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UC Book of the Year 2019 shortlist

Media team

26 October 2018: In November 2012, Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Academic and Vice-President Professor Nick Klomp launched the UC Book Project, with the announcement of the university’s first ‘Book of the Year’. The project became a feature of the University’s extensive programs in student engagement, and is still going strong with the announcement of the seventh Book of the Year just around the corner.

The UC Book of the Year is required reading for all commencing students at the University of Canberra.  A free copy is sent to every commencing student regardless of their course, as well as all academic, professional and general staff.

“The UC Book Project is a fantastic initiative that introduces commencing students to intellectual life before their studies officially begin, encouraging early engagement with UC online resources, and informal learning and sharing among all new students,” said Professor Klomp.

“It also promotes interaction and engagement among staff and students with a common topic to chat about around campus,” Professor Klomp added.  

Each year a different book is chosen by a selection panel including Professor Klomp, the University Librarian, a Professor of Creative Writing, authors, media personalities and students. The selection panel is given a shortlist of six to eight award-winning books from which to choose a book that is appealing to our wide range of students.  

This year, the shortlist has been chosen from recent, awarded Australian novels.

Locust Girl, by Merlinda Bobis

Most everything has dried up: water, the womb, even the love among lovers. Hunger is rife and survival desperate, except across the border. One night, a village is bombed for attempting to cross the border. Nine-year old Amedea is buried underground and sleeps to survive. Ten years later, she wakes with a locust embedded in her brow. A magical fable, this is a girl’s journey through devastation and humanity’s contemporary wound: the border. Deeply ingrained in both the system and individual lives, the border has cut the human heart. So, how do we repair it with the story of a small life? This is the Locust Girl’s dream, her lovesong—For those walking to the border for dear life, and those guarding the border for dear life.

No More Boats, by Felicity Castagna

No More Boats tackles the fear of refugees head on, portraying the anxieties of a man who was once a migrant himself, brought to breaking point by the Tampa crisis, when the nation itself is thrown into a xenophobic frame of mind. It is 2001. 438 refugees sit in a boat called Tampa off the shoreline of Australia while the TV and radio scream out that the country is being flooded, inundated, overrun by migrants. Antonio Martone, once a migrant himself, has been forced to retire, his wife has moved in with the woman next door, his daughter runs off with strange men, his deadbeat son is hiding in the garden smoking marijuana. Amidst his growing paranoia, the ghost of his dead friend shows up and commands him to paint 'No More Boats' in giant letters across his front yard. The Prime Minister of Australia keeps telling Antonio that we will decide who comes to this country and the circumstance in which they come, but Antonio's not sure he wants to think about all those things that led him to get on a boat and come to Australia in the first place. A man and a nation unravel together.

Hope Farm, by Peggy Farm

It is the winter of 1985. Hope Farm sticks out of the ragged landscape like a decaying tooth, its weatherboard walls sagging into the undergrowth. Silver's mother, Ishtar, has fallen for the charismatic Miller, and the three of them have moved to the rural hippie commune to make a new start. But here, at just thirteen, she is thrust into an unrelenting adult world, and the walls begin to come tumbling down, with deadly consequences.

The Book of Dirt, by Bram Presser

They chose not to speak and now they are gone ... What’s left to fill the silence is no longer theirs. This is my story, woven from the threads of rumour and legend. Jakub Rand flees his village for Prague, only to find himself trapped by the Nazi occupation. Deported to the Theresienstadt concentration camp, he is forced to sort through Jewish books for a so-called Museum of the Extinct Race. Hidden among the rare texts is a tattered prayer book, hollow inside, containing a small pile of dirt. Back in the city, Františka Roubíčková picks over the embers of her failed marriage, despairing of her conversion to Judaism. When the Nazis summon her two eldest daughters for transport, she must sacrifice everything to save the girls from certain death. Decades later, Bram Presser embarks on a quest to find the truth behind the stories his family built around these remarkable survivors.

Salt Creek, by Lucy Treloar

Hester Finch recalls her family's move to coastal South Australia in 1855. The connections the Finches form with passing travelers and with a local Aboriginal boy, Tully, whom Hester's father seeks to educate almost as his own son, will forever alter their fates, testing their loyalty to each other and to their own principles.

Extinctions, by Josephine Wilson

Professor Frederick Lothian, retired engineer, world expert on concrete, and connoisseur of modernist design, has quarantined himself from life by moving to a retirement village. His wife, Martha, is dead and his two adult children are lost to him in their own ways. Surrounded and obstructed by the debris of his life-objects he has collected over many years and tells himself he is keeping for his daughter – he is determined to be miserable. When a series of unfortunate incidents forces him and his neighbour, Jan, together, he begins to realise the damage done by the accumulation of a lifetime's secrets and lies, and to comprehend his own shortcomings.

The Natural Way of Things, by Charlotte Wood

Drugged, dressed in old-fashioned rags, and fiending for a cigarette, Yolanda wakes up in a barren room. Verla, a young woman who seems vaguely familiar, sits nearby. Down a hallway echoing loudly with the voices of mysterious men, in a stark compound deep in the Australian outback, other captive women are just coming to. Starved, sedated, the girls can't be sure of anything—except the painful episodes in their pasts that link them.

The 2019 UC Book of the Year will be launched at a morning tea held at the library at 10am on Thursday 1 November 2018. Everyone is welcome.

Previous UC Book of the Year titles:  

2013: Jasper Jones, by Craig Silvey
2014: Room, by Emma Donoghue
2015: The Rosie Project, by Graeme Simsion
2016: The Strays, by Emily Bitto
2017: The White Earth, by Andrew McGahan
2018: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick