Inside the Australian and New Zealand book industry

Image. Advertisement:

Booking ahead: 2017 nonfiction preview

Several Australian authors make their long-awaited return to publishing next year, alongside some promising debuts. Andrea Hanke and Vicki Stegink round up publishers’ nonfiction highlights for 2017. (See fiction titles here.)

‘Following in the footsteps of Jack Kerouac, sober’ is the tantalising subtitle of Lennox Nicholson’s travel tale On the Wagon, which will be published by Affirm Press in February. Nicholson, a ‘young, recovering alcoholic’, retraces Kerouac’s route in On the Road with the help of strangers he meets through Alcoholics Anonymous. ‘It’s an entertaining insight into the themes of freedom and addiction,’ says publishing director Martin Hughes. Also coming from Affirm in 2017 is sports journalist Angela Pippos’ Breaking the Mould: Taking a Hammer to Sexism in Sport (February), ‘a personal, rousing and actually very funny takedown of the ridiculous double standards that exist in sport and an inspiring account of how things are changing’. ‘It will be The Wife Drought for sports,’ says Hughes.

Auckland University Press director Sam Elworthy is looking forward to Anne Salmond’s ‘most ambitious work to date’. Tears of Rangi: Experiments across Worlds (May) explores the ‘clashes and encounters’ between Polynesian explorers, who arrived in New Zealand six centuries ago and ‘inhabited a cosmos in which islands sailed across the sea and stars across the sky’, and European explorers, who arrived four centuries later with ‘maps and clocks, grids and fences’.

Black Inc. tackles addiction, artificial intelligence and the Australian Greens in its 2017 nonfiction highlights. Publisher Aviva Tuffield is excited about Jenny Valentish’s Woman of Substances (April), ‘an insightful and brutally honest investigation into the nature of addiction and its treatment using a gender lens’; and publisher Chris Feik’s highlights are artificial intelligence researcher Toby Walsh’s Thinking Machines (March) and Paddy Manning’s Inside the Greens (September).

From Bonnier, Echo Publishing commissioning editor Julia Taylor is looking forward to Australian blogger Samone Bos’ ‘hilarious’ Momo Freaks Out (March). ‘Long before social media was a thing, there were blogs, personal stories by young dorks oversharing online to the amusement of their friends, and anyone else stumbling around in the dark on the net,’ says Taylor. ‘One of these young and innocents is Momo, baring her soul and relationships in stories equal parts funny and pitiful, and somehow keeping the whole thing a somewhat freaky-ass semi secret. Until now.’

Australian entrepreneurs Emma Grey and Audrey Thomas—creators of the online ‘My 15 Minutes’ program—will also be putting their story onto the page in I Don’t Have Time (February). Their book teaches readers how to tackle the ‘big issues’—health and wellbeing, career, relationships, finances, home environment, personal development and recreation—in ‘small chunks of just fifteen minutes a day’, says Exisle chief executive and publisher Garth St John Thomas.

A new book from parenting guru Steve Biddulph will be one of the big titles in 2017 for Finch Publishing owner Rex Finch. ‘10 Things Girls Need Most is different from Steve Biddulph’s Raising Girls in that it is interactive and will help parents assess their family dynamics and their daughter’s qualities and needs,’ says Finch.

Giramondo publisher Ivor Indyk has two nonfiction titles among his 2017 highlights: Alexis Wright’s Tracker Tilmouth: An Essayed Memoir (September), ‘composed of stories told about and by this charismatic Indigenous activist and entrepreneur’; and Vanessa Berry’s Mirror Sydney (July), ‘a collection of essays which explore the forgotten, overlooked and mysterious features of the city’.

The Vandemonian War: The Taking of Aboriginal Tasmania by Nick Brodie (July) ‘will be one of the most important books of the decade’, says Hardie Grant publicity manager Kasi Collins. ‘We all know how Britain colonised Van Diemen’s Land. This book is about what happened next.’ Collins is also looking forward to the first biography of Australian filmmaker
George Miller, Miller and Max by Guardian Australia film critic Luke Buckmaster (July).

Harlequin publisher Sue Brockhoff is looking forward to A Garden Apothecary by naturopath and ‘herb nerd’ Reece Carter (March). It’s a guide to ‘making your own natural remedies at home using recipes derived from ancient wisdom and modern science’.

