what I'm currently reading

These Precious Days - Ann PatchettThese Precious Days

Ann Patchett

Essays on writing and life by the renowned Ann Patchett that resonate for their candour, insight and expansiveness.

The One-In-A-Million Boy - Monica WoodThe One-In-A-Million Boy

Monica Wood

A 104-year-old woman outlives the young boy scout who has been tasked with refilling her bird feeders every week. However, the magic of their delightful friendship lives on, spilling into the lives of others and transforming them.

Mohamed Hassan - Mohamed HassanHow To Be A Bad Muslim

Mohamed Hassan

A most important read. This poignant collection of essays by journalist, poet and author Mohamed Hassan on the challenges of being a Muslim in today's world, will stay with you long after reading it.

Sigrid Nunez - The FriendThe Friend

Sigrid Nunez

A gentle, treasure of a book about a writer and the Great Dane she inherits, after its owner, also a novelist and one of the narrator’s closest friends, dies. Reflections on grief, writing, and the wonder of dogs.

Louise Erdrich - The Night WatchmanThe Night Watchman

Louise Erdrich

This Pulitzer Prise winning novel is set in the 1950’s in North Dakota, a time when the existence of Native Americans living in the Turtle Mountain Reservation was under threat. A proposed new US Government bill, misleadingly called the Emancipation Bill, was set to rob the Chippewa people of their land and cultural identity. The Night Watchman follows the lives of several people living within the reservation, and their fight to oppose the bill.

Adam Kay - This is Going to HurtThis is Going to Hurt

Adam Kay

Hilarious and devastating in equal measure, this diarised account of a doctor’s years of training under the NHS lays bare the reality of practising medicine as a junior doctor. It offers a rare and unvarnished insight into the demands and challenges of the profession, while highlighting shortfalls in the way doctors are treated by the vast public-health system.

Carl Nixon - The Tally StickThe Tally Stick

Carl Nixon

When a car carrying a British family (recent immigrants to New Zealand) leaves the road and ploughs into dense bush, only the three children survive. They are ‘rescued’ by a couple living off the grid, only to be held hostage by the pair. The children’s dark story interleaves with that of their British relatives, who come to NZ on several occasions in search of answers.

Elizabeth Strout - Anything is PossibleAnything is Possible

Elizabeth Strout

This series of interconnected short stories about the inhabitants of a small town in Illinois once again demonstrates Strout’s remarkable skill at capturing the nuances of human lives. Poignant and staggeringly insightful.

Rosemary Riddell - To Be FairTo Be Fair

Rosemary Riddell

Anecdotal glimpses into Riddell’s years as a New Zealand District Court Judge, including her reflections on the poverty trap, gender bias, and the need for humour in her job.

Elizabeth Strout - Oh William!Oh William!

Elizabeth Strout

A novel that explores with great insight the nature of a relationship between a couple whose marriage has ended many years earlier. Threads of history and family and intimacy forever connect them, while time (and a growing self-knowledge) sees the relationship evolve.

Linda Collins - Loss AdjustmentLoss Adjustment

Linda Collins

The pain of losing a child to suicide is something that defies articulation, yet Linda Collins conveys with acute clarity and searing eloquence her journey through grief – a mother grappling to understand and make sense of her daughter’s death.

Damon Galgut - The PromiseThe Promise

Damon Galgut

Punctuated by four funerals and a changing South Africa, Damon Galgut’s Booker-Prize-winning novel tells the story a disintegrating white family and a broken promise. The repeated failure by various family members to honour a promise made to the black woman who has loyally worked for them for years, comes to define the moral fabric of the family, while also having wider historical resonances.

Atul Gawunde - ComplicationsComplications

Atul Gawunde

“A surgeon’s notes on an imperfect science." Atul Gawunde offers a fascinating and disarmingly honest insight into the challenges of being a surgeon.

Rosetta Allan - Crazy LoveCrazy Love

Rosetta Allan

A brave and deeply affecting ‘novel’ based very closely on the author’s unique and often turbulent relationship with her husband of 30+ years . ‘Billy’ is bipolar and despite the emotional and physical havoc this increasingly imports into their lives (before he accesses effective treatment), it never succeeds in sabotaging their deep and enduring love for each other.

