Adult Non-fiction

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Why We Can’t Sleep

When Ada Calhoun found herself in the throes of a midlife crisis, she thought that she had no right to complain. She was married with children and a good career. So why did she feel miserable? And why did it seem that the women around her were miserable, too?

Calhoun decided to find some answers. She looked into housing costs, HR trends, credit card debt averages and divorce data. At every turn, she saw a pattern: sandwiched between the Boomers and the Millennials, Gen X women were facing new problems as they entered middle age, problems that were largely overlooked. Speaking with women across America about their experiences as the generation raised to ‘have it all,’ Calhoun found that most were exhausted, terrified about money, under-employed, and overwhelmed. Instead of being heard, they were told instead to lean in, take ‘me-time’, or make a chore chart to get their lives and homes in order.

In Why We Can’t Sleep, Calhoun opens up the cultural and political contexts of this predicament and offers solutions for how to pull oneself out of the abyss—and keep the next generation of women from falling in. The result is reassuring, empowering and essential reading for all middle-aged women, and anyone who hopes to understand them.

 

Audio excerpt for Why We Cant Sleep

 

Cat no: 4080
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The Buried

Fascinated by Egypt’s rich history, Peter Hessler moved with his family to Cairo just after the Arab Spring had begun.

In the midst of the revolution, he attached himself to an important archaeological dig at a site known as The Buried. In Cairo, he got to know a young gay Egyptian who struggled with pressures from the police and society. Hessler and his wife also struck up a friendship with their Arabic-language instructor, Rifaat, a cynical political sophisticate who helped explain the country’s turmoil. And a different kind of friendship was formed with their illiterate garbage collector, Sayyid, whose access to the refuse of Cairo is another kind of archaeological excavation.

Through the lives of ordinary Egyptians, Hessler creates a richly textured portrait of a revolution and the people swept up in it, drawing connections between contemporary politics and the ancient past. The Buried is a work of uncompromising intelligence and glorious humanity: an extraordinary achievement that unearths a new world for the reader.

 

Audio Excerpt for The Buried

 

Cat no: 4074
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Tired of Winning

In this dazzling debut, award-winning Australian writer Richard Cooke takes a close-up look at the state of the United States. From the theology of opioids to the aftermath of a mass shooting, from #MeToo to the paintings of George W. Bush, Cooke’s reporting takes him from an East Coast ravaged by climate change to the dangerous world of the US–Mexico border.

This is not another diner-hopping week in Trump country: it’s a radical effort to capture dissonant and varied Americas, across more than twenty states. In brilliantly rendered accounts of poets, politicians and poisoned cities, Cooke finds a nation splintering under the weight of alienation – but showing resilience and hope in the most unexpected ways.

Entertaining and terrifying in equal measure, Tired of Winning reveals the schisms and the clamour of contemporary America.

 

Audio Excerpt for Tired of Winning

 

Cat no: 4067
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Penny Wong

Senator Penny Wong is an extraordinary Australian politician. Resolute, self-possessed and a penetrating thinker on subjects from climate change to foreign affairs, she is admired by members of parliament and the public from across the political divide.

In this first-ever biography of Penny Wong, acclaimed journalist Margaret Simons traces her story: from her early life in Malaysia, to her student activism in Adelaide, to her time in the turbulent Rudd and Gillard governments, to her key role as a voice of reason in the polarising campaign to legalise same-sex marriage. What emerges is a picture of a leader for modern Australia, a cool-headed and cautious yet charismatic figure of piercing intelligence, with a family history linking back to Australia’s colonial settlers and to the Asia-Pacific.

Drawing on exclusive interviews with Penny Wong and her Labor colleagues, parliamentary opponents, and close friends and family, this is a scintillating insight into an Australian politician without precedence.

Audio excerpt for Penny Wong

Cat No: 4072
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The Golden Country

In The Lucky Country, Donald Horne wanted to capture ‘what the huge continent was like…before it was peopled from all over Asia’. Sixty years later, we need to ask what Australia is like today, as it is being ‘peopled from all over Asia’, and what a century of nation building in the image of White Australia has meant for our country.

John Howard was the unlikely reformer of contemporary Australia. He transformed the migration system, creating the first immigration boom since the White Australia policy ended and dramatically diversifying the population. Yet his divisive rhetoric about national identity has hamstrung discussion about what these changes mean. As a result, Australia is a successful multicultural society with monocultural institutions and symbols.

Tim Watts’ family personifies this contradiction. His children are descendants of Hong-Kong—Chinese migrants and of pre-Federation politicians who sought to build a nation that excluded anyone who wasn’t white. As the representative of a diverse federal electorate, Watts asks: why is Australia’s imagined community so far behind its lived community, and what can we do about it?

Audio excerpt for The Golden Country

Cat no: 4085
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Friends and Rivals

Four Australian women writing in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries—a time when stories of bush heroism and mateship abounded, a time when a writing career might be an elusive thing for a woman.
Friends and Rivals is a vivid and engaging account of the intersecting and entwined lives of Ethel Turner, author of the much loved Seven Little Australians, Barbara Baynton, who wrote of the harshness of bush life, Nettie Palmer, essayist and critic, and Henry Handel Richardson, of The Getting of Wisdom and The Fortunes of Richard Mahoney fame.

Brenda Niall illuminates a fascinating time in Australia’s literary history and brings to life the remarkable women who made it so.

