DECEMBER 10, 2020
BY JAMES BENNETT
Abby H. and Claire M. Adult Fiction
If we call 2020 anything, it’s definitely not ‘normal’ but Adult Fiction has seen some amazing growth in both numbers and quality of titles produced. In these uncertain times, our Australia publishers have certainly stepped up to give us some exciting titles to see us through!
Firm favourites amongst our team are both Aussie authors departing from their usual genres - The Last Migration by Charlotte McConaghy and Sorrow and Bliss by Meg Mason. Both titles showcase a beautiful writing style with strong and determined female characters driving the narrative. Trent Dalton’s All Our Shimmering Skies and Craig Silvey’s Honeybee are two highly anticipated second novels that are sure to top bestseller and awards lists.
Thriller fans will be delighted with new blockbuster hits like The law of Innocence by Michael Connelly, Daylight by David Baldacci and Troubled Blood by Robert Galbraith. Elena Ferrante’s new novel The Lying Life of Adults will satisfy fans as well as Rosalie Ham’s The Dress Maker’s Secret where we delve back into the fashionable life of Tilly Dunnage.
And whilst a lot of us were ploughing through The Witcher on Netflix, Andrzej Sapkowski surprised us with a new fantasy series starting with The Tower of Fools – definitely one to watch.
From debut Australian fiction like A Lonely Girl is a Dangerous Thing by Jesie Tu and The Morbids by Ewa Ramsey to crowd favourites like The Book of Two Ways by Jodi Picoult and Blunt Force by Lynda La Plante – we’ve definitely got a whole lot to look forward to for the tail end of 2020 – so let’s get reading!
Katrina C. Junior Fiction
As we move through these latter months of 2020 publishing we are seeing the impact of 2020 events on publishing themes. Jackie French has a new wombat picture book, this time collaborating with illustrator Danny Snell for The Fire Wombat – inspired by true accounts of other animals sheltering in wombat burrows to avoid the blaze. Jackie also has another topical picture book, Pandemic (with Bruce Whatley) documenting the Spanish Flu pandemic. More books on informing and comforting children in this COVID world are While We Can’t Hug by Eoin McLaughlin & Polly Dunbar; Now Wash Your Hands by Matt Carr; and also Windows by Patrick Guest & Jonathan Bentley.
Children’s publishing is overflowing with continuing successful series both in picture books and junior fiction. The list is quite staggering. Everything is happening in the next few months so it’s quite exciting! There is MORE: Hot Dog!, Real Pigeons, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Treehouse, Bad Guys, Ella Diaries, Ranger’s Apprentice, Nevermoor, Funny Kid, Weirdo and Dog Man, to name just a few.
We also have popular reoccurring picture book characters with Whitney and Britney: Chicken Detectives by Lucinda Gifford; Macca and Al, Super Pals by Matt Cosgrove; The Grinny Granny Donkey by Craig Smith & Katz Cowley; Will You Be My Friend? By Sam McBratney and Anita Jeram; Julian at the Wedding by Jessica Love; Pig the Blob by Arron Blabey and more Bluey!
Extra special mention needs to be made for The Ickabog by J K Rowling out in November – make sure you get your pre-orders placed as early as possible.
Louise O. Adult Non Fiction
What’s on my bookshelf?
The Gran Tour: Travels with my Elders by Ben Aitken. One millennial, six bus trips, one big generation gap… Loved Ben’s first book, A Chip Shop in Poznan, and couldn’t go past the title of his latest. Out in November, I’m really looking forward to this one.
Disloyal: a Memoir: The True Story of the Former Personal Attorney to President Donald J Trump by Michael Cohen. Just announced, and out 23rd October. I always said that if there was one Trump book worth reading it would be by Michael Cohen. Here’s a guy who knows where the bodies are buried, and is mad enough to divulge their location!
A Cry From the Far Middle: Dispatches from a Divided Land, by P.J. O’Rourke, out 3rd November. Observations on the present political moment, and the absurdity that defines it. I am a huge fan of P.J. and I am really looking forward to this one.
And because a gal can’t live without a decent meal, I am also looking forward to Australian Food, by Bill Granger. 20 years since he released the bestselling Sydney Food, Bill celebrates today’s bright picture of Australian food.
For a complete run-down, check out my bookshelf.
