New Staff Reference Titles

Posted on December 7, 2015. Filed under: Books, Reference | Tags: , |

These titles have recently been added to the Staff Reference collection

The Library Innovation Toolkit


“Progress for the sake of progress is all too often a drain on precious time and resources. The communities and users that libraries serve are always changing; true innovation helps libraries adapt to meet their needs and aspirations both now and in the future. This stimulating collection offers numerous snapshots of innovation in action at a range of libraries, showcasing ideas and initiatives that will inspire librarians at their own institutions.”

The Library Marketing Toolkit

This title also an associated website: You may also want to check the author’s website:

book2“A toolkit of ideas to inspire action. As libraries continue to fight for their survival amid growing expectations, competition from online sources and wavering public perceptions, effective marketing is increasingly becoming a critical tool to ensure the continued support of users, stakeholders and society as a whole. This unique practical guide offers expert coverage of every element of library marketing and branding for all sectors including archives and academic, public and special libraries, providing innovative and easy-to-implement techniques and ideas.”

Information Services Today

9781442239586“This book is an essential overview of what it means to be a library and information professional. Hirsh provides a broad overview of the transformation of libraries as information organizations, why these organizations are more important today than ever before, and the various career opportunities available for information professionals.”




Staff Reference titles are held outside my office @ LHQ and can be borrowed. Just put them on your card. If you want something sent to your branch, reserve the item and let someone at Library HQ know (we don’t do a pull list for those).



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Natalie Muller in the Library

Posted on July 25, 2014. Filed under: Books, Writing | Tags: , , , , , |

As you all know, Natalie Muller (Editor-in-residence for 2014 at the Blue Mountains City Library) has been holding her free reading/editing feedback service in our library branches this year. But do you want to find out a bit more about who she is and what she does? Click here to listen to our podcast interview with her, online. It’s a great listen!

Passionate about bringing authors and readers together, Natalie is interested in bringing new voices to the reading public, and exploring the possibilities of e-books. She offers a reading service, providing authors with a critical assessment of their manuscript, highlighting their strengths and weaknesses.

She will be visiting our library branches and making herself available to discuss reading, writing, what it is like to be a writer and how to improve your writing. The remaining 2014 dates for this free service are: Saturday 9th August at Katoomba Library, Saturday 13thSeptember at Blaxland Library, Saturday 11th October at Springwood Library and Saturday 8th November at Blaxland Library.

Find out more about Natalie and her services via her website at:

Also, submissions are now open for the first edition of The Wild Goose, a literary e-journal Natalie is starting, focusing on new Australian writing. The theme of the first edition will be ‘Summer’ – please feel free to interpret this however you like. Submissions of essays, short stories, memoir, poetry and visual material will be accepted. Please have your work submitted before November 1st to be considered for the launch issue. Send your submissions to

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Christmas/Birthday Gift Idea

Posted on May 22, 2014. Filed under: Books | Tags: , , |

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Spineless Classics Australia does posters with the text of well-known books made into a picture – not very cheap but very classy.

I don’t mind which one you buy me . . . .HC:)

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What Library Staff are Reading Uncovered – April 2014

Posted on April 21, 2014. Filed under: Books | Tags: , , , |

What a difference a day (in bed) makes . . . I was ill with a sore froat last week and got a bit of extra reading done in between the snoozes. Looks like others have been busy too. A lot of good reading has been done this month it seems.

What have you had your nose in this month?


  • Did She Kill Him? A Victorian tale of deception, adultery and arsenic by Kate Colquhoun – an impulse buy when I saw the author’s name! I enjoyed it though; a narrative non-fiction account of a woman accused of poisoning her husband. If you liked The Suspicions of Mr Whicher, you’ll likely enjoy this one too.
  • The Lie by Helen Dunmore – my sick bed read. Daniel returns to his native Cornwall following The Great War.
  • A Second Wind : the true story that inspired the motion picture The Intouchables by Philippe Pozzo di Borgo – my favourite film of 2013
  • The Light Between Oceans by ML Stedman – another post WWI read for book group. Set in WA this is a beautifully written novel.
  • Disobedience by Naomi Alderman – set in the Orthodox Jewish community in London the cat is set among the pigeons when the rabbi’s lesbian daughter returns for her father’s funeral.
  • One Good Turn by Kate Atkinson – a fun read set in Edinburgh – a crime seen from all sorts of angles.
  • Wee Macgregor Enlists by JJ Bell – Written (in broad Scots) in 1916; I downloaded this from the Library’s Project Gutenberg list of books.
  • Just now I’m reading A Country Too Far : writings on asylum seekers edited by Rosie Scott and Tom Keneally – essays, poems and short stories from 27 of Australia’s finest wordsmiths.
  • And for some light relief from that 44 Scotland Street by Alexander Maccall Smith – not even MY mother is as bad as Irene, Bertie’s Mum!


  • Enduring Love by Ian McEwan- I avoided this because of the soppy title, but I was rewarded with a strange little tale which revolves around deciding who exactly has lost the plot- the protagonist or the bit players.
  • Reunion by Andrea Goldsmith- the most boring book I have ever finished. It took over six months, but I became strangely determined to see it out.
  • Lexicon by Max Barry- exciting from the first page.


