Top Picks - Non-Fiction

A Bigger Picture

$55.00

Malcolm Turnbull, Australia’s 29th prime minister, tells the remarkable story of his life in this lively political page-turner.

When Malcolm Turnbull took over the nation’s top job there was a sense of excitement in Australia. Sky-high opinion polls followed as the political outsider with a successful business, legal and media career took charge. The infighting that had dogged politics for the best part of a decade looked to be over. But a right-wing insurgency brutally cut down Turnbull’s time in office after three years, leaving many Australians asking, ‘Why?’

Exceptionally candid and compelling, A Bigger Picture is the definitive narrative of Malcolm Turnbull’s prime ministership. He describes how he legalised same-sex marriage, established Snowy Hydro 2.0, stood up to Donald Trump, and many more achievements – remarkable in their pace and significance, and delivered in the teeth of so much opposition. But it’s far more than just politics. Turnbull’s life has been filled with colourful characters and controversies, success and failure. From his early years in Sydney, growing up with a single father, to defending ‘Spycatcher’ Peter Wright against the UK government; the years representing Kerry Packer, leading the Republican Movement and making millions in business; and finally toppling Tony Abbott to become prime minister of Australia. For the first time he tells it all – in his own words.

With revelatory insights on the workings of Canberra and the contentious events of Turnbull’s life, A Bigger Picture explores the strengths and vulnerabilities of one of Australia’s best-known and most dynamic business and political leaders. Lyrically written in highly readable and entertaining prose, this is a genuine page-turner that’s not just for political junkies.

A Promised Land

$65.00

A riveting, deeply personal account of history in the making—from the president who inspired us to believe in the power of democracy

In the stirring, highly anticipated first volume of his presidential memoirs, Barack Obama tells the story of his improbable odyssey from young man searching for his identity to leader of the free world, describing in strikingly personal detail both his political education and the landmark moments of the first term of his historic presidency-a time of dramatic transformation and turmoil.

Obama takes readers on a compelling journey from his earliest political aspirations to the pivotal Iowa caucus victory that demonstrated the power of grassroots activism to the watershed night of November 4, 2008, when he was elected 44th president of the United States, becoming the first African American to hold the nation’s highest office.

Reflecting on the presidency, he offers a unique and thoughtful exploration of both the awesome reach and the limits of presidential power, as well as singular insights into the dynamics of U.S. partisan politics and international diplomacy. Obama brings readers inside the Oval Office and the White House Situation Room, and to Moscow, Cairo, Beijing, and points beyond. We are privy to his thoughts as he assembles his cabinet, wrestles with a global financial crisis, takes the measure of Vladimir Putin, overcomes seemingly insurmountable odds to secure passage of the Affordable Care Act, clashes with generals about U.S. strategy in Afghanistan, tackles Wall Street reform, responds to the devastating Deepwater Horizon blowout, and authorizes Operation Neptune’s Spear, which leads to the death of Osama bin Laden.

A Promised Land is extraordinarily intimate and introspective-the story of one man’s bet with history, the faith of a community organizer tested on the world stage. Obama is candid about the balancing act of running for office as a Black American, bearing the expectations of a generation buoyed by messages of “hope and change,” and meeting the moral challenges of high-stakes decision-making. He is frank about the forces that opposed him at home and abroad, open about how living in the White House affected his wife and daughters, and unafraid to reveal self-doubt and disappointment. Yet he never wavers from his belief that inside the great, ongoing American experiment, progress is always possible.

This beautifully written and powerful book captures Barack Obama’s conviction that democracy is not a gift from on high but something founded on empathy and common understanding and built together, day by day.

Agent Sonya: Lover, Mother, Soldier, Spy

$35.00

The incredible story behind the greatest female spy in history from one of Britain’s most acclaimed historians

In a quiet English village in 1942, an elegant housewife emerged from her cottage to go on her usual bike ride. A devoted wife and mother-of-three, the woman known to her neighbours as Mrs Burton seemed to epitomise rural British domesticity.

