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Non-fiction Reviews

Looking for an interesting read? Check below for reviews of non-fiction items that are available in our collections to borrow.

Have you read any books yourself recently? Love it or hate it, we'd love to hear about it! Submit a book review here.

‘On Doubt’
by Leigh Sales

"Is 'doubt' still relevant today in a modern Australia? 'Black and white thinking,' as my grandmother used to say, has become the norm. But are we still encouraged, or even inclined, to see things in shades of grey?

"I enjoyed this little book. It's an essay which asks a lot of questions and challenges the reader a bit.

"Taking a broad overview, the essay begins with a personal account from Sales' early life, as she explains 'I was a bit of a handful at home, mostly because I insisted on questioning everything.'

"As one of Australia's best-known ABC journalists, Sales is still asking 'Why?' and while we're used to seeing her on TV, in this essay we see another of Sales' talents: her writing. In On Doubt, she makes a strong case for being generally more doubting. Excerpts from speeches, letters, emails from well-known politicians, writers and journalists illustrate this point.

"Questioning the sometimes lack of doubt conveyed by many political leaders, Sales states that "strong leaders trust instinct and often find themselves loved and loathed in equal parts." … and further on - "when politicians or journalists or commentators make doubt seem like heresy or stupidity… it sends a message to us all. It says: if you experience second thoughts or feel less than certain and confident in your own opinions at all times, you are weak."

"The essay also explores the very personal questions, "What if I can't do it? What if I muck this up?... These are natural, sensible and desirable thoughts. They prevent us from acting recklessly without regard for consequences."

"In the current era of 'post truth' and times that are 'unprecedented', perhaps there has never been a better time to doubt...."

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‘Beach Fit’
by Kim Beach

"This book is a no-fuss, no-nonsense guide to health, exercise and nutrition for the everyday person.

"Author Kim Beach is inspirational. She works in a demanding public hospital job, is a mother of two, and makes time to stay fit and healthy. Unlike many fitness writers, she is refreshingly 'normal'. She is not a towering, lean muscle-machine — just a healthy, toned, happy person who shares how you can achieve this too.

"In this book, there are 50 recipes for dishes which can be prepared in under 20 minutes. There are exercise programs with photographs and clear descriptions of how to do them at home, indoors or outdoors.

"What I really like most about this book is its unpretentiousness. The information is clear and the writing style is uncomplicated. The book does not include unrealistic exercise and meal plans, recipes or novelty foods."

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‘Say Hello’
by Carly Findlay

"Order of Australia medal recipient, Carly Findlay's memoir is a fiery declaration of the rights of those with disabilities to be treated with respect and consideration.

"Carly's patience, generosity with her time and knowledge are clear, but the most interesting aspect of her activism is her insistence on setting firm boundaries where she needs to, and that as a disability activist that is an act of positive activism in itself.

"When you live in a world where people who have no experience of disability assume that personal boundaries somehow don't apply to those who do, setting boundaries becomes an act of defiance and a statement of self. Carly pushes back against people for whom no question is too rude or too personal, those who think that laying hands on people to pray for their miraculous ‘recovery’ without being asked is a generous act, strangers who interfere with mobility equipment, and those self appointed arbiters of who is disabled enough to use the disabled parking space or seat on the train. These are the every day experiences for those with a disability that most people don't see and ‘Say Hello’ skewers the rude, inconsiderate and downright hurtful mobs from the joyful perspective of someone who wakes up every day knowing something good is about to happen"

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‘Body Positive Power’
by Megan Jayne Crabbe

"Honestly I challenge anyone to read this book and walk away not feeling happier in themselves. Megan Jayne Crabbe is an absolute delight and her thoughtful, articulate and well researched approach to the harmful effects of diet culture are a revelation I wish I'd been exposed to when I was 14. Body Positive Power is one of those rare books that can completely change your thinking in the space of just a few hundred words and Megan's radical kindness, joy and acceptance is a wonderful antidote to a poisonously cynical and judgemental world."

