100 books like A Town Called Dust

By Justin Woolley,

Here are 100 books that A Town Called Dust fans have personally recommended if you like A Town Called Dust. Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of The Road to Winter

Paula Weston Author Of The Undercurrent

From my list on YA set in Australia – but not quite as we know it.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m Australian and there’s a big place in my heart for Australian-set stories. I read mostly for escapism, but there’s a deeper connection with tales from my own backyard. I’ve also always loved speculative fiction – everything from epic and paranormal fantasy to space opera and dystopian thrillers – and I’m excited when my favourite genres and setting come together. My day job is in local government. I’ve seen how government decisions can impact the trajectory of a society, and I’m particularly drawn to stories that explore that theme. I’m the author of five speculative fiction novels with Australian settings: the four novels in The Rephaim series (supernatural fantasy) and The Undercurrent (slightly futuristic/pre-apocalyptic). 

Paula's book list on YA set in Australia – but not quite as we know it

Paula Weston Why did Paula love this book?

It’s a dystopian YA novel where the Australian landscape is beautifully rendered in all its glory and danger. It’s also a tightly written and intense page turner, when even quiet moments are infused with a sense of menace.

It has echoes of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, although this book is unmistakably Australian - right down to speculation around where our nation’s attitude to asylum seeks may lead us. It’s not as bleak as The Road (a book I admire), but Mark reminds us how easily our veneer of society could slip away in the wake of a catastrophic, world-changing event.

I did worry for Finn’s dog as much as for Finn himself. (I’m still scarred by The Knife of Never Letting Go. This has parallels to that nail-biting novel, too.)

By Mark Smith,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Road to Winter as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Since a deadly virus and the violence that followed wiped out his parents and most of his community, Finn has lived alone on the rugged coast with only his dog Rowdy for company.

He has stayed alive for two winters—hunting and fishing and trading food, and keeping out of sight of the Wilders, an armed and dangerous gang that controls the north, led by a ruthless man named Ramage.

But Finn’s isolation is shattered when a girl runs onto the beach. Rose is a Siley—an asylum seeker—and she has escaped from Ramage, who had enslaved her and her younger sister,…


Book cover of The Bridge

Paula Weston Author Of The Undercurrent

From my list on YA set in Australia – but not quite as we know it.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m Australian and there’s a big place in my heart for Australian-set stories. I read mostly for escapism, but there’s a deeper connection with tales from my own backyard. I’ve also always loved speculative fiction – everything from epic and paranormal fantasy to space opera and dystopian thrillers – and I’m excited when my favourite genres and setting come together. My day job is in local government. I’ve seen how government decisions can impact the trajectory of a society, and I’m particularly drawn to stories that explore that theme. I’m the author of five speculative fiction novels with Australian settings: the four novels in The Rephaim series (supernatural fantasy) and The Undercurrent (slightly futuristic/pre-apocalyptic). 

Paula's book list on YA set in Australia – but not quite as we know it

Paula Weston Why did Paula love this book?

I cried at the end of this brilliantly crafted novel about the futility of war.

It shows how an unnamed society might respond to ongoing conflict. Both sides have de-humanised the other; both are committed to revenge and retribution for the daily tragedies; and groups on both sides believe there can’t be peace without the total subjugation of the other.

I really appreciate how Nik’s worldview is shaken – and ultimately widened – when he crosses into enemy territory to find a captured friend. This story is a lesson in how peace can never come without justice, or empathy, told through great characters, gripping plot, and nail-biting tension.

(I imagine the unspecified city as being in Australia/New Zealand – the author is from NZ.)

By Jane Higgins,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Bridge as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 12, 13, 14, and 15.

What is this book about?

The City is divided. The bridges gated. In Southside, the hostiles live in squalor and desperation, waiting for a chance to overrun the residents of Cityside.
 
Nik is still in high school but is destined for a great career with the Internal Security and Intelligence Services, the brains behind the war. But when ISIS comes recruiting, everyone is shocked when he isn't chosen. There must be an explanation, but no one will talk about it. Then the school is bombed and the hostiles take the bridges. Buildings are burning, kids are dead, and the hostiles have kidnapped Sol. Now ISIS…


Book cover of This Is Shyness

Paula Weston Author Of The Undercurrent

From my list on YA set in Australia – but not quite as we know it.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m Australian and there’s a big place in my heart for Australian-set stories. I read mostly for escapism, but there’s a deeper connection with tales from my own backyard. I’ve also always loved speculative fiction – everything from epic and paranormal fantasy to space opera and dystopian thrillers – and I’m excited when my favourite genres and setting come together. My day job is in local government. I’ve seen how government decisions can impact the trajectory of a society, and I’m particularly drawn to stories that explore that theme. I’m the author of five speculative fiction novels with Australian settings: the four novels in The Rephaim series (supernatural fantasy) and The Undercurrent (slightly futuristic/pre-apocalyptic). 

