Inside the Australian and New Zealand book industry

Image. Advertisement:

Christmas in July

Books+Publishing rounds up Australian publishers’ top local adult titles releasing in time for Christmas 2021.

Literary highlights

Hannah Kent’s hotly anticipated third novel Devotion (Picador, November), set in 19th-century South Australia, is sure to fly off the shelves this Christmas. ‘I can’t wait for Devotion to be published so I can finally talk to people about it,’ says Pan Macmillan publishing director Cate Paterson. ‘It is stunning.’ Another long-awaited work of fiction is Jennifer Down’s second novel Bodies of Light (Text, November), a book that is already gaining pre-publication buzz for its epic scope (as well as its physical heft). Meanwhile, come November, fans of Inga Simpson’s have her post-apocalyptic new novel The Last Woman in the World (Hachette)—her first since 2016’s Where the Trees Were—to look forward to.

Allen & Unwin has books by several literary heavyweights due out in late 2021, including new novels from Stella Prize winner Emily Bitto, two-time Miles Franklin winner Michelle de Kretser, and 2021 Victorian Prize for Literature winner Christos Tsiolkas. Publisher Jane Palfreyman says de Kretser’s Scary Monsters (October) is a ‘devastating, profound and darkly funny’ exploration of the monsters of racism, misogyny, and ageism; fellow October release, Bitto’s ‘astonishing’ Wild Abandon follows a heartbroken young man as he flees Australia for the excess of end times capitalism in New York and tragedy and annihilation in the Midwest. Publishing in December, Tsiolkas’s Fellini-inspired (November) is, according to Palfreyman, a ‘breathtakingly audacious novel about memory and beauty’.

Debut novelist Diana Reid’s Love & Virtue (October)—the subject of an eight-publisher auction—is at the top of new publisher Ultimo Press’s very first Christmas list. ‘This incredible debut tackles big subjects like sex, power and consent,’ says publishing director Robert Watkins. ‘It’s the perfect reading group conversation starter set in an Australian college setting; I can’t wait for readers to start talking about it!’ Watkins is also excited about Hannah Bent’s ‘astonishingly beautiful’ debut When Things are Alive They Hum (August) and Robyn Mundy’s ‘gripping, evocative’ Cold Coast (November), a novel based on the life of Norway’s first female trapper.

In October Terri-ann White, publisher and founder of another new press, Perth-based Upswell Publishing, will release John Hughes’s follow-up to his Miles Franklin shortlisted novel No One (UWAP), which White published in 2019. ‘The Dogs is impactful, following a narrative many of us encounter in our intimate lives: an ambivalence about continuing to live as ageing destroys body and mind,’ says White. ‘It is humane, funny, tender and insightful, and I am very proud to be publishing it.’

Fellow Perth publisher Fremantle Press will release Maria Papas’ City of Fremantle Hungerford Award winning Skimming Stones in November. The same month Transit Lounge will release Eugen Bacon’s Danged Black Thing, ‘a moving collection of stories about love and migration, gender, class and patriarchy’ according to publisher Barry Scott. In September, HarperCollins will seek to recreate Trent Dalton’s success with Brendan Cowell’s ‘total knockout’ Plum (Fourth Estate), another novel with ‘roaring energy, a raucous humour, a heart of gold and a poetic soul’.

Miles Allinson’s long-awaited second book In Moonland (September) is described by Scribe associate publisher Marika Webb-Pullman as ‘a brilliant, daring novel, epic in scope but intimate in its expression’, while Max Easton’s Western Sydney–set debut The Magpie Wing (Giramondo, September) crosses between sport, music and politics, and the ways in which identities are formed and transformed by cities and their subcultures. In October, UQP will release artist and writer S J Norman’s debut short story collection Permafrost. ‘S J Norman is an extraordinary writer and these literary ghost stories will haunt readers through their mysterious, unsettling beauty,’ says publisher Aviva Tuffield. ‘With its auto-fictional resonances, this book has prize-winner written all over it.’

Blockbuster fiction 

The small publisher with the biggest hit of the pandemic—Pip Williams’ The Dictionary of Lost Words—has a pair of new thrillers from Christian White and Anna Downes releasing just in time for Christmas. Affirm Press is excited for White’s third novel, Wild Place (November), described by the publisher as ‘unsettlingly close to home’, as well as Downes’s ‘superb’ follow-up to The Safe PlaceThe Shadow House (October).  