Not in catalogue. Suggest Item for Purchase

‘Look What You Made Me Do’
by Helen Walmsley-Johnson

‘This was the love I'd read about since I was a little girl ‐ feeling overwhelmed by it, the breathless rapture and longing, the self-sacrifice ‐ exactly how it was described in any book I'd ever read, film I'd ever seen, song I'd ever listened to.'

"This book is remarkable in that the author has a cache of documentary evidence charting the course of a relationship as it turned abusive in the form of daily letters, notes, faxes, and emails which she lays out what coercive control looks like in the words of both the abuser and the abused.

"Before I read this book I didn't fully understand why gender equity was the focus of domestic violence campaigns. Sure inequality is bad, but it's not really the biggest issue when it comes to domestic violence, right?

"Walmsley-Johnson shows how wrong that attitude is as she describes the ways in which the relationship was everything that she had been told she should want. The movie worthy romance of a man so in love that he can't be away from her for a few hours. He bombards her with love notes at work. He wants to be involved in every part of her life. The little put downs he uses to make her feel ashamed of not meeting an arbitrary standard of womanly self sacrifice or when she behaves in a way that he deems unfeminine show over and over again how seemingly harmless assumptions about gender can be weaponised by an abuser. We all have a role to play in disarming abusers by calling out the true intent behind these behaviours when we see them rather than buying the false romanticism that they hide behind."

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This book review was written in support of the 16 Days of Activism campaign against gender-based violence.

If you or someone you know needs help, support is available.

‘Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions’
by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

"Responding to a childhood friend's request for advice on how she can raise her newborn daughter feminist, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie wrote a letter providing fifteen suggestions on how to raise a daughter to be a strong and independent woman.

"Loved this book on several levels. A super quick read that you could easily finish in a single night (and I enjoy my reading at a leisurely pace), it breaks down feministic ideals in an approachable and conversational manner that helps address some of the misconceptions out there about what it really means to be a feminist.

"I've never thought of myself as a feminist, but I found this book perfectly describes my strongly held understanding of equality and I can't recommend it enough."

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This book review was written in support of the 16 Days of Activism campaign against gender-based violence.

If you or someone you know needs help, support is available.

‘The Trauma Cleaner’
by Sarah Krasnostein

"This is an absorbing, very interesting book. It won the $100,000 Victorian Prize for Literature, the richest literary prize in the country, at the 2018 Victorian Premier's Literary Awards. Don't approach it as a voyeur looking for tales of gory death and descriptions of the gross. Although some of those things are in it the book is really a biography of Sandra Pankhurst and how she came to such an unusual career as a cleaner of personal catastrophes. It is a fascinating tale.

"The book is structured with one chapter describing Sandra's life now and the next one her backstory. Sandra was born a male named Peter, adopted by a family in Footscray and proceeded to have a hell of a childhood. Her father was a violent alcoholic and once his mother had children of her own her adopted son was made to feel that he was now unwanted. Sandra, as a man, married and had two children in quick succession. She then started to question her sexuality and left his wife and the babies without a backward glance. She participated in the Melbourne gay scene, underwent a sex change and had number of jobs ‐ drag queen, prostitute in Western Australia, undertaker, and a hardware shop owner in Brighton before starting her cleaning business. She witnessed the death of her pregnant partner and lived through the death of her older, alcoholic husband.

"The author is a law lecturer who writes well but sometimes her prose is overblown such as when she writes: "Sandra is a Monet haystack; golden, many-hued, familiar, rising up from the linoleum landscape to catch and comfort the eye." Sandra's faults are not glossed over. She is unfaithful to her partners, neglects her children and has a quick temper. Nevertheless her feel for the job and her compassion is apparent when she says of a client, "Regardless of what the situation is with him, I see past that. I see, really, just mental illness. Just another day at the shop." This book is a top read."

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‘The Day Was Made for Walking’
by Noel Braun

"You might reasonably expect a 78-year old's idea of European travel to be a comfortable cruise along a meandering river. But Noel Braun's journey was a very different one: a 1,500km walk through France and Spain along the legendary pilgrim route of the Camino de Santiago. On one level "The Day Was Made for Walking" is a very entertaining account of the gritty day-to-day realities of life on the road and the entertaining, strange and kind people he encountered. But he was travelling other paths at the same time. It was also a journey of attempting to come to terms with life without his much-loved wife, Maris, to whom the walk was dedicated, and one of self-discovery and growth. Braun's openness and thoughtfulness make this a very inspiring read, which will send me back to read his earlier book, "No Way to Behave at a Funeral" and forward with him on his next adventure in, "I Guess I'll Just Keep on Walking"."

