What I’m reading:
I always get so much more out of a big trip when I make the time to do some reading beforehand. I also love to take some books that are set in the country I’m visiting because they really come to life when you are there. A kindle is just such a great investment – can you imagine even thinking about trying to take this little lot on a plane years ago?! We really are so lucky these days. I have left out any titles that you can no longer obtain easily (eg via Amazon) to avoid any frustration. There is nothing more annoying than deciding you really want to read a book only to find that it can no longer be obtained?!
Down Under – Travels from a Sunburned Country – Bill Bryson
If you only read one book for your trip, make it this one. So funny, so entertaining and you learn such a lot about the country as you read in an effortless way. Bill Bryson is really pretty hard to beat! Western Australia doesn’t feature much until the end of the book, but the rest is all useful background information about the country in general.
True Stores by a bunch of the world’s very best travel writers: Paul Theroux, Bruce Chatwin, Jan Morris, Pico Iyer, Tim Cahill, Jill Ker Conway, Tony Horwitz. The true experiences of people who have actually been there provides you with the best possible road map for a trip to a new place. This series is a great way of deepening and enriching your travels. There are lots of excerpts from other books on Australia too which you can follow up on if you have the time – really useful. There is a lot to be scared of in Australia it seems, if you let there be – I’m not going to worry about it too much. Everyone I know who has been there seemed to survive the trip OK… fingers crossed though!
A tale of one mad adventurer and a motorbike that runs on chip fat taking a road trip around Australia. This is a story of outback characters, implausible (but true) situations, unlikely events and unfortunate breakdowns – a light hearted and entertaining read.
Tracks – Robyn Davidson
A true story about a twenty seven year old woman who gave up her urban life to trek across Auatralia’s Red Centre with only a few camels and her dog for company. Tracks – the story of her experience – has been translated into more than ten languages and has also been made into a film. My favourite passages are:
“What I’m trying to say is, when you walk on, sleep on, stand on, defecate on, wallow in, get covered in, and eat the dirt around you and when there is no one to remind you what society’s rules are, and nothing to keep you linked to that society, you had better be prepared for some startling changes. And just as the Aborigines seem to be in perfect rapport with themselves and their country, so the embryonic beginnings of that rapport were happening to me. I loved it. And my fear had a different quality now too. It was direct and useful. It did not incapacitate me or interfere with my competence. It was a natural, health fear one needs for survival.”
“I have never uncovered anywhere the same bonds of friendship as I found in certain small sections of Australian society. It has something to do with the old code of mates hip nd something to do with the fact that people have time to care for one another and something to do with the fact that dissidents have had to stick together, and something to do with the fact that competition and achievement are not very important aspects of the culture, and something to do with a generosity of spirit that can afford to grow within that unique sense of traditionless space and potential. Whatever it is, it is extremely valuable. Robyn Davidson – Tracks
An Australian classic – you can’t have a reading list for a trip to Australia without including a few Tim Winton novels. This story chronicles the fortunes and misfortunes of two rural families who move to Perth and make a go of it over the course of 20 years from 1943 to 1963 in its inner city suburbs. A tale of love and family values.
My Place – Sally Morgan
This is the autobiographical story of Sally Morgan, who narrates her experiences growing up in suburban Perth in the sixties and seventies as she uncovers her previously unknown indigenous heritage. Three generations of indigenous women gradually unravel the personal stories they have been keeping a secret. A work of great humour, humanity and courage.
There has to be room in your kindle for a couple more Tim Winton novels? For years Jaxie Clackton has dreaded going home. His beloved mum is dead, and he wishes his dad was too, until one terrible moment leaves his life stripped to nothing. No one ever told Jaxie Clackton to be careful what he wishes for – so Jaxie runs. There’s just one person in the world who understands him, but to reach her he’ll have to cross the vast saltlands of Western Australia. It is a place that harbours criminals and threatens to kill those who haven’t reckoned with its hot, waterless vastness. This is a journey only a dreamer – or a fugitive – would attempt. This is a story of survival, solitude and unlikely friendship. Most of all it is about what it takes to keep hope alive for a young man on a journey of self-discovery in one of the harshest climates on earth.
Landscape memoir exploring the relationship of the novelist with the bold terrain and seascapes of his home state. .Island Home is the story of how that relationship with the landscape came to be. Charged with love for the huge, besieging force of Australia’s wild spaces, this book is a passionate call for their conservation, a memoir that urges us all to feel the ground beneath our feet.
The Literature of Australia is a collection of some of the most distinctive and most significant of the nation’s writing. It includes work from contemporary authors of international renown, including Shirley Hazzard, Peter Carey, David Malouf, Les Murray, Alexis Wright, and Kate Grenville. If you like a book that offers you the ability to sample of variety of authors, this is a good pick.
A collection of yarns and bush tales from Jim Haynes – unbelievable but true Australian stories: featuring the unknown, the forgotten, the surprising, the truly weird and the completely inexplicable. with larger than life characters in a land where the bizarre and strange are normal.
The songlines are the invisible pathways that criss-cross Australia, tracks connecting communities and following ancient boundaries. Along these lines, Aboriginals passed the songs which revealed the creation of the land and the secrets of its past. In this magical account, Chatwin recalls his travels across the length and breadth of Australia seeking to find the truth about the songs and unravel the mysteries of their stories.
A bit of history gives great context when you are exploring a new country, but it can sometimes be difficult to plough through a standard text. In this hilarious history, David Hunt reveals the truth of Australia’s past, from megafauna to Macquarie – the cock-ups and curiosities, the forgotten eccentrics and Eureka moments that have made the Australians who they are.
Last – but not least! Warri and Yatungka were believed to be the last of the Mandildjara tribe of desert nomads to live permanently in the traditional way. Their deaths in the late 1970s marked the end of a tribal lifestyle that stretched back more than 30,000 years. The Last of the Nomads tells of an extraordinary journey in search of Warri and Yatungka. Through the pages you learn how land and culture were inseparably tied in traditional aboriginal life – it offers a window on a disappearing world. This book is also a love story against all the odds, set against the backdrop of a beautiful but unforgiving environment.