The Australia Institute Essential Reading List 2019

As the year draws to a close, the Australia Institute team has compiled a list of our essential reads of 2019

by Jess Hill

Domestic abuse is a national emergency: one in four Australian women has experienced violence from a man she was intimate with. But too often we ask the wrong question: why didn’t she leave? We should be asking: why did he do it?

Investigative journalist Jess Hill puts perpetrators — and the systems that enable them — in the spotlight. See What You Made Me Do is a deep dive into the abuse so many women and children experience — abuse that is often reinforced by the justice system they trust to protect them. Critically, it shows that we can drastically reduce domestic violence — not in generations to come, but today.

Combining forensic research with riveting storytelling, See What You Made Me Do radically rethinks how to confront the national crisis of fear and abuse in our homes.

  • Longlisted, 2019 Indie Book Awards
  • Shortlisted, 2019 Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards
  • Shortlisted, 2019 Walkley Book Award
  • Finalist, 2019 Human Rights Medal for the Media Award
  • A Readings Best Australian Nonfiction Book of 2019

by Brian Toohey

Brian Toohey draws on decades of inquiries into national security to examine governing by stealth.

Elected governments pose the greatest threat to Australians’ security. Political leaders increasingly promote secrecy, ignorance and fear to introduce new laws that undermine individual liberties and magnify the risks of being dragged into a horrific new war for no good reason. It is a criminal offence to receive or publish a wide range of information unrelated to national security. Our defence weapons are so dependent on US technical support that Australia couldn’t defend itself without US involvement. The Commonwealth is amassing comprehensive databases on citizens’ digital fingerprints and facial recognition characteristics. True? False? Read Secret: The Making of Australia’s Security State and you decide. Fresh archival material and revealing details of conversations between former CIA, US State Department and Australian officials will make you reconsider the world around you.

by Ginger Gorman

In 2013, journalist Ginger Gorman was trolled online. She received scores of hateful tweets, including a death threat. She was terrified, but once the attack subsided, she found herself curious. Who were these trolls? How and why did they coordinate such an attack? And how does someone fight back?

Over the next five years, Gorman spoke to psychologists, trolling victims, law enforcement, academics and, most importantly, trolls themselves, embedding herself into their online communities and their psyches in ways she had never anticipated. She uncovered links between trolling, cyberhate and real-life crimes. She mapped out a cohort of men — mostly angry, young and white — who rightly or wrongly feel marginalised and disenfranchised and use the internet to express this. She encountered the frequently extreme personal costs endured by trolling targets, not to mention the very real financial and economic costs of cyberhate.

A gripping read, Troll Hunting is a window into not just the mindset of trolls, but also the profound changes in the way we live and work in a post-internet world. Trolls didn’t appear from thin air — they are real people, and reflect a real aspect of our society. This remarkable investigation will change the way you think about the internet, and what it means to be a human online.

by Ross Garnaut

We have unparalleled renewable energy resources. We also have the necessary scientific skills. Australia could be the natural home for an increasing proportion of global industry. But how do we make this happen?

In this crisp, compelling book, Australia’s leading thinker about climate and energy policy offers a road map for progress, covering energy, transport, agriculture, the international scene and more. Rich in ideas and practical optimism, Superpower is a crucial, timely contribution to this country’s future.

edited by Maxine Beneba Clarke, with Ahmed Yussuf and Magan Magan

‘I was born in Harare, the capital of Zimbabwe.’
‘My dad was a freedom fighter, waging war for an independent state: South Sudan.’
‘We lived in a small country town, in the deep south of Western Australia.’
‘I never knew black people could be Muslim until I met my North African friends.’
‘My mum and my dad courted illegally under the Apartheid regime.’
‘My first impression of Australia was a housing commission in the north of Tasmania.’

‘Somalis use this term, “Dhaqan Celis”. “Dhaqan” means culture and “Celis” means return.’