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‘Packing for Mars: The curious science of life in the void’
by Mary Roach

"Packing for Mars is an in depth exploration of the vast challenges of space travel at the most human and functional levels. With Mary Roach's dry and mischievous humour she investigates in detail how NASA takes apart every aspect of daily life and reconstructs it to adapt to the unique conditions of space ‐ conditions that on a biological level humans have very definitely not evolved to cope with. Through the most basic practical considerations, the reader finds themselves wondering about the largest questions of how our descendants will one day adapt their societies and biology to cope with the harsh and unforgiving realities of space. This book is not for the squeamish. Roach tackles subjects such as space toilet etiquette, the tiny part of the human ear that causes overwhelming nausea in zero gravity, and relationship between gravity and the human bladder. If you've always wanted to know the nitty gritty of exploring the great unknown then this book has everything you've ever wanted to know and more."

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‘Oscar Wilde: The Unrepentant Years’
by Nicholas Frankel

"Oscar Wilde was sent to prison in 1895 for gross indecency with another man. He was given two years with hard labour, and hard labour in a Victorian jail lived up to its name. After his release in 1897, Wilde crossed the Channel never to return to England. He died in 1900, penniless in Paris. The consensus amongst Wilde's biographers is that these last years were misery for Oscar. He lived in the cheapest hotels, was constantly pressing his friends for funds, spending too much of the little he had on male prostitutes and was often reduced to cadging drinks and meals from others. He also wrote very little.

"Frankel, however, argues that, "Imprisonment and exile liberated him to pursue an uninhibited life, and the pleasure he received in consequence could be enjoyed more fully, as a total experience of heart, mind, soul and body…". I don't buy it. Although we can never truly know without talking to Wilde himself, Oscar had taken such heavy blows to his health, pocket, reputation, morale and creativity it seems very unlikely that he could have been truly happy. The happiness that he did enjoy seems like the happiness you might experience in a nursing home, where they keep you fed and warm but you still remember that better things had happened in your life. What Oscar could have had compared to what he got was probably a significant regret. This book is nevertheless an interesting one. Even if you disagree with its thesis, it has been meticulously researched and is well written. Wilde is a fascinating character who would appear on many people's lists if ideal dinner guests, and the book contains quite of few examples of his famous wit which stayed with him to the end. Frankel also takes the strange position of standing up for Lord Alfred Douglas ‐ I mean really!"

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‘The Power of Hope’
by Kon Karapanagiotidis

"Please don't mind me, I'll just be over here starting the revolution now.

"Kon's genuine, fundamental kindness and generosity shine through this book, and in so much of his vulnerability I saw something of myself. In his acceptance and forgiveness of his own flaws, I was able to see and forgive my own. I read this book in a day, which is good because it leaves tomorrow free for me to start trying to change the world."

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‘This is Going to Hurt’
by Adam Kay

"Have you ever suffered from itchy teeth? Tales of such maladies and other weird, strange and bizarre medical issues fill this hilarious account of a doctor's life in the British National Health Service. The book takes the form of diary entries written between 2005 and 2010, and while there are many moments of very black humour, they are interspersed with stories from the dark side of a doctor's life. Adam writes of the difficulties of maintaining a relationship when he is constantly kept at work dealing with traumas, having his clothes soaked with blood, and being so tired after a shift he falls asleep in his car in the car park and at the traffic lights. On top of that, he notes that the parking meters at the hospital seem to make more per hour than he does. He also writes of the great joy that he gets from making a difference and saving a life. The book includes some very interesting footnotes which explain medical conditions and the procedures required to deal with them.

"A couple of his diary entries read:

"Wednesday 16 November 2005:
"I glance at the notes before reviewing an elderly gynae patient on the ward round. Good news: physio have finally been to see her. Bad news: the entry reads, "Patient too drowsy to assess."

"I pop in. The patient is dead.

"Monday 12 February 2007:
"Prescribing a morning-after pill in A&E. The patient says, "I slept with three guys last night. Will one pill be enough?"

"This book won several well-deserved awards in the UK. And after reading it you will never be able to look at the lights on a Christmas tree in the same way again."

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‘Newton and the Counterfeiter’
by Thomas Levenson

"While much has been written about Isaac Newton's mathematical career and genius, less generally known is that later in his life Newton was placed in the role of Warden of the Royal Mint. Setting out to combat the widespread debasement of the currency, Newton found himself turning his hand to investigation in a game of cat and mouse with the great forger William Challoner.

"This book is perhaps not the page-turning thriller the cover promises. However, it is a fascinating look into possibly the most significant recoining effort ever undertaken in English history, the rogues who tried to subvert it and the deeply flawed 17th century justice system they were all caught up in together."

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‘Where Am I Now?’
by Mara Wilson

"This book made me bark with awkward laughter and crumple with soft tears in public. Wilson writes candidly of the challenges of trying to live up to and down the role of a Matilda and the ways in which being that sweet, dangerously smart little girl has both shaped and held her hostage as she grew up. Where am I Now? is funny, touching, and full of stories of growing up in the weird in-between space of Hollywood kids and all of the attendant challenges that brings of discovering a unique and badass identity in the real world."

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‘The Book Smugglers of Timbuktu’
by Charlie English

"The Book Smugglers of Timbuktu by Charlie English is a highly engaging read for people interested in adventure/travel/history/libraries/archives. In it the author attempts to disentangle the reality of Timbuktu from the romantic myths created around it, by alternating chapters about its history and present day. In the present day he tells the story of heroic efforts by the city's librarians to rescue its vast trove of historical manuscripts from the Saharan branch of al-Qaida in 2012. Historically, he tells the story of European efforts to “discover” a city reputed to be fabulously wealthy and marvellous to behold. What he uncovers for the reader is the historical reality of Timbuktu as a greater centre of learning in the Middle Ages and the myth that developed around the rescue operation in 2012, which, whilst it certainly happened, appears to have been exaggerated in scale to attract donor money. A thoroughly absorbing read."

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‘The Woman Who Fooled the World: Belle Gibson's Cancer Con’
by Beau Donnelly and Nick Toscano

"This book is a thoughtful and balanced examination of how much damage may have been done by charlatans like Belle Gibson luring people away from conventional medicine as sufferers search to find a cure. It's a book that also absolves sufferers of society's view of illness as a moral failing. Whether it's for a serious illness or just a juice cleanse, I would recommend picking up ‘The Woman Who Fooled the World’ before starting any extreme or superfood-based diet. It's a really interesting read on the serious impact the wellness industry and the ‘best life’ positivity of social media have made on their collision course with mainstream medicine."

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‘The Library: A catalogue of wonders’
by Stuart Kells

"Stuart Kells has written a book that is erudite, superbly idiosyncratic and reflects his love for books, their history and the libraries that keep them in order. This is a fun and very interesting read as the author's passion and understanding of libraries is awesome. Kells has visited scores of them around the world. He writes of wonders like The Abbey Library of Saint Gall in Switzerland, a rococo masterpiece, where the painting on the ceiling "creates an illusion of bookcases extending upwards into the heavens." Visitors there must don special slippers to protect its beautiful, creaking pinewood floor. And the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, a gem, which has apparently tried to vacuum up everything that is connected to the Bard. He discusses the oldest libraries on the planet ‐ the oral libraries of the Arrente people of Australia plus the imagined libraries of Tolkein and Jorge Luis Borges.

"The charming eccentricities of some libraries are explored such as the ones in Portugal at Coimbra and Mafra that utilise bat colonies which roost behind the shelves. At night the bats emerge to feed on bookworms and other bibliopests. As part of their opening procedures the librarians there have to clean up the bat droppings. Some very odd items have been found in libraries. Kells reports that a researcher in the Folger Shakespeare Library once left his false teeth behind but came back for them the next day explaining that he had taken them out to stop himself grinding his dentures.