  • Hotel Kerobokan by Kathryn Bonella – Hotel Kerobokan is the ironic nickname for Kerobokan Jail, Bali’s most notorious prison, and home to a procession of the infamous and the tragic: the Bali bombers, Schapelle Corby and the Bali nine among many others. Good insight into how the Bali and Indonesian Jail and judicial system work and puts a human element to those you have only read about in newspapers.
  • The Days of Anna Madrigal by Armistead Maupin. The wonderful next chapter in the Tales of the City series. Loved it. But only for those familiar with the original series.
  • To My Best Friends by Sam Baker – a real tear jerker. Loved that you could not help but put yourself somewhere in the scenario and imagine what you would do.
  • The Eve Continuum Book 1 by Storm JK. Wonderful effort by new writer – lots of fun elements, supernatural, mystery, racy! Also love that she is a local writer.


  • The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald – this classic was my #reelread for the month – I wanted to read it before I watch the Baz Luhrmann film. Fitzgerald examines a privileged section of American society in the 1920s (including both ‘new money’ and ‘old money’), bursting with the energy of vacant excesses (wealth, parties, free-flowing alcohol, reckless behaviour), and holds it up to the light.
  • Zelda & Scott Fitzgerald : sometimes madness is wisdom by Kendall Taylor – a comprehensive biography, focusing mostly on Zelda’s life and her relationship with her famous author husband, F. Scott Fitzgerald. I learnt from this book that Scott took chunks of Zelda’s diaries, verbatim, and put them into his own stories.
  • The Beautiful and the Damned by F. Scott Fitzgerald (e-book).
  • Free-falling by Nicola Moriarty – Nicola’s first book is about grief and its impact on relationships; despite the emotionally-heavy subject matter it is an entertaining read from the younger sister of authors Liane Moriarty and Jaclyn Moriarty.
  • Last Tango in Toulouse by Mary Moody (audio book) – following on from her first memoir, Au Revoir, this book charts Mary’s discontent with her seemingly perfect life, and how this discontent culminates in a romantic affair. Then there is the fall-out when she tells her husband and family what she has done. It is a very open and honest story, uncomfortably so at times.
  • The Philosopher’s Doll by Amanda Lohrey (audio book) – this book is well-written and I enjoyed the descriptive language very much.


  • A Bad Beginning by Lemony Snickett – I really enjoyed this tale about the Baudelaire children.
  • The Dead of Winter by Chris Priestley – I love Chris Priestly. He is a wonderful creator of suspense and gothic horror. This ghostly tale did not disappoint.
  • Mister Creecher: A Novel in Three Parts by Chris Priestley – Written about the character of Frankenstein’s monster (I loved the original by Mary Shelley). This was an interesting take on the tale with a surprising ‘twist’ at the end.
  • Medical Firsts: From Hippocrates to the Human Genome by Robert E. Adler – I enjoyed reading about different medical breakthroughs and the people who were pioneers and made the discoveries.
  • The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict by Trenton Lee Stewart – This was my favourite book that I have read this month. It was refreshing to have a children’s character who is intelligent and not ‘just ordinary’. I liked that the children who are supposed to be friends in this book actually get along and seem to care for each other. The mystery to be solved is intriguing. I thought it was written beautifully and enjoyed the adventure so much that I am going to read the next books in the series (this one being the prequel), The Mysterious Benedict Society – I can’t wait!
  • Madame Pamplemousse and the Enchanted Sweet Shop by Rupert Kingfisher


  • Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell. This book is not actually in our YA collection(it’s in Adult Fiction) but is a fantastic book for that age group. I loved it, it’s a retro love story with a gritty background story set in the 1980s. If you like John Green’s writing then you will enjoy this.
  • Big Brother by Lionel Shriver. If you like her writing and have the stamina for it (think We Need to Talk About Kevin; high school mass murder, So Much for That, terminal illness) then you will enjoy – if that’s the right word – this. It’s about obesity and our cultural love affair with food told through a moving and interesting story. An amazing and thought provoking read from the author as usual.


