Book Club: The books on everyone’s Christmas wish-list

Gemma Nisbett
The Nightly
Tyson Yunkaporta.
Tyson Yunkaporta. Credit: Supplied

Right Story, Wrong Story

Tyson Yunkaporta (Text, $35)

Right Story, Wrong Story.
Right Story, Wrong Story. Credit: Supplied

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Aboriginal scholar Tyson Yunkaporta follows up his award-winning, bestselling debut, Sand Talk, with Right Story, Wrong Story, a book which continues his explorations of Indigenous thinking. The result is engaging and generous, and is structured as a series of yarns (“In my community,” he explains, “yarning is like conversation, but with the futile and passive-aggressive parts removed”) in which Yunkaporta talks with Elders, economists, ecologists and others, inviting the reader on “a journey through a suite of pathologies that need some attention before we destroy the world with our dysfunction”. As such, it’d make an ideal gift for anyone feeling disillusioned by the state of the world.

Operation Hurricane

Paul Grace (Hachette, $34.99)

Operation Hurricane.
Operation Hurricane. Credit: Supplied

In 2016, while clearing out his late grandparents’ house in Cottesloe, Perth author and bookseller Paul Grace came across papers detailing the role of his grandfather, a pilot, in Operation Hurricane — Britain’s first atomic bomb test, conducted in the 1950s in the Montebello Islands, off the Pilbara coast, which covered the islands and part of the mainland with nuclear fallout. So began five years of research, digging through archives and interviewing people connected to the story, culminating in Grace’s first book, a compelling, pacy history of the operation and its impact on the people involved, among them servicemen and civilians, including First Nations communities. Recommended for the history buffs on your Christmas list.

The Opposite of Success

Eleanor Elliott Thomas (Text, $32.99)

The Opposite of Success.
The Opposite of Success. Credit: Supplied

“The worst day of Lorrie Hope’s life began like all other days that year: she was summoned out of a dream by the sound of a voice calling out for a mother.” So begins this witty debut, which follows Lorrie, a Melbourne council employee and mother of two, and her best friend Alex over the course of a single, very eventful day. Described (by Stella Prize-winning author Emily Bitto, no less) as “Fleabag as an Australian mum”, it’s well worth seeking out if you’re searching for a gift for someone who loves a comedic read — or is grappling with parenting, friendship, middle-management and the meaning of life.

The Wiregrass

Adrian Hyland (Ultimo, $34.99)

The Wiregrass.
The Wiregrass. Credit: Supplied

Adrian Hyland writes superior crime fiction with a keen eye for setting and characterisation, and his latest would make a cracking gift for lovers of Aussie rural noir. A follow-up to 2022’s Canticle Creek, it continues the story of idealistic but tough police officer Jesse Redpath with another tale of a small community with plenty of secrets. As the novel opens, we find Jesse now an officer-in-charge in a town called Satellite, as inclement weather is getting her new job off to an inauspicious start. When a local is killed in an apparent accident, Jesse is sceptical — but she’s also unconvinced the most likely suspect, a disgraced former cop, is to blame.

Sunbirds

Mirandi Riwoe (UQP, $32.99)

Sunbirds.
Sunbirds. Credit: Supplied

Stone Sky Gold Mountain author Mirandi Riwoe cements her reputation for immersive, beautifully written historical fiction with her new novel, Sunbirds, about war, imperialism, love and divided loyalties, which begins in dramatic style amid the Japanese attack on Broome in March 1942. It then moves back in time to fill in the story, picking up the thread on a tea plantation in West Java in late 1941 and following a series of central characters including Anna, the daughter of the house; a Dutch pilot named Mattijs; and the family’s housekeeper, Dinah, whose brother is a freedom fighter. Buy it for the keen reader of historical fiction in your life.

Welcome to the Hyunam-Dong Bookshop

Hwang Bo-reum (Bloomsbury, $32.99)

Welcome to the Hyunam-Dong Bookshop.
Welcome to the Hyunam-Dong Bookshop. Credit: Supplied

Stories celebrating bookshops and libraries are a classic present for avid readers, and this warm-hearted novel about the healing power of books was a runaway success in author Hwang Bo-reum’s native Korea, where it has sold more than 150,000 copies. It’s set in Seoul and centres on Yeongju, who quits her career, divorces her husband and leaves her old life behind with “only one thing on her mind: I must open a bookshop”. As the author herself has put it: “I wanted to write what I want to read . . . Stories that bring comfort, providing a pat on the shoulder for those who’ve lost the joy in life.”

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