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  • Jeff Somers 9:00 pm on 2016/07/25 Permalink
    Tags: , , , required reading   

    8 Books That Will Help You Get Your Head Around the Modern Political Landscape 

    Contrary to what a lot of folks believe, there never was a time when American politics were genteel and polite. Despite all the murmurings of “distinguished gentlemen” in the Senate, things have been pretty cutthroat, abusive, and profane in the halls of American power since before our modern government was even formalized. As a result, nothing that happens during the current political season—or the season to come—should surprise anyone.

    What the maneuverings of our politicians can do, however, is confuse. The 24-hour news cycle has turned national and international politics into an endurance test of our collective sanity, leaving a lot of people stressed and uncertain what to think. As usual, books come to the rescue. Whatever your political bend, these eight books will help to clarify what’s going on out there at the precise moment we all need a little guidance.

    Old School: Life in the Sane Lane, by Bill O’Reilly and Bruce Feirstein
    Anyone who thought O’Reilly, famed anchor of The O’Reilly Factor, had gone softly into writing best-selling history books, will find the old O’Reilly back to his fiery ways in this latest blast from the FOX News pundit. O’Reilly examines our changing times with his usual acerbic wit, analyzing the rift between those he classes as “Old School”—people who see life as being filled with challenges, and defined by how we meet those challenges—and “snowflakes,” the often younger crowd who prioritize access to safe spaces, fighting against marginalization, and other social justice issues. O’Reilly (with James Bond screenwriter Feirstein) combines bombast with a grasp on history and firm confidence in his own views to craft an entertainingly over-the-top argument.

    What You Should Know About Politics…But Don’t: A Nonpartisan Guide to the Issues That Matter, by Jessamyn Conrad
    Modern American politics seem hopelessly partisan, and yet most people don’t think of themselves as partisan voters—they just want to know the plain, unadulterated facts in order to make a decision. But finding information that isn’t colored by partisan politics is difficult; bloggers, columnists, and commentators build audiences by appealing to partisan prejudices. Conrad offers a tonic: plain old facts that ignore political agendas, culture war talking points, or other fluff in favor of simply explaining what’s at stake, who supports what, and why it matters—leaving the ultimate decision of which side of an issue to support up to the reader (and voter), as it should be. If you plan to vote this year or at any time in the near future, this book is 100% required reading.

    Whistlestop: My Favorite Stories from Presidential Campaign History, by John Dickerson
    The political circus that descends on the country every four years has grown in size, volume, and chaos every election cycle—and yet what we see online and on TV is just the very tip of a very large iceberg. Dickerson, political commentator and moderator of Face the Nation, has been at the eye of most political storms over the years, and here he offers up the stories that reporters following campaigns tell each other over cocktails—intimate stories about last-minute Hail Mary speeches cooked up in hotel rooms, often hilarious mistakes made when standing in front of a microphone, and legendary stories only insiders have heard. It’s important to remember the people running for office are human beings with all the frailties all humans must deal with, and Dickerson masterfully drives that point home with stories about very capable people under very large amounts of stress as they vie for our votes.

    Alter Egos: Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and the Twilight Struggle Over American Power, by Mark Landler
    Politics makes for strange bedfellows, as the saying goes, and there are few stranger than Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama after the 2008 presidential election. After being bitter rivals for the Democratic nomination, Clinton and Obama joined forces on the campaign trail, and Clinton later joined Obama’s administration as his Secretary of State. Landler examines that relationship in detail, analyzing their different upbringings, generational ideas, and policies, and how their relationship went through various stages of trust and separation. Far from being in sync, Clinton and Obama differed on several major issues that his administration dealt with, and this book offers a clear, intimate examination of how two strong personalities at the pinnacle of power in this country worked together to forge domestic and foreign policies—a look that is vital for all voters as Clinton vies to succeed her former boss.

    Trump and Me, by Mark Singer
    Donald Trump has for a long time been someone almost beyond rational understanding, first as a real estate tycoon phase, later as a mock-proof reality TV star, and currently as the most unlikely presidential candidate for a major party ever. Back in 1996 Mark Singer got to spend a lot of unfiltered time with The Donald as he worked on a profile for The New Yorker—a profile that still earns Trump’s ire today. Singer recounts his time with Trump 20 years ago, offering a closeup analysis of the man and his psyche, and applies those observations to the man of 2016 who riles up crowds and says the most amazing things while ruling news cycles for weeks at a time. Whatever your opinion of Trump, this is a must-read for anyone who wants to understand the man who could be our next president.

    Why the Right Went Wrong: Conservatism—From Goldwater to the Tea Party and Beyond, by E. J. Dionne, Jr.
    No political movement happens in a vacuum, but often the roots of today’s headlines extend so far into the past they seem to arrive, fully formed, out of nowhere. Dionne, Jr., traces the origins of the modern-day Tea Party and its successors to the 1960s, especially the civil rights movement, President Johnson’s Great Society, and Barry Goldwater’s insurrection during the 1964 campaign. With a staggeringly encyclopedic knowledge of politics over the last 50 years, Dionne, Jr., analyzes how fringe voters and policies have migrated into the mainstream conservative movement even as the country as a whole drifted further to the left. With the political landscape of America in turmoil, it’s more important than ever to get a handle on the roots of modern-day politics.

    Listen, Liberal: Or, What Ever Happened to the Party of the People?, by Thomas Frank
    Smug ignorance, Frank argues effectively in this angry book, is a quality shared equally by both parties. Most famous for What’s the Matter with Kansas?, here Frank turns his clear-eyed anger on the Democratic Party, arguing forcefully and effectively that the supposedly “liberal” party must shoulder plenty of blame for the current state of affairs in America. Frank details how the Democrats have mutated into a party servicing an affluent, college-educated strata of liberal voters at the expense of the working class they once represented. His equal-opportunity dissection of political dysfunction in America is a welcome tonic for anyone who’s tired of all those “how to talk to your Republican uncle” think pieces out there.

    It’s Even Worse Than It Looks: How the American Constitutional System Collided with the New Politics of Extremism, by Thomas E. Mann and Norman J. Ornstein
    Mann and Ornstein offer a clear-eyed assessment of the harm stratified partisan politics are doing to the country, because our system of government was never designed to be partisan. They make the argument that as both political parties coalesce into parliamentary-style groups with rigid agendas and purity tests, the system of separated powers baked into the American system becomes less and less effective. In short, they say, the Constitution was designed for representatives more interested in running the country than political ideology. They then go on to offer solutions that would fix an often paralyzed system, leaving it to the reader to wonder whether any of their proposals would have a chance of being enacted in the modern world. Anyone who shakes their head in mystification every time the government shuts down or fails to pass what look like common-sense laws will find this book incredibly enlightening.

    The post 8 Books That Will Help You Get Your Head Around the Modern Political Landscape appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • Jenny Kawecki 4:30 pm on 2015/06/12 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , , noelle stevenson, put it on the list, required reading, , ,   

    7 Books That Should Be on Your Required Summer Reading List 

    Required summer reading: occasionally awesome, but more often than not, a stack of unexciting books that sits around gathering dust until the very last possible moment. Can’t we all agree it’s time to add some new ink to the list? If I had my way, you’d all have to read these this summer (and hand me a 500-word book report on the first day of school. I’m nice, not a pushover)

    American Gods, by Neil Gaiman
    Shadow is expecting to be released from prison and return home to his beautiful wife. Instead, he learns his wife has died in an accident, and he enters the employ of a strange man named Mr. Wednesday. Soon, he’s entrenched in a battle between the old and new deities of the world, dealing with some of the most powerful tricksters of all time. Not only is American Gods an excellent read, it’s also an educational foray into various ancient religions of the world—a book that’s sure to make you just as interested in the myths behind them as you will be in now reading every Neil Gaiman book ever.

    Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
    Cal’s family has a secret: a little trick of DNA that’s enough to turn Calliope, a nice Greek girl, into Cal, an American living in Germany who’s telling us his story. Over the course of three generations, he reveals how traits got passed down along his family tree, making him the man he is today—and not the girl his family originally thought he was. With loads of history and medical information to spare, Middlesex explores the world of personal transformation and self-discovery in a way that’s both fascinating and relevant.

    Love and Misadventure, by Lang Leav
    Because no summer reading list would be complete without a bit of poetry, right? Lang Leav’s Love and Misadventure is the perfect choice for a wide audience. The writing is simple and unassuming, an easy segue into poetry for the non-poetic, and the topic is universal: love. It’s an easy-to-follow narrative, tackling the ups and downs of infatuation and heartbreak and everything in between. Bonus: there are even a few illustrations.

