Some of the most powerful literature in the English language is coming out of Australia. The Land Down Under is home to experienced literary masters and exciting young writers alike. If you’re not reading Australian literature, now’s the time to start. Use this list as your guide!
Wyld’s All the Birds, Singing was a sensation in Australia. It won the Miles Franklin Award, Australia’s top literary prize, and it was shortlisted for the Stella Prize, an Australian prize for women writers. It also gained acclaim abroad, winning the United Kingdom’s Encore Award for second novels.
Cloudstreet chronicles the journeys of two working class Australian families who are neighbors on Cloud Street in suburban Perth. Cloudstreet has gained international acclaim and is frequently featured on lists of the best Australian novels. It’s no surprise that it makes our list, too!
The Eye of the Sheep just won Australia’s top literary award, the Miles Franklin Award, in 2015. The novel is Laguna’s triumphant return to adult literature – she’d written several children’s books between her 2008 debut and this 2014 novel. Like several other books on this list, this novel examines working-class life in Australia.
Shirley Hazzard is one of Australia’s most respected writers, though she now lives outside of the country. Her novel The Great Fire made noise on both sides of the Pacific Ocean. The novel won the Miles Franklin in Australia and earned Hazzard a National Book Award in the United States.
Australia’s Stella Prize is awarded for the best book by an Australian woman writer. Carrie Tiffany started the prize off in style when she took home the inaugural Stella Prize for Mateship With Birds in 2013. Tiffany uses her background as a park ranger to mix facts about birds into a 1950s drama.
Richard Flanagan is the most recent Australian author to win the Man Booker Prize, the UK’s distinguished prize for writing in English (the prize was previously limited to the Commonwealth nations, but that’s no longer true). He won in 2014 for The Narrow Road to the Deep North, a book that garnered worldwide acclaim. The New York Times called this story of a doctor’s regret “magnificent.”
The Strays earned Bitto the Stella Prize in 2015. The story of a circle of artists whose world unravels is told from the perspective of a young woman. The Strays is Bitto’s debut novel, and it’s the first debut effort to ever win the Stella Prize.
You can’t get a complete look at Australian literature without reading indigenous voices. Alexis Wright is a great author to start with. The Swan Book is a fascinating story set in a grim futuristic Australia.
Peter Carey is one of Australia’s most important living writers. His modern classic True History of the Kelly Gang won him a Man Booker Prize in 2001. It was his second time winning the coveted award, which he also took home in 1988 for Oscar and Lucinda.
The reimagining of The Iliad follows the relationship between two grieving men at war: Achilles and Priam. Malouf addresses the lengths at which a king will go to protect the dignity of his son, even after he is deceased. It’s a beautiful and stunning piece of literature that is well-worth the read.