Pan Macmillan publishing director Cate Paterson can’t wait for a pair of new blockbusters from Liane Moriarty (Apples Never Fall, Macmillan, September) and Matthew Reilly (The One Impossible Labyrinth, Macmillan, October). ‘I’m also excited about seeing Sally Hepworth reach new readers with what I think is her best book yet, The Younger Wife (Macmillan, November),’ says Paterson. From Hachette is a new novel by ‘everyone’s cup of tea’ Joanna Nell, The Tea Ladies of St Jude’s Hospital (October), while publishing ahead of Christmas is a pair of already well-reviewed uplit novels: Amal Award’s ‘delightfully uplifting’ The Things We See in the Light (Pantera, September) and Jacquie Byron’s Happy Hour (September). A&U publisher Kelly Fagan is particularly excited about Byron’s debut. ‘Flamboyant, fabulously prickly, and full of love, Franny Calderwood is perhaps my most favourite ever fictional heroine,’ says Fagan. ‘Happy Hour is just the (gin &) tonic for our times.’



Coming in October is Heather Morris’s third novel, Three Sisters. It’s ‘an absolute must-read for every fan of The Tattooist of Auschwitz’ according to Echo publisher Tegan Morrison. ‘Based on another heartbreakingly true story of the Holocaust, it will leave readers gasping at what the human spirit can overcome.’ Meanwhile, Sara Foster’s latest novel The Hush (HarperCollins, October) is a ‘blistering’ new thriller about the bonds between mothers and daughters and the lengths they will go to protect each other against the powerful forces that threaten them. 

Penguin Random House is bringing out the big guns for Christmas: Judy Nunn’s Showtime! (William Heinemann, October), about the golden age of Australian theatre; Fiona McIntosh’s The Spy’s Wife (Michael Joseph, November), a romance set in pre-WWII Europe; and Tom Keneally’s historical homage to life in regional towns, Corporal Hitler’s Pistol (Vintage, September). Historical fiction fans can also expect a new novel from bestselling author Natasha Lester—Hachette says it has just signed off on Lester’s ‘biggest print run to date’ with The Riviera House (September)—as well as Tania Blanchard’s Echoes of War (Simon & Schuster, October), which publisher Cassandra di Bello says is ‘another heartrending novel inspired by a true story from the bestselling author of The Girl from Munich’.

For the crime lover in the family, look no further than Fremantle Press. Publisher Georgia Richter points to the tense small-town mystery The River Mouth (Karen Herbert, October); the ‘joyous, cheesy murder-mystery romp’ Fromage (Sally Scott, October); and Alan Carter’s Crocodile Tears (November), ‘a nail-biting farewell to Detective Cato Kwong’.  

Scribe publisher Henry Rosenbloom describes The Orchard Murders (August), book four in Robert Gott’s series set in 1940s Melbourne, as ‘riveting’, while Text publisher Michael Heyward says he can’t wait for readers to discover Garry Disher’s latest police procedural, The Way it is Now (November). Transit Lounge publisher Barry Scott says readers of Jane Harper and Chris Hammer will love Peter Papathanasiou’s outback noir The Stoning (October), rights to which have already sold to MacLehose Press in the UK.

Memoir and biography


Among the most highly anticipated memoirs of the year are Helen Garner’s third volume of diaries How to End a Story: Diaries 1995–1998 (Text, November), a portrait of marriage, motherhood and womanhood, and Melbourne writer Heidi Everett’s My Friend Fox (Ultimo, September), which publishing director Robert Watkins describes as ‘a beautiful memoir that that explores the realities of Australia’s mental health system through the eyes of someone living with schizophrenia’. 

Several memoirs by public figures will be published in time for Christmas. Shane Jenek aka drag superstar Courtney Act’s Caught in the Act (Pantera, November) is, according the publisher, a ‘no-holds barred’ account of Courtney Act’s rise to fame, as well as a world coming to terms with full ranger of gender identity an expression, ‘told with candour and wit’. ABC journalist Paul Kennedy presents an ‘eloquent and rugged’ memoir of growing up in Frankston, Victoria in Funkytown (Affirm, October), while fellow ABC reporter Lisa Milar shares the highs and lows of her career in Daring to Fly (Hachette, September). John Marsden recounts his career as an author and educator in Take Risks (Macmillan, October), laying out ‘a forthright discussion on teaching, parenting and society as a whole’ according to publisher Claire Craig. Also coming soon from Macmillan is No One Left Behind (October) by Vietnam and Korean war veteran and Victoria Cross recipient Keith Payne. From Australian actor Lynne McGranger—best known for playing Irene Roberts on Home and Away—is Acting Up: Me, myself and Irene (Echo, November), which Echo publisher Tegan Morrison calls a ‘behind-the-scenes look at her childhood and career, especially all the juicy bits!’