However, rather than pedalling towards the shops with her ration book, she was racing through the Oxfordshire countryside to gather scientific intelligence from one of the country’s most brilliant nuclear physicists. Secrets that she would transmit to Soviet intelligence headquarters via the radio transmitter she was hiding in her outdoor privy.

Far from a British housewife, ‘Mrs Burton’ – born Ursula Kuczynski, and codenamed ‘Sonya’ – was a German Jew, a dedicated communist, a colonel in Russia’s Red Army, and a highly-trained spy. From planning an assassination attempt on Hitler in Switzerland, to spying on the Japanese in Manchuria, and helping the Soviet Union build the atom bomb, Sonya conducted some of the most dangerous espionage operations of the twentieth century. Her story has never been told – until now.

Agent Sonya is the exhilarating account of one woman’s life; a life that encompasses the rise and fall of communism itself, and altered the course of history.

An Australian Garden

$70.00

The far south coast of New South Wales is a magical place, with remote coastlines, sheltered lagoons and pristine hinterland meeting mountain ranges. It was also once an area partly depleted by logging and long-term agricultural use. Some forty years ago, renowned architect Philip Cox and a group of like-minded friends purchased 80 hectares as a private retreat and a conservation exercise. Applying his own aesthetic principles of vista, light, texture, colour and mass, Philip worked with nature to reveal and enhance the bushland in an enticing way. He replanted trees in denuded areas, cleared scrubby undergrowth in others and added lakes and ponds. Carefully, he curated extensive walks through bush and gullies, along the coast and river, offering wondrous experiences. These walks are punctuated with drama and romance as you enter various garden rooms and encounter sculptures, waterlily-adorned lakes, ponds and art-filled pavilions. As the world becomes more global, maintaining indigenous Australian landscapes and gardens becomes important. This book captures a unique vision of a wild landscape and gives new meaning to the concept of creating an Australian garden.

Another Now

$29.99

What would a fair and equal society actually look like? The world-renowned economist and bestselling author Yanis Varoufakis presents his radical and subversive answer.

Imagine it is 2025. Years earlier, in the wake of the financial crisis of 2008, a global hi-tech uprising has birthed a post-capitalist world in which work, money, land, digital networks and politics have been truly democratised.

In a thought-experiment of startling originality, world-famous economist Yanis Varoufakis offers a glimpse of this alternative reality. Through the eyes of three characters – a libertarian ex-banker, a Marxist-feminist and a maverick technologist – we see the genesis of a world without commercial banks or stock markets, where companies are owned equally by all staff, basic income is guaranteed, global imbalances and climate change cancel each other out, and housing is socialised.

Is a liberal socialism feasible? Can prosperity grow without costing the Earth? Are we able to build the good society, despite our flaws?

As radical in its form as in its vision, Another Now blends Platonic dialogue with speculative fiction to show that there is an alternative to capitalism, while also confronting us with the greatest question: how far are we willing to go to bring it about?

Australia 2020

$32.99

From the heart of the Western Queensland Channel Country, Australia’s oldest and favourite newspaper details our country’s very rocky start to a new decade that was supposed to be one of great optimism and innovation.

2020 was meant to be our year of healing. A time to tend to the wounds of a country torn asunder by a decade of divisive political and media debates. A lack of confidence in the international sporting arena. A 24-hour news cycle that has destroyed the pub test.

We thought all of the uncertainty was behind us. The federal election delivered us Scotty from Marketing. The Quiet Australian spoke up. Gay marriage? Yep. Climate change? Let’s wait and see what happens. Smudge and Warner had served their time and, together as a nation, it was time to rebuild.

But fate had other plans, starting with the worst bushfires in human memory. While large swathes of the country burned, our politicians were either on holidays or giving their mates grants to build indoor pools in blue-ribbon seats. Surely, it couldn’t get worse.

‘ken oath it could. Mother nature arrived as COVID-19, and told us all to go to our rooms.

Banks

$39.99

Sir Joseph Banks was a man of passion whose influence spanned the globe. A fearless adventurer, his fascination with beautiful women was only trumped by his obsession with the natural world and his lust for scientific knowledge.

