Autumn 2018 Book Recommendations


Finding that perfect book is always hard. And we’re not saying we have The One, but we’ve got a few ideas…

A little while ago we had a look at the hottest books to read throughout the 2017 winter. And now we’re back with a few more book recommendations for Autumn 2018. These books are just a few of the amazing publications being released/are relevant this year, but they’re ones that caught our eyes. So head to your book nook, grab a cup of tea (one that matches your book), and settle in.

If you want to read something science-y

There are plenty of great science-based books to read, but who could look past Emma Byrne’s new publication, Swearing is Good For You?

Byrne is actually a robot scientist, often writing intelligent systems. It was her interest in the future of artificial intelligence that lead her to neuroscience and then to the study of swearing. The book looks into the history of swearing, how we define what a swear word even is, and the effect swearing has on us. It covers  how chimpanzees seem to create their own curse words and how using our own swear words can help to manage pain.

Swearing Is Good For You is funny, clever, and you feel like you learn something with every sentence.

If you want to read something a little spooky

Retellings of classic fairy tales and folklore are still common, even hundreds of years after the original stories were first told. There are plenty of retellings that offer their own unique twists on the tales, of course. But The Merry Spinster puts a greater emphasis on the horror of these timeless stories than most retellings. An emphasis that would make the Brothers Grimm proud.

You may remember this author from his Debut novel, Texts from Jane Eyre, but now Daniel Mallory Ortberg is back with another amazing collection. He manages to bring physiological horror, emotional clarity, and feminist critical theory to the stories of our respective childhoods. Those who have read Ortberg before are sure to recognise his unique, bold, and (admittedly) über-nerd humour while new readers are in for a treat. Ortberg deconstructs and destabilises as he goes, illuminating the emotional complexities in the stories we tell ourselves and each other.

If you want to read something classic

There are times when we just want to reach for something familiar. Or perhaps something you’ve always meant to read. There are so many books that we’re told we need to read before we die, it’s hard to know where to begin. And while there are plenty of good, classic books to read Frankenstein will always be a stand out (at least for me).

You may have read it in high school, you may have read it in university, you may have never read it. But even if you have, don’t you want to read it again? Those forced to read Mary Shelley in high school may have less fond memories of the text, as it can feel a bit lagging at times, and we may be tempted to think the text is outdated. But the questions it raises — what it means to be a human or a person, identity, what it means to be deserving of love, responsibility for our actions, the ethics of creating life, whether evil actions can be justified, and the roles of women — remain important today.

Shelley had a voice that extends through time, beyond the sexist limitations of her day (she couldn’t publish under her own name, originally).

Of course, one of the most important things to remember about this book is that Frankenstein is the scientist, not the creature. The creature is never technically given a name (which adds to the creature’s identity crisis, of course), though Victor Frankenstein does mention he thought the creature to be Adam, so that’s the name commonly given to him when talking about the text.

If you want to read something period-set

I know we just talked about reading something classic, but sometimes you can only go so classic. Reading The Odyssey is perhaps too classic. So instead, read a contemporary perspective on one of the key characters from The Odyssey, Circe in Circe by Madeline Miller.

The original text was written sometime around the eighth century, BCE in the form of an epic poem by Homer. But Circe is due to be published on the 10th of April, 2018. So just a little bit of time difference there. Circe tells the story of the titular character. The daughter of the sun god Helios and Perse, an alluring oceanic deity. But she isn’t powerful like dad or tempting like mum. So she escapes to the world of us mere mortals. (This is how Odysseus runs into her after a while.) But even in her happy (if isolated) life, there is danger. Circe doesn’t align herself with the gods or with men and so has angered them both. This is a story of suspense, drama, heroism, and indomitable female strength in a man’s world

If you want to read something reflective on society

Roxane Gay, the New York Times bestselling author of Bad Feminist and Hunger is back with Not That Bad. This publication (edited by and  with an introduction from Gay) is an anthology of first-person essays. Each of these essays tackles important topics such as rape, assault, and harassment without backing down. (This book comes with a content warning for these topics, of course.)

This confronting collection talks about the violence women (especially women of colour) face, as well as the dismissal women are forced to endure, as they never seem to measure up to their male counterparts. Other contributors to this anthology include actors Ally Sheedy and Gabrielle Union along with writers Amy Jo Burns, Lyz Lenz, Clair Schwartz, and Bob Shacochis. This often personal, confronting collection reminds us all that ‘not that bad’ is no longer good enough.

