Sam van Zweden




A Month of Reading: June

June was good for books. I read three books during the month, and I acquired a great many more. 


Relish, by Lucy Knisley.

Lucy’s coming to town for the Melbourne Writers Festival in August, and a copy of this was floating about the office. With a combined love of memoir and food, this book really spoke to me. The daughter of two foodies, Knisley combines recipes, travel stories, and coming-of-age memories in this gorgeously illustrated graphic memoir. Get on it – very fun.


Madness: A Memoir, by Kate Richards

This first caught my eye for the cover design. It looks beautiful, but it also feels beautiful. Those scribbles are actually embossed so that it feels like someone’s picked up each and every book fresh off the printing press and done that design by hand.

Like with Relish, I picked up Madness: A Memoir because it hit close to home. Between my mum’s and my experiences of mental illness, it’s always a topic I’m keen to read about. I guess the intangibility of mental illness means that it’s anything but universal, and every memoir or account that comes out of it will offer something different. 

Unfortunately, it’s also dangerous territory. Many mental illness memoirs only touch on the physical experience, and look no deeper. Madness really hit the mark for me. Kate Richards is medically trained, so she has a different understanding of her illness, and seems to understand that she can play a bridging role (between medical establishments and patients) that many psychiatric patients cannot. Madness managed to explain some things I’ve never understood about Mum’s experience, and prompted me to consider the role of writing as an advocacy tool. 



High Sobriety by Jill Stark

High-selling nonfiction books make a bigger dent on my radar than high-selling fiction books. So all the talk around High Sobriety earned it a place on the reading pile, and I was lucky enough to co-chair the #kydbookclub this month with Jessica Alice, discussing High Sobriety. Unfortunately, Australian politics exploded within ten minutes of the book club starting, but the discussion that did happen over the top of #auspol on Twitter was good fun, and interesting.

High Sobriety follows Jill Stark, a newspaper health reporter, as she takes a year off booze. Like diet, drinking habits are deeply personal, and it’s almost impossible to read this book without weighing in on it somehow. As a not-particularly-heavy-drinker, I still had a lot of eyebrow-raising moments. Stark made me think about the cultural role of alcohol, and the things we take for granted that are actually a bit messed up.


A Month of Reading

A few days late this month, because 1st of July was my birthday, then yesterday I spent the day starting to tidy up my house. It’s not a one-day kind of job, but when I woke this morning I realised it’s July! And I’d not yet posted my Month of Reading!

Half of June was taken up by the Future Bookshop residency and winding-up of Emerging Writers Festival. I’m on university holidays, and I should have had lots of time to read (and write!), but I honestly don’t know what I’ve been doing with my time!

I did re-discover the magical place that is Kew Salvos though, and so I came out with all the “books bought” below for just $10.

Anyway, here’s the books I spent time with this month. What did you read?

Books Bought:
Grave Secret, by Charlaine Harris
Dead to the World, by Charlaine Harris
Eat, Pray, Love, by Elizabeth Gilbert
The Eyre Affair, by Jasper Fforde
The Hours, by Michael Cunningham

The Emerging Writer, ed. Karen Pickering

Books Read:
The Summer Without Men, by Siri Hustvedt
Bite Your tongue, by Francesca Rendle-Short

Currently Reading:
The Confidence Gap, by Russ Harris
Wabi Sabi Love, by Arielle Ford
Love and Hunger, by Charlotte Wood

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