Top 40 reading recommendations

Gold Coast Libraries staff have put together a list of the top 40 books that we recommend to readers.

Here they are!

Now we’re looking for the top 10 Gold Coast favourites. Comment below before the 31st of July 2010, include the words “I vote for…” and the name of the books you want to see make the list, and you could win one of five $150 book packs. Don’t forget to read the terms and conditions of entry.

A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry

Shortlisted for the Booker prize in 1996 this wonderful story is set in the 1970s in India during the rule of Indira Gandhi. The lives of the four main characters are woven together by Mistry in a compassionate, humorous and complex way, depicting the degradation of the lives of the poor. The relationship between the characters from different backgrounds is symbolised by the making of a quilt.


Addition by Toni Jordan

Addition is a witty and moving novel about a girl’s obsession with counting, but it’s also about falling in love and learning how to change without losing yourself. A romantic read with a moving message about tolerance and understanding – it is sure to make you laugh out loud.



Amongst the Dead by Robert Gott

This is the third instalment of amateur detective / Shakespearean actor William Power’s WWII-era first person narratives. Power is tasked with investigating multiple murders amongst an elite unit guarding Australia’s North against the encroaching Japanese. To the reader’s unending amusement Power succeeds notwithstanding his incompetence, egotism and ignorance of reality.

An Angel at My Table by Janet Frame

This is an autobiography that covers the most difficult time of Janet Frame’s life as a shy and troubled writer who was incorrectly diagnosed as a schizophrenic. She endured countless electric shock treatments before being ‘saved’ by the publication of some of her writings.



Atonement by Ian McEwan

A novel that examines how a single action can have lasting repercussions when the events of a single summer’s day in 1935 echo throughout the lives of Briony, Cecilia and Robbie. A moving and at times tragic novel of love and regret, the detailed descriptions make the settings leap off the page.



Beautiful Malice by Rebecca James

We could not put this story down. The central character is teenage Katherine, who is coming to terms with the tragic death of her sister. The novel follows her developing friendship with popular party girl Alice. At first Alice seems to be helping Katherine with her grief, but soon the line between friend and foe are blurred.



Breath by  Tim Winton

Tim Winton explores the nature of risk-taking and the adrenaline rush this produces in the context of surfing and sex.  Beautifully written it evokes an earlier (1970s), but no less confusing time, especially for young men trying to find their place in the world.  Readers of all ages have raved about this novel.



Broken Angels by Richard Montanari

Just what you want in an enthralling thriller – a gripping storyline and great characters.  Murdered women, with no apparent connection, are found dead and posed and the only certainty seems to be that there are more bodies to come.  Byrne and Balzano must decipher the staged scenes to end the killer’s horrific spree.



Cocaine Blues by Kerry Greenwood

The Honourable Phryne Fisher, private investigator in 1920s Melbourne, is “a force of nature”, “inimitable” and “elegant, fabulously wealthy, and sharp as a tack.” It’s well worth making her acquaintance. To do so, start here with the first in an absolutely delightful series that will provide hours of amusement. This is a murder mystery rich in historical detail, delightful characters and Phryne’s special brand of indefatigable joie de vivre.

Cooking With Baz by Sean Dooley

Funny and sometimes sad. You’ll recognise these characters from your own family as Sean, a sensitive studious type, tries to relate to his father Baz, an Aussie larrikin bookmaker who enjoys his beer, footy and mates. They find common ground when the father decides to start cooking gourmet meals to heal his sick wife. Real and readable, it examines the changing culture of the modern Australian male.

Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese

This story of a medical family in Ethiopia is about great love, generosity of spirit, as well as cruel despotism, and political manipulation, we highly recommend this gripping tale. Actually there is not much left out of this story – romance, family togetherness and strength, bravery, grief, loss, tragedy and murder. It takes you on a memorable journey –you will be thinking of the characters long after you have finished the book.

Mao’s Last Dancer by Cunxin Li

This is an inspiring and uplifting true life tale of a man’s search for success, pride, beauty and freedom. Cunxin Li was was born into poverty in China and learned to dance at Madame Mao’s Beijing Dance Academy, following a gruelling training regime. After his defection, he became a principal dancer for the San Francisco and the Australian Ballet. His autobiography is an empowering story of one man’s determination to make his own life.

Medusa by Clive Cussler with Paul Kemprecos

In 1848 all the crew (except one) aboard the New Bedford whaling ship “Princess” on the Pacific Ocean. are stricken with a deadly virus. The delirious crew, saved by mysterious natives return home to continue very long healthy lives…… Forward to the present day and follow Austen and Zavala as they try and unravel clues as to how this event holds the key to saving humanity from a virus developed by the notorious Chinese Triad, the Pyramid. Full to overloaded with 007 style action, and perfect for those who like Tom Clancy or Matthew Riley.

