NOW, READ THIS

Lit­er­ary ed­i­tor Stephen Romei tries to find some­thing for ev­ery book lover in Re­view’s an­nual sum­mer read­ing and Christ­mas gift guide

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Books -

DO peo­ple read dif­fer­ent kinds of books at dif­fer­ent times of the year? The very ex­is­tence of sum­mer read­ing guides — pro­duced by news­pa­pers such as this one, lit­er­ary blog­gers, book­sell­ers and pub­lish­ers — sug­gests the an­swer is yes.

As some­one be­holden to the next book that must be read for work rea­sons, I’m not a sea­sonal reader. In­deed, if I have any spare time dur­ing the sum­mer I plan fi­nally to tackle Vasily Gross­man’s bat­tle of Stal­in­grad novel, Life and Fate. Not es­pe­cially sunny I know, but there you have it.

Given this, I thought it would be a good idea to con­sult an ex­pert: Mark Rubbo of the Mel­bourne-based Read­ings book­stores.

Rubbo’s first point is that sum­mer co­in­cides with Christ­mas, so ‘‘ a lot of sum­mer read­ing de­ci­sions are made for peo­ple by other peo­ple’’. Christ­mas is a time when we are will­ing to lash out on a book if it’s a gift. While you may baulk at spring­ing $45 for a hard­back novel, you don’t think twice about spend­ing that much on the new Peter FitzSi­mons for dad or Jamie Oliver’s lat­est cook­book for mum (or the other way around).

Pub­lish­ers know this, of course, which is why there are lots of brick-sized pop­u­lar his­to­ries and sports bi­ogra­phies and lav­ish cook­books and gar­den­ing guides pub­lished in the lead-up to Christ­mas.

Rubbo says there cer­tainly is a more ‘‘ recre­ational fo­cus’’ at this time of year, and in fic­tion this means the an­nual Bryce Courte­nay (though, sadly, this year’s is the last, as the best­selling au­thor died last month) and a new Ian Rankin, to name two of the most pop­u­lar ex­am­ples. Rubbo says hu­mour also sells well, as peo­ple look for ‘‘ some­thing to chuckle over’’ as they wind down from the work­ing year.

As for last-minute pur­chases, he says the book­seller’s night­mare is the ‘‘ pros­e­ly­tiser’’: the cus­tomer who comes into the shop three days be­fore Christ­mas and says, ‘‘ An­dre Brink’s A Dry White Sea­son (or some­thing like that) changed my life and I must buy it for my son/mother/fa­ther/lover.’’ ‘‘ Cer­tainly it’s a won­der­ful book,’’ Rubbo says, ‘‘ but we haven’t sold one in five years.’’

With all this in mind I have com­piled the fol­low­ing sum­mer read­ing and Christ­mas gift guide. I have tried to cover as many gen­res as pos­si­ble, lim­it­ing each to a hand­ful of books. The idea is there will be at least a cou­ple of books for ev­ery­one some­where on this list.

Th­ese rec­om­men­da­tions are based on books I’ve read, re­views of books I haven’t read, gen­eral chat­ter with book-lov­ing friends, sales, in­dus­try buzz and so on. With few ex­cep­tions I’ve lim­ited the list to books pub­lished in the past two years or about to be pub­lished, so you can buy them in time for the Christ­mas hol­i­days. To save space I have not in­cluded pub­lish­ing de­tails. The books here should be read­ily avail­able, but if you do have trou­ble find­ing one, email me at romeis@ theaus­tralian.com.au. Here goes:

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