    Gilead, by Marilynne Robinson
    Reverend John Ames knows he’s not going to see his son grow up, so he’s writing him letters. As he explores his own life and the lives of his father and grandfather before him, Ames records his musings on life and love and faith, often choosing to focus on how beautiful and strange the world is. Gilead fills the dark and brooding spot on your required reading list—something to remind us you can be perfectly confused and lost and still feel an extreme amount of joy and wonder.

    Nimona, by Noelle Stevenson
    Meet Nimona, the shape-shifting sidekick of Lord Ballister Blackheart, villain extraordinaire. Together, they aim to reveal the dubious nature of the kingdom’s most well-loved heroes, especially Blackheart’s friend-turned-nemesis, Sir Ambrose Goldenloin. Why read it? Because in between all the hilarity and color, there are some important thoughts on the nature of good and evil and what it really means to have morals. (Yes, villains can have rules, too.) Plus, okay, it’s just fun to read.

    On Beauty, by Zadie Smith
    Meet the Belseys, an interracial family living in a very white, collegiate town. With their marriage on the rocks and their children set on chasing after very different (somewhat problematic) lives, Howard and Kiki hardly know which issue to pursue first, especially now that Howard’s arch-rival has moved to town. Caught between two very different cultures, each of the Belseys has to decide which standard of beauty they’re going to live for—because what else is there? It’s an important look at how our perceptions of what’s ideal affect how we treat ourselves, and what’s it’s like to feel out of place in a homogenous world.

    Slouching Towards Bethlehem, by Joan Didion
    Rounding off your new required reading with a little bit of nonfiction, Joan Didion’s essay collection Slouching Towards Bethlehem explores the world of 1960s California, contrasting lifestyles that are at opposite ends of the political, financial, and social spectrum—and yet still, somehow, eerily similar. Understanding without judging, Didion shows you can disagree and still respect the common thread of humanity that runs through us all. It’s not only a fascinating look at recent history, but also a glimpse at the joy of well-honed writing, with nothing extra to get in the way of the facts.

    What books do you think everyone should read this summer?

  • Caitlin Luetger 7:00 pm on 2015/05/06 Permalink
    Tags: classic books, , , required reading, ,   

    5 Classic Books You Need To Reread After High School 

    So many of the books we read in high school get an undeservedly bad rap. It’s not that they’re boring stories or poorly written, but the fact that they were assigned reading that made them unappealing. (“Ew, homework.”) Maybe you didn’t understand the stories at the time but painstakingly made your way through them—or maybe you just skimmed the SparkNotes. Either way, it’s time to give these five must-read classics a second chance.

    The Great Gatsbyby F. Scott Fitzgerald
    As a high school sophomore, you may have been tantalized by the flashy parties and c’est la vie attitude the characters had toward day drinking and adulterous relationships. Yearning for the Gatsby lifestyle, you probably decided that one day you’d move to New York City, impress your true love with your finest silk shirt collection, and spend every night hosting lavish parties. Now that you’re older and have spent some time in the real world, you’ll be amazed at how differently the story reads. While the love triangles and glitz may have been enough to entertain your teenage self, your adult self will probably be a little bit more interested in exploring the cracked morality and rigid social hierarchies your English teacher was always rambling on about in class.

    The Scarlet Letter, by Nathaniel Hawthorne
    The biggest complaint against The Scarlet Letter tends to be its stiff Victorian style—though the drama (OH THE DRAMA) between Hester Pryn, Roger Chillingworth, and Arthur Dimmesdale may have intrigued you enough to soldier through. Who can resist such an unfortunate love triangle? As an adult, you’re more likely to be taken by the terrifying differences and even-more-terrifying similarities between the way women’s sexuality was treated then, and the way it’s treated in contemporary society. Plus, you’ll have the satisfaction of having made it through a Victorian novel as a grownup!

    Of Mice and Men, by George Steinbeck
    Another story of the American Dream may that not have intrigued you as a teen, though the deep and caring relationships between the main characters may have impacted the way you viewed friendships—and George’s predicament surely moved you. As an adult you’ll have an even deeper understanding of the major themes, centered on relationships and the loss of life and dreams, likely having experienced something similar (though hopefully far less tragic) in your own adult life. And as with The Scarlet Letter, you’ll likely spend a little more time questioning the representation of women in historical literature.

