Book club

Love books? Here’s what we’re reading at Editor Group

Apples Never Fall

Apples Never Fall

Liane Moriarty, queen of suburban noir, has family life firmly in her sights in her new page-turning whodunnit, Apples Never Fall from Pan Macmillan. This New York Times bestseller is chock-full of her expertly crafted characters, acute wit and sharp observations.

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The Promise

The Promise

One reading of this Booker Prize winning novel by Damon Galgut is that it’s an absorbing saga about loss that upends a dysfunctional Afrikaner family. But there is so much more to it.

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Beautiful World, Where Are You

Beautiful World, Where Are You

Love. Sex. Friendship. What is life without the chaos that these ingredients create? That’s the question Sally Rooney poses to us in her new novel. And in her own distinct style, Rooney leaves it to us to decide whether the chaos is worth it in the end.

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Talking to My Daughter About the Economy

Talking to My Daughter About the Economy

Writing from the office of the Greek Ministry of Finance in 2013, economist Yanis Varoufakis turned his knowledge and expertise towards a challenging new audience: his teenage daughter.

Varoufakis’s book presents a brief history of capitalism, written in simple prose and littered with anecdotes and pop culture references that render complex ideas and theories comprehensible.

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The Dictionary of Lost Words

The Dictionary of Lost Words

Crouched beneath a table in a garden shed in Oxford, five-year-old Esme watches a word flutter to the ground, overlooked by the men working above her. It is 1887 and Esme’s father is one of a team of lexicographers gathering words for the first Oxford English Dictionary, edited by James Murray.

The word Esme retrieves – bondmaid – wouldn’t be discovered to be missing from the dictionary until 1901.

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The Code Breaker

The Code Breaker

What revolution promises to be bigger – and potentially more important to us and the lives of future generations – than computers or the discovery of the atom?

This great book argues that it will be gene editing – the ability to change our DNA in targeted ways using CRISPR technology to transform our health and characteristics.

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All Our Shimmering Skies

All Our Shimmering Skies

“Promise me you’ll make your life graceful, Molly. Promise me you’ll make your life grand and beautiful and poetic.”

These are the words Molly Hook is left with before her mother disappears into the daytime sky. Words that guide Molly through bush and swamp and desert, bring her face to face with heroes and villains, and finally help her unravel the secrets lurking in her family’s past.

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Less

Less

Arthur Less is staring down the barrel of his 50th birthday. His writing career still hasn’t taken off, his finances are a mess, and if that wasn’t enough to throw him into crisis, he’s just received a wedding invitation from his ex-boyfriend of nine years – further proof that the world is moving on without him.

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Before the Coffee Gets Cold

Before the Coffee Gets Cold

Would you go back in time even if you knew it wouldn’t change the present? Toshikazu Kawaguchi poses this very question to his characters and readers in the play-turned-novel, Before the Coffee Gets Cold. Poignant and thought provoking, this debut work is a refreshing tale of time travel.

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Disappearing Earth

Disappearing Earth

Disappearing Earth is startling in its extremes – Julia Phillips’s writing is disarmingly raw and unpretentious, and at the same time beautifully polished. Gentle and subtle, but sharp as a knife.

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A Promised Land

A Promised Land

The headline from Britain’s The Independent reads, “Barack Obama’s A Promised Land review: An elegant, thoughtful memoir from the coolest president America ever had.”

I couldn’t put it better myself and would highly recommend paddling your way through the 700-odd pages of Obama’s latest bestseller. Even if you think you have a good idea about how he became president and what happened while he was in the White House, Obama’s book offers a unique firsthand account and is simply a delight to read.

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How to be an Antiracist

How to be an Antiracist

Although I bought Ibram X. Kendi’s How to be an Antiracist when it came out in late 2019, it took me another year to actually pick it up. As well as the book’s obviously confronting subject matter, I worried that Kendi’s prose would be academic and inaccessible. After all, as head of the Center for Antiracist Research at Boston University, Kendi is a distinguished professor.