George Saunders - A Swim in the Pond in the RainA Swim in the Pond in the Rain

George Saunders

“The focus of my artistic life,” says George Saunders in his latest book, “has been trying to learn to write emotionally moving stories that a reader feels compelled to finish.” This book is a distillation of a creative writing course he taught at Syracuse University for over twenty years, in which seven short stories by great Russian writers are springboards for examining the craft and reflecting on the significance of storytelling. 

Raynor Winn - The Salt PathThe Salt Path

Raynor Winn

The memoir of a mature British couple who embark on a 630-mile arduous coastal walk, after losing their home and all their possessions in a failed financial venture. That Moth, the author's husband, has been diagnosed with a terminal neurological condition adds to the incredible hardship they endure, as they put one foot in front of another and move towards a different future.

Jacqueline Bublitz - Before You Knew My NameBefore You Knew My Name

Jacqueline Bublitz

Two young women’s lives are forever linked when one discovers the body of the other while out on a morning run in New York. Refreshingly original in both its structure and intent, this debut novel defies the classic ‘crime genre’ categorisation, asking much more than ‘Who killed the girl?’

Douglas Stuart - Shuggie BainShuggie Bain

Douglas Stuart

This Booker-Prize-winning novel is set against the backdrop of an impoverished former mining settlement in Glasgow during the 1980s. It is a devastating account of one woman’s battle with alcoholism (and the social vulnerabilities addiction imports), and her young son’s efforts to make things right.

Dr Roderick Mulgan - The Internal FlameThe Internal Flame

Dr Roderick Mulgan

The science behind the impact of silent inflammation in the body and the role of functional foods in enhancing longevity are succinctly and accessibly addressed by NZ General Practitioner and barrister, Dr Roderick Mulgan..

Rachel Kushner - The Mars RoomThe Mars Room

Rachel Kushner

A young woman, Romy Hall, is serving two consecutive life sentences in an American prison. The Mars Room depicts life on the ‘inside’ and the circumstances leading to her conviction. Confronting, unsentimental, and moving, this story of one woman’s journey to prison addresses bigger questions regarding the American penal system and those who populate it.

Kirsty Powell - The Strength of EggshellsThe Strength of Eggshells

Kirsty Powell

A compelling and at times confronting family saga spanning three generations of women, offering some fascinating insights into the lives of rural New Zealanders, specifically in the period between the two world wars.

Charlotte Grimshaw - The Mirror BookThe Mirror Book

Charlotte Grimshaw

The writing of this memoir by Charlotte Grimshaw came about following an unexpected marital crisis. The sense of abandonment she experienced ushered in a period of refection and analysis, which saw her explore previously unaddressed/unacknowledged abandonment she felt growing up. In The Mirror Book she challenges 'the truth' curated and presented to the world by her literary family.

Brit Bennett - The Vanishing HalfThe Vanishing Half

Brit Bennett

Set in 1950s’ America, this is the story of identical twins of colour who are so fair-skinned they could pass as white. When they leave the Deep South as teens to forge a new life, their paths diverge – Desiree eventually returning with her black daughter, to escape a violent marriage, Stella severing all connections with her past to live as a white woman. The ramifications of their choices impact not only their lives and identities, but on that of their daughters.

Fiona Perry - AlchemyAlchemy

Fiona Perry

It feels very appropiate to be posting about this debut collection of poetry on International Women's Day; many of the poems in it are about women – their strength, resilience, their stories. Perry has masterfully stacked so much beneath her words, that I keep coming back to the anthology, and there is always more to find.

Ruth Coker Burks &Kevin Carr O'Leary - All The Young MenAll The Young Men

Ruth Coker Burks & Kevin Carr O'Leary

The remarkable true story of how one young woman, a solo mother from Arkansas, tended to young men who’d been shunned by society and left alone to die of the feared and little understood “gay disease”. Advocate, educator, carer and empath, Ruth Coker Burks fought prejudice and hypocrisy at every turn to afford comfort, support and a final resting place to many victims of the AIDS crisis. 

