Lucy Clark From: The Sunday Mail (Qld) December 18, 2010
THE first question people ask on learning that my job is to read books is: "How many books do you read in a week?"
The second question, which comes with a pause and a puzzled expression, is: "What do you do when you go on holidays?"
It says much about the idea that holidays are a time of pleasurable reading with the luxury of time unimpeded by the daily grind of work. Thankfully, this season brings a bumper crop of great holiday reads to get lost in.
Collections of stories and essays are perfect for holidays – books you can dip in and out of with a shortened attention span. This year the popular Girls' Night In series celebrates its 10th anniversary with a terrific collection of 60 stories that brings together some top-notch names like Marian Keyes, Candace Bushnell, and Cathy Kelly. This series has raised more than $3 million for the War Child charity over the years, so all that entertainment comes with the good feeling of donating to charity.
The Best Australian Essays 2010, edited by Robert Drewe (Black Inc, A$29.95), takes the nation's temperature with some great writers and thinkers writing about Australian matters during 2010. Contributors include Clive James, Tim Flannery, Carmel Bird and David Malouf.
Likewise, The Best Australian Stories, edited by Cate Kennedy (Black Inc, $29.95), showcases the state of Australian fiction with short stories from writers both known and unknown, including Nam Le, Chris Womersley, Karen Hitchcock and Antonia Baldo.
Books that take you to another time and place are perfect for the holiday at home – if you're not actually going anywhere in body, you can go in mind, with books that take you away from the every day.
Di Morrissey has honed her considerable skill at this and her 18th offering, The Plantation, (Macmillan, A$32.99) – already on the bestseller lists – takes the reader to Malaysia in the late 1930s. It's the story of two sisters who live on a rubber plantation, and how dramatic events send their lives in different directions.
Bryce Courtenay's Fortune Cookie (Viking, A$49.99) transports the reader to Singapore as well, except his timeframe is the 1960s. His story explores the creative revolution in advertising through the story of Australian-Chinese Simon Koo, and his ex-pat life in Asia during the Vietnam War.
Undemanding yet pacy thrillers are always popular at this time of year and the best of the crop include John Grisham's The Confession, Dennis Lehane's Moonlight Mile (Little, Brown, A$29.95), the winner of the Crime Writers' Association Gold Dagger
Award Blacklands by Belinda Bauer (Corgi, A$21.95), and Michael Connelly's The Reversal (Allen & Unwin, A$32.95). And for something to dip in and out of, The Best of American Noir of the Century, edited by James Ellroy and Otto Penzler (Windmill, A$24.95)
For something completely different and delicious, meet Australia's Phryne Fisher, lady detective extraordinaire from the 1920s, star of Kerry Greenwood's series of acclaimed detective stories.
Some for the kids
The Avid Reader in West End, thinks the kids will love Beautiful Oops, by Barney Saltzberg (Workman Publishing, A$22.95). "This is one of the most creative and unique board books I have ever seen! Take a tear, a spill, a smudge, any mistake, and think of it as an opportunity to make something beautiful, Barney shows you how. This is for ages three to 100."
Suzy Wilson, from Riverbend Books in Bulimba, loves Noni the Pony, by Alison Lester (Allen & Unwin, A$24.95). "It's a gentle rhyming story about a very sweet horse from our favourite Australian kids' author. For age two and up."
Wilson goes for The Very Bad Book, by Andy Griffiths (Pan, A$14.95). "Andy Griffiths has excelled himself again. From the kid whose mother told him not to eat flies and he did, and then turned into one himself – these are irreverent stories, but not too irreverent. It's sure to make kids laugh and perfect for the type of kid who may grow up to love Monty Python. "
For the teen reader, Wilson selects Six Impossible Things, by Fiona Wood (Pan, $16.99). "It's about a teenage boy who has six impossible things to deal with (from a new school and bullying, to a broken marriage) and the story follows his plight as he deals with each new challenge. It's gentle, funny and very engaging."
And Stager selects I Am Number Four, by Pittacus Lore (Penguin, A$19.99). "For the readers who have loved The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins. It's about nine teenagers and their guardians hiding on Earth, protected by a charm that means they can only be killed in numeric order – three are already dead. John Smith is No.4 and his mortal enemies are hunting him down. This will be a movie in early 2011."
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