A selection of our favourite non-fiction from women.
Daisy Bates and Ernestine Hill were bestselling writers who told of life in the vast Australian interior. Daisy Bates, dressed in Victorian garb, malnourished and half-blind, camped with Aboriginal people in Western Australia and on the Nullarbor for decades, surrounded by her books, notes and artefacts. A self-taught ethnologist, desperate to be accepted by established male anthropologists, she sought to document the language and customs of the people who visited her camps. In 1935, Ernestine Hill, journalist and author of The Great Australian Loneliness , coaxed Bates to Adelaide to collaborate on a newspaper series. Their collaboration resulted in the 1938 international bestseller, The Passing of the Aborigines. This book informed popular opinion about Aboriginal people for decades, though Bates’s failure to acknowledge Hill as her co-author strained their friendship.
Traversing great distances in a campervan, Eleanor Hogan reflects on the lives and work of these indefatigable women. From a contemporary perspective, their work seems quaint and sentimental, their outlook and preoccupations dated, paternalistic and even racist. Yet Bates and Hill took a genuine interest in Aboriginal people and their cultures long before they were considered worthy of the Australian mainstream’s attention. With sensitivity and insight, Hogan wonders what their legacies as fearless female outliers might be.
by Eliza Reilly
It’s been said that ‘well-behaved women seldom make history’, but the handful of white boys who wrote our history books conveniently left most of them out. Whoops! To rectify this situation, Eliza Reilly is setting out to revive the forgotten stories of the badass Sheilas of Australian history.
Chain yourself to pub counters with the determined Merle Thornton, fight for Indigenous rights alongside Faith Bandler, and lure forlorn sailors with swimmer-slash-mermaid Annette Kellerman. Deceive cranky soldiers with bushranger Mary Ann Bugg, infiltrate Nazi strongholds on the back of Nancy Wake’s bike – and much, much more.
Cracking with satirical wit and whole-hearted admiration, Sheilas is a cheeky, funny, inspirational celebration of the tough-titted ladies who hiked up their petticoats and fly-kicked down the doors of opportunity for modern Australia.
by Gail Crowther
Introduced at a poetry workshop in Boston University, Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton formed a friendship that would soon evolve into a fierce rivalry, colored by jealousy and respect in equal terms.
In the years that followed, these two women would not only become iconic figures in literature, but also lead curiously parallel lives haunted by mental illness, suicide attempts, self-doubt, and difficult personal relationships. With weekly martini meetings at the Ritz to discuss everything from sex to suicide, theirs was a relationship as complex and subversive as their poetry.
by Jane Goodall and Douglas Abrams
The world-renowned naturalist and conservationist Jane Goodall has spent more than a half-century warning of our impact on our planet. From her famous encounters with chimpanzees in the forests of Gombe as a young woman to her tireless campaigning for the environment in her late eighties, Jane has become the godmother to a new generation of climate activists.
In The Book of Hope, Jane draws on the wisdom of a lifetime dedicated to nature to teach us how to find strength in the face of the climate crisis, and explains why she still has hope for the natural world and for humanity. In extraordinary conversations with her co-author Doug Abrams that weave together stories from her travels and activism, she offers readers a new understanding of the crisis we face and a compelling path forward for us all to create hope in our own lives and in the world.
The world needs a manifesto of hope now more than ever. This profound book from a legendary figure in the fight against climate change shows that even in the face of great adversity, we can find hope in human nature, and in nature itself.
Kate Webb, an Australian iconoclast, Catherine Leroy, a French daredevil photographer, and Frances FitzGerald, a blue-blood American intellectual, arrived in Vietnam with starkly different life experiences but one shared purpose: to report on the most consequential story of the decade. At a time when women were considered unfit to be foreign reporters, Frankie, Catherine and Kate challenged the rules imposed on them by the military, ignored the belittlement of their male peers, and ultimately altered the craft of war reportage for generations.
In You Don’t Belong Here, Elizabeth Becker uses these women’s work and lives to illuminate the Vietnam War from the 1965 American buildup, the expansion into Cambodia, and the American defeat and its aftermath. Arriving herself in the last years of the war, Becker writes as a historian and a witness of the times.
What emerges is an unforgettable story of three journalists forging their place in a land of men, often at great personal sacrifice. Deeply reported and filled with personal letters, interviews, and profound insight, You Don’t Belong Here fills a void in the history of women and of war.
by Fran Lebowitz
Lebowitz turns her trademark caustic wit to the vicissitudes of life – from children (‘rarely in the position to lend one a truly interesting sum of money’) to landlords (‘it is the solemn duty of every landlord to maintain an adequate supply of roaches’). And her attitude to work is the perfect antidote to our exhausting culture of self-betterment (‘3.40pm. I consider getting out of bed. I reject the notion as being unduly vigorous. I read and smoke a bit more’).
