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Alternative title: ABR
Date: 2001-
Date: 1994-2000
Date: 1989-1994
Date: 1988-1989
Date: 1986-1988
Date: 1978-1986
Date: 1965-1973
Date: 1962-1964
Date: 1961
Issue Details: First known date: 1961... 1961 Australian Book Review
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AbstractHistoryArchive Description

The Australian Book Review (ABR) was established in 1961 to provide a forum for the review of new Australian books. Editors, Max Harris and Geoffrey Dutton, planned to 'notice' or review every new Australian book, but this desire proved difficult to realise due to a rising number of books and the difficulty of defining what an Australian book was. Nevertheless, ABR employed a range of reviewers to provide general readers with authoritative assessments of important books. These reviewers included Frank Kellaway, Olaf Ruhen, Vale Lindsay, Tom Shapcott, Brian Dibble, Bruce Beaver and Don Watson.

Rosemary Wighton became co-editor in 1962 after acting as associate editor for a short time. She and Harris remained co-editors of ABR until 1973 when the magazine ceased operation after finding it increasingly difficult to meet production costs. An attempt was made by the newly formed National Book Council (NBC) to buy ABR, but, due to legal technicalities, this was not possible at that time. In 1978, John McLaren convinced the NBC to revive ABR and the magazine was adopted as the official organ of the NBC.

John McLaren was appointed editor, proceeding in a manner similar to the first series by attempting to review all Australian books; but he also faced problems of space and definition. In 1986 Kerryn Goldsworthy replaced McLaren as editor, and introduced a stronger concentration on women's issues. Louise Adler followed Goldsworthy as editor in 1988 and attempted to provoke debate by commissioning controversial reviews, but her term concluded within twelve months. Rosemary Sorenson was appointed editor in 1989, bringing a lighter tone and a desire to attract a new readership with younger writers. Sorenson was assisted by major sponsorship from Telecom, allowing her to fund a series of essays. While ABR had always published features on various topics, the sponsorship gave the essays a more significant place. The essay feature has continued with similar sponsorship from the National Library of Australia and La Trobe University.

Helen Daniel edited ABR from 1994 until her death in 2000. She lifted the profile of the magazine by organising several series of public forums and encouraged new writers with competitions for fiction and reviewing. During this time, the NBC wound down its operations after a significant proportion of its government funding was withdrawn. This had an immediate effect on the stability of ABR, forcing the magazine to separate from its parent body and publish independently.

Peter Rose was appointed editor in January 2001 and has since expanded the scope of ABR by actively commissioning poetry and fiction. Rose also developed a sponsorship scheme to support the work of ABR. In 2002 La Trobe University became the Chief Sponsor of ABR, with the National Library of Australia as its National Sponsor. Three years later Flinders University became another key sponsor and in 2007 the wealth management group Ord Minnett took on the role of exclusive corporate sponsor.


  • RANGE: 1961-1974; 1978-
  • FREQUENCY: Monthly, (1961-Apr. 1971); Quarterly (June 1971-Nov. 1973); Monthly (June 1978- 1993); 10 issues per annum (1994- )
  • SIZE: 36cm (1961-1971); 32cm (1972-1973); 27cm (1978-1985); 26cm (1986- ); between 20-64 pages
  • PRICE: one shilling and ninepence (1961-1963); two shillings and sixpence (1963-1964); three shillings (1965); thirty-five cents (1966-1967); forty-five cents (1967-1969); fifty cents (1969-1971); $1.50 (1971-1974); $2 (1978-1982) $2.50 (1983); $3 (1984-1987); $3.50 (1987- 1988); $3.95 (1988-1989); $4.95 (1989-1997); $5.95 (1997- 2000); $6.55 (2000- )

Publication Details of Only Known VersionEarliest 2 Known Versions of

First known date: 1961

Works about this Work

Coronavirus and Australian Book Review Peter Rose , 2020 single work essay
— Appears in: Australian Book Review , April no. 420 2020;

'After a summer of bushfires across the nation and phenomenal loss and destruction, Australia – like the rest of world – now faces a health crisis of fearsome scope. As we go to press (earlier than planned because of present uncertainties), the scale of the threat, unprecedented in our times, is becoming stark.' (Introduction)

