'When he died in 1992 Brett Whiteley left behind decades of ceaseless activity—some works bound to a particular place or time, others that are masterpieces of light and line.
'Whiteley had arrived in Europe in 1960 determined to make an impression. Before long he was the youngest artist to have work acquired by the Tate. With his wife, Wendy, and daughter, Arkie, Whiteley then immersed himself in bohemian New York. But within two years he fled, having failed to break through.
'Back in Sydney, he soon became Australia’s most celebrated artist. He won the Archibald, Wynne and Sulman prizes in the same year—his prices soared, as did his fame. Among his friends were Francis Bacon and Patrick White, Billy Connolly and Dire Straits. Yet addiction was taking its toll: Whiteley struggled in vain to separate his talent from his disease, and an inglorious end approached.
'Written with unprecedented behind-the-scenes access, and handsomely illustrated with classic Whiteley artworks, rare notebook sketches and candid family photos, this dazzling biography reveals for the first time the full portrait of a mercurial artist.' (Publication summary)
'Ghost Empire is a rare treasure - an utterly captivating blend of the historical and the contemporary, realised by a master storyteller.
In 2014, Richard Fidler and his son Joe made a journey to Istanbul. Fired by Richard's passion for the rich history of the dazzling Byzantine Empire - centred around the legendary Consantinople - we are swept into some of the most extraordinary tales in history. The clash of civilizations, the fall of empires, the rise of Christianity, revenge, lust, murder. Turbulent stories from the past are brought vividly to life at the same time as a father navigates the unfolding changes in his relationship with his son.
'Ghost Empire is a revelation: a beautifully written ode to a lost civilization, and a warmly observed father-son adventure far from home.' (Publication summary)
'A topical, insightful investigation into a drug that has taken a ferocious grip on societies around the world — told by a man intimately acquainted with it.
'Luke Williams was a freelance journalist researching addiction to crystallised methamphetamine (commonly known as crystal meth or ice) when the worst possible thing happened — he became addicted himself. Over the next three months, he was seduced by the drug and descended into psychosis.
'This confronting and illuminating story charts Luke’s recovery from the drug, and his investigation into its usage and prevalence in Australia and the Western world. In examining what led to his addiction, Luke also explores the social problems that surround ice, scrutinising whether its abuse is in fact an epidemic, with what we’re experiencing now merely the tip of the proverbial iceberg, or yet another moral panic about the underclass. Luke traces the history of methamphetamine from its legal usage in the early 20th century to its contemporary relevance as one of the most foreboding and talked-about illicit drugs in the world, and his search for answers sees him researching meth labs, interviewing addicts and law-enforcement officials, and witnessing firsthand the effects of the drug on individuals, families, and the healthcare system.
'Combining memoir with reportage, The Ice Age is a vital, compelling first-person account, and an investigation into a drug that is fast becoming the subject of national discussion throughout the Western world. ' (Publication summary)
'This collection of thought-provoking essays explores what it means to grow old in our youth-obsessed world.
'Improved health care and increased standards of living mean that each generation is living longer than the last. Rather than heralding this as a success, governments see our ageing population as an imminent disaster and old age as a medical problem. In response, we are encouraged to remain active, stay healthy and work longer — in short, to refuse becoming old. But if living longer is really about staying young, do we risk turning a blind eye to issues facing the elderly?
'Written with intelligence and compassion, Joosten’s pieces consider the housing crisis as it affects older people, the politics of nursing-home care, the realities of dementia, and women’s changing relationship to their bodies as they age. Weaving interviews with research and personal essay, Joosten undertakes a timely and clearsighted investigation into what it means to age in a world focused on the young. Arguing that every one of us has the right to be old while maintaining integrity, these essays ask us to reconsider our individual and collective experiences to find meaning and come to terms with growing old.' (Publication summary)
'B.A. Santamaria was one of the most controversial Australians of our time. An ardent anti-Communist and devout Catholic, he was fiercely intelligent and a natural leader, polarising the community into loyal followers and committed opponents.
