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Australian authors share the new book releases they’re most looking forward to

Words by Giulia Brugliera

Because we all deserve better reads.

I’m a voracious reader, but a picky one. I need to be recommended a title before I’ll consider opening the cover and if a book doesn’t grab me in the first few pages, I’m onto the next. In my opinion, life is too short (and much too busy) for boring reads.

And so, I’m always on the hunt for recommendations. Though I’m yet to venture into the celebrated corner of the Internet that is ‘bookTok’, I have found a handful of trusted resources to hand me my next book. Local author Bri Lee is a brilliant arbiter of literary taste, and she regular recommends excellent titles via Instagram. Amplify Bookstore regularly shares top-notch recommendations by BIPOC authors globally.


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Ex-FJ Digital Editor (now holding post at The Design Files), Sasha Gattermayr, recently started Bookloose, a monthly newsletter of book recommendations worth your time. On a much larger scale, Reese Witherspoon’s Book Club holds a special place in my heart, for reasons known to anyone who follows joins its two million followers worldwide.

The above aren’t gospel, of course, so I’m always careful to corroborate any recommendations I receive. Most recently (on the back of said recommendations), I picked up Ella Baxter’s debut, New Animal. 

The story follows our protagonist Amelia, a young woman who works in the family’s mortuary business as somewhat of a beautician. Amelia faces a number of challenges after a series of events leaves her struggling to make sense of life and death. She uses sex as a coping mechanism, joining with the body of a different stranger each night to create an eight-limbed, two-faced ‘new animal’, hence the title of the book. 

It wasn’t quite as salacious as I expected, but in a rather nice way. Yes, there were scenes with shock value, but most striking was Baxter’s sincerity and thoughtful, nuanced approach to storytelling. 

Prior to thumbing it open, New Animal was the title I was most excited to pick up in 2021. It’s got me thinking, what books are other writers most anticipating this year? Not one to shy away from simply asking, the FJ team put out a few feelers. Below are the results of our field research to help you (and me) find our next reads. 

Title: Who Gets To Be Smart by Bri Lee
Anticipated release: June 2021, Allen & Unwin
Recommended by: Lucia Osborne-Crowley (My Body Keeps your Secrets, June 2021)
What the author says: 

2021 promises to be full of wonderful books from Australian writers, but the one I am most excited about is Who Gets To Be Smart by Bri Lee – a book that promises to be a forensic analysis of the structures of power and privilege in the Australian education system and, by extension, Australian society.

[Recent events] tell us so much about the conveyor belt that takes men of a certain breed and privilege from private schools to elite universities to federal cabinets in Australia. This, combined with years’ worth of recent news stories about group-led abuses of power and sexual violence within Sydney university colleges, throws up terrifying questions about how we might possibly fight for accountability when people have been in powerful cahoots for so long – indeed, since birth – that even the worst moments of their past are shared, and therefore able to be jointly buried. The club is exclusive and too often promises loyalty, and that is a problem for the project of change.

I am not, of course, implying that anyone else in attendance that night was involved or had knowledge of the alleged attack. It is only that the symbolism of having multiple members of the cabinet being proximate to a 30-year-old alleged assault tells us all we need to know about how urgent Bri’s book is. Those structures have to change if we are to ever take accountability seriously.

 

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A post shared by Bri Lee (@bri.e.lee)

Title: One Hundred Days by Alice Pung
Anticipated release: June 2021, Black Inc.
Recommended by: Emily Maguire (Love Objects, April 2021)
What the author says: 

I’m extremely excited about reading Alice Pung’s One Hundred Days, which follows a pregnant teenager whose over-protective mother confines her to their public housing flat to keep her out of trouble. Over the course of 100 days, mother and daughter grapple with their relationship to each other, control of the daughter’s life, and ultimately the future of the unborn baby.

Pung is one of Australia’s most thoughtful and versatile writers, having published memoir, essays, reportage and Young Adult fiction. One Hundred Days is her first novel for adults and I have no doubt it will be as beautifully written and as suffused with empathy, insight and humour as everything else she’s done. I cannot wait for June 1 so I can get my hands on it.

Title: Love Objects by Emily Maguire; Fury by Kathryn Heyman; The Three Burials of Lotte Kneen by Krissy Kneen
Anticipated release: April 2021, Allen & Unwin; May 2021, Allen & Unwin; May 2021, Text Publishing
Recommended by: Susan Johnson (From Where I Fell, March 2021)
What the author says: 

What’s not to love about a new Emily Maguire novel? Love Objects promises to explore love and family, my favourite subjects to read about. Maguire has developed into a wonderfully sophisticated writer; I’ve been a fan for a long time and it’s terrific to see how her work has matured. 

And then there’s Kathryn Heyman’s highly anticipated memoir Fury, about her sexual abuse as a younger woman, which every writer I admire has raved about. It couldn’t come at a more apt time, as the #March4Justice turnout showed, women throughout Australia have had enough. I believe this book shows the profound impact sexual assault can have on a woman’s life but, also, the ways some lucky women can claw their way back. Sadly, not all women. 

Another memoir I’m looking forward to is Krissy Kneen’s The Three Burials of Lotte Kneen about her investigation into her family’s mostly hidden Slovenian past. Sounds fascinating.

Looking to corroborate the above reccies? Have a look at an extended list of recommended new releases here.

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