Yaa Gyasi - Transcendent KingdomTranscendent Kingdom

Yaa Gyasi

A poignant, thought-provoking novel that sets the story of a young Ghanaian PhD student (studying the reward-seeking behaviour of mice in a Stanford University laboratory) against the backdrop of her religious upbringing, immigrant experience, and family tragedy – a brother lost to an opoid overdose and a mother suffering severe depression.

P.J McKay - The Telling TimeThe Telling Time


In this captivating read, Pip Mackay weaves together two stories – a mother leaving her homeland of Yugoslavia in the 1950s to start a new life in New Zealand, and three decades later, her daughter travelling from New Zealand to Yugoslavia to unearth secrets of her mother’s past. Each story is greater in impact for its position beside the other, a powerful resonance existing between the two.

Catherine Chidgey - Remote SympathyRemote Sympathy

Catherine Chidgey

Set in and around the Nazi concentration camp, Buchenwald, Catherine Chidgey skilfully explores ways in which individuals use distance, be that physical or emotional distance, to facilitate, justify, or ignore the perpetration of gross acts of inhumanity. A confronting and important read. 

Chris Marnewick - Shepherds and ButchersShepherds and Butchers

Chris Marnewick

Fiction grounded firmly in fact, this book makes for a harrowing read, as Chris Marnewick deftly and unflinchingly explores not only the barbarity of legalised hangings, but also the inevitable impact on those individuals charged with carrying them out. A story set in apartheid South Africa (with horrors peculiar to that terrible regime,) but with relevance for any country that endorses the death sentence. Marnewick climbs beneath sanitised, one-dimensional descriptions, to lay bare capital punishment and what its practice means for our humanity.  

Zirk van den Berg - I Wish I WishI Wish I Wish

Zirk van den Berg

Winner of the Hofmeyr Prize for the Afrikaans edition, this gem of a book is the tale of how a terminally-ill young lad, close to death and fascinated with caskets, impacts on the life of a jaded mortician.

Dr Lisa Mosconi - The XX BrainThe XX Brain

Dr Lisa Mosconi

A look at the female brain and how it ages. Filling a gap in research specific to the female body, Dr Lisa Mosconi’s work explores the impact of female hormones on the brain, and offers evidence-based recommendations to women regarding how to maximise brain health in ageing.

Chanel Miller - Know My NameKnow My Name

Chanel Miller

An articulate and devastating account of sexual-assault-survivor Chanel Miller’s journey through a flawed legal system towards recovery and reclamation of herself. Her words have inspired and provoked change.

Jeanine Cummins - American DirtAmerican Dirt

Jeanine Cummins

The engrossing story of a mother and son’s gruelling flight from Mexico to the USA, to escape cartel violence directed at their family. The book has courted controversy around whether Cummins, who is not of Mexican descent, could authentically represents the plight of Mexican migrants. It is worth reading the discussions around this.

Caroline Barron - Ripiro BeachRipiro Beach

Caroline Barron

After confronting her own mortality in a near-death experience as a young mother, Caroline Barron embarks on an emotional and physical journey to recovery – a journey which embraces a fuller understanding of her heritage. This extremely honest and heartfelt memoir, while a very personal story, is also one of universal relevance, as Barron ponders the impact of ancestry on an individual’s trajectory.

Roger Robinson - A Portable ParadiseA Portable Paradise

Roger Robinson

In this collection of poetry, which is imbued with such humanity. Rogers addresses a wide breadth of topics, including the Grenfell Tower fire, systemic racism, the Windrush generation, and the premature birth of his son. I will carry many of the words in this book with me always, in particular the poem after which the collection is named.

Becky Manawatu - Where the Crawdads SingAuē

Becky Manawatu

This award-winning debut novel by Becky Manawatu is a powerful and moving story of two Māori brothers trying to shake off a legacy of violence and sorrow that has impacted so many in their extended whanau. 

Delia Owens - Where the Crawdads SingWhere the Crawdads Sing

Delia Owens

This refreshingly original story set in the 1950s has a murder mystery at its core. However, it also the tale a young girl’s bid to survive as she grows up alone in the swamps of Northern Carolina, nature both her teacher and refuge from a harsh and prejudiced world.

