We’re somehow half way through the year already!
Thanks to international travel and the resulting jetlag this month’s list of the five books we think you need to be reading is a little later than planned. But here it is all the same. There’s still some time left to add them to your lists.
This month’s five books feature a mixture of fiction and non-fiction; a couple of sophomore novels and some mind bending fiction. We’re also delving behind the scenes of one of Australia’s most iconic movie franchises and getting a more in-depth look at one of pop music’s most enigmatic artists.
As always all of the books mentioned can be found in all the usual places both online and offline. Please do support your local independents if you can though.
Here are this month’s five books. Happy reading!
Greatest Hits – Laura Barnett
Greatest Hits is the new and much anticipated novel from Laura Barnett, author of the 2015 bestseller The Versions of Us. Greatest Hits follows the story of Cass Wheeler, a fictional British Singer-Songwriter, who has been hugely successful since the 1970’s. Cut to thirty or so years later and Wheeler has disappeared from the music world, with her many fans speculating as to the cause of her sudden disappearance. Now Wheeler is in her home studio, trying to put together sixteen tracks for a Greatest Hits compilation, and in the process travelling back in time through her career and her life.
Greatest Hits is a novel about life with all it’s ups and downs, successes and failures, and of taking stock of where you’ve been and how far you’ve come. It’s also a novel about music, and in writing the novel Barnett teamed up with British singer-songwriter Kathryn Williams to create a soundtrack to accompany the novel. Talk about commitment to the cause. So whilst you read the novel you can listen to the sixteen songs Wheeler chooses for her compilation, and the sixteen songs which best represent her life.
Greatest Hits is available now through Hachette Australia
Dig If U Will The Picture – Ben Greenman
It has been just over year since the death of music legend and provocateur Prince at the age of 57. Perhaps surprisingly there hasn’t been too many books released to capitalise on his passing, there were after all a number of Bowie related releases after his death, but from recollection the only notable Prince release has been Mick Wall’s Purple Reign. This is all set to change with the release of Dig If U Will The Picture, an intimate and critical appreciation and exploration of Prince’s life and work, from Ben Greenman.
Greenman has serious chops when it comes to popular music biographies, having collaborated with Questlove on Mo Meta Blues and worked alongside both George Clinton and Brian Wilson on their celebrated memoirs. In Dig If U Will The Picture Greenman draws upon Prince’s forty studio albums, 2,000 plus live shows as well as unreleased archival material to offer up a portrait of one of popular music’s most enigmatic and brightest stars. Dig If U Will The Picture is a must have for any Prince fan, or indeed any popular music fan.
Dig If U Will The Picture is available now through Allen and Unwin
Miller and Max – Luke Buckmaster
The Mad Max franchise have had an undeniably impact on modern popular culture, and have influenced any number of directors and writers over the years. The film Mad Max is widely recognised as a classic, and on release grossed $100 million worldwide and for twenty years was the most profitable film in film history – thanks in part to George Miller’s $300,000 filming budget borrowed from friends and family. Miller and Max then is the story of two men, the film’s titular anti-hero and the artist who created him.
Written by Luke Buckmaster, the Guardian Australia’s film critic, Miller and Max is a behind the scenes look at the making of the film, and an in-depth look at the genius behind it. The book has been written with the cooperation of many of the movie’s cast and crew, as well as family and associates of Miller. So whilst you may think you know all there is to know about Mad Max and Miller, there is every possibility that Buckmaster has uncovered even more. If you’re even remotely interested in film history, let alone Australian cinema, this should be on your to read pile.
Miller and Max is available now through Hardie Grant
The Ministry of Utmost Happiness – Arundhati Roy
The Ministry of Utmost Happiness is the highly anticipated second novel from Booker prize winning author Arundhati Roy. I say highly anticipated, because it’s been twenty years since Roy’s debut novel The God of Small Things was released in 1997. In the intervening years Roy hasn’t been idle, but has instead found herself actively engaged with the politics of her home country – India. Those intervening years of activism have made their way into Roy’s fiction writing, The Ministry of Utmost Happiness is infused with politics, and Roy’s view on the “state” of India.
It is an ambitious novel encompassing any number of topics ranging from gender, to terrorism, to India’s caste system and relations between Indian and Pakistan. The novel features a huge range of characters, including Anjum, one of the novel’s main protagonists. Anjum, was born Aftab, and is a Hijra (transgendered). One of the other key characters is Musa, a Kashmiri militant, his story transports the narrative to the India Pakistan border, and right into the heart of the conflict. There is a lot going on in this novel, but from looking at a number of early reviews, it sounds like it is worth the effort.
The Ministry of Utmost Happiness is available now through Penguin Australia
Spoonbenders – Daryl Gregory
I’ll happily admit I’m partial to a bit of genre fiction, especially if it’s all a little fantastical. So I couldn’t skip past Spoonbenders the latest novel from Daryl Gregory. Spoonbenders follows the story of the “Amazing Telemachus Family” who achieved widespread fame in the 1970’s for their magic and mind reading act. Then one night live on national television, tragedy strikes, and the magic is over. Cut to twenty years later the Telemachus family isn’t so amazing anymore – the now grown up Telemachus kids are in a bad way, but is that all about to change?
Whilst science fiction and fantasy elements abound Spoonbenders is as much a story of family drama as it is of telekinesis and supernatural powers. So for all the magic and capers, the novel never show away from digging into the truth of the Telemachus family. Indeed with criminal elements included within the plot a couple of reviews have drawn comparisons to that great family drama – The Sopranos. Spoonbenders has already been optioned for television by Paramount, so this could be a case of getting in on the ground floor before it gets famous.
Spoonbenders is available June 27th through Hachette Australia