Monday musings on Australian literature: Some New Releases in 2021

For some years now, I’ve made my first Monday Musings of the year, a “new releases” post. As in previous years, my list is mostly drawn from the Sydney Morning Herald, whose writers do a wonderful job of checking out publishers large and small, but I have found a couple of extras on my own! Also, remember, as this is Monday musings on Australian literature post, it will be limited to Australian authors (listed alphabetically.) Do click on the SMH link to see the full list, which includes non-Aussies, Aussies I haven’t selected, and additional info about some of the books.

Links on the authors’ names are to my posts on them.


Last year, I listed 24 fiction works plus a few new voices and short story collections, and read only TWO (par for last year’s course, really) – but I will be reading some more of them in the next few months.

Book cover
  • Pip Adams, Nothing to see (March, Giramondo)
  • Michael Mohammed Ahmad, The other half of you (June, Hachette)
  • Larissa Behrendt, After story (July, QUP)
  • Emily Bitto, Menagerie (second half, A&U)
  • Steven Carroll, O (February, Fourth Estate)
  • Claire G. Coleman, Enclave (October, Hachette)
  • Paul Daley, Jesustown (August, Allen & Unwin) 
  • Michelle de Kretser, Scary monsters (“a flip book”, second half of 2021, Allen & Unwin)
  • Briohny Doyle, Echolalia (June, Vintage)
  • Nikki Gemmell, The ripping tree (April, Fourth Estate)
  • Irma Gold, The breaking (March, MidnightSun)
  • Chris Hammer, no title yet (second half, Allen & Unwin) (my token crime inclusion!)
  • John Kinsella, Pushing back (February, Transit Lounge)
  • Jamie Marina Lau, Gunk baby (May, Hachette) (and I have to include the description: it’s “about a budding entrepreneur who opens an ear-cleaning business in the local mall”)
  • Charlotte McConaghy, Once there were wolves (August, Hamish Hamilton)
  • Emily Maguire, Love objects (April, Allen & Unwin)
  • Sophie Masson, The ghost squad (yes, I know, YA, but – February, MidnightSun)
  • Jennifer Mills, Airwaves (August, Picador)
  • Kate Morton, no title yet (second half, Allen & Unwin)
  • Stephen Orr, Sincerely, Ethel Malley (April, Wakefield Press)
  • Debra Oswald, The family doctor (March, A&U)
  • Alice Pung, One hundred days (June, Black Inc.)
  • Trevor Shearston, The beach caves (February, Scribe)
  • Graeme Simsion and Anne Buist, Two steps onward (collaborative novel, March, Text)
  • Claire Thomas, The performance (March, Hachette)
  • Christos Tsiolkas, (“auto-fiction”, second half, Allen & Unwin)

I’m surprised to find that many more authors from this year’s list are already on my blog than ever before, which sort of makes me feel I’m getting somewhere!

SMH also lists “new voices” (including new forms for established voices):

  • Ella Baxter, New animal (February, Allen & Unwin)
  • Hannah Bent, When things are alive they hum (second half, Ultimo Press)
  • Barry Divola, Driving Stevie Fracasso (March, HarperCollins) (music journalist/short story writer)
  • Max Easton, Leaving the plain (TBA, Giramondo)
  • Martin McKenzie-Murray, The speech writer (Scribe, February) (journalist)
  • L.P McMahon, As swallows fly (March, Ventura)
  • Jacqueline Maley, The truth about her (April, Fourth Estate) (journalist)
  • Campbell Mattinson, We were not men (June, Fourth Estate) (wine writer)
  • Angela O’Keeffe, Night blue (May, Transit) (here’s one for next year’s “interesting narrative voices” – the narrator is Pollock’s Blue Poles painting!)
  • Sophie Overett, The rabbits (July, Michael Joseph)
  • Madeleine Ryan, A room called Earth (March, Scribe)
  • Emma Spurr, A million things (March, Text)

Short stories

  • Tony Birch, Dark as last night (August, UQP)
  • Te-Ping Chen, Land of big numbers (March, Scribner)
  • Paige Clark, She is haunted and other stories (August, A&U).  
  • Melissa Manning, Smokehouse (April, UQP)
  • Adam Thompson, Born into this (February, UQP) 
  • Chloe Wilson, Hold your fire (March, Simon & Schuster)


SMH provides a long long list of new non-fiction books covering a huge range of topics, so my two lists are highly selective.

