I built my list alphabetically by country (starting with Afghanistan), so Australia was near the beginning of the project. I hadn’t really figured out the best methods of gathering recommendations at that point, so I relied very heavily on the Australian Literature Wikipedia page. A lot of the cuts I made seem fairly arbitrary now, though I remember I included Cloudstreet because it consistently tops lists of the best Australian novels and Voss because Patrick White is Australia’s only Nobel Literature laureate. I also tried to source as many of Aboriginal authors as I could (I was ultimately unable to get my hands on a copy of David Unaipon’s Legendary Tales of the Aborigines and replaced it with K. Langloh Parker’s Australian Legendary Tales). Here’s what I read, ranked from favorite to least favorite:

  1. Carpentaria, Alexis Wright, 2006
  2. Voss, Patrick White, 1957
  3. Cloudstreet, Tim Winton, 1991
  4. My Brother Jack, George Johnston, 1964 
  5. While the Billy Boils, Henry Lawson, 1896
  6. Picnic at Hanging Rock, Joan Lindsay, 1967
  7. My Brilliant Career, Miles Franklin, 1901
  8. Schindler’s Ark, Thomas Keneally, 1982
  9. Death of a River Guide, Richard Flanagan, 1994
  10. The Harp in the South, Ruth Park, 1948
  11. Oscar and Lucinda, Peter Carey, 1988
  12. Such is Life, Joseph Furphy, 1903
  13. The Great World, David Malouf, 1990
  14. For the Term of His Natural Life, Marcus Clarke, 1874
  15. My Place, Sally Morgan, 1987
  16. The Man From Snowy River, Banjo Paterson, 1890
  17. My Country, Dorothea Mackellar, 1908
  18. The Fortunes of Richard Mahony, Henry Handel Richardson, 1930
  19. The Shark Net, Robert Drewe, 2000
  20. The Shiralee, D’Arcy Niland, 1955
  21. Tomorrow, When the War Began, John Marsden, 1993
  22. Australian Legendary Tales, K. Langloh Parker, 1895
  23. Oceanic Mythology, Roland Dixon, 1916 (Australia Section)
  24. The Thorn Birds, Colleen McCullough, 1977

There were three more books on my list, but I didn’t get around to reading them (because my list was already very long, and I bought copies of these books during a four-month stay in California, but I didn’t get a chance to read them then and I didn’t have room in my suitcase to bring them back to England):

  1. The Secret River, Kate Grenville, 2005
  2. The Death of Bunny Munro, Nick Cave, 2009
  3. That Deadman Dance, Kim Scott, 2010

My top recommendations from Australia, Carpentaria and Voss, are both extremely literary and challenging works, but I think they are great books and also distinctively Australian—it is hard to imagine them coming from another country. If you wanted something still fantastic but a little more of a straightforward narrative, I would go for Cloudstreet. And if you wanted to round out your reading with a few more, a few Henry Lawson stories, My Brilliant Career, My Brother Jack, and Picnic at Hanging Rock are good choices. Under no circumstances should anyone be forced to read The Thorn Birds.

23 thoughts on “Australia

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