The 26th January sees the annual celebration of Australia’s national day, marking the anniversary of the first British ships and the raising of the flag at Sydney Cove. Today, Australians all over celebrate the countries diversity and historical achievements, not in the least their literary merits.
We’ve collect a selection of our favourite Australian books either set in Australia or written by an Australian writer that explores the diverse and vast country, from the city centres right to the outback and bush.
We’ve scoured the sun-scorched land for genres of types to satisfy anyone’s tastes, from High Fantasy to travelogue and more in-between.
- The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
Markus Zusak was born in Sydney, Australia in 1975 and has written six novels to date, winning several awards for his books including the Margaret A. Edwards Award.
The Book Thief is a historical novel set during the reign of the Nazi regime in Germany. It follows a young girl named Liesel who begins to steal books.
It was adapted in to a feature film in 2013 of the same title, starring Geoffrey Rush and Emily Watson.
- Tomorrow When the War Began by John Marsden
John Marsden was born in Victoria, Australia in 1950 and has written over 40 books, both fiction and non-fiction, mostly writing for children and young adults. He has won numerous awards for his books, including the Children’s Book of the Year.
First published in 1993, Tomorrow When the War Began is a Young Adult Dystopian invasion-survival fiction novel set in Australia, narrated by teen Ellie Linton and follows her and her friends as they try to wage war on the invaders.
It was adapted in to a feature film in 2010, starring Caitlin Stasey.
- A Town Like Alice by Nevile Schute
Nevile Schute was born in Middlesex, England in 1899 who spent much of his later life in Australia, and died in Melbourne at the age of 60. He was a trained aeronautical engineer and wrote over 20 books, most notably A Town Like Alice and On the Beach.
Set all around the world from Malaysia to England through to Australia, A Town Like Alice is a romance novel that follows Jean Paget, a young English woman living in Malaysia who is captured by the Japanese and forced to march for seven months alongside other women and children.
It has been adapted in to a film and a TV mini-series, as well as for radio.
- The Year of Living Dangerously by Christopher J. Koch
Born in 1932 in Hobart, Australia, Christopher Hoch was an award-winning novelist who wrote 10 books and published several poems.
The Year of Living Dangerously is a historical novel set in 1965, Indonesia following an Australia journalist, his Chinese-Australia camera man and a British Diplomat they both love.
It was adapted in to a film in 1982 starring Mel Gibson and Sigourney Weaver, with Linda Hunt who won an Academy Award for her role.
- Jack Magss by Peter Carey
Peter Carey was born in 1943 in Victoria, Australia and has won numerous awards for his novels and has previously worked in advertising. He has written over 20 novels, short story collections and screenplays.
Set in 19th Century England, Jack Maggs is a re-working of Charles Dickens’ masterpiece Great Expectations, telling the story of ex-convict Jack Maggs (Magwitch), recently returned from Australia as he searches for his son, Henry (Pip).
- Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty
Liane Mortiarty was born in 1966 in Sydney, Australia and has published several novels, including Big Little Lies which has been adapted in to a TV series, as well as some stories for children.
Truly Madly Guilty is a suburban contemporary novel set in and around Sydney, Australia, following the events of six adults and three children at a BBQ event. It follows their weekend and unravels the lust and deceit of any modern-day relationship.
- Drylands by Thea Astley
Thea Astley was born in New South Wales, Australia in 1925 and enjoyed over 40 years of published life, including several novels and short story collections. She won more literary awards than any other Australian writer.
Drylands is a piece of literary fiction following Janet Deakin, a writer whom is surrounded by a town that is becoming ghostly as all its inhabitants leave, exploring themes such as racism and bigotry.
- Golden Miles by Katherine Susannah Prichard
Katherine Susannah Prichard was born in Fiji in 1883 but grew up in Tasmania and Melbourne, Australia. She wrote novels, short stories, poetry as well as dramatic works and was a co-founding member of the Australia Communist Party.
Published in 1948, Golden Miles is the second in the Goldfields trilogy, a saga of books following Sally Gough and her family during the Gold Rush in Australia.
- On the Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta
Born in Sydney in 1965, Melina Marchetta is a teacher and writer, best known for her young adult and children’s fiction. She has adapted her own novels for the screen.
On the Jellicoe Road is a young adult novel following the trials and tribulations of Taylor Lily Markham and the territory wars between Taylor’s boarders and the invading townies and cadets.
- Down Under by Bill Bryson
Bill Bryson is an American-British writer born in the USA and currently residing in England. He is a prolific writer on non-fiction topics, most notably on travel, having written over 20 books and taken part in television versions of his travels.
Down Under is a travelogue book describing Bill’s journey through Australia via rail and car, exploring the history and flora of the country, as well as noting his conversations and meetings with locals.
- The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton
Kate Morton, born in South Australia in 1976, is one of Australia’s best-selling authors, having sold more than 10 million books in 42 countries. Her six novels have won her numerous awards.
