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the bookshelf diaries: lisa dempster

lisa dempster

The Bookshelf Diaries takes a peek into the reading life of writers, readers and book lovers. The Melbourne Writers Festival kicks off next week, and to celebrate, Festival Director Lisa Dempster revealed her literary loves. 

What are you reading right now?

I’m just finishing Indonesia Etc by Elizabeth Pisani. It’s a portrait of Indonesia but it’s part travelogue too. I think it’s an important book for now because Australia needs to be learning more about our close neighbours – and this book definitely goes beyond the beaches of Bali!

Where did you buy it?

I was lucky enough to receive a copy from Allen & Unwin. I was interested in the book because I wanted to present sessions on Indonesia at Melbourne Writers Festival this year, and I decided very early on in the book that I definitely needed to bring Elizabeth Pisani to the festival – it’s that good!

What’s in your to-read pile?

Favel Parrett’s newest novel, which will be launching at Melbourne Writers Festival, and The Fictional Woman by Tara Moss. That’s what is at the very top of the pile anyway… it’s a big pile.

What’s the best book you’ve read in the past year?

I read across a lot of genres so I find this question really hard! I think the book that struck me the most over the last year was Tampa by Alissa Nutting. I thought it was just extraordinary – riveting, uncomfortable and brave.

Where do you like to read?

Most often it’s just at home, usually in bed before I go to sleep or first thing on a Saturday or Sunday morning. But anywhere I can curl up with my dog and a good book is a good place to read!

What’s your favourite book of all time?

This question is really too tough for me! Books that were very meaningful to me at different points in my life have been Tracks by Robyn Davidson, Looking for Alibrandi by Melina Marchetta, The Ground Beneath Her Feet by Salman Rushdie, Naïve. Super by Erlend Loe, and Loaded by Christos Tsiolkas. But really I feel like traitor listing just these – there are so many more.

What do you read to feel inspired?

Adventure travel books by women. It’s such a niche genre – for some reason there just aren’t many of them, but more are starting to appear. I love reading about feisty women having extraordinary adventures!


Lisa Dempster is the Director of the Melbourne Writers Festival (21-31 Aug). Follow her on Twitter @lisadempster. 

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