Monday musings on Australian literature: Warm Winter Read

For several years now, Cathy of 746 books has been running a 20 Books of Summer challenge, which many Southern Hemisphere bloggers re-frame as “of Winter”. It’s a great initiative, and this year has over 120 participants. You go, Cathy! However, for something closer to home that’s geared to this winter, I thought I’d share with you Warm Winter Read. It is an initiative of Public Libraries Victoria, and I read about it on Angela Savage’s blog. Well-known as an author, Angela is also the CEO of Public Libraries Victoria.

As a retired librarian, I love checking out what libraries are doing – and when they encourage reading AND Australian authors and books, then I’m on side.

The program’s aim, Angela says, is “to encourage readers to develop a daily reading habit by tracking the days they read over June and July 2022”. It has been taken up by most of Victoria’s library services, and involves an app – the Beanstack app (here) – through which participants can log daily reading, take part in optional challenges and share book reviews. Apparently the optional challenges include things like, Angela writes, “read outside your home; read aloud to a pet, person or plant; and talk about what you’re reading in person or online”.

This is all great, but I’m mainly sharing it with you because the campaign has eight ambassadors, who are all “high-profile” Victorian authors. Each of these was asked to recommend four books to get readers started (although people can read any books). There are apparently bookmarks for each author, containing their recommendations.

The ambassadors are a diverse bunch (links on their names are to my posts on them) and so are their recommended books, which range across a wide variety of forms and genres, fiction and non-fiction. Their recommendations are:

  • Maxine Beneba Clarke: Maria Takolander’s Trigger warning; Claire G. Coleman’s Lies, damned lies; Alice Pung’s One hundred days; Ennis Cehić’s Sadvertising
  • Claire G Coleman: Omar Sakr’s Son of sin; Maxine Beneba Clarke’s How decent folk behave; Ellen van Neerven and Rafeif Ismail’s (ed), Unlimited futures; Evelyn Araluen’s Drop bear
  • Helen Garner: Sean O’Beirne’s A couple of things before the end; David Owen Kelly’s State of origin; Larissa Behrendt’s After story; Gabbie Stroud’s Teacher
  • Jane Harper: Sally Hepworth’s The younger wife; Karina Kilmore’s Where the truth lies; Kate Mildenhall’s The mother fault; Benjamin Stevenson’s Everyone in my family has killed someone
  • Toni Jordan: Genevieve Novak’s No hard feelings; Emily Spurr’s A million things; R.W.R. McDonald’s The Nancys; Paddy O’Reilly’s Other people’s houses
  • Rebecca Lim: Amani Haydar’s The mother wound; Trent Jamieson’s Day boy; Cixin Liu’s The three-body problem; Emma Viskic’s Resurrection Bay
  • Jock Serong: Emma Viskic’s Those who perish; Robert Gott’s The orchard thieves; Emily Brugman’s The islands; Michael Winkler’s Grimmish
  • Christos Tsiolkas: Emily Bitto’s Wild abandon; Angela Savage’s Mother of Pearl; Andy Jackson’s Music our bodies can’t hold; Judith Brett’s The enigmatic Mr Deakin

I have not heard of all these books, let alone read them, but I can see that the list offers something for most readers and should kickstart some thinking about what to read.

Different library services are promoting the program in different ways. Here are some: Goldfields Libraries; Hume Libraries; and Yarra Plenty Regional Library. BUT as I pottered around some of the sites, I also picked up other things that libraries are doing. For example, the Warrnambool Library advertises that it can help members access their vaccination certificates. What a great service for the less technologically proficient in our communities. I love how modern public libraries are comprehending and expressing their role as community information centres.

Also, in some communities, the local newspaper has got behind the program too. What about this one from the Shepparton News:

Come into your local library to check out a Warm Winter Read. You’ll find hot romances, spicy thrillers and toasty tales of fun and adventure. You can register and log your participation via the Beanstack website at www.plv.beanstack.orgor by downloading the Beanstack Tracker app from the Google Play Store or Apple App Store.

