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From Family Drama To Prehistoric Tales

Book recommendations from Byron Writers Festival

As Australia’s favourite regional meeting place of storytelling and ideas, Byron Writers Festival attracts thousands of people annually and is central to the creative, cultural and intellectual life of the Byron Shire.

The Festival brings writers and thinkers from many walks of life to Byron Bay to share their stories and insights with audiences, spanning a variety of topics: art, the environment, politics, philosophy, music, social issues, fiction and memoir to name a few.

2020 would have marked the 24th year of Byron Writers Festival, and although it won’t be going ahead this year due to the pandemic we wanted to share with you a few book recommendations from authors who would have been on the line-up.

Please save the date for 6-8 August 2021, we look forward to gathering with you then.


Ghost Species by James Bradley (Penguin)

When scientist Kate Larkin joins a secretive project to re-engineer the climate by resurrecting extinct species, she becomes enmeshed in another, even more clandestine program to recreate our long-lost relatives, the Neanderthals.

Ghost Species is available for purchase here

Hear the new Byron Writers Festival podcast conversation with James Bradley here.

Mammoth by Chris Flynn (UQP)

Narrated by a 13,000-year-old extinct mammoth, this is the (mostly) true story of how a collection of prehistoric creatures came to be on sale at a natural history auction in New York in 2007. With our planet on the brink of calamitous climate change, Mammoth scrutinises humanity’s

role in the destruction of the natural world while also offering a message of hope.

Mammoth is available for purchase here.

The House of Youssef by Yumna Kassab (Giramondo) 

Set in the suburbs of Western Sydney, this collection of short stories portrays the lives of Lebanese immigrants, and their families. The stories revolve around their hopes and regrets, their feelings of isolation, and their nostalgia for what they might have lost or left behind.

The House of Youssef is available for purchase here

Being Black 'n Chicken, and Chips by Matt Okine (Hachette Australia) 

Based on his award-winning stand-up show, and the loss of his own mother when he was 12, Being Black n Chicken, and Chips, is a funny, heart-warming, and sometimes surreal look at how young people deal with grief, the loss of loved ones, and becoming an adult - all whilst desperately trying to fit in with the other kids.

Being Black ‘n Chicken, and Chips is available for purchase here

The Bass Rock by Evie Wyld (Penguin) 

Surging out of the sea, the Bass Rock has for centuries watched over the lives that pass under its shadow on the Scottish mainland. And across the centuries the fates of three women are linked: to this place, to each other.

The Bass Rock is available for purchase here


Phosphorescence by Julia Baird (Harper Collins)

The national bestseller, Phosphorescence is a beautiful, intimate and inspiring investigation into how we can find and nurture within ourselves that essential quality of internal happiness - the 'light within' - which will sustain us even through the darkest times.

Phosphorescence is available to purchase here

The Power of Suffering by David Roland (Simon and Schuster) 

The Power of Suffering is psychologist David Roland’s personal investigation into the nature of human suffering. When our world is turned upside down, what does it do to us, how do we survive it, and, most importantly, how can we grow as a result?

The Power of Suffering is available to purchase here


Throat by Ellen Van Neerven (UQP)

Throat is the explosive second poetry collection from award-winning Mununjali Yugambeh writer Ellen van Neerven. Exploring love, language and land, van Neerven flexes their muscles and shines a light on Australia’s unreconciled past and precarious present with humour and heart.

Throat is available to purchase here


Incredible Freedom Machines by Kirli Sauders and illustrated by Matt Ottley (Scholastic Press) 

She was small when she heard about them... the incredible freedom machines. In this sumptuous story of exploration and breaking boundaries, a young girl uncovers her very own freedom machine vehicle that carries her to all kinds of wondrous places. Recommended readers 4+.

Incredible Freedom Machines is available to purchase here

Detention by Tristan Bancks (Penguin)

A daring escape. A school lockdown. A thrilling chase. What would you risk to save a life? Recommended readers 10+.

Detention is available to purchase here

Grimsdon by Deborah Abela (Penguin) 

Grimsdon brings us a heroine to love and a great deal of danger to overcome in this thrilling novel set in a post-apocalyptic, flooded world. Recommended readers 8 to 12 years.

Grimsdon is available to purchase here.

Leigh Sales image courtesy of Kurt Peterson Photography