Gordy's desk 2022

December 2022

Gordy is a member of our Collections team. Consequently, her desk sees lots of interesting items pass across it. Here are some of her recommendations of books and DVDs for this year.


Faith hope and carnage by Nick Cave and Sean O'Hagan  

Faith, hope and carnage

By Nick Cave and Sean O'Hagan

Faith, Hope and Carnage is a book about Nick Cave's inner life created from more than forty hours of intimate conversations with Sean O'Hagan

An incredibly candid collection of musings from one of Australia’s most loved singer-songwriters and poets. The friendship between O’Hagan and Cave’s bleeds through their conversations here and helps to balance the, at times, very frank and confronting discussions on aging, personal trauma, and death. Aside from Cave’s personal life, there’s also a wealth of information here about the development of his songs and his wild times with the bands The Birthday Party, Grinderman and, of course, The Bad Seeds. 

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Agatha Christie: An elusive woman by Lucy Worsley  

Agatha Christie : an elusive woman

By Lucy Worsley

With access to personal letters and papers that have rarely been seen, Lucy Worsley's biography is both authoritative and entertaining and makes us realise what an extraordinary pioneer Agatha Christie was - truly a woman who wrote the twentieth century.

A comprehensive deep dive into the life and mind of one of mystery fiction’s most famous authors. Worsley’s book is full of amazing insight and titbits that shed light on Christie’s life and the inspiration of many of her most famous books. There is also great drama injected thanks to Worsley’s prose, leading you through the highs and lows that accompanied Christie’s fame. 

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The ballad of Abdul Wade by Ryan Butta  

The ballad of Abdul Wade

By Ryan Butta

When Afghan entrepreneur Abdul Wade first brought his camel trains to the outback, he was hailed as a hero. Horses couldn't access many remote settlements, especially those stricken by flood or drought, and camel trains rode to the rescue time and time again. But with success came fierce opposition fuelled by prejudice. The camel was not even classed as an animal under Australian law, and, in a climate of colonial misinformation, hyperbole and fear, camel drivers like Wade were shown almost as little respect. Yet all the while, for those in need, the ships of the desert continued to appear on the outback horizon. After his interest was piqued by a nineteenth-century photo of a camel train in a country town, Ryan Butta found himself on the trail of Australia's earliest Afghan camel drivers. Separating the bulldust from the bush poetry, he reveals the breadth and depth of white Australian protectionism and prejudice. Told with flair and authority, this gritty alternative history defies the standard horse-powered folklore to reveal the untold debt this country owes to humble dromedaries, their drivers and those who brought them here.

We’ve all heard of the Afghan Cameleers who transported goods to outback communities during the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. But how much do we know about the motivations and personal experiences of these stoic individuals? Butta’s book provides not only an amazingly in-depth account of the story of the Afghan Cameleers but also puts one of their most interesting and successful figures in the spotlight, Abdul Wade. Butta’s research has uncovered a truly unique account of a figure, indomitable in the face of discrimination, poverty and family drama.

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The murder of Professor Schlick by David Edmonds  

The murder of Professor Schlick : the rise and fall of the Vienna Circle

By David Edmonds

On June 22, 1936, the philosopher Moritz Schlick was on his way to deliver a lecture at the University of Vienna when Johann Nelbck, a former student of Schlick's, shot him dead at the university. Some Austrian newspapers defended him, while Nelbock himself argued in court that his one-time teacher had promoted a treacherous Jewish philosophy.

What is logical empiricism? And why did infighting between its intellectual proponents and the rise of fascism overshadow its promises for improving society? A perfect read for modern history lovers and dabblers in philosophy, Edmonds’ book provides an accessible window into the brief but eventful happenings of the intellectuals involved in the Vienna Circle during the inter-war years.

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We were wolves by Jason Cockcroft  

We were wolves

By Jason Cockroft

The boy lives in a caravan on his own in the woods. His dad, John, is in prison and promises to get out soon. All the boy needs to do is survive alone for a little while longer. But dark forces are circling, like the bad man he's been warned about, who arrives asking questions; and the rucksack the boy must keep hidden; and maybe, just maybe, more ancient forces that have lain asleep for an age.

A melancholic coming of age story set amidst an impoverished caravan community. Cockroft’s novel takes an unflinching approach to examining masculinity and trauma in the context of modern England. Cockroft enhances the experience by providing moody, sketch-like illustrations of a bleak and dangerous rural world, creating a unique visual impact that complements the written story.