"Kells even devotes some space to an aspect of library love that perhaps dares not speak its name (for fear of sounding like a dag) ‐ the smell of them. The aroma of books that Lawrence of Arabia owned is speculated on ‐ "fruity pipe tobacco? Motorcycle exhaust fumes? Tea and biscuits? Decaying leather? Ink, glue, mould, ashes, liquorice? Or camel?"

"Kells properly concludes that: "Much more than accumulations of books, the best libraries are hotspots and organs of civilisation; magical places in which students, scholars, curators, philanthropists, artists, pranksters and flirts come together to make something marvellous.""

Title no longer available. See more by Stuart Kells.

‘Hannah's Dress: Berlin 1904‐2014’
by Pascale Hugues

"Pascale Hugues is a French journalist who made her home in Berlin after finding a flat that impressed her. She was also attracted by its central location and nearness to the railway station. Her book is not so much about a dress owned by Hannah, but her address ‐ about her street which "is one of those places one ends up loving, warts and all." And as a foreigner she discovered that “…one's place of residence is like a shortcut into the country, a miniature mirror of its customs and character traits.” Hugues makes it a very successful shortcut indeed and has written an absorbing history that won the European Book Prize for 2014.

"Hugues never names the street (although you can work it out using clues in the book and Google) but it was built in 1904, was largely destroyed in World War II, survived the hard times of the Cold War, and has had its fortunes revived since the Berlin Wall fell. One of the people Hugues writes about, Lilli Ernsthaft, lived for 79 years at number three. The 1970s band, Tangerine Dream, lived in it and, very briefly, so did David Bowie.

"The catastrophe of the Holocaust, however, dominates the story as 106 Jews were deported from the street. Hugues wondered if any of the Jewish residents who had lived in the street in the 1930's had managed to escape and she placed a classified advertisement in a newspaper. Much to her surprise, she received thirteen responses from around the world. One of them was from Hannah Kroner of the book's title. She had escaped to New York in 1939 with her parents with a dress made by her adopted sister, Susanne. The plan was that the Kroners would go first and Susanne would follow. Susanne, however, arrived 15 minutes after the Kroners at the American consulate in Berlin and could not get her passport stamped. The Kroners had to leave without her. Left back in Berlin, Susanne was taken at dawn one day to a special train which took her to her death. Hannah kept the dress and passed it on to Hugues along with Susanne's story. Hannah wrote that she had wanted the dress to return to the street where she and Susanne had lived, “Please wear it, and Susanne will sleep in peace! And me too!”

"Sometimes the translation is bit clunky, but as you read you are pulled deeper into the story and how fascinating some of the events that happened and the residents who lived there were. This book is a valuable piece of work."

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‘Ghost Empire’
by Richard Fidler

"The grandeur and spectacle of the greatest city in the Byzantine and Roman empires and the grand dramas acted out by those who would rule it are chronicled in this spellbinding history. Richard Fidler breathes a new and vivid life into these ancient stories, telling them with the breathless suspense worthy of a boy's own adventure. As Fidler travels through modern day Turkey looking for echoes of the great city; he weaves in the history of empires as it changed hands in siege after siege. A jewel in the crown, a fortress, a trading hub, an architectural wonder and the largest city in Europe for seven centuries, Constantinople was reputed to be unassailable until the ingenuity of the Ottoman Turks finally overcame the defences of the walled city. This is a gripping tale on an impressive scale. Five stars."

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‘Frederick the Great: King of Prussia’
by Tim Blanning

"Reading this book I don't know who is more impressive ‐ the writer or the subject. Frederick was an extremely tough, intelligent and disciplined man, but probably not a very likeable one. He was a misogynist and a militarist who pulled Prussia up by its army bootstraps taking it from a minor to a major European power. He was also a homosexual who played the flute, wrote music and debated philosophy with Voltaire. He built the Berlin Opera House and gathered a huge collection of sculptures and paintings. I was prompted to read this book after visiting his palace, Sans Souci in Potsdam, itself a beautiful piece of work with a remarkable library.

