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the bookshelf diaries: lou heinrich

Lou little

Photo by Amy O’Mahoney

The Bookshelf Diaries takes a peek into the reading life of writers, readers and book lovers. Today, our very own Books and Literature editor Lou Heinrich kicks off this weekly column of novel-love.


What are you reading right now?
I’ve got a couple of Aussie non-fiction titles going at the moment: Money Shot by Jeff Sparrow, which is about censorship and porn, and Abigail Bray’s intense Misogyny Reloaded. She writes about ‘male supremacist fascism’ and ‘patriarchal capitalism’ so I can only handle one chapter at a time, with a strong cup of tea by my side. Conversations with my husband about housework can get terribly problematic after reading this.

I’m also working my way through W. Somerset Maugham’s Of Human Bondage. It’s one of those books where you turn down the corner of pages all the time so all the wonderfully-written phrases don’t disappear into mist.

Where did you buy it?
One of the perks of being a Books Editor is getting to review books – for free! I still get a thrill when I come home to a package on my doorstep. Misogyny Reloaded came from the publisher, Spinifex Press, which is an essential feminist publishing group.

The other ones…well, what can I say, I am a library fiend.

What’s in your to-read pile?
At the moment I’m researching for an essay on the way female sexuality is manipulated by industries for profit, so on my shelf I’ve got What Do Women Want? by Daniel Bergner; The New Hite Report: The Revolutionary Report on Female Sexuality Updated by Shere Hite, and The Sex Diaries by Bettina Arndt (although I must say, I’m a little worried about that one as Arndt has a truly heinous view of gendered sexuality).

For lighter reading, last time I was in an op-shop I picked up a copy of Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn so I can read it before the film comes out, and then I’ve got a couple of texts by the female non-fiction greats Joan Didion and Helen Garner. I’m hoping their brilliance will be magically transferred into my brain.

What’s the best book you’ve read in the past year?
Oh God! How can I make that choice? Look at my top-rated Goodreads list for that one.

Recently, though,  The Goldfinch blew me apart. I was captivated. I went hungry and stopped going to work. I turned away family. Ignored my husband. Weeds shot up and twisted around my inert body as I sat in a rocking chair on the back verandah like an elderly woman.

And what an adventure! The story is full of twists and turns, similar to a now-extinct rollercoaster at Adelaide’s Royal Show, the Mad Mouse, which turned abrupt corners at such speed that even robust children complained of whiplash. Overall, The Goldfinch is a marvellous study of obsession.

Where do you like to read?
On my back lawn under the jacaranda tree, lying on a pile of nanna blankets and pillows with the sun reaching through the leaves and touching my face.

What’s your favourite book of all time?
Hnggh this hurts my soul to choose. If we’re going fiction, The Painted Veil is a true literary masterpiece. The writing is satisfyingly succinct (so much quivers beneath every word!) and the anti-mainstream, feminist message of self-development, of freedom, cuts to the heart of things ninety years after first being written.

For non-fiction, I reckon Benjamin Law’s Gaysia hits the mark. Benjamin Law is, just quietly, one of my heroes – he profiles people in such a kind way, revealing their quirks to celebrate the bizarre wonderfulness of humanity. His journey through South East Asia checking out gay subcultures was so much fun, yet depicted the injustice in plain, honest light.

What do you read to feel inspired?
Austin Kleon publishes excellent and transformative thinking on the creative life. I’ve read Steal Like An Artist, but also check out his tumblr quite regularly. Same with Brainpickings.

Australian literary magazines Overland and Kill Your Darlings are chockas with young, amazing writers. In a blog post for SA Writers Centre, Jennifer Mills wrote, ‘reading literary journals is still by far the best way to get a sense of the movements in contemporary Australian writing.’ And this makes me excited to feel like I’m part of this community.

Lou Heinrich is a stone cold bibliophile who writes about pop culture and women. She will be appearing at the Emerging Writers’ Festival Amazing Babes event with some other excellent writerly ladies. Find Lou on twitter here.

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