But on reading the first page I was hooked.

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Eating Chilli Crab in the Anthropocene

Eating Chilli Crab in the Anthropocene

Singapore might seem an unlikely subject for an anthology of essays on environmental conservation. After all, this is one of the most densely populated regions on the planet, with only 0.28 per cent of primary forest cover still intact. But as the essays in Eating Chilli Crab in the Anthropocene argue, that’s precisely the point. Singapore’s rapid drive towards urbanisation is what makes it so rich in stories about the hidden costs of modern development.

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The Ghosts of Cannae: Hannibal and the Darkest Hour of the Roman Republic

The Ghosts of Cannae: Hannibal and the Darkest Hour of the Roman Republic

If you think 2020 has been tumultuous, thank your lucky stars you weren’t a Roman solider in 200 B.C. In The Ghosts of Cannae, the American military historian Robert L. O’Connell provides an easy-to-read and detailed account of how the Carthaginian general Hannibal went on his extraordinary – and extraordinarily destructive – decades-long trip around the ancient Mediterranean.

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A Room Made of Leaves

A Room Made of Leaves

If you loved Kate Grenville’s colonial trilogy that started with the best-selling The Secret River, you’re pretty much guaranteed to want to hide away with her new novel. Blending fact and fiction, A Room Made of Leaves is set in the same early days of Sydney, but this time readers walk in the imaginary shoes of Elizabeth Macarthur.

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User Friendly: How the hidden rules of design are changing the way we live, work, and play

User Friendly: How the hidden rules of design are changing the way we live, work, and play

If you’re a fan of 99% Invisible and Stuff You Should Know, this book will scratch that ‘deeper than trivia’ itch to know more about how the world works. If you’re a user interface or user experience professional, it might also make you better at your job, which is a handy windfall gain. Either way, it provides a highly polished lens through which to view the designed world we encounter every day.

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The Chiffon Trenches: A memoir

The Chiffon Trenches: A memoir

In a year that has been sadly lacking in red carpet events, André Leon Talley’s candid account of life in the fashion ‘trenches’ offers some much-needed glamour.

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Intimations

Intimations

Intimations is a quick read, but a deep one, bound to dredge up some feelings about 2020 you might have consciously or subconsciously buried, perhaps in a conscious or subconscious effort to avoid 2020 itself.

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Where the Crawdads Sing

Where the Crawdads Sing

“When man is threatened, many times we resort to behaviours we aren’t necessarily proud of,” Where the Crawdads Sing author Delia Owens said in a recent interview.

Owens wasn’t talking about herself, of course. With Where the Crawdads Sing selling over 4.5 million copies in the first year of its release, and Reese Witherspoon’s production company quickly snapping up the film rights, the debut novelist has plenty to be proud of.

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Trust

Trust

In Trust, the third instalment of the Martin Scarsden series, Martin’s new life seems perfect. The former Sydney Morning Herald journalist and author of two successful true crime books is living on the Far North Coast of NSW with his partner Mandalay and her young son, and spending his days on the beach.

Until, that is, Martin’s peace of mind is shattered by a single scream left on his voicemail.

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Behind the scenes of the English language:

Behind the scenes of the English language:

It’s not every day one encounters the word ‘sprachgefühl’ – that gut feeling for language that fuels editors and spurs proofreaders to action – let alone in two books back to back. Granted, these two books about the English language deal with similar topics: words and punctuation.

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Punctuation?

Punctuation?

This short book provides a helpful and downright pleasant walk through the main punctuation marks of the English language. It combines succinct discussions of each punctuation mark with whimsical illustrations into a very digestible package.

It covers 21 marks. These include the big ones you’d expect such as the apostrophe, comma, exclamation mark, full stop and semicolon. It also covers those you might not expect …

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Radical Uncertainty

Radical Uncertainty

The good thing about the global virus lockdown has been more time to read. The bad thing has been all the uncertainty about pretty much everything, from one’s health to the economy and world peace. All of which has made it a perfect time to pick up the new, 528-page Radical Uncertainty: Decision-making for an unknowable future, by Professor John Kay and Lord Mervyn King.