 

Audio excerpt for Friends and Rivals

Cat no: 4090
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Yellow Notebook

Helen Garner has kept a diary for almost all her life. But until now, those exercise books filled with her thoughts, observations, frustrations and joys have been locked away, out of bounds, in a laundry cupboard.

Finally, Garner has opened her diaries and invited readers into the world behind her novels and works of non-fiction. Recorded with frankness, humour and steel-sharp wit, these accounts of her everyday life provide an intimate insight into the work of one of Australia’s greatest living writers.

Yellow Notebook, Diaries Volume One, in this elegant hardback edition, spans about a decade beginning in the late 1970s just after the publication of her first novel, Monkey Grip. It will delight Garner fans and those new to her work alike.

 

Audio excerpt for Yellow Notebook

Cat no: 4081
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Beyond Words

In 1985 Jacqueline Kent was content with her life. She had a satisfying career as a freelance book editor, and was emerging as a writer. Living and working alone, she relished her independence. But then she met Kenneth Cook, author of the Australian classic Wake in Fright, and they fell in love.

With bewildering speed Jacqueline found herself in alien territory: with a man almost twenty years older, whose life experience could not have been more different from her own. She had to come to terms with complicated finances and expectations, and to negotiate relationships with Ken’s children, four people almost her own age. But with this man of contradictions – funny and sad, headstrong and tender – she found real and sustaining companionship.

Their life together was often joyful, sometimes enraging, always exciting – until one devastating evening. But, as Jacqueline discovered, even when a story is over that doesn’t mean it has come to an end.

 

Audio excerpt for Beyond Words

Cat no: 4095
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Acute Misfortune

In 2008, the artist Adam Cullen invited journalist Erik Jensen to stay in his spare room and write his biography. A publisher wanted it, Cullen said. He was sick and ready to talk. Everything would be on the record. 

What followed were four years of intense honesty and a relationship that became increasingly dangerous. At one point Cullen shot Jensen, to see how committed he was to the book. At another, he threw Jensen from a speeding motorbike.

Eventually, Jensen realised the contract did not exist. Cullen had invented it to get to know the writer. The book became an investigation of Cullen’s psychology and the decline of his final years. 

In Acute Misfortune, we have a riveting account of the life and death of one of Australia’s most celebrated artists. The figure famous for his Archibald Prize-winning portrait of David Wenham is followed through drug deals and periods of deep self-reflection, onward into his trial for weapon possession and finally his death in 2012 at the age of 46.

The story is by turns tender and horrifying: a spare tale of art, sex, drugs and childhood, told at close quarters and without judgment.

Audio except for Acute Misfortune

Cat no: 4087
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Why Time Flies

For more than two thousand years the world’s great minds have argued about the true essence of time. Is it finite or infinite? Is it continuous or discrete? Does it flow like a river or is it granular, proceeding in small bits like sand trickling through an hourglass? And most immediately, what is the present?

 

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On a Wing and a Prayer

In 1934, Melbourne’s Lord Mayor announced a London-to-Melbourne air race to celebrate his city’s centenary. The audacious plan captured imaginations across the globe: newspapers and magazines everywhere were filled with it; the world’s pilots scrambled to get sponsorship; and the organisers scrambled to get the rules straight and permission to fly in foreign air space.Sixty-four […]

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City of Trees

How do we take in the beauty of our planet while processing the losses? What trees can survive in the city? Which animals can survive in the wild? How do any of us—humans, animals, trees—find a forest we can call home?

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Botany Bay and the First Fleet

In 1787 a convoy of eleven ships, carrying about 1400 people, set out from England for Botany Bay, on the east coast of New South Wales. In deciding on Botany Bay, British authorities hoped not only to rid Britain of its excess criminals, but also to gain a key strategic outpost and take control of […]

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From Secret Ballot to Democracy Sausage

It’s compulsory to vote in Australia. We are one of a handful of countries in the world that enforce this rule at election time, and the only English-speaking country that makes its citizens vote.

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Elizabeth MacArthur – A Life at the Edge of the World

In 1788 a young gentlewoman raised in the vicarage of an English village married a handsome, haughty and penniless army officer.

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Europe – A Natural History

It is hard to overstate just how unusual Europe was towards the end of the age of the dinosaurs. It was a dynamic island arc whose individual landmasses were made up of diverse geological types, including ancient continental fragments, raised segments of oceanic crust, and land newly minted by volcanic activity. Yet even at this […]

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Books that Saved My Life

Great literature is thrilling. It will feed your hungry mind and take your heart on a journey. It will help you on the wonderful path to one of life’s most elusive and hard-won freedoms, freedom from the ego. Here is a book about the sheer joy of living, exploring forty texts that can enrich us […]

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Jessie’s House of Needles

Jessie Williamson was a courageous missionary nurse who de- voted 35 years of her life to tribal people in the remote and dan- gerous highlands of West Papua. 

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Charles Kingsford Smith: King of the Air

Charles Kingsford Smith was the most commanding flyer of the golden age of aviation. In three short years, he broke records with his as- tounding and daring voyages: the first trans-Pacific flight from America to Australia, the first flight across the Tasman, the first non-stop cross- ing of the Australian mainland. He did it all […]

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The Fireflies of Autumn

San Ginese is a village where God lingers in people’s minds and many dream of California, Argentina or Australia. Some leave only to return feeling disheartened, wishing they had never come back, some never leave and forever wish they had.

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