Every Man in this Village is a Liar by Megan Stack
Foreign correspondent Stack gives a nuanced account of Middle Eastern politics and the people who find themselves wedged in the middle of power politics.
The Mind of a Terrorist by Kaare Sørensen
How David Headley, one of the masterminds behind the Mumbai Massacre, rose to prominence in global terror networks while successfully eluding authorities, and how he was eventually caught.
The Bottom Billion by Paul Collier
This book answers some big questions about poverty and inequality in today’s world. Why are the poorest people so poor? What traps are their countries trapped in, and how can they get out?
Stasiland by Anna Funder
A vivid snapshot of life in East Germany captured through interviews with its inhabitants. Funder meets both those who worked as within the Stasi to keep control over the East German population, as well as those who suffered at the Stasi’s hands.
21 Lessons for the 21st Century by Yuval Noah Harari
Famous for his two previous books, Sapiens and Homo Deus, Harari is a fabulous writer who makes complex topics easy to understand and digest. While Sapiens is about the past and Homo Deus is about the future, 21 Lessons for the 21st Century is about, you guessed it, the present. It tackles big questions of our times such as climate change, technological change and morality, but doesn’t leave you feeling totally depressed and overwhelmed.
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.
Beyond White Guilt by Sarah Maddison
A highly informative discussion of the issues stemming from the British colonisation of Australia. Maddison highlights the importance of confronting our past and making changes in the present which will help to remedy the injustices which Indigenous Australians have faced and continue to face. This is a book written largely for non-Indigenous Australians, encouraging us to ‘unsettle ourselves’ by reimagining our country, national identity and future.
Why Weren’t We Told by Henry Reynolds
This is a wonderfully accessible and engaging book about Australia’s history, the parts of our history they don’t teach you at school. The book’s triumph is in the way it relates our history to the present, illustrating how the past informs current attitudes, policies and practices. In doing so, it helps you to understand your own experiences in the present day in a historical context.
Dark Emu by Bruce Pascoe
Pascoe lays out a stunning array of evidence that Aboriginal people in what we now call Australia have been practicing agriculture and aquaculture, building houses, and doing many other activities associated with so-called civilised people for tens of thousands of years. The popular belief in Australia is that Aboriginal people were nomadic hunter-gatherers, but the evidence points to something quite different. This book is a must-read for all Australians, because it corrects many of the popular misconceptions we have about Aboriginal people which we then use as the justification for dismissing their land and rights claims.
Letters to a Young Writer by Colum McCann
This is a lovely book of concise, elegant essays written by an accomplished writer to the young writers of the world. It is filled with good advice, as well as being a pleasure to read.
After The Diagnosis by Julian Seifter (with Betsy Seifter)
Written by a doctor who has himself had to manage chronic illness (diabetes), this book explores the challenges that come with having a chronic illness and how we can better manage them. Seifter shares parts of his own story as well as many stories from his patients which makes the book very human and real.
Growing up African in Australia by various, edited by Maxine Beneba Clarke
Australia’s African community is often misrepresented by our media. This book is a wonderful antidote to the hysteria about ‘African gangs’ as it allows a diverse group of African Australians to share their experiences and stories. Many of the stories are funny, some are heartbreaking, all are worth reading. This collection joins a series of other similarly insightful and important collections like Growing up Asian in Australia (ed. Alice Pung) and Growing up Aboriginal in Australia (ed. Anita Heiss).
The Trauma Cleaner by Sarah Kranostein
This is a book about Sandra Pankhurst, a trans woman who has lived an absolutely fascinating and remarkable life. For the last 20 years, Sandra has run a business cleaning crime scenes and squalid houses, doing cleaning jobs that no one else would dare do.
The book is partly about the places her company cleans, and sometimes the people who live in these places, but it is also a biography of Sandra’s life. Both elements of the story are at times confronting and distressing, but they are expertly woven together into a book which tells us a great deal about how we as humans deal with trauma.
The World Was Whole by Fiona Wright
I loved Fiona Wright’s first collection of essays Small Acts of Disappearance, so as soon as I discovered she had a second collection out, I wanted to read it. Like the essays in Small Acts of Disappearance, these new essays are also deeply personal and at times upsetting as Wright discusses the effect of her chronic illness on her ability to just live a normal life, something which I of course identify strongly with. Many of the essays in this second collection also consider the questions of how the spaces we spend our time in shape us and are shaped by us. I love the way she’s highlighted how much our homes and suburbs influence who we are and how we feel, something I had never considered in such detail before, but immediately made sense to me once I read about it.