Our Best of 2016

It’s December, which means it must be time for our ‘best books of the year’ post!

It’s often hard for us to keep our list of favourites to just two or three books. We all enjoy an eclectic range of genres each year, and we can like different books at different times for very different reasons, but for now, here are the Brays Books team best reads of 2016…

Philip enjoyed reading The Birdman’s Wife by Melissa Ashley, Goodwood by Holly Throsby and dipping into 1001 Ideas That Changed the Way We Think by Robert Arp.


Bronwyn was pleasantly surprised by how much she enjoyed His Bloody Project by Graeme Macrae Burnet. Do Not Say We Have Nothing by Madeline Thien and Ruins by debut Australian writer Rajith Savanadasa were also favourites.


Tim enjoyed The Last Painting of Sara de Vos by Dominic Smith, The Good People by Hannah Kent and The Interpreter by Diego Marani.


Libby loved, loved, loved Salt Creek by Lucy Treloar, Our Souls At Night by Haruf Kent and Gustav Sonata by Rose Tremain.


Claire enjoyed the quirky Hot Milk by Deborah Levy and Han Kang’s award winning The Vegetarian as well as getting grand ideas from her Spanish travel guides!


Sara’s picks for 2016 are Ann Patchett’s Commonwealth, Hetty McKinnon’s fabulous and very tasty salad book, Community and for a bit of light relief, the early reader Yours Sincerely Giraffe by Megumi Iwasa.


Our newest staff member, Sylvia enjoyed The Bone Sparrow by Zana Fraillon, All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders and the picture book The Most Mysterious Mouse by Giovanna Zoboli


To find out what many of our Australian writers have read and enjoyed this year – check out the recent SMH article here.

You can also be inspired by the 10 best books from the New York Times.

For an extensive selection of authors and their best books of the year check out The Guardian‘s two part list.

That’s a lot of love for a lot of books!

What was your favourite read this year?

Posted in Best Books, Bronwyn, Claire, Favourites, Fiction, Libby, Philip, Sara, Sylvia, Tim | 3 Comments

Great New Non-Fiction for November!

True Girt: The Unauthorised History of Australia

by David Hunt

First there was Girt. Now comes . . . True Girt.

Format: Paperback
Category: Non-Fiction
Publisher: Penguin
Publish Date: October 2016
RRP: $32.99


In this side-splitting sequel to his best-selling history, David Hunt takes us to the Australian frontier. This was the Wild South, home to hardy pioneers, gun-slinging bushrangers, directionally challenged explorers, nervous indigenous people, Caroline Chisholm and sheep. Lots of sheep.

True Girt introduces Thomas Davey, the hard-drinking Tasmanian governor who invented the Blow My Skull cocktail, and Captain Moonlite, Australia’s most famous LGBTI bushranger. Meet William Nicholson, the Melbourne hipster who gave Australia the steam-powered coffee roaster and the world the secret ballot. And say hello to Harry, the first camel used in Australian exploration, who shot dead his owner, the explorer John Horrocks.

Learn how Truganini’s death inspired the Martian invasion of Earth. Discover the role of Hall and Oates in the Myall Creek Massacre. And be reminded why you should never ever smoke with the Wild Colonial Boy and Mad Dan Morgan.

If Manning Clark and Bill Bryson were left on a desert island with only one pen, they would write True Girt.

Keeping On Keeping On

by Alan Bennett

A new collection of Alan Bennett’s diaries and more.

Format: Hardcover
Category: Non-Fiction
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Publish Date: November 2016
RRP: $49.99
Our Great Price: $39.99

‘I seem to have banged on this year rather more than usual. I make no apology for that, nor am I nervous that it will it make a jot of difference. I shall still be thought to be kindly, cosy and essentially harmless. I am in the pigeon-hole marked ‘no threat’ and did I stab Judi Dench with a pitchfork I should still be a teddy bear.’

Alan Bennett’s third collection of prose Keeping On Keeping On follows in the footsteps of the phenomenally successful Writing Home and Untold Stories, each published ten years apart. This latest collection contains Bennett’s peerless diaries 2005 to 2015, reflecting on a decade that saw four premieres at the National Theatre (The Habit of Art, People, Hymn and Cocktail Sticks), a West End double-bill transfer, and the films of The History Boys and The Lady in the Van.

