Scribe’s 2023 gift guide

The wonderful thing about picking up a book (or books!) as a gift, is that with the enormous range of books that are published every year, there really is a book out there for everyone. So, with the holiday season nearly upon us, we’ve collected some recommendations to help you narrow down your choices so that you can find the perfect read for your loved ones.

To be sure to receive your gift in time for it to go under the tree, get your orders in before 19 December!

A fresh look at the past

Sometimes you need a bit of distance to view a situation from a broader lens. These books uncover new hidden facts and perspectives from people and situations, from the 1910s to the 1960s.

  • Young Rupert pieces together a paper trail of succession, sedition, and power — and a fascinating time capsule of the Murdoch media empire on the cusp of its extraordinary ascension.
  • Empress of the Nile reveals the fascinating story of the French archaeologist who led the international effort to save ancient Egyptian temples from the floodwaters of the Aswan Dam.
  • Life So Full of Promise is an illuminating multibiography that interweaves the stories of a dizzying cast of Australian soldiers during World War I. 
  • A Woman I Know tells the true story of a filmmaker whose investigation of her film’s subject opened an unexpected new window onto the world of Cold War espionage, CIA secrets, and the assassination of John F. Kennedy.

Chronically online: the 2023 edit

Social media platforms come and go, but the (book) internet is forever. These are some of the books that your most plugged in friends are likely to have seen around.

  • A multi award–winner in its home country of Uruguay, Pink Slime offers profound reflections on motherhood, marriage, and caregiving, set against the backdrop of a city crumbling in an ecological crisis.
  • By an Italian literary star, Blue Hunger is a fever-dream of a novel that follows the main character’s electrifying descent from loneliness and grief into obsessive, all-consuming love.
  • Reaching back to February, Bad Cree is a gripping debut about a young Cree woman whose dreams lead her on a perilous journey of self-discovery, forcing her to confront the toll of a legacy of violence on her family, her community, and the land they call home.
  • Shortlisted for the International Booker, Cursed Bunny is a genre-defying collection of short stories that blur the lines between magical realism, horror, and science fiction.
  • Written in brief, precise vignettes, What I’d Rather Not Think About explores the complex relationship between a pair of twins, full of gentle melancholy and surprising humour.

Global issues. Local perspectives.

Some of the struggles we face, as people, are universal — but there are so many different ways that we approach them. These books tackle ideas and subjects that are relevant everywhere, through a distinctly Australian lens.

  • From a pioneer in the national conversation about the role of alcohol in Australian culture and society, Higher Sobriety documents Jill Stark’s year of sobriety that culminates in one important question: has sobriety become cool?
  • You Talk, We Die documents Judy Ryan’s grassroots campaign to open Victoria’s first safe injecting room in a practical but personal account of how an authentic local voice and inclusive campaign can change minds to improve the lives of everyone in a community.
  • In a global investigation that uncovers secret documents, The Palestine Laboratory reveals the widespread commercialisation and brutal deployment of Israel’s occupation-enforcing technologies.
  • Life As We Knew It is a gripping inside account of Australia’s pandemic story, written by two journalists who covered the pandemic for over three years as it happened.
  • For anyone with an interest in forensics or psychology, Reclaim explores complex traumas, how survivors can recover and heal, and the nature of those who abuse, in order to help us reclaim a safer, healthier society for all.

Social examinations from global perspectives

On the other hand, there are also culturally specific histories and issues that arise in different places. Through fiction and nonfiction, these books examine different systems and structures that have arisen abroad.

  • The Last Yakuza by journalist Jake Adelstein tells the history of the yakuza like it’s never been told before; this is a story about the rise and fall of a man, a country, and a dishonest but sometimes honourable way of life on the brink of being lost.
  • Mater 2-10 is an epic achievement of Korean literature. By virtuoso Hwang Sok-Yong, this novel threads together a century of Korean history, told through the lives of three generations of railroad workers.
  • Birth Canal is a dazzling novella from a rising star of Indonesian literature explores generational legacies, lost loves, the damage that war does to men, and the damage that men do to women.
  • Sisters in Arms is a lyrical, explosive novel about the importance of an extraordinary friendship, that explores urgent ideas around racism and sexism in contemporary German society.
  • Owlish is an uncanny fable of contemporary Hong Kong, thrumming with secrets and shape-shifting geographies that explore life under repressive conditions.

If your 2024 resolutions include being a better environmental ally

The holiday season is a time of celebration, but it’s also when a lot of people start thinking about their plans for the new year. If one of your goals in 2024 is to keep thinking about how we can appreciate the environment and our planet, we’ve got some books for you.

  • Zen in the Garden is an essay collection by way of nature writing, with the author sharing observations from a life spent in contemplation — and cultivation — of nature.
  • No Season but the Summer takes the classic myth of Persephone and Hades and turns it on its head, set in a world where the natural world is changing rapidly and even the gods have lost control.
  • Perfect for any bird lovers, What an Owl Knows is a brilliant scientific exploration of owls, investigating why these remarkable animals remain so mysterious and fascinating to us.
  • By renowned climate scientist Michael Mann, Our Fragile Moment is a sweeping work of science and history that arms readers with the knowledge necessary to understand the unfolding climate crisis, while emboldening them to act before it is too late.
  • Did you know that the internet has an enormous environmental footprint? The Dark Cloud is a gripping investigation into the underbelly of digital technology that reveals the true environmental cost of the digital world.

2023 has been a long year and I need a laugh

A lot happened in 2023, and the coming holiday season will be a welcome escape. If you’re looking forward to spending some time unplugged and unbothered this summer, these books give you some giggles and warmth.

  • Naked Ambition is hands down one of the most laugh-out-loud funny books that we’ve published. When an up-and-coming junior minister commissions a nude portrait of himself, it causes absolute mayhem when he announces his intention to have it entered for the Archibald Prize.
  • The Swedish Art of Ageing Well is a charming and humorous book about embracing life at any age, that feels like sharing a warm drink with your quirky but wise grandma.
  • Unf*ck Your Brain is probably the most foul-mouthed self-help book that you’ll come across. But the swearing is in support of a no-nonsense, practical guide on how to cope with a slew of mental health issues, explained with humour and patience. 
  • For anyone who always flicks through to the funny pages on a Sunday morning — Best Australian Political Cartoons 2023 looks back on our year in politics, as observed by some of the nation’s funniest and most perceptive political cartoonists.

I need a book for someone who doesn’t really read

When you’re a big reader, it can be so tempting to give everyone books as gifts, because that’s exactly what you’d want! Sometimes our loved ones just aren’t into it — but that doesn’t mean you have to give up trying. 

  • Retro Sydney is the perfect coffee table book to gift this holiday season. A sturdy large-format photography book, this collection of archival photography celebrates the city of Sydney and invites you on a nostalgic trip into its past.
  • Flash fiction is the perfect gift for someone who claims that they’re ‘too busy to read.’ In perfectly honed sentences, with a sly and occasionally wild wit, the stories in I Hear You’re Rich show us how any moment of any day can open onto disappointment, pleasure, and possibility.
  • Continuing in the theme of flash fiction — with the addition of longer short stories, too — Laura Jean McKay’s Gunflower is a mesmerising collection of speculative fiction to dive into.
  • Graphic novels can be a great gateway into reading more, without necessarily feeling like you’re doing as much heavy lifting. Flic is an urgent exposé of the inner workings of the French police force, powerfully illustrated by the talented Thierry Chavant.
  • For someone who’s not necessarily into books, but is very into cricket: Ashes 2023 mixes cricket writer Gideon Haigh’s popular match reports with new material to create a priceless memento of an unforgettable series.