For readers who prefer ‘old-school’, pick up a tracking sheet from your local library. Lots of challenges to keep the next few months interesting.

And here I will leave you. This is a pretty short and simple Monday Musings, partly because I have joined the growing number of bloggers who have contracted COVID-19. So, while I’m not very sick, thanks to being fully vaccinated, I’m also not wonderfully chipper and need now to go take a nap!

Meanwhile, here’s a job for you: what would you have recommended if you’d been asked to suggest four books for a program like this? (And if you’re not Aussie, you can choose non-Aussie books!)

57 thoughts on “Monday musings on Australian literature: Warm Winter Read

  1. Hi Sue, sorry to read you’ve been smitten with COVID. Hope it’s short and sweet. I’ve only read one on the list, with another on my TBR. I’m trying hard to not be influenced by any of the others, my TBR list is already far too long.

  2. I hope you get through Sue without too much misery. Over the past week I have had a granddaughter, her brother and then her mother catch it – which leaves my son in law and the two babies to go.

    I have escaped and am on my way to FNQ.

    Almost the first book mentioned is Claire G Coleman’s Lies, damned lies which I hope I have with me as I’m planning to read for Lisa’s ILW (or is that FNLW now)

    • Well done Bill. It’s really catching up in Australia now isn’t it. FNQ- atb? That’s a new one. what route – up WA and across through NT?

      Good choice for, yes, I think FNLW now.

  3. Oh, Sue, I’m so sorry you have Covid. I hope you get well from it soon.

    Thank you for sharing the info about the reading program there. The libraries in my state always have a summer reading program for kids, but in the past few years, there has been an adult component, too.

  4. When I got The Dreaded, I would’t have known had it not been for the testing; and I attribute this to having been taking daily Vitamin D for absolutely yonks. I’d like to get up on a soapbox to tell everyone about this !!
    I often forget you were a librarian, dunno why. Your life is full of everything to do with reading, ST: happily for us all you’ve been able to translate that into a marvellous ability to review. 🙂

    • Lucky you. I’m really pleased for you. I have been taking Vitamin D regularly, until earlier this year, when I started taking it more sporadically.

      Well, I was a librarian, but spent most of my career with film (and to a degree sound). However, my fist job was with public libraries and I have remained interested in them. they are so important, and good ones can be exciting to be in.

  5. Thanks for the shout out, Sue. More than 800 people have registered for the Warm Winter Read so far, and we are sure that more are using the bookmarks to help choose their next reads. I bumped Emily Spurr’s A Million Things up on my TBR as a result of the campaign, and I loved this heart-stopping/-breaking/-warming read. For my four recommendations (though these could change daily), I would nominate Nine Days by Toni Jordan, Swallow the Air by Tara June Winch, The Lucky Galah by Tracy Sorensen, and The Australian Fiancé by Simone Lazaroo.

    • Thanks Angela … I thought of doing this post as soon as I saw your post, before I had Covid, and then when I came down with Covid I realised it was the perfect straightforward post for me, so thank you!

      And thanks for your four recommendations. I have read (and liked) the first two, know of the third, but haven’t heard of The Australian Fiancé.

      Anyhow, that’s a great outcome – over 800 people plus all those who haven’t registered. I’m in Ivanhoe at the moment, and if I weren’t in isolation I’d be up at the library looking for a bookmark or two!

  6. Oh Sue, I am sorry, Covid seems almost inescapable now. I hope you recover soon. Is the family in Melbourne ok?
    (BTW I’ve been taking Vit D daily since 2011, am vaxxed x4, and flu-vaxxed too, and I caught it anyway.)
    My local library has a display of these Warm Winter Reads books, and were advertising the ‘read outside’ idea, but hehe, the only time I’m venturing outside is to walk the dog and for medical appointments.
    I was pleased to see Paddy O’Reilly’s Other Houses on the list. That’s an excellent book!