'In the 1940s Santamaria created the anti-Communist organisation 'The Movement'. In the 1950s he was a key figure in the tumultuous split of the Australian Labor Party. He subsequently enjoyed great influence as a public commentator on his television program Point of View and in his weekly column in The Australian. Santamaria had a strong social conscience and spent much of his time helping the underprivileged. Although he began as an advocate and champion of the Catholic Church, he spent much of his last decades opposing some of its activities.
'Published for the 100th anniversary of Santamaria's birth, Santamaria: A Most Unusual Man is an authoritative biography from Gerard Henderson, a close colleague until a disagreement saw the two men estranged and never reconciled. ' (Publication summary)
'An extraordinarily powerful and personal meditation on race, culture and national identity.'
'In July 2015, as the debate over Adam Goodes being booed at AFL games raged and got ever more heated and ugly, Stan Grant wrote a short but powerful piece for The Guardian that went viral, not only in Australia but right around the world, shared over 100,000 times on social media. His was a personal, passionate and powerful response to racism in Australian and the sorrow, shame, anger and hardship of being an indigenous man. 'We are the detritus of the brutality of the Australian frontier', he wrote, 'We remained a reminder of what was lost, what was taken, what was destroyed to scaffold the building of this nation's prosperity.''
'Stan Grant was lucky enough to find an escape route, making his way through education to become one of our leading journalists. He also spent many years outside Australia, working in Asia, the Middle East, Europe and Africa, a time that liberated him and gave him a unique perspective on Australia. This is his very personal meditation on what it means to be Australian, what it means to be indigenous, and what racism really means in this country.'
'Talking to My Country is that rare and special book that talks to every Australian about their country - what it is, and what it could be. It is not just about race, or about indigenous people but all of us, our shared identity. Direct, honest and forthright, Stan is talking to us all. He might not have all the answers but he wants us to keep on asking the question: how can we be better?' (Source: Publisher's website)
'An unflinching portrait of talent and addiction.
'In 2008 the artist Adam Cullen invited journalist Erik Jensen to stay in his spare room and write his biography.
'What followed were four years of intense honesty and a relationship that became increasingly claustrophobic. At one point Cullen shot Jensen, in part to see how committed he was to the book. At another, he threw Jensen from a speeding motorbike. The book contract Cullen used to convince Jensen to stay with him never existed.
'Acute Misfortune is a riveting account of the life and death of one of Australia's most celebrated artists, the man behind the Archibald Prize-winning portrait of David Wenham. Jensen follows Cullen through drug deals and periods of deep self-reflection, onwards into his court appearance for weapons possession and finally his death in 2012 at the age of forty-six. The story is by turns tender and horrifying: a spare tale of art, sex, drugs and childhood, told at close quarters and without judgement.' (Publication summary)
'The sky at the top end is big and the weather moves like a living thing. You can hear it in the cracking air when there is an electrical storm and as the thunder rolls around the sky…
'When Cyclone Tracy swept down on Darwin at Christmas 1974, the weather became not just a living thing but a killer. Tracy destroyed an entire city, left seventy-one people dead and ripped the heart out of Australia's season of goodwill.
'For the fortieth anniversary of the nation's most iconic natural disaster, Sophie Cunningham has gone back to the eyewitness accounts of those who lived through the devastation—and those who faced the heartbreaking clean-up and the back-breaking rebuilding. From the quiet stirring of the service-station bunting that heralded the catastrophe to the wholesale slaughter of the dogs that followed it, Cunningham brings to the tale a novelist's eye for detail and an exhilarating narrative drive. And a sober appraisal of what Tracy means to us now, as we face more—and more destructive—extreme weather with every year that passes.
'Compulsively readable and undeniably moving, Warning is the essential non-fiction book of 2014.' (Publication summary)
'This landmark biography by Darleen Bungey, the author of the celebrated biography of Arthur Boyd, graphically depicts the forces that drove John Olsen to become one of the country's greatest artists. An exhilarating book, both trenchant and tender, it strips away the veneer of showmanship and fame to show the substance of a painter driven by a need to depict his country's landscape as Australians had never seen it before.
'Given access to his uncensored diaries and drawing on years of extensive interviews with both Olsen and those who have known him best, she explores his passionate life and follows his navigation though the friendships, rivalries and politics of the Australian art world. How did a shy, stuttering boy from Newcastle, neglected by his alcoholic father, come to paint the great mural Salute to Five Bells at the Sydney Opera House?
