From Bernie Sanders to stocking fillers – December's literary highlights

No need for Christmas colouring books with Australia’s December literary picks, including Anna Kendrick, Stan Grant and Bernie Sanders

Bernie Sanders, Anna Kendrick and Stan Grant have books out in Australia this December. Composite: Patrick Breen via AP, Action Press/REX Shutterstock, Dean Sewell
Bernie Sanders, Anna Kendrick and Stan Grant have books out in Australia this December. Composite: Patrick Breen via AP, Action Press/REX Shutterstock, Dean Sewell

Last modified on Mon 21 Oct 2019 06.00 EDT

Australia’s Most Unbelievable True Stories by Jim Haynes (Allen & Unwin)

Book cover for Australia’s Most Unbelievable True Stories by Jim Haynes

“Australia’s obsession with British royalty is odd enough in itself,” writes purveyor of tall tales Jim Haynes. “But the first four visits to Australia by members of the royal family were full of such unusual events that accounts of those visits seem to me decidedly slapstick.”

Haynes gathers bush tales and Australiana in this collection of stories, but devotes a whole section to the madness that is Australia’s obsession with the royal family. There are also aviation stories, war stories and ghost stories. Haynes spins his yarns like a good old-fashioned fireside storyteller ... all true, of course.

Available now.

No to Feminism by Rebecca Shaw (Affirm)

Book cover for No To Feminism: 70 Reasons Why Femismn is Bad for You by Rebecca Shaw

When browsing the internet one night a couple of years ago, Australian comedian, writer and tweeter extraordinaire Rebecca Shaw came across a Tumblr that bothered her: Women Against Feminism – a series of photos of women holding up signs that explained why they don’t believe in the movement.

Unsettled by the “illogical” arguments presented therein, she turned to “the classic response used by frustrated people through history: I started a parody Twitter account”. @NoToFeminism has since become a Twitter sensation, spitting out sporadic, typo-ridden missives that are at once hilarious, absurd and, occasionally, horrifying.

This book collates the best, and pairs them with illustrations by Sydney artist and writer Fury.

Available now.

D*A*A*S: Their Part in My Downfall – On the road with the Doug Anthony All-Stars by Paul Livingston (Allen & Unwin)

Book Cover for D.A.A.S. Their Part in My Downfall: On the Road with the Doug Anthony All-Stars by Paul Livingston

The Australian comedy trio of Paul McDermott, Tim Ferguson and Richard Fidler had its heyday in the late 80s, winning over the Edinburgh festival 30 years ago before they launched an ABC series in the early 90s: DAAS Kapital. For a certain type of Australian family, they soundtracked long car rides, their soulful covers of Heard it Through The Grapevine and Throw Your Arms Around Me, and of course that Yuletide classic, I Fuck Dogs.

D*A*A*S: Their Part in my Downfall is an on-the-road account by Paul Livingston, who toured and performed with the trio – and has written a handful of books – as his alter-ego, Flacco. A niche interest, by all means, but one that fans will relish.

Available now.

The Australian Dream: Blood, History and Becoming by Stan Grant (Quarterly Essay)

Book cover for Quarterly Essay 64: The Australian Dream: Blood, History and Becoming by Stan Grant

When video was posted online in the lead-up to Australia Day this year of a debate in which Wiradjuri journalist and Australia columnist Stan Grant argued the Australian dream was founded on racism, it went viral. In his book released a few months later, Talking to My Country, Grant wrote: “The Australian dream abandoned us to rot on government missions, tore apart families, condemned us to poverty.”

This highly anticipated Quarterly Essay picks up where Talking to My Country left off. He writes:

Anzac Day, Invasion Day: are they not each, in their way, our attempt to make the world intelligible? We render these memorials as quasi-myths to make a devastating loss more bearable. History, myth, memory and forgetting: these are the things of identity. For now, as I trace the footprints on the shoreline of my past, the marks of those who have come and suffered before, it is clear that I and hundreds of thousands of Indigenous people – to take up Certeau’s Crusoe analogy – have emerged from the storm, washed up on our own uncharted island of black success.

Available now.

Iced Beer and Other Tantalising Tips for Life by Lee Lin Chin and Chris Leben (Penguin)

Book cover for Iced Beer and Other Tantalising Tips for Life by Lee Lin Chin and Chris Leben

The Lee Lin Chin phenomenon is an odd beast. Where else but Australia could a journalist who’s hosted the news for 25 years moonlight as a caricature: the beer-swilling, man-ogling, fashionista autocrat, intent on destroying her media colleagues to claw, sleep or snark her way to a Gold Logie?

Chris Leben, head comedy writer for SBS’s The Feed, is the co-creator of the character, manning her Twitter account, scripting her viral videos and, one assumes, writing at least most of this book. As one who has spent time with the real woman, your correspondent is pleased to report the quirks are not far off: she does love iced beer, dress impeccably, and deliver fierce smackdowns to those who deserve it. If she were to write a real book one day, I would absolutely read it.

