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Something Old, Something New (Aus/NZ Issue One)
by Kate Whitfield, Andrea Frost
Magazine Issue: AUS/NZ Issue One
Despite the hundreds of new releases pumped out each month, finding a good read can be harder than a cat's head. "Know any good books?" Damn straight we do. Here Kate Whitfield dips into the archives and comes up with a selection of top picks. Being old doesn't make them outdated, it makes them a classic. Enjoy.

Lord of the Flies
William Golding

Faber and Faber (1954)

If you read this book while you were in school, read it again. Really. You will like it this time. If you haven't read it before, welcome to the Perfect Novel.

Forget Survivor, Shipwrecked, whatever; if you want to observe a petri dish of humanity start here. The flock of boys stranded by a plane crash on a desert island with no grown ups to tell them what to do is a true imaginative experiment on human nature. The characters - Ralph, Piggy, Jack, Simon and the others - come to life so vividly they have remained with me ever since I first read the book 10 years ago. Through Golding's knack for observation, their fear of 'the Beast' inhabiting the island becomes tangibly terrifying even for us - grown ups who know better.

It is the absolute freedom from 'civilised' society in Lord of the Flies that allows Golding to turn his gaze inwards to the monsters lurking in our dark places. Above all else a humbling experience, the novel reminds us of the exceedingly fine line reason has allowed us to draw between ourselves and the animals.

Night Letters
Robert Dessaix

Pan McMillan Australia (1996)

Imagine you are seated comfortably in the atmospheric lobby of a Venetian hotel in the company of a fascinating stranger, someone whose path you will only cross this once, whose voice is both enchanting and melodic, whose stories are so enthralling you don't even notice it is a one-way conversation.

This immensely civilised person is Robert Dessaix, who takes us on an Australian's journey through Europe. I am not talking about the backpacking, Eurail-passing adventure we know, though there are acute observations about travelling as an Australian that you will instantly recognise.

A man who finds solace in travel has prematurely cut himself off from his life, having recently been diagnosed with a terminal illness. In nightly letters home to a friend, the character meditates with humour and insight on his own mortality, and a travel journal of sorts becomes a methodical sifting through issues to a conclusion about his remaining days. Not nearly as depressing as it sounds and far more enriching, we only feel the regret that the encounter with this man was so brief and singular.


Shiny and New

What? You were gonna give someone an old book as a present? Here's the pick of the top eating, drinking, cooking, crushing and tasting books for Christmas.

Crush
Max Allen
Hardie Grant Books $39.95
A lot of books can tell you about the history of wine in Oz and the different varieties grown here. They could probably even tell you or thing or two about the people and places that make them ... but probably not like Max can.

The Goods
Allan Campion and Michele Curtis
Wakefield Press $27
A street directory for foodies, The Goods showcases Victoria's best food and wine shops with all the info on how to get there after explaining why you would want to.

Sizzle
Allan Campion and Michele Curtis
Purple Egg $35
This book's like a good barby should be - easy, entertaining and something you can learn a lot from while having just as much fun. This is much more than a top gift for the bloke at your Christmas lunch.

Out To Eat 2001
Lonely Planet $20
The crazy travelling types are at it again - eating and drinking all over the place then packaging up their experiences in these comprehensive eating guides to Melbourne and Sydney. No ratings, just info.

- AF

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