Horse by Geraldine Brooks
Fiction, Hachette, $39.99 (hardcover)
Geraldine Brooks was courted to tell another story when she heard the story of Lexington, the almost mythical pre-war thoroughbred: a horse so fast that watchmakers invented the stopwatch to time its runs; father of generations of champions, including the fearless mounts of American Civil War generals.
In Horse, Brooks traces Lexington’s resounding life, from his birth in 1850 to the present day, as scientists reconstruct his record-breaking bones. But as Aussie winner Pulitzer discovers, telling the story of the racetrack is telling the story of the race. Historically rich and morally insistent, Horse is a novel of America’s inescapable legacies. – Beejay Silcox
Our Members by Unlimited by Sam Wallman
Graphic novel (non-fiction), Scribe, $39.99
Australian cartoonist Sam Wallman has worked in warehouses before, but “none are as brutal or daunting as Amazon”. As a ‘picker’ in Melbourne, he walks 30km a day in steel-capped boots, picking up people’s purchases at such a relentless pace that he ends up buying a bag of urine (from Amazon) to attach to his leg to avoid bathroom breaks. which slow him down and put his work at risk.
Finding solace in news reports of Amazon workers struggling to improve their conditions, he felt inspired enough to create this comprehensive comic history of unionism, starting with the Industrial Revolution and traveling around the world – highlighting light of interesting cases, such as the Icelandic women’s strike of 1975. This would be a great primer for any young person entering the labor market or for anyone who needs a reminder of what unions are still fighting for. – Sian Cain
Basin by Scott McCulloch
Fiction, Black Inc, $24.99
This hypnotic and eerie romance opens with our narrator, the figure with the intriguing name, as he comes to his senses after swallowing poison and drowning. Rescued by Aslan, a paramilitary bandit, Figure is sent back to the dreamlike, ugly world he once hoped to escape from. The “collapse” has occurred, leaving the last dregs of humanity devoured by war and violence. Traveling this ravaged land, first with Aslan and then others, Figure is “a ghost who has ventured on a madman’s odyssey”.
Basin is relentlessly dark and grotesque – I can’t remember the last novel I read with so many references to bile, vomit, organs and ejaculate – but McCulloch’s earthy language is undeniably heady and compelling. . – Sian Cain
An Exciting and Living Inner Life by Paul Dalla Rosa
Short Stories, Allen and Unwin, $29.99
Paul Dalla Rosa’s short stories often flatten their locations into what cultural theorist Kyle Chayka calls “AirSpace”: gentrified, globalized enclaves whose varnished surfaces barely conceal the rot of wealth and despair at their hearts. Figures from Dalla Rosa’s first collection find themselves propelled into these spaces, whether in Dubai, New York or a seedy Gold Coast nightclub.
They are struggling actors, waiters and entertainers: terrible people in the throes of great delusions, fighting their way to a mythical ideal of fame as an antidote to the woes of contemporary life under capitalism. There’s a brilliant transmogrification to Dalla Rosa’s sentences, which often begin with deadpan, acerbic, hilarious schadenfreude and end with startling empathy. “It’s awful to be alive,” he said in a recent interview, “but it’s also beautiful.” – Michael Sun
Let’s talk about a revolution by Yassmin Abdel-Magied
Trials, Vintage Australia, $34.99
We know Yassmin Abdel-Magied as an oilhead with a social conscience, but this series of essays reveals her as an uncompromising (if bruised) optimist, self-deprecating but unapologetic, and still grappling with the fallout of this tweet in 2017. Abdel-Magied writes about faith, grief, online life, nationality and race in the different contexts of the countries where she has resided: “Sudan, Australia, England, France. Two former colonies, two colonizers. But Australia looms large. The place where she lost everything — “my public reputation, my job, my safety” — also drove her to fight for “nothing less than substantive, transformative, unconditional equality.”
Part of the book is dedicated to the writing of the 2017/18 author, the eye of social media shit. Her decision to republish it is telling: she doesn’t take a word out of it or give it a neat narrative. As she writes again: “I spent more time forgetting than understanding. – Sophie Noir
Pomegranate & Fig from Zaheda Ghani
Fiction, Hachette, $32.99
Zaheda Ghani’s early life tells the intertwined story of three young people: Henna, an Afghan woman living a traditional Muslim life in Herat during the Soviet invasion of the 1970s and 1980s; Hamid, his brother, who wants to join the insurgents; and Rahim, whom she marries by arranged marriage, and whose own actions against the USSR put their family in danger – causing them to flee first to India, then to Australia.
Ghani herself came from Afghanistan as a refugee in the 1980s; these days, she’s Australia’s UNHCR Ambassador, one of the country’s top tech executives at Atlassian, and a Richell Prize shortlisted author. It’s almost rude that in the midst of it all, she can write such a moving and evocative soap opera: the story of a family and their war-torn country – which is also a love story. –Steph Harmon
Dirt Town by Hayley Scrivenor
Crime, Pan Macmillan, $32.99
Scrivenor’s debut rides high on the tide of feminist detective fiction. This heartbreaking thriller is about Esther Bianchi, a missing child in the small town of Durton; it speaks to themes of motherhood, trauma and belonging, and the unpredictability of rage and fear.
It also fits easily into the contemporary Australian crime canon – it’s gritty and at times political, teasing the tensions of landscape and climate. Dirt Town offers enough surprises to stand out, without straying too far from the satisfying beats of traditional crime. – Kavanagh Beak
Jackie Bailey’s Eulogy
Novel, Hardie Grant, $32.99
When we meet Kathy, she’s living in her car, blocking her husband’s calls, and fleeing a criminal charge with 300 sleeping pills in her glove compartment. Her beloved sister Annie spent 25 years dying of degenerative cancer. Kathy must write the eulogy; after that, we get together, she’ll take the pills.
The expansive book shifts between present and past, to visit Kathy’s childhood – defined by horrific maternal abuse and internalized racism – and the young life of her parents: her Chinese mother, who lived through the Japanese occupation from Singapore; and her white Australian father, who fought in the Vietnam War. Much of it is drawn from Bailey’s own life, and the end result – albeit fraught with trauma – is a propelling story of race, loss and love. –Steph Harmon