Australian authors – thoughts and memories

The first book I read cover-to-cover in one sitting was ‘Pinquo’ by Colin Thiele. I sat awkwardly perched on a dining room chair, hungrily turning the pages, and putting everything else on hold. There were no breaks, no timeouts for food, and no pauses to indulge in idle family chit chat. It was impossible for me to put the book down until the story of that incredible little fairy penguin was complete. While it brought many tears to my eyes, Pinquo was my first book love and I therefore recall only the very fondest of memories of that intense reading session.

The day Colin Thiele visited my primary school on a promotional tour, was the happiest day of my then short-lived life. In typical fashion I had forgotten to bring my copy of Pinquo to school for him to sign, and so instead I bought a copy of ‘February Dragon’ (the only book of his that I had yet to read). I was probably too shy and awestruck to say anything beyond a quiet ‘thank you’ when he signed my book, and in any case I probably wouldn’t have been able to express exactly what his books meant to me.

Favourite authors ... old and new

Not too distant from that event, for my birthday one of my uncles gifted me a beautiful hardcopy edition of ‘Playing Beattie Bow’ by Ruth Park. Here then was another story to fall in love with. With a plot set in Sydney, a young girl as the main character, and time-travelling elements of the fantastical, it was a book I connected with in many different ways. I was smitten.

Recent Australian reads ... both of which I'd recommend.

I’m sharing these memories because I’d always thought that I’ve never been much of a reader or supporter of Australian writers, but of course as it turns out that’s not at all true. Over the years I’ve enjoyed many works by other local authors such as David Malouf, Joan Lindsay, Markus Zusak, John Marsden, John Birmingham and Geraldine Brooks. More recently I caught up with Kate Morton’s novels, and I’ve just finished reading Anna Funder’s ‘All That I Am’, and ‘Foal’s Bread’ by Gillian Mears (both of which I enjoyed).

Just last week I was lucky enough to receive an advance copy of Kate Morton’s upcoming novel ‘The Secret Keeper’. It’s next on my ‘to read’ list and I’m so looking forward to continuing my love affair with her words. What a happy occurrence this is, to be reading the latest work of a Brisbane author, given that it is currently ‘Queensland Writer’s Week‘. The only downside is that it’s quite a weighty tome to carry on my daily commute, but when it comes to books I’ll happily sacrifice personal comfort for a good story.

Do you remember your first book love?


  1. Lucent Imagery

    I don’t remember if it was my first, but The Magic Faraway Tree stands out strongly in my mind as a favourite in my childhood! Enid Blyton and Roald Dahl are the stand out authors in my memories.

    1. tracey (Post author)

      Hi Lucent Imagery – Oh yes, me too! I loved ‘The Magic Faraway Tree’ … such a wondrous fictional world. Enid Blyton and Roald Dahl are definitely favourite childhood authors of mine … clearly, great minds think alike. 😉

  2. Teresa

    I’m not sure if I can remember my first book love. I adored both ‘Charlotte’s Web’ and ‘Matilda’ when I was younger and when I was a fantasy loving teen ‘The Mists of Avalon’ was a book I read over and over again. A little sad I know! 😉

    1. tracey (Post author)

      Hi Teresa – Oh my, ‘Charlotte’s Web’ pretty much broke my heart … so many tears, but still it’s a favourite of mine too. I’m not even sure I trust myself to read it again now.

      Haha, yep … I was right there with you on the whole ‘Mists of Avalon’ obsession back in the day … so at the very least we were sad together! 😉

  3. Gabrielle Bryden

    I remember being totally enthralled with Jonathan Livingstone Seagull at a young age; and later one of my favourite Australian books was They’re a Weird Mob – totally hilarious. But I must admit most of the books I read were not Australian!

    1. tracey (Post author)

      Hi Gabrielle – I only recently read Jonathan Livingstone Seagull, and what a sweet story it is. I think as a child I probably read more UK authors … but now I seem to have more of a multi-cultural mix (including more Australian writers than I realised). 🙂

  4. Sarah

    I heard on NPR this morning about neuroscience research into brains of people who are totally, deeply absorbed in a book. They didn’t expect to see anything very interesting, but it turns out that when a reader gets lost in a novel, the entire brain lights up!