I’m only half-way through Radical Uncertainty. But I think the Financial Times has nailed it from what I’ve read so far in describing the book as “an eloquent rant against the faux-precision of mathematical models”.

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State of Emergency

State of Emergency

What happens when the things that bind families together also divide them? That’s the question Singaporean author Jeremy Tiang asks in his remarkable novel, State of Emergency, which dives into Singapore’s and Malaysia’s tumultuous days of leftist movements and political detentions.

Tiang’s narrative follows an extended family from the 1940s to the present day as they navigate the choppy political currents …

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Talking to Strangers: What We Should Know About The People We Don’t Know

Talking to Strangers: What We Should Know About The People We Don’t Know

Malcolm Gladwell has a new obsession: why do we get each other so wrong, so often? In the pages of Talking to Strangers, The New Yorker staff writer and internationally bestselling author of Outliers tries to figure it out.

Talking to Strangers opens with the case of Sandra Bland. A young African-American vlogger from Chicago, Bland was driving …

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The Marketer’s Guide to Law Firms

The Marketer’s Guide to Law Firms

Any marketer who’s found themselves working in a law firm will know they can be confusing and often downright difficult places to work – even as the professionals therein desperately need their help to get new work in the door by describing their services, articulating their value and points of difference, and simply being noticed.

Australian marketers Genevieve Burnett and Sally King have done all marketers a favour by explaining how law firms work, where marketers fit in and how they can get things done …

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Outline

Outline

Outline is certainly divisive – two friends told me they found it a struggle to read, two others said they loved it … but their partners hated it. I get it. If you’re here for a Novel, with a capital N – a structured, unbroken, sequential tale with a definite beginning, middle and end, you might find it a frustrating read. If, like me, you’ve just finished Susan Sontag’s intentionally vague The Volcano Lover, you’ll find Outline positively orthodox.

Which is not to say there isn’t a flowing narrative …

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Banking Bad

Banking Bad

Banking Bad is one of those books you might buy for a father or brother for Christmas when you want to venture beyond socks and undies. That’s not to say it’s a bad book. In fact, it’s a pretty good read if you like a bit of corporate history and intrigue.

The book recounts the lead up to Australia’s Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services. It then gives a summary of the outcomes from the inquiry, few of which reflect well on the banks and other financial institutions. One reason to forgo the socks and undies, and perhaps even chocolate-coated sultanas …

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Fake

Fake

Single, childless and over 40, former Good Weekend magazine journalist Stephanie Wood is open to the idea of finding a partner when she is matched with “Joe” on a dating app.

Despite having early reservations, there’s something about the former Sydney architect turned sheep farmer that quickly wins her over. As their relationship unfolds, Joe proves to be sweet and romantic. He talks about their future together. He can put apostrophes in the right place …

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Midnight in Chernobyl

Midnight in Chernobyl

If you’re like me, you probably feel like you have a pretty good understanding of what happened when the Chernobyl nuclear power plant blew up in 1986. But Adam Higginbotham’s beautifully written and detailed account of the disaster and its aftermath is both an enjoyable read (give or take the nuclear disaster ruining half of Europe part) and a revelation when it comes to the specifics.

It’s also fairly terrifying in that it certainly doesn’t leave you with the impression that there could never be a similar accident …

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Shuffle: An anthology of microlit

Shuffle: An anthology of microlit

“Rain sounds like sausages frying in a pan. You don’t think it does, right now, but after you’ve read this, it will rain, and it will forever after sound like sausages.” (From Barrage by Jude Bridge.)

This recent anthology from indie publisher Spineless Wonders is a compelling collection of short stories that savour sound. The sound of words running and clashing together, mesmerising rhythms and very loud silences. And the sounds that change our characters’ lives …

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Home Fire

Home Fire

Can’t believe I’ve just discovered this novel from Kamila Shamsie. This awesome book was a deserving winner of the Women’s Prize for Fiction in the UK in 2018. Its themes include family bonds, ambition, love, loyalty, grief, Muslim terrorism and British politics.