    To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
    Whether you grew up in a small southern town or a northern metropolitan area, you probably related to and empathized with Scout’s dislike for school. And while you might not have fully grasped the severe implications of Tom Robinson’s case, you admired the kindhearted nature and good will of Atticus Finch. You may have even enjoyed the story, despite it being a required read. So why should you reread To Kill a Mockingbird? For starters, everything about this book is relevant in 2015, a year marked by ongoing discussions of race and rape culture. And not only will revisiting this story make you fall in love with Atticus Finch all over again, it will get you ready for sequel Go Set a Watchman, which will be hitting shelves later this year.

    The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger
    Reading a coming-of-age story as a teen makes a lot of sense. Regardless of your own experiences, you probably identified and sympathized with Holden Caulfield. You were misunderstood, too, and making your way toward an uncertain future! His story helps you put your own life into perspective, and allowed you to satisfyingly dismiss other people as being boring, insecure, and phony. But now that you’ve reached that future age toward which you were once so apathetic, the way you view Mr. Caulfield may come as a bit of a shock. While you’ve grown up, matured, and accepted responsibility in life, he’s stayed constant in his refusal to grow up. But coming-of-age stories at any age force you to reassess your own path and reflect on where you’ve come from versus where you’re headed. And that’s why we’ll always need Holden.

    What was your favorite required read from high school? 

  • Jeff Somers 4:00 pm on 2015/01/01 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , , gravity's rainbow, , , , , , , reading resolutions, required reading, , the gulag archipelago, the name of the rose, , , , , ,   

    10 Books You Should Finally Read in 2015 

    Umberto Eco's The Name of the RoseLife’s not getting any easier—and neither are these books. While there’s nothing wrong with reading a brisk spy novel or a weepy romance or a horror novel you have to put in your freezer at night in order to be able to sleep, you know you’ve been avoiding certain novels your whole life. Time to put on your grownup pants and tackle these tomes—and here’s how to do it.

    Ulysses, by James Joyce

    Relax. Ulysses is challenging, but it’s not nearly as challenging as some of Joyce’s other works (did I hear someone scream “Finnegan’s Wake!” in the distance before bursting into tears?). The trick here is to stop trying to comprehend every specific reference to Dublin in 1904 and just get into the rhythm of it. In other words, don’t study Ulyssesread it.

    The Sound and the Fury, by William Faulkner

    The opening chapter of this novel is one of the hardest to crack in fiction, but the secret to The Sound and the Fury is in the fact that all the information you need to figure it out is right there in the story. The trick? Remember that if you take away the technical virtuosity and literary technique, what you have left is a rip-roaring soap opera about a family destroying itself.

    Infinite Jest, by David Foster Wallace

    The real challenge of Infinite Jest may be its gonzo science-fiction universe. With wheelchair-bound Québécois assassins, years named after consumer products, and women too beautiful to view safely in full daylight, Infinite Jest takes a while to acclimate to. The secret here is to view the book not as a heavy work of literary genius, but as a roiling comedy that uses its ridiculous setting and details to craft a series of darkly hilarious set pieces.

    Moby-Dick, by Herman Melville

    Moby-Dick has the distinction of being perhaps the most well-known novel no one has read. Its reputation for 19th-century density and complex language makes it fearsome. The trick to Moby-Dick? It is hilarious. There are more dirty jokes in this book than you can shake your peg-leg at (see what we did there), and the whaling stuff? Absolutely thrilling, once you get used to the rhythm of the language.

    In Search of Lost Time (aka, Remembrance of Things Past), by Marcel Proust

    Yes, In Search of Lost Time is easily the longest thing you’ve ever declined to read. What’s remarkable about it is the depth of the personal—you do get the sense of accompanying someone on a sense-memory exploration. The key here is simple: This book is about many things, but chief among them is sex. Start looking for the dirty bits, and before you know it you’ll be in the middle of volume three.

    The Brothers Karamazov, by Fyodor Dostoevsky

    Rambling, complex, and filled with lengthy philosophical detours, this novel is pretty daunting. But rather than being a dour, endless novel, The Brothers Karamazov is a raucous tale of drunkenness, murder, and lust. The trick here is to stop trying to catch every detail and just enjoy the main stories: Mitya’s and Lyosha’s. If you understand what happens to them, everything else falls into place.