Learning to kick a football in a suburban schoolyard. Finding your feet as a young black dancer. Discovering your grandfather’s poetry. Meeting Nelson Mandela at your local church. Facing racism from those who should protect you. Dreading a visit to the hairdresser. House- hopping across the suburbs. Being too black. Not being black enough. Singing to find your soul, and then losing yourself again.

Welcome to African Australia.

Compiled by award-winning author Maxine Beneba Clarke, with curatorial assistance from writers Ahmed Yussuf and Magan Magan, this anthology brings together voices from the regions of Africa and the African diaspora, including the Caribbean and the Americas. Told with passion, power and poise, these are the stories of African-diaspora Australians.

Contributors include Faustina Agolley, Santilla Chingaipe, Carly Findlay, Khalid Warsame, Nyadol Nyuon, Tariro Mavondo and many, many more.

by Peter Lewis

Sydney in the 1970s and 1980s was a world of limited choice, one where we all watched the same television programs and the household phone was at the heart of all networks people belonged to: family, school, church and the neighbourhood. The arrival of the internet promised a utopian, creative and democratic future that would break down traditional institutions and replace them with exciting collaborative networks. So how did we end up here?

In Webtopia, Peter Lewis draws from his own pre- and post-tech experience and conversations with entrepreneurs, politicians, pastors, parents, teachers and journalists to show us that technology is not the problem. We are. If we fix our relationship with technology, it will be easier to fix our relationships with each other in a fragmenting world.

Riveting, engaging and wise, Webtopia traces our digital journey to this point and, fearlessly, marks out the best route from here.

by Shoshana Zuboff

The challenges to humanity posed by the digital future, the first detailed examination of the unprecedented form of power called “surveillance capitalism,” and the quest by powerful corporations to predict and control our behavior.

In this masterwork of original thinking and research, Shoshana Zuboff provides startling insights into the phenomenon that she has named surveillance capitalism. The stakes could not be higher: a global architecture of behavior modification threatens human nature in the twenty-first century just as industrial capitalism disfigured the natural world in the twentieth.

Zuboff vividly brings to life the consequences as surveillance capitalism advances from Silicon Valley into every economic sector. Vast wealth and power are accumulated in ominous new “behavioral futures markets,” where predictions about our behavior are bought and sold, and the production of goods and services is subordinated to a new “means of behavioral modification.”

The threat has shifted from a totalitarian Big Brother state to a ubiquitous digital architecture: a “Big Other” operating in the interests of surveillance capital. Here is the crucible of an unprecedented form of power marked by extreme concentrations of knowledge and free from democratic oversight. Zuboff’s comprehensive and moving analysis lays bare the threats to twenty-first century society: a controlled “hive” of total connection that seduces with promises of total certainty for maximum profit — at the expense of democracy, freedom, and our human future.

With little resistance from law or society, surveillance capitalism is on the verge of dominating the social order and shaping the digital future — if we let it.

by Craig Foster

How people power challenged two monarchies, a military junta, and the world’s largest sporting institutions … and won

Football is the world game. It unites. At a grassroots level it creates communities and, in 2019, those communities helped save the life of one of its own.

In 2012, Hakeem al-Araibi was a promising young player on Bahrain’s national football team when he was arrested for attacking a police station during the Arab Spring, despite television footage showing him playing soccer at the time of the alleged attack. After three months of torture and wrongful imprisonment, Hakeem was released. He fled the country and made his way to Australia, where he was granted refugee status. Hakeem made a life here and was playing for the suburban Pascoe Vale Football Club, in Melbourne. He thought he was safe.

But, in November 2018, on a holiday to Thailand with his wife, Hakeem was again arrested. The Bahraini government wanted to extradite him to face a ten-year jail sentence, or worse. What happened next shows the best of what soccer can do, and the worst the governing body of FIFA brings. If it wasn’t for the Australian soccer community and former Socceroo Craig Foster, Hakeem may never have been freed.

