7 great summer reads, recommended by our favourite musicians
Summer is a good time to read.
When it’s too hot to get active outside and the chance of sunburn is frighteningly high, a couple of hours with a book is not just an enjoyable option, it’s a damn sensible one too.
If you’re one of the many who get some time off work over summer, this could well be one of the only times in a year you can make time to read.
To help you capitalise on that, we’ve asked some of our favourite Australian artists to recommend a book that will keep you engrossed throughout summer. It stands to reason that if we love the art they make, we’ll love what inspires them as well. Here’s hoping.
What follows is a varied collection of books, hopefully such broad ranging topics will mean there’s something for everyone in here.
Mickael Bulgakov – The Master and Margarita (recommended by Marlon Williams)
Mickael Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita is absolutely the book for you. Whoever you are. It may just be the best book ever. Even better than The Moomintrolls.
It takes on a few different narrative streams, one of which is a chilling depiction of a mysterious tall gentleman with a slippery accent who infiltrates Moscow at the height of Soviet rule and wreaks havoc on the pompous literary elite.
We soon infer that this man, who calls himself Woland, is in fact the devil and he is not happy. He, along with an incredibly entertaining cast of satanic henchmen (see Behemoth, the suspiciously feline social butterfly) play upon the sins of this overzealously dogmatic society and bring about its ruin.
Running parallel to this is a harrowing narrative of Pontius Pilates condemnation of Jesus in Jerusalem. This is a Pilate who suffers from migraines, is irritable, and catches a slight, horrifying glimpse of the inevitable consequences of his actions. It makes for incredibly powerful reading (apparently spawning the Stones’ ‘Sympathy For The Devil’).
The second half of the book ties this all together beautifully through the love story of ‘The Master’ and ‘Margarita’ in a way that I can’t express and do justice. Unsurprisingly, this work was heavily censored in Russia and wasn’t published in full until the mid-60s.
Now, in an age where a certain brand of atheism aggressively asserts itself under the guise of Darwinian inquiry (hey, Richard D.), Bulgakov’s novel warns us of the subtlety of deception, puts us in touch with the sublime, and reminds us that Jesus and Satan wage an eternal war in all of our hearts.
Merry Christmas, y’all x
Stephanie Vaughn – Sweet Talk (recommended by Adam Curley, Gold Class)
I think short stories are perfect for summer, when you have maybe half an hour between drinks or on the tram to a party. If I’m not already deep in something I’ll grab Sweet Talk or Denis Johnson’s Train Dreams.
The stories in Sweet Talk (first published in 1990) centre on an Army family in the US, as told by Gemma, a girl learning about the way families break and survive and break again. It’s highly astute, funny and devastating writing.
Gulf Country Songbook: Yanyuwa, Marra, Garrwa and Gudanji Songs (recommended by Beatrice Lewis, Kardajala Kirridarra/Haiku Hands)
Eleanor Dixon showed me this book when I went to Marlinja one time. She had just come back from visiting family in the Gulf country and brought it back with her.
It features songs composed in Yanyuwa, Marra, Garrwa and Gudanji languages for the Gulf region, it has the transposition of the music as well as the actual sound. So, you can listen to the songs through this really cool ‘sound pen’ which is preloaded with the audio files.
There are songs of land rights claims, of the maranja ‘dugong hunters of excellence’, of paddling a canoe on the sea at night, of boundary riders on a pastoral station, and Ancestral Beings journeying across the country. It is a very special book.
Miles Allinson – Fever of Animals (recommended by Husky Gawenda, Husky)
I'm hooked on the classics. But this book by a young Australian author was a beautiful time out from seven volumes of Proust, and that says a lot.
Robert Carver – What We Talk About When We Talk About Love (recommended by Jess Ribeiro)
Robert Carver’s original unedited edition of short stories is a good book to read whilst reading other books. A short story in between a long story - why not?!
Anthony Doerr – All The Light We Cannot See (recommended by Tim Carroll, Holy Holy)
I picked up this novel in a train station in Stockholm a few months back. Faced with a wall of covers, I tend to pick books the same way I pick wine, which is to look for award-winning works. I assume a team of literary critics will, between them, be able to sift through the endless releases to find the most brilliant works. Doerr won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2015 with this release.
The novel is historical fiction, set in France and Germany around World War II. With a clever use of multiple interrelating storylines and multiple timelines within each story, it's easy to get lost in the lives of these rich and relatable characters.
One of the interesting features of this book is that one of the protagonists is a young blind girl, so the reader starts to experience the world through sound, touch, taste and smell.
I couldn't recommend this book highly enough.
Nick Hornby – High Fidelity (Recommended by Didirri)
High Fidelity is that perfect blend of over-analysis of love and internal conflict and attraction to music/art/creativity.
Main character Rob perfectly displays both the affinity for and hatred of music snobbery. It shows how much fun can be had when discussing art with ‘art intellects’ and, simultaneously, how childish it can feel.
While I was at University studying music performance, I found this culture to be exactly as Nick Horsby describes: fun, frivolous and fanatical. Love of music and musicians can both be inclusive and exclusive.
With a nice amount of cynicism and romanticism, High Fidelity sums up how I relate to the Australian music scene in a beautiful (short) read.