Books Australiarss

Letting go

19 April 2014
Anzac’s Long Shadow: The Cost of Our National Obsession James Brown

Redback, pp.160, $19.99, ISBN: 9781863956390

We are not, by our nature, a militaristic people, and it is significant that our most well-known military venture was a defeat. But somehow or other, the Gallipoli story and… Read more

A sober critic

12 April 2014
Quarterly Essay: That Sinking Feeling: Asylum Seekers and the Search for the Indonesian Solution Paul Toohey

Black Inc, pp.94, $19.95, ISBN: 97818634956468

Let’s get one thing straight: gullibility is not a virtue. This simple principle appears to be difficult to grasp for many who support those who claim to be refugees seeking… Read more

Gough Whitlam: moderniser and reformer

Hero and villain

29 March 2014
The Whitlam Legacy Troy Bramston

Federation Press, pp.544, $59.95, ISBN: 9781862879034

There is a story told of Gough Whitlam as Prime Minister speaking with his Treasurer, Bill Hayden. It is late 1975 and Hayden has just been informed by the Treasury,… Read more

The new Garnaut Report

8 February 2014
Dog Days: Australia After the Boom Ross Garnaut

Redback, pp.304, $19.99, ISBN: 9781863956222

Yes, economics really is a dismal science, if this book is to be believed. Even when things are going right, they’re just setting up you up for disasters down the… Read more

Arthur Phillip: high-minded idealism

Our founding father

25 January 2014
Arthur Phillip: Sailor, Mercenary, Governor, Spy Michael Pembroke

Hardie Bank Books, pp.354, $45, ISBN: 9781742705088

Founding fathers of proud nations are venerated. From an early age, children learn about their achievements and sacrifices. A King Kong-sized statue will often abound the founding city. The nation… Read more

Sound military history

18 January 2014
First Victory — 1914 — HMAS Sydney’s Hunt for the German Raider Emden Mike Carlton

William Heinemann Australia, pp.467, ISBN: 9781742757636

Scott Fitzgerald once made the famous observation that there are no second acts in American life. Perhaps. But Mike Carlton disproves this thesis as the journalist now emerges as a… Read more

The persecution of Cory

11 January 2014
The Conservative Revolution Cory Bernardi

Connor Court, pp.180, $29.95, ISBN: 9781922168962

Cory Bernardi’s book is a reminder of the traditional values that made Australia and inspired earlier generations to fight for its very existence. Which perhaps explains why The Conservative Revolution… Read more

The Founding of Australia by Algernon Talmadge (Photo: Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Our colourful stories

4 January 2014
Girt David Hunt

Black Inc, pp.286, $29.99, ISBN: 9781863956116

That’s girt by sea, as in the national anthem. As a title, it fits the overall tone of the book, which revels in its unauthorisedness and genial silliness. Hunt lists… Read more

Books of the Year

14 December 2013

George Brandis In a year which saw a seemingly endless stream of books of the ‘where the Labor party went wrong’ variety — admittedly a vein rich with material —… Read more

The way it was

30 November 2013
Remarkable Times: Australian Politics 2010-13: What Really Happened Laurie Oakes

Hachette Australia, pp.352, $32.99, ISBN: 9780733631979

There is a test in Canberra which applies to the quality of political commentary. It is called the ‘Blue Poles’ test. People may recall the uproar which greeted the Whitlam… Read more

Andrew "Twiggy" Forrest (Photo: WILLIAM WEST/AFP/Getty)

Mining magnate paradox

16 November 2013
Twiggy: the High-Stakes Life of Andrew Forrest Andrew Burrell

Black Inc, pp.233, $29.99, ISBN: 9781863956208

In many ways, Andrew ‘Twiggy’ Forrest has become the likeable face of the Australian mining boom, a self-made billionaire without the haughtiness of Gina Rinehart or the swagger of Clive… Read more


Two cheers for Bowen

16 November 2013
Hearts & Minds: A blueprint for modern Labor Chris Bowen

MUP, pp.154, $24.99, ISBN: 9780522864434

Since I know Speccie readers like a bit of a shock, let me oblige: I think Chris Bowen is a top bloke. We went to university together more than two… Read more

Ponting in his pomp

The little voice

9 November 2013
At the Close of Play Ricky Ponting

HarperCollins, pp.720, $39.95, ISBN: 9780732291822

Of all the sights of Australia’s long phase of cricket dominance, none was quite so characteristic as Ricky Ponting emerging to bat at the fall of the first wicket. His… Read more