This powerful memoir reveals how a local soccer legend fought tirelessly to help bring home a man he’d never met. From Pascoe Vale to Switzerland, Canberra to Thailand, Foster raised his voice and tens of thousands of Australians were galvanised to #FreeHakeem. Foster lobbied FIFA and the United Nations and worked with human rights organisations worldwide to enable Hakeem’s safe return to his wife in Australia.

Despite being from different backgrounds, religions and generations, Craig Foster and Hakeem al-Araibi are united forever through their love of the world game and their fight for freedom.

In Our Nature

by David and Emma Pocock

In Our Nature is a collection of essays, photos and poetry. Some by David, some by Emma, and some from amazing people they’ve spent time with, or whose work has shaped the way they think about these issues and the times we find ourselves living in.

There are stories about people on the frontiers of conservation — fighting to save habitat and species headed for extinction, from communities finding ways to make a livelihood without compromising the wild places they live alongside, work from some of the world’s best wildlife photographers and stories of their own farming and conservation attempts.

David and Emma hope some of the stories will remind you how big and wonderful the world is. And, how possible it is for you to be part of taking care of it in the choices you make about how you spend your time, your money, how you vote, and how you choose to live your life.

As Clarissa Pinkola Estes reminds us, “ours is not the task of fixing the entire world at once, but of stretching out to mend the part of the world that is within our reach.”

We hope these stories will provide a glimmer of hope.

All funds raised will go to conservation.

by Judith Brett

It’s compulsory to vote in Australia.

We are one of a handful of countries in the world that enforce this rule at election time, and the only English-speaking country that makes its citizens vote.

Not only that, we embrace it. We celebrate compulsory voting with barbeques and cake stalls at polling stations, and election parties that spill over into Sunday morning.

But how did this come to be: when and why was voting in Australia made compulsory? How has this affected our politics? And how else is the way we vote different from other democracies?

Lively and inspiring, From Secret Ballot to Democracy Sausage is a landmark account of the character of Australian democracy by the celebrated historian Judith Brett, the prize-winning biographer of Alfred Deakin.

by Ruth McGowan

To date, there has been a lack of easily available information on how to campaign for the three levels of government across Australia. Information is hard to find and although there are play-books written for candidates in the major parties, this is often tightly guarded as ‘secret political-party business’. So, Ruth McGowan decided to write Get Elected, the first national book on ‘how to campaign’ which presents a step by step guide to winning public office at a local, state or federal level.

Get Elected draws on research and successful case studies such as the Indi campaign and another state, local and federal campaigns. The practical tips come from herown experiences as a trainer of workshops and courses on ‘how to run your campaign’ as well as her work as a Candidate-Coach.

“To the many people who feel disillusioned and disappointed about the state of politics and find it hard to imagine a way forward, this guide is for you. In Get Elected, Ruth unpacks a step-by-step ‘recipe book’ of what it takes to plan, run and win a successful campaign for candidates and for the people who will help them succeed”

— Cathy McGowan MP, former Member for Indi

by Richard Denniss

An updated and expanded edition of the bestselling Quarterly Essay

How did the banks run wild for so long? Why are so many aged-care residents malnourished? And when did arms manufacturers start sponsoring the Australian War Memorial?

In Dead Right, Richard Denniss explores what neoliberalism has done to Australia. For decades, we have been led to believe that the private sector does everything better, that governments can’t afford to provide the high-quality services they once did, but that security and prosperity for all are just around the corner. In fact, Australians are now less equal, millions of workers have no sick leave or paid holidays, and housing is unaffordable for many. Deregulation, privatisation and trickle-down economics have, we are told, delivered us twenty-seven years of growth … but to what end?

Denniss looks at ways to renew our democracy and discusses everything from the fragmenting Coalition to an idea of the national interest that goes beyond economics. This is a sparkling book of ideas, and the perfect starting point for thinking about how we can best shape Australia’s future.

by Heather Boushey

From one of Washington’s most influential voices on economic policy, a lively and original argument that reducing inequality is not just fair but also key to delivering broadly shared economic growth and stability.

