Non Fiction

John Funder reviews 'We’re all going to die' by Leah Kaminsky

John Funder
28 February 2017

Good general practice is the cornerstone of a good healthcare system: Australia is blessed with both. Leah Kaminsky has been a Melbourne general practitioner for three decades and by her own explicit admission wrote We’re All Going to Die as a way to address her own fear of death. Her beloved mother was ‘the only leaf left dangling from her charred fami ... More

Bruce Moore reviews 'The Word Detective: A life in words, from Serendipity to Selfie' by John Simpson

Bruce Moore
28 February 2017

What does a lexicographer do? How do you become a lexicographer? What makes a good lexicographer? What is the difference between a ‘standard’ dictionary and a dictionary based on historical principles? How do you reinvent the Oxford English Dictionary so that it has a secure place in an online modern publishing world? These are among the questions explo ... More

Andrea Goldsmith reviews 'Berlin for Jews: A twenty-first-century companion' by Leonard Barkan

Andrea Goldsmith
28 February 2017

The title of this book has a resonance that would not occur, for example, in a text called ‘Paris for Jews’. Most readers will approach the work with understandings and expectations shaped by Hitler and the Holocaust. The title suggests that Berlin is a different city for Jews than for other visitors, and that Jewish Berlin itself is different from ecumenical Be ... More

Robert Reynolds reviews 'Getting Away with Murder' by Duncan McNab

Robert Reynolds
28 February 2017

The rash of unsolved murders of gay men along the Sydney coastline during the 1980s and early 1990s has been in the news again. In 2013, Australian Story ran a feature on the quest of American Steve Johnson to have the coronial ruling of suicide overturned for his younger brother Scott, who died at North Head in 1988. Lateline followed up ... More

James McNamara reviews 'Television: A Biography' by David Thomson

James McNamara
28 February 2017

Great books have been written on television. David Thomson’s Television: A biography is not among them. This surprises me, because Thomson is one of America’s most lauded film critics. To have his thoughts on television over the sweep of its history, viewed through his decades of experience, seemed a boon to me – a critic born in 1982. But Televis ... More

Duncan Fardon reviews 'Scoundrel Days: A memoir' by Brentley Frazer

Duncan Fardon
24 February 2017

Brentley Frazer, one of many scoundrels in his memoir Scoundrel Days, documents coming of age on the boundary of civilisation. His father’s vocation as the only policeman in a small northern Queensland mining town subjects Frazer to a chaotic side of life: a lockup only a stone’s throw from his bedroom; housing criminals and murderous poachers; bloodied ... More

Glyn Davis reviews 'The Best Australian Essays 2016' edited by Geordie Williamson

Glyn Davis
24 February 2017

An annual challenge: how to select essays which capture the moment but live beyond the immediate?

For some, rigour matters. The series editor for The Best American Essays invites magazine editors and writers to submit contributions to a Boston postal address. The rules are strict: an essay is a literary work that shows ‘an awareness of craft and f ... More

Diana Bagnall reviews 'The New Yorker Book of the 60s: Story of a decade' edited by Henry Finder

Diana Bagnall
24 February 2017

Journalism is on the back foot. That’s putting it kindly. Hundreds of newspapers and thousands of careers have been consigned to the great media burial ground since the dawning of the digital age. Those still standing operate in a climate of deepening mistrust. From Trump’s America to Erdoğan’s Turkey, demagogues saddled with democratic political systems trum ... More

Brian Matthews reviews 'Dymphna' by Judith Armstrong

Brian Matthews
24 February 2017

In the summer of 1988 I was part of an Adelaide Writers Week symposium on biography, the stars of which were two justly famous and accomplished biographers – Victoria Glendinning and Andrew Motion.  I described that occasion at the time, like this:

I greatly admired Motion’s panache. As we ascended the podium to begin the se ... More

Danielle Clode reviews 'Atomic Thunder: The Maralinga story' by Elizabeth Tynan

Danielle Clode
23 February 2017

Maralinga is a name familiar to most Australians as the site of British nuclear testing in the 1950s. Less familiar are the earlier tests at the Monte Bello Islands off Western Australia and Emu Field in South Australia. All have left a toxic legacy in our history.

Elizabeth Tynan’s finely researched book on the history of Maralinga and its precursors brin ... More

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