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Support Australia’s Indigenous Literacy Day

For all of you who love books and reading, take a minute today to check out Australia’s Indigenous Literacy Foundation site. IndigenousLiteracyIt will give you some idea of the great work that is being done helping Indigenous children get access to culturally appropriate books and resources in an effort to improve literacy. It also gives you the opportunity to celebrate International Literacy Day, today, and donate so that the work can increase.

Indigenous Literacy Day is organised annually by the Indigenous Literacy Foundation which has raised more than $2million over the past six years. The Foundation provides culturally books and resources to community centres, schools, mothers’ centres and other organisations across the country including in some of the most remote parts of the country.

Among the ILF’s innovative projects is the one at the remote Warburton community, in the Ngaanyatjarra Lands, Gibson Desert, Western Australia.

Ten best reads of 2012

As seems to be the increasingcustom at this time of year I have listed below my top ten books for 2012. There is no method in the madness and they are not in any particuar order. They are simply the books which I enjoyed reading, would happily return to read them again and, perhaps most important of all, would not hesitate to recommend to my friends. The cut off date for 2012 was Christmas Day. Why is this important? Because over the past few days I have read two outstanding books. But more of them later.

photoGarden of Evening Mists by Tan Twan Eng.

All is not as it seems in this carefully layered garden set in Malaya just before the invasion by the Japanese.  Not for the characters nor the reader. It is poetic and thrilling; a story that continues to haunt you long after the final page is turned.

Bring Up The Bones by Hilary Mantel.

The sequel to the highly successful Wolf Hall, this is a lavish re-take of the ill-fated marriage between Henry VII and Anne Boleyn as seen through the fox-like eyes of Oliver Cromwell.

The Yellow Bird by Kevin Powers

Debut novel from a returned US serviceman attempting to answer the repeated question : What was it like fighting in Iraq? It has been criticised for being over-lyrical (perhaps a result of Powers’ first love,  poetry) but  I have returned to this book a couple of times after first reading it, and it retains its initial impact.

Toby’s Room by Pat Barker

imagesAlthough Toby’s Room is the sequel to Pat Barker’s Life Class, it is self-contained so can be enjoyed in its own right as with Barker’s earlier Regeneration Trilogy.  It picks up the lives of Elinor Brooke, Kit Neville and Paul Tarrant, all formerly students together at London’s Slade School of Art, under the tutelage of the demanding surgeon turned artist Henry Tonks. It’s almost a seamless transition except for a few slightly jarring narrative inks Barker obviously felt were necessary for context.  Kit and Paul have both been injured during service in the Army. Elinor is struggling to understand her place in the rapidly changing world “at home”. It is not just

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

It has been a long time since I read a book in which there is such a splendid array of thoroughly unsympathetic characters. It is hard to find one with whom you would share a coffee and a chat.  Yet Gillian Flynn’s latest book Gone Girl, is a compulsive read. Part psychological thriller, part who-dunnit, it is a racy mix of mystery and knowledge of the terrible event you just know is going to happenbut can’t be avoided.

Amy and Nick are a fairly typical young couple both slightly surprised they have found each other but happy in their idyllic New York brownstone. It is present from her parents paid for with the proceeds of a wildly successful children’s book Amazing Amy, where the protagonist Amy is always right.

Then Nick loses his job and Amy’s parents, once doting benefactors stumble into financial woe and the house is sold. Suddenly Nick and Amy are back on his home turf in a rented house that “screams nouveau riche” in small-town Missouri right alongside the Mississippi. Borrowing from the last of Amy’s savings, Nick opens a slightly seedy bar with his sister Go (perhaps the only really likeable person in the book). They muddle along. Then one day Amy disappears.

The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers

At 17, Kevin Powers joined the army and found himself in Iraq serving as a machine gunner in Mosul and Tal Afar. On his return to America, he was constantly asked What was it like? Powers’ extraordinary debut novel, The Yellow Bird, is one man’s answer to what even he does not fully understand.

As Powers explains in the preface: “What I’ve written is not meant to report or document, nor is it meant to argue or advocate. Instead I’ve tried with what little skill I have to create the cartography of one man’s consciousness, to let it stand, however briefly, as my reminder.”

The Yellow Birds centres on the lives of three soldiers as their platoon prepares for an assault on a nearby Iraqi community.

There is Bartle who joined the army in his teens and at 21 is a combat veteran. He is torn between putting on the uniform of callous bravado just to survive and being mentally eaten away by the agonising awfulness of his existence.

Indigenous Literacy Day

Ever since I was tiny my life has been full of books. Books my parents and extended family bought for me for birthdays or just because they thought I would like them. Books passed down to me by my siblings. Books borrowed from the local library or the one at school.…

Festival of delights

Byron Bay turned on the sunshine at the weekend for what proved to be a sparkling Writers’ Festival. Each year the festival grows in reputation as it pulls together a stellar list of guest speakers yet, despite the inevitable increase in size, it manages to retain the intimacy and sense…

Reader’s block

Strangely, I had a bad start to my Booker bookathon. I was beginning to feel like one of those Olympians who showed so much promise in the lead-up to competition but then bombed out once the Games began. The reader’s equivalent of writer’s block. I just couldn’t engage with Hilary…

So many books, so little time

How do you choose a book to read? Reviews? The recommendations of friends? The cover? Serendipity?Whilst over the years my choice has been influenced by all of the above, working through finalists in some of the world’s most prestigous competitions has probably been responsible for introducing me to some of…

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