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Are you a book lover? Read on

This week we launched our first edition of The Booklist, our weekly newsletter about books, reading and writing.

What a time to start – at the end of a tumultuous year that has brought us fire, floods and a pandemic. If you’re inclined to look on the bright side – I am – one of the best things about it has been the community spirit.

From a books point of view, the way shops and festival events have migrated online and been available to a wide audience has been inspiring.

I was lucky enough to have conversations with authors such as Richard Ford, Lucy Treloar and Kate Grenville from the comfort of my living room, but with an audience of hundreds in virtual attendance.

And the chances are that writers will have been inspired to create some great new work by events of the past 12 months – we’ll just have to wait a while before we find out.

It’s been a stellar year for Wiradjuri writer Tara June Winch, who yesterday added the PM’s Literary Award for fiction to her Miles Franklin and NSW Premier’s awards for The Yield, her novel about language, identity and belonging.

If you were unfortunate enough to live in Melbourne and had to endure a second lockdown, the significant easing of restrictions has come at just the right time. One thing you might want to do is reacquaint yourself with your city through one of the many books that have it at their heart.

Meanwhile, as we move into the holiday period and prime reading time it’s the perfect opportunity to look back at the books that delighted us while we negotiated tricky times.

The Booklist will be sent every Friday night and includes reviews, writing tips from authors, and a ‘What I’m reading section’.

We’d love to hear what you’re reading. Tell us in 75-100 words and send us a photo of the pile of books currently sitting on your bedside table or office desk to [email protected] or [email protected]

This week, we asked Fiona Stager of Brisbane’s Avid Reader for her current recommendations. Here’s what she said.

“I’ve just finished Jonathan Coe’s wonderful novel, Mr Wilder and Me. He has done a good job because he’s interviewed Wilder’s friends and family and quotes from Billy Wilder’s memoirs. It’s interesting because what he’s putting to the reader is – what happens when what you have to give, nobody wants anymore?

“The other one I’m halfway through is Unquiet by Linn Ullmann (the daughter of Ingmar Bergman and Liv Ullmann) and that also has a film director at its heart. It’s a combination of fiction, memoir – autofiction – and also a meditation on everything from grief right through. I am loving it.

“And I’m starting to look ahead. The one I am really excited about is the new one by Francis Spufford. I loved Golden Hill so much. I am also excited about new books from Susan Johnson and Anita Heiss.”

And for our regular section, ‘Writer’s Corner’, author of Life After Truth, Ceridwen Dovey, shared her writing rituals.

Ceridwen Dovey has retreated from the library to the couch.
Ceridwen Dovey has retreated from the library to the couch.CREDIT:

“Pre-COVID, I’d often write at a desk upstairs at Stanton Library in North Sydney, with a view of the treetops. I’d only make it there a couple times a week, but once there, I’d hardly get up from my chair for hours, surrendering to the flow,” she said.

“Now I write on my laptop on the couch in my apartment. I appreciate that the fertile chaos of family life has meant I stopped being precious about when/how I write a long time ago.

I never write to a word limit or a strict schedule or pattern. Routine isn’t really in my vocabulary: I just steal or snatch whatever time I can get. It means writing (fiction, in particular) still feels like a guilty pleasure to me.”

Make sure to get next week’s newsletter to find out the answer to our puzzle. We’ve shuffled the letters of a book’s title. Can you guess it? (Clue: we’ve kept the correct capital letters and number of words).

Jason Steger is Books Editor at The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald

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