‘Great people talk about ideas, average people talk about things and small people talk about wine’
‘Think before you speak. Read before you think’
‘All God’s children are not beautiful. Most of God’s children are, in fact, barely presentable’
‘There is no such thing as inner peace. There is only nervousness and death’
‘The opposite of talking isn’t listening. The opposite of talking is waiting’
by Lo Carmen
Lo Carmen was discovered at sixteen working in a Kings Cross pizza bar and cast as in the seminal Australian film The Year My Voice Broke, for which she was nominated for an AFI award. But even before that, Lo has lived a bigger life than most. From being backstage at Rolling Stones concerts when she was a baby to writing her first song at eight; performing an original song onstage at nine; having a baby while barely out of her teens; forming her first band at twenty one; touring Europe without a manager, funds or a safety net; and all the while making music her life and her art. In all this, Lo has been inspired by a handful of women – all icons, one way or another, of modern Australian life.
Lo Carmen weaves her own remarkable story as a critically acclaimed singer/songwriter together with compelling portraits of the women who have influenced her life and career: bold creative visionaries, trailblazers, provocateurs, pioneers, feminists and activists such as Renee Geyer, Chrissy Amphlett, Robyn Archer and Sallie-Anne Huckstepp, exploring the often complex lives of these fascinating women as a way of understanding her own life and choices.
A tender, joyous, messy, vibrant and wholly inspiring investigation of creativity, passion, purpose, art and music.
by Ann Patchett
Any story that starts will also end.’ As a writer, Ann Patchett knows what the outcome of her fiction will be. Life, however, often takes turns we do not see coming. Patchett ponders this as she explores family, friendship, marriage, failure, success, and what it all means.
Ranging from the personal – her portrait of the three men she called her fathers; how a chance encounter with Tom Hanks led to one of the most important friendships of her life; how to answer when someone asks why you don’t have children – to the sublime – the unexpected influence of Snoopy; the importance of knitting; the pleasure to be found in children’s books – each essay transforms the particular into the universal, letting us all see our own worlds anew.
Illuminating, penetrating, funny and generous, These Precious Days is joyful time spent in the company of one of our greatest living authors.
In this collection of deeply insightful and powerful essays, Chelsea Watego examines the ongoing and daily racism faced by First Nations peoples in so-called Australia. Rather than offer yet another account of ‘the Aboriginal problem’, she theorises a strategy for living in a society that has only ever imagined Indigenous peoples as destined to die out.
Drawing on her own experiences and observations of the operations of the colony, she exposes the lies that settlers tell about Indigenous people. In refusing such stories, Chelsea narrates her own: fierce, personal, sometimes funny, sometimes anguished. She speaks not of fighting back but of standing her ground against colonialism in academia, in court and in the media. It’s a stance that takes its toll on relationships, career prospects and even the body.
Yet when told to have hope, Watego’s response rings clear: Fuck hope. Be sovereign.
Fishing for Lightning gathers together acclaimed poet and critic Sarah Holland-Batt’s celebrated columns on Australian poetry. In fifty illuminating and lively short essays on fifty poets, Holland-Batt offers a masterclass in how to read and love poetry, opening up the music of language, form, and technique in her casual and conversational yet deeply intelligent style. From the villanelle and the verse novel, to the readymade, the remix and the sonnet, Holland-Batt’s essays delve into the richness of poetic and literary history, connecting the contemporary to the ancient.
Dazzling in its erudition, but always accessible and entertaining, Fishing for Lightning convinces us of the power of poetry to change our lives.
by Sam van Zweden
Eating with My Mouth Openis food writing like you’ve never seen before: honest, bold, and exceptionally tasty. Sam van Zweden’s personal and cultural exploration of food, memory, and hunger revels in body positivity, dissects wellness culture and all its flaws, and shares the joys of being part of a family of chefs.
Celebrating food and all the bodies it nurtures,Eating with My Mouth Open considers the true meaning of nourishment within the broken food system we live in. Not holding back from difficult conversations about mental illness, weight, and wellbeing, Sam van Zweden advocates for body politics that are empowering, productive, and meaningful.
by Bernardine Evaristo
Bernardine Evaristo’s 2019 Booker win – the first by a Black woman – was a revolutionary moment both for British culture and for her. After three decades as a trailblazing writer, teacher and activist, she moved from the margins to centre stage, taking her place in the spotlight at last. Her journey was a long one, but she made it, and she made history.