Paula's book list on YA set in Australia – but not quite as we know it

Paula Weston Why did Paula love this book?

This is still one of the coolest books I’ve ever read. It has wonderfully left-of-centre characters, original plot, and world building, a hint of darkness, and sharp dialogue. I love its Australian flavour (just enough to feel familiar). The setting is also off-kilter enough to be dystopian, but not so much so that it feels alien.

Best of all, at the novel's heart is an engaging, offbeat romance. There are also well-handled themes of alienation, grief, identity, and self-discovery.

(It was part of a gift pack of novels my Australian publisher sent me when I signed my first book deal back in 2011, and I instantly fell in love with it.)

By Leanne Hall,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked This Is Shyness as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 14, 15, 16, and 17.

What is this book about?

A captivating novel told from the points of view of two unforgettable characters. In the suburb of Shyness, the sun doesn't rise. Wolfboy meets a stranger called Wildgirl, who dares him to be her guide through the endless night. There are things that can only be said in the dark.This is Shyness was shortlisted for a number of major Australian literary awards and named a Children's Book Council of Australia Notable Book.

Leanne Hall won the 2009 Text Prize for Young Adult and Children's Writing for this spellbinding debut for readers fourteen and up.


Book cover of The Sky So Heavy

Paula Weston Author Of The Undercurrent

From my list on YA set in Australia – but not quite as we know it.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m Australian and there’s a big place in my heart for Australian-set stories. I read mostly for escapism, but there’s a deeper connection with tales from my own backyard. I’ve also always loved speculative fiction – everything from epic and paranormal fantasy to space opera and dystopian thrillers – and I’m excited when my favourite genres and setting come together. My day job is in local government. I’ve seen how government decisions can impact the trajectory of a society, and I’m particularly drawn to stories that explore that theme. I’m the author of five speculative fiction novels with Australian settings: the four novels in The Rephaim series (supernatural fantasy) and The Undercurrent (slightly futuristic/pre-apocalyptic). 

Paula's book list on YA set in Australia – but not quite as we know it

Paula Weston Why did Paula love this book?

This book equally moved and unnerved me because its premise is all too possible. It’s a brilliantly written end-of-the-world story with an understated sense of menace and an unmistakable Australian flavour. 

The novel offers an intimate and fascinating first-person view of what happens to a ‘normal’ neighbourhood when life as we know it irrevocably changes – in this case through a nuclear winter. Often, apocalyptic/dystopian stories skim over the transition from order to chaos/social breakdown, and Claire handles it in a way that’s unsettling by its understatement.

I cared deeply about these characters. And while this novel is gritty, it’s also a story of hope and what it means to survive. 

By Claire Zorn,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Sky So Heavy as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 13, 14, 15, and 16.

What is this book about?

This haunting dystopian novel thrillingly and realistically looks at a nuclear winter from an Australian perspective.

For Fin it’s just like any other day—racing for the school bus, bluffing his way through class, and trying to remain cool in front of the most sophisticated girl in his universe. Only it’s not like any other day because, on the other side of the world, nuclear missiles are being detonated. When Fin wakes up the next morning, it’s dark, bitterly cold, and snow is falling. There’s no internet, no phone, no TV, no power, and no parents. Nothing Fin’s learned in school…


Book cover of The Swan Book

Hoa Pham Author Of The Other Shore

From my list on slippaging between worlds.

Why am I passionate about this?

I want to write about the magic of the everyday and often this is seen in the slippages between worlds like the worlds of the living and the dead. Ghosts and spirits feature heavily in my work and fascinate me as a reader too. This is not in the realm of fantasy to me, ghosts are real and actual.

Hoa's book list on slippaging between worlds

Hoa Pham Why did Hoa love this book?

This amazing book is about Oblivia a girl who survives gang rape living in a swamp with thousands of black swans who is promised to Warren Finch the Deputy Prime Minister of Australia an indigenous man.

In her journey we meet many out there characters told in mythic style in a future Australia devastated by climate change. This book is a potent mix of speculative fiction and magic realism featuring indigenous communities and characters. I admire it for the breadth of its vision and the intimacy of Oblivia and of course the swans.