ABR's New Partnership with Monash University 2016 single work column
— Appears in: Australian Book Review , May no. 381 2016; (p. 1)
On John McLaren Some Other Fragments Recalled. Vane Lindesay , 2016 single work essay
— Appears in: Overland , Autumn no. 222 2016; (p. 3)
'The article offers the author's insights on the academic works and achievements of John McLaren, editor of the journal "Australian Book Review." The author describes his work experience with McLaren, focusing on the computer facts, events, and place wrote by McLaren, the formation of the publication "Melbourne: City of Words," and his commitment as a humanitarian democrat.' (Publication abstract)
A Defence of Tempered Praise and Tempered Criticism in Book Reviewing Patrick Allington , 2016 single work criticism
— Appears in: Australian Humanities Review , November no. 60 2016;

'The academic, critic and nun Veronica Brady once wrote that Thomas Keneally ‘has always been a writer who mattered, even when he is writing too much too quickly’ (74). For several reasons, I often ponder this brilliant line. First, it captures a fundamental truth—perhaps the fundamental truth—about Keneally’s oeuvre. Indeed, it is an even more accurate appraisal of Keneally’s legacy in 2016, taking into consideration his more than fifty published books, than it was when it appeared in the literary magazine Meanjin in 1979. Second, the brevity of Brady’s observation is admirable: she uses so few words to say so much so well. Third, Brady here offers a mixed critical response: she is at once positive and negative about Keneally, with the two responses commingling rather than competing; her tone is moderate.' (Introduction)

How Nice Is Too Nice? Australian Book Reviews and the ‘Compliment Sandwich’ Emmett Stinson , 2016 single work criticism
— Appears in: Australian Humanities Review , November no. 60 2016;
'This article responds to an ongoing public debate about whether Australian book reviewing is ‘too nice’, which started in the literary journal Kill Your Darlings in 2010 and has continued in other literary publications. It takes up Ben Etherington’s claim that ‘too nice’ reviewing is characterised by the ‘compliment sandwich’ in which critique is surrounded by mollifying praise. It offers a ‘distant reading’ of two years of fiction reviews in the Australian Book Review, applying a manual appraisal analysis to demonstrate that book reviews in Australia’s flagship reviewing publication do often adhere to the compliment-sandwich form. The article then returns to the question of ‘too nice’ reviewing, and applies a modified Bourdieusian analysis to examine how reviewing debates have served as proxies for larger disputes between institutions and interlocutors in the literary field.' (Introduction)
Creatively Speaking, Never Mind the Width, Feel the Quality Robert Dessaix , 1990 single work review
— Appears in: The Weekend Australian , 9-10 June 1990; (p. rev 6)

— Review of Australian Book Review 1961 periodical (560 issues); Overland no. 118 Autumn 1990 periodical issue
Untitled R. Bell , 1978 single work review
— Appears in: The Sydney Morning Herald , 1 July 1978; (p. 17)

— Review of Australian Book Review 1961 periodical (560 issues)
Untitled B. Elliott , 1978 single work review
— Appears in: The Advertiser , 19 August 1978; (p. 23)

— Review of Australian Book Review 1961 periodical (560 issues)
Untitled D. J. Jones , 1978 single work review
— Appears in: Australian Library Journal , vol. 27 no. 1978; (p. 295)

— Review of Australian Book Review 1961 periodical (560 issues)
Untitled Judah Waten , 1978 single work review
— Appears in: The Age , 1 July 1978; (p. 23)

— Review of Australian Book Review 1961 periodical (560 issues)
The Oily Ratbag and the Recycled Waratah: Early Years of ABR Kerryn Goldsworthy , 2003 single work criticism
— Appears in: Australian Book Review , April no. 250 2003; (p. 23-24)
Goldsworthy recalls the earliest issues of Australian Book Review from the era 1961-1973 (prior to the journal's publishing hiatus and its revival in 1978).
The Art of Review Explores Deeper Strata Jane Sullivan , 2003 single work column
— Appears in: The Sunday Age , 4 May 2003; (p. 12)
The Missing Five Years Thomas Shapcott , 2003 single work correspondence
— Appears in: Australian Book Review , May no. 251 2003; (p. 4)
ABR Forever! Peter Beilharz , 2003 single work correspondence
— Appears in: Australian Book Review , May no. 251 2003; (p. 4)
Room for Improvement Laurie Hergenhan , 2004 single work correspondence
— Appears in: Australian Book Review , April no. 260 2004; (p. 4)

PeriodicalNewspaper Details

ISSN: 0155-2864
ISSN: 0004-8755
Last amended 22 Mar 2018 15:41:57
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