MANIFESTO is Bernardine Evaristo’s intimate and inspirational, no-holds-barred account of how she did it, refusing to let any barriers stand in her way. She charts her creative rebellion against the mainstream and her life-long commitment to the imaginative exploration of ‘untold’ stories. And drawing deeply on her own experiences, she offers a vital contribution to current conversations around social issues such as race, class, feminism, sexuality and aging.
This is a unique book about staying true to yourself and to your vision. It’s about how to be unstoppable – in your craft, your work, your life. It is Bernardine Evaristo’s manifesto for never giving up.
by Michelle Zauner
In this exquisite story of family, food, grief, and endurance, Michelle Zauner proves herself far more than a dazzling singer, songwriter, and guitarist. With humor and heart, she tells of growing up the only Asian-American kid at her school in Eugene, Oregon; of struggling with her mother’s particular, high expectations of her; of a painful adolescence; of treasured months spent in her grandmother’s tiny apartment in Seoul, where she and her mother would bond, late at night, over heaping plates of food.
As she grew up, moving to the east coast for college, finding work in the restaurant industry, performing gigs with her fledgling band-and meeting the man who would become her husband-her Koreanness began to feel ever more distant, even as she found the life she wanted to live. It was her mother’s diagnosis of terminal pancreatic cancer, when Michelle was twenty-five, that forced a reckoning with her identity and brought her to reclaim the gifts of taste, language, and history her mother had given her.
Vivacious and plainspoken, lyrical and honest, Michelle Zauner’s voice is as radiantly alive on the page as it is onstage. Rich with intimate anecdotes that will resonate widely, Crying in H Mart is a book to cherish, share, and reread.
by Zena Hitz
In an overloaded, superficial, technological world, in which almost everything and everybody is judged by its usefulness, where can we turn for escape, lasting pleasure, contemplation, or connection to others? While many forms of leisure meet these needs, Zena Hitz writes, few experiences are so fulfilling as the inner life, whether that of a bookworm, an amateur astronomer, a birdwatcher, or someone who takes a deep interest in one of countless other subjects. Drawing on inspiring examples, from Socrates and Augustine to Malcolm X and Elena Ferrante, and from films to Hitz’s own experiences as someone who walked away from elite university life in search of greater fulfillment, Lost in Thought is a passionate and timely reminder that a rich life is a life rich in thought.
Today, when even the humanities are often defended only for their economic or political usefulness, Hitz says our intellectual lives are valuable not despite but because of their practical uselessness. And while anyone can have an intellectual life, she encourages academics in particular to get back in touch with the desire to learn for its own sake, and calls on universities to return to the person-to-person transmission of the habits of mind and heart that bring out the best in us.
Reminding us of who we once were and who we might become, Lost in Thought is a moving account of why renewing our inner lives is fundamental to preserving our humanity.
by Caroline Criado Perez
Imagine a world where…
- Your phone is too big for your hand
- Your doctor prescribes a drug that is wrong for your body
- In a car accident you are 47% more likely to be injured
- If any of that sounds familiar, chances are you’re a woman
From government policy and medical research, to technology, workplaces, and the media. Invisible Women reveals how in a world built for and by men we are systematically ignoring half of the population, often with disastrous consequences. Caroline Criado Perez brings together for the first time an impressive range of case studies, stories and new research from across the world that illustrate the hidden ways in which women are forgotten, and the profound impact this has on us all.
Discover the shocking gender bias that affects our everyday lives.
by Mona Chollet
A source of terror, a misogynistic image of woman inherited from the trials and the pyres of the great early modern witch hunts – in In Defence of Witches the witch is recast as a powerful role model to women today: an emblem of power, free to exist beyond the narrow limits society imposes on women.
Whether selling grimoires on Etsy, posting photos of their crystal-adorned altar on Instagram, or gathering to cast spells on Donald Trump, witches are everywhere. But who exactly were the forebears of these modern witches? Who was historically accused of witchcraft, often meeting violent ends? What types of women have been censored, eliminated, repressed, over the centuries?
Mona Chollet takes three archetypes from historic witch hunts, and examines how far women today have the same charges levelled against them: independent women; women who choose not to have children; and women who reject the idea that to age is a terrible thing. Finally, Chollet argues that by considering the lives of those who dared to live differently, we can learn more about the richness of roles available, just how many different things a woman can choose to be.
by Clementine Ford
There is love in this place, just like there is love everywhere we care to look for it. There is beauty and there is hope and there is a boy and there is a mother and there is the past and there is the future but most importantly there is the now, and everything that exists between them that has got them from one moment to the next. The now is where we find the golden glow where, for the briefest of moments, the sky rips open and we see what it is we are made of.
