Reading Down Under
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In advance of the one trip I made to Australia, I bought some books. Bill Bryson was by far the most entertaining, Bruce Chatwin the most esoteric, Robert Hughes the most weighty. I still have yet to read Alan Moorehead's Rum Jungle but expect it will be rewarding based on his White Nile and Blue Nile books.
1. In a Sunburned Country, Bill Bryson (2000). Bryson has a way of taking the dangerous and making it quaint or enjoyable probably because he knows you're safe and comfortable reading in an armchair. Australia, he lets you know, is full of the ten most poisonous snakes in the world plus other deadly wildlife like Great White Sharks, crocodiles, box jellyfish, toxic jellyfish and sea-shells that attack you. The outback and surrounding sea are also deadly. You learn that a Prime Minister once was lost at sea after swimming on a local beach (possibly due to a rip tide). I read this book on the plane over. Bought used at he State Department bookstore.
In a Sunburned Country
2. The Songlines, Bruce Chatwin (1987). Chatwin is fascinating by the Aborigines travel over what they call Dream Tracks as well as their holy men. He weaves his travel around the island-continent with memoir, history, philosophy and tributes to other writers. Bought used at State Department bookstore.
3. Rum Jungle, Alan Moorehead (1954). Each chapter devoted to different regions of Australia. Black and white photos. Bought used at State Department bookstore.
4. The Fatal Shore, Robert Hughes (1987). A good scholarly history that sets the stage with Australia's founding as a penal colony. The combination of convicts, freemen, representatives of Her Majesty's Government and being a hemisphere away from England combine into a fascinating history. Bought used but forgot where.
The Fatal Shore: The Epic of Australia's Founding