‘Following the emotional childhood memoir Working Class Boy in October 2016, I am excited to be publishing the companion volume of Jimmy’s life story in November 2017,’ says HarperCollins nonfiction publisher Helen Littleton. ‘The second book will tell the story of Jimmy’s career and the merry‐go‐round of fame, drugs and rehab, across the Cold Chisel, solo and soul years.’ ABC Books publisher Jude McGee is looking forward to Tracey Spicer’s ‘funny, forthright and frankly feminist account of how, inspired by Jana Wendt, she went from young self-professed bogan to be one of Australia’s best-known TV news anchors’. Her memoir Good Girl Stripped Bare will be out in May. McGee is also ‘proud to be publishing a ground-breaking and compelling biography of Ned Kelly’s mother’, Mrs Kelly by Grantlee Kieza (March). My Kind of Food (April), Delicious magazine food editor Valli Little’s ‘first book in her own right’, is the nonfiction highlight for ABC Books publisher Brigitta Doyle.

Magabala Books publisher Rachel Bin Salleh is looking forward to Us Women Our Ways (March), a collection of stories and abstracts from Aboriginal women from around the country. ‘The editors have recognised the need to enable the voice of Aboriginal women as well as the critical importance of reflecting the diversity of Indigenous cultures within Australia,’ says Bin Salleh. She also recommends Noel Tovey’s And Then I Found Me (March), a follow-up to his 2004 memoir Little Black Bastard, which is ‘told with grace, humour and insight’.

Bruce Grant is a writer, scholar, advisor to politicians, former Australian High Commissioner to India and early advocate of the importance of Australia’s relations with Asia. His memoir Subtle Moments: Scenes on a Journey (January) is ‘beautifully evocative of people, places and times’ and ‘illuminates how Australia has changed and might still develop for the better’, says Monash University Publishing director Nathan Hollier. He is also looking forward to Australian Lives: An Intimate History by Anisa Puri and Alistair Thomson (April), a product of the Australian Generations Oral History Project. ‘Thomson and Puri have selected the stories of fifty people and painstakingly interwoven them in a way which reveals the flavour of life for Australians, at each age, from the 1930s to the 1980s,’ says Hollier.

‘We’re excited, at last, to have Elvis on the front of one of our books, even if it’s a fake Elvis,’ says NewSouth executive publisher Phillipa McGuinness. Outback Elvis by John Connell and Chris Gibson (January) is ‘a celebration of the Parkes Elvis Festival, which marks its 25th anniversary in January next year’. Other NewSouth highlights include a new edition of Colin McPhedran’s bestselling memoir White Butterflies (March), which recounts his ‘horrific walk from Burma to India during WWII’. McPhedran’s son and partner have written new material that ‘tells readers what happened after the book stopped’. There’s also Gerard Windsor’s The Tempest-Tossed Church (May), ‘a personal, reflective and ultimately moving account of the Catholic church’.

One of the most-anticipated titles from Pan Macmillan is Oprah Winfrey’s first cookbook, Food, Health and Happiness (January). Nonfiction publisher Ingrid Ohlsson is looking forward to a fully illustrated edition of Libby Weaver’s self-published health guide and cookbook Exhausted to Energised (April). ‘Dr Libby has a strong publishing history in New Zealand, where she regularly tops the charts. Since moving back to Australia, she has become a sought-after speaker and health expert in the media,’ says Ohlsson. Nonfiction publisher Angus Fontaine has his sights on a new book from Mia Freedman, which ‘explodes the myth’ that women can have it all.’ Freedman’s as-yet-untitled book will be out in April.

Penguin publisher Ben Ball anticipates a ‘star-studded first half of the year, with major books from John Safran, Rebecca Huntley and Gail Kelly’. However, his particular highlight is ‘commentator, advisor and rising star’ Jamila Rizvi’s Sorry, Just Lucky (July). ‘Rizvi will reset agendas with her exploration of the confidence deficit holding women back, the barriers to career success this can create and how they might be overcome.’ It’s ‘essential reading for millennial women’, he says.

Random House publisher Alison Urquhart is looking forward to a follow-up memoir from Australian burns survivor and motivational speaker Turia Pitt, Unmasked (April), which is written ‘with the benefit of hindsight and five years’ worth of getting of wisdom’. Her second pick is a biography of AC/DC frontman Bon Scott by music writer Jesse Fink (Bon: The Lost Highway, November). ‘There have been books that claim to tell his story. They haven’t even come close,’ says Urquhart. Publisher Meredith Curnow’s highlights include J M Coetzee’s Late Essays (September), featuring ‘a number of essays on Australian writers’; and ‘the story of perhaps the biggest miscarriage of justice in Australia’, All the Good Men (September) by Graham Archer.