By Alexis Wright,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Swan Book as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A hypnotic and “astonishingly inventive” (O, The Oprah Magazine) novel about an Aboriginal girl living in a future world turned upside down—where ancient myths exist side-by-side with present-day realities.

Oblivia Ethelyne was given her name by an old woman who found her deep in the bowels of a gum tree, tattered and fragile, the victim of a brutal assault by wayward local youths. These are the years leading up to Australia’s third centenary, and the woman who finds her, Bella Donna of the Champions, is a refugee from climate change wars that devastated her country in the northern hemisphere.

Bella…


Book cover of Sacred Places: War Memorials in the Australian Landscape

Peter Stanley Author Of Bad Characters

From my list on Australian military history.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a Research Professor in history at UNSW Canberra at the Australian Defence Force Academy. I now mostly write on the military history of British India history but for 27 years I worked at the Australian War Memorial, Australia’s national military museum, where I became Principal Historian. Much of my career was devoted to Australian military history and more than half of my 40 or so books are in that field. That puts me in a good position to comment upon what I think are the five best books in the field of Australian military history (my own excepted, of course). 

Peter's book list on Australian military history

Peter Stanley Why did Peter love this book?

Ken Inglis, an Australian who began as a scholar of religion in Victorian Britain, discovered in the 1980s that he wanted to understand the way war (which had been neglected by Australians more interested in organised labour or ‘the Bush’) had shaped the nation in the twentieth century. He found that war memorials, a pervasive feature of the Australian landscape, provided a key to that question. Based on a huge national survey and the labour of willing volunteers, in 1998 he, at last, published his magisterial Sacred Places, a study of ‘war memorials in the Australian landscape’. Rightly revered by those fortunate to have known him as a wise and humane scholar, Ken’s book – successively revised as anniversaries and war memorials proliferated – appeared in three prize-winning editions. Ken died in 2017, mourned as a key pioneer in understanding how war has permeated Australia’s modern history.

By K.S. Inglis,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Sacred Places as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"Sacred Places" spans war, religion, politics, language and the visual arts. Ken Inglis has distilled new cultural understandings from a familiar landscape.


Book cover of The Countdown Years 1974 - 1987: Glad All Over

Clinton Walker Author Of Stranded

From my list on music from Australia.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am an art school dropout and recovering rock critic who, since 1981, has published a dozen books on Australian music and popular culture, plus worked extensively in television and as a freelance journalist. I'm too old to be called an enfant terrible, but with the way I still seem to be able to court controversy, I must remain some sort of loose cannon! Sydney’s Sun-Herald has called me "our best chronicler of Australian grass-roots culture," and that’s a tag I’m flattered by but which does get at what I’ve always been interested in. I consider myself a historian who finds resonances where most don’t even bother to look, in our own backyard, yesterday, and the fact that so much of my backlist including Inner City Sound, Highway to Hell, Buried Country, Golden Miles, History is Made at Night, and Stranded are still in print, I take as vindication I’m on the right track…

Clinton's book list on music from Australia

Clinton Walker Why did Clinton love this book?

Every Sunday night for nearly a decade between the mid-70s and early 80s, most young Australians could be found in one place – in front of the TV, watching Countdown. Countdown was the most powerful force in the local pop/rock scene, the maker and breaker of hits. Published in 1993 in the afterglow of the show’s long run, Glad All Over, by former Age journalist Peter Wilmoth, is an appropriately loving tribute, which includes acknowledging the many (like me!) who loved to hate the show but still always watched it! As mostly oral history, it’s a sparkling story, and if the Countdown phenomenon still begs harder analysis – because as much as it was a great booster for Australian music, it actually blocked just as much – that’s the nature of a new historiography: the field has to get opened up first, and then is subject to increasingly…

Book cover of Top Walks in Australia

Lee Mylne Author Of Frommer's Australia

From my list on discovering Australia, specifically guide books..

Why am I passionate about this?

As a full-time travel writer for 30 years, I’ve travelled all over Australia and am still constantly surprised and thrilled by new places. Ask me what my favourite place is, and it’s impossible to choose! From the grandeur of Western Australia’s Kimberley and the red ochre colours of the Outback to the deep blue of the oceans and lush rainforests...I love it all and I love sharing my discoveries – both in cities and on the long and winding roads – with readers. When I’m not travelling or writing about it, I’m usually planning the next trip!

Lee's book list on discovering Australia, specifically guide books.

Lee Mylne Why did Lee love this book?