Amanda S. Young Adult Fiction and Graphic Novels
Looking at the latter half of 2020 for YA fiction, we’re continuing to see a push from teenage readers for more diverse voices and it’s great to see that reflected in the range of new titles from POC authors: Grown by Tiffany D Jackson, Dear Justyce by Nic Stone, Punching the Air by Ibi Zoboi and Yusef Salaam, Darrius the Great Deserves Better by Adib Khorram, Dokkaebi: Vicious Spirits by Kat Cho, Super Fake Love Song by David Yoon, Forward Me Back to You by Mitali Perkins, The Voting Booth by Brandy Colbert, We Are Not Free by Traci Chee; and The Black Kids by Christina Hammonds Reed.
There are quite a few #LoveOZYA authors releasing their second novels: You Were Made for Me by Jenna Guillaume, This One is Ours by Kate O’Donnell, and Before the Beginning by Anna Morgan. Plus fan-favourites with highly anticipated new releases: None Shall Sleep by Ellie Marney, The Erasure Initiative by Lili Wilkinson, and The Left-Handed Booksellers of London by Garth Nix.
The number of graphic novels we’re seeing is increasing as is their popularity, especially amongst children and teenagers. For junior readers we have: The Odds by Australian author/illustrator Matt Stanton, Class Act by Jerry Craft, and Puppy Problems by Paige Braddock.
For teens there’s Teen Titans: Beast Boy by Kami Garcia and Gabriel Picolo, Wonder Woman: Tempest Tossed by Laurie Halse Anderson and Leila del Duca, The Grot by Australian author/illustrator Pat Grant, Gotham High by Melissa de la Cruz and Thomas Pitilli, and Stranger Things: The Bully by Greg Pak.
Adults can look out for Under-Earth by Australian author/illustrator Chris Gooch, Welcome to the New World by Pulitzer prize-winners Jake Halpern and Michael Sloan, and Stranger Things, Vol. 3: Into the Fire by Jody Houser.
Debbie C. Adult Non Fiction
As “mum” to gorgeous senior doggo, Louie (15 years and going strong!), I am ready for ‘crazy dog lady’ Laura Greaves’ Extraordinary Old Dogs, because these beautiful, loyal animals deserve to be celebrated. I’ll be reading it with a cuppa and Louie on my lap! Honourable mention goes to Andrew Cotter, along with his dogs Olive and Mabel, one of the good things to come out of COVID lockdown, and his book, Olive, Mabel and Me, looks to be a heartwarming ode to dogs. During the bushfires, our collective hearts were broken on a daily basis by the suffering of our beautiful animal wildlife, something I think we will never forget. In Animals Make Us Human, Australia’s favourite writers and photographers highlight the beauty and fragility of our unique fauna, while The 99th Koala will celebrate the koala’s of Kangaroo Island, and even if you get it for the cover alone, it’ll be worth it.
After a recent campervan mini-holiday, I am ready to explore more of Australia, and I am so excited for two upcoming Lonely Planet titles – Best Day Walks Australia and Gourmet Trails Australia and New Zealand. In my experience, Lonely Planet do not disappoint when it comes to their foodie recommendations – some of my most memorable meals are thanks to them!
There are some fascinating sounding, and timely, parenting books coming out – Maggie Dent, Australia’s “boy expert” will be helping parents of boys navigate the teen years in Boys to Men. Dr Jodi Richardson has written Anxious Mums, which is such an important title to come out as I think we’d be hard-pressed to find a mum who isn’t anxious to some degree, and possibly wasn’t until they had children. Bringing Up Race, by Uju Asika, is something all parents should be reading, and The Music Advantage, by Dr Anita Collins, shows the important role of music in child’s development.
I am constantly drawn to all the royal dramas, a real-life soap opera, a modern-day Tudors. Luckily there’s plenty of reading coming, with Meghan Misunderstood (Sean Smith), Finding Freedom (Omid Scobie and Caroline Durand) and Battle of the Brothers (Robert Lacey). Likewise, we can look forward to bumper biographies from showbiz legends Mariah Carey, Dolly Parton, Matthew McConaughey, Lenny Kravitz and Michael J Fox.
