Summer Reads: What Adelaide is reading this summer

We’ve polled some of Adelaide’s most prominent bookworms to bring you an eclectic list of summer reading recommendations to escape into.

For many the end-of-year break is for the perfect time to kick back and relax, having sent that final work email and successfully regifted last year’s Secret Santa to some unwitting colleague or relative.

For others however, it’s an opportunity to finally set aside some quality reading time and whittle down that pile of books teetering dangerously by the bed. Whichever category you fit into, summer is the time to treat yourself with a tome or two.

We’ve enlisted some most prominent South Australian bibliophiles, along with our own contributors, to help you navigate both new releases and old classics with some personal summer book recommendations. Happy reading!

Normal People by Sally Rooney

Jo Dyer, Adelaide Writers’ Week Director

What book are you looking forward to reading this summer?

Normal People, Sally Rooney
I’m looking forward to reading the second book from writer du jour, Sally Rooney, Normal People.  I read Conversations with Friends earlier this year and loved it – a fantastic, bracing book crammed full of ideas: ideas about people, ideas about relationships and ideas about ideas.  Witty, sophisticated and wildly entertaining, this book led me to Sally’s door to invite her to Adelaide Writers’ Week but when she was unavailable for 2019, I had to put aside Normal People temporarily.  I know it’s going to be a hyperarticulate treat.

What book would recommend readers pick up for a summertime read?

The Overstory, Richard Powers
This is a grand, immersive read about the extraordinary complexity and significance of trees, and humanity’s interrelationship with the natural world.  Told from the perspective of nine very different Americans, this epic novel is full of rich detail, compelling characters and the strongest of challenges about the human-made natural catastrophe unfolding around us.   It is a profound, rewarding book that is perfect for a deep dive over the holidays.

Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty

Sandy Verschoor, Lord Mayor of Adelaide

What book are you looking forward to reading this summer?

Nine Perfect Strangers, Liane Moriarty
I’m looking forward to reading Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty which has been sitting by my bed since I was elected as I haven’t had much time to read! I’ve read her other books and really enjoyed them, particularly Big Little Lies which I loved. I really enjoy reading books with strong female protagonists and Liane is an amazing Australian writer.

What book would recommend readers pick up for a summertime read?

Lincoln in the Bardo, George Saunders
I thought the way it was written was really clever and it’s an intriguing use of text. It’s a beautiful portrait of Lincoln and of his trauma and grief, and of souls in the afterlife who haven’t passed on for want of staying connected to the living.

Rhana Devenport, Art Gallery of South Australia Director

What book are you looking forward to reading this summer?

The Invention of Nature, The Adventures of Alexander Von Humboldt, the Lost Hero of Science, Andrea Wulf
Wulf is a brilliant writer on the magic of the natural world while Alexander von Humboldt (1769-1859) was a super scientist with more things named after him than anyone else on the planet – including towns, rivers, mountain ranges, ocean currents, a penguin, a giant squid and even a basin on the moon!

What book would recommend readers pick up for a summertime read?

The Museum of Love, Heather Rose
Inspired by Marina Abramovic’s sensational exhibition The Artist is Present at MOMA in 2010. This exquisitely written novel weaves tales of love, tenderness, friendship and loss through the nuanced worlds of art and musical scores.

Logical Family

Greg Mackie, History Trust of South Australia CEO

What book are you looking forward to reading this summer?

Logical Family: a Memoir, Armistead Maupin
This book has finally worked its way to the top of my pile. Long after the volumes of addictive pleasure that were his Tales of the City series, I am looking forward to learning more about the man behind so many hours of delight in my younger years.

What book would you recommend readers pick up for a summertime read?

Imperium: A Novel, Robert Harris
Harris is a great entertaining summertime writer – having loved Pompeii years ago, I recently read Imperium and loved every page imagined from the life of the great Roman Senator, Cicero.

Jessica Alice, Writers SA Director

What book are you looking forward to reading this summer?

The Recovering, Leslie Jamison 
I’ve been hooked on women’s addiction memoirs since Jenny Valentish’s sensational Woman of Substances, and Leslie Jamison has built on this tradition with The Recovering. As a poet I’m interested in the problematic way we romantically associated artists with alcohol, and I’m intrigued to follow Jamison’s meta-analysis of her own desire to write on this subject so intimately.

And speaking of poetry, I need to get my hands on Bella Li’s super contemporary collection Argosy. The book entwines poetry, collage and photography, and it won both the Victorian and New South Wales Premier’s Literary Awards for Poetry in 2018 – a stunning achievement.

What book would recommend readers pick up for a summertime read?

Dyschronia, Jennifer Mills
Every Australian (and, indeed, everyone existing in the world now) should read SA writer Jennifer Mills’ novel Dyschronia. It’s a future imagining of climate change using really intriguing narrative manipulations of time and the prophetic visions of her protagonist. Mills is one of our best local writers and this is a vitally important book for understanding the urgency of environmental action.

