Help me! I seek Australia’s Must Read Novels

by |December 6, 2010

I put the following to Twitter and Facebook…

I’m thinking of putting together a list of ‘must read’ novels by Australian authors – do you have any suggestions?

The informative and lovely bunch following Booktopia on Twitter and Facebook offered the following titles…

Please, help me sort through them by voting for your favourites (oh, and add any books you think are missing). Poll below.

8 Comments Share:

About the Contributor

While still in his twenties, John Purcell opened a second-hand bookshop in Mosman, Sydney, in which he sat for ten years reading, ranting and writing. Since then he has written, under a pseudonym, a series of very successful novels, interviewed hundreds of writers about their work, appeared at writers’ festivals, on TV (most bizarrely in comedian Luke McGregor’s documentary Luke Warm Sex) and has been featured in prominent newspapers and magazines. ​Now, as the Director of Books at, Australia’s largest online bookseller, he supports Australian writing in all its forms. He lives in Sydney with his wife, two children, three dogs, five cats, unnumbered gold fish and his overlarge book collection. His novel, The Girl on the Page, will be published by HarperCollins Australia in October, 2018.

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  • Robyn Wilson

    December 6, 2010 at 8:40 pm

    Judy Nunn is importantly one of our historical documentors. All but 2 of her books are must reads.
    Di Morrissey is loudly absent from the list – does no one here fess up to a comfy summer read of Di?
    Ion L Idriess books, for how it was, politically incorrect and raw.
    Marcus Zusack’s ‘The Messenger’ a NOW book, left me hopeful.

  • Marion Groves

    December 6, 2010 at 9:11 pm

    I am disappointed to see so few classics on the list. Surely a “must read” list of Australian books would include classics like Xavier Herbert’s monumental work “Poor Fellow My Country” and A B Facey’s “A Fortunate Life” before anything by Tara Moss or a book published (last week was it?) by Caroline Overington. I also think the books listed should represent in some intrinsic way the Australian experience rather than just be written by an Australian-born writer. Brooks “Year of Wonders” and Coetzee’s “Disgrace” are reasonably good books but they contribute nothing to the Australian literary canon per se. Lists are always controversial and no doubt this list will generate some controversy, but any discussion about literature is interesting and I thank you for this initiative.

  • Lucian Goonetilleke

    December 6, 2010 at 10:34 pm

    Extremely well written and based on Australia in the Nineteenthirties. Witty and absorbing, with insights on the life of the wealthy as well as the NOT SO rich.

  • WitchArachne

    December 7, 2010 at 11:26 am

    You know I had no idea that Geraldine Brooks was an Australian? She’s one of the authors whose books I make sure to read as soon as they come out, specifically because Year of Wonders was so incredibly great to read.
    I still haven’t gotten around to reading Cloudstreet yet (borrowed it off a friend last week actually, but haven’t started it yet) and there’s a lot of other books on there that I know I should get around to soon, but I’m so glad to see that The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith was included. I read it for the first time when I was in primary school. Liked it, but didn’t completely understand much of it until I was a little bit older and read it for a second time in High School. One of the best Australian books ever, in my opinion.
    And Bryce Courtenay – I don’t know where to start, but I love his stories. That’s the only thing I can say.

  • Shell Tobin

    December 7, 2010 at 11:48 am

    This is a wonderful list. It can be hard to distinguish truly “Great” novels from those that you really enjoyed reading but may not consider a “Must Read”. Books have enriched my understanding of people and events throughout my life both in large ways and small. Some novels are light and not what you may call “great”, but still have a lot to offer in terms of simple enjoyment. Great novels and lesser ones too, offer insight into the sometimes terrible business of being human and help to increase our empathy with others and our understanding and acceptance of ourselves. Throw in the ability to inspire imagination and there you have it. Books, wow!

  • December 8, 2010 at 5:52 pm

    Er, I thought Coetzee was South African? Disgrace is a wonderful book, but has absolutely nothing to do with Australia.

    • December 8, 2010 at 5:57 pm

      And Courtenay? I was tempted to put Twain on the list – he stepped on Australian shores once – and that fellow Tony Trollope. Dickens’ sons came out here – that’s close enough, surely?

      These names have been put forward by twitter, blog and facebook followers – I have done little by way of sifting.

  • Leith Henry

    December 13, 2010 at 7:37 pm

    I just finished ‘A Few Right Thinking Men’ by Sulari Gentill – an awesome summer read. I’m voting for it here.

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