Bernadine Evaristo - Girl, Woman,OtherGirl, Woman, Other

Bernadine Evaristo

Twelve very different women navigate very different lives in different eras. The common denominator, in this Booker-Prize-winning compilation of interconnected stories, is the experience of being a black woman in Britain. A thought-provoking and important read.

Markus Zusak - Bridge of ClayBridge of Clay

Markus Zusak

The first few chapters of this vast and beautiful novel were hard to get into, and I struggled to orient myself, but then the story opened up into a narrative of such emotional depth. 'Bridge of Clay' is the story of five brothers (and one in particular) who grapple as best they know how with the vicissitudes of life. As I turned the pages, this book quietly found a place on my shelf of all-time favourite reads .

Steve Braunias - The Scene of the CrimeThe Scene of the Crime

Steve Braunias

Award-winning journalist Steve Braunias digs beneath the headlines to offer substantive and fascinating insights into twelve notable crimes of recent New Zealand history.

Rose Lu - All Who Live On IslandsAll Who Live On Islands

Rose Lu

An affecting compilation of personal essays exploring, in memoir-style, aspects of the migrant experience in New Zealand. An important read.

Helen Brown - CleoCleo

Helen Brown

Cleo is the true story of how a small black kitten helps Helen Brown and her family (self-described dog people) heal after the tragic loss of nine-year-old son and brother, Sam. Heartfelt, humorous, and very sad.

Charles Graeber - The Good NurseThe Good Nurse

Charles Graeber

The extensively researched, true story of American nurse Charlie Cullen who, over a 16 year period, is thought to have murdered hundreds of patients. A gripping and revelatory account of what it took to bring him to justice.

Elizabeth Kirby-McLeod - Family Instructions Upon ReleaseFamily Instructions upon Release

Elizabeth Kirby-McLeod

This deeply moving and artfully constructed story is composed of poems which, read in narrative sequence, explore the author’s grief as she tries to make sense of her father’s suicide.

Jhumpa Lahiri - Interpreter of MaladiesInterpreter of Maladies

Jumpa Lahiri

This short story collection places its Indian-born protagonists on a new continent, grappling with the challenges of living and loving in a foreign world. Lahiri explores the reality of exile through a cast of deftly drawn, endearing characters.

Margaret Atwood - The Handmaid's TaleThe Handmaid's Tale

Margaret Atwood

I was a latecomer to Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel; however, thirty-plus years on from publication it could not be more pertinent. A radiation-toxic atmosphere, dying planet, fear of ‘the other’, intolerance of dissenters, dehumanisation of women, abuse of power . . . A grim, but stellar read. Looking forward to reading The Testaments – the Booker-Prize winning sequel.

Dr Richard Shepherd - Unnatural CausesUnnatural Causes

Dr Richard Shepherd

I was fortunate to hear Dr Richard Shepherd, one of Britain's leading forensic pathologists, speak at Bloody Scotland. His autobiography – 'Unnatural Causes' – offers a fascinating insight into his pursuit of truth, when dealing with the dead.

Behrouz Boochani - No Friend but the MountainsNo Friend but the Mountains

Behrouz Boochani

Winner of the Victorian Prize for Literature and the Prize for Non-fiction (Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards 2019) this book has been compiled from hundreds of Farsi texts sent by Kurdish poet and journalist from Manus Island, where he has been illegally detained since 2013. Translated by Omid Tofighian, Boochani's account bears witness to the horrors and inhumanity of the Australian government’s treatment of asylum seekers.

Liz Nugent - Unravelling OliverUnravelling Oliver

Liz Nugent

The reason why a seemingly respectable and successful author beats his wife into a coma is unfathomable. Oliver Ryan takes us back to the beginning and tries to make sense of his monstrous transformation. A gripping pyschological thriller.

Stephanie Johnson - The Writing ClassThe Writing Class

Stephanie Johnson

Stephanie Johnson cleverly gives us both a novel about the lives of a group of students attending a university Creative Writing class, and a tutorial on how to write a novel. Interleaving through the story about writing teacher, Merle, and her students, are excerpts from Merle’s classes, affording the reader/would-be writer pointers on how to craft a narrative.

