Man Booker Prize Shortlist

Apologies, it’s been almost a fortnight since the shortlist for this year’s Man Booker Prize was announced by the chair of the judges, AC Grayling. I’m sure most of you booky types are well ahead of me on this one.

Have you read any of the nominated novels?

Top of the buzz here in Australia is our own Richard Flanagan whose novel The Narrow Road to the Deep North has been popular for a long time now.

There is a lot of talk about Karen Joy Fowler’s We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves too – sounds like a very good one for book groups to talk about.

Other novels shortlisted are To Rise Again at a Decent Hour by Joshua Ferris, The Lives of Others by Neel Mukherjee (an inviting title for a sticky-beak like me), How to be Both by Ali Smith and the simply titled J by Howard Jacobson.

You can read about them here at the Man Booker Prize website.


Storytime while Springwoo Library is CLOSED

While Springwood Library is closed for Building works, Monday 4 Aug – Sun 21 Sep 2014, Storytime will be held at the Springwood Aquatic and Fitness Centre Creche (11 Plateau Rd, Springwood), Thursdays 10:30am – 11:30am. On Thursday (18/9), the theme will be “ Pirates ”.
Come and join us for all the fun at 10:30am.

Pirates 1x


What Library staff are reading – September 2014


This is the list of what Library staff have been reading this month.

