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Top summer reads for 2022

Summer can be the time for getting outdoors and enjoying the best that New South Wales has to offer. But if the last couple of years have taught us anything, it’s that it is okay to schedule in a little bit of personal time as well.

So, if catching up on a good book or two (or even 12) is on your ‘to do’ list this summer, check out these recommendations.

You can find many of these books in our Critics’ Picks collection in the Governor Marie Bashir Reading Room, while some are expected to arrive in summer 2022. Which one will be your favourite?

New Australian Fiction 2021 cover

New Australian Fiction 2021
by Rebecca Starford (ed)

What better way to look back at the year that was than with a collection of the year’s best local fiction. Kill Your Darlings editor Rebecca Starford presents 16 stories from voices right across the diverse Australian landscape. ‘Written with compassion and empathy,’ writes librarian Renee Holman in the Library’s Openbook magazine, ‘these stories will surely resonate with readers.’

‘All 16 stories in this collection teem with sharp prose, writing that fosters intrigue and elicits empathy, deftly inviting the reader to step into vivid snapshots of moments in the narrators’ lives.’ – Shivani Prabhu, Books + Publishing

Fancy Meeting You Here cover

Fancy Meeting You Here
by Michelle Kalus and Ali Berg

From the author of The Book Ninja and While You Were Reading comes a ‘what if’ novel with a twist. While working at a cinema in London, screenwriter/podcaster Evie fantasises about what it would be like to meet her literary idol when he was an unknown. She gets her chance when an interview with a psychic sends her 10 years back in time.

‘Funny, clever and utterly binge-worthy ... If you’re looking for a blissful piece of escapism with plenty of laughs, this is it.’ – Better Reading

The Other Half of You

The Other Half of You
by Michael Mohammed Ahmad

Following the success of The Tribe and the Miles Franklin–shortlisted The Lebs, Michael Mohammed Ahmad continues to explore the Lebanese-Australian character Bani Adam in his latest novel The Other Half of You. Having followed him through childhood and adolescence in the time of 9/11, we rejoin him in 2008 with this latest vignette, written as a letter written to his son.

‘The four-letter flavour of every page gives an authentic street voice.’ – Clinton Caward, Sydney Morning Herald

Permafrost cover

Permafrost
by SJ Norman

If there’s something linking the seven stories in SJ Norman’s collection, then it’s a firm sense of place. The visual and performance artist sets their prose against a variety of locations, including Japan in the winter, the modern-day tourism around Auschwitz, and rural Australia. ‘Norman’s prose envelops the reader,’ says librarian Richard Gray, ‘inviting them into something that is half memory and part imagination.’

‘Seven eerily affecting stories that traverse and update gothic and romantic literary traditions, incorporating horror, queer, and folk elements to hair-raising effect.’ – Australian Book Review

The Heartbeat of Trees cover

The Heartbeat of Trees
by Peter Wohlleben

Have you ever simply felt calmer around trees? Making an argument for our ancient ties and language with nature, Peter Wohlleben (The Hidden Life of Trees) shares ideas of how we can see, feel, smell, hear and even taste our journeys into the woods. The Heartbeat of Trees is also available as an ebook from the Library, so you can access it with a Library card from wherever you are.

‘Wohlleben is like a knowledgeable uncle who takes you in hand and talks your ear off about whatever he’s thinking at the moment.’ – The Washington Post

The Labyrinth by Amanda Lohrey cover

The Labyrinth
by Amanda Lohrey

Amanda Lohrey’s seventh novel The Labyrinth, winner of the Prime Minister’s Literary Award and the Miles Franklin Literary Award, follows a woman who moves to a coastal town to be closer to her estranged and imprisoned son. She builds the titular labyrinth in her backyard to help cope with anxiety and the grieving process.

‘It is a sharply tuned novel, a sprawling narrative that resists rigid expectations, instead allowing those who inhabit the pages to surrender themselves to the mode of “reversible destiny” that it is constructed around.’ – The Guardian

Fishing for Lightning cover

Fishing for Lightning
by Sarah Holland-Batt

This collection of short essays brings together Sarah Holland-Batt’s poetry columns from The Australian, each concentrating on a single Australian poem. ‘Holland-Batt is a cogent and lively host,’ says librarian Jane Gibian, ‘easing us into each poem through a context that might come from outside poetry, such as a current event or the season, leading into different ways of reading the featured poem.’

‘It is a rare, and welcome, bird in the literary ecology of our country.’ – Australian Book Review

Hell of a Book cover

Hell of a Book
by Jason Mott

Winner of the US National Book Award for Fiction Jason Mott (The Returned) uses elegant prose to examine racism in America. Hell of a Book follows a Black author as he sets out on a cross-country book publicity tour. In presenting the award, the National Book Foundation commented: ‘In a structurally and conceptually daring examination of art, fame, family and being Black in America, Mott somehow manages the impossible trick of being playful, insightful and deeply moving, all at the same time. A highly original, inspired work that breaks new ground.’

‘Brilliant and inventive. What is most surprising, however, is how funny the novel is.’ – The Sunday Times (UK)

The Secret to Human Strength by Alison Bechdel cover

The Secret to Superhuman Strength
by Alison Bechdel

It has been a big year for local fans of Bechdel’s work, as the musical adaptation of her deeply personal graphic novel Fun Home made its way around the country. Here she takes us on another personal journey in her inimitable comic sequences, transcending the self-help genre by examining her own relationship with exercise while providing a potted history of fitness fads.

‘How on earth does she do it? The ingenious concision, the warmth of feeling, the fact that the reader never tires of her company.’ – Rachel Cooke, The Guardian

Bila Yarrudhanggalangdhuray cover

Bila Yarrudhanggalangdhuray
by Anita Heiss

The Marrambidya Bila – the Murrumbidgee River – is the Bila Yarrudhanggalangdhuray (‘the river of Dreams’) of Anita Heiss’s novel, set in 1852 in Wiradjuri country. ‘Laden with Wiradjuri language,’ says Marika Duczynski of the Library’s Indigenous Engagement branch, ‘it is also one of those rare, generous and transportive opportunities to walk in our ancestors’ shoes.’

‘Heiss fuses fiction with realism, conjuring a resonance still felt in Blak struggle today ... packs heart into every page.’ – Saturday Paper

The Library: A Fragile History

The Library: A Fragile History
by Andrew Pettegree & Arthur der Weduwen

It’s no surprise that we love libraries. Described as the first major work of its kind, Pettergree and der Weduwen’s new book explores the history of our beloved libraries, from the ancient world to the public libraries we visit today. They show that, in addition to their historic value, libraries remain important for many reasons. There’s even a chapter on Australia, aptly titled ‘Libraries are great, mate!’ after a report of the same name by esteemed librarian and archivist Allan Horton, who got one of his career starts at the Public (now State) Library of New South Wales.

‘This is an outstanding book … Its scope is phenomenal.’ – John Carey, The Times

My Favourite Movies by David Stratton cover

My Favourite Movies
by David Stratton

It’s been a few years since At the Movies left our televisions, but David Stratton remains synonymous with film criticism in Australia. He’s seen thousands of films, and whittled down his list to a tidy 111 favourites. From Metropolis to Roma, the beauty of this book is that you’ll also have a meaty watchlist by the end of it – so you’re set for the colder months as well.

‘For movie-goers eager to get into unfamiliar territory, Stratton’s list is a splendid start.’ – Filmink

Richard Gray, Coordinator, Information & Access