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Michaela’s All Time Favourite Books: Australian Edition

A good book, he had concluded, leaves you wanting to reread the book. A great book compels you to reread your own soul.

– Richard Flanagan

There are many good books out there. Books that leave me happy and entertained. Then there are great books. Books, as Flanagan notes, that compel you to reread your own soul. Books that open you up to a new way of thinking, of sparking change within yourself, of teaching you a lasting lesson. This is a collection of some of my favourite books by Australian authors that have left a lasting impression on me. Books that I want to shout about from the rooftops. If I can convince you to pick up just one, my job here is done.

Breath by Tim Winton

I first picked up a copy of Breath for twelve euros in Paris right at the close of my eight week backpacking holiday through Europe. I was homesick, tired, and injured through my own ridiculous behaviour. All I craved was a slice of home, salty air, and drawling slang, which I found in abundance in this slim novel.

Winton is a prolific Australian author with a sparse and unflinching, yet beautiful style of writing. I have lost count of how many times I have reread Breath, recommended it, purchased copies to press upon friends. Every time I peruse the pages I feel a stirring of nostalgia so strong I find myself unable to walk away until I have lived it, from cover to cover, once again. A tale of two boys longing for the exhilaration and the sea and intoxicated by admiration for a local legend.

Buy it here.


Foreign Soil by Maxine Beneba Clarke

A cluster of stories set in varied time and space showing a snippet of daily life. This was my first short story collection and the bar was set much too high for any that followed. Within these stories is a prodigious amount of life and heart for minimal words. Emotive and distinct in voice, the sensation many of these stories stirred in me in a few pages was more than many novels achieve in their entirety.

To find writing, a collection of words, that hits like a physical blow is the feeling I chase as a reader and Clarke’s left me beaten and weeping on my knees. She brings the lives of minorities and a different way of living to the reader, and immerses them in a vignette that is consuming and impactful, displaying a true gift.

Buy it here.


Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta

Marchetta is the undisputed Queen of the Australian Young Adult genre. Despite this novel being over fifteen years old, Francesca’s story is just as relevant today as it was back then. Francesca is starting her senior years of high school and instead of following her friends to an all-girls school, she is forced to attend a boys school that has just opened its doors to girls for the first time. Stuck with the social rejects from her last school at the same time her enigmatic mother is unable to get out of bed, her whole world is turned upside down.

Despite sounds like like your average teen novel, Marchetta has a way of writing that personally involves the reader, leaving them feeling as strongly about the characters as if they were real people. Never too contrived or melodramatic, Marchetta’s novels are ones that can be read and enjoyed by all ages. She manages the perfect balance between reality and sentimentality and will continue to stay relevant for a long time to come.

Buy it here.


The Natural Way of Things by Charlotte Wood

My enduring memory from reading this novel was sitting in a cafe in a state of shock upon reading the last few pages. The ending is powerful, explosive and leaves you much to ponder. Sometimes if I’m browsing a bookstore I’ll read those final few pages and stop in awe once again.

With a cover flowery and sweet, don’t be fooled into thinking it is in any way representative of the interior. Wood’s writing is brutal and to the point and continues to have one of the strongest feminist passages that I still meditate on to this day. One to pick up if you are a fan of The Handmaid's Tale with an Australian twist.

Buy it here.


The World Was Whole by Fiona Wright

A collection of essays about home and shelter, whether that be body or bricks. This was the first collection of essays I had read and to borrow Wright’s own words, these essays taught me about life and “the everyday occurrences and injuries...the small transfers of energy that shock us, sudden and electric. The hidden things they illuminate.” The World Was Whole shocked me.

Feelings and ideas that I could never clearly articulate were written so elegantly, so profoundly. These essays made me feel known, seen, and above all, relevant. These pages provide a window into Wright’s soul that I, in turn, feel can be mirrored back onto my own. A collection I already find myself returning to over and over again.

Buy it here.


The Museum of Modern Love by Heather Rose

An adventurous novel that merges real life with a hint of magical realism, this novel won the Stella Prize in 2017. Following Marina Abramovic’s The Artist is Present, the reader experiences this moment in history through the eyes of some of the people drawn in by this stunning and fascinating performance, most closely Arky, a film composer who is unwillingly separated from his wife and struggling to continue with life.

Despite how intense Abramovic’s performance was and how difficult the lives are for the characters within, Rose manages a certain lightness in this novel , a playfulness in the tone of the novel. There is also much for the reader to ponder and I found this one grew in my mind in retrospect.

Buy it here.


Between a Wolf and a Dog by Georgia Blain

This was the last work of fiction by the late Blain, who suffered from a brain tumor, a horribly sobering fact for those who have read this one. It tells an ordinary story of ordinary people living ordinary lives and yet, this is a powerful read that leaves the reader much to ponder. Set mostly on one rainy day in Sydney we follow Ester, a family therapist who has her own difficult relationship with her estranged sister and ex-husband when her mother makes a decision that will affect them all.

Blain’s prose is delicious and this story is told with such beauty and tragedy I found myself meditating on it long after I finished reading it. In fact, upon finishing I had to take myself on a walk to process what had happened. The more I walked, the more I was angered and then surprised that these characters had somehow become so real to me.

Buy it here.


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