    As a literature major, I never read any Australian authors — why is that?? — but now I really hope to get into some of these recommendations.

    1. tracey (Post author)

      Hi Sarah – Oh that neuroscience research into the brains of readers is really interesting … I know that feeling of getting completely lost in a novel all too well. It’s funny how we accidentally overlook certain books or certain authors … but I suppose the main trouble is that there are so many of them to choose from the world over. 🙂

  5. Linda from Heartfire At Home

    Oh boy, I had so many book ‘loves’ when I was little. I don’t remember the first one!! I was completely enamoured with all the Narnia books, all the Tolkien major books (first read The Lord of The Rings when I was about 10), The Weirdstone of Brisingamen is probably the one book that has always stayed in my memory as the most special. I also read all the Hardy Boys series, plus the Three Investigators series, and a few Famous Five by Enid Blyton. Susan Cooper who wrote The Dark Is Rising series was also an absolute favourite.

    On a side note…. love the new site look!! WOW! GORGEOUS!

    I’m in the middle of a new site, so my heartfire site has gone a bit dead currently. Once I get a few issues sorted out, I’ll let you know where it is!

    Linda. xox

    1. tracey (Post author)

      Hi Linda – Funnily enough I didn’t read the Narnia books as a child, and I only came to Tolkien later on in life … I’m not even sure how that happened really. I never read The Hardy Boys, but I was a really, really big fan of The Famous Five (and much of Enid Blyton really). So many books, so little time. 🙂

      PS. I’m glad you like the new look, I’m really enjoying it too. It sounds like things are busy as ever in your world, but I’m thinking it’s that lovely positively constructive kind of busy … YAY! 🙂

  6. katiecrackernuts

    I can’t recall a first book love but I do fall in love with books and particular writers. At the moment it’s the work of Cate Kennedy and I am always amazed by the selections of myh online book club – The Slow Readers. Given it’s mostly a US crowd, the books selected are not what I’d normally select. I’ve read Harper Lee and Jeffrey Eugenides as a result this year alone and am all the richer for it.

    1. tracey (Post author)

      Hi Katiecrackernuts – I’m going to have to check out Cate Kennedy’s books, I’ve never read any of her works before. How wonderful that your online book club (and what a great name it has) introduces you to new authors. Harper Lee and Jeffrey Eugenides are long term favourites of mine. 🙂

  7. ejorpin

    I don’t remember exactly the first book I fell in love with, but reading this post is making really wish I could remember! As a teen I was obsessed with Tolkien, and Roald Dahl was a family favourite. From an earlier age, I also still have a well loved set of Dorrie books (‘the adventures of a little witch…and her cat Gink’). After that many of the books I read in English at high school had a big impact on me (1984, The Great Gatsby). The only Australian reading I remember was Snugglepot and Cuddlepie, which I adored!

    Then came the discovery of some of my favourite authors, introduced to me by my Mum – Margaret Atwood, AS Byatt and Jeannette Winterson. Still no Aussies!

    It’s really only been in the last ten years or so that I started reading Australian authors, and now they are among my absolute favourites (Robert Dessaix, Peter Carey, Richard Flanagan, Nam Le, Christos Tsiolkas, John Marsden – hmmm, no ladies there…) and, more recently, Marieke Hardy. Kate Grenville is next on my list.

    It’s strange – since moving away from Oz both the husband and I have been quite obsessed with Australian literature. Absence makes the heart grow fonder perhaps?

  8. katie

    hey trac – I know we read basically all the same books as kids, so this blog post is bringing back some very fond memories. do you also remember taronga by victor kelleher? and I also seem to recall us being capital O obsessed with the sword of shannara. ha! xx kc

  9. woolf

    first book love… i would have to think hard. could it be the belgian version of debbie? it certainly could be… so there… ;)))
    cheers for this peek into your library. none of these are known to me.

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