South of Forgiveness by Icelandic journalist Thordis Elva and Australia-based Tom Stranger (March) is ‘an extraordinary tale of a rape survivor and the perpetrator coming together to shed light on the dark corners of humanity’, says Scribe publisher Henry Rosenbloom. ‘It’s a true story about being bent but not broken, of facing fear with courage, and finding hope even in the most wounded of places.’ The book has already been sold into numerous territories around the world. Rosenbloom’s second nonfiction highlight is Everything under the Heavens by former New York Times Asia correspondent Howard W French (April), ‘an eye-opening historical investigation of what lies behind China’s ever more aggressive behaviour in our region’.

Simon & Schuster MD Dan Ruffino is looking forward to the publication of Australian journalist Sue Smethurst’s true crime story Blood on the Rosary in September. The book tells the story of Margaret Harrod and her twin brother who, at the age of 22, gave themselves to the Catholic Church to become a nun and priest. Years later Margaret found out her brother was a paedophile. Another local nonfiction highlight is The Harbour by writer and documentary maker Scott Bevan (November), which uncovers ‘the history and stories’ behind the Sydney Harbour.

Spinifex Press publisher Renata Klein has written about her ‘objections to surrogacy by examining the short- and long-term harms done to the so-called surrogate mothers, egg providers and the female partner in a heterosexual commissioning couple’, in Surrogacy: A Human Rights Violation (August). Another highlight from the publisher in 2017 is Robert Jensen’s The End of Patriarchy: Radical Feminism for Men (January), which ‘gives an insight into how men might support radical feminists in our global movement towards a fair and transformed society’.

Text is publishing Kate Grenville’s The Case against Fragrance in February: ‘a powerful, beautifully written book about the science of scent and the power of the fragrance industry,’ says publisher Michael Heyward.

Thames & Hudson is working with Australian interiors stylist Megan Morton to publish It’s Beautiful Here (May). ‘Megan shares the intimate corners of her favourite abodes whilst offering tips and advice on how to host the perfect party and create a book collection like a connoisseur,’ says associate publisher Paulina de Laveaux.

Transit Lounge publisher Barry Scott is looking forward to two memoirs in 2017: Mark Holden’s My Idol Years (May), which ‘gives the reader a penetrating insight into celebrity, family, the music business and ageing in the public eye’; and Sanaz Fotouhi’s Journey of Hope (June), in which ‘the making of the film Love Marriage in Kabul provides a conduit to a deeper and more personal story that interrogates the author’s own Iranian childhood, the impacts of war, and the lives of those in Afghanistan’.

UQP publisher Alexandra Payne’s 2017 nonfiction highlights include Scoundrel Days, ‘an astounding coming-of-age memoir by Brentley Frazer (March), which I can liken only to a 21st-century On the Road or Tom Sawyer on acid’ (as an aside, Frazer wrote the memoir using an obscure literary constraint that avoids all tenses of the verb ‘to be’); A Wife’s Heart: The Untold Story of Bertha and Henry Lawson by Kerrie Davies (April), ‘a revisionist and revelatory look at the marriage of one of Australia’s most loved writers; and a memoir by former Greens leader Christine Milne, which will be released in the second half of the year.

Rob Snarksi is one of the original members of the Australian rock band The Blackeyed Susans, which formed in Perth. ‘You’re Not Rob Snarksi (February) is a charming account—in fragments—of the balladeer Snarski through his life in music,’ says UWA Publishing director Terri-ann White. Also on the publisher’s list is Tony Hughes d’Aeth’s book on the literary history of Western Australia’s wheatbelt region, Like Nothing on this Earth (March). ‘This is the first book that comprehensively studies a range of important writers who addressed matters of place and landscape—and environmental degradation—such as Jack Davis, Dorothy Hewett and John Kinsella,’ says White.

Ventura Press publisher Jane Curry describes Everyday Ethics by Simon Longstaff (June)— the ‘driving force behind the Festival of Dangerous Ideas and Sydney’s world class Ethics Centre’—as ‘a book that will challenge us all to make our lives matter’. ‘From euthanasia to public transport, migrant policy to gun control, this is the thinking person’s handbook for how to live ethically in a modern world,’ says Curry. Her second pick is Wasted: What You Need to Know about Your Teenager, Drugs and Alcohol by former Kings Cross Police youth liaison officer Trent Southworth (September).

Switch Off: How to Find Calm in a Noisy World by Angela Lockwood (January) comes ‘just in time for the post-Christmas hangover’, says Wiley senior marketing manager Peter Walmsley. ‘It shows the reader the multitude of benefits that come when you slow down and create space in our minds to harness the power of focus and perspective.’ Walmsley also recommends Janine Garner’s mentoring book It’s Who You Know: How to Build a Network of 12 Key People to Fast-track Your Success (March).


Category: Features Reviews newsletter Feature story Title round-up feature