  • Summer Lies, by Bernhard Schlink – Here are seven stories exposing, as the book jacket says, “the many faces of love.” Schlink probes quietly the routes through which people connect with each other, then break away. The difficulty of commitment is a theme here. The last story, The Journey to the South, begins disturbingly in this way: The day she stopped loving her children was no different from other days. When she asked herself the next morning what had triggered the loss of love, she could find no answer. Maternal love is one of those sacred cows mostly unquestioned, but Schlink is fearless in examining this mother’s alienation, and the painful losses that led her there. This is a thoughtful, intelligent collection.
  • The Road to Middlemarch: my life with George Eliot, by Rebecca Mead – George Eliot’s Middlemarch being the book that, for me, sits at the apex of English literature, I was delighted to find that someone who’s equally smitten has written a leisurely, thoughtful account of Eliot’s unconventional life, musing on the ways in which Eliot’s work has informed Mead’s own life and attitudes. Mead goes to those places Eliot lived in or visited, and puts Eliot’s friends under the microscope to see which of them inspired characters in Middlemarch. Like the novel itself, this is a book I would like to visit more than once.
  • Mr Loverman, by Bernardine Evaristo – I’m listening to this entertaining story on Talking Book, narrated by the versatile James Goode, who is master of accents from the Caribbean to London to posh English boys’ school. Two refugees from Antigua live in material comfort in Hackney, while their marriage of many years spits and fizzes like ill-made fireworks. The hostilities escalate as Carmel suspects Barrington of carousing with other women; little does she know that her husband is actually gay, but firmly locked in the closet, and terrified to step out of it lest his life and relationships are destroyed. His boyfriend Morris has suggested that they, now in their seventies, should live together. Can Barrington tell the truth to Carmel after all this time? I’ll see how the story ends!
  • The Making of Us, by Lisa Jewell – Another Talking Book. A Frenchman, in his young and thoughtless days, becomes a sperm donor to raise some cash. Only when old and close to death does he realise he’d really like to meet the four children he knows resulted from that. Does he find them? You’ll have to read it and find out! Enjoyable storytelling.


  • Astronomy photographer of the year 2013 by Royal Observatory Greenwich – absolutely stunning photographs, even from the beginners and young photographers.
  • The Novel Cure: An A-Z of literary remedies by Ella Berthoud and Susan Elderkin – reading truly is the answer to ever ailment, and this book proves it. My “to-read” list has grown enormously since reading this one. Might need to take some sick leave!
  • Sane new world: taming the mind by Ruby Wax – an honest, funny look at managing mental health issues with mindfulness (and other tips and techniques).
  • Blackboard blunders: spelling slip-ups and homework howlers by Richard Benson – literally laugh-out-loud funny, this book had my whole household in stitches as we took turns reading parts of this book out loud to one another.
  • Happier at home by Gretchen Rubin – really simple, constructive ideas on enjoying life more.
  • The prophet by Kahlil Gibran – a beautiful story full of wisdom.
  • And currently reading The Sound of Paper by Julia Cameron and The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan.


  • Nefertiti in the flak tower by Clive James – I really enjoyed this collection of poetry by Clive James. Having watched his recent interview with Kerry O’Brien it was easy to engage with his thoughts, reflections and a certain preoccupation with ageing and loss. Other than the occasional classical illusion there is nothing fanciful about his writing and no paring down of the text to make it obscure to the reader, as is the case with so much poetry. I loved his tribute to his wife’s scholarship, the image of what happened to the Nefertiti bust during the war and his ability to express the dichotomy of having lived his life in two places. If you leave the writer and journalist renowned for his comedic barbs out of your equation when reading this volume you discover a man who just loves to write poetry – making no claim to any scholarship of his own. A very engaging read.


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The Alphabet Library

Posted on March 26, 2014. Filed under: Books | Tags: , , |

The Alphabet Library is a nice thing The Telegraph is running that you might like to follow.

Every week Tim Martin will add another book to his A-Z of forgotten books. “The Alphabet Library will unearth treasures that are out of print yet available second-hand. Some of these overlooked novels, oblique histories, forgotten monographs and neglected adventures point onwards to larger stories about their times; others are just good reads that deserve revival. But all of them are worth a look.”


First in the series is Ariel by Andre Maurois. Go to The Alphabet Library for Tim Martin’s reasons for bringing this novel back to the public consciousness – “written by an Anglophile Frenchman in the gay Twenties, this featherlight meringue of a book would likely be mouldering at the bottom of history’s compost heap if not for its connection to the most famous bird in 20th-century literature.”

Who doesn’t want to read a “featherlight meringue of a book”?

Anyway, the link to the next letter is at the bottom of each post. Mr Martin is only up to C so there isn’t a great backlog of reading to do. Dive in, you never know what treasure you may find.


I’d be interested to know if anyone owns any of these ‘forgotten’ books . . .

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FurRead Podcast with Eleonora Jezierska

Posted on September 11, 2013. Filed under: Books, Fun Stuff, Libraries and Librarians | Tags: , , , , , |


Katoomba Library’s very own Eleonora kindly agreed to be the latest guest on the library podcast, for August’s ‘FurRead’ – books about animals. Being such a passionate animal advocate, she was the perfect guest for this month, and she shared lots of good book and film suggestions. Take a listen here, or search for ‘Listeners in the Mist’ in iTunes to download.

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What Library Staff are Reading Uncovered – August 2013

Posted on August 19, 2013. Filed under: Books | Tags: |

Chill Out With a Good BookWhat have we been chilling out with this month?


The tin ticket : the heroic journey of Australia’s convict women by Deborah Swiss is a book I am currently enjoying, if that is the word to use. I knew that the early convicts had a hard time in the home country and then in Australia, but as I read in detail the conditions of life for convict women in the early 19thC I am quite overwhelmed. The author has researched the lives of a handful of women, some of them very young, and the likely conditions and constraints of their lives, and creatively filled in the gaps to make very readable accounts.