"Frederick's long reign was marked by his Machiavellian approach to international relations. He grew the territory under Prussian control through a series of wars he initiated and which enabled him to seize large chunks of surrounding territory and successfully fight off France, Austria, and Russia in the Seven Years War. This is not a hagiography as Blanning details Frederick's military and administrative blunders. He concludes that as a general in the field Frederick was only average, but as a warlord he was sublime. At home Frederick was committed to the rule of law and believed it should apply to kings as well as commoners. He would hear the legal appeals of peasants against decisions of manorial courts. He was famous and popular for doffing his hat to everyone he encountered on the streets of Berlin. He thought Christianity was nonsense, but favoured religious toleration. In the twenty-first century vaccination is still debated by some, but in the eighteenth he was encouraging inoculation against smallpox.

"Blanning, a retired Cambridge professor, demonstrates extraordinary intellectual muscle to produce this biography. Some of the book can be challenging to read because of the detail it goes into, but a reader sometimes needs to be challenged if they are to go forward. Though most of us will never get to the heights of Blanning's mind, at least we can try and climb part of the way. This book is thoroughly recommended."

Title no longer available.

‘Insomniac City: New York, Oliver, and me’
by Bill Hayes

"I enjoyed this book's sensitivity ‐ the celebration of the ordinary as beautiful ‐ and a peaceful, positive view of New York described through the author's interactions with people he meets by chance, on the street, in parks, and on the train. Impromptu photos of these folk loosely relate the text.

"I loved reading about the New Yorkers he met, reading in parks late at night and early in the morning, and insights into the quirky thought processes of Oliver Sacks, partner of the author.

"At times, this book took my breath away. Refreshing."

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‘This House of Grief’
by Helen Garner

"This is not your typical true crime book. Following the trial of Robert Farquharson, Helen Garner narrates the experience of observing the trial first hand. Garner's perspective is consciously that of an outsider, describing how the Victorian justice system negotiates the challenges of a high profile murder trial. Along the way she grapples with her own feelings around the incomprehensible crime that Farquharson is accused of. In ‘This House of Grief’ the author is always present, the reader will never forget that they are viewing the trial through the lens of her perspective, but she observes and interrogates her own feelings and motivations so closely that you will become as invested as if you were sitting next to her in the public gallery."

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by Lindy West

"You may have come across Lindy West before, in her writing for The Guardian, or Jezebel, or her powerful segment on This American Life when she interviewed her most vicious troll to find out why he did it. In the end, he said it was probably because she wrote about being a fat woman who seemed happy while he could not like his own body and that enraged him. Women's bodies have always been inherently political, but West's fierce, funny, and intensely honest memoir of her life growing up as an opinionated fat woman in public is as unapologetic as ever. She navigates not only her own feelings around her fatness, but the way her body affected the way others, including family and respected colleagues, related to her. Shrill is about a girl who was so shy she wanted to disappear, and how she grew into a woman loud enough and brave enough to write about feminism and politics on the internet and to dare to be funny doing it."

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‘Becoming Queen’
by Kate Williams

"‘Becoming Queen’ traces the formative years of Queen Victoria as the unlikely heir to the throne. Kept under the thumb of her domineering and power hungry mother, and subject to the scheming machinations of her mother's secretary, John Conroy who has his eye on the English treasury, Victoria developed a stubborn streak and a fixed determination to be her own woman. Ascending to the throne at the tender age of eighteen, those in her orbit assumed that she would be easy to control and power would fall to them naturally in her inexperience. History has proved just how wrong they were, and this book is an interesting look into the life of the Princess who would be Queen."

Title no longer available. See more by Kate Williams.

‘Catherine the Great’
by Robert K. Massie

"This biography of Catherine the Great is a rich and fascinating portrait of the woman who grew from the 14 year old princess of a minor German aristocratic family and became the famed Empress of Russia. I had never read anything on the life of Catherine the Great before this book and was fascinated by the details of her court and government, and of her friendship with and devotion to the writings of the great scientists and philosophers of the Enlightenment. Epic poems are not written because a ruler insists that her entire family receive vaccines against illness to reassure the populace that they are safe, but such gestures of care for the Russian people were what secured her place in history as one of the great figures of her time. This book is full of details that bring the Russian palaces and personalities to vivid life and will leave you wanting to tear into every book on Russian history that you can lay your hands on."