  • Sea Hearts by Margo Lanagan – winner of loads of awards, and part of my quest to read more YA titles. Very readable story about fitting in (or not), human weakness, and selkies! Score 3.5
  • The Blue Plateau by Mark Tredinnick – a beautiful examination of the history of the Blue Mountains (geologically) and some of the lives that have lived here. I’ve never been so interested to read about landscape, but it really captivated me (especially reading it on the train between Katoomba and Lithgow and feeling I was literally inside the story). Score 4.5
  • On Such a Full Sea by Chang-rae Lee – I loved the way the main character, Fan, was portrayed as both strong and mythic, yet also as nothing special. For me it captured the idea of a novel being intimate and personal, but also universal. Score 4
  • George Clarke’s Amazing Spaces by George Clarke – I’m not much of a TV watcher so when I started describing this book to my brother-in-law I was surprised that he knew what I was talking about because he’d seen the show. A fabulous book, with amazing ideas for creating fun, interesting, practical spaces, and beautifully presented. Score 5
  • Fire diary by Mark Treddinick – I’m trying to embrace more poetry, and this book was recommended by one of our Library customers. I enjoyed the gentle tone and thoughtful pace of the poems, and found most of them very accessible. Score 3.5
  • How to think like a great graphic designer by Debbie Millman – Contrary to the title, this book is not really a how-to guide, but it is a lovely collection of interviews with graphic designers about a whole host of topics, including the expected about creativity, imagination, etc. Debbie is a great interviewer who really draws out interesting ideas about life from her subjects. Score 3.5
  • The incredible here and now by Felicity Castagna – I heard Felicity speak at the Varuna Sydney Writers’ Festival and became intrigued about her YA book, set in the Paramatta/Granville/Harris Park area. This is a really beautiful book, sparsely written and would have wide appeal. Score 4.5
  • Alice Miranda Takes the Lead by Jacqueline Harvey – I’m reading my way through this series on the recommendation of my 8 year old niece. This has been my favourite so far. A sweet story with a precocious but good natured main character. I liked the adventures she got up to in this one. Score 3.5
  • Alice Miranda At Sea by Jacqueline Harvey – As above, but this one is about a wedding on board the Queen’s ship, and the mysterious activity that one of the guests on board gets involved in. I think this was my niece’s favourite, but not for me. Score 3
  • Danny the Champion of the World by Roald Dahl – Another loan from my niece, who was horrified that I hadn’t read it already. As with all Roald Dahl’s books, it’s a classic story, and a beautiful look at the relationship between a father and son. Loved it, and not sure how I missed it during my childhood. Score 4
  • At the moment I’m reading Lives in Writing by David Lodge, which is a collection of essays about various writers and their works. It’s mostly quite interesting, but can get a little dry at times.
  • And I’ve just started The Perks of Being A Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky as one of my YA reads.
  • Banana Girl by Michelle Lee – this is a memoir by a young Australian-Hmong woman, in turns funny, self-deprecating and touching. Score 3.5
  • Batavia by Peter FitzSimons – the epic story of the true-life shipwreck and  horrific aftermath. Score 3.5
  • The Great Race by David Hill – a little dry in parts, but this book is generally chock-full of interesting information about the race between the English and French to chart Australia.
  • The Lieutenant by Kate Grenville – Grenville made this story of Colonialism in Sydney come to life with her beautiful, descriptive language. The book is inspired by true events. Score: 4
  • Watkin Tench’s 1788 by Watkin Tench and edited by Tim Flannery – an account of white settlement in NSW, and early British encounters with Aboriginal people and the Australian landscape. Score: 4
  • The Fault in Our Stars by John Green – this Young Adult title has received a lot of hype in the YA community online, so I thought I’d give it a go. I found it to be a funny, witty and heartbreaking story about two intelligent and unconventional teens who fall in love after meeting at a cancer support group. Score: 3.5
  • Wish, by Peter Goldsworthy. John (JJ) was born with perfect hearing, to parents who were profoundly deaf. From infancy he learned sign language from them, adding normal human speech when he was older. He loved and respected Sign, its shades of meaning, its possibilities for humour. His marriage to Jill, as the story opens, has foundered “on the shifting sands of spoken words”, and he takes a job at the Deaf Institute, teaching Sign. Two of his students show immediate interest and aptitude. They initiate a relationship with him that ultimately challenges him to the roots of his beliefs. This is a beautiful, courageous, insightful work.
  • We are all Completely Beside Ourselves, by Karen Joy Fowler. We meet Rosemary as a disaffected young woman, who finds herself in prison, briefly, not because she’s a hardened criminal but because she is still processing the grief that engulfed her when her sister disappears forever one day. Rosie was quite small at the time. But the storytelling here is sassy, humourous. Fowler clearly finds human beings odd, rather hilarious creatures. I’m liking this novel a lot.
  • Syrup, Jennifer government & Company by Max Barry – Discovered this Australian author recently and am working my way through his back catalogue before reading his newer stuff that grabbed my attention. Very enjoyable near future tales.
  • Tales of mystery and romance by Frank Moorhouse – Attempting to read more Australian authors I wanted to check out something by Frank Moorhouse. What I thought was a collection of short stories was a collection of linked stories. Enjoyable, but I probably would have enjoyed it more if I had of discovered it 15 years ago.
  • The Faith No More & Mr Bungle companion by Greg Prato – Read this based on a review because I am a huge Mike Patton fan. Didn’t expect much but found out a number of things about the bands that I had not previously read. Easy to tell the author is a rock/metal guy, any of the music that strayed away from those genres did not receive unbiased treatment. For hardcore fans only.
  • Zombie apocalypse! Fightback edited by Stephen Jones.
  • Seconds by Bryan Lee O’Malley
  • Transhuman by Jonathan Hickman
  • Neurocomic by Hana Ros
  • The reason I jump by Naoki Higashida