There’s a provocative sermon on private education given before the University at King’s College Chapel, Cambridge, and ‘Baffled at a Bookcase’ offers a passionate defence of the public library. The book includes Denmark Hill, a darkly comic radio play set in suburban south London, as well as Bennett’s reflections on a quarter of a century’s collaboration with Nicholas Hytner. This is an engaging, humane, sharp, funny and unforgettable record of life according to the inimitable Alan Bennett.

Fight Like A Girl

by Clementine Ford

Personal and fearless – a call to arms by one of our most outspoken feminist writers.

A friend recently told me that the things I write are powerful for her because they have the effect of making her feel angry instead of just empty. I want to do this for all women and young girls – to take the emptiness and numbness they feel about being a girl in this world and turn it into rage and power. I want to teach all of them how to FIGHT LIKE A GIRL. Clementine Ford

It’ll change lives.’ Emily Maguire, author of An Isolated Incident.

Format: Paperback
Category: Non-Fiction
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Publish Date: September 2016
RRP: $29.99 

With wit, insight and glorious, righteous rage, Clementine Ford lays out all the ways in which girls and women are hurt and held back, and unapologetically demands that the world do better. A passionate and urgently needed call to arms, Fight Like A Girl insists on our right to be angry, to be heard and to fight.

Online sensation, fearless feminist heroine and scourge of trolls and misogynists everywhere, Clementine Ford is a beacon of hope and inspiration to thousands of Australian women and girls. Her incendiary debut Fight Like A Girl is an essential manifesto for feminists new, old and soon-to-be, and exposes just how unequal the world continues to be for women. Crucially, it is a call to arms for all women to rediscover the fury that has been suppressed by a society that still considers feminism a threat.

Fight Like A Girl will make you laugh, cry and scream. But above all it will make you demand and fight for a world in which women have real equality and not merely the illusion of it.

Check out our online Summer Reading Guide here for more fabulous non-fiction. Or pop into Brays to pick up your own copy.

Posted in Australian Books, Australian Independent Bookseller, Non-Fiction | 2 Comments

Womankind Magazine

The latest edition of Womankind magazine is now in store.

Womankind is a beautiful, thought-provoking, Australian-made, ad-free magazine.

We love the cover reveal each quarter.

Which country will we travel to? Who will Charis Tsevis feature on the front?


Womankind #10 Tiger is based in Vietnam and features the art of Lim Khim Katy.

Tagged ‘How Do You Measure Your Life?’ this issue focuses on boredom, technology and consumerism.

Combined with articles, photography and art from Vietnam, the wonderful folk at Womankind have given us another treasure to savour over the coming summer months.


Womankind #9 Caballo gave us the life and art of Leonor Fini along with an armchair trip to Argentina.

Fini was the first woman to paint a male nude, Sphinx Amalburga.

Covering such diverse topics as Che Guevara, cowboys and the Falklands War it also contained stunning photography and artwork from Fini as well as Ruben Cukier and Sofia Bonati.

A few of the backlist editions of Womankind are still available at Brays for $14.95.

Posted in Australian, Bronwyn, Magazines, Womankind | Leave a comment

Holly Throsby in Conversation with Philip

Last week, Holly Throsby returned to Brays to discuss the release of her debut novel, Goodwood.


In front of an intimate crowd, Philip and Holly reminisced about Holly’s earliest visits to the bookshop in the arms of her mother, Margaret. Her stories about growing up in Balmain struck a chord with many in the very appreciative hometown audience.

According to Holly, her transition from songwriter to novelist was greatly helped by Stephen King’s, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft.

Holly went on to fill in some of the background details surrounding her new book, assuring everyone there, that the only character in her book based on a real one, was the dog!

Signed copies of Goodwood are available at Brays until stocks last. $29.99

Also in stock is King’s,  On Writing for $19.99

Posted in Australian, Event, Holly Throsby, Local Author, New Releases, Philip Bray | Leave a comment

Inner West Courier – Inner City Edition, Jack’s Story

Inner West Courier – Inner City Edition
18 Oct 2016

Posted in History, Inner West Courier, John Thomson, Local Author | Leave a comment

It’s a Very Good Month Indeed!

October is a very good month for Australian Women Writer’s.

Local author and singer, Holly Throsby has published her debut novel, Goodwood with Allen & Unwin.



It wasn’t just one person who went missing, it was two people. Two very different people. They were there, and then they were gone, as if through a crack in the sky. After that, in a small town like Goodwood, where we had what Nan called ‘a high density of acquaintanceship’, everything stopped. Or at least it felt that way. The normal feeling of things stopped.