Life-writing (loosely defined)

  • Emma Alberici, Rewrite the story (September, Hardie Grant): memoir.
  • Alison Croggon, Monsters: A reckoning (March, Scribe): hybrid memoir/essay (award-winning essayist).
  • Carly Findlay (ed.) Growing up disabled (February, Black Inc.): from the Growing Up series.
  • Clementine Ford, How we love (second half, Allen & Unwin): memoir about love, motherhood and her family.
  • Evelyn Juers, The dancer (TBA, Giramondo): biography of Philippa Cullen, that was listed in my 2020 new releases and is listed again but still without a date.
  • Nathan Hobby, biography of Katharine Susannah Prichard (first half, MUP)
  • Eleanor Hogan, Into the loneliness (March, NewSouth): biography of Daisy Bates and Ernestine Hill
  • Yumiko Kadota, Emotional female (March, Viking): memoir about the challenges of being a young female surgeon in an often toxic environment.
  • Sarah Krasnostein, The believer (March, Text): faith and conviction in six people.
  • Joyce Morgan, The Countless from Kirribilli (July, Allen & Unwin): biography of Elizabeth von Arnim. I can’t believe there is a third book coming out in reasonably short time about this author, with whom I fell in love way back in the 1980s. 
  • Rick Morton, My year of living vulnerably (March, HarperCollins): follow-up memoir.
  • Fiona Murphy, The shape of sound (March, Text): memoir about being deaf, by an emerging writer admired by Jessica White and Angela Savage.
  • Christine Skyes, Gough and me (May, Ventura): memoir about the role Gough Whitlam played in her life.
  • Alf Taylor, God, the devil and me (February, Magabala): Memoir
  • Robert Wainwright, The diva and the duc (second half, A&U): biography of soprano Nellie Melba.
  • David Williamson, untitled autobiography (October, HarperCollins). 
  • Charlotte Wood, Inner life (second half, A&U): expanding her essay on “the creative process, inspiration and hard work”. 

SMH lists a number of biographies coming out on politicians, past and present, and memoirs by current political figures, but let’s give ourselves a break from parliamentary politics today. (You can check out the SMH link, of course, if you are interested.)

History and other non-fiction

  • Santilla Chingaipe, Black convict (July, Picador): convicts of African descent transported to the Australian penal colonies.
  • Helen Garner, presumably the next diary volume (Text)
  • Stan Grant, With the falling of the dusk (April, HarperCollins): “the challenges facing our world”. 
  • David Hunt, Girt nation (November, Black Inc.): third instalment after Girt and True girt.
  • Bri Lee, Brains (second half, Allen & Unwin): the structural inequalities behind elite institutions.
  • Mark McKenna, Return to Uluru (March, Black Inc.): starts from the 1934 shooting at Uluru of Aboriginal man Yokunnuna by white policeman Bill McKinnon.
  • David Marr, A family business (October, Black Inc.): Queensland’s frontier massacres in the 19th century. 
  • Henry Reynolds Truth-telling (February, NewSouth): First Nations sovereignty and the importance of the Uluru Statement from the Heart. 

