Summer reading 2018

With a fascination with books usually comes a fascination with other people’s reading. And the reading of writers is the most fascinating of all.
— Magistrate Caitlin English

Throughout the year, our Law & Literature events provide judicial officers with reading to enrich their learning and enhance the experience of judicial life.

At our recent summer reading event, renowned authors Zoë Morrison and Gideon Haigh gave us their tailor-made recommendations for the holiday season. The suggestions were so wonderful that we wanted to share them.

Download their full list of recommendations (pdf), watch the video in full below or simply scroll for some highlights. Expect to find many gems, with a focus on pared back writing, finding love and redemption at the end of life, and economics fiction!

Zoë Morrison recommends:

  1. My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout.

    From the same author who wrote Olive Kitteridge which was turned into an HBO series – but very different and even better. “Pared down to the skeleton in terms of a novel,” says Zoë, this book tells the story of Lucy Barton whose estranged mother comes and sits with her for five days in hospital. What is most extraordinary about this novel, says Zoë, is that Strout manages to capture how trauma and neglect can manifest in people’s lives through silence. 
  2. Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf

    “Radical acts of love are to be celebrated.” A widow knocks on her neighbour’s door and initiates a night-time companionship arrangement in a small town. As a "beautiful and tender love develops between them” their rebellious act has unforeseen consequences. Written while the author was dying of lung disease, this story is "written in short breaths.” An exquisite novel.

  3. Life and Times of Michael K by J.M. Coetzee

    “This is a powerhouse. It’s passion on a page,” says Zoë. Set in a fictional South African civil war during apartheid, Michael embarks on a journey home with his dying mother. As he encounters people who try to enslave or imprison him, Michael, a gardener chooses a different path. Impossible to describe but unforgettable.

  4. The High Places (short stories) by Fiona McFarlane

    This book “passed a little bit under the radar in Australia” but is worthy of attention.  The high places in the book are many – the quest for enlightened experiences, the search for faith. It won this year's Dylan Thomas International Prize with the judges declaring it a “work of genius”.

  5. Our Own History Book and Re-storying Alcohol Use Amongst Aboriginal Australians by Anni Hine Moana.

    Five-minute reads of profound impact, says Zoë. In these two papers, Anni Hine Moana – an experienced psychotherapist who specialises in addiction – speaks in a unique way about the abuse of alcohol within Australian Aboriginal communities. She shows how narrative therapy gives women a chance to see their own stories in a new light, helping heal the shame that comes from trans-generational trauma. When women are listened to and treated with compassion, they realise the trauma "doesn't have to be carried on the heart and obliterated through alcohol", says Zoë.

  6. 'Sabbath' (in Gratitude) by Oliver Sacks

    Sacks came out as gay with his memoir On the Move which he published in his 70s, just as he was diagnosed with fatal cancer. In this extraordinary essay, he talks about his life, being in a romantic relationship for the first time ever at 70 and reconciling with the Jewish Orthodox community that rejected him at 18 for his sexuality. “He comes to see death as like the Sabbath.” His work is done and he can rest. A beautiful coming to terms with death, says Zoë. (The essay is available to read online.)

Gideon Haigh recommends:

  1. The Heart (also Mend the Living) by Maylis de Kerangal

    This book is, quite literally, the story of a heart. With all the “elements of a thriller" the reader finds out what happens to a donor heart once it’s harvested. Every character involved in this race against time is given their moment. “It’s a very exciting book,” says Gideon. 

  2. Twenty Thousand Streets Under the Sky by Patrick Hamilton

    As a writer, Gideon says, “I wanted to give it a standing ovation.” In this set of three interconnected novels set around a pub, the Midnight Bell, misery is on tap. Written unflinchingly, the books "stink of lower-middle class respectable England in the 1920s, 30s, the smell of tobacco and whiskey and the attempts to keep emotions buttoned up.” A claustrophobic, atmospheric masterpiece.

  3. Gain by Richard Powers.

    Perfect for those who love fiction about economics. Powers charts the emergence of Clare International, a company rather like Proctor and Gamble. The history is so convincing,  says Gideon. Powers has "understood the life cycle of corporations better than any other novel writer I’ve ever read”. This corporate history is interwoven with the moving story of a single mother in her 40s whose mysterious illness may or may not have been caused by the company. "Incredibly well described and very moving,” says Gideon. "And as far as I know I’m the only person who’s ever read it."

  4. Lost Girls by Robert Kolker.

    In preparing to write his own true crime book, Certain Admissions, Gideon became interested in how writers explore unsolved crimes. Lost Girls is an extreme version with a serial killer on Long Island who began killing young female escorts recruited through the internet. In this “extraordinary feat of research,” Kolker has written a convincing, authentic, description of a series of benighted lives, says Gideon. In telling the stories of some of the women, Kolker provides "very richly realised biographical portraits" and restores them to "quite vibrant humanity". The book also delves into the culture of post-homicide celebrity in America and the “weird power that the victims exert in death over the living”.

  5. When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi.

    A moving memoir that chronicles a doctor’s transition from “surgical master of the universe to the most helpless of patients”. Says Gideon: “I finished the book standing at a tram stop down near the Domain on my way to cricket practice. I’m very seldom so moved by a book but I was standing there with tears in my eyes.”

  6. Learn to Write Badly by Michael Billig

    “A real page turner.” While he's not normally a fan of writing on writing, Gideon says he found this book “prodigiously entertaining”. Written by a social scientist gone rogue. Enjoy Billig's “relentless, probing, forensic” examination of the linguistic habits people develop if they're only talking within a professional audience. Of particular note, the fantastic chapter on passive voice: “How to avoid saying who did it.”

Judicial College