Fabulously wealthy, Banks was the driving force behind monumental voyages and scientific discoveries in Australia, New Zealand, the South Pacific, Europe, North America, South America, Asia, Africa and the Arctic. In 1768, as a galivanting young playboy, he joined Captain James Cook’s Endeavour expedition to the South Pacific. Financing his own team of scientists and artists, Banks battled high seas, hailstorms, treacherous coral reefs and hostile locals to expand the world’s knowledge of life on distant shores. He returned with thousands of specimens of plants and animals, generating enormous interest in Europe, while the racy accounts of his amorous adventures in Tahiti made him one of the most famous and notorious men in England.

As the longest-serving president of Britain’s Royal Society, Banks was perhaps the most important man in the scientific world for more than half a century. It was Banks, one of the first Europeans to set foot on Australia’s east coast, who advised Britain to establish a remote penal settlement and strategic base at Botany Bay, and he eventually became the foremost expert on everything Australian. Early governors in the colony answered to him as he set about unleashing Australia’s vast potential in agriculture and minerals. For decades, major British voyages of exploration around the globe only sailed with his backing.

By award-winning bestselling writer Grantlee Kieza, Banks is a rich and rollicking biography of one of the most colourful and intriguing characters in the history of exploration.

Body Count: How Climate Change is Killing Us

$32.99

Suddenly, when the country caught fire, people realised what the government has not: that climate change is killing us.

But climate deaths didn’t start in 2019. Medical officers have been warning of a health emergency as temperatures rise for years, and for at least a decade Australians have been dying from the plagues of climate change – from heat, flood, disease, smoke. And now, pandemic.

In this detailed, considered, compassionate book, Paddy Manning paints us the big picture. He revisits some headline events which might have faded in our memory – the Brisbane Floods of 2011; Melbourne’s thunderstorm asthma fatalities of 2016 – and brings to our attention less well-publicised killers: the soil-borne diseases that amplify after a flood; the fact that heat itself has killed more people than all other catastrophes put together. In each case, he has interviewed scientists to explore the link to climate change and asks how – indeed, whether – we can better prepare ourselves in the future.

Most importantly, Manning has spoken to survivors and the families of victims, creating a monument to those we have already lost. Donna Rice and her 13-year-old son Jordan. Alison Tenner. The Buchanan family. These are stories of humans at their most vulnerable, and also often at their best. In extremis, people often act to save their loved ones above themselves. As Body Count shows, we are now all in extremis, and it is time to act.

Respected journalist Paddy Manning tells these stories of tragedy and loss, heroism and resilience, in a book that is both monument and warning.

Read an extract.

PRAISE FOR BODY COUNT

“A climate emergency tour de force” – Dr Bob Brown

“A stunningly powerful call to political leaders everywhere who hear the warnings of the devastating impacts of climate change on health but fail to act” – Dr Helen Haines

Bush School

$29.99

In 1960, newly minted teacher Peter O’Brien started work as the only teacher at a bush school in Weabonga, two days’ travel by train and mail car from Armidale.

Peter was only 20 years old and had never before lived away from his home in Sydney. He’d had some teaching experience, but nothing to prepare him for the monumental challenge of being solely responsible for the education of 18 students, ranging in age from 5 to 15 years old. With few lesson plans, scant teaching materials, a wide range of curious minds and ages to prepare for, Peter was daunted by the enormity of the task ahead.

Because of Weabonga’s remoteness, the students were already at a disadvantage, but they were keen and receptive and had been blessed with an enthusiastic and committed teacher. Indeed it was the children and their thirst for learning who kept Peter afloat during the early days of shockingly inadequate living conditions, a deficient diet and the terrible loneliness he felt being isolated so far from family, friends and his burgeoning romance.

Bush School is an engaging and fascinating memoir of how a young man rose to a challenge most would shrink from today. It tells movingly of the resilience and spirit of children, the importance of learning and the transformative power of teaching.

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