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A psalm for the wild built by Becky Chambers  

A psalm for the wild built

By Becky Chambers

"In A Psalm for the Wild-Built, Hugo Award-winner Becky Chambers's delightful new Monk & Robot series gives us hope for the future. It's been centuries since the robots of Panga gained self-awareness and laid down their tools; centuries since they wandered, en masse, into the wilderness, never to be seen again; centuries since they faded into myth and urban legend. One day, the life of a tea monk is upended by the arrival of a robot, there to honour the old promise of checking in. The robot cannot go back until the question of "what do people need?" is answered. But the answer to that question depends on who you ask, and how. They're going to need to ask it a lot. Becky Chambers's new series asks: in a world where people have what they want, does having more matter?"

Imagine meeting a walking, talking robot. Now, imagine you had no existing concept of what a robot is.

This hopeful, post-dystopian science fiction novel presents a unique twist on human-cybernetic relations. Hugo-award winning author Becky Chambers’ story presents a fully developed vision of a future earth with a distinctly different civilisation and mythos. Chambers’ characters, human and robot alike, are colourful and curious as two societies rediscover their linkages. It’s also a beautifully described vision of a world pulled away from climate disaster and back to environmental balance; something we might all hope to live and see.

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Nimblefoot by Robert Drewe  


By Robert Drewe

At the age of ten, and just short of four feet tall, a boy from Ballarat named Johnny Day became Australia’s first international sporting hero. Against adult competition he wooed crowds across continents as the World Champion in pedestrianism, the sporting craze of the day.

A few years later, in 1870, he won the Melbourne Cup on a horse aptly called Nimblefoot, this time impressing British royalty and Melbourne’s high society. And then, still aged only fourteen, this already-famous athlete and jockey disappeared without a trace.

Robert Drewe picks up where history leaves off, re-imagining Johnny’s life following his great Cup win. Celebrations that night land him in the company of Prince Alfred himself and some key Melbourne identities. But when Johnny becomes a reluctant witness to two murders in the town’s most notorious brothel, he finds himself on the run again - this time from the law itself.

In fear of his life he heads west, assuming different identities to outsmart his pursuers. Yet all the while Johnny fears his luck will soon run out.

Johnny Day is a character that couldn’t be invented, but in the masterful re-imagining of his life Robert Drewe brings us an adventure story, a coming-of-age classic, a man-hunt, a thriller - but most of all, a rollicking good yarn. And in doing so, he lays claim to Johnny Day’s rightful place in Australia’s illustrious sporting history.

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More than a glass and a half: A history of Cadbury in Australia by Robert Crawford  

More than a glass and a half: a history of Cadbury in Australia

By Robert Crawford

This richly illustrated survey of Cadbury's in Australia includes the story of famous products like Freddo Frogs, Dairy Milk chocolate, Cherry Ripes and Bournville Cocoa. It reveals Australians' experience of Cadbury during peacetime and war, depression and prosperity. There's a lot in it for chocolate lovers and for history buffs. Also insights into market leadership, and a record of how the brand earnt and maintained the trust and affection of millions. The checkered and creative careers of Cadbury's competitors add drama to the narrative. In his balanced survey of highs and lows, Robert Crawford explains how the British parent company founded its first overseas factory, in Tasmania, and how that later helped to launch Australian innovations in China, America and other countries. After a hundred years manufacturing in Australia, Cadbury's renown is hardly surprising. But this book goes further back, to find Cadbury already a household name in Gold Rush times. It describes distribution hubs Cadbury's operated in Australian colonies, while representatives covered the country, even travelling the outback with camels. Cadbury's current ethos of care for the environment and social equity is traced back to the Quaker origins of the British and Australian enterprises. It's interesting to read of the moral concerns that made Cadbury wary of being identified with the war effort and Sydney's Gay Mardi Gras. But most interesting in this book is what it reveals about generations of Australians, their memories, and their place in the world.

This book is sure to indulge and pique the interest of historians and anyone who may simply love chocolate!  An enjoyable way to look back on recent Australian history and how the Cadbury name has become a household favourite.  I found looking through the numerous photographs and pictures had memories flooding back of this iconic brand.   

