical” technology of the modern world are insightfully portrayed and contrasted to the world she knew.’
American Science Fiction: Four Classic Novels, 1960–1966
Edited by Gary K Wolfe
Combining the themes of space and time all in one volume, this anthology opens with Poul Anderson’s High Crusade — in which aliens invade Lincolnshire during the Hundred Years’ War — and Clifford Simak’s Way Station, featuring a 124-year-old Civil War veteran in the titular intergalactic station. Daniel Keyes’s beloved Flowers for Algernon and Roger Zelany’s …And Call Me Conrad round out the set. ‘A collection of four great sci-fi novels of the 20th century,’ says librarian Sean Volke, calling out Way Station as a personal favourite. ‘An intriguing tale about a transit station for outer space travellers and its human caretaker.’
Ghostland: In Search of Haunted Country
by Edward Parnell
The author takes us on a journey through his past to revisit the books, films and television programs that haunted his childhood. He visits the old haunts of some of Britain’s most famous authors of the strange and the macabre, such as Alan Garner, Susan Cooper, M.R. James and Arthur Machen, as well as the locations and landscapes of acclaimed cinematic hauntings such as The Wicker Man. ‘I came to this book expecting to read a fellow horror fan’s travelogue, which it is,’ says Steve Richards. ‘But I also found a moving study of personal loss and grief, and the healing powers of travel, writing and nature.’