Goodwood is a small town where everyone knows everything about everyone. It’s a place where it’s impossible to keep a secret.

In 1992, when Jean Brown is seventeen, a terrible thing happens. Two terrible things. Rosie White, the coolest girl in town, vanishes overnight. One week later, Goodwood’s most popular resident, Bart McDonald, sets off on a fishing trip and never comes home.

People die in Goodwood, of course, but never like this. They don’t just disappear.

As the intensity of speculation about the fates of Rosie and Bart heightens, Jean, who is keeping secrets of her own, and the rest of Goodwood are left reeling.

Rich in character and complexity, its humour both droll and tender, Goodwood is a compelling ride into a small community, torn apart by dark rumours and mystery.

We are delighted to announce that Holly Throsby will be coming to talk with us at Brays Books, 7pm Thursday 20th October.

Holly will be in conversation with Philip Bray, followed by discussion and book signing.

Tickets for Loyalty Club members $5 (finger food and drinks included). Reserve your tickets in store or call 9810 5613. Bookings are essential as space is limited.

The Good People by Hannah Kent is her latest release published by Picador.


In 1825, in a remote Irish valley lying between the mountains and Flesk river of Killarney, three women are brought together by strange and troubling events.

Nora Leahy, a widow, has lost her daughter and her husband in the same year, and is now burdened with the care of her grandson, Michael. The boy cannot walk or speak and Nora has kept him hidden from neighbours, who might see in his deformity evidence of supernatural interference.

There is rumour that Michael is a changeling, a ‘fairy stock’, and the cause of the ill luck that swarms the valley.

Down by the river, an old woman known as Nance Roche lives alone, acting as a ‘doctress’ to the community, a person said to possess knowledge from the Good People that enables her to cure inexplicable ills. With the arrival of a new priest and his determination to cleanse the valley of superstitious practices, the purity of Nance’s actions is called into question.

As misfortune begins to befall Nance’s patients and her need to assert her importance to the community intensifies, Nora Leahy brings Michael to be cured. The women begin to banish the changeling and restore the healthy child, but as their desperation increases, their folkloric practices become more dangerous, until all their lives are in danger.

Both books have become staff ‘good reads’.

Posted in Bronwyn, Event, Holly Throsby, Local Author, New Releases | Leave a comment

Man Booker Shortlist 2016

It’s that time of year again when our readers catch Booker fever!

This year’s shortlist looks like this:


Paul Beatty (US) The Sellout 

Deborah Levy (UK) Hot Milk

Graeme Macrae Burnet (UK) His Bloody Project

Ottessa Moshfegh (US) Eileen

David Szalay (Canada-UK) All That Man Is

Madeleine Thien (Canada) Do Not Sat We Have Nothing

Have you read any yet?

And now for a little Booker trivia – which actor has featured in three movies based on three Man Booker Award winning books?

The movies/books are:

The English Patient, Schindler’s Ark/List and Oscar & Lucinda.

Posted in Bronwyn, Ralph Fiennes, Trivia | Leave a comment

Growing Up in Balmain

John Thomson, known as Jack to his friends, was born in Balmain in 1927.

Over the years Jack’s family have been continually asking him to write down his stories and memories about growing up in Balmain during the Depression and War years.

Once he got started though, he found that the few quick notes quickly turned into a much bigger story. With the encouragement of family and friends and the assistance of a Local History Grant from the Inner West Council, Jack was able to self-publish his family history with WriteLight Publishing.


Within one week of stocking Jack’s book, we sold out of our first shipment. We had an instant non-fiction bestseller on our hands!

John Thomson, known to his many friends as Jack, has spent all his life in Balmain. Born in 1927, Jack remembers the days of the Depression, when kind greengrocers put aside ‘specs’, fruit with spots on it that they gave to hungry children. Jack’s childhood had its trials: when he was five his father was diagnosed with schizophrenia and spent the rest of his life in Callan Park; then his mother became ill with tuberculosis and died when Jack was nine. But Jack’s life changed when the Phillips family took him in. Jack tells about his happy time with this warm, quintessentially old Balmain family. His remarkable memory of the people who lived in the area, the way they lived, of the children and the games they played, brings old Balmain back to life. After school Jack worked at CSR in Pyrmont, then on the trams and the buses.