In biographies, Patsy Millett paints an ‘intimate, sharp and controversial portrait’ of her mother, the acclaimed writer and historian Dame Mary Durack in Inseparable Elements (Fremantle Press, November); while Evelyn Juers’s new book The Dancer (Giramondo, October) follows the life and early death of Australian dancer and choreographer Philippa Cullen through her friends, family and personal documents. Releasing in November, William Cooper: An Aboriginal life story by Aboriginal activist Bain Attwood (Melbourne University Press) recounts Cooper’s life, focusing on his political work and campaigns.

For sports fans, rugby and boxing legend Sonny Bill Williams recounts his life story in Sonny Bill Williams: You Can’t Stop the Sun from Shining (with Alan Duff, Hachette), while James Curran tells the story of Australian rugby player David Campese and his rise to the top of the sport in Campese (Scribe, November). Publisher Henry Rosenbloom describes the book as ‘a vivid account of Australian rugby’s most gifted player’.

Arts, culture and society

Keep an eye out for several books on music this Christmas, beginning with Ed Ayres’ Whole Notes (ABC Books, October), an exploration of how music consoles and restores us in moments of difficulty and challenges. Another ABC Books publication is NT journalist Matt Garrick’s Writing in the Sand (October), a story about the legendary music group Yothu Yindi and how their song ‘Treaty’ gave voice to a movement. From Monash University Publishing comes Freak Out: How a musical revolution rocked the world in the sixties (November), Tony Wellington’s account of pop and rock music in the sixties and its impact on Australian culture.

Black Inc.’s Seeking Asylum: Our stories anthology (December) is published in partnership with the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre. According to publisher Kirstie Innes-Will, the book will help readers ‘grasp the complexity and diversity of lived experience for people seeking asylum’ and give contributors a platform to share their stories in their own voices. From HarperCollins is Trent Dalton’s first work of nonfiction Love Stories (Fourth Estate, November), a book of tales Dalton collected from interviewing and listening to everyday Australians. HarperCollins calls it ‘the tonic we need as we pull out of these dark Covid times’. On the topic of love, Clementine Ford offers a deeply personal exploration of love in all its forms in How We Love: Notes on a life (A&U, November). Publisher Jane Palfreyman describes it as a ‘tender, lyrical and revealing memoir’ from one of Australia’s modern feminist icons

The much-anticipated book Well Hello, based on Leigh Sales and Annabel Crabb’s hit podcast Chat 10 Looks 3, will be released by Penguin in October. On the topic of women supporting women, Macmillan’s Sheilas (Eliza Reilly, November) is a celebration of the fierce and fabulous women we were never taught about in school. ‘It is the perfect Christmas present for all of the women and right-thinking men in your life,’ claims Cate Blake, Macmillan’s nonfiction publisher. A&U’s My Body Keeps Your Secrets (Lucinda Osborne-Crowley, September) gives voice to shame and the secrets held in the bodies of women, trans and non-binary people, in what publisher Kelly Fagan calls an ‘elegant and timely work of nonfiction’.

From decorated writer Charlotte Wood comes an illuminating new title on creativity, art and resilience. In The Luminous Solution (A&U, October), Wood draws on research and shares her insight on what artists can teach us about dedication, endurance and courage in difficult times. At the top of the list of things that have disrupted our lives is the Covid-19 pandemic. From Transit Lounge is Ken Haley’s humorous account of his adventures in North America and the Caribbean during 2020—despite the pandemic and the obstacles it created (The One That Got Away: Travelling in the time of Covid, November). Transit Lounge’s Barry Scott calls it ‘a book for our times’.

Closer to home, take a walk (or seven) through Melbourne’s hidden paths and histories in Robyn Annear’s Adrift in Melbourne (Text, December), as Annear unveils the stories behind Melbourne’s architecture and streets. Claire G Coleman debuts her first work of nonfiction Lies, Damned Lies (Ultimo, September) as she takes readers through the history of colonial Australia through the lens of her own experience. Ultimo’s Robert Watkins describes this book as ‘an absolute firecracker … that is sure to make readers think more about the devastating intergenerational effects of Australia’s colonial past, present and future’. 