  7. Hi Sue, Sorry to hear you have COVID. I am now knowing more people with COVID it, but so far I am ok. I hope you feel better soon. My Library Sam Merrifield, is also having Warm Winter Read. I would suggest Dinner with the Schnabels by Toni Jordan. And, if you are stuck at home, I suggest you go back in time and travel with Peter Pinney’s book, Dust on My Shoes.

    • Oh good for you Meg for taking up the challenge. I need to read more Jordan as I do think she’s got a lovely knack of being readable but a bit different. I’ve vaguely heard of Dust on my shoes, but will check it out.

      And yes, until a few days ago I was like you re Covid, but I felt it was just a matter of time. We were wearing masks in public places but not in restaurants which we were going to a lot last week as we’re in Melbourne for grandson’s birthday. We have sat near coughing people. What can you do but feel frustrated. Why are they out and about if they are coughing away?

  8. Sorry that Covid caught you. I’m still waiting for my results, although my symptoms sound just like yours right now.

    Thanks to working in an Indy bookshop I’ve heard if all these books. But I’ve only read 2 – After Story and Drop bear. Mr Books read Sadvertising and really enjoyed it – quirky short stories that worked perfectly at 4am when he often wakes up & can’t go back to sleep.

    The three body problem was a staff fav for a while with my SF reading colleagues.

    Hope you’re feeling better now .

    (Just in – my results are back – positive!)

    • Lucky you! (Mine was a RAT test… showed positive almost immediately.) so off to isolation? I hope yours is mild like mine. Very sore throat for three days, particularly at night, and some coughing, but otherwise ok except for feeling more tired. Tend not to feel like sustaining things for long before I need a rest.

      Thanks for the info about Sadvertising. I’d never heard of it but love the title.

      • I did a RAT yesterday which was negative so decided to do a pcr. They also now test for other respiratory viruses if you present with symptoms, so thought if it wasn’t covid I’d at least know which letter of the alphabet to blame for my flu!!

        • Well done. I didn’t know that about the PCR now, which is interesting to know, but for us the RAT was so conclusive we didn’t have to worry. We then registered online, and we were impressed with the follow-up we got, and we are now completing daily symptom checkers.

  9. Hey Sue, I don’t think I’ve heard of any of these except Drop Bear. If I had to recommend books to get people started reading, I’d think back to recommendations I made when I worked at a library and we did summer reading (with the Beanstalk app): Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice, Paradise Cove by Jenny Holiday, Cruddy by Lynda Barry, and The Rabbi’s Cat by Joann Sfar.

  10. So sorry to hear you’re poorly – get well soon! This is a lovely initiative, and as an ex-academic librarian who never got to do cool outreach stuff (really wanted to be a community librarian), I love reading about stuff like this!

    • Thanks Liz… am pretty much on the mend now. Just hoping I have no long COVID issues.

      When I did librarianship my goals weee the National Library, where I ended up, or an academic library but my first job at the National Library was the public library section as in those days the NLA ran the local library service. I loved it. They are great … so I love keeping up with what they do, too. One of my post retirement jobs was helping draft some online librarianship courses and public libraries came up there a few times. That really renewed my professional interest in them.

  11. I love this Vic library project. It sounds like lots of fun. I am all over the place with reading lately but hopefully making a comeback! Winter is a good time to settle down and get back on track. I am looking forward to reading Drop Bear. It is very different to what I normally pick up. And finally, do take care of yourself. I am so sorry you have picked up this dreaded virus. It is such a nuisance to everyone. Everyone is certainly over hearing of it day in and day out. Drink plenty of fluids!!! Thinking of you.

    • Thanks Pam. I’m glad so many are liking this project.

      I hope to read Drop bear soon. I’m glad you are getting your reading mojo back.

      And thanks re COVID. It sure is a nuisance and has changed our world big time, hasn’t it. We are looking after ourselves … and trying to keep the fluids up.

  12. Sorry to hear about the COVID. Having spent a chunk of the last two weeks out of town, I suppose that I have had many chances to get it. So far I haven’t, or anyway I hadn’t last Tuesday.

