11 Jun 2014

An Australian book list


Mary Gilmore

I have grown past hate and bitterness,
I see the world as one;
But though I can no longer hate,
My son is still my son.

All men at God’s round table sit,
and all men must be fed;
But this loaf in my hand,
This loaf is my son’s bread.

My friend, Silvia, asked me last week for the name of a single book to explain Australia - the quintessential iconic book, as it were, and in doing so, she put me into a state of panic. A friend did the same thing to me on FB once too, and I found the brief just as hard.  To define an entire country within the pages of one single book is, for me, at least, almost impossible.

Finally, after harassing me endlessly, she agreed last night to a list.  Now a list, I can do.  So here, my demanding friend, is my list of must read Aussie books. It is not complete.  There are many, many great Aussie books.  Some you may not like; others you will.  But by reading them, you will at least get some idea of what makes my country different from yours.  And that was what you were asking for, I think.  So, without further ado, the list:


Everything by A B Paterson, but especially The Man from Snowy River
The Songs of a Sentimental Bloke, but especially Doreen, by C J Dennis
No More Boomerang by Oodgeroo Noonuccal

Short Story:

The Drover's Wife by Henry Lawson

Children's/ YA Books:

Seven Little Australians 1894) by Ethel Turner
The Billabong Series (1910 and following) by Mary Grant Bruce
The Getting of Wisdom (1910) by Henry Handel Richardson
The Magic Pudding (1918) by Norman Lindsay
Picnic at Hanging Rock (1967) by Joan Lindsay
Longtime Passing (1971)by Hesba Brinsmead
Storm Boy (1976) by Colin Thiele

Adult classics:

Robbery Under Arms (1888) by Rolf Bolderwood
Such is Life (1897) by Tom Collins
His Natural Life (1872) by Marcus Clarke
My Brilliant Career (1901)by Miles Franklin
We of the Never Never (1927) by Mrs Aeneas Gunn
A Fortunate Life (1981) by A B Facey

Adult novels:

The Chant of Jimmy Blacksmith (1972) by Thomas Keneally
Monkey Grip (1977) by Helen Garner
Tirra Lirra by the River (1978) by Jessica Anderson
Milk and Honey (1984) by Elizabeth Jolley
The Fatal Shore (1986) by Robert Hughes
My Place by (1987) Sally Morgan
Cloudstreet (1991)by Tim Winton
True History of the Kelly Gang (2000) by Peter Carey

So there you are, Silvia.  These are not all easy reading - they are not all your kind of books, but by the time you read all these I will need to accord you honorary Aussie status.  At the very least you'll have a pretty good idea of what makes us tick!!

For the rest of you, what would you add?  What would you leave out?  What are you scandalised about? This is just a start. Let's make it better!

Hopefully it will at least get Silvia off my back. (Tee Hee)


  1. for poetry I'd add anything by John O'Brien- Around the Boree Log, The Parish of St Mel's.etc
    going to think more regards the books, lots to add I'm sure.

  2. LOL... thanks a lot!

    A non Australian friend recommended me My Brilliant Career (1901)by Miles Franklin yesterday.
    And I will start with one not in your list, lol, Certain Lives... but, I will behave and I will read from your list as much as I can, and as I find the books and the time.

    I am excited about this! And thanks for including poetry.

    Now I will give you your deserved break!, at least for a day or two!

  3. I second Certain Lives, although your list above would take a while to get through!

  4. I've never heard of most of these books, and I've read even fewer. I obviously need a literary course in my own culture lol (and now I have a list do get it with :D). I do agree with the ones I recognise... I would add something by James Aldridge to the YA list. The True Story of Spit McPhee or Lily Stubeck or others. I haven't read any of them since high school, but I remember them being quite amazing books and great ex a mples of the Australian zeitgeist.

  5. Ok, looking again, I do recognize about half the list... I was also going to say, what about The Happiest Refugee by Ahn Do (sp?)

  6. Thanks Silvia for harassing her for such a great list! I'm going to look into these for our world geography studies! You're the best Jeanne!

  7. Many of these are adults only reads, Penny. Monkeygrip is particular disturbing. Your teens would be okay with the adult classics, but you will want to preread the adult novels.


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