Do we have to choose between equality and prosperity? Many think that reducing economic inequality would require such heavy-handed interference with market forces that it would stifle economic growth. Heather Boushey, one of Washington’s most influential economic voices, insists nothing could be further from the truth. Presenting cutting-edge economics with journalistic verve, she shows how rising inequality has become a drag on growth and an impediment to a competitive United States marketplace for employers and employees alike.

Boushey argues that inequality undermines growth in three ways. It obstructs the supply of talent, ideas, and capital as wealthy families monopolize the best educational, social, and economic opportunities. It also subverts private competition and public investment. Powerful corporations muscle competitors out of business, in the process costing consumers, suppressing wages, and hobbling innovation, while governments underfund key public goods that make the American Dream possible, from schools to transportation infrastructure to information and communication technology networks. Finally, it distorts consumer demand as stagnant wages and meager workplace benefits rob ordinary people of buying power and pushes the economy toward financial instability.

Boushey makes this case with a clear, accessible tour of the best of contemporary economic research, while also injecting a passion for her subject gained through years of research into the economics of work–life conflict and policy work in the trenches of federal government. Unbound exposes deep problems in the U.S. economy, but its conclusion is optimistic. We can preserve the best of our nation’s economic and political traditions, and improve on them, by pursuing policies that reduce inequality—and by doing so, boost broadly shared economic growth.

by Robert A. Caro

Robert A. Caro, ‘one of the great reporters of our time and probably the greatest biographer’ (Sunday Times), is one of the most acclaimed writers of his generation, whose biographies are widely considered to be masterpieces.

In Working he offers a captivating account of his life as a writer, describing the sometimes staggering lengths to which he has gone in order to produce his books and offering priceless insights into the art and craft of non-fiction writing.

Anyone interested in investigative journalism and the pursuit of truth, in the writer’s process and the creation of literature, in the art of interviewing or simply the psychology of excellence will find a masterclass in all these subjects within these pages. Readers already familiar with Caro’s work, meanwhile, will be thrilled at the revelations on offer, including how he discovered the fiercely guarded secrets of his subjects, how he constructed the pivotal scenes in his books and the fullest description yet of his forthcoming final volume of The Years of Lyndon Johnson.

Including several of Caro’s most famous speeches and interviews alongside the new material, Working is the self-portrait of a man who knows the meaning and importance of great story-telling. It is, like all his books, an utterly riveting example of that too.

by Ronan Farrow

In a dramatic account of violence and espionage, Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter Ronan Farrow exposes serial abusers and a cabal of powerful interests hell-bent on covering up the truth, at any cost.

In 2017, a routine network television investigation led Ronan Farrow to a story only whispered about: one of Hollywood’s most powerful producers was a predator, protected by fear, wealth, and a conspiracy of silence. As Farrow drew closer to the truth, shadowy operatives, from high-priced lawyers to elite war-hardened spies, mounted a secret campaign of intimidation, threatening his career, following his every move and weaponizing an account of abuse in his own family.

All the while, Farrow and his producer faced a degree of resistance that could not be explained — until now. And a trail of clues revealed corruption and cover-ups from Hollywood, to Washington, and beyond.

This is the untold story of the exotic tactics of surveillance and intimidation deployed by wealthy and connected men to threaten journalists, evade accountability and silence victims of abuse — and it’s the story of the women who risked everything to expose the truth and spark a global movement.

Both a spy thriller and a meticulous work of investigative journalism, Catch and Kill breaks devastating new stories about the rampant abuse of power — and sheds far-reaching light on investigations that shook the culture.

by Melissa Lucashenko

Too much lip, her old problem from way back. And the older she got, the harder it seemed to get to swallow her opinions. The avalanche of bullshit in the world would drown her if she let it; the least she could do was raise her voice in anger.