Poetry and essays


UQP’s Fishing for Lightning: The spark of poetry (Sarah Holland-Batt, October) is an ode to the poetic form. Poet and critic Holland-Batt provides an accessible masterclass in how to read—and love—poetry, illuminating the power poetry has in shaping our lives. Chelsea Watego theorises the daily ongoing racism faced by First Nations people in Australia in her essay collection Another Day in the Colony, to be published in November by UQP. ‘Deeply personal and full of staunch’, Another Day in the Colony is described by publisher Aviva Tuffield as ‘a must-read book that everyone who followed the international Black Lives Matter movement needs to devour next’.

Giramondo will release two highly anticipated poetry collections later this year: Eunice Andrada’s second book of poems TAKE CARE (September), a radical collection exploring survival amidst colonial and sexual violence, and Andy Jackson’s Human Looking (October), which offers groundbreaking insight into the experience of disability and gives voice to the ‘other’. The publisher will also release Gerald Murnane’s final book of essays Last Letter to a Reader (November), in which Murnane reflects on each of his books and the ideas and images that influenced his writing.

History and true crime


David Hunt takes us through the history of Australia in his third ‘Girt’ book (Girt Nation, Black Inc., November), in what publisher Chris Feik calls ‘a hilarious and brilliant account of the birth of Australia’. Meanwhile, Australia’s Jazz Age is revealed in Deidre O’Connell’s Harlem Nights (Melbourne University Press, November), in which the author brings the personalities and politics of this unfamiliar slice of history to life. Also from MUP, Vandemonians by Janet McCalman (October) is an account of the social world of 19th-century Victoria, and the influence of convict settlers from Van Diemen’s Land.

Historian Ian Hoskins expands his gaze from our rivers and coastline to explore Australia’s connection to the Pacific (Australia & the Pacific: A history, NewSouth, October), while Leigh Straw’s Petticoat Parade (Fremantle Press, September) recounts the life of Madame Marie Monnier and the other businesswomen who dominated Australia’s brothels for half a century. In The Incredible Life of Hubert Wilkins (Hachette, November) Peter FitzSimons tells the story of the titular 20th-century adventurer, ‘a daredevil who tried it all and just happened to witness some of the most significant events of his time’, according to the publisher.

True crime goes to the outback with Larrimah (A&U, October), an investigation into one of Australia’s greatest mysteries around a dying town and a missing man, written by journalists Caroline Graham and Kylie Stevenson. Publisher Kelly Fagan calls it ‘a rollicking, unputdownable story that is so well-told’. Emma Partridge takes us through the story of wealthy sheep farmer Mathew Dunbar’s death in The Widow of Walcha: A true story of love, lies & murder in a small country town (S&S, December).

Politics, environment and current affairs

Gold Walkley recipient Mark Willacy’s Rogue Forces (S&S, September) draws upon his Four Corners report in this insiders’ account of SAS soldiers crossing the line in Afghanistan, going from elite soldiers to unlawful killers. Publisher Fiona Henderson describes this book as ‘narrative nonfiction at its terrifying best’. 

From Black Inc. comes Sean Kelly’s The Game: A portrait of Scott Morrison (November), a book that, according to publisher Chris Feik, provides readers with ‘the deepest, most acute portrait of Scott Morrison and the Australia he wants to make’. Fellow political commentator Judith Brett has been shaping Australians’ conversations about politics since the 1980s. Doing Politics: Writing on public life (Text, November) brings together Brett’s finest essays on some of Australia’s most perplexing issues.

John Safran’s latest work of nonfiction, Puff Piece (Hamish Hamilton, September) looks at the vaping industry, zeroing in on Philip Morris and his company Marlboro as they claim to shut down the cigarette company and relaunch it as a health enterprise. Thames & Hudson’s No, You’re Not Entitled to Your Opinion (ed by Alexandra Hansen, September) is a book of essays from the writers at the Conversation on topics that have disrupted this past decade. Publisher Sally Heath calls the anthology ‘insightful and visionary’.

