Ten Steps to Nanette, by Hannah Gadsby
Memoir, Allen & Unwin, $49.99
Hannah Gadsby is known for deconstructing comedy, so it’s apt that her memoir begins with an epilogue: the protagonist is feeling completely out of place at her first Emmys party in Hollywood, being complimented by John Stamos, photographed by Jodie Foster and summoned by Jennifer Aniston, who draws Gadsby through the crowd just so she star can tell her, “with the rhythm of a compliment”, that she never watched Nanette.
Gadsby is still reeling from that “deliberately miserable” 2018 Netflix comedy special, which catapulted her to global fame. The months that followed, she writes, were “amongst the strangest and most unsettling of my life”. Her long-awaited memoir opens proper with her similarly fish-out-of-water childhood, in the small town of Smithton in Tasmania’s north-west. She’s an open, insightful and moreish writer, who chronicles her school years, her craft and her career while touching on pop culture, politics, mental health and autism. That description makes this book sound much less funny than it is. – Steph Harmon
The Most Important Job in the World, by Gina Rushton
Nonfiction, Pan Macmillan Australia, $34.99
In The Most Important Job in the World, the journalist Gina Rushton grapples with a question many millennials now face: whether or not to bring a child into the world, particularly given the prospect of accelerating climate breakdown. Informed by her extensive reporting on these topics, Rushton examines reproductive politics and the ethics, labour and legacies of motherhood in a synthesis of reportage and essay.
The result is a compassionate and poetic consideration of becoming a parent, a decision that – regardless of the outcome – engenders a reckoning with personal desire and collective responsibility. – Donna Lu
True Friends, by Patti Miller
Memoir, UQP, $32.99
The break-up of a friendship can be painful and toxic, lingering for years like a small bomb in your gut. But so few of our stories focus on these fractures, favouring romantic heartbreak instead. Patti Miller has set out to tip the scales.
Miller recently lost a long, deep friendship – and she wanted to work out what happened. In the most moreish parts of True Friends, she forensically pulls apart her memories of it – the moments of joy, of spite; the texts and emails. But this book is more than just voyeurism – it’s a relatable celebration of all the different female friendships that shaped her life. She chronicles their beginnings and endings while owning her faults as a narrator so coloured by emotion and memory that she can’t possibly be telling the whole truth. It’s all the more honest for it. – Steph Harmon
Other Houses, by Paddy O’Reilly
Novel, Affirm Press, $32.99
This enjoyably grimey novel follows Lily and Janks, two former addicts who live paycheck to paycheck in Melbourne’s inner suburbs, struggling tirelessly to escape the shadow of their past habits, and to give Lily’s teenage daughter, Jewelee, a better life. When Janks is given an ultimatum by a group of local bikies – one last job, all debts forgiven – he disappears, leaving Lily to desperately search for him.
O’Reilly has an earthly way with words: everything is dunnies and guts, skanky junkies and derros. There are flashes of lyricism that linger in the mind: a revving car’s “beefy engine bucking”, “ghostly cockatoos bicker and scream”. Swapping as it does between Lily’s and Janks’s points of view, Other Houses zips along at a pace: this is a book to read in one sitting, if you can. – Sian Cain
Lanka Food, by O Tama Carey
Cook book, Hardie Grant, $55
With their crispy, lace edges and rich, runny yolk centres, O Tama Carey’s egg hoppers are a rare blend of comfort and sophistication. In her debut cookbook, the chef behind Lankan Filling Station in Sydney shares the twisty, funny backstory of how she came to master them, along with detailed instructions for those game enough to try it at home.
This book’s great strength is its combination of personable warmth and technical precision. Read it like a novel, and you’ll come away with a grasp on the basics of Sri Lankan cooking, and perhaps even the confidence to experiment. But you can also just scan it to cherrypick recipes, from project cooks like hoppers to fast, flavourful dishes too. – Alyx Gorman
Elizabeth Macarthur’s Letters, edited by Kate Grenville
Nonfiction, Text Publishing, $34.99
Kate Grenville’s most recent novel, A Room Made of Leaves, opened with a playful conceit; in a preface, Grenville positioned herself as “transcriber and editor” of a recently discovered, secret manuscript by Elizabeth Macarthur, the wife of the infamous early settler colonist John Macarthur.
Now Grenville has taken on that role of editor for real, collecting Macarthur’s actual letters recounting her life in the early days of the colony. The twist here is Grenville’s fascinating speculation that Macarthur’s letters are themselves a form of fiction, designed to conceal harsh truths about her life behind conventional, lady-like expressions. Grenville’s editorial asides allow the reader to glimpse something of the possible reality that lies beneath, and offer a window into the complexity of Grenville’s relationship with this compelling, difficult and sometimes “unattractive” muse. – Kirsten Tranter
The Uncaged Sky, by Kylie Moore-Gilbert
Memoir, Ultimo Press, $34.99
The British-Australian academic Dr Kylie Moore-Gilbert spent 804 days as a defiant hostage to Iran’s hardline Revolutionary Guards, falsely accused of being a spy. Moments in her memoir The Uncaged Sky will leave readers breathless. The sheer terror, uncertainty and gnawing dread of a brutal regime closing in all around: blindfolds and handcuffs, interrogations and isolation.
Powerfully and artfully written, the book has moments of joy shining through: the loving friendships made inside prison; the exhilaration of “escaping” to that uncaged sky, standing on the prison roof; and the strength Moore-Gilbert found to defy her captors amid the ceaseless cruelty of her incarceration. – Ben Doherty