✦ One of the most enduringly popular gifts for Father’s Day - this year on Sunday September 4 - is a good book. Susie Boswell suggests a couple of new titles suitable for the occasion.
Retailers across nearly every category struggled during COVID. However, one sector thrived: the retail book market grew 15% in a 12-month period between 2020 and 2021, at the peak of the pandemic. It’s understandable that, confined indoors, Australians took to reading in big numbers. Yet that trend is not dwindling as we emerge from our home cocoons: our country’s biggest bookseller, Dymocks, has put its faith in a continuing upward trajectory, announcing it will open at least 20 more stores between now and 2024. New technology is an integral part of the retail expansion – but the freshly prosperous bricks and mortar model will see the household name grow its network across the nation from 50 to 75 outlets.
That’s great news for the chain begun by William Dymock in Sydney in 1879 and that remains Australian-owned today. Dymocks’ vast landmark store on George Street, Sydney, is an Aladdin’s cave occupying the lower floors of the historic 11-storey Dymocks Building: hundreds of thousands of the latest books in every imaginable category, a reading nook furnished with comfortable armchairs, a popular gallery cafeteria and a gift shop that’s a must-trawl for unique presents, cards and wrapping.
Here's more about this fascinating property:
The Story of Russia by Orlando Figes
What do men talk about when they get together at the pub, around the cards table or anywhere else together in a group? Sport, of course, but also conquests, I think: conflicts, wars, current affairs surrounding competing interests, whether individuals, ideas or nations. This year, the Vladimir Putin-led invasion of Russian troops into Ukraine has no doubt occupied many of those conversations.
The atrocities, the inhumanity, the despair – as we, so far away in Australia, grapple with news that’s as mystifying as it is horrifying, the root of it all possibly escapes many of us in our own preoccupations such as whether to wear a mask, or the length of the airport queue. So a new release by award-wining author and historian Orlando Figes is a timely exposition of the myriad events and ideologies behind the brutal Russian incursion, with Ukraine the locus of a “clash of civilisations”.
London-born Figes studied history at the University of Cambridge and has held teaching posts at Cambridge and at the University of London. His nine bestsellers on Russian and European history have been translated into more than 30 languages. His End Notes alone are a rich lode of further reference sources. Bloomsbury. Publication date August 30. RRP: $32.99
The Quiz Masters by Brydon Coverdale
Behind the self-effacing mien of Channel 7’s The Chase’s Brydon Coverdale lies a razor-sharp memory that has taken Coverdale on a remarkable journey across Australian TV’s main quiz shows over almost three decades. If ever a book was “unputdownable”, Coverdale’s fluid, easy-reading style - perhaps honed by 11 years as a leading cricket journalist - means this one is it.
From Trivial Pursuit as a child and a win at eight at his Scouts Quiz Night, Coverdale went on as a 15-year-old to twice win ABC Radio’s midnight quiz, The Challenge. There followed Sale of the Century in the year 2000, when the then young uni student failed to score well enough in his first audition; persisting, seven months later he became the show’s “carry-over champion” in a reign that won him prizes such as lingerie and a sewing machine.
His appetite, though, was whetted and he subsequently appeared on numerous series including The Weakest Link, Pass the Buck (winning a car), Wheel of Fortune, Deal or No Deal, and Million Dollar Minute ($300,000), also today writing thousands of questions annually for daily newspaper quizzes. Aside, however, the book is a ride through many fascinating interviews with personalities and anecdotes from the world of quizzing, including the surprisingly intricate process of compiling questions; tricks to getting selected as a contestant and memorising facts; tips for and pitfalls to success; the great British Millionaire cheating scandal; the failure of the Aussie versions of Pointless and similar imported shows; and nods to world-renowned Jeopardy, the movie Slumdog Millionaire, and other famous aspects of quiz history.
Popular identities come to life: Tony Barber, David Poltorak, David Astle, Rob Brough, John Burgess, Jennifer Byrne, Peter Carey, Tony Delroy, Philip Clark, Jack Davey, John Dease, Larry Emdur, Anne Hegerty, Barry Jones, Mark Labbett, Virginia Noel, Fran Powell, Simon Reeve and so many more, each evoking memories reaching back sometimes 50 years and into the present day. An entertaining, fun device on every page is that questions the author poses as part of his narrative are answered for reference in the footnotes, offering the reader a quizzing game en route. Allen & Unwin. In stores now. RRP: $32.99
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