Recommended Reading

@realbeowulf: Guess Grendel found our little wrestling match disarming. Big hands ain’t everything. Sad. #whodaman

Beowulf’s triumph reduced to a Trump tweet speaks volumes about how dismally modern media have cheapened the ways we perceive and acknowledge achievement. Could we but hear the work of this anonymous tenth-century poet with truly attentive ears, he could tell us much about the genuinely heroic and its real place in a world as fraught with peril in our day as it was in his. Further explore the differences and surprising similarities of Beowulf and today here.

While just a few years ago, headlines predicted eBook supremacy and the demise of the paper book, that’s now reversed. They’re now saying the Kindle is clunky and unhip and paper books are cool and selling well as eBook sales crash. But are today’s claims any more accurate than those of 2012? The latest round of headlines was triggered by UK Publishers’ Association figures noting a fall in consumer eBook sales of 17% in 2016, while physical book sales rose 8%. This statistic seems straightforward enough on the surface, but it pays to go deeper. Flip past the abstract and read the article here.

Fiona McFarlane has won the £30,000 International Dylan Thomas prize for her “deliciously unsettling” short story collection, The High Places. Flitting across continents, eras, and genres, McFarlane’s 13 stories examine the spectrum of emotional life, with moments of uneasy anticipation, domestic contentment and ominous desperation. Professor Dai Smith, one of the judges, said that there were “echoes of Thomas’s work” in her range. “Her stories range from the surreal to quizzical, tales of naturalism and domestic tragedies, with some of them being very funny indeed,” he added. “Dylan Thomas, in his short stories particularly, hit all those notes, from really mad, dark comic surrealism, to terribly moving empathetic stories about his Swansea contemporaries.” Read more about the prize and McFarlane’s work here.


Drawing upon interviews from the Australian Generations oral history project, Australian Lives is a book rich with testimony from diverse Australians about the history of everyday life across the past century. It’s also a book with a difference: e-book users can listen to hundreds of interview extracts by connecting direct to the National Library online archive. Authors Anisa Puri (President, Oral History NSW) and Alistair Thomson (Monash University) discuss the digital technologies that are enabling new types of aural history, consider the challenges of creating Australian Lives and showcase intimate histories from the publication. This seminar will be chaired by Professor Christina Twomey of Monash University. Tuesday 6 June 2017, from 6:00pm to 7:30pm, Old Treasury Building. Free, bookings required. More info here.

In recent times, Donald Trump has been elected as President of the US, the British people have voted to leave the European Union, right-wing regimes have taken power in Hungary and Poland, right-wing parties in Western Europe have grown steadily, while in Australia the One Nation Party has been reborn. Will the future of politics in the West be determined by the kind of anti-establishment populism these separate developments seem to represent? La Trobe University’s Ideas & Society Program, convened by Emeritus Professor Robert Manne, has assembled a stellar panel to consider this crucial question in depth. Tuesday 13 June 2017, from 6:30pm to 8:30pm, La Trobe University. $5 to $15, bookings required. More info here.

Join Dr Effie Karageorgos and explore writings from the battlefields throughout the 20th century. The Australian soldiers who travelled to South Africa at the turn of the nineteenth century and Vietnam from the early 1960s initially had little idea of what they were to encounter on the battlefield. Their often insightful and entertaining letters and diaries position them as men eager to bring honour to their country, however also reveal some contrast between their reactions to the war and those of the Australian public. Wednesday 14 June 2017, from 12:00pm, Shrine of Remembrance. $5, bookings required. More info here.

This workshop will give an introduction to writing your memoir and explore characterisation, setting, plot, place and language. Alice Pung is a Melbourne writer, journalist and essayist, whose award winning books include ‘Unpolished Gem’, ‘Her Father’s Daughter’ and ‘Laurinda’. She is also the editor of ‘Growing Up Asian in Australia’ and ‘My First Lesson’, and the author of the ‘Meet Marly’ books in the ‘Our Australian Girl’ series. This workshop is presented in association with the Glen Eira Storytelling Festival and the National Trust of Australia (Victoria). Thursday 29 June 2017, from 5:00pm to 7:00pm, Writers Victoria. $30 to $55, bookings required. More info here.

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