Two families’ fates become entwined – one family is Muslim, and the father died on the way to Guantanamo Bay; in the other, the father is a successful politician who rejected Islam …

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Lanny

Lanny

Lanny is one of those fantastic books that will remind you – if you needed reminding – why it’s worth reading fiction. It’s ostensibly a book about a boy called Lanny who lives in an English village, yet somehow about so much more. That’s achieved by a combination of conventional storytelling and literally fantastic passages that make it a tour de force of creative writing.

I won’t tell you much more, to avoid ruining the experience of reading it. And I would say read it before anyone tells you too much about the plot. But let me pluck a couple of passages to give you a sense of the writing and author Max Porter’s ability to …

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The Edge of Memory: Ancient Stories, Oral Tradition and the Post-Glacial World

The Edge of Memory: Ancient Stories, Oral Tradition and the Post-Glacial World

We all know that myths are old. All that talk of locust plagues, oracles and cousins getting married clues us in pretty fast. But if you’ve ever wondered just how old some of the world’s legends are, you’ll want to read Patrick Nunn’s engaging, authoritative and often astonishing book.

In one of the many stories in his book, Nunn introduces us to the Klamath, a tribe indigenous to western Oregon …

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Leading Lines

Leading Lines

Speechwriting is something of a black art, so I always leap at the chance to read any book that sheds light on the topic and might help us at Editor Group, as humble practitioners.

Leading Lines is a new book by the appropriately named Lucinda Holdforth, who teaches at the University of Sydney and University of Technology Sydney. She also has extensive experience writing for politicians, including former Deputy Prime Minister Kim Beazley, and the likes of former Qantas CEO Geoff Dixon …

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A Gentleman in Moscow

A Gentleman in Moscow

I didn’t have any great expectations when I started reading this book. But I soon realised it was a rare gift – a book with an original plot and a wonderful main character. I’ve read a lot of novels, so an original plot is a big deal.

The story is set soon after the start of the Russian revolution. The Bolsheviks declare Count Alexander Ilyich Rostov a “former person” and sentence him to life in the Hotel Metropol in Moscow. It’s better than being shot and a lot more comfortable than a gulag, but it’s still a prison …

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Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear

Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear

Being an artist has always been an alluring career path. Looking at a piece of work that you’ve created gives a sense of joy and fulfilment, especially if you get paid for it.

But many people don’t follow that path for fear of failure. They believe their work isn’t good enough; that no one will like it. Their fidelity to ‘perfection’ restrains the good and unique image they have in their mind from manifesting physically.

Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love, knows the struggles that creative people endure. In this book, she explores …

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The Dry

The Dry

Despite just about everyone I know recommending this debut novel from Melbourne journalist Jane Harper, I’ve resisted reading it until now because the subject matter sounded so, ahem, dry. Somehow, out of all these recommendations, I’d managed to pick up that the book is about a drought-ravaged community in regional Victoria and totally miss the fact that it is also a chilling mystery …

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You Could Look It Up: The Reference Shelf From Ancient Babylon to Wikipedia

You Could Look It Up: The Reference Shelf From Ancient Babylon to Wikipedia

I won’t lie: this book isn’t for everyone. Even if you live on a steady diet of nonfiction it may take you a while to digest. If you’re a completist who needs to know absolutely everything about a subject before moving on to the next, look away. But if you’re fascinated by the power and variety of reference books – bibles of knowledge, the preserving amber of historical wisdom – this is the book for you …

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I’ll Be Gone in the Dark

I’ll Be Gone in the Dark

If immersing yourself in tales of death, detectives and the depraved doesn’t sound like your ideal summer holiday, please don’t read this review. If, on the other hand, you start your day with a bowl of cereal and a side of serial killers, welcome!