Drawing on their respective groundbreaking books, Bill Gammage and Bruce Pascoe come together in Country, Future Farming (Thames & Hudson, November), the third book in the First Knowledges series. Publisher Sally Heath says it is a ‘powerful book that argues for an urgent rethink of land management in Australia’. Meanwhile, fellow academic Quentin Beresford turns his attention to a river system in crisis in The Wounded Country: The Murray–Darling Basin (NewSouth, September). 

In Scribe’s Crimes Against Nature (November), Jeff Sparrow explores the root of climate change: capitalism. Scribe publisher Henry Rosenbloom describes the book as ‘a sweeping historical survey by one of Australia’s leading public intellectuals. 

From Walking Award–winning writer Delia Falconer comes a book of essays on how global warming is not only affecting our climate but our cultures. In what publisher Ben Ball describes as a ‘beautifully observed, brilliantly argued and deeply felt’ book, Signs and Wonders: Dispatches from a time of beauty and loss (Scribner, September) explores how our art, relationships and lifestyles have transformed under climate change. 

Health and personal development 

September sees the publication of Mortals (A&U) by renowned Australian psychologists Ross Menzies and Rachel Menzies. For fans of Sapiens and HumankindMortals delves into how the fear of death has influenced human history.

From the author of Plants for the People comes The Plant Clinic (Erin Lovell Verinder, Thames & Hudson, September), a straightforward guide to herbal medicine. With over 150 recipes for over 100 conditions contained in the book, publisher Kirsten Abbott says, ‘Erin Lovell Verinder does for plant medicine what Michael Mosley did for fasting—easy, effective results.’

Crowned Miss Universe Australia in 2017, Olivia Molly Rogers shares her personal story in Find Your Light: Learning to accept and embrace yourself (Echo, November). As an advocate for body positivity and mental health, Rogers ‘gives readers great tips on mindfulness, body positivity and resilience’, says publisher Tegan Morrison.

Cookery, design and gift 

There are plenty of beautiful illustrated books choose from this coming holiday season, including several cookbooks by well-known Australians. Where the River Bends by Jane and Jimmy Barnes (HarperCollins, October) features more than 70 recipes, accompanied by photography, anecdotes and personal recollections. Matt Preston’s World of Flavour (Matt Preston, Lantern, November) celebrates the most-loved food from around the world right here in our home kitchens—some dishes in their classic form, others with a special ‘Matt twist’. Belinda Jeffrey’s A Year of Sundays (A Julie Gibbs Book for Simon & Schuster, November) is, according to publisher Julie Gibbs, ‘a heartwarming book from one of Australia’s best loved recipe writers based on her Sunday morning Instagram posts that have a cult following’. 

In Glass: The life and art of Klaus Moje (Nola Anderson, December), NewSouth says, ‘The internationally renowned glass artist Klaus Moje’s striking works combine with designer Daniel New’s incredible design in a blast of colour.’ Design afficionados have Anna Spiro’s A Life in Pattern (Thames & Hudson) to look forward to in October. ‘No one does pattern and colour like interior designer Anna Spiro,’ says publisher Kirsten Abbott. ‘This highly anticipated follow-up to Absolutely Beautiful Things is unrivalled in terms of visual inspiration and capturing the work of a woman at the height of her talents.’ Also coming soon from Thames & Hudson is Where They Purr, which shows cats in their natural habitats––inside beautiful houses. ‘In this compilation of exceptional interiors, we see the elegance only a cat can bring to the home,’ says Abbott. 

For nature lovers, NLA Publishing has Mountains (November), a celebration of Australia’s mountains by painter, photographer writer and historian Alasdair McGregor, as well as an illustrated history of the beloved budgie, Flight of the Budgerigar (October) by ornithologist Penny Olsen. NLA Publishing says senior curator of anthropology at the South Australian Museum Philip Jones has spent years working on Illustrating the Antipodes (August) an ‘authoritative and beautifully bound’ retracing of 19th-century naturalist George French Angas’ journeys through Australia and New Zealand. ‘The book is richly illustrated with rarely seen watercolours, sketches and lithographs from the young artist,’ adds the publisher.

Exisle’s coffee table book MOO: A book of happiness for cow lovers (ed by Angus Galloway, November) is perfect for animal lovers. For the writer in your life, The Turning Point: Moments that changed lives, edited by Exisle CEO Gareth St John Thomas (October), is a ‘beautifully packaged’ gift book that looks at the moment when the writers saw their lives significantly alter.

Stay tuned for our children’s and YA Christmas round-up next week.



Category: Features