Never the Bride by Paul Magrs

Welcome to Whitby! Enjoy your stay at Brenda’s B&B – it’s creepy and it’s kooky, but a whole lot of fun. This is a cleverly plotted, quirky little book, full of gothic magic realism and endearing characters. It’s overflowing with amusing references to classic sci-fi literature and horror movie clichés, made all the wittier by the pragmatic approach of the main characters – the utterly unflappable Brenda, and her best friend Effie.

Ooh La La: A French Romp by Ann Rickard

We think this book is a real gem! It follows two voluptuous dames, each individual, one fond of a romp in the lavender fields, the other an anxious tour operator. Eight expectant tour guests are thrown together in the French countryside. Led by the anxious tour operator these guests have the time of their lives. It’s one of the funniest books you’ll ever read.



Oscar and Lucinda by Peter Carey

Opposites attract in this mesmerising story set on board an ocean liner travelling to Australia in 1864.   Oscar, a young nervous priest-in-waiting with a secret penchant for gambling, meets Lucinda , a vibrant and outspoken Sydney heiress, when she asks for confession.  Their melancholic story contains great sadness, despair and hope all at the same time.



Riding the Black Cockatoo by John Danalis

John Danalis grew up with an Aboriginal skull on display in his house.  In this beautifully written memoir he takes the reader on a poignant and riveting journey through Australian and Indigenous culture as he searches for meaning and embraces a strong need to return the skull to the community it came from.



Sharp Shooter by Marianne Delacourt

Perthite Tara Sharp is going through a mid-twenties life crisis, unemployed,  living in the family granny flat, the owner of a Monaro. One other thing - she can see people’s auras.  Naturally she decides to start a self-help group, become a private investigator and take on Perth’s villains. She’s feisty and sassy, and ideal for fans of Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum.



Somme Mud by E.P.F. Lynch

A must-read for fans of non-fiction and history, Somme Mud is a memoir of life in the trenches on the Western Front by a young private in the Australian Army. Hand-written upon his return, the manuscript lay forgotten in an attic until it was only recently discovered and recognised as a significant and unique account of the brutal, heartbreaking theatre of war.



The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein

This story takes the reader on a heartfelt journey through the eyes of a dog, Enzo.  You will laugh, cry and look at the world with an entirely different perspective.  One of those unusual books that you can’t help sharing with everyone!





The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Leisel is a young girl growing up in WWII Germany, and she and her community struggle to stay out of death’s reach. This beautiful novel is a book for booklovers, with a focus on the power of words and reading, and the ability to conjure such strong emotions that the reader will be laughing one minute and crying the next. We have yet to meet a person who has not loved it.

The Dog who Came in From the Cold by Alexander McCall Smith

In the second novel from the Corduroy Mansion series we again meet the quirky inhabitants of a London residence. William the wine merchant hands his beloved dog Freddie de la Hay over to MI6 for undercover work, but all does not go well for Freddie. McCall Smith writes with humour and empathy about the lives and dramas, big and small, of these endearing characters.



The Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean M. Auel

This is one of the best historical fiction books we’ve read. Auel tells a superb story set in Ice Age Europe. Whilst the plot itself and the characters are complex, interesting and well-developed, it is the setting which really brings this book to life. Auel’s research is evident throughout the novel.



The Drifters by James A. Michener

A very interesting read about a group of disillusioned young adults who journey together across Europe and north Africa in a yellow pop top.  Michener writes with such authority and background knowledge of the issues of the late 1960s that you’ll feel immersed in this era when you read his book.  You will sympathise with the characters and perhaps, like us, the last pages will make you weep.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

This is a mystery with a difference and one we highly recommend.  Just when you think you have the story worked out, it heads in a completely different direction. Mikael Blomkist is recruited to solve the 40-year-old mystery of the disappearance of Harriet, niece of wealthy industrialist Henrik Vanger.  There are members of the Vanger family who want it kept quiet at all costs. Security specialist, Lisbeth Salander, adds spice to the drama, as she uses any means possible to get the information she wants, but there is something in her past that she wants to keep hidden.

The Grand Sophy by Georgette Heyer

There’s a lot to like about the joyous, witty and capable Sophy as she descends upon, and then promptly upends, the Rivenhall family. It’s not without cause that she feels they are in sore need of her unique style of management. Heyer’s trademark style of light, clever repartee is on display here, along with her brilliant historical detail and use of contemporary slang. But it is the memorable characters that really make this story shine.