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‘Keeping On Keeping On’
by Alan Bennett

"At over 700 pages of diaries, lectures, scripts, essays and obituaries, this door-stopper gives you a feast of Alan Bennett (and Mr Bennett is an excellent writer who loves his craft ‐ you can imagine his distinctive voice as you read).

"He writes about growing up in Leeds, his parents, his school, Oxford University and his army days. He comes across as a polite but strong man of formidable intelligence and wit. A Yorkshire man, but with no bloody-mindedness, he began his literary career as part of the legendary ‘Beyond the Fringe’ team in 1960. He was the author of the films ‘The History Boys’ and the recent ‘The Lady In the Van’ in which he also appears. The diaries reveal a disciplined, mature and sensible person with what is nowadays called a moral compass. His wit excoriates politicians he loathes on both sides of politics. Very importantly he loves public libraries and argues that closing them is a form of child abuse. Of the main library in Leeds he writes, "I found some of the pleasure going to the reference library that, had I been less studious, I could have found in a pub.""

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‘The Fair Dinkums’
by Glenn McFarlane

"The Fair Dinkums by Glenn McFarlane is a very moving, well-written and well-researched book. It tells the story of 152 men who sailed from Port Melbourne on 26 August, 1915. Almost a third of them never came home. They were part of the second wave of enlistments who joined up after the Gallipoli casualties were becoming known and therefore you had to be fair dinkum to sign up. Many of the stories are told using extracts of the letters that the men sent home which have been kept by their families. It's quite heartrending, after getting an insight into their personalities, when the correspondence stops because the soldier has been killed. Some of the Fair Dinkums were amongst the last to be evacuated from Gallipoli and one of them, Bill Scurry, invented a delayed-action rifle that is often credited with helping to make the withdrawal such a success. The Fair Dinkums were serving in France on the first Anzac Day and McFarlane gives a sensitive account of how they observed the commemoration.

"What makes the book so interesting is McFarlane's motivation ‐ one of the Fair Dinkums was his uncle, Alf Layfield. Alf's letters home were treasured by his family and his death in France at the age of nineteen has never been forgotten. On the last day of her life, nearly 70 years after they were written, Alf's sister, the author's grandmother, sat down to read those letters and this brings home the tragedy of the Great War and the holes it left in the lives of even those who survived."

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‘Victoria the Queen’
by Julia Baird

"Firstly, don't let the sheer size of this 700 page biography daunt you. This biography of the Queen, whose name defined an era, is a very approachable take on the life of an extraordinary woman. ABC journalist Julia Baird has meticulously researched the life of a queen that many of us know a little bit about, such as her overt grief for her husband, but little about her influence in the public sphere. Baird spends considerable time analyzing the vastly different relationships that Victoria had with her prime ministers, and at times will question the decisions that Victoria made. The Queen was always against women's suffrage, yet felt that it was her right to be heavily involved in political decisions. This is a great read for anyone who is interested in world history or even the in the life of one person who significantly changed the world."

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‘Wishful Drinking’
by Carrie Fisher

"Wishful Drinking is based on Carrie Fisher's stage show of the same name. It's warm and funny and it's like hanging out with your gossipy aunt who knows all the best family scandals while your grandmother who is all class and poise (Debbie Reynolds of course) looks on in loving disapproval at the lack of decorum. Fisher is completely up front about her struggles with mental illness and attempts over the years to self-medicate with drugs and alcohol. Wishful Drinking is a portrait of a woman who doesn't give a fig about the stigma surrounding mental illness and loudly proclaims that anyone who has been through mental illness and survived should be given a medal. We will miss you Carrie, you were and remain, larger than life."

Title no longer available. See more by Carrie Fisher.

