Friday, 5 December 2014

Lindy Jones picks her Top Fives for 2014

Lindy Jones ~ Australian Bookseller's Association Inaugural Bookseller of the Year 2011

Before we get to Lindy's picks we thought you might like to know that Lindy Jones has been invited to join the Miles Franklin Award panel of judges. This will be a big task for Lindy, one of our Senior Booksellers, but it will be one she will relish. Lindy will join Richard Neville (State Librarian), Craig Munro, Murray Waldren and Susan Sheridan on the Judge Panel.

Well it must be that time of the year again: busy, busy, busy! Another couple of hundred books read, another request for best-ofs, so here's a handful of recommendations of books I particularly enjoyed throughout 2014.

Five Books by One Author I Hadn't Read Before.

Ben Aaronovitch

Great fun! I gave these to a friend's mother who gave them to her teenage grandson, and we all thoroughly enjoyed them. A bit of the supernatural, an engaging cast of characters, police and murders in London, and the odd Dr Who reference…

River of London series at Abbey's Bookshop, 131 York Street, Sydney

Five Novels (of the Serious sort).

Favel Parrett
Elegant, deceptively simple novel of family and friendships.

Anthony Doerr
Poetic and moving: war’s effect on innocents.

Christine Piper
Worthy winner of this year's Vogel Award. Japanese experience of being interned in WWII Australia.

Sebastian Barry
Glorious prose and a poignant story of love lost and promise unfulfilled.

Inga Simpson
An artist's attempt to reconcile her present with mysteries from her past. Beautifully crafted.

Four Novels (of a Lighter nature) and One Non-fiction of a guilty pleasure kind.

Jonas Jonasson
Witty and entertaining, a delight of improbable unbelievability!

Alan Bradley
The conclusion to the Flavia de Luce mysteries; our young chemically talented sleuth faces more mayhem.

Brooke Davis
Charmingly off-centre novel about not waiting for stuff to happen, but making it happen.

Nick Earls
Sharply observant but humorous novel about navigating middle age (and technology)!

Ian 'Molly' Meldrum
Pure entertainment, literally! Go on, you know the chorus: do yourself a favour!

Five YA Novels (or Why should teens have all the fun?).

John Corey Whaley
A quirky premise but a serious topic: maturity for adolescents.

Rupert Wallis
A werewolf novel that doesn't even mention werewolves.

E Lockhart
Spiky and energetic writing carries along a clever, gripping and twisty story.

Justine Larbalestier
1930s Sydney - hard men, fast women, ghosts and strays. A clever mix.

Amy Ewing
Dystopia, repression, forbidden love and resistance. Because there has to be one on the list! And my niece loved it.

Five Novels for Other Young Readers.

J A White
Atmospheric imaginative fantasy - probably one of my favourite favourites!

Robin Stevens
Enid Blyton meets Agatha Christie: most enjoyable!

A F Harrold
Illustrated story about what happens when imaginary friends disappear, or their friends do.

Jen Storer
The secret spy returns! More mysterious happening, more strange things to investigate!

Zana Fraillon
Thoughtful rather than entertaining, strong characters and tragedies overcome.

Five Picture Books (or Why should the pre-schoolers have all the fun?).

Bob Graham
Because I love Bob Graham's books. And this one has a sparrow, a dog and Elsie.

Jory John & Benji Davies
An exhausted bear, a bouncy duck and a lot of fun!

Anna Kang
Read this out to your little boy. Lots of repetition, opposition and attitude!

Oliver Jeffers
A new Oliver Jeffers: say no more!

Libby Gleeson & Freya Blackwood
Beautifully rendered picture book about the power of sisters (for bad and good).

Five Non-fiction (because sometimes I enjoy Real Stuff) Or maybe Six. Or Seven.

Helen MacDonald
Poetic, powerful and moving meditation on grief, falconry and the sorrowful writer T H White.

Dr Munjed Al Muderis
A once-demonised refugee’s story: harrowing and uplifting.

John Pickrell
Popular science at its clearest – and truly fascinating! Who'd've thought T-Rex wore feathers?

Helen Garner
Only Garner could make me read about such tragic awfulness and feel I've learnt more about the human condition.

Elizabeth Kolbert
Absorbing and terrifying examination of man's impact on the other inhabitants of this earth.

Tess Lea

David Whish-Wilson
Illuminating and idiosyncratic depictions of two of our lesser known capitals.

Buy these books at Abbey's (131 York Street Sydney) ~ An Aladdin's cave for readers

Abbey's ~ An Aladdin's cave for readers

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Notes from Eve Abbey ~ November 2014

Did you see on TV the two episodes of Brilliant Creatures, Howard Jacobson’s documentary about Clive James, Barry Humphries, Germaine Greer and Robert Hughes?

It was fascinating and brought back many good memories about bookselling in Sydney. Such as the day when Robert Hughes’ book The Shock of the New: Art and the Century of Change was rushing out the door.... Tom Hughes, famous Sydney Silk, came in and declared “I have to buy my little brother’s book”. There is a revised edition now, published in 1991 and definitely in stock at Abbey’s.