Wise-cracking Kerry Salter has spent a lifetime avoiding two things — her hometown and prison. But now her Pop is dying and she’s an inch away from the lockup, so she heads south on a stolen Harley.

Kerry plans to spend twenty-four hours, tops, over the border. She quickly discovers, though, that Bundjalung country has a funny way of grabbing on to people. Old family wounds open as the Salters fight to stop the development of their beloved river. And the unexpected arrival on the scene of a good-looking dugai fella intent on loving her up only adds more trouble — but then trouble is Kerry’s middle name.

  • Winner, 2019 Miles Franklin Award
  • Shortlisted, 2019 Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards Prize for Indigenous Writing
  • Shortlisted, 2019 Stella Prize

by Maxine Beneba Clarke

A collection of stunning biographical portraits from Maxine Beneba Clarke, bestselling and prize-winning author of THE HATE RACE and FOREIGN SOIL.

The year is 2014, editor Erik Jensen contacts short fiction writer Maxine Beneba Clarke, and convinces her to write creative portraits for a new national newspaper, THE SATURDAY PAPER. The next four years will be a journalistic baptism of fire. She will come face to face with Prime Minister Tony Abbott; spend exactly nine minutes with Hollywood film star Hugh Jackman; write a love letter to Prince; be escorted out of David Jones for stalking Santa Claus; watch porn star Buck Angel striptease; eat slut cupcakes with feminist Karen Pickering; troll a local racist fried chicken eatery; hold audience with the Australian Ambassador to China; covertly profile One Plus One presenter Jane Hutcheon; share the stage with writer Roxane Gay; sip green tea with dissident Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, and exchange emails with President Obama.

These are The Saturday Portraits.

by Tory Shepherd

Motherhood; yes or no. It’s now a real choice which is changing society.

They’re labelled as selfish, as ‘deliberately barren’, and sometimes as crazy old cat ladies, but increasingly women are choosing to be childfree. Over the next few decades couples without children are set to outnumber those who have them. Tory Shepherd looks at how women’s freedom to choose motherhood is reshaping their own lives as well as society.

“It was the Blighty pub that tipped me over the edge. Country people are generally gun-shy of the media. You have your advocates and blatherskites, but mostly journalists walking into a pub can face a wall of stone. Not this time. Not in the 2019 federal election. Blighty is two hours out of Albury, along the Riverina Highway, in the so-called food bowl of the Murray River. It is a whiff of a town, population 138 — but it has the bones of a strong community: a low slung country pub and a football club, the ritual gathering places.

“I was there with photographer Mike Bowers to report on the election, early in the campaign. That night, the residents of Blighty and its big sister town, Deniliquin, lined up to talk. We are in a drought, so there is that. There is a water crisis, and not just because of the drought. Drought, water management by the federal and state governments, theft and the effect of flood-plain harvesting in other parts of the basin has pushed the Murray-Darling Basin Plan to breaking point. The result has been a dry Darling River, zero allocations along the Murray for general security, fish kills and little to no income for the average farmer.”

We at the Australia Institute would claim that Gabrielle Chan’s Meanjin essay ‘Losing the Farm’ alone would make the Summer issue of Meanjin worth the cover price, but to make such a claim does a great disservice to the other great writing included in this issue.

There are any number of essays we could single out to recommend in this issue: standout writing from Greg Jericho (The Trouble with Journalism), Bri Lee (How We Keep Our Pens Might), Paul Daley (On Cook), Tony Birch (Writing and Being), Jinghua Qian (Yellow Peril Isn’t What It Used To Be), Ruby Hamad (An Unhappy Soul), Upulie Divisekera (Blood Will Have Blood), Mesh Tennakoon (Kattadiya), and many more.

If you are wondering why other great reads such as Gabrielle Chan’s Rusted Off and Bruce Pascoe’s Dark Emu are not featured, have a read of our 2018 Essential Reading List.

From everyone at the Australia Institute, happy reading!

an independent think-tank based in Canberra > australia.org.au

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