John Carty, Head of Humanities, South Australian Museum

What book are you looking forward to reading this summer?

Catch 22, Joseph Heller
I’m half way through it now, and when I finish it I’m going to straight away read it again. Because Yossarian. Because it makes me cry with laughter on every third page, and cry for something else in between.

What book would recommend readers pick up for a summertime read?

Blood Meridian, Cormac McCarthy
Because if you haven’t read it, you’ve made bad book choices to this point in your life. This won’t be one of them. Also because summer is an excellent time for reflecting on the human scale horror of contested frontiers.

Dark Emu by Bruce Pascoe

David Knight, Adelaide Review Editor

What book are you looking forward to reading this summer?

Dark Emu, Bruce Pascoe
Is this the most recommended Australian book of the last few years? If not, it is pretty close. I feel Dark Emu is one of those texts that will drastically change how you think about this country and I’m looking forward to finally reading it this summer.

What book would recommend readers pick up for a summertime read?

Less, Andrew Sean Greer
As much a satire of the literary world as it is a story about the human condition, this short, funny and heart-warming novel will be a joyous retreat from your family these holidays (even if it’s just for a few hours).

Durkhanai Ayubu, Adelaide Review contributor

What book are you looking forward to reading this summer?

The Hero with a Thousand Faces, Joseph Campbell
Campbell is one of my intellectual heroes – his writing as an expert in comparative mythology has helped me dig deeper into the right questions to ask about the mystery of the human condition.

What book would recommend readers pick up for a summertime read?

21 Lessons for the 21st Century, Yuval Noah Harari
Harari has a wide breadth of knowledge of the human story, and in this book, he presents his work as a compilation of questions or teachings we might need to be aware of as we hurtle towards an AI-driven world. It’s a thought provoking and interesting read.

William Faulkner's Sartoris (Folio)

Stephen Orr, Adelaide Review contributor

What book are you looking forward to reading this summer?

Sartoris, William Faulkner
Time to return to the deep South, mint juleps and the Mississippi aristocracy, as I continue reading my way through Faulkner’s works.

What book would recommend readers pick up for a summertime read?

Capitalist Realism, Mark Fisher
I’m not sure about a summertime read, but the late cultural theorist and blogger Mark Fisher crafted a vision of the future that seems very prescient. Start off with his Capitalist Realism, a description of an increasingly familiar society in which capitalism strips every human endeavour, idea and emotion back to market value, and leaves millions drifting, excess to need, trapped in medicated Soma-zones, syncing nicely into Huxley’s vision of a Shit New World.

Ilona Wallace, Adelaide Review contributor

What book are you looking forward to reading this summer?

Spineless: the science of jellyfish and the art of growing a backbone, Juli Berwald
As we head into what will likely be another record-breaking summer, keeping cool will be top of the to-do list. What better way to think cool, be cool, than to dive under the sea with one of the world’s greatest curiosities? In Spineless, Juli Berwald, a former ocean scientist, travels the globe to meet researchers dedicated to solving the mystery of the jellyfish. How did the jelly, a bag with stingy bits, come to be? Do their booming populations herald doom for the planet?

What book would recommend readers pick up for a summertime read?

The Shark and the Albatross, John Aitchison
Let’s stick with the animal kingdom. John Aitchison is a wildlife cinematographer, most well-known for his BBC work on series such as Frozen Planet. His beautifully written memoir introduces and revisits sites of incredible animal activity in the polar reaches, American woods and even human cities. Most poignant are his Frozen Planet chapters; as the ice caps melt, the lives of the animals he records become more desperate. Can you cry yourself cool? It’s not all tragedy, though; Aitchinson strikes a careful balance between misery and wonder. There are uplifting moments alongside the despair, and impressive human stories alongside the animal.

Alain de Botton and John Armstrong's Art as Therapy (Phaidon)

John Neylon, Adelaide Review contributor

What book would recommend readers pick up for a summertime read?

Air Guitar: Essays on Art & Democracy, Dave Hickey
Dave Hickey, the totally original ‘Bad Boy of Art Criticism’, pulls out all organ stops in this unchained melody of irreverent perspectives on contemporary art, popular culture and the mesmerising craziness of everyday life.

Anyone who sets out to achieve Ed Ruscha’s “ Huh? Wow” ( as opposed to “ Wow! Huh?” ), who can describe art writing as pressing language to the point of fracture and devotes a whole essay to Perry Mason re-runs, must be worth reading.

What book would you recommend readers pick up for a summertime read?

Art as Therapy, Alain de Botton and John Armstrong (Phaidon 2014)
The authors are on a rescue mission to release art from the clutches of the industry (art museums, art market, academia etc) and restore its proper credentials as humanity’s most powerful tool to deal with the timeless themes of hope, grief, loss, remembering, love, faith and more. It will take you, and the art works you felt you knew well, into another place.