    Gravity’s Rainbow, by Thomas Pynchon

    It’s time. You’ve been avoiding Gravity’s Rainbow since you were a kid. You’ve been avoiding the endless symbolism, the encyclopedic puns, and the faint sense that Pynchon is pulling our legs. But this is a book you can’t dismiss unless you’ve read it, and it’s time. The trick—as with all of Pynchon’s work—is to stop thinking of the book as an awesome piece of serious literature and just enjoy it as a silly farce. This is, after all, a book that includes a bit about a man whose erections may predict rocket attacks on wartime London.

    The Gulag Archipelago, by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

    The language of this book even in translation isn’t complex, and the story it tells isn’t symbolic. The difficulty lies in the subject matter; it’s difficult to imagine that anyone could experience—and survive—what Solzhenitsyn and his fellow prisoners did. The trick here? Every time you finish a page, wiggle your toes inside your slippers and sip something nice and simply be happy it’s a book.

    The Name of the Rose, by Umberto Eco

    When approaching this book nervously, from an angle, you’ll hear some fairly alarming terms, like semiotics or deliberate mistranslation. Fear not! The trick with this admittedly dense and fascinating novel is simple: It’s a murder mystery. Let everything else hit you subliminally, and just concentrate on enjoying the story at its most primal level.

    Cloud Atlas, by David Mitchell

    Cloud Atlas has the difficult novel trifecta: A shattered timeline, an invented patois, and a story involving several sets of characters in completely different time periods. The trick with Cloud Atlas is that it’s like reading seven novels all at once. There is a theme, and a point, but ultimately what this means is that if you’re confused or bored or mildly alarmed by what you’re reading, just muddle through—a new story will begin shortly.

  • Janet Manley 3:30 pm on 2014/07/24 Permalink
    Tags: david malouf, fly away peter, , how i live now, , , john mars den, , meg rosoff, , miles franklin, , randolf stowe, required reading, speak, , , , , tomorrow when the war began, , victor kelleher, ,   

    6 Great YA Books Every Australian Teen Knows 

    Fly Away Peter

    Not only do Australian teens not get shoved into lockers or have slushies thrown in their faces during high school, we also don’t all read The Catcher in the RyeTo Kill a Mockingbirdand As I Lay Dying in pursuit of great SAT scores (we do, however, read a lot of curricular Steinbeck, so you have us there).

    What, then, are our homegrown YA lit classics about? Well, drop bears, obviously, but also war and dystopias and making out, just like American books! Here are six of the most widely read Australian classics for teens:

    If you loved The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins, try Tomorrow, When the War Began, by John Marsden
    Before we all got our knickers in a knot over the complexity and kickbuttness of Katniss, Australian teens were busy imagining themselves as Ellie, the tough, pragmatic hero of this dystopian series.

    Australia is invaded overnight during national celebrations, and most of the population is locked up in prison camps. Ellie and a crew of teenaged country buddies are camping out in the bush, and return home to their farms to find dogs unfed, houses deserted, and broadcasts reduced to occasional cries for help over the wireless. After sneaking into town and glimpsing their families locked up at the fairground, the gang returns to the wilderness to formulate a plan for guerrilla warfare.

    The Tomorrow series is seven books long, over which time Ellie kills (and suffers the moral fallout), falls in and out of love, loses friends, and learns to lead. What the book does so well is shows a character who doesn’t always make perfect decisions, who can be prickly to her lovers and her friends, and who ultimately has to overcome the incompetency of adults (and she is far less manipulated than her Panem equivalent). The gang also consists of one of the most diverse and realistic set of friends I’ve seen in YA lit—there’s the fierce Robyn, sweet, waifish Fiona, godly Homer, easily hurt Lee, courageous Corrie, fallible Kevin, and loner Chris. Plus, it stars the beautiful Australian outback!

    The first book was made into a movie in 2010, if you’d like to check out the cinematic version.

    If you loved The Catcher in the Ryeby J.D. Salinger, try The Merry-Go-Round in the Seaby Randolf Stowe
    Unbelievable as it might seem, not every Australian teen has read the seminal YA novel Catcher in the Rye, and our bedrooms are not covered in J.D. Salinger cover art. However, we do have the beautiful, melancholy Merry-Go-Round in the Sea, about the experiences of a young kid, Rob Coram, in Western Australia during WWII.