Melbourne’s academic ‘Potemkin Village’

2 November 2013
A Spy in the Archives Sheila Fitzpatrick

MUP, pp.346, $32.98

While reading this book I was reminded of the great ‘scandal’ among New York’s intelligentsia in 1982 when the then beauty queen of the left-literary world, Susan Sontag, speaking in… Read more

St. Peter's Basilica

Our valued Vatican envoy

26 October 2013
Holy See, Unholy Me: 1,000 Days in Rome Tim Fischer

ABC Books, pp.305, $32.99, ISBN: 9780733328350

In mid-2009, I landed in Italy for an extended break, as it happened, on the day of the L’Aquila earthquake. During the three months of my stay, I managed to… Read more


The world according to Bob

19 October 2013
The Year It All Fell Down Bob Ellis

Penguin, pp.264, $29.99, ISBN: 978067077410

Apparently, Ellis believes that the year 2011 was as important as 1848. He never explains why, exactly. He seems to think that we should just take his word for it,… Read more


Sour mixture

12 October 2013
The Mad Marathon Mungo MacCallum

Black Inc, pp.288, $29.99, ISBN: 978186356185

This book purports to be the story of the 2013 election. It is not clear why it makes that claim, since less than a quarter of the book deals with… Read more

A smile for my parents

In praise of Ming

5 October 2013
A Smile for My Parents Heather Henderson

Allen & Unwin, pp.227, $29.99, ISBN: 9781743315705

At the end of this affectionate memoir of Sir Robert and Dame Pattie Menzies, Heather Henderson recognises some might see it as a hagiography: ‘After all, this is about my… Read more

The rise of the politicians

28 September 2013
Give Us Back our Country David Flint and Jai Martinkovits

Connor Court Publishing, pp.402, $34.95, ISBN: 9781922168696

This book expresses what is being more and more widely felt in English-speaking and other western countries: government is becoming dominated by a professional political class with little experience of… Read more


Fairfax under fire

24 August 2013
Killing Fairfax: Packer, Murdoch & the Ultimate Revenge Pamela Williams

HarperCollins, pp.352, $39.99, ISBN: ISBN 9780732297664

Fairfax: The Rise and Fall Colleen Ryan

Miegunyah Press, pp.320, $32.99, ISBN: ISBN 9780522862454

What a spectacle. A Fairfax journalist flanked by a beaming James Packer, making no secret of his loathing for her employer, and a Murdoch. Their purpose? To help launch a… Read more

Born to rule

17 August 2013
Party Time: Who Runs China and How Rowan Callick

Black Inc, pp.272, $29.99, ISBN: 978186395591

Depending on how you look at it, the Chinese Communist Party is either the last non-ridiculous bastion of Marxism, an increasingly peculiar anachronism, or a remarkable example of Darwinian adaptability.… Read more

In the bunker

3 August 2013
Downfall: How the Labor Party ripped itself apart Aaron Patrick

ABC Books, pp.328, $29.99, ISBN: 97807333317

The rusted-on supporters of the ALP must wonder how it came to this. Six years ago, the ALP was on top of the world, looking as if it was entrenched… Read more

The useful Colonel Houses

20 July 2013
Rendezvous with Destiny: How Franklin D. Roosevelt and Five Extraordinary Men Took America into the War and into the World Michael Fullilove

Viking, pp.480, $29.99, ISBN: 9780670074877

Franklin Delano Roosevelt was determined to get the measure of Britain’s wartime prime minister Winston Churchill, and of Britain’s chances for survival. It was December 1940, and the President was… Read more

Hunting for bogeymen

20 July 2013
The Misogyny Factor Anne Summers

NewSouth, pp.182, $19.95, ISBN: 9781742233840

The Stalking of Julia Gillard: How Team Rudd and the media contrived to bring down the Prime Minister Kerry-Anne Walsh

Allen and Unwin, pp.305, $29.99, ISBN: 9781742379227

Here is how you make a conspiracy theory: take a couple of facts, stir in a few assumptions, then add a heroic victim and plenty of villains. And — this… Read more

A multitude of voices

20 July 2013
Destroying the Joint: Why Women Have to Change the World Jane Caro (ed)

UQP, $29.95, ISBN: 9780702249907

‘Consider, too, the world’s fisheries.’ This line more or less sums up the tone of Destroying the Joint: Why Women Have to Change the World. It’s a collection of essays,… Read more