Melanie is passionate about the great outdoors and has hiked all over Australia. Her book (a second edition is due out in early 2022) covers an incredible 66 walks and her love of the landscape shines through. Some of the walks are well known, such as Tasmania’s Overland Track, while others are lesser-known. Designed for all abilities and time constraints, there’s really something for everyone, whether you want to walk in tropical rainforests or rocky ancient escarpments. It makes me want to pull on my hiking boots and go!

By Melanie Ball,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Top Walks in Australia as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Australia is mecca for bushwalkers - there are walks crossing every sort of landscape, from rocky deserts to the tropical coast, craggy mountains to verdant rainforest, as well as some shaped by colourful human history. Experienced travel writer Melanie Ball has hiked every track in this book for walkers of all levels of experience. Included are some of Australia's most famous walks, including the Larapinta Trail and Overland Track, plus some undiscovered gems. Most of the tracks can be completed in a few hours, but there are some more difficult multi-day walks for those wanting more of a challenge. For…


Book cover of Down Under

Clinton Walker Author Of Stranded

From my list on music from Australia.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am an art school dropout and recovering rock critic who, since 1981, has published a dozen books on Australian music and popular culture, plus worked extensively in television and as a freelance journalist. I'm too old to be called an enfant terrible, but with the way I still seem to be able to court controversy, I must remain some sort of loose cannon! Sydney’s Sun-Herald has called me "our best chronicler of Australian grass-roots culture," and that’s a tag I’m flattered by but which does get at what I’ve always been interested in. I consider myself a historian who finds resonances where most don’t even bother to look, in our own backyard, yesterday, and the fact that so much of my backlist including Inner City Sound, Highway to Hell, Buried Country, Golden Miles, History is Made at Night, and Stranded are still in print, I take as vindication I’m on the right track…

Clinton's book list on music from Australia

Clinton Walker Why did Clinton love this book?

Sometimes a book comes completely out of nowhere. Such was the case with Trevor Conomy’s Down Under. Conomy was not an author with a pedigree in music journalism or anything like that, but when Down Under came out, in 2015, it spoke for itself. The life story of a song – Melbourne pub band Men At Work’s “Down Under” – what makes the book compelling is not so much the story of its fluky success, when in 1982 it become a huge hit all round the world, but rather the aftermath: How more than a quarter-century later the song went to court against a copyright infringement claim. That it lost the case was a travesty and a human tragedy, and Conomy’s short, punchy little book reveals why in all its gory detail.

By Trevor Conomy,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Down Under as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This is the biography not of a person but of one of the most loved and controversial songs in the history of Australian music.

Originally released as a B-side in 1980, 'Down Under' made Men at Work the biggest band on the planet. The song became an alternative Australian anthem and its video (recorded on the sand dunes of Cronulla) became an image of Australia recognised the world over.

Even when Men at Work suddenly disappeared, 'Down Under' remained in the national psyche. Nearly three decades later, Spicks and Specks innocently revealed a link between the song and the tune…


Book cover of Why Australia Prospered: The Shifting Sources of Economic Growth

Tim Harcourt Author Of The Airport Economist Flies Again!

From my list on the world on economic and social history.

Why am I passionate about this?

As host of the Airport Economist TV series I have been to around 60 countries in 5 years and I have always been fascinated by what makes each place tick. I have been curious as to why some countries succeed and others fail, how do businesses operate there and how do the people fare when it comes to elections. I am interested in how egalitarian the place is, how rich are the rich, how do the poor do, is life improving. I am also interested in sport and popular culture and how important it is to the local populace.  

Tim's book list on the world on economic and social history

Tim Harcourt Why did Tim love this book?

This is the best book written on Australian economic history.

How did a convict colony become one of the world’s most prosperous economies and successful democratic societies in just 200 years? McLean takes us methodically through the evidence with a compelling narrative dispelling popular myths along the way.

A good read alongside Why Nations Fail.

By Ian W. McLean,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Why Australia Prospered as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This book is the first comprehensive account of how Australia attained the world's highest living standards within a few decades of European settlement, and how the nation has sustained an enviable level of income to the present. Why Australia Prospered is a fascinating historical examination of how Australia cultivated and sustained economic growth and success. Beginning with the Aboriginal economy at the end of the eighteenth century, Ian McLean argues that Australia's remarkable prosperity across nearly two centuries was reached and maintained by several shifting factors. These included imperial policies, favorable demographic characteristics, natural resource abundance, institutional adaptability and innovation,…


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