The team behind a writers’ festival is often (and ideally always) incredibly diverse, both in their skills and their tastes. Here we’ve compiled a short list of our favourite titles released (or awarded) in 2015. May they ease your seasonal decision-making or find a welcome place on your bookshelf this summer. Enjoy!
The Strays by Emily Bitto [Affirm Press]: Whether editing another writer’s work or wrestling with my own, I’ve become a broken record stuck on a pedantic rant about the economical use of language. It’s the single most important thing I’ve learned as a writer and reader. The Strays by Emily Bitto is a rare book whose aversion to wasting words is as magical as it is thrifty. The light it casts on the unique intimacy of girlhood friendships is affectionate, painful, highly nuanced and true. – Lucy Nelson (Director)
Dirty Furniture: Table [Dirty Furniture]: Okay, so I’m cheating – this is a magazine – but I’m picking it anyway because it is the most engaging design writing I’ve come across in ages. Dirty Furniture talks about objects within the context of people’s lives. It isn’t just stylised photos and discussions of iconic joinery (although there is a bit of that), it’s about what happens when furniture is activated through use, and all the social, political and pop-cultural perspectives that come with that. Table features articles ranging from the power dynamics of the boardroom table to the history of chewing gum and TV dinners. – Yasmin Masri (Director)
Small Acts of Disappearance: Essays on Hunger by Fiona Wright [Giramondo Publishing]: Precise, restrained and incisive, Small Acts of Disappearance is about the hunger for more control as well as the hunger to be free – free from the fear of rejection, of not fitting in. Wright’s essays on hunger dissect not just her personal experience with anorexia but her place in the world and what it means to live, with all our human flaws and frailty. With echoes of Plath, it is easily my favourite book of the year. – Shu-Ling Chua (Producer)
The First Bad Man by Miranda July [Simon & Schuster]: This book felt like some kind of intensely absurd journey into a place in the depths of my own brain that I didn’t know existed – it really challenged my perception of storytelling and reality versus imagination. I felt an affinity towards the style of writing, as well as feeling connected to how the main character looked at the world in an abstract and analytical way. It got me back into my own writing, which was the biggest plus of reading this book. Weird and wonderful and a total mindf**k, which I think is what my brain was craving. – Daisy Douglas (Producer)
The First Collection of Criticism by a Living Female Rock Critic by Jessica Hopper [Featherproof]: Hopper’s knack for capturing the intensity and poignancy of music and its personalities turns what might have been myopic abstractions into vivid, enlightening vignettes. To borrow one of her turns of phrase, her writing is “so sharp it can cut through the sound of a downpour a half block away.” But better than that, Hopper uses her writing to put context and subject neck and neck, elevating the fact that the way music is created, the way society engages with it, is as important as music itself. This book is a landmark in music journalism. – Ashley Thomson (Media and Communications)