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Happy’s Best New Books of 2021 (May 30th – June 5th)

Updated weekly by the fine folk at Happy Mag, these are the best new books that this week has to offer from Australia and around the world!

Mieko Kawakami – Heaven

Reading accounts of bullying (even fictional ones) are always confronting. It triggers a mixture of terror, anger, and sadness — a dumbfounding realisation of the fundamental unfairness of the world. But what if a new, nourishing bond is born out of that misery? This is the question at the heart of Heaven.

Heaven was first published in 2009, but following the success of last year’s Breasts and Eggs, this shorter novel was translated into English. And like Breasts and Eggs, it tempers traumatic events with moments of contemplation, especially in the extended dialogue between the protagonist and his lifeline to the outside world, Kojima. A powerful story that serves to solidify Kawakami’s status as a literary force.

9.4

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Heaven
MIEKO KAWAKAMI
HEAVEN

Alice Pung – One Hundred Days

One Hundred Days marks the return of the award-winning Australian author, Alice Pung. It follows the tale of Karuna, a 16-year-old girl, who falls pregnant. Now under lock and key — and under the watch of her domineering mother — One Hundred Days is a study of tension within a relationship and the sometimes delicate balance between care and coercion.

9.2

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One Hundred Days
ALICE PUNG
ONE HUNDRED DAYS

Edited by Andrew Dodd and Matthew Ricketson – Upheaval: Disrupted Lives in Journalism

You’d have to have been hiding under a pretty sizeable rock not to notice the shift in the traditional media landscape, especially in the field of journalism. But if you’ve only grown up in an age post-internet, perhaps it’s less apparent. Upheaval collates the stories of more than 50 Aussie journos who have witnessed the dwindling of newsrooms over time first-hand and felt the repercussions.

9.0

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Upheaval
EDITED BY ANDREW DODD AND MATTHEW RICKETSON
UPHEAVAL: DISRUPTED LIVES IN JOURNALISM

Sinéad Stubbins – In My Defence, I Have No Defence

Have you ever fell victim to the pursuit of impossible standards? Likely, the answer is a resounding yes. And it’s a fate that’s hard to avoid amidst the bombardment of information from people who seem to be effortlessly getting it right. In her book, Sinéad Stubbins declares surrender in this unwinnable war in the funniest and most relatable way possible.

8.6

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In My Defence I Have No Defence
SINÉAD STUBBINS
IN MY DEFENCE, I HAVE NO DEFENCE

Linda Jaivin – The Shortest History of China

The Shortest History of China somehow pulls off the impossible — a concise, yet comprehensive explanation of the world’s largest nation. Better still, it brings stories to light — for example, women suffragettes of 12th century China — that are so rarely explored. For those who think that the modern perspective of China is the only dimension of this vast country worth exploring, there is much to be gleaned in this punchy volume.

9.0

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The Shortest History of China
LINDA JAIVIN
THE SHORTEST HISTORY OF CHINA

Sadhguru – Karma

When pressed, can you actually define karma? For the layperson, it traditionally represents some kind of cosmic comeuppance beyond individual control. In Karma, Sadhguru’s teachings outline a decidedly different perspective, one which puts the individual in control of their internal karmic cycle. A vital read for coming to grips with an oft-misunderstood concept.

8.6

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Karma

SADHGURU
KARMA

Mateo Askaripour – Black Buck

Black Buck is a modern comment on the cult of the office, with all its attendant pressures and ambition. It does, however, view it through the lens of race relations in America. It follows Buck, a killer in sales and the only Black employee in his company. After finding that the trappings of success just aren’t enough, he plans an extracurricular mission: to bring people of colour into the game.

9.1

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Black Buck

MATEO ASKARIPOUR
BLACK BUCK

Alex McElroy – The Atmospherians

Wellness and wokeness are catchphrases of the zeitgeist and concepts that Alex McElroy hilariously skewers in The Atmospherians. It traces the tale of Sasha, an internet sensation who falls victim to cancellation. A life raft in the form is offered by ‘The Atmosphere’, an idyllic environment where men are cleansed of toxic masculinity; she is to become the face of the community. An enthralling contemporary black comedy.

8.9

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The Atmospherians

ALEX MCELROY
THE ATMOSPHERIANS

Billie Eilish – Billie Eilish

Despite Billie Eilish’s extraordinary rise to fame in the past few years, she has managed to maintain a mystique. Billie Eilish (the book) lifts the veil, allowing fans a glimpse into the personal history of the superstar, her bond with her producer brother, Finneas O’Connell, and her unique predisposition for performance and artistic expression which was evident in her earliest years. Note: recommended for 14 years and over.

8.7

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Billie Eilish

BILLIE EILISH
BILLIE EILISH

Bill Birtles – The Truth About China

After living in China for five years and working as the ABC’s Beijing correspondent,  Bill Birtles was bundled out of the country in the dead of night. The threat of detention was very real for him and an indication of the diplomatic tension between Australia and China. The Truth About China is Birtles’ reflection on this period — and importantly — and an examination of the difference between the international view of the country and how it sees itself.

9.1

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The Truth About China

BILL BIRTLES
THE TRUTH ABOUT CHINA

Kitt Shapiro and Patricia Levy – Eartha & Kitt

The pages of Eartha & Kitt not only reflect a portrait of a pioneering performer but also an expression of love from daughter to mother. Eartha Kitt’s own childhood was one marked by profound disadvantage and abandonment — yet the bond with her own daughter couldn’t have been stronger. Biographies don’t come any more moving than this.