Burial Rites by Hannah Kent – I wanted to read this book for a while but was worried about whether it would live up to the hype – apparently there was a bidding war on even before the book had been finished. I really enjoyed the book; it conveyed very well the Calvinist lifestyle of the people of Iceland – very like Scottish Highland & Islanders – a very plain life where there are no expectations of anything better. Agnes doesn’t fit in – illegitimate to start with and then well-educated and ambitious? I was a little disappointed by the end; Hannah’s end came very quickly after all the slow build up and revelation. Is it ghoulish of me to have wanted to know more about the execution itself? Apparently all the adult males were made to watch, there is documentation of it, why not describe it?

The Son by Philipp Meyer – I’d heard Meyer interviewed on the radio so again, I wanted to read this book. Picked it up at a good price one Saturday morning in Penrith and took it home. Thought I’d have a bit of a read over lunch. Didn’t want to put it down. Spent most of Saturday reading and Sunday and by Monday evening only had a chapter or two to go. Fantastic! Set in Texas, The Son focuses on three generations of McCulloughs and ranges from the early 1800s to the present day. In alternating chapters, the novel tells the stories of Eli McCullough who is kidnapped by the Comanches in a raid on the family farm and adopted by the tribe, Peter who is guilt-ridden over an incident involving his Mexican neighbours and Jeanne Anne, Eli’s great-granddaughter who looks back on her life as a pioneering businesswoman, wife and mother. I especially enjoyed the chapters narrated by Eli and it made me want to read more about Comanche life and so I quickly devoured Empire of the Summer Moon by SC Gwynne. There were plenty mentions of bison in this book. Can I count it as my August Fur-read?

Strong Poison by Dorothy L Sayers – a book group read that I would have given up on. I found it boring for the most part, only really getting into it once I could see the end in sight.

Chainsaw Operator’s Manual – I’m learning to cut up wood.

Serena by Ron Rash – I only started this last night but I really enjoyed The Cove by the same author a couple of months ago.

A traveller in Rome by HV Morton 1957


Strong Poison by Dorothy L Sayers – for book group, I read it one sitting and thoroughly enjoyed it, will definitely read more of her work. I think I did years ago. It’s all a bit predictable but a good read just the same.

My New ipad by Wally Wang – because I know I can’t do things that I should be able to do.

Android phones for Dummies by Dan Gookin – because in this case I am a dummy.

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Year of wonders by Geraldine Brooks – I really enjoyed it even thought it was about such a sad time in history. It was told by a woman from a small rural village who’s people were dying of the plague, how it got to the village in the first place and then what the village decided to do to protect other towns and villages around it. It was really interesting to learn about people’s beliefs and attitudes to the plague.

Lincoln – DVD – It was quite a slow moving film set in the era of the American war between the North and the South , about President Lincoln’s push to outlaw slavery via a change to the constitution.(not an action film ). I really enjoyed it.

Dickens of London – DVD – I found it an interesting insight into some of Charles Dickens’ life – I would have liked it to touch on more of his life – it seemed to me to leave out big chunks of his life and left me with quite a few questions which I will have to read up about. Overall though, I enjoyed it.

The wild girl by Geraldine Brooks –Set in the time of the French Revolution, it is about the Wild family who live next door to the famous Grimm brothers, focusing in particular on one of the girls, Dortchen who fell in love with Wilhelm Grimm right from an early age, but whose father was a very strict and violent man, especially to Dortchen. I’ve not quite finished it yet. I am up to the part where the l father has just died. I do so hope things work out happily ever after for Dortchen Wild and Wilhelm Grimm.


Feast Day of Fools by James Lee Burke – I had been putting off reading his thirtieth, yes 30th novel until I could give it my undivided attention, it was worth every word!. As one critic says – I am a long-time fan of James Lee Burke and feel like his Louisiana anti-hero detective, Dave Robicheaux, is my personal friend. But even your mama’s tried and true favorite fried chicken recipe would get old if that’s all you ever ate. Luckily for us fans, we also have Sheriff Hackberry Holland to keep our Burke cravings at bay. James Lee Burke returns to the Texas border town of his bestseller Rain Gods, where a serial killer presumed dead is very much alive . . . and where sheriff Hackberry Holland, now a widower, fights for survival—his own, and of the citizens he’s sworn to protect. When alcoholic ex-boxer Danny Boy Lorca witnesses a man tortured to death in the desert, Hackberry’s investigation leads him to Anton Ling, a mysterious Chinese woman known for sheltering illegals. Ling denies any knowledge of the attack, but something in her aristocratic beauty seduces Hack into overlooking that she is as dangerous as the men she harbours. And when soulless Preacher Jack Collins re-emerges, the cold-blooded killer may prove invaluable to Hackberry. This time, he and the Preacher have a common enemy. See JLB interviewed on You Tube:


Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk -Had this one on the shelf for some time and finally grabbed it needing something for the train. I am a fan of the film which did not lessen the impact of the book. Obviously the ending was not a surprise because I had seen the film however the writing was very good and it felt fast paced and exciting. I will be reading some more of his stuff when I have time.

The man who mistook his wife for a hat by Oliver Sacks – Case studies of this doctors patients with rare and interesting neurological disorders. Very fascinating conditions that help explain how the brain works and create even more questions. I found it very easy to read and enjoyed his writing style.

