Culture

‘Essential’, ‘quietly hopeful’, ‘propulsive’: the best Australian books out in August

Train Lord by Oliver Mol

Memoir, Penguin Random House, $35

Train Lord by Olier Mol is out on Tuesday 2 August though Penguin Random House (AU$35)

Train Lord is the story of a derailment, but not the locomotive variety. Stricken by a monstrous and unrelenting migraine, Mol, the bright young novelist, found himself unable to read or write. As the migraine dragged on – month after agonising month – he began to lose himself. Bereft and desperate, Mol took a job as a railway guard, but he was not the only person seeking refuge on the trains.

His memoir is not a tale of triumphant recovery – of pain vanquished – but something far more tender, vital and quietly hopeful: a tale of remaking. How do we tell a new story of ourselves? To answer that question, Mol explores the craft, power and solace of tale-telling. “I now understand this,” he writes, “stories are miracles.” Beejay Silcox

Desire by Jessie Cole

Fiction, Text Publishing, $32.99

Desire by Jessie Cole

Fodder for your fieriest dinner party takes this month, Desire is Jessie Cole’s attempt to reckon with an affair she had with an older man who, to put it simply, was just not that into her. It is presented in the past tense but, as Cole explains in the epilogue, it was “written close to real time … without the benefit of hindsight”.

This means the reader is immersed in the deep pain, magical thinking and mortifying missteps that accompany near-obsessive longing – made all the more raw because Cole loves deeply, viscerally and with a trauma-informed corporality (rashes, tremors, twitches) that she can’t control, which gives her zero ability to play it cool. Desire is propulsive, honest and tender; it will hurl you back to your own worst heartaches, whether you want to revisit them or not. – Steph Harmon

Around the Table by Julia Busuttil Nishimura

Cookbook, Plum, $44.99

Around the Table by Julia Busuttil Nishimura

With her first two cookbooks, Ostro and A Year of Simple Family Food, Busuttil Nishimura established a reputation as a cookery writer whose work is flavoursome, accessible and beautiful to look at. Focusing mainly on Italian and Japanese cooking, Around the Table will bring her existing fans plenty more of what they like, while first-time readers will pick up some new tricks.

There’s some great inspiration for fast and fuss-free weeknight meals in this book and the sweet dishes stand out. Some are ambitious but, as Nishimura makes clear, a day in the kitchen is its own reward; and if by dessert-time you end up with a trifle where every component has been made from scratch, then that’s just icing (or ricotta cream) on the cake. – Alyx Gorman

Sundressed: Natural Fibres and the Future of Fashion by Lucianne Tonti

Nonfiction, Black Inc, $32.99

Sundressed: Natural Fibres and the Future of Fashion by Lucianne Tonti

In Sundressed, Lucianne Tonti – whose column Closet clinic I edit for Guardian Australia – tackles the ugly side of beautiful clothing with surprising tenderness. Tonti does not flinch away from the complexities of fashion’s impact on the planet, and is unafraid to call greenwashing when she sees it, but she never condemns the reader for wanting to dress well: this book is written from a place of love.

Each chapter deep dives into the history, present and possible future of a different natural fibre. Together they form a tapestry of possibilities for mending a broken industry. For those working in the rag trade it is essential reading; for everyone else, the book is a well-taught lesson in the true cost (and value) of clothing. – Alyx Gorman

Nimblefoot by Robert Drewe

Fiction, Penguin Random House, $32.99

Nimblefoot by Robert Drewe is out August 2022 through Penguin Random House

John Day was a child superstar in the 1800s, an Australian world champion in the spectator sport of pedestrianism. As a teenager he became an apprentice jockey, winning the Melbourne Cup on a horse called Nimblefoot in 1870. Then he disappeared from recorded history – so Drewe decided to invent a life for him, starting from the night of his Melbourne Cup win.

Of Drewe’s 18 books of fiction and nonfiction, Nimblefoot is probably his most imaginative novel – and as he told me in an interview that will be published to the Guardian on Saturday, it’s also the book he most enjoyed writing. During challenging times, his protagonist John Day began to feel like a friend to him; Drewe’s imaginative leaps – involving real and made-up historical characters – are full of droll humour, in this tremendous achievement of a book. – Susan Chenery

The Wrong Woman by JP Pomare

Crime fiction, Hachette Australia, $32.99

The Wrong Man by JP Pomare

This breezy whodunnit is the latest small-town thriller from global bestseller Pomare, who was born in New Zealand and lives in Melbourne. His fifth novel follows Reid, a private investigator who turned his back on his hometown after a career-ending incident. After receiving an offer he can’t refuse, Reid returns to investigate a suspicious car crash – only to find himself drawn into the disappearance of two local teenage girls. Reid’s narration alternates with that of Eshana, one of two car crash victims, speaking from the past, before she was put in a coma.

Pomare’s books are undeniably propulsive and the twists and cliffhangers in The Wrong Woman are clever enough to feel satisfying. Yes it’s all a bit familiar – but who doesn’t love to read about a PI with a troubled past? – Sian Cain

Every Version of You by Grace Chan

Fiction, Affirm Press, $32.99

Every Version of You by Grace Chan

Chan’s speculative fiction debut is set in a near-apocalyptic Melbourne 60 or so years from now. Most of the middle class are fleeing (virtually) to Gaia, a commercial VR platform where they can meet, eat and go to galleries, while their bodies stay behind in tiny, sterile apartments, submerged in transmitter gel. When the chance comes to fully upload to Gaia, one couple, Tao-Yi and Navin, find themselves split: how can you give up life on Earth? On the other hand, why stay?

Chan’s short fiction has been shortlisted for several sci-fi awards and with her first novel, you’re in confident hands. The science (for this layperson) feels seamless and believable – as do, more interestingly, Chan’s quiet, intelligent explorations of the psyche, family ties and what really connects us to each other. – Imogen Dewey

Rigged by Cameron K Murray and Paul Frijters

Nonfiction, Allen & Unwin $32.99

Rigged by Cameron K Murray and Paul Frijters

Initially self-published as a booklet by economists Murray and Frijters under the title Game of Mates, Rigged is a fascinating and infuriating exploration of how nepotism, corruption and dodgy deals among the aforementioned Mates have undermined Australian society and robbed the general population of half our wealth. “Every hour you work, 30 minutes of it goes to line the Mates’ pockets rather than your own,” they write.

Murray and Frijters explore how big corporations, industry groups and government departments have skewed everything from the housing market to superannuation, to our medical system and transportation. Rigged is the right side of academic and the right side of entertaining, explaining in convincing detail how Australia has gone from one of the most equal societies in the western world to one of the most unequal in just a decade. – Sian Cain

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Back to top button