Calling all book lovers and avid readers, it is nearly time for our third annual #CroakeyREAD Twitter festival.
Please join us online from 7-9pm AEST on Sunday 21 June, to celebrate the longest night of the year and winter reading.
On Twitter, check #CroakeyREAD for some of the interesting books we’ve come across, and please also use this hashtag to share news about books.
Flashback to 2018
The inaugural #CroakeyREAD went all night (and we’re still recovering!) – see the extensive coverage at the links below.
Flashback to 2019
I’m tweeting from Gadigal lands of the Eora Nations. Sharing some of my favourite books about walking/hiking and my reading experiences on the trails. I grew up in Tasmania, that’s where I learned to love hiking. Tassie walking is wild and rugged through beautiful land.
Despite its beauty, Tasmania has a dark (recent) history. Read: For the Term of His Natural Life (Marcus Clark); Wanting (Richard Flanagan) – the story of Mathinna, an Aboriginal girl adopted, then abandoned by Gov Franklin. Rohan Wilson’s books are also compelling.
Richard Flanagan’s books are very evocative of Tasmania for me. My favourite titles are: The Sound of One Hand Clapping, Death of a River Guide, The Long Road to the Deep North.
In recent years I’ve been tackling long distance walking overseas; about 3 such walks / yr. My adventures, insights, walking advice, public health perspectives are at CroakeyEXPLORE – along with some great contributions from others.
I strongly recommend the books of Patrick Leigh Fermor, especially A Time of Gifts, where he writes about traipsing through Europe (in hobnail boots) as the shadows of WW2 gather.
I’ve walked most of the Compostelle de St Jaques (French Camino), yet to get to Spain. There are lots of books about the Camino mostly about unfit, poorly equipped people finding their way & meaning of life. But I confess to loving the movie The Way, w Martin Sheen.
I did enjoy reading Two Steps Forward by Australian couple Graeme Simsion (of The Rosie Project fame) and Anne Buist. https://smh.com.au/entertainment/books/husband-and-wife-writers-graeme-simsion-and-anne-buist-on-their-new-rosy-project-20170919-gykexz.html It’s a novel based on their experiences – not enough focus on France for my tastes, but good beach reading.
A favourite walk was following in steps of RL Stevenson and his donkey Modestine in the Cevennes Mountains of France. Spectacular isolated countryside. You can read about my walk here https://croakey.org/croakeygo-longread-in-the-footsteps-of-robert-louis-stevenson-and-modestine/ Stevenson’s book is free on Kindle https://amazon.com/Travels-Donkey-Cevennes-Robert-Stevenson/dp/1843500965
The Cevennes Mtns have fascinating history going back to Wars of Religion, late 1500s. During WW2 the local Protestant communities were credited with saving 3,500 Jewish lives. This story is well told in A Good Place to Hide by Australian journalist Peter Grose.
In 2017 @bwolpe and I walked the Kumano Kodo pilgrim trail in Japan. https://croakey.org/six-days-hiking-the-kumano-kodo-in-japan-croakeygo/ After reading Craig McLachlan’s Tales of a Summer Henro, I’m keen to do at least part of the 88 Temple Pilgrimage around the island of Shikoku.
McLachlan also wrote Four Pairs of Boots about epic walk the length of Japan. In similar vein: Alan Booth’s The Roads to Sata- a 2000 mile walk through Japan. A great travel narrative. BTW @drruthatlarge has also written about Japan walks https://croakey.org/take-a-walk-in-japan-enjoy-some-forest-bathing-ring-the-bear-bells-and-watch-your-step-on-the-way-down/
Last year Cornwall walk sent me back to reread Jamaica Inn (Daphne du Maurier) & Poldark novels (Winston Graham). Made special point of seeking out Port Isaac where Doc Martin filmed. https://croakey.org/take-a-walk-in-cornwall-enjoy-the-stunning-scenery-of-doc-martin-et-al/ I love being able to fit real life locale with characters.
Walking (esp travelling solo) is great chance to think. I try to read books that are challenging. Recent reads: The Guns of August (WW1 origins by Barbara Tuchman), The Earth is Weeping (Indian Wars in American West by Peter Cozzens), 3 vol diaries of Otto Klemperer.
My next walk is the Larapinta Trail in the Northern Territory in August. Grateful for, interested in, your advice about what I should be reading. Currently fascinated by the Indigenous Astronomy @aboriginalastro website http://aboriginalastronomy.com.au
Croakey editor, health policy analyst Jennifer Doggett
Journalist Amy Coopes
A short introduction for those who don’t know me. I’m a final-year medical student training on Wiradjuri land in southern NSW and (one of two) mum(s) to two small persons.
Before I was an almost-doctor, I was a news reporter and a wannabe purveyor of prose – one of those people who gets a Masters in Writing but never has the guts to do anything with it (except read voraciously).
I’m on parental hiatus from medical school this year and find myself reading at odd hours in rocking chairs, which has been such a gift. I’ve devoured some wonderful books, and plan to spend the next few hours talking about some of my favourites.