Dr Jessica L Paterson, Adelaide Review contributor

What book are you looking forward to reading this summer?

An American Marriage, Tayari Jones
It has been on my list for ages so that’s my plan for the dead-zone between Christmas and the New Year.

What book would recommend readers pick up for a summertime read?

I just finished Less by Andrew Sean Greer and it was glorious! The perfect summer read. A close second is the new David Sedaris’ Calypso. Sedaris is getting more hilarious and touching with age.

Christelle Dabos' A Winter's Promise (Europa)

Sia Duff, Adelaide Review photographer

What book are you looking forward to reading this summer?

My Brilliant Friend, Elena Ferrante
I am looking forward to finally reading Ferrante’s Neapolitan Novels because I am a sucker for epic summer reads to help me forget just how hot the weather is. Translated into English by Ann Goldstein, the novels follow the friendship of two girls growing up in 1950s Italy from childhood to old age, so I’m expecting tears and heartbreak by the time I finish the last book!

What book would recommend readers pick up for a summertime read?

A Winter’s Promise, Christelle Dabos
Newly translated into English from French, A Winter’s Promise is the first of the Mirror Visitor Quartet which is set in a post-apocalyptic universe (Earth has shattered into lots of little floating islands called ‘arks’, and follows the adventures of the teenage Ophelia who can walk through mirrors and ‘read’ objects by touch!) If you loved His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman or the Claidi Chronicles by Tanith Lee, you will probably dig this book.

Gabrielle Chan's Rusted Off (Penguin)

Royce Kurmelovs, Adelaide Review contributor

What book are you looking forward to reading this summer?

Rusted Off, Gabrielle Chan (2018)
Gabrielle Chan is a good reporter and a good writer who’s always had this remarkable way of finding stories which show the humanity in people. When she talks about the country-city divide, it’s worth listening.

What book would recommend readers pick up for a summertime read?

Kitchen Confidential, Anthony Bourdain (even if you’ve read it before)
But don’t read it for the food. I once heard it said, writing for a living is to grow up in public. Revisiting Bourdain’s break-out work now is a window into someone who wrote as a drug addict putting on a lot of front to hide their despair and who, later in life, wrestled with their own flaws to try and be good. That, I think, is the best any of us can do.

Sarah Couper, Adelaide Review contributor

What book are you looking forward to reading this summer?

Having read the first two books in British author Rachel Cusk’s extraordinary Outline trilogy, I have been itching to get my hands on the final installment, Kudos. Cusk’s portrayal of the recently-divorced writer Faye takes a different form to a conventional plot, and yet her protagonist’s observations of everyday life are so finely-etched, drilling so near to the core of the character that she has the reader gripped until the last word.

What book would recommend readers pick up for a summertime read?

The Group, Mary McCarthy
A few years ago, I spent a couple of days on a beach with my nose buried in Mary McCarthy’s The Group, a classic and a New York Times bestseller from the 1960s that follows the lives of eight American women in the seven years following college graduation. The Group was initially banned in Australia for its frank depictions of sex and had flown under my radar until someone lent me their copy. At the time, I was about the same age as the women in the story. It was one of those magical instances when the book absorbs you as much as you absorb the book. An ideal summer read – lengthy, meandering, and just a little bit saucy – if you haven’t read it do yourself a favour.

John Spoehr, Adelaide Review contributor

What book are you looking forward to reading this summer?

Less, Andrew Sean Greer
You have to be be attracted to a novel about mishaps, misunderstandings and and the depths of the human heart.

What book would recommend readers pick up for a summertime read?

The Entrepreneurial State – debunking public vs private sector myths, Mariana Mazzucato
Mazzucato is a rock star progressive economist who recently visited Australia to remind us about the role that government has and continues to play as a driver of innovation. An all important read as an antidote to ‘Trumpism’ and a nice entre to her new book, The Value of Everything – Making and Taking in the Global Economy.

Walter Marsh, Adelaide Review Digital Content Producer

Buried Country liner notes, Various Artists

Folk singer Darren Hanlon spent much of 2018 hitchhiking around Australia assembling this compilation of rare country songs by Aboriginal artists, from a lost Jimmy Little B-side to an incendiary unreleased demo from The Kooriers. Hanlon recorded extensive interviews along the way to create what is one of the densest set of liner notes I have ever encountered, and I’m looking forward to setting aside the time to take in these artists’ stories in their own words.

What book would recommend readers pick up for a summertime read?

Potiki, Patricia Grace
I spent some time in New Zealand earlier in the year and got stuck into Patricia Grace’s Potiki, a seminal bit of Kiwi writing that beautifully framed my experience of the country with its story of a coastal Maori community staring down waterfront development.

Header Image credits:
Josh Geelen / Saul Steed / Brendan Bonsack

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