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The Library by Bella Osborne  

The Library

By Bella Osborne

Tom is invisible. He happily blends into the background of life. But Farah Shah changes everything. Farah makes Tom want to stand up and be seen - at least by her. So Tom quickly decides the best way to learn about women is to delve into romance novels, and he finds himself at the village library where he befriends 72-year-old Maggie. Maggie has been happily alone for ten years, at least this is what she tells herself. When Tom comes to her rescue after a library meeting, never did she imagine a friendship that could change her life. As Maggie helps Tom navigate the best way to ask out Farrah, Tom helps Maggie realize the mistakes of her past won't define her future. But when the library comes under threat of closure, it's up to Tom and Maggie to rally the community and save the library!

A sweet book about an unlikely pair who meet at the Library and work together to save it. I really enjoyed this book, and loved the intergenerational relationship between the characters and the Library. This is a great book to curl up with somewhere comfy with a hot cuppa, relax and a perfect story for when you need to remind yourself that there is good in the world.

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The book of sea shanties by Nathan Evans  

The book of sea shanties: Wellerman and other songs from the seven seas

By Nathan Evans

An epic journey through sea shanties, high tides and seven seas. The world sang in harmony with Nathan Evans, the Glaswegian postie turned singer of sea shanties. Join him as he takes you through time and seafaring history to discover the true meaning of Wellerman, and who and what exactly was the Drunken Sailor? Featuring over 35 best loved shanties, Nathan will share the meaning behind each of his favourite shanties and show how they have shaped and inspired him. Beautifully illustrated throughout, it will also include original shanties and bonus content written exclusively for this book. Whether you're young or old, gather around and discover the riotous world of sea shanties.

Much more than a mere catalogue of lyrics, this book gives historical and cultural insight into the development and purpose of sea shanties. The author himself has had a brush with fame thanks to these nautical tunes. Nathan Evans’ own rendition of the classic ballad ‘Wellerman’ has amassed more than one hundred million views on Youtube and reached number one in the UK music charts during the height of Covid lockdowns. 

In the introduction to the book, Evans details his experience with newfound fame and asserts his belief that the popularity of his renditions speaks to the strength of shanties still as a great form of socially inclusive music. All this aside, lovers of history and music alike will much of interest here; as well as many lovely maritime illustrations by Sally Taylor.

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Julian Assange in his own words  

Julian Assange in his own words

Compiled and edited by Karen Sharpe

The WikiLeaks publisher and free speech campaigner Julian Assange has, since April 2019, been remanded at a maximum-security prison in London facing extradition to the United States over WikiLeaks' ground breaking 2010 publications. Now, in this crisp anthology, Assange's voice emerges - erudite, analytic and prophetic. This book provides a highly accessible survey of Assange's philosophy and politics, conveying his views on how governments, corporations, intelligence agencies and the media function.

A decade after he sought asylum at the Embassy of Ecuador in London, Julian Assange still faces possible extradition to the United States from the United Kingdom. Here, many quotes taken from Assange’s media interviews and social media postings before and after his extradition ordeal began shed light on his philosophies related to democracy, media, censorship, postcolonialism and much more.

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Murder isn't easy: the forensics of Agatha Christie by Carla Valentine  

Murder isn't easy

by Carla Valentine

While other children were devouring the works of Enid Blyton and Beatrix Potter, Carla Valentine was poring through the pages of Agatha Christie novels - and that early fascination lead to her job as a pathology technician working in mortuaries and trained in forensics. Nearly every Agatha Christie story involves one - or more commonly several - dead bodies, and for a young Carla, a curious child already fascinated with biology, these stories and these bodies were perfect puzzles. Of course Agatha herself didn't talk of 'forensics' which, in the way we use it now, but each tale she tells twists and turns with her expert weave of human observation, ingenuity and genuine science of the era. Through the medium of the 'whodunnit', Agatha Christie was a pioneer of forensic science, and in Murder Isn't Easy Carla illuminates all of the knowledge of one of our most beloved authors.

Lovers of detective fiction and true crime alike will find much to enjoy in Valentine’s enlightening explanations and breakdowns of forensic analysis. From bloodstains to footprints and much more. Christie afficionados likewise will discover a wealth of information that gives new insight into the development of many of Christie’s most beloved stories, including Murder on the Orient Express, Death on the Nile, The Mysterious Affair at Styles and so many more.