‘So You've Been Publicly Shamed’
by Jon Ronson

"Public shaming as a way of keeping people in line with social mores is as old as time. In recent years the rise of social media storms with their potent mix of manufactured outrage, limited context and the power of people to participate in public debate anonymously have transformed public shamings into global affairs. Ronson explores this new phenomenon tracking down people who have been through their own public shamings and explores why we shame others and the powerful effect it has on the shamed. He also attempts to find a roadmap out, a PR damage control strategy or method for successfully weathering a shaming. While this is a fascinating topic which will no doubt be the subject of much further study, «So You've Been Publically Shamed’ is ultimately unsatisfying. It has no answers and peters out to a shrug, without a solid unifying theory to tie all of its threads together and give meaning to the whole. While it doesn't fulfill its potential it is definitely an important and eye opening read for anyone who has ever retweeted in anger."

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‘The Game of Their Lives’
by Nick Richardson

"The author of this book, Nick Richardson, is a journalist with a PhD. The skills of his trade, of expressing himself in words and research, have come together very well to produce an excellent piece of work. The more interest you have in the job you do, the better the final product will be, and Richardson's depth of interest in his subject is very evident.

"The book concerns a game of Australian Rules Football that took place in in London in 1916 between teams made up of Australian soldiers in training for the Western Front. A number of the footballers were of high calibre and had played in the VFL and interstate leagues. Tragically, within a year of the game six of the players were killed.

"The author covers both sides of the contemporary political arguments which included the proper role of sportsmen in wartime and the conscription debate. Notable characters include the Prime Minister Billy Hughes, Sir John Monash, Daniel Mannix, and even the Red Barron.

"Remarkably a newsreel was shot of the game for British Pathe and it can be found at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LuUjgJHLgdg. Richardson described the film in an interview: "I was struck by the sheer joy of the young men who were playing a game they loved. It was an irresistible demonstration of the power of sport at such a bleak time."

"I had, however, a couple of minor quibbles. Ellis Ashmead-Bartlett could not have seen the Gallipoli landings as he reported, as he remained on board ship when they took place. And Hughie James could not have got his hands on the VFL premiership cup in 1920 as cups were not presented until the 1950s ‐ teams competed just for the flag back then.

"The book's final paragraph is superb. A fitting end to an enjoyable and enlightening work."

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‘The Killing Season Uncut’
by Sarah Ferguson with Patricia Drum

"This is the story behind the ABC documentary of the Rudd/Gillard/Rudd years of government revealing details from the hundreds of interviews that went into the exhaustive background research for the program but could not be included due to the restraints of keeping the series ‘mini’. Giving a fascinating glimpse into how such a show is made, with a cast of skittish politicians and their warring desires to bury the past and publicly defend their decisions, this book gives us not the clear truth behind what happened, or glimpse into the motivations behind the succession of leadership spills, but rather a portrait of people with ordinary human foibles, who failed very publically at the tricky business of foresight."

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‘The Big Short’
by Michael Lewis

""How do you explain to an innocent citizen of the free world the importance of a credit default swap on a double-A tranche of a subprime-backed collateralized debt obligation?" Lewis's book does explain this and what would otherwise be gobbledygook to a financial lay person in a most entertaining and informative way. He tells the story of the collapse of the US housing market and the consequent global financial crisis via the perspectives of what he calls "odd" people. They were the ones who discerned, in Lewis's words, "in the profile of the beautiful young lady, the face of an old witch." While the rest of Wall Street was very happy to make profits, the odd ones were looking at the hard data, and they recognized that the king had no clothes on.

"This book is also worth reading just for the mini-biography it gives of Mike Burry. He is a man of extraordinary intelligence who found school work ridiculously easy and became a doctor before deciding that financial markets were his true love. He also had ridiculously poor social skills and titanium-strength self-discipline. Burry would come home after a 12 hour shift at the hospital and then study the stock market until 3am. He dismantled his computer and put it back together again to try and make it go faster. Like all good non-fiction books, the strong interest of the author in telling the story drives the reader to an understanding of its somewhat esoteric subject. You get the strong feeling that Lewis would have sat down and written about the topic just to satisfy himself ‐ the best sort of motivation. He would not have needed a publishing contract as an incentive (a discussion of incentives is another theme of the book). My rating is four-and-a-half stars."

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