Stalin’s Hammer: Rome by John Birmingham – The first in a series of novellas set after the Axis of Time trilogy. In the Axis of Time trilogy a naval fleet from 2020 was sent back in time accidently while testing a new weapon, they landed in the middle of WW2 and obviously changed the course of history. I really like the whole world building in this great alternate history series, for example the Russians have seen the collapse of communism and have taken a page out of Chinas book in an attempt at creating a viable communist society. Prince Harry is back and is one of the central characters in this story, SAS soldier from the future, I like how he is written.

Distrust that particular flavour by William Gibson

The illustrated story of copyright by Edward Samuels


The Ocean at the end of the lane by Neil Gaiman – This was fantastic! If you’re a Neil Gaiman fan, you’ll love it. The library doesn’t have a copy of this one yet, but it does have “The graveyard book” by Neil Gaiman which is sort of similar and equally wonderful.

Eragon by Christopher Paolini

The scarecrow and his servant by Philip Pullman


The House of Memories, by Monica McInerny – Aiden and Ella O’Hanlon are married, adore each other, and have a son they call Felix. Before Felix reaches his second birthday he is dead. The consequences for various members of the family are deep and far-reaching. Complications arise from the fact that Ella and her brother have a half-sister, Jess, of whom they are jealous, so loved and wanted is she. This is a ripping yarn, one which I threw everything else aside to get to the end of – but I wish McInerny had edited herself a bit more. I could hear the grind of the plotting wheels, could often see where the writer was taking things and wished she’d practiced a little less manipulation, a little more economy.

A Mile of River, by Judith Allnatt – Jess (another one) lives on an English farm with her young brother Tom and dominating father. Her mother cleared out years ago. Jess longs to do the things other teenagers do, but is stymied by her father. I have only read 50-odd pages but enjoy the style of this debut novel and, my interest piqued further by reading some reviews online, will definitely continue with it.

Somewhere Towards the End, by Diana Athill – I love to witness writers coming at the subject of old age and death with wisdom and the strength to portray themselves and their views without sentimentality, without the need to polish the duco on their own character so that it looks better. This memoir/reflection of Diana Athill’s is refreshing in this respect. Not all of her chapters are riveting, but there’s enough here to make one think afresh about these interesting subjects.


Too busy to even get through one adult novel! Must be ‘cause I’m playing with the IPad! – The One hundred year old man who climbed out the window and disappeared by Jonas Jonasson. Translated from the Swedish by Rod Bradbury. This is a funny novel about Allan Karlsson who escapes from his room in the Old Folks’ Home in the town of Malmkoping. He was waiting for his one hundredth birthday party but he didn’t want to attend it so he decided to escape, still in his slippers, through his bedroom window. Haven’t finished it yet!

Sophie Scott goes south by Alison Lester – This is shortlisted for Picture Book of the Year ,The Children’s Book Council of Australia Awards, 2013. This is a wonderful, informative book of Alison Lester’s travels to the Antarctica, seen through Sophie Scott’s adventure. Children of all ages should try this.


Live Nude Elf by Rev Jen – the queen of the New York Art Star scene bares all (yes, literally). Autobiographical musings about the last several years of her life as an artist, writer and elf.

Sensitive Creatures by Mandy Ord – an amazing graphic novel set in Melbourne, with beautiful drawings and soulful content. My Artread for July!

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What Library Staff are Reading Uncovered – July 2013

Posted on July 21, 2013. Filed under: Books | Tags: , |

cat reading 03


Good news, bad news – another Scout Davis novel by Maggie Groff, set in Byron Bay. As a friend of mine says she wishes she could find a “Rafe.”

The Chaperone by Laura Moriarty – a moving story set in the 1920’s in New York. Both good reads.


The Draining Lake by Arnaldur Indridason – set in Iceland, this is one in a series featuring Inspector Erlendur. In this novel the Inspector is trying to find out the identity of a body found in a lake when the water level recedes. Cold War links and your usual untidy, socially dysfunctional policeman make for an OK but not great story. I spent a lot of time on Google Earth following all the action.

Fiere by Jackie Kay – a selection of poems, many in Scots. I bought this after listening to Jackie on Radio National. Listen to it here.  . ‘Fiere’ is an old word for friend, to be found in ‘Auld Lang Syne’ . You can read the title poem on the Scottish Poetry Library’s website. I have a couple of good friends who I’d send this poem to. How about you?

No Great Mischief by Canadian author Alistair MacLeod – chosen for me by someone at book group although I’d read it many years ago. This novel spans the Atlantic between Cape Breton in Canada and Scotland and the 17th century and the late 20th all in beautiful, lilting prose. The title comes from a line in a letter in which General James Wolfe describes the members of the MacDonald clan who fought under his command at Quebec by writing in a letter, “They are hardy, intrepid, accustomed to a rough country, and no great mischief if they fall.”

1913 : In search of the world before the Great War by Charles Emmerson – a city by city account of the year before the war that was supposed to end warfare. I’m enjoying pacing myself with a chapter/city in between my other reading. A great book to buy for your favourite WWI fan to dip in and out of.