SMH also identifies some special current-interest topics being written about, including:

  • Last year’s bushfires: Bronwyn Adcock, Currowan (August, Black Inc.); Danielle Celermajer, Summertime (February, Hamish Hamilton); Greg Mullins, Firestorm (September, Viking Australia); John Pickrell, Flames of extinction (March, NewSouth); and Michael Rowland (ed), Black summer (January, ABC Books).
  • Climate change: Richard Beasley, Dead in the water (February, Allen & Unwin); Jonica Newby, Beyond climate grief (NewSouth); Gabrielle Chan, Why you should give a f— about farming (August, Vintage); and Ian Lowe, Long half life (August, Monash).
  • COVID-19 (of course): Ross Garnaut, Reset (February, La Trobe); Hugh McKay, The loving country (May, A&U); Duncan McNab, The Ruby Princess (February, Macmillan); and Norman Swan, So you think you know what’s good for you (July, Hachette).
  • Politics and current affairs: David Brophy, China panic (June, La Trobe); Zoe Daniel and Roscoe Whalan, Greetings from Trumpland (February, ABC Books); Zareh Ghazarian and Katrina Lee-Koo (ed), Gender politics: Navigating political leadership in Australia (May, NewSouth); Nicholas Jose and Benjamin Madden (ed), Antipodean China (February, Giramondo); Peter van Onselen and Wayne Errington, How good is Scott Morrison? (March, Hachette); and Trevor Watson and Melissa Roberts (ed), The Beijing Bureau (May, Hardie Grant).

Does anything here interest you?

29 thoughts on “Monday musings on Australian literature: Some New Releases in 2021

  1. Four new books will about do me for the year:
    Claire G Coleman
    Jaime Marna Lau
    Nikki Gemmell
    John Kinsella

    It took me right till the end of the year to buy the Elizabeth Tan I’d been saying I would (ok, 2 Jan).

    After them maybe Larrissa Behrendt and Chris Tsiolkas

    But you’ve missed the most important: Nathan Hobby’s biography of KSP due March.

  2. Lots of books of creative essays about COVID-19 are coming out, and all I can think is “Really? The entire globe lived the same thing. What are you going to add?” But I’m sure some lovely authors are writing about everyone’s experience in a way we can’t put into words and I’ll be blown away.

    • Fascinating Melanie, I don’t think “really” at all. I think “great, what perspectives will writers bring to it” just like I like reading perspectives about WW2 etc (though, of course, I didn’t live during WW2 which makes a bit of a difference I suppose.)

      The interesting thing about COVID-19 is that pretty well everyone in the world experienced it, and yet we all in big or little ways experienced it differently and/or responded differently and/or coped differently. There are the emotional, social, political, economic aspects, which can blend differently in people, groups, countries. I will be very interested to read what authors have to say, and in some ways to calibrate that against my experience.

  3. Hi Sue, In my lift out from The Australian I have marked all the books I am interested in and its now sitting on my TBR pile! There are a few books I will be making sure I read, The Murray Bail’s He, Sarah Krasnostein’s The Believer, and so many more! Though, I don’t think I will be in a hurry to read more about COVID-19.

    • Ah yes, Meg, those too. I was interested to see Krasnostein has another one coming out.

      As I wrote to Melanie (Grab The Lapels), I am really interested in books about COVID-19! To read about a significant “event” in my own time is really something I can appreciate and respond to personally rather than at one step removed like, say, WW2.

  4. There are SO many on that list that I’m keen to read. I’m not usually quite so energised about ‘Coming Soon’ lists but next year looks set to be a doozy. Only three or so fiction titles (simply because I know the author to be excellent, and I’ll pretty much read anything they publish)
    but at least half a dozen, or more, of the non-fiction works. The ones with a focus on Australia’s First Nations issues are particularly catching my eye. As if my TBR pile wasn’t already toppling…

    • Yes I agree re the nonfiction. Seems to be more there too for me than usual. But I think I’m interested in more of the fiction also. With my track record though I won’t do much at all of what I’d like to do!

  5. I haven’t read anything by Stephen Orr. Have I been missing something? Our local library has Incredible Floridas. Should I try it?

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