Australian publishers who attended this year’s Frankfurt Book Fair have reported strong interest in books on climate change and Mind Body Spirit (MBS).
‘Climate change was the big theme of the fair,’ said Black Inc. publisher and international director Sophy Williams, citing the buzz around forthcoming books by Bill Gates and Erin Brockovich. ‘The trend is away from scary science and towards practical solutions for tackling the problem.’ UNSW Press chief executive Kathy Bail also observed an interest in books on the climate crisis, as well as ‘smart nonfiction’ in general—‘and there is plenty of that in the NewSouth rights catalogue,’ she added.
Allen & Unwin rights and international sales manager Maggie Thompson said she believed a return to MBS is ‘on the cards’, but with a ‘smart-thinking angle’, while Murdoch Books publishing director Lou Johnson also picked up on the MBS trend, noting an explosion in ‘alternative health, spirituality and narrative-driven personal development’, dubbed ‘stealth help’.
While fiction may have been less popular at this year’s fair, a local cli-fi title has been building buzz in Australia. Alice Robinson’s second novel The Glad Shout (Affirm Press)—which ‘raises urgent questions about how we will experience the near future of our climate crisis’—has won the Readings Prize for New Australian Fiction. The judges described the novel as ‘a work of climate emergency fiction that unfolds as a pacey disaster thriller’ and ‘a story of a mother and her daughter, and the limitless love that defines that relationship’.
Looking ahead to 2020, the first guests for the annual writers’ festivals in Perth (21–23 February) and Adelaide (19 February to 5 March) have been announced (side note for our northern hemisphere readers: this is a lovely time of year to enjoy the Australian sunshine). Bruce Pascoe, author of the bestselling, award-winning nonfiction book Dark Emu (Magabala Books)—which has been published in the UK and is currently being adapted for TV—will headline the Perth Festival’s Literature and Ideas weekend, along with UK fantasy writer Neil Gaiman. The festival is based around the themes of ‘land, money, power and sex’. Nigerian novelist Chigozie Obioma, Pakistani journalist Sanam Maher and Australian writer and academic Tyson Yunkaporta, whose book Sand Talk: How Indigenous Thinking Can Save The World (Text) sold to the US in a six-figure deal, will appear at the opening event for Adelaide Writers’ Week. The festival explores the theme of ‘Being human’.