Loosely, I suppose these titles are thematically linked around the concept of survival – how do we go on against the odds, in the face of insurmountable loss, grief?
These questions interest me as a former reporter who spent lots of time with people in extremis, covering disasters, emergencies and crimes. But they also interest me as a medico encountering people at their most vulnerable.
There is a whole genre of medical memoir which touches on these questions from a stethoscope-toting perspective. Some I’ve enjoyed in recent years include When Breath Becomes Air, Do No Harm, and @atulgawande’s excellent Being Mortal.
I also adore the writing of Frank Brennan, a palliative care doctor I had the great privilege to train with in Sydney. He revels in the lives and stories of his patients. You can read his work here http://loveinourowntime.com/stories/#.XQCK5tMzaT8
A piece of fiction that I’ve loved which explores some of the complex terrain confronting doctors is Dustfall by @eleytherius. Personal, political, rooted in history and lived experience, it’s really worth a read. It’s a subject you confront often as a reporter, arriving in the aftermath of an event, bookending the gulf between before and after. So too as a doctor, piecing back together something so fractured it will never truly heal
Staying, by @jessie_x_cole is an achingly poignant, eloquent reflection on loss, following the suicide of her father and sister. She writes powerfully about what it means to go on when those you love cannot.
‘Memories are as slippery as fish,’ she writes, ‘…unreachable, or surrounding us in shoals, circling thick & fast. It’s easy to assume that families have a shared narrative – a basic truth we all agree on – but every person stands in their own place in history’.
‘It’s easy to imagine that if we were to lose those we love, it would be beyond bearing. Perhaps our hearts would stop in simple protest… But it isn’t like that… Life as we have known it is forever ruptured, but our animal bodies are stubbornly resilient’.
‘When someone you love takes their own life, they leave you with no right of reply. They have had the final say, and it is final. All the arguments you might have put forward must be swallowed. There is no one left to make them to’.
Cole sees parallels here with our ability to compartmentalise other kinds of suffering, including that of asylum seekers. I think the same ‘collective mercilessness’ is at play in many political issues.
She describes being eclipsed, made invisible by the enormity of events, becoming known only as ‘that’ girl. Of people unable to look directly at her, crossing the road to avoid conversation, a shadow-walker.
I must admit being surprised by how much I loved this book, and how much I took away from it. It should be compulsory reading not only for journos but anyone who deals with people in extremis.
This idea of the ‘shadow-walker’ & the erasure of grief is explored by @leighsales in Any Ordinary Day, which chronicles the experiences of people who have survived being front-page news.
@leighsales is catapulted on this journey following a uterine rupture which turns her world upside down. ‘How do we come to terms with the fact that life can blindside us in an instant’ she writes. ‘When the unthinkable does happen, what comes next’
She asks these questions of survivors of the Lindt cafe siege, Port Arthur, the Thredbo landslide and Iraq war, floods and surf accidents, of forty days lost in the Himalayas, of murder-suicides.
She speaks to counsellors, chaplains, coroners and their staff, to detectives, vice-chancellors and even former PM John Howard. She reads widely and cites the evidence.
There are black swans, dread risk and minimax regret, but also heart-stopping moments of profound sadness and raw power.
She professes not to offer any answers but there are so many lessons in this book. I’ve clipped a few of my favourite passages, but recommend the book in its entirety.
I spent a number of years as a reporter covering the legal system, probably some of the most interesting of my professional life. Instructive on what people are capable of, both good and bad.
So many of our most fundamental questions play out every day in courtrooms, and I absolutely get why court watchers (people who come daily just to spectate) are a thing – I plan to spend my retirement being one (@steph_gardiner too no doubt).
I’ve read two books this year that ask whether and how the law delivers justice. The first, Eggshell Skull, by @bri_lee_writer, is a widely-acclaimed insider’s account of the legal system, from both sides of the bench.
I kind of enjoyed that she didn’t make it overly about herself, and I also respect her keeping that stuff private for her kids’ sakes. But I was definitely initially drawn into the book wanting to know more…
Lee weaves the parallel stories of her year as a judge’s associate, and her journey to press charges against the man who sexually assaulted her.
The central premise of her book is the eggshell skull rule – that defendants must take their victims as they find them. It’s a powerful exposition on the inner workings of the legal system, on misogyny and miscarriages of justice. It’s an unblinking account of trauma, at times almost too unsettling to continue.
There’s a lot to digest, not just from her case but those she watches. For anyone who has observed or worked within the legal system, her reflections really resonate. The law seems so inadequate in the face of suffering, but it is all we have.
She rails against the system whilst trapped in and ever-more beholden to it. The anger is palpable, and righteous, and if you’ve ever watched someone walk free or slapped on the wrist for something heinous, you can’t help but feel it too.
The other book I wanted to mention in this vein was @KateRossmanith’s Small Wrongs, which asks how we express, acknowledge and account for remorse at law. ‘Remorse’, she writes, quoting Emily Dickinson, ‘is memory awake’.
Rossmanith speaks to people convicted of crimes, to those who prosecute and sentence them, to psychiatrists and psychologists. And she turns inward, to her own relationships.