A homage to Francis Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden, it follows Cassandra as she deals with the death of her grandmother. After an unusual bequest set her by her grandmother Nell, Cassandra must use an inherited book of dark fairytales to follow in her grandmother’s footsteps and unravel the mystery of her past.
- Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence by Doris Pilkington
Born in 1937 in Western Australia, Doris Pilkington was an Australian author who was a Stolen Child, being taken from her family at the age of three to live at the Moore River Native Settlement.
Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence is a novel based on Doris Pilkington’s life as a child of the Stolen Generation. It follows Molly, Daisy and Gracie as they are stolen from their families and forced to live in Native Settlements, and chronicles their journey across Western Australia to return to their true family.
It was adapted in to a film in 2002 starring Evelyn Sampi and Kenneth Branagh.
- Cloudstreet by Tim Winton
Born in 1960 in Western Australia, Tim Winton has written over 20 novels, short stories, plays and children’s books, as well as several adaptations and non-fiction books. He has been shortlisted for over 50 awards and has won nearly 40 of them.
Cloudstreet is a 1991 novel is set in Perth, Australia and chronicles two rural families who live together in the house known as Cloudstreet. The novel follows both families over 20 years and their contrasting ways of life.
It has been adapted in to radio dramas and television series, as well as an opera.
- Seven Little Australians by Ethel Turner
Born in Doncaster, England in 1872, Ethel Turner moved to Australia when she was 7 years old. She was a prolific writer, having written over 40 stories since she was a teenager.
Seven Little Australians is considered a children’s classic of Australia, following the seven children of Army Captain Woolcot and their lives in Sydney. Led by Judy, they rebel against their father’s military ways and seek out as much fun as possible.
It has been adapted in to a film, several television series as well as stage plays and a musical.
- Tracks by Robyn Davidson
Born in Queensland, Australia in 1950, Robyn Davidson is an Australian author best-known for her books about her travels, particularly the journey she took across the Australian outback.
Tracks: A Woman’s Solo Trek Across 1700 Miles of Australian Outback is Davidson’s book about the journey stemming from an article she wrote about her travels. Setting off from Alice Spring’s, Davidson travels 1700 miles using four camels and a dog.
It w as adapted in to a film in 2013 starring Mia Wasikowska.
- Blinky Bill: the Quaint Little Australian by Dorothy Wall
Born in New Zealand in 1894 to English parents, Dorothy Wall migrated to Australia at the age of 20 to write for the newspaper The Sun in Sydney. She wrote children’s tales but primarily worked as an illustrator.
Blinky Bill is best-known as being a television series. It follows the adventures of an anthropomorphised koala bear in the Australian bush.
- A Fringe of Leaves by Patrick White
Born in 1912 in Knightsbridge, London to Australian parents, Patrick White moved to Sydney, Australia at 6 months old. He wrote 12 novels and numerous short stories and plays.
Set in 1840s Australia, A Fringe of Leaves follows Mrs Roxburgh on her journey from Australia to England aboard the Bristol Maid and is taken hostage by a tribe of aboriginals. Marginally based on real-life events and people, A Fringe of Leaves combines historical fiction with religious and moral juxtaposition.
- Sabriel by Garth Nix
Born in Melbourne in 1963 and raised in Canberra, Garth Nix has the perfect name for a fantasy author. His books are mostly written for children and young adults and primarily focus on the fantasy genre.
The first book in the celebrated Abhorsen trilogy, Sabriel follows the titular character as she traverses the wall that separates the Old Kingdom and it’s walking dead from the safety of the modern world as she sets off in search of her missing father.
- Geomancer by Ian Irvine
Ian Irvine was born in New South Wales, Australia in 1950. He has worked as a marine scientist and has published over 25 novels, mostly in the High Fantasy genre.
Geomancer is the first book of the The Well of Echoes fantasy series, set in a fictional world where humans battle flying predators known as lyrinx—and they’re losing. It follows Tiaan as she discovers her latent powers and tries to help save her people from destruction.
- The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion
Born in Auckland, New Zealand, Simsion moved to Australia and in 2012 began a writing career having previously worked in data technology.
Published in 2013, The Rosie Project centres around Don Tillman, a professor of genetics who’s entire life has been his work, until a friend makes him realise that he could find romance if he just looked. Enter Rosie Jarman, who is seemingly the opposite of everything Don thinks he wants. It’s a heart-warming modern take on the obstacles faced when looking for love and that perfect partner.
And there we have 20 books to help you celebrate Australia Day. There are so many more wonderful novels and stories that we couldn’t fit in (a certain floating nanny springs to mind!) and Australia has a rich and diverse catalogue of books to enjoy that this list could have been endless, but these are a few of our favourites.
Let us know in the comments which Australian book is your favourite, and tell us of any we've missed from our list.