Anna Burns - MilkmanMilkman

Anna Burns

Set in 1970s during the Northern Ireland conflict, this humorous and disturbing story is narrated in a stream-of-consciousness style, by eighteen-year-old ‘middle sister’ – a young woman not interested in the troubles, but inevitably caught up in them. Political intimidation, sexual harassment, and the power of the faction are just some of the themes explored in this Booker-Prize-winning novel.

Sisonke Msimang - Always Another CountryAlways Another Country

Sisonke Msimang

Sisonke Msimang’s memoir traces her life in exile and subsequent return to post-apartheid South Africa. Fiercely honest, with fascinating reflections on what constitutes home.

Jane Harper - Force of NatureForce of Nature

Jane Harper

‘Force of Nature’ is Jane Harper’s second police procedural, about five women who head out into the Australia’s Giralang Ranges for a corporate-bonding weekend, but only four return.

Sally Rooney - Normal PeopleNormal People

Sally Rooney

Award-winning Rooney demonstrates astute observation of human behaviour in this book about the power of relationships to change lives. In 'Normal People', two youngsters afford each other a much-needed anchor, as both try to find their place in an often cruel and conformist world.

Amanda Lindhout and Sara Corbett - A House in the SkyA House in the Sky

Amanda Lindhout and Sara Corbett

The true story of a young Canadian woman’s fifteen months in captivity after she was kidnapped and held for ransom in Somalia. A harrowing tale of her physical and spiritual survival in the face of unimaginable hardship.

Andrew Sean Greer - LessLess

Andrew Sean Greer

50-year-old Arthur Less is a gay, has-been novelist, whose publisher has just rejected his latest novel,and whose ex-lover has just announced his impending marriage. In a desperate bid to avoid having to attend the wedding, Arthur cobbles together a journey to a variety of ‘literary’ events. The journey, intended as an escape, in facts lends Arthur’s life and career the perspective it very much needed.

Fiona Kidman - This Mortal BoyThis Mortal Boy

Fiona Kidman

Eighteen-year-old Irishman Albert Black arrived in New Zealand as a ‘ten pound Pom’ in search of a better life. Two years later (1955) he was sentenced to death for the knifing of another young man in a milk-bar brawl. Black would be the second-to-last person hanged here before capital punishment was repealed. This is his story – superbly crafted, poignant, and offering a fascinating insight into 1950s New Zealand. 

Paula Hawkins - The Girl on the Train Girl on the Train

Paula Hawkins

A young woman battling alcohol and a recent divorce witnesses something from a train window which sets in motion this fast-paced thriller. Nothing is what it seems, especially with alcohol and cheating partners thrown into the mix. 

Barbara Kingsolver - Unsheltered Unsheltered

Barbara Kingsolver

Two stories interleave – one set in 1871, the other 2016. The common denominator and trajectory for both tales – a poorly build house which is slowly collapsing. ‘Unsheltered’ is a social novel, which through its convincing cast of characters, explores and reflects the tumult of the times – both America in the late nineteenth century and America under Trump. This book resonates long after the last page.

Francisco Cantú - The Line Becomes a River The Line Becomes a River

Francisco Cantú

In The Line Becomes a River, Francisoc Cantú reflects on his time working as a US field agent on the Mexican/American border. A moving and very human story about an arbitrary line drawn in the sand, and the human cost of defending it.

Elizabeth Strout - The Burgess Boys The Burgess Boys

Elizabeth Strout

An apparently racially motivated hate crime sees the disparate members of a dysfunctional family drawn together, their new proximity placing already tenuous relationships under greater tension. Events from the past rise to surface and the truth is revisited. An immensely satisfying, thought-provoking story.

Paul and Pierce Torday - Death of an OwlThe Death of an Owl

Paul and Piers Torday

This was Paul Torday’s last book, completed posthumously by his son Piers, also an author. A tale of thwarted political ambition, fractured relationships, and hidden truths, the book revolves around one key event, which sees the lives of all involved (either directly or vicariously) unravel. .