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

A vivid and engaging story of the passions and loyalties of a privileged young boy from Kabul, who eventually moves as a refugee to the United States. A controversial and thought provoking novel, which was made into a film in 2007.





The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

Enter the fantasy world of JRR Tolkien’s Middle Earth in the epic trilogy adventure Lord of the Rings.  Let the bucolic life of the hobbits entrance you, before the power of the ring draws you towards the darkness hidden inside the souls of even the most innocent.



The Pact by Jodi Picoult

The moral dilemmas we grapple with are Jodi Picoult’s specialty, and this is one of her best.  Two teens decide to make a suicide pact, but only one goes through with it.  Should the young man who survived be charged with murder?  This novel deals with the heartbreak and grief of the families going through this horrifying ordeal at the same time as it makes the reader think about the moral issues of suicide and the psychological impact of family tragedy.

The Secret River by Kate Grenville

This book gives an enlightening account of how it might have been to be a white settler on the Hawkesbury river. It tackles stereotypes on both sides and motivations, cultural misunderstandings and connections. Best of all, it gives a human face to historical events and shows how even a decent man can become involved in atrocity.



The Shifting Fog by Kate Morton

A great atmospheric murder mystery, you lose yourself in the secrets and suspense of Riverton.  The setting is full of historical charm and the absorbing family saga evokes another era.  This compelling tale from local Mt Tamborine author tells of the extremes people will go to for love.



The Spare Room by Helen Garner

Helen Garner, undeniably one of Australia’s finest living writers, has written a very modern story of friendship and death.  In her usual style, every word and sentence is in its place.  Close to the bone, uncomfortable, The spare room will challenge and confront you, and leave you with more questions than answers.



The Story of Danny Dunn by Bryce Courtenay

This is a family saga spanning three generations between pre-WWII and the 1970s, set against a background of Australian pubs and politics. The story portrays the life of Danny Dunn, a young man who seems to have it all, but the war changes him not only physically but mentally and he battles with his personal demons. This story may be fiction, but it could have been true, as the characters are drawn so well and the incorporation of real life events and people so factual.

The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

An examination of a love that stretches over the course of Claire and Henry’s lives, this unique novel has little to do with science-fiction, but everything to do with how events can make or break a relationship. This twisty tale, with a non-linear timeline, will prove un-put-down-able for many.



The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett

It was the corgis’ fault.  They took the Queen on a walk through the grounds of Buckingham Palace, and she discovered the City of Westminster travelling library.  At first feeling obliged to borrow a book, this engaging story follows the Queens’ discovery of the joys of literature in the face of duty, and a disapproving staff.



The World Beneath by Cate Kennedy

In this wonderfully compassionate and evocative study of fractured relationships and jaded adolescence, a journey into the Tasmanian wilderness becomes a metaphor for self-discovery and finally connection and empathy, not only with the sometimes unforgiving landscape, but also for Sophie, her mother, pining for the lost ideals of youth, and her father, absent since Sophie’s birth and looking to make amends.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

This classic book – one of the best ever written – deals with injustice, ignorance and prejudice and shows how one man’s integrity and strength of belief can inspire both decency and hatred. Atticus Finch defends an innocent man despite the racist opposition of his neighbours, even though he knows there is no chance of an acquital. Seen through the eyes of his daughter, Scout, events unfold that illustrate the best and worst of human nature – truths that are just as relevant today.

Valley of Grace by Marion Halligan

A gem of a novel by one of Australia’s most talented writers, the tale is set in contemporary Paris and tells the story of a newly married couple, Fanny and Gerard and their circle of friends and family.  The themes of the novel are children, love and relationships and it is this focus on age-old and yet oh so contemporary themes which gives the books its resonance and a rare ability to touch the reader.  This story will stay with the reader long after the pages are closed.

Vodka Doesn’t Freeze by Leah Giarratano

Written by a trauma psychologist based in Sydney, who also presents on Channel Seven’s Beyond the Dark Lands, the author really knows what she is talking about. Although the subject is difficult to explore it’s a must read for those who love a good murder thriller!



Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

This book takes the reader on an amazing journey with a circus in the 1930’s Depression. We both respected and detested the main characters.  Jacob Jankowski, a partially qualified veterinarian, tells the tale as he relives his life with the circus and captures the carnival atmosphere and unprincipled practices of a travelling circus with words both poignant and emotional.  This book will leave the booklover richer for having read and met this raggedy tribe of miscreants and lost souls.

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