To complement our ‘Books of the Year’ feature, which appeared in the December 2019 issue, we invited some senior publishers to nominate their favourite books of 2018 – all published by other companies.
Life: Selected writings by Tim Flannery
One of the pleasures of reviewing a book is reading it slowly, paying attention to the rhythms and its author’s intentions, impulses, and indulgences. Reading is always a conversation between writer and reader. A major collection like Life: Selected writings takes this experience to a new level. This is not just a conversation between a writer now and a reader now, but a writer then, his choices now, the sum of those choices as arrayed in a substantial blue volume, and the reader with a ‘long now’ to luxuriate in the exchange.
Secret: The making of Australia’s security state by Brian Toohey
Cass Sunstein, a noted American constitutional scholar, once lamented: ‘The notion that the government may control information at its source is at odds with the idea that the purpose of a system of free expression is to control the conduct of representatives.’ In a liberal democracy – supposedly of the people, by the people, for the people – political opacity is inconsistent with the central premise of government.
Beauty by Bri Lee
My local shopping centre has seven nail bars, two waxing salons, and a brow bar. A cosmetic surgery clinic touts ‘facial line softening’ and ‘hydra facials’. A laser skin clinic offers cosmetic injections. Three other beauty temples offer ‘cool sculpting’, ‘eyelash perms’, and ‘light therapy’ for skin. I live in a gentrified, working-class suburb in Melbourne’s inner west. I’ve never set foot in these beauty shops, but they’re replicating like cells.
From the Issue
The Surprise Party: How the Coalition went from chaos to comeback by Aaron Patrick
Future Proof: How to build resilience in an uncertain world by Jon Coaffee
The Manner of Their Going: Prime ministerial exits in Australia by Norman Abjorensen
Love is Strong as Death: Poems chosen by Paul Kelly edited by Paul Kelly
The assertion that ‘love is strong as death’ comes from the Song of Solomon, a swooning paean to sexual love that those unfamiliar with the Old Testament might be startled to find there. Songwriter and musician Paul Kelly has included it in this hefty, eclectic, and beautifully produced anthology of poetry, which has ‘meaningful gift’ written all over it.
The suggestion that any single retelling of the story of the Kelly Gang might come close to ‘true’ is laughable, but by drawing attention to this fact at the outset, Carey gives himself unfettered creative licence to embellish the tale however he pleases. And while the aural-visual medium of filmmaking could never hope to recreate the unique interiority of Carey’s Kelly or the breathtaking poetry of his loquacious, first-person prose, Kurzel’s film nevertheless succeeds, positioning itself less as a direct adaptation and more of an invocation. It summons the same restless spirit as the novel, and permits itself those same grand liberties with the so-called ‘truth’.
On The Plain Of Snakes: A Mexican road trip by Paul Theroux
At seventy-six, Paul Theroux drove from his home in Cape Cod to Chiapas, Mexico’s southernmost state. On the Plain of Snakes: A Mexican road trip is his account of this adventure, at times misinformed, on occasions tedious, with moments of entertaining, well-researched discussions about the scintillating complexity of Mexico.
Liberalism at Large: The world according to The Economist by Alexander Zevin
Few media institutions are revered across the mainstream political spectrum quite like The Economist. Since its founding in London in 1843, The Economist – which insists on calling itself a newspaper despite switching to a magazine format in the mid-twentieth century – has developed a reputation for intelligent, factual reporting and forthright advocacy for free trade and economic expansion. And it has weathered the digital storm far better than most publications, with print circulation now higher than it was prior to the arrival of the internet.