Tell me a story, he asked me.
And so I began.
Clementine Ford is a person who has loved deeply, strangely and with curiosity. She is fascinated by love and how it makes its home in our hearts and believes that the way we continue to surrender ourselves to love is an act of great faith and bravery.
This tender and lyrical memoir explores love in its many forms, through Clementine’s own experiences. With clear eyes and an open heart, she writes about losing her adored mother far too young, about the pain and confusion of first love – both platonic and romantic – and the joy and heartache of adult love. She writes movingly about the transcendent and transformative journey to motherhood and the similarly monumental path to self-love. ‘We love as children, as friends, as parents and, yes, sometimes as sexual beings, and none of it is more important than the other because all of it shows us who we are.’
How We Love is heartfelt, funny, confessional, revelatory, compassionate – and essential reading. It shows us to ourselves in moments of unwavering truth and undeniable joy.
by Jamila Rizvi and Helen McCabe
In 2020, the lives of Australian women changed irrevocably. With insight, intelligence and empathy, Jane Gilmore, Santilla Chingaipe and Emily J. Brooks explore this through the lenses of work, love and body, and ask: Will the Australia of tomorrow be more equal than the one we were born into? Or will women and girls remain left behind?
While our country was shrouded in smoke in the early months of 2020, Australian women went about their daily business. They worked, studied, cleaned, did school runs, made meals. And they postponed looking after themselves because life got in the way.
Then, in March, Australians were told to lock down. For all the talk of equality, it was primarily women who held the health of our communities in their hands as they took on the essential jobs to care, to nurse and to teach, despite an invisible danger. One year later, women across the country would march on behalf of those who were not safe in workplaces and their own homes.
Never before has change been thrust so abruptly on modern Australian women – 2020 impacted our working lives, relationships and our health and wellbeing. And as a growing number of women agitate for change, it is time to demand what women want. So where do we go from here?
One thing is very clear: the future is now, and it is female.
by Grace Bonney
In this rich and multilayered collection of interviews, conversations, and intimate photographs, over 100 trailblazing women describe the ups, downs, and lessons learned while forging their unique paths. Collective Wisdom celebrates the stories of those who have been there and know the road – from an Olympic athlete and a NASA team member to award-winning artists, activists, writers, and filmmakers, from women in their fifties to centenarians. It is also a tribute to the importance of intergenerational connections between women, with interviews conducted by daughters, friends, mentors, and colleagues. Collective Wisdom creates a living, breathing sense of community – a space where all of us can gather, listen, share, and learn.
by Kemi Nekvapil
Kemi Nekvapil knows the feelings of fear, vulnerability and powerlessness. Growing up in foster care, many times she had the doors to validation and opportunity closed to her because of her race and gender. Learning to make her own choices and use her voice without apology were her first steps towards a bold, purpose-filled life.
Now a highly respected executive and personal coach, Kemi has created a five-step framework to guide other women to build their power through:
- Presence to understand what is and isn’t working in our lives
- Ownership of our personal narratives, especially our power stories
- Wisdom about our needs, boundaries and growth
- Equality as part of the diverse human family, all of us worthy
- Responsibility for our choices, healing and happiness
Blending inspiring stories with reflective coaching practices, POWER provides the tools to navigate the challenges that impact who we are and how we lead, from discrimination and burnout to trauma and self-doubt.
Reclaim your power and create a life of true joy and fulfilment.
by Kunyi June Anne McInerney
These are my stories from a dry remote place, where growing up was very different for what children know today.
Kunyi June Anne McInerney was just four years old when she and three of her siblings were taken from their family to the Oodnadatta Children’s Home in South Australia in the 1960s.
Through an extraordinary collection of over 60 paintings, accompanied by stories, Kunyi presents a rare chronicle of what life was like for her and the other Children’s Home kids who became her family.
Her paintings are a healing trove of memories that reveal the loneliness, fear and courage of the Stolen Generation children who were torn from family and loved ones. From bible lessons to sucking bone marrow and collecting bush fruits, the escapades, adventures and sorrows of the children are painted with warmth, humour and unflinching honesty.
