Books

13 Australian books you must read in your lifetime

The Australian novels with The Weekly's seal of approval.

When you grab a book to curl up with in the evening, you may be tempted to reach for a classic, like Pride and Prejudice. Or, perhaps you’ll pluck out something more modern like Taylor Jenkins Reid’s The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo. Whilst there’s a never-ending stream of novels to pick from, we often neglect the impressive plethora of Australian books and literature we have at our fingertips. From classics like Tim Winton’s Cloudstreet to more contemporary reads like Trent Dalton’s Boy Swallows Universe – here’s a roundup of the best Australian books that you simply can’t miss.

01

The Dry

Jane Harper

The Dry is a gripping Australian crime thriller set in rural Victoria. Detective Aaron Falk returns to his hometown of Kiewarra after the death of his childhood friend, Luke along with his wife (Karen) and son (Billy). Aaron had previously been exiled from the town after locals believed he played a role in the suspicious drowning of a girl called Lucy 20 years prior.

Penned by Jane Harper, the book was quickly turned into a movie starring Eric Bana in 2020 with the sequel, Force of Nature, released in 2024.

02

The Dressmaker

Rosalie Ham

Rosalie Ham’s The Dressmaker is a masterful use of the Australian gothic genre. Set in the 1950’s, Tilly Dunnage returns to her hometown of in Dungatar, Victoria after a stint in Paris learning the art of dressmaking. Though she was banished as a child, Tilly returns to check on her ailing mother. Though she is despised by the townspeople, her immaculate ability to import the haute couture of Europe to the small town of Dungatar finds her reluctantly accepted.

However, whilst Tilly plays the role of the humble (yet exquisite) dressmaker, she is in fact exacting her revenge on the people who wronged her.

03

Green Dot

Madeleine Gray

Green Dot is a highly original and very funny account of Hera Stephen’s life as a comment moderator for a media company in Sydney. Whilst she feels that everyone around her has effortlessly slipped into adulthood, Hera grapples with the reality that is stuck in a limbo between high school and ‘adulthood’.

Amid this, Hera slips into an intoxicating affair with Arthur, an older, married colleague.

04

Everyone and Everything

Nadine J. Cohen

Though Nadine J. Cohen’s Everyone and Everything is her debut novel that was only released last year – it’s already enjoyed enormous success. Not only has it received rave reviews from media and book-lovers alike, but it also clinched Booktopia’s Best Debut of the Year.

When Yael Silver’s world comes crashing down, we follow her as she grapples with her demons and delves into her past to wrestle with family, mental health and inherited trauma

05

Picnic at Hanging Rock

Joan Lindsay

A true homegrown classic, Picnic at Hanging Rock is a true spine-tingling example Australian gothic books. Set in the early 1900s, the story follows four girls who mysteriously vanish after picnicking at Hanging Rock. Joan Lindsay concocted the idea of the eerie story after dreaming about it vividly one night. She then continued to have a series of dreams which helped to form the rest of the books’ contents. The novel was adapted into a cult classic Australian film directed by Peter Weir in 1975.

06

Looking for Alibrandi

Melina Marchetta

We couldn’t *not* include this. Looking for Alibrandi is one of the best Australian books. Josephine Alibrandi enters her final year of schooling and we follow the tumultuous events of her HSC, meeting her estranged father, falling in love and learning the truth about her family. It was also made into the hugely successful film by the same name eight years after its release.

07

Apples Never Fall

Liane Moriarty

Liane Moriarty has brought us global sensations such as Big Little Lies and Nine Perfect Strangers and now her novel Apples Never Fall is having its moment in the sun. The book, which is Liane’s ninth, is a cacophony of domestic noir, mystery, crime and thriller.

The story follows Stan and Joy Delaney’s marriage as well as their four adult children. The Delaneys’ tranquil existence is shattered when a mysterious and wounded young woman appears at their doorstep, bringing with her a wave of excitement and unforeseen consequences.

However, as with any Liane Moriarty novel, you are lulled into the trap of monotonous domesticity only for cleverly woven surprises and unexpected twists to be thrown at you. A mini series based on Apples Never Fall is set to premiere on March 14, 2024 on Binge. If you’re a purist who wants to read the book before watching the mini series, shop the novel below.

Otherwise, Stream Apples Never Fall on BINGE with a 7-day free trial. Subscribe here.

08

Boy Swallows Universe

Trent Dalton

Trent Dalton’s Boy Swallows Universe has enjoyed enormous success both in its publication and adaptation into a Netflix series. The book, which is semi-autobiographical of Trent’s own life, follows a 13-year-old boy called Eli who grapples with both family demons and perils of being a teenager.

09

The Essence of the Thing

Madeleine St John

Best known for her other Australian books such as The Women in Black, Madeleine St John’s The Essence of the Thing drops the reader right into Nicola being asked to move out by her once loving boyfriend, Jonathan. We follow Nicola’s bumpy ride as she steps out of the comfort of a long term relationship and follow her to what is the essence of the thing.

10

The Yield

Tara June Winch

Knowing that he will soon die, Albert ‘Poppy’ Gondiwindi is determined to put pen to paper. He has spent his life on the banks of the Murrumby River at Prosperous House, on Massacre Plains. Albert wants to pass on the language of his people and everything that was ever remembered.

August Gondiwindi returns to her hometown after the passing of her grandfather Albert where she learns that Prosperous House is being repossessed by a mining company. Connecting with the voice of her late grandfather, August sets out to save their land and reconnect with her culture.

11

Cloudstreet

Tim Winton

Another classic Australian book you must add to your reading list is Tim Winton’s Cloudstreet. The novel follows two working class families, the Pickles and the Lambs, who come to live together in a large house called Cloudstreet in Perth.

12

Burial Rites

Hannah Kent

Hannah Kent’s Burial Rites follows the last few days of Agnes Magnúsdóttir, the last woman to be executed in Iceland in 1829. Whilst she awaits execution, Agnes is sent to the valley in which she grew up – making for a chilling and heart-wrenching story.

Best Australian books

13

Too much lip

Melissa Lucashenko

Kerry Salter has a problem with being a wise crack. She also spends much of her time avoiding her hometown and prison. But when she receives a call that her grandfather is dying, she is forced to revisit her much-despised hometown. Though she journey’s south of the border on a stolen Harley, with the plan to spend 24 hours tops at home, she finds that being Bundjalung country brings familiarity and challenges.

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