    The last book I finished was David Lodge’s quite old (and quite good) novel Trading Places; if all my reading were of that nature, twenty books in a summer would be manageable. The last book I started is John Rawls’s A Theory of Justice. If all my reading were of that nature, eight books in a summer would be a stretch.

    But in honor of the pandemic: Pale Horse, Pale Rider by Katherine Anne Porter, which touches on the Spanish Influenza of 1918 as seen in Denver, Colorado; Eothen by A.W. Kinglake, who caught a touch of the plague in Cairo in the middle of the 19th Century, and insolently violated quarantine rules on his way back home; The Blue Flower by Penelope Fitzgerald, since pretty much everybody in the book dies of tuberculosis–Novalis’s fiancee, Novalis, his siblings–though it is true that one of the fiancee’s brothers manages to be killed in battle; Roderick Random by Tobias Smollett, since it includes a yellow-fever epidemic that struck the British expedition against Cartagena.

    • Thanks George. We go out and about a lot. Try to wear masks in public settings but you can’t in restaurants and we went to a few last week where we were aware of one or two coughers being nearby. Japanese people are so much more considerate about these things … long before COVID. It’s something we could all learn. Anyhow we felt it was only a matter of time.

      Haha re your 20 books of summer assessment. Makes sense to me.

      Love your recommendations … though they may not be guaranteed to cheer up readers going through another COVID-affected winter! Not that all the authors’ recommended books are light and fluffy either!

  13. Late to the party here, I only ever seem to have time to look at blogs on the weekend these days. Sorry to hear you have covid – hope you are fully recovered. It took me a good few weeks to feel back to “normal” – I had brain fog and fatigue for about 3 weeks!

    I love the sound of this winter reading initiative and have many of these books on my TBR already (Claire G. Coleman’s Lies, Damned Lies; Omar Sakr’s Son of Sin; Ellen van Neerven and Rafeif Ismail’s Unlimited futures etc etc). I have also read a handful (Alice Pung’s One Hundred Days; Larissa Behrendt’s After Story; Emma Viskic’s Resurrection Bay)

    • Thanks kimbofo. I come out of iso tomorrow, and am feeling pretty good. Time will tell what happens when I am set loose and not molly-coddled inside all day! I’m quadruple vaxxed so am hoping I’m not going to have any long-lasting symptoms but time will tell. I think not having to go to work tomorrow is a big help. No wonder you had fatigue – and it was a pretty new job too wasn’t it?

      I am going to read After story in July. I keep looking for an audiobook version of Resurrection Bay to listen on a road trip but it seems not to have been done. I wonder why?

  14. Thanks for the reminders that for many readers, July and August are Winter months! While we have ‘beach reads’ for the summer, what’s the equivalent in your winter reads? 🙂 I’m glad Cathy of 746 has so many participants, 129 in total, so far. Don’t think I’ll be joining though; as a slow reader, 20 books probably is 3/4 of my whole year’s reading. However, I’m striving to finish Proust’s In Search of Lost Time this year (started reading it years ago!) 2022 is 100th anniversary of Proust’s death on Nov. 18, so, I’ll be joining Emma of Books Around the Corner for this event. I still have the last 3 volumes to complete the 6 Vol. set. Hopefully I can make it by that date.

  15. I’m way behind with blog hopping so had completely missed the news that you had tested positive. Are you all ok now??

    What a good initiative by your library system. All we have is a reading programme for schoolchildren, which gets variable levels of promotion depending on where you live in the country. An adult version sounds enticing though.

    32 books recommended and I have not heard of a single one!

    • Thanks Karen. Yes, tested on 19 June so well past it now. I felt perfectly back to normal by the end of my isolation. Mr Gums felt he took a little longer but not significantly so.

      And yes, I think the great thing about this program is that it’s specifically for adults. As you say, there doesn’t seem to be many reading programs for adults.

      While I would have thought a few of the recommended books might have been known overseas( and a couple aren’t Australian) I’m not really surprised as they are a diverse selection. There are two or three there that I didn’t know. I think they are a wonderfull and somewhat provocative selection.

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