The Help by Kathryn Stockett – read this for at least the third time, another book group read. Set in the early 1960s Mississippi, this novel is about how some African American maids collaborate with a white journalist to expose the treatment they get at the hands of their white employers. We felt the delivery a bit light-on for such a serious topic.

And right now I’m back in Iceland, reading Burial Rites by Hannah Kent for book group. Not totally grabbed by it yet but it’s had some big reviews. Will it live up to all the hype?


Who’s Afraid of Mr Wolfe? by Hazel Osmond – easy to read, lovely story set in London. For more information visit Hazel’s website.

Pleasure & Pain: My Life by Chrissy Amphlett – here is an excerpt.  It is a roller-coaster ride of a read and a powerful insight into an Australian rock icon. She has always been one of my role-models (I have seen her several times in concert and in the stage show Blood Brothers) and after reading her book, I can now articulate why – a wild, no holds barred, outspoken woman who never compromised. What a wonderful life.

Plus because I am on holidays I will have a backlog of Marie Claire magazines.


I have recently read Grace and Mary by Melvyn Bragg. An interesting and engaging read though not always cheerful. About a man and his mother, Mary, who has Alzheimers. He tells the story of her mother Grace’s life from around the turn of the 20th Century in order to find a place to meet his own mother’s backwards moving memories. Gentle and hopeful even through the great difficulties of Grace’s life and the sadness of the present.

On another cheery note I have just devoured Will Schwalbe’s The end of your life book club, the story of a man and his mother who is dying of pancreatic cancer. This is a true story, a lovely relationship and a fabulous hymn to the power of reading and sharing stories with those you love and with strangers.

For study and for interest purposes I read The library book, a collection of stories and essays about the importance of Libraries to writers and to all of us. There are some great stories of the early importance of public libraries in the lives of many writers and others, and borrowing the book raises money for UK libraries!

On a lighter note I have just reread the Earthsea quintet, as it is now. It is interesting to watch the evolution of Ursula le Guin’s writing about different kinds of magic, and women and men, over the first three books, then Tehanu and finally The other wind. As always I am completely captivated by her writing and her ideas, a pleasant escape to a place of spirit and emotion.


In the Company of Strangers by Liz Byrski, whose novels are aimed at women in the second half of their lives. This one features English-born Ruby, who as a vulnerable child was shipped out, as an ‘orphan’, to Australia along with many others during the turmoil of the Second World War. Her friendship with Cat probably saved her sanity during the terrible years of institutional life that followed. But a schism occurred between the friends during their adulthood, after which Ruby fled back to England. Now, in 2009, Ruby finds she must confront the cause for that, and fly back to Australia, to a farm south of Perth where Cat has been living. Cat’s death catapults a number of people into an uneasy alliance.

Mavis Levack, P I by Marele Day. Some funny slapstick here, read it out loud. Mavis dearly wants to solve crimes, to experience the cachet and excitement of being a private investigator. Her husband, unimpressed, comments drolly on her behaviour. I haven’t got far with it yet so will comment no further except to say that Marele Day is an entertaining Australian writer of whodunnits.

Reading Lolita in Tehran, by Azar Nafisi. The author of this memoir was born in Tehran but was partly educated in Europe and America. She found being an academic in the Iranian capital (in the wake of suffocating strictures imposed by Ayatollah Khomeini) challenging and disheartening, not to mention downright dangerous. She decided that instead of trying to work that way she would initiate a weekly class at her house for committed students passionate about the study of English literature. The students, all women (to include men would have been too risky), came to class enveloped in their black robes, throwing them off once safely inside Nafisi’s house. I found out so much about the difficulty of living in a society governed by the rhetoric of fear and retribution, where the rules changed frequently. The joy of this book for me is in knowing there are always rebellious spirits like these, ready to fight back, to resist in whatever ways they can the oppressive, freedom-denying instincts of fundamentalists.


Who Owns the Future? by Jaron Lanier – Huge ideas from the ‘Grandfather of virtual reality’. Theories on how to make the internet profitable for more people than just the big companies that are collecting and selling your information. I also found the many anecdotes of the early days of Silicon valley very interesting. If you are interested in who is collecting your information online, how they are doing it and what they are doing with it this is a book for you. If you contribute data and time into any large site like Flickr you would find these theories very positive.

Appetite For Self Destruction: The Spectacular Crash Of The Record Industry In The Digital Age by Steve Knopper – The history of the music industry beginning with the crash of disco and the beginning of CDs up until around 2009. Thoroughly researched and interviews with many of the top bosses of the big labels. Particularly interesting is the Napster debacle and subsequent dismissal of selling digital copies of music. For anyone with an interest in the industry or copyright or even behind the scenes with Steve Jobs this is a great read, I couldn’t put this one down.

Solar Lottery by Philip K Dick – Still slowly working my through PKD’s extensive output this was his first published novel. I expected something not as polished as his later work but was pleasantly surprised with the story. Already containing many of the ideas he would go on to explore more in later books this is an easy enjoyable read, not as difficult as some of his later very complicated storylines.

