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5 Books to Read Before Going To Australia

18 July, 2016

Knowledge is power. And there’s no other situation when you need so much power as you can get than when you need to survive in an alien place with an equally alien culture. And this predicament rises exponentially when you are in Australia. You see, the country is where the world gets flipped upside down, with its quirky culture and unique people. And it doesn’t help that people get bombarded with inaccurate information and misconceptions about the country.

These seven books will arm you with the proper knowledge about living in the Land Down Under. Most of them are written with an outsider like you who gets a taste of culture shock when moving here, and then slowly immerse themselves. These literary works of art will paint you an almost accurate picture about the life in Australia.




The Songlines by Bruce Chatwin



What is it about:

Written in 1987, English travel writer, novelist, and journalist Bruce Chatwin combines fiction and non-fiction to describe his journey to research and discover the country’s aboriginal songs and its connection to the Outback culture as well as Aboriginal culture and religion. Chatwin argues that the aboriginal songs are related to man’s nomadic nature, its evolution, and the formation of their self-concept and concept of the land, as they travel from one place to another,. He said this is especially true in one of the oldest civilizations in the world, Australia.


Why should you read it:

To fully know about a country, you have to discover it on a deeper level. And there’s no better way to do that than through the people who first settled here. The aborigines of Australia are people teeming with lessons about the country’s ancient culture. And what they impart sparks interest even from complete strangers to the country.




Down Under/In a Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson


What is it about:

In this witty and humorous travelogue by Bill Bryson, the Anglo-American author tours Australia through car and train, no less. He strikes conversations with locals from all walks of life along the way about the country‘s history, geography, and even the unusual plants and animals Oz is famous for. He then snowballs this with his reactions about the life and culture in the country.

The book covers a great deal of geography, including the life in the Outback, the modern and civilized part of the country, and the edges where the best natural spots like the Uluru Rock and the Great Barrier Reef are located.


Why should you read it:

If we’re going to recommend a single book to browse through while on your trip to Oz, this would be it. Bryson gives a feel of how it would be a total stranger in Australia without the readers having to go through the culture shock. He will immerse you through culture of the locals, providing a glimpse of what will be your way of life here. Consider here a preview of the exciting things to come for you here.




 Australia: A Biography of a Nation by Phillip Knightley


What is it about:

Nobody can write about Australia than Australians themselves. Journalist, critic, and non-fiction author Phillip Knightley extraordinarily proved that. In this combination of historical discourse, travelogue, and life essay, Knightley plunges the reader along the tumultuous forces that shaped Australia from a convict colony to the thriving country it is now today. He accounts marvelous details from its federation-government era to the First World War to the Great Depression to the gradual evolution and severing of its relationship with Great Britain.


Why should you read it:

If you should know the country, you should know its history. Knightley showed us that Australia wasn’t built in a day. It’s conglomeration of various forces over time such as the two World Wars, civils wars, and the Great Depression. Topping it all is the force of immigration which constantly rebuilds the nation from its ashes.

The book is written like a, well, biography, painting Australia like a living, breathing character going through different phases and challenges of its life as it builds its own identity and personality. This book is a powerful reminder of how you, as an immigrant, is not just a number in a larger demography, but a contributor to the aggregate of forces that constantly develops the country.





The Harp in the South by Ruth Park


What is it about:

If you’re going to settle in Australia for good, you might as well browse on the most read novel in the country of the late 20th century. The book details on the life and struggles of the Darceys, an Irish Catholic family who resides in a post war Sydney slum called Surry Hills, a place beset in poverty and violence. This literary masterpiece was based upon Ruth Park’s observations themselves into the daily lives of people in the area. A New Zealander, Park moved to Australia to live with her husband. The novel was eventually translated into 37 languages due to its massive success.


Why should you read it:

The main characters transmits Park’s views as a newcomer thrust into the chaotic and precarious modern jungle of Sydney still trying to survive from the ravages of World War II. Being an Irish Catholic family, their existence and perspectives clashes with the emerging individuality of the nation as it tries to get back on its feet, revealing how the identity and culture of Australia itself is sometimes complex and unsolvable. The gripping poverty and the difficulties of ethnic relations raises this predicament even further.

As an immigrant, you are more likely to face the same dilemma and challenges, and you can pull out the strength and inspiration from this book.




30 Days in Sydney: A Wildly Distorted Account by Peter Carey



What is it about:

After living abroad for years, novelist Peter Carey returns home to Sydney in this unique merger of reality and fiction, as he tries to rediscover the city with the help of his rag tag crew of old friends. Set in 2000 while the Sydney Olympic Games are still being held, Carey armed himself with a tape recorder to collect his friends’ stories and their impressions, both wry and straightforward, about Australia’s most famous city. The result is work that effectively mixes history, anecdote, and criticism about the city itself.


Why should you read it:

Sydney is the country’s most renowned city. One cannot think of Australia without imagining the Opera House or the Harbour Bridge. Ironically, what most people know about it barely scratches the surface. Very little is noted beyond the city’s blinding lights and marvelous façade. Carey uncovers everything that matters, both good and bad, about the city. He might have twisted reality and throws bias along the way, but the picture he paints is as convincing and realistic as ever. He definitely gives an air of being a foreigner in a city where he lived a large part of his life.




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