No Baggage: A Tale of Love and Wandering by Clara Bensen
The story of a three week, eight country adventure with no hotel reservations, no plans, and no baggage which proves to be the perfect antidote to Bensen’s anxiety.
Wild: A Journey from Lost to Found by Cheryl Strayed
How trekking the Pacific Crest Trail alone saved one woman from a life of misery and drug dependence, allowing her to prove her strength and resilience.
A Streetcat Named Bob by James Bowen
The story of a former drug addict who gets his life back on track with the help of a stray cat named Bob who effectively adopts him.
The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin
One woman’s chronicle of a year spent trying to be happy by systematically focusing on a different aspect of happiness each month.
The Boy who Wouldn’t Die by David Nyuol Vincent
The story of a boy who narrowly escapes death as a child soldier and flees Sudan, eventually coming to live in Australia. He becomes an important figure in his community and his story gives a face to a group of Australians who are often misunderstood by their community.
Songs of a War Boy by Deng Thiak Adut
The story of a boy who narrowly escapes death as a child soldier and flees Sudan, eventually coming to live in Australia. He becomes a lawyer and refugee advocate. The star of the University of Western Sydney’s famous advertisement.
I am Malala by Malala Yousafzai
The story of famous Pakistani school girl who was shot in the head by the Taliban. Incredibly inspiring.
The People Smuggler by Robin De Crespigny
An insight into the life of a ‘good’ people smuggler who had his customers’ best interests at heart. Cuts against the dominant narrative we are fed and considers the plight of refugees.
Romulus, My Father by Raimond Gaita
An interesting biography written by a philosopher whose experiences have shaped him and provide material for an autobiography rich with wisdom.
Tuesdays With Morrie by Mitch Albom
A series of conversations between Albom and his old professor who is dying from ALS (Lou Gherig’s disease). Each chapter considers one big issue/question – e.g. life, death, family, marriage etc.
One Life: My Mother’s Story by Kate Grenville
A biography about a woman (the author’s mother) who was not famous, yet proves to be remarkable and inspiring in many ways. Proves that a good writer can write a thoroughly readable biography of a thoroughly ordinary person.
The Return by Hisham Matar
The author returns to Libya following the fall of Muammar Gaddafi, determined to find out what happened to his father. His quest for truth reveals how far even the remnants of a brutal regime will go to hide the grisly details of their actions.
A Year in the Valley by Jackie French
A year on the Australian author’s property in New South Wales tracing the seasonal changes in the landscape, food and animal life. It makes you want to move out to the country and soak in its goodness.
Almost French by Sarah Turnbull
After moving in with a Frenchman she barely knows on a whim, Turnbull finds herself swimming upstream trying to navigate the nuances of French society, language and culture.
The Power of Hope by Kon Karapanagiotidis
Written by the founder of Melbourne’s Asylum Seeker Resource Centre, an incredible facility which has provided a range of vital services to asylum seekers since 2001, this book is full of hope, despite the fact that it confronts many difficult topics, both personal, national and international.
My Place by Sally Morgan
Considered an Australian classic, My Place is about Morgan’s life experiences and her journey to understanding her family history and culture. This leads her to explore issues such as the attempted assimilation of Aboriginal people into white Australian society through the institutionalisation of children; the rape of Aboriginal women by white men, often leading to pregnancy; the years of labour done by Aboriginal men and women on stations and properties without adequate, if any, remuneration; and much more.
Wandering Girl by Glenyse Ward
This is a memoir by an Aboriginal woman who grew up on Wandering Mission (hence the title) under the care of German missionaries. Once she was old enough, she was sent to work for a white family as their black servant girl. Most of the book is about her experiences in this white household and the horrendous racism of her employers. As a reader, you find yourself well and truly on Ward’s side as she finds ingenious ways to subvert her employers and assert herself.
Am I Black Enough For You? by Anita Heiss
This book is a joy to read. Not only is it well-written, but it’s also very funny and entertaining. Heiss’s sharp wit and infectious personality burst off every page. But this book is more than fun, it also has a serious side. Heiss is the daughter of a Wiradjuri woman and an Austrian man, so she her story tells us a lot about race relations in Australia and the various ways in which discrimination can be experienced.
Hunger by Roxane Gay
In this memoir, Gay tells the story of her experience of sexual assault as a young girl and her subsequent struggles with her weight and self-image. Gay explains, “I ate and ate and ate in the hopes that if I made myself big, my body would be safe. I buried the girl I was because she ran into all kinds of trouble. I tried to erase every memory of her, but she is still there, somewhere. . . . I was trapped in my body, one that I barely recognized or understood, but at least I was safe.”
Of Ashes and Rivers that Run to the Sea by Marie Munkara
Marie Munkara grew up in a strict Catholic family. She always knew she was different (i.e. adopted) but has never been able to learn much about her true family as her adoptive parents would simply say that the past was best left in the past. All they’d told her was that her mother didn’t want her. Then, as a 28-year-old, she discovers a link to her true family. Keen to know more, she follows this lead and begins a remarkable journey that challenges and surprises. Her account of this journey is both touching and funny, as it is an account of two worlds colliding – the clean, strict world of her childhood and the chaotic, frighteningly different world inhabited by her blood relations in the Tiwi Islands and Arnhem Land.
Too Afraid to Cry by Ali Cobby Eckermann
This book is another at times confronting memoir, written by another remarkable woman. The author was part of the Stolen Generations, taken from her family at birth and thereby disconnected from her culture. The book follows her journey to rediscover her Aboriginal roots, find her family, and heal herself. This book has very short chapters, making it very easy to read, and also includes panels of poetry every now and then as the author is an acclaimed poet.
Educated by Tara Westover
This book has been talked about quite a bit and it truly is remarkable. Westover grew up in rural Idaho with parents who did not believe in doctors or schools or anything run by or associated with the government. The family ran a junkyard and over the years Westover and his siblings incurred numerous injuries, injuries which were treated by her mother’s herbal remedies and tinctures. Despite this strange upbringing, Westover managed to get to college and has gone on to study extensively, getting a PhD from Cambridge. The story is confronting at times, my aunt said she didn’t manage to get through it, but I recommend persevering if you can.