Penguin

To complement our 2017 ‘Books of the Year’, we invited several senior publishers to nominate their favourite books – all published by other companies.

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Australia’s birds stand out from the global avian pack in many ways – ecologically, behaviourally, because some ancient lineages survive here, and because many species are endemic. The ancestors of more than half of the planet’s ten thousand bird species (the songbirds) evolved right here (eastern Gondwana) before spreading across the world. Indeed, Tim Low claims in this important and illuminating book that Australia’s bird fauna is at least as exceptional as our mammal fauna, which has such remarkable elements as the egg-laying monotremes (platypus, echidna) and our marvellous radiation of marsupials (kangaroos, quolls, bandicoots, possums, etc.). Can this be so? As a mammologist, my initial response was that Low’s claim is a bit rich, but, after reading this book, I take his point.

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Tigerfish by David Metzenthen

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September 2014, no. 364

Ryan Lanyon sees something special in Ariel the moment he meets her. He can tell that she is out of place here, in the middle of suburbia, where the too-bright mall lights offer no real security from the dangers outside.

Ryan is an unlikely hero. Surprisingly insightful, he is the first of many characters in Tigerfish that encourage us to look beneath their rough exteriors. Ryan takes Ariel and her sister Kaydie under his wing. To him, they are exotic and fragile creatures who need to be saved. He’s not sure if he will be able to save them, but as far as he can see he is the best one for the job.

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Gravity by Mary Delahunty & Rudd, Gillard and Beyond by Troy Bramston

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September 2014, no. 364

Gough Whitlam may not have been one of the Australian Labor Party’s greatest prime ministers, but, since his defenestration by Governor-General John Kerr in 1975, he has been embraced as one of the ALP’s great martyrs. Kerr’s dismissal of the Whitlam Government galvanised the Labor movement. To Labor eyes, Kerr was Pontius Pilate and Whitlam the slain Messiah. New followers – many of them, like Whitlam, university-educated progressives – joined the ALP. New ideas were aired through policy think-tanks such as the Labor Resource Centre, headed by Jenny Macklin, a future federal deputy leader. Out of that angst and rage, a new ALP was forged. Labor was no longer a troglodyte party ruled by factional warlords and sectarian hatreds. It was a modern progressive movement hell-bent on winning and wielding power. After all, as Whitlam famously said to an ALP State Conference in Melbourne in 1967, ‘Only the impotent are pure.’

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Ben Ball was born in Melbourne in 1970. He grew up in London, New York, and Sydney, and went to school in all of these places. He completed an Arts/Law degree, in Australia, ‘more or less entirely to create the pleasing symmetry B. Ball, BA, LLB’. In the United Kingdom he undertook an M.Phil in Contemporary English Literature. Ball worked in London in publishing for more than a decade, with Bloomsbury, Granta, and Simon & Schuster. He returned to Australia when he began working for Penguin in January 2006. In 2011 he became Penguin’s Publishing Director.

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Golden Boys by Sonya Hartnett

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September 2014, no. 364

Sonya Hartnett writes for all ages, her work spanning children’s picture books to novels for young adults and adult readers. Her adult novels have been widely acclaimed; Of a Boy (2002) won the Age Book of the Year award and has been canonised as a Penguin Classic. In many ways, though, her pedigree as a much-awarded children’s writer has always characterised her career.

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David Cannadine is a distinguished transatlantic historian, the author of books on modern Britain and its empire, the biographer of G.M. Trevelyan and Andrew Mellon, and he recently wrote a perceptive account of the persistent anxiety over school history. An iconoclastic thinker and urbane stylist ...

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What happens if we take seriously the metaphor of a marketplace of ideas? Philosopher John Armstrong and economist Carsten Murawski recently tested that question in an article on theconversation.edu.au, by exploring the implications of a market logic for higher education (20 March 2012).They argued that student choice would remodel the teaching and research agendas of our universities – not instantly but over time, much as water carves out shapes in sandstone. The online response was instant, and unambiguous. Academics and doctoral students rejected the language of markets as profoundly hostile to their vision of a university. If students start paying for instruction, said one respondent, institutions will soon pander to ‘the lowest common denominator amongst student interests’.

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A Cook’s Life by Stephanie Alexander

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April 2012, no. 340

Most present-day Australian chefs (that is to say, cooks who earn a living through their training, practice, and culinary skills) who have written cookbooks are at the same time telling us about themselves. Is it not curious that, in general, cooks repeatedly praise the table for its central role in hospitality, conviviality, generosity, and equality, yet seem so needful of, so greedy for, praise?

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In After the Darkness, the third novel by Victorian writer Honey Brown, suburban couple Bruce and Trudy Harrison have their lives upended by a brutal attack while holidaying on the Great Ocean Road. This is only the tip of the narrative iceberg. Indeed, their ordeal at the hands of an opportunistic psychopath happens with such speed that the reader feels as disoriented as the victims do. Brown focuses on the Harrisons’ escape and return to their comfortable small-town life, as they grapple with the knowledge of their own desperate actions.

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