When I look at our Bestseller list (click The Top Tens on our homepage for the latest list), prepared by Kelly each week, I can see that quite a few people are intending to do what I intend to do. That is, re-read (or read for the first time) Robert Hughes’ The Fatal Shore and Clive JamesUnreliable Memoirs, because they have both recently appeared on the list, although they are two books which have always sold well.

David Hill, yes, that David Hill who was also Head of the ABC and the Railways, has just published The Making of Australia: From a Tiny Struggling Convict Settlement to the Remarkable Nation It Is Today. This is a very readable popular history – for locals and visitors. It may not be so full of fascinating details or so full of zing as The Fatal Shore, as only Robert Hughes knows how, but I think it will be a very useful book.

Another memory is prompted by Clive James’ recent and acclaimed translation of Dante’s Divine ComedyWhen I visited my friend Professor Sue Berners-Price in Florence in 1997 I was instructed to take the Dorothy Sayers’ translation published in 1974 in the Penguin Classics edition. I notice in the poetry section there are still many translations, varying from the Everyman hardback edition translated by Allen Mandelbaum to the Oxford Worlds Classic edition translated by C.H.Sisson or the several translations available in Penguin Classics by Mark Musa or Robin Kirkpatrick. Take your pick. We even have a Dover dual-language edition of some Selected Cantos translated by Stanley Appelbaum. How does one choose?

I’m a fan of Howard Jacobson and really enjoyed his Booker Prize-winning novel The Finkler Question. I can’t say the same for his latest, also Booker Prize-nominated, which is called J: A Novel. Not only a difficult title but a difficult book to read. It is being compared to George Orwell’s 1984 or Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. Yet another story set in a dystopian world, which seems to be quite the fashion just now. I don’t want to read it. Reality is hard enough. In J events are set in a world where life goes on after “Whatever Happened, If it Happened”. Too confusing!

I was so fascinated by Jung Chang’s revised view of the Dowager Empress, in Empress Dowager Cixi: The Concubine Who Launched Modern China that I decided to attempt the updated view of Mao in the book written with her husband Jon Halliday, called Mao: The Unknown Story. Once again the authors have had access to previously unobtainable archives as well as interviewing hundreds of Chinese. The page count is 971 pages and of these 91 pages consist of fascinating back-up notes and 13 pages list the various people, from national leaders, interpreters, journalists and bureaucrats to aged Chinese survivors who told their stories to Jung Chang and Jon Halliday. There is also a Bibliography of Chinese Language Sources, and Index of course. Mao is shown to be a pitiless monster, more than ruthless and with an enormous self-belief. How did he ever achieve the power he wielded? It seems impossible now. Even at his death he saw himself as one of the “fallen kings” and invited Richard Nixon to come for a personal farewell. He was famous for his belief in the power of the gun but he was no battlefield person himself.

Although a devoted fan of Helen Garner’s writing I was slow to read This House of Grief: The Story of a Murder Trial because of the very sad subject – the death of the small boys in the dam. I remembered how much I was fascinated by her earlier book Joe Cinque’s Consolation: A True Story of Death, Grief and the Law which remains one of my favourites. This House of Grief is another tour-de-force from our great writer. Read it.

Here is some excellent news. The hardworking booksellers in Abbey’s have just completed re-arranging fiction. Why? Because they need more space for AUSTRALIAN FICTION. It wasn’t until the Olympic Games in 2000 that Abbey’s decided Australian fiction could warrant its own section, it could stand on its own against the rest of the world, and certainly visitors to Australia would want to know about our local writers. Now, fourteen years later, Australian writers seem to be first choice. I find a big proportion of my own reading is by Australian writers. And we've had to do the same with AUSTRALIAN CRIME, which has been expanded in order to give more space to Australian crime writers. Great news.

Another piece of good news is that Lindy Jones has been invited to join the Miles Franklin Award panel of judges. This will be a big task for Lindy, one of our Senior Booksellers, but it will be one she will relish. I think it is an excellent choice. I was a Miles Franklin Judge in 2005, 2006 and 2007 but I was semi-retired then, so Lindy, who is still working, will be burning the midnight oil. She will join Richard Neville (State Librarian), Craig Munro, Murray Waldren and Susan Sheridan.

And one final note: Entries for the Calibre Prize for an Outstanding Essay close on 19 January 2015. Enter online at

Keep well,


Buy these books at Abbey's (131 York Street Sydney) ~ An Aladdin's cave for readers

Abbey's ~ An Aladdin's cave for readers

Friday, 19 September 2014

Lindy Jones has been reading... September 2014

Lindy Jones ~ Australian Bookseller's Association Inaugural Bookseller of the Year 2011

H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald at Abbey's Bookshop, 131 York Street, Sydney

Helen Macdonald

MacDonald has been obsessed with the archaic traditions of falconry since early childhood, training small falcons and generally immersed in the fellowship of falconers for many years. When her beloved father dies unexpectedly, she is overwhelmed by loss and decides to take on the greatest challenge of all - to train a goshawk. In the process of building a rapport with her hawk, MacDonald learns what it truly is to be human through her association with the wildest and largest British raptor of all.