Sport – particularly football and sailing – was a big part of his life. Jack remembers when Balmain Rugby League players were locals, the waterfront was ringed with boatsheds, and the winters were spent playing or watching footy, and the summers were spent sailing. Jack still lives in Birchgrove in the house he bought in 1954 when he worked on the trams. He has seen many changes. Jack’s story is a warm retelling of how life was lived in old Balmain, when people didn’t have much money, but they had their neighbours and community.


Jack recently popped in to sign some copies for us and he was thrilled to see his book sitting in the No 1 bestsellers position, ahead of Richard Fidler’s Ghost Empire!

For lover’s of local history and family history, Jack’s Story takes us back to the days when mine and dock workers tramped the streets of Balmain and where convenience stores adorned every intersection. Jack remembers all their names and recalls the times when horse-drawn carts also delivered fresh eggs, rabbits, kitchenwares, ice, wood and coal door to door.

As kids, Jack and his friends had all of Birchgrove and Balmain as their playground. They knew all the good trees to climb, slopes to slide down and old houses to explore. They had three cinemas on the peninsula and trams running down Darling Street.

Peppered with old family photographs and pictures of old Balmain, Jack’s Story is a nostalgic walk down memory lane.

Available at Brays Books for $15

Posted in Biography, Bronwyn, History, John Thomson, Local Author | Leave a comment

Local Author – Caroline Beecham

It’s always very exciting for us when we see one of our loyal customers produce their first novel. Recently Caroline popped in to sign copies of Maggie’s Kitchen, her fabulous new historical fiction title.


Amid the heartbreak and danger of London in the Blitz of WWII, Maggie Johnson finds her courage in friendship and food.

They might all travel the same scarred and shattered streets on their way to work, but once they entered Maggie’s Kitchen, it was somehow as if the rest of the world didn’t exist.

When the British Ministry of Food urgently calls for the opening of restaurants to feed tired and hungry Londoners during WWII, Maggie Johnson seems close to realising a long-held dream.

Navigating a constant tangle of government red-tape, Maggie’s Kitchen finally opens its doors to the public and Maggie finds that she has a most unexpected problem. Her restaurant has become so popular that she simply can’t find enough food to keep up with the demand for meals.

With the help of twelve-year-old Robbie, a street urchin, and Janek, a Polish refugee dreaming of returning to his native land, she evades threats of closure from the Ministry. But breaking the rules is not the only thing she has to worry about. . . as Maggie fights to keep her beloved Kitchen open, she discovers that some secrets have the power to change everything.

Caroline became interested in the how and why of British Restaurants – the ‘paddock to plate’ style of eating – that was encouraged during WWII. The more she researched, the more she realised that stories about our former eating habits could inform our current discussions about health, food and the environment.

You can read an excerpt of Maggie’s Kitchen via Allen & Unwin here.

An Afterword also contains many of the recipes mentioned throughout the story.

For more details on Caroline’s research and her book, visit the website here.

Maggie’s Kitchen is also featured in a Blog Tour hosted by Allen & Unwin. To see the latest stage of the blog tour visit Tracey @Carpe Librum who has cooked one of the recipes in the book here.


Signed copies are now available at Brays for $29.99.

Posted in Bronwyn, Caroline Beecham, Historical Fiction, Local Author | 1 Comment

L.A. Larkin


Local author, L.A. Larkin recently popped into Brays to sign copies of her latest spine-chilling thriller, Devour.

Their greatest fear was contaminating an ancient Antarctic lake, buried beneath the ice for millions of years. They little knew about the catastrophe they were about to unleash.
Welcome to the high octane world of Olivia Wolfe.
As an investigative journalist, Wolfe lives her life in constant peril. Hunted by numerous enemies who are seldom what they first seem, she must unravel a complex web of lies to uncover an even more terrifying truth.
From the poppy palaces of Afghanistan and Antarctica’s forbidding wind-swept ice sheets, to a top secret military base in the Nevada desert, Wolfe’s journey will ultimately lead her to a man who would obliterate civilisation. She must make an impossible choice: save a life – or prevent the death of millions.


You can hear Louisa talk about Devour, and her trip to Antarctica, with Cheryl from Better Reading on our facebook page.

Devour is Better Reading’s ‘Weekend Read’ this weekend.

Join in here.

You may have also spotted Devour‘s cameo appearance on this week’s ABC Bookclub when Jennifer asked her panel to discuss book cover genres!

Posted in Antarctica, Australian Authors, Bronwyn, Crime and mystery fiction, L A Larkin, Local Author | Leave a comment