Why I need to read more Australian books

I’m sorry to admit that I really haven’t been pulling my weight over the years when it comes to supporting Australian authors. It’s not that I’ve actively avoided them, or have any sense of cultural cringe, or think that British or American writers are better. One of my all-time favourite books, Cloudstreet, was written by an Australian author, and will probably go down in history as one of the best books ever written.

I guess it’s partly due to my long-held obsession with Indian literature, in that I’ll almost always buy at least one Indian book every time I go to the bookshop. I also tend to go back again and again to my favourite authors, like Milan Kundera, Louis de Bernieres, Ian McEwan.

My rather random method to selecting books is also to blame. Because I rarely remember when people have recommended a specific book to me, I usually just wander the shelves, randomly select volumes from the shelf, read the blurb and pick out those that sound the most interesting. This has meant I’ve collected an eclectic combination of genres in my bookcase. I’ve rarely regretted a purchase. But it’s also meant that I’ve missed out on a lot of outstanding Australian literature.

There have been a few Australian books I’ve been wanting to check out recently, especially those authors who participated in the same manuscript development program that I did last year, and who have been talented enough to achieve publication. So I decided, on my most recent bookshop visit, to devote my purchase to entirely Australian authors.

And my god, I’ve read some outstanding books over the last month. I began with Favel Parrett’s Beneath the Shallows, moved on to Jasper Jones by Craig Silvey, followed by The Ottoman Hotel by Chris Currie, and I’m almost through Bereft by Chris Womersley. I won’t go into the plot of each of them; suffice it to say that each was stunning in its own way. It’s reinforced that we have some fantastic writers in Australia, and we need to support them.

And going on my experience of the last six months, Australian writers need all the support they can get. The publishing industry is in a big hole at the moment, and I don’t know if it’s going to improve anytime soon. Talent alone is no longer enough – you need a book that’s strongly marketable, and even then you need to find a publisher that’s willing to take a risk on you.

I don’t know if I have the talent to get published; I hope I do. I’ll keep trying. But in the meantime I’ll be sure to support our Australian writers as much as I can. Please check out these books. They’re fantastic stories by fantastic authors.

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