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‘Funny’, ‘punchy, ‘a gorgeous writer’: the best Australian books out in October | Australian books

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Reasons Not to Worry by Brigid Delaney

Nonfiction, Allen & Unwin, $24.99

Brigid Delaney’s book Reasons Not To Worry is out through Allen and Unwin

Things just happen to Brigid Delaney. In her weekly column for the Guardian, which just wrapped last week, she wrote about how a python resolved her feud with P!nk; how Russell Crowe helped her find her laptop; how she ended up with a fridge in her bedroom and a fatberg in her sink; how her toilet seat was stolen. Two thoughts about that, from (full disclosure) a friend: these stories are only half of the store Brigid has; and despite, or perhaps because of, the chaos of her daily life, she is one of the wisest people you will meet.

She’s distilled that wisdom into her new book, which is a personal, fun and practical guide to the ancient philosophy of Stoicism, with which she became slightly obsessed pre-Covid, and then relied on throughout. Going on walks with her during this time, as she imparted her learning for my withered soul, was one of my fondest memories of lockdown; packed with applicable tips, easy theory and idiosyncratic Delaney-esque anecdotes, this book is a gem. – Steph Harmon

Seeing Other People by Diana Reid

Fiction, Ultimo Press, $32.99

Seeing Other People by Diana Reid is out through Ultimo Press

Released just 12 months ago, Diana Reid’s juicy first novel Love and Virtue was set at a prestigious university in Sydney, and took in complicated and toxic female friendships, campus rape culture, and a student-teacher #MeToo storyline that provided much groupchat fodder. It’s rude for her to follow up so quickly with a new book – but kind of her to do so in time for summer.

Seeing Other People is another punchy and well-observed novel, this time about two sisters in their early 20s: Charlie is a sun-filled actor surrounded by creative hotties; and Eleanor a dark and witty cynic on the corporate ladder, whose boyfriend just cheated. Across one summer spent at extremely Sydney sharehouse parties and ocean pools, the sisters’ social and romantic lives entangle so much you almost lose track. Their relationship dissolves accordingly. – SH

Tripping Over Myself by Shaun Micallef

Memoir, Hardie Grant, $34.99

Shaun Micallef’s memoir Tripping Over Myself is out through Hardie Grant

Comedian memoirs aren’t always all that interesting; you might get a few funny childhood anecdotes, but how does one make writing for forgotten sketch shows or harrowing years on the comedy circuit any more interesting than the last person? But those fond of Micallef will enjoy this, packed as it is with his unique blend of dry wit and fury.

Yes, there is plenty about growing up in Adelaide – but the book really takes off when he quits law to write comedy in the big smoke (Melbourne). The most enjoyable parts cover his interactions with politicians, comedians and hand-wringing behind the scenes at Channel Nine and the ABC. “I’m afraid I have no wild hell-raising stories for you,” he writes at one point; but that’s not why most would be reading this anyway. – Sian Cain

The Food Saver’s A-Z by Alex Elliott-Howery and Jaimee Edwards

Cooking, Murdoch, $49.99

The Food Saver’s A-Z: the Essential Cornersmith Kitchen Companion by Alex Elliott-Howery and Jaimee Edwards is out through Murdoch Press

Cornersmith is a cafe that, over the past decade, has slowly built itself into an institution of Sydney’s inner west. Its offerings have sometimes been outrageously twee – mason jars, homemade jams, and picnic kits abound – but it has always managed to stay just above the trend cycle, expanding their ethos of sustainable, low-waste, mostly vegetarian food into cooking courses and cookbooks.

Their fourth, The Food Saver’s A-Z, is a compendium of methods to turn food scraps into feasts. Whether, like them, you are already a pickling pro or, like me, a hapless heathen who goes full goblin mode on unidentifiable leftovers at the back of the fridge, this book will prove a handy helper in both classic preservation methods – fermenting, brining, wax-wrapping – and introducing new ways to use the vegetable bits we normally throw out. – Michael Sun

It’s A Shame About Ray by Jonathan Seidler

Memoir, Allen and Unwin, $32.99

It’s A Shame About Ray by Jonathan Seidler is out through Allen and Unwin

In his remarkably clear-sighted, moving and funny debut, Jonathan Seidler comes to terms with the mental illness that has swept through the first-born men of his family, affecting himself, his father, and his grandfather Marcell – older brother of great Austrian-Australian architect Harry. It’s comparable to Rick Morton’s memoir One Hundred Years of Dirt, but with an extremely different setting of glittering privilege: the Seidlers, as Jonathan acknowledges upfront, move in the upper echelons of the Jewish community in Sydney’s eastern suburbs – a world he lets us into in vivid, fun scenes.