    Geraldton, WA, is far from pretty much everything—even Sydney is a continent away—and so when war breaks out in Europe, it seems like a remote problem to six-year-old Rob. He’s insulated by his extended family, including his favorite cousin, Rick. Over the course of the novel, Rick explains that he has to go to war, and while his departure is a shock for Rob, Rick’s return is far more wounding. The much-loved cousin who returns to Geraldton is damaged and hopeless, and Rob’s safe view of the world is broken along with him.

    Listen, this is straight-up one of my favorite books of all time. Rob’s voice is so sweet, so clear, it’s almost as though you are reading The Catcher in the Rye as written by Phoebe, Holden’s precious little sister, and the only good thing in the world. Consider this quote:

    The merry-go-round had a centre post of cast iron, reddened a little by the salt air, and of a certain ornateness…The planks were polished by the bottoms of children, and on every one of the stays was a small unrusted section where the hands of adults had grasped and pulled and sent the merry-go-round spinning.

    Just beautiful.

    If you loved Speakby Laurie Halse Anderson, try Looking for Alibrandi, by Melina Marchetta
    This is not as psychologically probing as Anderson’s novel, but it provides us with a gutsy teen to root for—Josephine Alibrandi is an Italian teenager in Sydney dealing with a tractorload of baggage. Her mighty sixteenth year is the one in which she meets her biological father, goes for her first “motorcycle ride” with a boy, loses her crush to depression, and contends with racism and identity politics at her Catholic high school.

    The book was written by Marchetta as a teen, and seems to have been every Aussie teen’s favorite book at some point. Josephine’s tough-as-nails attitude and sense of humor make it a super fun read, and a realistic look at all the complicated “co-curricular” junk that you deal with in high school.

    If you loved Persuasion, by Jane Austen, try My Brilliant Career, by Miles Franklin
    Were it published today, the subtitle of this book would be My Brilliant Career: *Sarcasm Hand Raised*Miles Franklin is a big deal in Australia, mostly because of this shouty book, written while she was still a teenager. The main character, Sybilla, is marooned out on her alcoholic father’s farm, and is over-freaking-joyed when she receives an invitation to go live at her aunt’s property (think of it like a trip to Bath; this book is set in the 1890s, so it’s written to seem somewhat Victorian). There, a handsome, older farm fellow proposes to her, but Sybilla (who is a bit of a tomboy) doesn’t want to be stuck out on some farm with a hunk of man meat for the rest of her life, so she turns him down. Franklin’s debut looks at the limited options available to women “back then,” and the process of growing up and realizing you have finite options.

    If you loved How I Live Nowby Meg Rosoff, try Taronga, by Victor Kelleher
    The despairing post-WWIII England of How I Live Now could almost work as a prequel to Victor Kelleher’s fantastical YA hit about a dystopian Australia. The book starts two years on from the “Last Days,” when society as we know it collapsed. Teenaged Ben has managed to survive in the bushland west of Sydney, used by hunters for his ability to “call” animals telepathically. Sick of betraying the animals, he decides to return to Sydney, to see what remains of the charred city, arriving at Taronga Zoo. There, life goes on almost as before: the zoo keepers continue to feed the animals, shuttling them between their dens and enclosures from day to night. It is deceptively safe, with food for everyone inside, provided they can earn their keep. Ben is tasked with using his talents to handle Raja, the tiger, but knows that every time he “calls” the animal, Raja gets more irritated. Meanwhile, outside the zoo, survivors want a piece of the sanctuary…

    Kelleher is known in Australia for his YA fantasies, and this book packs a killer punch—not as much from an action standpoint, but through its bleak look at humanity’s return to pointed sticks and torches.

    If you loved To Kill a Mockingbirdby Harper Lee, try Fly Away Peterby David Malouf
    Appearing here under the “precious novel with a social cause” category, Fly Away Peter is another Aussie book concerned with war—this time, it’s World War I—and class. Jim and Ashley become friends when Ashley purchases the land containing Jim’s bird estuary. Ashley is your fancy, and somewhat classist, city slicker, while Jim is a rural dude sensitive to the billions of species of birds in their patch of Queensland. Over time, Jim teaches Ashley to spot the various wildlife surrounding them and to track the migrations. Both men head off for the Western Front after war breaks out, where Jim (more so than Ashley, who is an officer) is exposed to the sundry horrors of trench warfare. He runs into Ashley in the midst of Europe’s meltdown, and they resume tracking the movements of birds. Only, one of them doesn’t complete his migration home.

    Have you read any of these recommendations? What are your Aussie must-reads?

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