Graeme Macrae Burnet - His Bloody ProjectHis Bloody Project

Graeme Macrae Burnet

It is 19th-Century Scotland. Three bloody murders are committed in a small crofting community. A 17-year-old lad confesses. Is he guilty, or was he insane at the time? Based on a true crime, this Booker-nominated novel offers up a cast of convincing characters and dialogue infused with incisive wit. The novel poses interesting questions about culpability, explored in the light of the law and criminology of the era, while never once detracting from the relentless pace of the story.

Tara Westover - Educated Educated

Tara Westover

Tara Westover grew up in Idaho in the shadow of religious fundamentalism. She was deprived of a formal schooling, exclusively exposed to extreme dogmas, and vulnerable to the vicissitudes of her father's mental illness and a sibling's violence . . . This is a harrowing memoir which celebrates the power of education to liberate, while also acknowledging the long reach of a traumatic childhood.

Hope Jahren - Lab Girl Lab Girl

Hope Jahren

This memoir by scientist Hope Jahren makes for a fascinating and affecting read. With a fierce intellect and disarming honesty, Jahren seamlessly marries the story of her scientific research with her own very human story.

George Saunders - Tenth of December Tenth of December

George Saunders

Winner of the Folio Prize, this book of short stories defies easy description. Ingenious, bizarre, confronting, moving . . . A testament to the humanity, imagination and skill of author George Saunders. You will find yourself pondering these stories long after reading them.

Jon Gnarr - The IndianThe Indian

Jon Gnarr

The first in a trilogy of memoirs by the much-loved Icelandic writer, comedian, and former Mayor of Reykjavik. Humour and heartache sit side-by side in this tragicomic account of Gnarr growing up with learning and emotional disorders – disorders which at that time were not yet fully understood and largely treated in the psychiatric hospitals.

Denise Mina - The Long DropThe Long Drop

Denise Mina

A semi-fictionalised account of Peter Manuel – one of Glasgow’s most notorious serial killers operating during the 1950’s. Mina, who won the Mcllvanney Award for Best Scottish Crime Novel for this book, focuses not so much on Manuel's trial, as the bizarre night of drinking shared by him and William Watts, husband and father respectively to two of the victims, and one-time suspect of the murders. A fascinating exploration into the minds of both the guilty and innocent, and the social fabric of 1950’s Glasgow.

Finn Bell - Dead LemonsDead Lemons

Finn Bell

From Finn Bell comes this award-winning book which will keep you on the edge of your seat all read. A man moves to a remote cottage in the South of New Zealand to escape his previously self-destructive life. However, he soon finds himself increasingly embroiled in a mystery with deadly connections to his new sanctuary.

Trevor Noah - Born a CrimeBorn a Crime

Trevor Noah

Trevor Noah’s memoir – a mix of humour and heartache in Noah’s portrayal of his childhood, as a person of mixed-race growing up in apartheid and post-apartheid South Africa. .

Amor Towles - A Gentleman in MoscowA Gentleman in Moscow

Amor Towles

When the Bolsheviks sentence Russian aristocrat Alexander Rostov to house arrest in the Metropol Hotel, he is left to learn of the changes afoot in his country from the vantage point of his hotel window, and through the people who pass through the doors of the grand building. An elegantly written, character-driven novel.

Jeanette Winterson - Why Be Happy When You Could Be NormalWhy Be Happy When You Could Be Normal

Jeanette Winterson

From ‘The author of Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit’ comes this heartbreaking, at times bluntly honest, and moving memoir of Winterson’s early life.

Jeanette Walls - The Glass CastleThe Glass Castle

Jeanette Walls

The memoir of a young girl and her siblings, who defy all odds to carve out a future for themselves, despite growing up in a deeply dysfunctional family. One of my top reads for 2017.

Sandra Krasnostein - The Trauma CleanerThe Trauma Cleaner

Sandra Krasnostein

This work of non-fiction interleaves the biography of Sandra Pankhurst with stories of the people she assists through her work as a trauma cleaner.An extraordinary book about a remarkable woman.

John Boyne - The Heart's Invisible FuriesThe Heart's Invisible Furies

John Boyne

Cyril Avery is born in Ireland to a sixteen-year-old woman out of wedlock. As social mores of the time demand, he is adopted out to an unconventional couple, who offer little more than a roof over his head. Cyril’s life spans a period from post-war Ireland (an era regimented by the church) to the more liberal and open-minded country of today. It is this changing backdrop of societal pressures and prejudices which dictates his story, as he come to terms with his sexuality and tries to find his place in the world.