Until then, this is a light and fun stocking filler, perfect for media-savvy young friends. It covers a range of topics, from career to politics to sexual conquests (“Once he has been sufficiently shamed he may re-enter the bed”). A welcome addition to the cult of the Prime Chinister, if you’re into that kind of thing.

Available now.

Fighting with America: Why saying ‘No’ to the US Wouldn’t Rupture the Alliance by James Curran (Penguin Special)

Book cover for Fighting With America: A Lowy Institute Paper: Why saying no to the US wouldn’t rupture the alliance by James Curran

The Anzus treaty, Australia and New Zealand’s formal alliance with the United States on military cooperation, was signed in 1951. The alliance has seen Australia follow the US into warzones from Vietnam in the 1960s to Afghanistan post 9/11. Australia has, in other words, been a consistent ally. But 65 years later, is it time to revisit that commitment?

In Fighting with America, James Curran makes the case for re-evaluation, looking at the forgotten history of disagreement between Australia and the US, and the potential for our strategic interests to come into conflict with the rise of China as a major economic and strategic player.

Available 19 December

I Hate the Internet by Jarett Kobek (Serpent’s Tail)

Book cover for I Hate the Internet by Jarett Kobek
Photograph: Serpent's Tail reviewer Stephen Poole writes:

It’s the enraged comedy of its cultural diagnosis that really drives the reader onwards. There are so many brilliant one-liner definitions that it’s hard not to keep quoting them. (“Science fiction was a dying genre in which writers with no personal understanding of the human experience posited many theoretical futures of the species.”)

If Ambrose Bierce woke up today from suspended animation and decided to write a sequel to his Devil’s Dictionary in the form of a sort-of fiction, it would look a bit like this. And when a bad novel is this good, who needs a good one?

Available now.

Scrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick (Simon & Schuster)

scrappy little-nobody book cover by Anna Kendrick

Tina Fey. Lena Dunham. Mindy Kaling. The Amys Poehler and Schumer. Of the pantheon of funny, smart, strong screen women to write a memoir, Anna Kendrick’s is a welcome, entertaining and endearingly honest instalment, about school, dating, sex, family and her unlikely rise through Hollywood.

“Because I get uncomfortable when people have high expectations, I’d like to use this opportunity to showcase my ineptitude, pettiness and the frequency with which I embarrass myself,” Kendrick said in a statement released with this collection of autobiographical essays.

This self-deprecation and self-awareness peppers the entire book, which bridges the gap between the Anna Kendrick we see – likeable, oddball, goofy, endearing – and the Anna Kendrick we don’t. Which is also likeable, oddball, goofy and endearing, but with added complexity and a dash of the vindictive. “I wish I could have called this [book] ‘It’s not that serious’,” she writes, “or ‘A tweet, but longer.’”

Available now.

I’ll Take You There by Wally Lamb (Hutchinson)

Book cover of I’ll Take You There by Wally Lamb

The PR copy for American author Wally Lamb’s latest novel, I’ll Take You There, calls it “kaleidoscopic”; reviewer Emma G Keller said his last book, We Are Water, was “highly readable” – albeit ideally suited to those who are miserable. Still, there’s no denying that Wally Lamb is popular: he has been on the New York Times bestseller list and his breakthrough novel, She’s Come Undone, was an Oprah pick.

Lamb’s latest follows 60-year-old Felix Funicello, who is setting up the projection booth for his weekly movie club at an old vaudeville theatre when the ghost of 1920s-era silent film actress and movie director Lois Weber appears. Lois begins to show Felix scenes from his own life, and causes him to reflect on the women who have shaped him over the decades.

Available now.

Our Revolution: A Future to Believe In by Bernie Sanders (Profile)

Book cover for Our Revolution: A Future To Believe In by Bernie Sanders

Nobody expected that a “fringe” presidential campaign with “no money, no political organisation” would then go on to win 13 million votes in the Democratic primaries and see more than 1.4 million people attending campaign rallies. But Bernie Sanders’ bid for the White House in 2016 turned Democratic party politics on its head.

Our Revolution is both the narrative of the Sanders’ campaign and a manifesto from the man who galvanised support for progressive change and revitalised the discussion of class and inequality in the mainstream US. In a testament to his enduring popularity post-election, Our Revolution was the top-selling book on Amazon within a day of its November launch in the US. A must-read for progressives everywhere.

Available now.

Pond by Claire-Louise Bennett (Picador)

Book cover for Australian release of Pond by Claire-Louise Bennett reviewer Andrew Gallix wrote of this collection of 20 stories:

Reading them is an immersive experience. We come to share the “savage swarming magic” the narrator feels under her skin by focusing at length on her “mind in motion” ... One of the most striking aspects of this extraordinary book is how well we get to know the narrator – whose brain and body we inhabit – yet how little we know about her. We don’t even learn her name ...

What Bennett aims at is nothing short of a re-enchantment of the world. Everyday objects take on a luminous, almost numinous, quality through the examination of what Emerson called “the low, the common, the near” or the exploration of Georges Perec’s “infra-ordinary” – a quest for the quotidian.

Available 22 December.

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