A lyrical and beautifully crafted meditation on grief, connection, wildness and control, it is also intertwined with her re-reading of T H White's little known book The Goshawk , which details the celebrated author's attempts to train such a bird himself. White and his mistakes, his writings and outsider status, all become essential to her own attempts to make sense of what has happened in losing her father.

I can't recommend this highly enough, and any fan of the ilk of Robert MacFarlane or Roger Deacon, will appreciate this fine book.

Find this at

My Father the Great Pirate by Davide Cali & Maurizio Quarello (Illustrator) at Abbey's Bookshop, 131 York Street, Sydney

Davide Cali and Maurizio Quarello (Illustrator)

Sometimes there are books in the children's section because they are illustrated and in a picture book format, so therefore they are for kids. But often enough, these books can't be categorised, and shouldn't be limited to young readers, because they truly transcend age barriers and can speak to anyone who reads. This book is one of those undefinable and special experiences.

As a young boy, the narrator's father goes away, and only returns once a year. The child knows this is because his father is a pirate, a great pirate, who tells him stories about the places he's been, the ships he's attacked, the treasures buried and his shipmates. But one summer his father doesn't return and the boy's mother gets a telegram…

I won't tell more of the story, but I will say that every adult I have inveigled to read this book, has stood quietly and thoughtfully when they reach the end. I don't know how a child would react to it, but I know it moved me unutterably. There are themes of love and what we do to protect our loved ones, of bravery and resilience and that moment when childhood is put behind even when understanding has yet to catch up with experience.

The illustrations are coloured in a muted palette, soft greys and creamy yellows with occasional splashes of warm umber, and convey as much meaning as the simply related text.

Have a look for yourself - I think this is one of the best books I have seen in my picture book section this year. Or for that matter, anywhere in the shop.

Find this at

Sophie Collins

Just for something different, a book that shows how to create a menagerie of different animals with just the aid of a torchlight and the shape of your hands. With a little practice, make silhouettes of things like elephants and camels and dogs and birds…

Hours of fun for child and adult alike, simple and effective and a great boost to imaginative play!

Find this at

Viviane Schwarz

Now, just occasionally, I have gotten customers boxed in, and read them my favourite cat books: There are Cats in This Book and There are No Cats in This Book by Schwarz. They just beg to be read aloud! This new title is (I apologise in advance!) going to be another I take great delight in reading to unsuspecting enquirers about books for youngsters…

The cats, Tiny, Moonpie and Andre discover that there is a dog in their book - and all cats know all dogs are scary, smelly, yappy and snappy, so they try to hide. But the new puppy soon finds them, and the cats realise they have found a new friend.

Bold bright illustrations with interactive features and a lovely direct style of narrative. Even if you don't ask nicely, I am all too ready to share this one with you!

Find this at

Rupert Wallis

James is trapped in a nightmare life - his mother dead, his stepfather violent, neglectful and begrudging, school dreadful. He often seeks refuge in the deserted house on the hill, where he keeps a record of how many days until he's 18 and able to escape. One day though, he discovers a man there - beaten very badly and obviously in trouble. Webster however is not an ordinary man and when the travellers turn up asking about information and promising gold for the knowledge of his whereabouts, James is tempted to reveal what he knows. But the travellers aren't telling the truth, and James and Webster end up running from their respective enemies...

This was an amazingly atmospheric novel, which leaves a lot to the reader's imagination (is Webster cursed? is James doomed to suffer the same fate? what is the puppet the old traveller woman keeps?). It reminded me of Patrick Ness and David Almond, and was as skilful and as thought-provoking as works by either of those fine writers. 12+

Michael Grant

Mara wakes up in an unknown place, remembering nothing but her name. A mysterious young man, dressed in a black coat with silver skull buttons, appears, and he knows who she is and what is happening. With no choice that she can see, Mara follows Messenger, and finds herself reliving the final hours of dead teenager Samantha Early's life.

As different characters appear, and the taciturn and seemingly harsh Messenger unveils more of Samantha's life, and as Mara witnesses the moral choices made by others, she realises that she is caught within a balance she does not understand, that forces greater than her own existence are in play - and she is just one piece in a vast battle of justice and retribution.

A gripping and occasionally creepy beginning to a new series - I couldn't put it down! 13+

Shane Koyczan

This began as a video that went viral. Koyczan, a spoken-word poet, grew up being picked upon, and his powerful poem is a response to the harmful effects of bullying behaviour - whether you are victim, instigator, or witness. It is also a poem about inner strength and finding the way to move past such negativity. The words are enough on their own to start conversations and reflections, but it is raised to another level by the illustrations.

Thirty different artists from around the globe have contributed work, including Australians Armin Greder, Kathleen Jennings and Phil Lesnie. A thoughtful book with an essential message - no age limit to this!

Buy these books at Abbey's (131 York Street Sydney) ~ An Aladdin's cave for readers

Abbey's ~ An Aladdin's cave for readers