Jane Harper - The DryThe Dry

Jane Harper

A murder mystery set in the parched, unforgiving Australian Outback. Kiewarra, a small town suffering from unremitting drought, is the backdrop for a family murder, which initially appears clearcut. That is until a policeman with historical ties to the town starts digging.

George Saunders - Lincoln in the BardoLincoln in the Bardo

George Saunders

American is on the brink of civil war, Abraham Lincoln's eleven-year-old son has just died, and a congress of ghosts inhabit the bardo – an intermediate state between death and the afterlife. This is a masterful novel that tips the conventional structure of the novel on its head, addressing universal themes of grief, love, good and evil, in a refreshingly new way. Long-listed for the Booker Prize.

Lesley Nneka Arimah - Waht it Means When a Man Falls From the SkyWhat it Means When a Man Falls From the Sky

Lesley Nneka Arimah

Arresting and sophisticated storytelling in this debut collection of short stories, most of which are set against set against the backdrop of Nigeria or the USA. The opening of the story  'Light' is an example of Arimah's powerful prose:

"When Enebeli Okwara sent his girl out in the world, he did not know what the world did to daughters. He did not know how quickly it would wick the dew off her, how she would be returned to him hollowed out, relieved of her better parts."

Desmond & Mpho Tutu - The Book of ForgivingThe Book of Forgiving

Desmond & Mpho Tutu

Archbishop Desmond Tutu and his daughter Rev. Mpho Tutu have joined forces to write this practical guide to forgiveness. Drawing from lessons learnt during The Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and from personal tragedy, they have devised a fourfold pathway to forgiveness applicable in many scenarios. Underpinning the book is the impact forgiveness (both requesting and granting it) can have on an individual and the wider community.


David Galler - Things That MatterThings That Matter

David Galler

Intensive Care specialist David Galler shares stories from a life spent caring for those who have navigated the line between life and death. Grounded in anatomical specifics, but reflecting on the spiritual and metaphysical, 'Things That Matter' explores the meaning of modern medicine in its broadest sense.

Ashleigh Young - Can You Tolerate This?Insomniac City

Bill Hayes

This is a beautiful book – beautiful in its tenderness, humanity, observations, and writing. It offers Bill Hayes' reflections on his relationship with the inimitable Oliver Sacks and his relationship with New York City. If you read one book this year, read this seminal work of non-fiction.

Ashleigh Young - Can You Tolerate This?The Girl With Seven Names

Hyeonseo Lee

The true story of the author's defection from North Korea. A shocking insight into the tyranny of Kim Jong-un's dictatorship, and the near insurmountable hurdles for those who attempt to escape it.

Ashleigh Young - Can You Tolerate This?Can You Tolerate This?

Ashleigh Young

It is no surprise that Ashleigh Young won the Wyndham-Campbell Literature Prize for this collection of personal essays. The essays, bold and surprising in their honesty, are crafted with skill and astuteness, leaving the reader reeling from their power. 

Oliver Sacks - GratitudeGratitude

Oliver Sacks

Four essays written by Oliver Sacks in his final months with terminal cancer. Sacks reflects on his life, and attempts to come to terms with his impending death. These essays were published in The New York Times, and  it is not hard to undertsand why the paper referred to him as 'the poet laureate of medicine'. The writings and refections of this physician and prolific author reveal a man with heart, humanity and eloquence.


Elizabeth Strout - My Name is Lucy bartonMy Name is Lucy Barton

Elizabeth Strout

For five days an estranged mother sits at her sick daughter's bedside. Their often detached pieces of conversation, and the memories these unleash, afford a moving exploration of the complex mother-daughter relationship. Beautifully observed, with the weight of what is not articulated, as powerful as that which is shared.

Abraham Verghese - My Own CountryMy Own Country

Abraham Verghese

Infectious disease specialist Dr Abraham Verghese's encounter with HIV as the disease began to manifest in small town America. An exploration of prejudice and compassion in the face of a medical crisis.