Philosophy For Aliens by Geoffrey Berg

How To Be Alone by Jonathan Franzen

A Captain of the Gate by John Birmingham

Graphic novels :

Black Hole by Charles Burns

Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne by Grant Morrison

Batman and Robin, Vol. 2: Batman vs. Robin by Grant Morrison

Anna PS

I am reading three books concurrently, to cover all possible moods and rooms I may be in, and as such have finished none.

Green Mountains by Bernard O’Reilly- a brief description of Bernard’s single minded and extraordinarily prescient search for a plane that crashed in the Lamington National Park in the late 1930’s, followed by a longer description of his family’s pioneering days in the Kanimbla Valley and Lamington Plateau. I have surprised myself by enjoying this, and I have learnt that should I have a festering wound out in the middle of nowhere, leave the maggots to do their thing- it might just save your life.

Sacred Book of the Werewolf by Victor Pelevin- A Chinese fox demon meets a KGB werewolf in modern Russia, where they frolic and discuss various matters, both spiritual and carnal, related to humans and werekind. This was a random choice from The Guardian’s 1000 books to read before you die list.

Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan- a young woman is recruited by MI5 while at university to recruit right wing writers to counteract left leaning sensibilities in England. I am not as far in to this one, but so far, so good.

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Maggie Counihan on travelling at any age

Posted on May 24, 2013. Filed under: Books | Tags: , , , , |

Recently Blaxland Library held an author talk with the inspirational Maggie Counihan, Author of Bring on the Birthdays: Ageing with Adventures. It was a great talk, but if you missed it, you can listen to our podcast with the author here.

Maggie Counihan

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What Library Staff are Reading Uncovered – March 2013

Posted on March 24, 2013. Filed under: Books | Tags: |

Books 07Susan A

I’ve just finally read The Hare with the Amber Eyes by Edmund de Waal after many recommendations. I enjoyed the premise of following the owners of a collection of Japanese netsuke (small carvings) and therefore creating a family history of a large successful Jewish family in Europe through the world wars. I felt he was more attached to some of his forebears than others, or maybe he had more interesting information, so that I enjoyed some sections more than others. But altogether a book I would recommend, especially in regard to anti-Semitism and the growth of Nazism in Europe.

I am also enjoying the publication of many of Tove Jansson’s adult stories in English for the first time. I grew up with her Moomin books as a child and find a similar wild and fey way of looking at the world in her adult fiction. I have just read Travelling Light which has many stories of people displaced from their familiar worlds, and the interesting and different ways that they cope, or not. She has a detailed eye for social norms and how people play/work with them.

I recently read Louise Erdrich’s latest book The Round House which was, as always, a story that drew me right in. It is not a very cheerful read as it is about a rape that takes place on an American Indian reservation in the recent past and the extraordinary difficulties that the laws in that country create for prosecuting such cases. It is written from the eyes of a teenage boy and also details his struggles to come of age through this hellish time. Highly recommended.

I’ve also recently enjoyed Tamam Shud by Kerry Greenwood and the travel story collection Better than Fiction from Lonely Planet.


Cypherpunks: Freedom and the Future of the Internet by Julian Assange et al.

We Are What We Pretend To Be: The First and Last Works by Kurt Vonnegut

Machine of Death: A Collection of Stories About People Who Know How They Will Die The premise is a machine is invented that tells people how they will die, the machine is not always clear but is always accurate. A fantastic collection of short stories of differing genres. There were some very humorous tales and some that made me think about big picture stuff, some romance some dystopian tales and everything in between. I liked this a lot, can’t wait for the next collection.

The Book of Ice by Paul D Miller – My eco read for the month. By DJ Spooky and discusses his trip to the Antarctic and his creating music and art based on these experiences. Also has brief history of the continent. Some interesting factoids such as the Nazi’s flying over and dropping flags to claim territory.

Graphic Novels :

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Century 1910 by Alan Moore

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Century 2009 by Alan Moore

Bone, Vol. 2: The Great Cow Race

The Walking Dead Volumes 12, 13, 14 by Robert Kirkman


Drawn Together by Robert Crumb and Aline Kominsky-Crumb – this is a wonderfully endearing, sometimes vulgar, very funny and tender graphic novel which spans the 35-plus years of the author’s romantic and creative relationship together.


The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern – The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night :

The Amber Amulet by Craig Silvey – what a lovely story – just about to buy the book for a friend of mine…too gorgeous not to share:

A Clash of Kings by George R. R. Martin – loving this Game of Thrones series . . .

Jenny M

The amber amulet – by Craig Silvey – a cute little read – really enjoyed it.

Seeing George – by Cassandra Austin – read it before, but I enjoyed it just as much the second time around.

Mrs Queen takes the train – by William Kuhn – enjoyed it, but a bit long winded, although I did learn lots of interesting things – not the light fluffy read I was expecting.

Anna D

I’ve only finished 2 books completely: American Gods by Neil Gaiman and The Old School by P. M. Newton – I quite enjoyed both.

The Old School was much more developed than I expected it to be, as I’m not normally a huge fan of crime fiction. I really enjoyed the character development, and the plot too.