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Elsewhere girls by Emily Gale & Nova Weetman  

Elsewhere Girls

by Emily Gale & Nova Weetman

Cat has recently started at a new school on a sports scholarship, and she's feeling the pressure of early morning training sessions and the need for total commitment. Fanny loves to swim and she lives for racing, but family chores and low expectations for girls make it very hard for her to fit in even the occasional training session.

Cat and Fanny have never met. They both live in the same Sydney suburb, but in different worlds, or at least different times: Cat in current-day Sydney, and Fanny in 1908. But one day, time slips and they swap places. As each girl lives the other's life, with all the challenges and confusion it presents, she comes to appreciate and understand herself and the role of swimming in her own life. Narrated in alternating chapters by Cat and Fanny, Elsewhere Girls is a moving and funny story of two girls with a deep connection, one based on the Australian Olympic champion, Fanny Durack. It's a fresh and engaging exploration of the challenges and pressures for young women growing up in the past and today. 

This book is about so much more than swimming, featuring themes of family, friendship, academic pressure, feminism, racism and injustices. Lovely, gentle but gritty Australian fiction that will leave you with a warm fuzzy feeling.

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Sketch by sketch by Sheila Darcey  

Sketch by sketch : a simple, daily drawing practice for emotional healing and transformation

by Sheila Darcey with Dr Rachel Smith

You don't need to be an artist to express yourself. All you need is a pen and paper, and a willingness to look within. Discover how to transform negative thinking and anxiety into abundant possibilities, mindfulness and joy with this restorative daily sketching practice. Sheila Darcey shows you how to create a practice that will help you move away from a negative headspace and spiralling emotions, towards the realm of possibility, happiness and clarity. As you embrace the process, you'll begin to experience a shift in perspective and discover how to find true fulfilment, one sketch at a time. Includes: over 40 sketching prompts, easy-to-follow guidance, an inspiring visual library, and a detailed Q&A at the back of the book.

I'm not much of an artist but I loved how this book helps you realize that this isn't so much about doing great art but expressing yourself in a new way that gets in touch with emotion.

Sketch by Sketch will help you create a daily sketching practice that shifts you from negative thinking and spiralling emotions into the realm of possibility. By using art to connect your left brain with your right brain, Sketch by Sketch will unlock your basic human need to create, express, and feel—regardless of whether or not you think of yourself as an artist

“You don’t have to be an artist to be a creator. You don’t have to be perfect to create. You don’t have to be fearless to take the leap.” - Sheila Darcey, Sketch By Sketch.

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Symphonies for the soul by Oliver Condy  

Symphonies for the soul: classical music to cure any ailment

by Oliver Condy

Within the pages of this book lie musical prescriptions that offer comfort, solace and strength in the face of dark times.

Whether you suffer from loneliness or laziness, from bereavement or betrayal, a heartbreak or a mere hangover, here you'll find the perfect piece of classical music to heal the heart, soothe the soul and cure the maladies of the modern world.

Musician and writer Oliver Condy takes the role of musical physician, using his years of experience to prescribe remedies for all manner of ailments in the form of classical music.

With more than 100 recommendations, Symphonies for the Soul is filled with fascinating stories behind the pieces and composers selected, and how in their own unique ways they can nourish the spirit in times of need.

Sometimes all I can do is make a cup of tea, put some music on and take a moment to be still and that is enough but if it brings you joy and comfort even better!

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The unseen body by Jonathan Reisman  

The unseen body : a doctor's journey through the hidden wonders of human anatomy

by Jonathan Reisman

In this fascinating journey through the human body and across the globe, Dr. Reisman weaves together stories about our insides with a unique perspective on life, culture, and the natural world.

Through his offbeat adventures in healthcare and travel, Reisman discovers new perspectives on the body: a trip to the Alaskan Arctic reveals that fat is not the enemy, but the hero; a stint in the Himalayas uncovers the boundary where the brain ends and the mind begins; and eating a sheep's head in Iceland offers a lesson in empathy. By relating his experiences in far-flung lands and among unique cultures back to the body's inner workings, he shows how our organs live inextricably intertwined lives in an internal ecosystem that reflects the natural world around us.

Reisman offers a new and deeply moving perspective, and helps us make sense of our bodies and how they work in a way readers have never before imagined. 