Charity Norman - The Secret Life of Luke LivingstoneThe Secret Life of Luke Livingstone

Charity Norman

Luke Livingstone is a successful barrister who, after thirty years of marriage, finally confronts something he has kept hidden for almost all of his life – gender dysphoria. Author Charity Norman does a superb job of exploring Luke’s reality and its impact on those he loves. 

Emma Donoghue - The WonderThe Wonder

Emma Donoghue

Set in mid-nineteenth century Ireland, this is the story of an eleven-year-old girl who has supposedly survived on nothing but 'manna from heaven' for four months. An English nurse and a local nun are sent to observe the child for a fortnight to confirm or refute the claims. Is the child a saint, the victim of  fervent Catholicism characteristic of the era, or the victim of something more sinister?

Nadine Gordimer - The ConservationistThe Conservationist

Nadine Gordimer

Nadine Gordimer’s 1974 novel was a joint winner of the Booker-McConnell Prize. Through exploring the complex relationship a wealthy white businessman has with his rural ‘weekend’ farm, Gordimer proffers a wider commentary on the more subtle evils of the apartheid era.

Marianne Thamm - Hitler, Verwoerd,Mandela and meHitler, Verwoerd, Mandela and Me

Marianne Thamm

Journalist Marianne Thamm grew up in a world where the philosophies of Hitler, Verwoerd and Mandela would directly impact her. This is an affecting and at times humorous memoir about one woman’s search for her place, and that of her children, in a bigoted world. 

David Guterson - Snow Falling on CedarsSnow Falling on Cedars

David Guterson

A Japanese man is accused of murder in a small, tightly-knit American community. Is he guilty, or is his trial more a reflection of racial prejudice and anti-Japanese sentiment in the wake of the Second World War? An excellent read!

Gary Schmidt - Orbiting JupiterOrbiting Jupiter

Gary Schmidt

A Young Adult book about a troubled teen's temporary sanctuary with a foster family. A beautifully crafted novel which derives its power as much from what is not said, as what is on the page.

Graeme Lay - The Secret Life of James CookThe Secret Life of James Cook

Graeme lay

The first book in a trilogy comprising the fictional biography of explorer James Cook. This first in the series offers a fascinating account of Cook's early life and first major voyage of exploration. The account is grounded in fact and skilfully expanded on by Lay.

Helen Garner - Everywhere I lookEverywhere I look

Helen Garner

A collection of essays and slice-of-life reflections by the award winning journalist and author Helen Garner. Her subject matter is varied, exquisitely observed, often personal, and poignant. This is writing at its best. A book I will always keep.

Greg Mcgee - The AntipodeansThe Antipodeans

Greg Mcgee

This big novel spans three timeframes. At the core is the impact on WW11 on three generations of Italian and New Zealand families. The riddle of present day characters' lives is interpreted against the backdrop of what went on in Northern Italy between 1942-44.

Paul Kalanithi - When Breath Becomes AirWhen Breath Becomes Air

Paul Kalanithi

As a neurosurgical resident, Paul Kalanithi dealt with death daily. But when, at the age of thirty-six, he was diagnosed with metastatic lung cancer, he had to face his own mortality. A moving account of his journey from a doctor at the top of his field to a terminally-ill patient and new father.

M.L Stedman - The Light Between OceansThe Light Between Oceans


A boat washes up on a remote Australian island. Inside are a dead man, and a baby. The childless couple, who discover the boat, make a decision that comes to haunt all the characters in the book.


Donna Tartt - The GoldfinchThe Goldfinch

Donna Tartt

13-year-old Theo Decker survives a bomb blast at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which kills mother. In the chaotic aftermath, he steals her favourite painting from the museum – Carel Fabritius's The Goldfinch. The painting comes to assume greater and greater significance for Theo as he navigates a troubled teenagehood, and becomes embroiled in an underworld of drugs, art theft and murder. Around the periphery of his life are good people. Which world ultimately wins out is the impetus behind this Bildungsroman.


Hillary Jordan - MudboundMudbound

Hilary Jordan

A harrowing story of ordinary lives tethered to the land and a country's history. It is 1946 in the Mississippi Delta . . . Each  player is as authentic and keenly evoked as the next. A recommended read.