The recipe: ‘messy legislation, statistics, puzzle sheets, bell curves, button-clicks, calculators, the tabloid press, politics, philosophy, the hisotry of God, the history of science, and one woman’s visceral certainty that justice had been delivered’.
‘Stories are potent things, the ones we mobilise for ourselves, the ones that are mobilised for us,” she writes. ‘They give us moral shape. Infants quickly learn the feeling of culpability. Some never learn to shake it’.
I love this work because it has the elegance and nuance of a Helen Garner (Joe Cinque’s Consolation has to be the frontrunner in this genre) but the deep reading and thinking of a social sciences academic.
‘You can do nothing with grief but wait it out, let it do its slow work’ she says. ‘If, on the other hand, you convnce yourself that you are feeling remorse, not grief, you claw back agency… Remorse can usher in healing, redemption, release’.
My penultimate pick for this evening is The Trauma Cleaner by @delasarah, which tells the extraordinary true story of Sandra Pankhurst. It’s impossible really to summarise the narrative arc of this book, it’s such an epic read.
It is grim and horrifying at times, but also poetic; savage and mournful, crudely triumphant. Sandra’s story could be bleak, but it is told with such love, humour and compassion it carries you in the current.
Wending through her journey are these poignant vignettes about the clients of her trauma cleaning service. The writing in these is so evocative. Eg this, on Janice
‘Vaguely aquatic, the indoor environment also brings to mind images of fire, which are no less vivid for being paradoxical. The black mould spotting the browned walls and powdering the rug looks like soot…The mould crowding the edges of the dirty glass makes the vista of blue sky and neighbouring houses appear burnt at the edges, like an old tintype. Flood and fire. These rooms are small but within them is pain of biblical proportions’.
My last book for the evening is Draw Your Weapons by @SarahSentilles. Like@KateRossmanith, she brings an academic but also theological eye to her work. I’ve tried (& failed) to explain what this book is about on countless occasions & it continues to elude me.
It’s actually helpful to steal from the cover blurbs (for once): ‘A would-be priest decided not to become one & instead wrote a book on how art and metaphor condition us to accept violence’… ‘A genre unto itself – a poem, a sermon, a polemic, a memoir, a narrative’.
This is one of those books, like Rilke or Coelho or Coates, that has gone onto my bookshelf as a permanent ready reference. There’s just too many brilliant passages to quote, and I want to read bits of it daily.
‘How to live in the face of so much suffering? How to respond to violence that feels as if it can’t be stopped? What difference can one person make in this beautiful, imperfect and imperilled world?’ See what I mean?
It’s searing & urgent, steeped in history & scripture & theory. It invites you to sip & savour & stop & think. It implores you to see. ‘Every image of the past that is not recongised by the present as one of its own concerns threatens to disappear irretrievably’.
Living in the time that we are, confronted by the challenges that we face, I found this book such an antidote & such a call to arms. It explores pacificism, violence, conflict & the power of the image, centered on an Abu Ghraib guard & a conscientious objector.
‘The critique of violence must begin with a critique of seeing, Butler wrote. What allows one life to be visible in its precariousness and its need for shelter, and what keeps us from seeing other lives that way?’. Applies to so many issues of our times.
I could (& would love to) talk about this book all night, but bed calls. Just one more book to mention before I go, which features one of my stories! #Queerstories comes from @maevemarsden’s incredible community storytelling project.
#Queerstories, for me, is a living, evolving demonstration of the power of stories to shape & sometimes save lives for marginalised people. There have been so many incredible tales shared.
So wonderful to be asked to join in, tweeting here from the land of the Whadjuk people of the Noongar nation, not just the traditional custodians, but the original storytellers.
Talking books here, stories, stories of survival and humanity, on this winter solstice night. Nights, after all, being the best time for stories.
I guess I’m here because I wrote a book – Dustfall – a weird, peripatetic journey, that ended up being about medical error, and the terrible fallout. The devastation for both doctors and those on the other side.
But then it turned a corner, and found itself as the story of Wittenoom, and a particularly heinous history in Western Australia’s mining legacy. And a million drafts into writing the book, it occurred to me…
That the juxtaposition of the ways an individual deals with a mistake (in particular doctors) versus the way a corporation deals with their errors, even when they result in countless deaths, made for a VERY powerful theme.
So it’s about mistakes. It’s not autobiographical (ha ha, oh no!) (god) but about the issue of survival in the face of our own disappointments
All the magic books you have discussed tonight @coopesdetat, have been about survival. After all, is this not what underlies the most fundamental of all human stories?
I have so many books I want to share – although may I first say I haven’t managed to get @SquigglyRick‘s back from my father who seems to think it has spoken to him so much it belongs to his soul.
But others that have spoken to my cells are: Love and Terror on the Howling Plains of Nowhere (Poe Ballantine), The Natural Way of Things (Charlotte Wood) and A Confederacy of Dunces. All about survival on this odd planet, in one way or other.
See you at 7pm AEST on Sunday 21 June for some more #CroakeyREAD.