Kunyi’s story is one of healing and reconciliation. She is telling it so that the lives of the children at Oodnadatta Children’s Home will not be forgotten. This is a collection of tender and honest stories that will educate children on our nation’s history and remind adult readers of the real impact of the Stolen Generations.
by Cate Campbell and Bronte Campbell
The lane is your own private arena.
Like a pane of aqua glass spread before you.
One big breath in.
‘Take your marks.’
My front leg is shaking.
And then it begins.
Nothing left to do but fight.
Cate and Bronte Campbell stand among the true greats of Australian swimming. In their own words, Sister Secrets follows all the highs and lows of their journey – their ambitions, successes, disappointments and losses, their long road to Tokyo and the triumph they found there. And along the way, they reveal their secrets to motivation, mental toughness and finding balance in and beyond the world of elite-level swimming.An amazing account of how two sisters gained the courage to take on the world – and each other.
by Traci N. Todd, illustrated by Christian Robinson
With passion and unparalleled skill, Traci N. Todd and Christian Robinson bring this iconic singer’s story to young readers and their families. Meet young Eunice, who sang before she could talk, and journey with her from the piano stool she shared with her father in her childhood home, to the bars and concert halls where she became the one and only Nina Simone.
Learn about how Nina’s voice started out rich and sweet but grew to a thunderous roar as the Civil Rights Movement gained steam. Witness this artist in all her brilliance, singing in protest against racial inequality and discrimination. With rhythmic prose and masterful images, Nina perfectly demonstrates the relationship between art and activism. An essential addition to every young reader’s library.
by Kate Pankhurst, illustrated by Kate Pankhurst
No DREAM is too BIG if you just believe in yourself. And these strong, ambitious and FANTASTICALLY GREAT women prove it. They’ve conquered the tallest mountains, made game-changing discoveries, stood up for women’s rights and protected our beautiful, fragile planet.
Discover the inspirational lives of just some of the extraordinary women who have transformed people’s expectations of what women can do in this stunning gift collection. Featuring illustrated timelines and all the women from Kate Pankhurst’s adored picture books, from Frida Kahlo to Jane Goodall, and some new faces too. Get ready to meet courageous racing car driver Eliska Junkova who whizzed to victory and became the first woman to win a Grand Prix and the influential composer Chiquinha Gonzaga, the first woman conductor in Brazil.
Perfect for reading at bedtime, these empowering stories will encourage you to BE BOLD, AIM HIGH and NEVER GIVE UP. How will YOU change the world?
This important new book surveys the past and present of women working in typography. The first section looks at the statistics, data and an overview of the field apropos of gender, supplemented with biographies of female type designers that worked in the 19th and early 20th centuries. These women contributed to the industry significantly, but are rarely mentioned in histories of the subject.
The second portion of the volume comprises a series of interviews with 14 women that are either currently working as type designers or are in other ways involved in the field of type design: Gayaneh Bagdasaryan, Veronika Burian, Maria Doreuli, Louise Fili, Martina Flor, Loraine Furter, Jenna Gesse, Golnar Kat Rahmani, Indra Kupferschmid, Briar Levit, Zuzana Licko, Ana Regidor, Fiona Ross and Carol Wahler.
The final part of the book presents a showcase of typefaces designed by women.
A perfect pin-up, a damsel in distress, a saintly mother, a femme fatale…
Women’s identity has long been stifled by a limited set of archetypes, found everywhere in pictures from art history’s classics to advertising, while women artists have been overlooked and held back from shaping more empowering roles.
In this impassioned book, art historian Catherine McCormack asks us to look again at what these images have told us to value, opening up our most loved images – from those of Titian and Botticelli to Picasso and the Pre-Raphaelites. She also shows us how women artists – from Berthe Morisot to Beyonce, Judy Chicago to Kara Walker – have offered us new ways of thinking about women’s identity, sexuality, race and power.
Women in the Picture gives us new ways of seeing the art of the past and the familiar images of today so that we might free women from these restrictive roles and embrace the breadth of women’s vision.
This glorious visual celebration of the most incredible and impactful design ever produced by women designers flips the script on what is historically considered a man’s world. Featuring more than 200 designers from more than 50 countries, including icons and trailblazers past and present such as Ray Eames, Eileen Gray, Florence Knoll, Ilse Crawford, Faye Toogood, Nathalie du Pasquier, it records and illuminates the fascinating and overlooked history of women preeminent in the field. With each designer represented by a key product and short text, this fascinating A-Z survey shines a vital spotlight on the most extraordinary objects made by women designers but, more importantly, offers a compelling primer on the best in the field of design demonstrating that design is not – and never has been – a man’s world.