Hardie Grant Books

Sometime in 2017, one of the world’s largest academic publishers started quietly removing thousands of articles from its websites in China because they covered topics deemed politically sensitive by the Chinse Communist Party (CCP). Much of the offending material related to the three Ts: Taiwan, Tibet, and the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989. At the time I was a China correspondent for the Financial Times, and an academic who was horrified by this censorship tipped me off. I contacted the publisher, Springer Nature, which admitted that it had begun censoring to comply with ‘local distribution laws’. I naïvely thought that the exposure of such craven behaviour by the owner of Nature, Scientific American, and the Palgrave Macmillan imprint would prompt a huge backlash from academics, universities, and governments.

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The Stranger Artist is a finely structured and beautifully written account of gallerist Tony Oliver’s immersion into the world of the Kimberley art movement at the end of the twentieth century; the close relationships he developed over the following years with painters such as Paddy Bedford, Freddie Timms, and Rusty Peters; and the creation of Jirrawun Arts as a collective to both promote and protect the artists and their work. How these artists, under Oliver’s practical guidance, came to assume the mantle of the legendary Rover Thomas and took Kimberley art to the world provides a compelling narrative: from fascination to enthralment to disillusion. Dreams are born, bear fruit, and die. Like many a fine work of art, The Stranger Artist attracts with a brilliant surface while fascinating with its deeper layers. Behind the thrill and wisdom of the painting – so new and old, so luminous and dark – lurk the tragedies of history and dysfunctional politics. This book – how could it be otherwise? – is peopled with spectacular characters, art, and landscapes. Appropriate to this remote corner of Australia, it is full of intense colour and eccentricity, while also permeated with great sadness.

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Malcolm Turnbull looks us straight in the eye from the cover of this handsome book, with just a hint of a smile. He looks calm, healthy, and confident; if there are scars from his loss of the prime ministership in August 2018, they don’t show. The book’s voice is the engaging one we heard when Turnbull challenged Tony Abbott in July 2015 and promised a style of leadership that respected people’s intelligence. He takes us from his childhood in a very unhappy marriage, through school and university, his astonishing successes in media, business, and the law, his entry into politics as the member for Wentworth, and ends with his exit from parliament.

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When country needs burning, timing is everything, and the grasses, by how cool or warm they feel, tell you exactly when to light up. Victor Steffensen is a master of timing. His book about Indigenous fire management came out just weeks after Australia’s unprecedented fires inspired calls for more Indigenous burning to quell the danger.

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The ‘Uluru Statement from the Heart’ emerged in May 2017 from a convention held in Arrernte country in Central Australia attended by 250 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people from around the nation. The Statement called for a ‘First Nations Voice’ to be enshrined in the Constitution enabling, in general terms, a process of influence on future legislation and policy affecting Indigenous communities. The Statement also seeks a commitment to agreement-making between government and Indigenous groups and ‘truth-telling’ about the history of colonisation.

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During cold southern winters, the islands and atolls of the Pacific seem to offer an idyllic escape. Advertisements for cheap flights to Fiji or New Caledonia present smiling ukulele players and al fresco massages. More bleakly, despairing islanders, by virtue of their place of birth, experience the devastation wrought by urbanisation and the climate crisis.

For Melbourne writer Tom Bamforth, the Pacific is much more complex than either of these extremes. Over ten years, he has pursued and discovered a collection of layered and interesting places, learning much about the unique delights and challenges of life in our neighbouring Pacific nations.

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This autobiography by Tim Costello – Baptist minister, lawyer, anti-casino activist, CEO of World Vision Australia for thirteen years – is a clear and straightforward account of his life, free of obvious literary artifice. What Costello has tried to do, he says, is to understand and explain how his memories and experiences ...

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In the last four decades, a shift has occurred away from the post-World War II consensus around the role of the state. Conservative parties dominated by neo-liberal agendas have surged, assisted by the abandonment of progressive politics by centre-left parties such as Labour in the United Kingdom, the Democrats in the United States ...

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Jacinta Mulders reviews Troll Hunting by Ginger Gorman

Jacinta Mulders
Monday, 25 February 2019

Ginger Gorman’s book-length piece of investigative journalism, Troll Hunting: Inside the world of online hate and its human fallout, arose from her experiences as a victim of cyberhate in 2013. Through her own example, and the examples of others, she shows the vulnerability of all internet users to cyberhate ...

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Gareth Evans diagnosed the affliction of leaving government as relevance deprivation syndrome. For those who worked in the Obama administration, leaving the White House must have presented deeper maladies: the bewildering success of a reviled political opponent and a profound sense of missed opportunities. Two recently released memoirs by former Obama staffers grapple with this reality in very different ways.

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