Seidler also lets us into the bipolar that threatens his life and his fears of passing the illness down; and relates the heartbreaking suicide of his father, Ray, in 2013 – a giant of the medical world, whose cause of death the family only recently acknowledged. A former music journalist, it’s set to a soundtrack: named after a Lemonheads song, with a chapter on Kanye, and frequent returns to Chester Bennington of Linkin Park, who died by suicide in 2017 and shares with Seidler’s father a conflicted, heroic place in the author’s psyche. – SH

Limberlost by Robbie Arnott

Fiction, Text Publishing, $32.99

Limberlost by Robbie Arnott is out through Text Publishing in Australia.

Tasmanian Robbie Arnott’s third novel marks a shift to realism, and the sense of an author really stretching into their style. Limberlost, steady and quiet, yields up its beauty with an open palm. With brothers at war in the Pacific, teenage Ned is left for the summer with a silent father and stoic sister on the family orchard in the island’s north. The book flashes forward and back, through the slip and current of Ned’s life as he yearns for competence, burns for quietude.

Through his eyes, on Letteremairrener, Pairelehoinner and Panninher country, Arnott writes with intense seriousness about the beauty and ferocity of the living world. And reveals the huge scope within the small stories of a life – how an apparently contained memory (a quoll, a whale, a boat) can hold everything we are. – Imogen Dewey

Faith, Hope and Carnage by Nick Cave and Seán O’Hagan

Memoir, Text Publishing, $45

Faith, Hope and Carnage by Nick Cave and Sean O’Hagan is out through Text Publishing in Australia.

What’s essentially a 300-page interview with Observer journalist Seán O’Hagan opens with Australian musician Nick Cave saying that he hates interviews – but no matter, for their conversation is endlessly enriching.

The two men discuss God, heroin, social media and particularly Cave’s raw understanding of grief, after the death of his 15-year-old son, Arthur, in 2015. Given Cave’s status in recent years as the internet’s most profound uncle, doling out frequently screenshotted wisdom and meditations on his website The Red Hand Files, this book will doubtless go down a treat with many. – SC

A Kind of Magic by Anna Spargo-Ryan

A Kind of Magic by Anna Spargo-Ryan is out  through Ultimo Press

When workshopping her first memoir, novelist (and Guardian contributor) Anna Spargo-Ryan received a comment from another student: “I don’t understand why no one is helping this narrator?” Mental illness became debilitating for Spargo-Ryan when she was a teenager, leading to psychotic breaks, dissociation, OCD, severe agoraphobia and an eventual diagnosis of borderline personality disorder, which went largely untreated – and was consistently dismissed – until the author was in her 30s.

The resulting book is so open-hearted, so generous and so funny that in its darkest moments – and there are many – you will find yourself enraged by the medical industry that failed her, and by those who didn’t help. An eternal optimist and a gorgeous writer, Spargo-Ryan proves that no matter how much stigma surrounds an illness – and how ferociously that illness might mess with your memory, identity, life – you still have agency and a narrative that deserves respect. In her words: “I offer my own story as evidence I can build a self.” – SH

The Sun Walks Down by Fiona McFarlane

Fiction, Allen and Unwin, $32.99

The Sun Walks Down by Fiona McFarlane is out  through Allen and Unwin

It’s 1883, in the small South Australian town of Fairly. A six-year-old boy has gone missing in a dust storm. As the people of Fairly search the surrounding Flinders Ranges, McFarlane explores each of their varied relationships with the complex landscape and its terrible colonial history.

With a child missing in remote Australia, this may sound like any recent “outback noir” thriller – but McFarlane’s beautifully written second novel has much more in common with Lanny by Max Porter or Reservoir 13 by Jon McGregor: all vibrant, otherworldly stories of a small community in flux, discombobulated by a singular tragedy. – SC

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