What Library Staff are Reading . . .

  • Burnished: Burnside Life Stories compiled by Kate Shayler. At the age of four, Kate found herself at Burnside Homes. Her mother had died and her father was unable to care for three children and go to work as well. Burnside was a collection of rather fine-looking stone buildings along Pennant hills Road near Parramatta, set up to take orphans or children no one was able to care for otherwise. The regime was Spartan, punishments liberally applied, and the children were subject to an institutional discipline that took away their agency, and feelings of self-worth, for many years. Kate has now collected the life stories of 26 Burnsiders, so they can tell in their own words how it was for them growing up at Burnside. The institutionalization of children in this country is a big story, a tragic one, and important to tell. See also the movie “Oranges and Sunshine”, a trenchant assessment of how we did things in the twentieth century.
  • Lives of the Novelists:a history of fiction in 294 Lives by John Sutherland. Intriguing reading. Sutherland admits to bias, collecting biographies only of those writers he’s read himself. He begins in the 1600s. What a mad, impecunious, opportunistic, mendacious lot they were! Driven by their life and times, driven also to tell, to weave fictions out of thin air. I found this book riveting.
  • The Cartographer by Australian Peter Twohig. A young Melbourne boy lives a secret life, making detailed maps of his exploits. An appealing central character, but not a lot of forward momentum, so I didn’t finish it.
  • Foreign Bodies by Cynthia Ozick. This writer can really write, no doubt about it: but a mean cast of characters, quite a dark story.
  • There Should be More Dancing by Rosalie Ham. This was dark as well, looking at the oppression of the aged by greedy opportunists from the next generation. Ham is witty, but I found this too depressing to finish.
  • City of Shadows: Sydney Police Photographs 1912 – 1948 by Peter Doyle – Continuing my theme of the 1920’s Underbelly of Sydney, I came across this book in our collection.  This is a most extraordinary and intimate record of the more troubled sides of everyday life in early 20th century Australia. City of Shadows explores police forensic photography of the early 20th century. Alongside criminal mug shots, there are also police photographic records of Sydney accidents and crime scenes. The photographs and commentary uncover a chilling history of the inner Sydney suburbs.  I found it absolutely fascinating – especially the photographs of those who had actual razor scars across their faces from Razor Gang wars.
  • Crooks Like Us by Peter Doyle – Again, reading in the 1920’s Underbelly of Sydney theme, Doyle draws on his extensive knowledge of early twentieth-century street life, criminal and popular culture, to conduct an intimate, astute dialogue with New South Wales Police photos taken from 1912–1948. The Bankstown warehouse where these were stored, part of a vast collection, tragically flooded in the late 1980s. Four tonnes of material, including glass plate negatives in their original boxes, were rescued from the warehouse by Historic Houses Trust when it took charge of Sydney’s Justice and Police Museum in the late 1980s. Case files and detective notes were damaged beyond repair, the photographs mostly uninscribed. Places are often deciphered but people are mostly nameless, without cause, mere traces on glass.  The Historic Houses trust hired Peter Doyle to go through the photos with Justice and Police Museum curator Caleb Williams. Doyle read every NSW Police Gazette and supplement from cover to cover, tracking the careers of individual criminals through the decades, and more broadly the changes effected in a particular tranche of society by two world wars and the Great Depression. The Gazettes are in a sense annals of police gossip, records not just of The Law – not so much iron rod as ever-changing undulation – but also of mores and vernacular, all of which Doyle absorbed.  An absolutely absorbing read and snapshot into the Sydney world of the late 1920’s.
  • A Perfectly Good Man  by Patrick Gale – This one took me a little to get into but once I did, I enjoyed the slowly revealed complexities of the characters.  An event at the beginning nearly put me off reading the book, but then the rest of the story filled out how it got to that point.  Good read.
  • Fifty Shades of Grey by E. L. James – I know, I know, I know…..I had to read it and find out what all what all the fuss was about.  It was certainly better written than I expected – critics had been scathing!  It actually reminded me of the teenage romance stories I read in the day, with a lot of sauciness thrown in.  More cheesy than grating.  Worth reading just to know what all the fuss is about.
  • I am reading Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray – after hearing fellow Library Assistant Jeanne Rudd sing it’s praises on the library podcast, Listeners in the Mist (shameless plug), I decided to read it. I’m really loving it, and can’t wait to get to my bedtime reading each night. It’s a tongue-in-cheek escape into historical English society, and I know I’ll miss it when I’m finished.      
  • Crucible of Secrets by Shona Maclean – the third in a series of historical crime fiction, set in Aberdeen, Scotland in the 16 oatcakes. If you enjoy CJ Sansom’s Matthew Shardlake series, I think you’d enjoy these.
  • The Street Sweeper by Elliott Perlman – such a powerful book where the American Civil Rights story and the stories of the Holocaust dovetailed neatly. Some pages had me wondering if I could go on reading, they were quite harrowing. And I happened to be in the bookshop Kinokuniya buying up a big pile of comics and Elliott Perlman was giving an author talk. I am in love!
  • Sister Queens : Katherine of Aragon and Juana, Queen of Castile by Julia Fox – I’m a sucker for Tudor history. Boy those girls were badly used.
  • If you’re reading this . . . last letters from the front line by Sian Price – the letters in this collection start with the English wars with France 1793-1815 and go up to the present conflict in Afghanistan. I am reading this slowly, only during my lunch break at work. I am at the Falkland conflict and, as the granddaughter, daughter, wife and mother of soldiers, it’s getting harder to read the letters without shedding a tear.
  • Skios by Michael Frayn – longlisted for the Man Booker Prize this year, this is a farce and quite fun, but not hoch literature. I can see the Carry On team doing something like this if it was a film.
  • Fludd by Hilary Mantel – Shame on me! I should have enjoyed this since Hilary Mantel is so admired, but I didn’t.
  • Get Back in the Box: How Being Great at What You Do Is Great for Business by Douglas Rushkoff – How to succeed in business isn’t a topic I would normally read about but Rushkoff is one of my favourite authors and I would read his shopping lists if he published them. He is a media theorist and has had over two decades of success with predicting what is going to happen with technology and people. He has branched out and applied his knowledge of technology and sociology into other areas and this book has many interesting case studies and the tips can just as easily be applied to the library. If you are in marketing and haven’t read anything by Rushkoff you are doing yourself a disservice.
  • The Zombie Survival Guide: Complete Protection from the Living Dead  by Max Brooks – I loved ‘World War Z’ and this one which was written first was just nearly as good. The lists of what you need were sometimes tedious but all very valuable information in case of a zombie holocaust. The recorded attacks at the end are every written account of a zombie attack throughout history and I look forward to seeing them in graphic novel form very soon.
  • Virtual Light, Idoru & All Tomorrows Parties (Bridge Trilogy) by William Gibson – The second Gibson trilogy and he creates just as good a world in this series as the previous one. The only downfall is that throughout the first book especially the world overshadows the storyline and I found myself wishing that other aspects of this world had been explored. The first book is a fairly straight forward suspense novel but set in this highly detailed future world. The second book introduces a character based on Chopper Read and is about virtual reality and virtual worlds. The third book is more of a suspense novel again where many of the characters from the first two books are visited again.

 Graphic Novels

  •  Judge Dredd: The Complete Case Files 01 by John Wagner
  • Gonzo: A Graphic Biography Of Hunter S Thompson by Will Bingley
  • Blackest Night by Geoff Johns
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