The New York Times–bestselling I’ll Be Gone in the Dark is the true story of the man who terrorised California during the 1970s and ’80s – and one woman’s search to find him. True crime writer Michelle McNamara’s masterful account of her hunt for the Golden State Killer – a name she coined – will undoubtedly become a true crime classic. Her relentless and meticulous …

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Unsheltered

Unsheltered

The plot of Barbara Kingsolver’s new novel rests on absent foundations – literally.

In alternating chapters, Unsheltered weaves together the stories of two strong, intelligent individuals whose homes are crumbling around them. The homes seem to act as a metaphor for the seismic social and economic changes that are ripping the rug out from under the lives of these two main characters. Thatcher, a science teacher in the newly established utopian town of Vinelands in the late 1800s, is isolated and attacked for supporting Darwin’s theory of evolution. Willa, a recently retrenched …

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The Land Before Avocado: Journeys in a lost Australia

The Land Before Avocado: Journeys in a lost Australia

From 1965 to 1975, Australia was a land of body shirts and no social media on which to show off (or shame) them. A land where housing prices were downright reasonable. And, as Richard Glover explains, there really were no avocados – or near to none.

It was also the land of rubbish coffee, rubbish TV reception, rubbish (and unsafe) cars, scungy caravan-park holidays, corporal punishment in schools, unpoliced drink driving, unfenced swimming pools and unprotected sunburn. (“The main summer …

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The House

The House

The recent furore over advertising on the sails of the Sydney Opera House is nothing compared to the scandals, political rows and media frenzies that characterised the creation of this iconic building. Most newsworthy was the sacking of Danish architect Jørn Utzon who famously won a 1957 competition to design a world-class performance venue for Sydney. After nine drama-filled years overseeing the protracted construction process, he left Australia, never to return.

The House, by Sydney Morning Herald journalist Helen Pitt, tells the story of Utzon and many others who toiled on the …

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Swan Song: The rise and self-destructive fall of Truman Capote

Swan Song: The rise and self-destructive fall of Truman Capote

“Writers write. And one can’t be surprised if they write what they know.”

So says one of the coterie of beautiful, wealthy, fragile women that literary darling Truman Capote called his ‘swans’.

This wonderfully evocative novel, spanning more than 20 vodka-soaked, jet-setting years, explores the intimate relationships that Capote unforgivably betrayed when his short story, ‘La Côte Basque, 1965’, was published in Esquire magazine in 1975 …

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Lion City

Lion City

As technology transforms everyday life in ‘smart nation’ Singapore, the city-state’s most interesting writers are considering some creative consequences. Imagine, for instance, if all the animals at the zoo were discovered to be robots (so much more manageable!). Or if a secret, hyper-modern terminal was installed at Changi Airport to transport the gods, or if, owing to a mysterious breakdown in connectivity, Singapore simply disappeared.

These are some of the surreal themes of Lion City (Epigram, 2018), the first collection of short fiction by Singaporean writer …

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Fear: Trump in the White House

Fear: Trump in the White House

This is a 400-page book by one of America’s most-revered journalists – one who had extraordinary access to the key players in this latest chapter of history. It also seems likely to become the definitive work on Donald Trump between 2015 and mid-2018.

If you’re like me and have been addicted to reading Trump (probably fake) news since 2016, you won’t find a lot of new information in this book. But you will find an astonishing level of detail about the operation of Trump’s presidential campaign …

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The Girl on the Page

The Girl on the Page

What price should you put on integrity? Is allowing a potentially bestselling novel to be published, knowing that it’s not your best work, ‘selling out’? These are just two of the questions troubling critically acclaimed author Helen Owen as she prevaricates about handing in the manuscript she promised her publisher in return for a seven-figure advance.

Settled into the stylish North London townhouse she and husband, fellow novelist Malcolm Taylor, bought with the proceeds, Helen is torn between ensuring the ageing couple’s future comfort and protecting her literary legacy. Malcolm thinks …

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