  • Stasiland by Anna Funder.  I picked this book up while waiting for someone at Katoomba Library.  The two paragraphs I read grabbed me so much that I took the book home.  An intriguing look at the East German culture and how it was affected by the constant surveillance the population lived through and then consequently after the Berlin Wall came down.  Real stories gathered by the author and told in a narrative that is very easy to read and relate to.  Plus, I wondered why the author’s name was familiar – she then went on to write All that I Am.  This book is like background research to her novel. Score 4
  •  Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness – the next instalment of the Discovery of Witches series.  Very much in the Diana Gabaldon, Barbara Erskine, Traci Harding genre.  If you love stories about witches, wizards, vampires and other fantastical creatures with a bit of time travel thrown in for good measure, you will enjoy this series. Score 3
  •  Blind Submission by Debra Ginsberg – A good holiday read in the vein of The Devil Wears Prada but instead of magazines, this is the book publishing industry.  I enjoyed it a lot.  Great characters, easy to read and kept you hooked. Score 3
  • Bath Times and Nursery Rhymes by Pam Weaver – this memoir of a nursery nurse in the 1950s wasn’t as well written as Call the Midwife by Jennifer Worth. Score 2
  • A Good Place to Hide: How One French Village Saved Thousands of Lives in World War II by Peter Grose – the fascinating true story of a community of Hugenot French who sheltered and got safely out of France, hundreds of Jewish people, especially Jewish children. Score 4
  • What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty – Alice wakes up from a bump to the head unable to remember the last 10 years. Supposed to be amusing I think but the memory loss thing was laboured a bit too much for me – yes, I can remember she’s lost her memory from one page to another! Score 2
  • The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith – aka JK Rowling. The second in the Cormoran Strike series. She’s created a really likeable couple of characters and interesting plot. Score 4
  • Martha Quest by Doris Lessing – I tried very hard to put my prejudice against Doris to one side as I read this (Mrs Lothian made us read The Grass is Singing in 5th Yr) and for the first third I thought I’d succeeded but then the story descended into a never-ending round of Martha going out to pointless parties with odious people and I dragged myself to page 230 or so and couldn’t take any more. It was a book group read and our discussion was fabulous though – talking about Doris Lessing as feminist and activitst. I scored the book 1 but book group gave it almost a 3.
  • Peas & Queues: The Minefield of Modern Manners by Sandi Toksvig – a cute little book on how to behave in Sandi Toksvig’s amusing style. I was going to use some quotes as I read it but have returned it to the library without making note of them . . . Scored 4
  • Midnight in Europe by Alan Furst – a thriller set in the 1930s around the Spanish Civil War. Enjoyed it right up to the end which seemed to come too early and was disappointing. Scored 3.5
  • Four Sisters: The Lost Lives of the Romanov Grand Duchesses by Helen Rappaport – I stayed in bed on Sunday to read this big book. I’ve been fascinated by the last Tsar and his family since coming across their story when staying with a friend when we were 12. This is a very readable account of the lives of the four Grand Duchesses who are often lumped together as a single entity in the history books. Scored 4
  • Jodi Picoult Plain Truth – a sort of whodunnit set amongst the amish.  An easy read but I do wonder if she’s writing in the hope that someone will make a film of her books.  I give it 3.
  • Doris Lessing Martha Quest – I made it to the end but only by gritting my teeth. 2.5
  • Arnuldur Indridason Outrage – a whodunnit and a real page-turner.  Am enthused enough to read more of his work.  Scored 4
  • Jo Spurrier Black sun light my view – my dose of fantasy.  I was a little bit disappointed in the ending of this third volume of a trilogy.  I had been carried along until the final chapter when it all fizzled into nothing. Scored 3
  • JW Ironmonger ‘The Coincidence Authority’. I loved this quirky book and had a good binge read. The delightful book discusses some philosophical concepts (chance and random theory as well as probability) in a really accessible way through some delightful characters. Worth the read. Score 4.
  • Natasha Carthew ‘Winter Damage’. A good story of a teenage girl who sets off in a snowstorm to find a long-lost mother amidst the chaos of a disintegrating British society. Well told with some really interesting use of language. Score 3.
  • Peter Grose ‘A Good Place to Hide’. Wonderfully told account of a remote French village and its indomitable people who sheltered, smuggled, forged for and, ultimately, saved thousands of refugees, mostly Jewish, during WWII. So much fascinating information, that I was only partially aware of, on the role of France and its government during the war. Score 4.
  • The woman who changed her brain: and other inspiring stories of pioneering brain transformation by Barbara Arrowsmith-Young (score 3) – I heard the author interviewed on the radio; what an amazing person, I admire her determination and courage! I hope that in the future, her programmes will be available worldwide in all schools and education institutions to help the many people out there who struggle with learning disabilities.
  • Seeds: time capsules of life by Rob Kessler (score 4) – Beautiful photographs of seeds – the shapes and colours are just fantastic.
  • Serpent’s delight by Ruth Park (score 4)
  • Playing Beatie Bow by Ruth Park (score 4)
  • The Curse of the Gloamglozer by Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell (score 4) – My first book of The Edge Chronicles series and I really enjoyed it. Well written with an interesting storyline and the beautiful illustrations of Chris Riddell. I stayed up late to finish this one.
  • The reason I jump by Naoki Higashida (score 3) – This book is written by a thirteen year old boy who has Autism. The author gives insight into what it is like to live with autism and explains some of the behaviours and why they occur.
  • The language of flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh (score 3)
  • Australia’s remarkable trees by Richard Allen (score 3)
  • Homemade cleaners: quick and easy, toxic free recipes… (score 4)
  • Down to earth: a guide to simple living by Rhonda Hetzel (score 3) – This book had some nice ideas about how to simplify your life and your footprint on the planet. I liked her non-preachy way of writing this book; her ideas are suggestions only.