American Gods was an interesting read, lots of weird things happening! Not my favourite fantasy but pretty good none-the-less.

(I think I’ve missed someone here – let me know and I’ll correct it)

Palestine by Joe Sacco (Comic) : This is pretty heavy but also really interesting. I’m new to comic reads and I think this probably wasn’t the best place to start, but it’s worthwhile anyway.

A Lady Cyclist’s Guide to Kashgar by Suzanne Joinson: Haven’t read enough of this to really get what’s going on yet. I’m hoping it will start getting into a bit more of a description of Kashgar, but so far the chapters alternate between a woman in London and a woman under house arrest in Kashgar, so there’s not much inspiring scenery thus far!

By the Book: a reader’s guide to life by Ramona Koval: This is a lovely memoir of Ramona’s life and the books that have shaped it.

Brisbane by Matthew Condon: I’m going to Brisbane soon and was inspired recently to get into some more travel reads, so thought I’d pick up this one (which is part of the UNSW series on Australian major capital cities). This is a really lovely, interesting read combining family history, Australian history and the author’s childhood memories of Brisbane.

Les Norton and the Case of the Talking Pie Crust by Robert G. Barrett: Again, not something I would normally read but I took some advice to try expanding my reading horizons via talking books, and I must say I’m quite enjoying it. Lots of funny moments and the narrator does a great job.

Altnachree: a man, a family and a passion by Joy Ware: This is a family history, so I was wondering how much interest it could have for the general public, but I have to admit I’m intrigued. Set in Ireland so far, it traces not only the history of the Ogilby family but also the history of Altnachree, the family castle in Ireland. It ties in general history of Ireland, a bit of science interest (set around the time Charles Darwin’s theories were just coming out), and who knows what else will come out. At some point the family end up in Australia, so I’m interested to see what areas of Australian history will be tied in to this book a bit further on.


Bags=Sacs=Tassen=Borse=Taschen – An utterly beautiful book…great photos of different purses through history.

The Naked Anabaptist: The bare Essentials of a Radical Faith by Stuart Murray – Very clearly written, sober assessment of the Anabaptist tradition and how it might offer something to people today.

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? recommended to me by Adam – I am looking forward to reading it.


When it Rains by Maggie Mackellar – Her husband suicides, she is left with one child and one as yet unborn. Not long after, her mother also dies. Maggie tries to continue her academic career but it proves impossible. She decides to leave the city and go back to the Orange district of NSW where she grew up. This is the story of her finding her way back to sanity, and reconnecting with the landscapes and animals of her past – bringing her kids along with her. There’s a lot of joy in the recovery process for her, as well as anger and pain.

The Secret Agent by Joseph Conrad – I read this one for book group, and confess to not finishing it. Conrad’s style is wordy and demanding – but I acknowledge there is much to admire here. I’m also not very good at dealing with the pall of negative energy that this novel casts.

The Yalda Crossing by Noel Beddoe – “New South Wales, 1832. Captain James Beckett and his lover, Harriette, leave behind the proprieties of Sydney society and pioneer far west of the Blue Mountains to the Morrombidgee River, and deep into the lands of the Wiradjuri. Harriette’s daughter, Emily, and The Captain’s son, Young James, have no choice but to join their parents’ struggle to establish a life and holding in alien country. When new settlers destroy sacred sites and hunting grounds, the hard-won understanding between the Becketts and the Wiradjuri is shattered. The shocking events that follow will torment Young James for the rest of his life.” (quoting from official publicity). Being always interested in work that helps to explain black/white relationships in this country, I was curious about this one. Having read it I honour Beddoe’s humanity, and his desire for readers to understand what exactly was done when Europeans staked claims to country already inhabited.


In the Country of Men by Hisham Matar – a book group read. Loving his prose and his depiction of 1970s Libya through the eyes of a young boy.

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley – for my other book group. Didn’t finish it.

A natural history of ghosts by Roger Clarke – the history of ghost-hunting in Britain, most of this was fairly dull. I did however, find out something pertinent to our book group discussion of Frankenstein – when Shelley wrote the first draft of the Frankenstein story as a competition amongst herself and friends, the weather was apocalyptic in the wake of a massive volcanic explosion – Mount Tambora in 1815, the largest volcanic eruption in recorded history – the effects of which were to last decades.

Beyond Black by Hilary Mantel – a humorous story about Alison, a medium having trouble with her revolting spirit guide and her manager, Collette.

Are You My Mother? By Alison Bechdel – Alison obviously has a difficult relationship with her mother which I can relate to but there is a lot of psychotherapy in here too which I couldn’t relate to.

Orders from Berlin by Simon Tolkien – set in WWII London this was a real page-turner.

My Ideal Bookshelf – Art by Jane Mount, edited by Thessaly La Force – “more than 100 leading cultural figures share the books that matter to them most”. Unfortunately I’d never heard of the majority of these American cultural leaders so it wasn’t as enticing a book as it might have been.


A Week in Winter – an easy read about personal tragedies by one of my favourite authors, Maeve Binchy. I did find the ending disappointing.

In My Father’s Den by Maurice Gee – a crime story set in Auckland and it had me intrigued.

And what about you?

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