Emerging Writers’ Festival authors on books that changed them

Author Adam Liaw. Photo: supplied

Author Adam Liaw. Photo: supplied

On the eve of the Emerging Writers’ Festival, Sarah Harris asks authors to open the book on their literary lives.

Alice Pung

The author, teacher and lawyer had everyone talking about her first book Unpolished Gem, which won her the title of Australian Book Industry Newcomer of the Year in 2007.

Author Alice Pung. Photo: Supplied

Author Alice Pung. Photo: Supplied

Which book changed your life?

When I was 15 I read a little self-published book by a Buddhist monk called Because I Care and it made me realise that we were larger than our thoughts.

This really had an enormous psychological impact on me and it was then that I realised I could control my feelings instead of letting them control me.

Read more than once?

A Patch of Blue by Elizabeth Kata, published in the ’60s. I read it three times. It is beautiful.

The book you never wanted to end?

Journey to the West, a Chinese classic. My father used to read the children’s volumes to us and we were mesmerised.

On the go at the moment?

A beautifully written book by Quinn Eades called All the Beginnings, which makes me look at bodies and motherhood differently.

 

Omar Musa

The Malaysian-Australian rapper and poet’s first novel Here Come the Dogs put him straight onto the Miles Franklin Award long list in 2015.

Author Omar Musa. Photo: Supplied

Author Omar Musa. Photo: Supplied

Which book changed your life?

The Autobiography of Malcolm X. It made me want to fight for social justice and question the world around me.

I found the drug dealer/prisoner turned intellectual/revolutionary narrative compelling and inspiring. I think I first read it when I was 14.

The book you never wanted to end?

A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula le Guin. When I finished writing Here Come the Dogs, I re-read it because I wanted to return to that child-like ecstasy of reading.

Read more than once?

I’ve re-read Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy many times. You know something is good when it simultaneously inspires you to write and makes you want to quit writing.

On the go at the moment?

I’m currently reading Beauty is a Wound by Eka Kurniawan and Flight by Sherman Alexie.

Michaela McGuire

The Emerging Writers’ Festival director is the author of Last Bets: A True Story of Gambling, Morality and the Law, and the Penguin Special A Story of Grief.

Author Michaela McGuire. Photo: supplied

Author Michaela McGuire. Photo: supplied

Which book changed your life?

I read Helen Garner’s Joe Cinque’s Consolation about six years ago, and it completely changed the way I thought about journalism, and the power of narrative non-fiction.

I thumbed through this book so many times while writing Last Bets that the corners of my copy are all completely rounded.

The book you never wanted to end?

Elena Ferrante’s The Story of the Lost Child. I read the Neapolitan Novels over two months this year, and it was such an expansive pleasure to be able to spend 2000-odd pages with such brilliantly written characters. The books were a real milestone read.

Read more than once?

I’m sure I re-read all of The Famous Five series again and again as a small kid, but I haven’t entirely re-read a book as an adult. I have a row of books – “a hero pile” – that I flick through when I need to be reminded of what good writing looks like.

Anna Krien’s Into the Woods, Chloe Hooper’s The Tall Man and Joan Didion’s Slouching Towards BethlehemAfter Henry and The White Album always have pride of place.

On the go at the moment?

I’m about to crack Hanya Yanagihara’s The People in the Trees. I loved A Little Life; it’s such a brutal, gorgeous book. I’m excited to see what Yanighara’s first novel is like, but anxious that I’ll find it disappointing.

Adam Liaw

The 2010 MasterChef winner, columnist and TV presenter is already author of four cookbooks and now hard at work on his fifth.

Author Adam Liaw. Photo: supplied

Author Adam Liaw. Photo: supplied

Which book changed your life?

There’s a novel called Taiko by Japanese writer Eiji Yoshikawa I read when I was in my early 20s.

Before then I had no interest in Japan at all, and just after reading it I ended up living in Japan for seven years. I’m not sure that was a coincidence.

Read more than once?

The last book I re-read was Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels. I first read it when I was a teenager and remembered loving it, but on re-reading it was awful, bloated and infantile.

On the go at the moment?

Right now I’m writing my fifth book and so I’m not reading anything.

 

The Emerging Writers’ Festival

  • Tuesday to Friday, June 14-24
  • The National Writers’ Conference: Saturday to Sunday, June 18-19 at the State Library of Victoria.

 

 

 

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