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The City Gardener by Richard Unsworth  

The City Gardener

by Richard Unsworth

Taking on urban spaces big and small, The City Gardener provides design-driven solutions and inspiration adaptable for all garden types.
Our urban gardens provide an essential green refuge amid the expanding concrete jungle. Even without the luxury of sprawling suburban lawns or vast garden beds, there are many ways to create unique verdant spaces in the inner-city – from a succulent-laden, full-sun rooftop to an entertainer’s semi-tropical courtyard.
The City Gardener demonstrates how inspired design can optimise the space we have, whether large or small, to create a plant paradise. The book explores twenty private gardens created by Richard Unsworth and his design practice, Garden Life. Ranging from 38 to 1385 square metres, the gardens run the gamut of possibilities for revolutionising urban home life outdoors.
Garden plans detailing layout and materials, as well as full planting lists, accompany each case study, and expert tips on design principles, planting palettes, furnishings and finishes make this the ultimate urban gardening resource. The City Gardener will inspire, educate and empower readers to celebrate and engage with their outdoor spaces.


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Costa's World by Costa Georgiadis  

Costa's World : gardening for the soil, the soul and the suburbs

by Costa Georgiadis

Bringing together all of Costa’s gardening and sustainability knowledge in one place for everyone to access, this is a book for the whole family that reflects Costa’s philosophy and quirky sense of fun. A generous, joyous, colourful, fully illustrated gardening opus, chapters include: The life-changing joy of chooks; kids in the garden; small space gardening; Costa’s favourite plants; growing the right plants for your conditions; biodiversity in the soil and garden; the power of community gardens; the brilliance of bees and pollinators; and easy-peasy permaculture.

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Well hello by Annabel Crabb and Leigh Sales  

Well hello

by Annabel Crabb and Leigh Sales

In 2014, two of Australia’s most high-profile journalists sat at a kitchen table, hit record on a phone and started a rambling conversation that’s still going on (and on). From books to TV, music to cooking, friendship to films, there’s little cultural terrain Annabel Crabb and Leigh Sales haven’t traversed in their oddly named but nonetheless wildly popular podcast Chat 10 Looks 3.
Now, in their first book together, the pair takes a stroll through some of the issues of our time, offering advice for would-be writers, thoughts on developing a rich reading life, tips for navigating the perilous world of social media, and the secrets of a great friendship, all with the digressions that listeners of their podcast have come to love. Here Crabb and Sales discuss kindness, success and failure, and not taking yourself - or others - too seriously, with a liberal sprinkling of fairy wrens, granny pants, show tunes, creative insults, diabolical mum bags and CLANGs.
Whether you’re a devoted listener of Chat 10 Looks 3, curious as to what all the fuss is about, or simply looking to cry-laugh on public transport, Well Hello is the book for you.


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Burning the books by Richard Ovenden  

Burning the books : a history of knowledge under attack

by Richard Ovenden

When this book landed on my desk I thought, this is it … this is definitely the book I am reading this Christmas holiday! It is exactly the kind of fascinating and compelling book that I find interesting because I admire writers who are not only passionate about their subject matter but deeply courageous. 
Though I’ll be sure to read it away from any naked flames.
An unforgettable 3,000-year-old journey - from Mesopotamian clay tablets trying to predict the future, to Tudor book-hunters and Nazi bonfires, and on into the dangers of our increasingly digital existence, Burning the Books shows how the preservation of knowledge is vital for the survival of civilization itself.


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Treasure and dirt by Chris Hammer  

Treasure and dirt

by Chris Hammer

Treasure & Dirt is a superb standalone thriller from the acclaimed and award-winning author of the international bestsellers Scrublands, Silver and Trust, Chris Hammer

In the desolate outback town of Finnigans Gap, police struggle to maintain law and order. Thieves pillage opal mines, religious fanatics recruit vulnerable young people and billionaires do as they please.

Then an opal miner is found crucified and left to rot down his mine. Nothing about the miner's death is straightforward, not even who found the body. Sydney homicide detective Ivan Lucic is sent to investigate, assisted by inexperienced young investigator Nell Buchanan.

But Finnigans Gap has already ended one police career and damaged others, and soon both officers face damning allegations and internal investigations. Have Ivan and Nell been set up and, if so, by whom?

As time runs out, their only chance at redemption is to find the killer. But the more secrets they uncover, the more harrowing the mystery becomes, as events from years ago take on a startling new significance.

For in Finnigans Gap, opals, bodies and secrets don't stay buried forever.

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