For years I’ve dreamed of visiting Cornersmith Café, so was very excited to see their new sustainable cookbook Use It All pop up, sure to be filled with delicious recipes. The crafter in me loves the look of Michele MacKintosh’s Sustainable Gifting – Christmas will be sorted without having to spend hours in the shops!
David Attenborough lays out his witness statement and vision of the future for our planet in A Life on Our Planet, and there are some home-grown titles also tackling climate change from Tim Flannery, Craig Reucassel, Rebecca Huntley and Paddy Manning. We simply cannot be distracted from this issue, and I am so glad these titles are coming out.
Finally, Deepak Chopra is going to help us get through the rest of 2020 with Total Meditation, the culmination of his teachings. I think we all need it!
Brooke H. and Ali S. Junior Non Fiction
We, the Junior Non-Fiction team at James Bennett, love all things beautiful, stimulating and cute. And over the second half of this year we are looking forward to seeing many exciting titles that will get kids interested in the world around them.
We have picked some of our favorite up-coming titles covering themes from STEM to folk tales, important social issues to history. For example, learn about Australia’s weather in ‘Australia's Wild Weird Wonderful Weather’ by Stephanie Owen Reeder, or if it’s history you’re interested in try ‘Castles: Conquer the World’s Most Impressive Castles’ by DK. If it’s folk tales and mythology that you’re after perhaps pick up a copy of ‘The Mermaid Atlas’ by Anna Claybourne, or ‘The Book of Mythical Beasts and Magical Creatures’ another amazing and beautiful book by DK.
We hope that with whatever grabs your fancy that you love them as much as we do!
Lee G. Adult Non Fiction
Looking back and looking forward…
Key Australian thinkers tackle the challenges that 2020 has brought us and propose ideas for a better new normal. Contributors to The Conversation Yearbook: 2020 The Year That Changed Us include Michelle Grattan, Raina MacIntyre and Peter Greste while Tanya Plibersek is the editor of Upturn: A better normal after Covid-19. Upturn features essays by experts Ross Garnaut, Sally McManus, Heather Ridout, Tim Southphommasane and more on what happens next.
In many ways, what happens next is also the theme of United We Are Unstoppable: 60 Inspiring Young People Saving Our World. Among the sixty, you’ll find Australia’s Alex Whitebrook and Kailash Cook. From youth to wisdom takes us to Sir David Attenborough’s legacy-defining A Life on Our Planet: My Witness Statement and Vision for the Future. A reflection on his life’s work, the dramatic changes he has witnessed, and what we can do to make a better future.
Sustainable Gifting by Michelle Mackintosh shows us how to help with beautiful and practical zero-waste presents and packages. A perfect antidote to the excesses of the festive season. And when the festive flavoured fare is also too much, pick up Hetty McKinnon’s latest cookbook: To Asia, With Love.
There is an embarrassment of riches in memoir and biography on offer. Look out for: the extraordinary Hollywood Park: A Memoir by Mikel Jollett; Just Ignore Him by Alan Davies; Unseen by the ABC’s Jacinta Parsons; Truths from an Unreliable Witness by comedian Fiona O’Loughlin; Soar: A Life Freed by Dance by ballet great David McAllister; and The Handbag of Happiness: And other misunderstandings, misdemeanours and misadventures by the inimitable Alannah Hill.
And do read Friday on My Mind: The life of George Young by Jeff Apter. It’s impossible to overstate the influence of George Young, and his key partnerships, on modern Australian music.
More of what made modern Australia is found in Sean Doherty’s Golden Daze. This is social history wrapped in snapshot memoirs – a year in the life of Australia’s top surfers from 1963 to now, from Peter Troy and Midget Farrelly to contemporaries like Mick Fanning and Tyler Wright.
For a cultural legacy of a different oeuvre, discover The Secret Life of the Savoy and the D’Oyly Carte Family. Olivia Williams tells their story through three generations, and a family business that attracted glamour, scandal and a cast of eccentric characters.
There are more secrets to discover in Jill Lepore’s If Then: How One Data Company Invented the Future; in The Secret Life of Stars: Astrophysics for Everyone by Lisa Harvey-Smith; Subterranea: Discovering the Earth’s Extraordinary Hidden Depths; and Things They Don’t Want You to Know: How to raise a 21st century teenager by Ben Brooks. Plus a taste of poetry, art, architecture, interior design, natural history and more.