What about you at home?

Alison’s Picks – September 2014


John Updike : Early Collected Stories

Liz Byrski : Family Secrets

Peter Goldsworthy : Wish

Markus Zusak : The Book Thief

The links will take you straight to the Library Catalogue so you can put a Hold on a copy right now!

We’ve gone international!


Katoomba Library and Cultural Centre

Name of the Library: Katoomba Library
Parent Organisation: Blue Mountains City Council

Street Address: 30 Parke St Katoomba NSW 2780 AUSTRALIA
Postal Address: Blue Mountains City Council Locked Bag 1005 Katoomba NSW 2780 AUSTRALIA
Telephone : +612 4780 5750

Web Address: or
Library Email:

Type of Library: Joint use
Population served: 15,000
Project Type: New Building
Size: (square metres): 896m2
Date of Completion: November 2012
Architect: Building by Hassells Architects 
Interior Design & Fitout by CK Design International

Childrens area with '3 Sisters seating'  


With a panoramic vista as the backdrop, the Blue Mountains City Library opened the new Katoomba Library branch on Saturday 17 November, 2012.

Situated within the Blue Mountains Cultural Centre, the Library boasts the best views of any Library in the southern hemisphere. With plenty of natural light and lots of comfortable spaces for diverse community activities, it is also the first new library to be built in the Blue Mountains for over 30 years. The design, developed by CK Design International, is elegant and spacious, taking advantage of the location to provide breath-taking views of the Katoomba Township and the Jamison Valley beyond.

Since the grand opening, there has been a steady stream of members and visitors, with new membership rates across the library network increasing by up to 87%. Fortunately, the new building has nearly 3 times more space to accommodate this increase!   Numbers through the door doubled immediately and have continued to grow, month by month!

The new library includes adjustable meeting rooms, an inviting children’s area with specialised seating, and a mezzanine level with a brilliant view and lots of comfortable lounges allowing people to sit back and appreciate living in a World Heritage listed area. A laptop bench with plenty of access to power points and an increase in the number of computers available to the public have quickly proved themselves to be valuable aspects of the new library.

Meeting rooms host a number of events, from Author talks, to book launches, Poetry Slams, Children’s School Holiday activities, Storytimes, writing workshops, book groups and so much more. The Library has become an integral community hub.

If you haven’t had a chance to see this impressive new building yet, it is well worth a visit. Make a day of it and browse the library, tour the Art Gallery and Blue Mountains World Heritage Exhibition, get lunch or a coffee from the Cultural Centre Café.

Katoomba Library

Awards, case studies, further information

The overall winner, and winner of the Education category, was the impressive design by CK Design International of the Katoomba Library. A playful and inspiring interior, the judges commented, “How wonderful that a public project was able to be created into a comfortable healthy space that feels like you are in your own living room. The coupling of green interior products and design in this public building enables an extended reach of education about sustainability.”

Storytime while Springwood Library is CLOSED

While Springwood Library is closed for Building works, Monday 4 Aug – Sun 21 Sep 2014, Storytime will be held at the Springwood Aquatic and Fitness Centre Creche (11 Plateau Rd, Springwood), Thursdays 10:30am – 11:30am. On Thursday (11/9), the theme will be “ Spring ”.
Come and join us for all the fun at 10:30am.

Spring 1x


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