If you want to read something emotional

In Shobha Rao’s debut novel Girls Burn Brighter, we are thrust into a harsh world. One that is even less forgiving to our two heroines, Poornima and Savitha, as they are a) poor, b) ambitious, and c) girls. The driving force of the novel is the bonds between these two young girls and the tests these bonds undergo as the girls are driven apart, but never give up the search for each other.

Girls Burn Brighter is set in India and America (informed by the author’s own life in the two nations) and alternates the perspective of the two heroines as they struggle to survive and find each other again. It is a story of hope, lost and found again. Rao confronts some of the most important intersectional feminist issues in while reminding us to never lose hope. (This book comes with a content warning for domestic abuse, violence, human trafficking, and crimes against women.)

If you want to read something home-grown

Suneeta Peres Da Costa is an award-winning author and playwright, and she was born right here in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia! Her latest book, Suadade tells the coming-of-age story of Maria and her family as they all try to find their way and their home.

The book gets its name from the Portuguese word for ‘melancholy,’ which is reflected in all the characters. The story is set in Angola, in a time leading up to the colony’s independence. Maria and her family are immigrants, caught between the Portuguese rule and their Angolan life. Saudade speaks to the longing for a true homeland all immigrants face. (Content warning for domestic violence, slavery, assault.) We watch Maria grow up, as she discovers the lies of colonialism and that things are never black and white.

If you want to read something before it turns into a movie

There’s always that frantic rush after seeing a trailer, being interested in the film, and then at the very end of the trailer seeing that it’s an adaptation of an existing book. Now you’ve got to scramble and read a book immediately if you want to finish it before the film hits cinemas. The film, Where’d You Go, Bernadette isn’t scheduled to be released until next year (with Cate Blanchett playing the lead, no less), which gives you plenty of time to read the book of the same name.

The story of Where’d You Go, Bernadette is comes through a series of documents. We also get a few snippets from the perspective of the perspective of the titular Bernadette’s 15-year-old daughter, Bee. It tells the story of Bernadette’s life. A story her daughter Bee didn’t realise existed, only seeing her mother as the agoraphobic woman she is now. After a series of incidents, Bernadette seemingly faces her fears and disappears. In her efforts to find her mother, Bee compiles documents, letters, emails, memos, and transcripts, crafting an emotive novel about the notorious (and perhaps genius) Bernadette Fox.

If you want to read something before it turns into a TV show

Before Gillian Flynn published Gone Girl she published Sharp Objects. Like you might expect, Flyyn writes about a troubled female lead. Someone with whom we might identify, and be concerned for ourselves when we do so. But just like her more well-known story, Gillian Flynn’s debut novel Sharp Objects may not be for everyone. A miniseries adaptation of the book is in the works, starring Amy Adams as Camile. It is due to debut on HBO in their summer (Australia’s winter) so if you’re game, there’s enough time to complete the book before the show premiers.

Sharp Objects tells the story of Camille Preaker, a journalist. Camile’s story begins as she sent back to her home town. She’s there to cover the story of the murders of two pre-teen girls. This means dealing with her toxic family (including her neurotic mother and petulant younger sister) and facing her own issues. (Content warning for psychological issues, violence against girls, rejection, emotional abuse, references to sexual abuse, issues with alcohol, Münchhausen syndrome, and self harm.) The book thrusts us into an emotional roller-coaster of a journey that keeps us on the end of our seats.

If you want to read something topical and inspiring

The American Civil War is a popular topic right now. (Even the creators of the Game of Thrones TV show wanted to re-imagine the outcome of it.) Lucky for us, one of the ideas around this concept is fresh, intriguing, and inspiring. If you’re a fan of historical fiction through a fantasy lens, Dread Nation from Justina Ireland is for you.

Justina Ireland was claims inspiration from Pride and Prejudice and Zombies but didn’t find it realistic. “It would have been black women fighting in the streets” she said in an interview with BustleDread Nation proposes a school for black and native American girls to learn to fight the hordes of undead that are rising up around them. But this grew, prompted by current events and the Black Lives Matter movement. As well as white supremacists rising again, a more contemporary horde of zombies.

Dread Nation offers black girl magic, a badass heroine, zombies, and alternate history. What more could we want?


Edit: A previous version of this post misgendered Daniel Mallory Ortberg, though we have since learnt his pronouns are he/him so this post has been edited to reflect this.

Paige Riddiford is a writer and editor from NSW with a degree in Creative Writing from the University of Wollongong. When not writing, Paige is often found reading, baking cakes, playing video games, or binging whatever's new on Netflix.