'This biography follows that journey - through Olsen's early experiences in the bush, particularly a formative period at Yass (a time previously unrecorded), to years of cleaning jobs to pay his way through art school, to a milestone time spent in France and Spain - and traces his constant travels and relocations within Australia, including his epic journeys into the outback and to Kati thanda-Lake Eyre.
'From a child who was never taken to an art gallery, who learnt how to draw from comics, we come to see the famous artist in the black beret, the writer and poet, the engaging public speaker, the bon vivant - whose life has been defined by an absolute need to paint.' (Publication summary)
'We were all propagandists; the only differences were our goals.'
Looking for respite from her crumbling marriage and determined to stop a coal seam gas mine near her Sydney home, filmmaker Anna Broinowski finds wisdom and inspiration in the strangest of places: North Korea. Guided by the late Dear Leader Kim Jong Il's manifesto The Cinema and Directing, Broinowski, in a world first, travels to Pyongyang to collaborate with North Korea's top directors, composers and movie stars to make a powerful anti-fracking propaganda film.
The Director is the Commander centres around the bizarre twenty-one day shoot Broinowski did in North Korea to make her documentary, Aim High in Creation! She meets and befriends artists and apparatchiki, defectors and loyalists, and gains a new insight into the world's most secretive regime. Her adventures are set against a parallel exploration of propaganda in general: both in its ham-fisted North Korean form and its sophisticated but no less pervasive incarnation in the corporate West.
Funny, multi-layered and utterly compelling, The Director is the Commander is a gripping account of an extraordinary journey inside a nation we can usually only see from the outside looking in.
'KILLING FAIRFAX: PACKER, MURDOCH AND THE ULTIMATE REVENGE - an incisive, hard-hitting and utterly compelling exposé of media, powerful mates and multimillion-dollar deals that reads like a thriller.'
Source: Publisher's blurb.
'Louis Nowra burrows beneath the sensationalist Underbelly ‘sex and sin’ narrative, revealing stories and a cast of characters – some household names others little-known - that not even a writer could conjure up.
'Kings Cross is a no-holds barred place, where backpackers, prostitutes, strippers, chefs, mad men, poets, beggars, booksellers, doctors, gangsters, sailors, musicians, drug traffickers, eccentrics, judges and artists live side by side. Part flaneur, part historian and part eyewitness, Louis Nowra is the best possible guide to a place both real, and a state of mind.'
Source: Publisher's blurb.
'The Great Barrier Reef, argues Iain McCalman, has been created by human minds as well as coral polyps, by imaginations as well as natural processes. In this landmark book he charts our shifting perceptions of it, from the terrifying labyrinth that almost sunk Cook's Endeavour to a fragile global treasure.'
Source: Publisher's blurb.
'Renowned for its unusual mammals, Australia is a land of birds that are just as unusual, just as striking, a result of the continent's tens of millions of years of isolation. Compared with birds elsewhere, ours are more likely to be intelligent, aggressive and loud, to live in complex societies, and are long-lived. They're also ecologically more powerful, exerting more influences on forests than other birds.
'But unlike the mammals, the birds did not keep to Australia; they spread around the globe. Australia provided the world with its songbirds and parrots, the most intelligent of all bird groups. It was thought in Darwin's time that species generated in the Southern Hemisphere could not succeed in the Northern, an idea that was proven wrong in respect of birds in the 1980s but not properly accepted by the world's scientists until 2004 – because, says Tim Low, most ornithologists live in the Northern Hemisphere.'
Source: Publisher's blurb.
'From one of our most respected and award-winning authors, Jackie French, comes a fascinating and fresh interpretation of Australian history, focusing on how the land itself, rather than social forces, has shaped the major events that led to modern Australia. To understand the present, you need to understand the past. To understand Australia's history, you need to look at how the land has shaped not just our past, but will continue to shape our future. From highly respected, award-winning author Jackie French comes a new and fascinating interpretation of Australian history, focusing on how the land itself, rather than social forces, shaped the major events that led to modern Australia. Our history is mostly written by those who live, work and research in cities, but it's the land itself which has shaped our history far more powerfully and significantly than we realise. Reinterpreting the history we think we all know - from the indigenous women who shaped the land, from Terra Incognita to Eureka, from Federation to Gallipoli and beyond, Jackie French shows us that to understand our history, we need to understand our land. Taking us behind history and the accepted version of events, she also shows us that there's so much we don't understand about our history because we simply don't understand the way life was lived at the time.'