9.0

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Eartha and Kitt

KITT SHAPIRO AND PATRICIA LEVY
EARTHA & KITT

Kate Holden – The Winter Road

The killing of environmental officer Glen Turner by farmer Ian Turnbull was one that shocked the nation. Kate Holden not only remembers this event in The Winter Road, but she also explores the fallout. The questions it raises for humanity about our relationship to the land that nourishes us has never been more prescient.

8.9

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The Winter Road

KATE HOLDEN
THE WINTER ROAD

Yoshino Genzaburo – How Do You Live?

Though it’s not a new book (it’s 84 years old, in fact) this Japanese classic has been published in English for the first time. Complete with a foreword from Neil Gaiman, this uplifting coming of age story follows Copper, a teenage boy who must learn to navigate the world after the death of his father. What’s more, the Studio Ghibli mastermind, Hayao Miyazaki, cites this book as one of his key influences.

8.6

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How do you live

GENZABURO YOSHINO
HOW DO YOU LIVE?

Christian Hull – Leave Me Alone

Christian Hull is a comedian and entertainer very much in the new media mould — prolific as a podcaster and social media darling. Leave Me Alone recounts the life of an artist who does things very much his own way. Despite what you may think of his brash, no holds barred style, Leave Me Alone gives readers entrée into Hull’s inner-life of contemplation, providing an intriguing and unexpected self-portrait.

9.0

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Leave Me Alone

CHRISTIAN HULL
LEAVE ME ALONE

Jamie Marina Lau – Gunk Baby

The Stella Prize-shortlisted author of Pink Mountain on Locust Island Jamie Marina Lau returns with the strikingly original Gunk Baby. Following the unforgettable protagonist Leen, it’s ostensibly a story about chasing one’s dreams. Peek under the surface though and the reader treated to a disturbing dystopian vision that hits close to home.

8.8

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Gunk Baby

JAMIE MARINA LAU
GUNK BABY

Edited by Catriona Menzies-Pike and Luke Carman – Second City

The title itself speaks volumes. The Second City is often how the sprawling west of Sydney is imagined — a place on the margins of the city’s culture, with little access to its famed institutions. In this collection of essays, a sprawl of a different kind is celebrated: the myriad intersections of race, culture, and class are constructed through a kaleidoscopic and vital collective voice.

8.7

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Second City

EDITED BY CATRIONA MENZIES-PIKE AND LUKE CARMAN
SECOND CITY

Rachel Cusk – Second Place

Rachel Cusk, the author of the critically acclaimed Outline trilogy returns with a new novel, Second Place: an intense study of the singular nature of human relationships from one of its most skilled and nuanced observers. Notions of freedom, the power of art to define lives, and a fraught relationship between the protagonist and her obsession are explored with characteristic Cusk insight.

9.2

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Second Place

RACHEL CUSK
SECOND PLACE

Seth Rogen – Yearbook

The rise to fame, the partying, bar mitzvahs, and an amount of drug-based experiences that would make for a very awkward conversation with his parents — it’s all detailed within the pages of Yearbook, the collected essays of Seth Rogen. Careering from big laughs to emotional epiphanies, this collection gives readers a fascinating glimpse into one of Hollywood’s most enduring comedic presences.

8.4

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Yearbook

SETH ROGEN
YEARBOOK

Richard Flanagan – Toxic

Yes, it’s that Richard Flanagan. The Booker-prize winning author of The Narrow Road to the Deep North cares deeply about his native Tasmania. And for decades, one of the state’s chiefest exports has been salmon, with the industry trading on the island’s pristine wilderness. Flanagan’s damning exposé, however, puts pay to this toxic myth.

9.1

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Toxic

RICHARD FLANAGAN
TOXIC

Scott Ludlam – Full Circle

Penned by former senator Scott Ludlam, Full Circle details the systems that have led us to the precipice of climate disaster. Crucially, however, it explores how humans can interact with nature in a sustainable way, with benefits for people and the planet. Fascinatingly, Ludlam explains our relationship with the planet on a biological level, helping readers to understand the impact that humans have had on it. A compelling call to arms from a daring thinker.

8.9

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Full Circle

SCOTT LUDLAM
FULL CIRCLE

Irvin D. Yalom and Marilyn Yalom – A Matter of Death and Life

Irvin Yalom is a psychiatrist, accustomed to supporting patients through the darkest periods in their lives. When his wife, the acclaimed author Marilyn Yalom was diagnosed with cancer, his therapeutic instincts had to be turned inward. In this heartbreaking memoir, the couple provides their own accounts of Marilyn’s final days. If you’re in the mood for pondering the essence of love and what it means to grieve, this should be at the top of your list.

9.1

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A Matter of Death and Life

IRVIN D. YALOM AND MARILYN YALOM
A MATTER OF DEATH AND LIFE

Gwendoline Riley – My Phantoms

My Phantoms marks the return of Gwendoline Riley, the award-winning London-based author of First Love. It traces the tale of Helen and her adult daughter Bridget, a pair who are basically estranged. Yet, the two feel a mutual draw which is difficult to reconcile, amid the constant tumult. Stacked with wry humour and bleakness, the emotional punch of this novel is a hefty one.

9.0

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My Phantoms

GWENDOLINE RILEY
MY PHANTOMS