Source: Publisher's blurb.
'The Eureka Stockade. The story is one of Australia’s foundation legends, but until now it has been told as though only half the participants were there.
'What if the hot-tempered, free-wheeling gold miners we learnt about in school were actually husbands and fathers, brothers and sons? And what if there were women and children inside the Eureka Stockade, defending their rights while defending themselves against a barrage of bullets?
'As Clare Wright reveals, there were thousands of women on the goldfields and many of them were active in pivotal roles. The stories of how they arrived there, why they came and how they sustained themselves make for fascinating reading in their own right. But it is in the rebellion itself that the unbiddable women of Ballarat come into their own.
'Groundbreaking, absorbing, crucially important—The Forgotten Rebels of Eureka is the uncut story of the day the Australian people found their voice.' (Publisher's blurb)
'Who doesn't know the name Shane Warne?
Now that the Australian cricketer who dominated airwaves and headlines for twenty years has turned full-time celebrity and media event, his sporting conquests and controversies are receding steadily into the past.
But what was it like to watch Warne at his long peak, the man of a thousand international wickets, the incarnation of Australian audacity and cheek? Our leading cricket writer, Gideon Haigh, lived and loved the Warne era, when the impossible was everyday, and the sensational every other day.
In On Warne, he relives the era's highs, its lows, its fun and its follies. Drawing on interviews conducted with Warne over the course of a decade, and two decades of watching him play, Haigh assesses this greatest of sportsmen as cricketer, character, comrade, newsmaker and national figure – a natural in an increasingly regimented time, a simplifier in a growingly complicated world. The result is one of the finest cricket books ever written, a whole new way of looking at its subject, at sport, and at Australia.
One day, you might be asked what cricket in the time of Warne was like. On Warne is the definitive account.' Source: www.penguin.com.au/ (Sighted 24/10/2012).
'In northern Iceland, 1829, Agnes Magnusdottir is condemned to death for her part in the brutal murder of two men.
'Agnes is sent to wait out the time leading to her execution on the farm of District Officer Jon Jonsson, his wife and their two daughters. Horrified to have a convicted murderess in their midst, the family avoids speaking with Agnes. Only Toti, the young assistant reverend appointed as Agnes's spiritual guardian, is compelled to try to understand her, as he attempts to salvage her soul. As the summer months fall away to winter and the hardships of rural life force the household to work side by side, Agnes's ill-fated tale of longing and betrayal begins to emerge. And as the days to her execution draw closer, the question burns: did she or didn't she?
'Based on a true story, Burial Rites is a deeply moving novel about personal freedom: who we are seen to be versus who we believe ourselves to be, and the ways in which we will risk everything for love. In beautiful, cut-glass prose, Hannah Kent portrays Iceland's formidable landscape, where every day is a battle for survival, and asks, how can one woman hope to endure when her life depends upon the stories told by others?' (Publisher's blurb)
'At once a non-fiction thriller and a moral maze, this is one man's epic story of trying to find a safe place in the world.
'When Ali Al Jenabi flees Saddam Hussein's torture chambers, he is forced to leave his family behind in Iraq. What follows is an incredible international odyssey through the shadow world of fake passports, crowded camps and illegal border crossings, living every day with excruciating uncertainty about what the next will bring.
'Through betrayal, triumph, misfortune - even romance and heartbreak - Ali is sustained by his fierce love of freedom and family. Continually pushed to the limits of his endurance, eventually he must confront what he has been forced to become.
'With enormous power and insight, The People Smuggler tells a story of daily heroism, bringing to life the forces that drive so many people to put their lives in unscrupulous hands. It is an utterly gripping portrait of a man cut loose from the protections of civilisation, attempting to retain his dignity and humanity while taking whatever path he can out of an impossible position.' (From the publisher's website.)
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