The best books about the Australian Outback

2 authors have picked their favorite books about Australian Outbacks and why they recommend each book.

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Horses of the Fire

By Leanne Owens,

Book cover of Horses of the Fire

Teenagers will love The Outback Riders series by Leanne Owens. An Australian author, Leanne is an English/History teacher who also writes freelance for horse magazines. Her experience with horses growing up in the outback is combined with stories about teenagers in her very popular Outback Riders series. She has also written the Dimity Horse Mysteries for readers who like mysteries, crime, romance, and horses. 


Who am I?

I have always loved horses and riding. My dream was to become a showjumper but, unfortunately, my opportunities in London were limited and although I rode a lot in Australia, my jumping was limited to the odd log in the bush. I’m an avid reader and particularly enjoy horse books written for adults, which is why I wrote a book for horse lovers. I have recommended books that gave me pleasure and which I am sure other horse lovers will enjoy.


I wrote...

Winston - A Horse's Tale

By Rita Lee Chapman,

Book cover of Winston - A Horse's Tale

What is my book about?

One for horse lovers from teenagers upwards!  Winston is a good-looking palomino horse whose life involves several different owners and many adventures. As you read his story, told by Winston himself, you will appreciate horse ownership from the horse’s point of view. Born on a country property in Australia, Winston tells of his breaking-in and education and the different people he encounters – good, bad, and ignorant. As well as his own story, Winston includes the experiences of other horses he meets along life’s way.  

It is an eventful life – the story of one Australian horse out of thousands, but one that you will remember.

Tracks

By Robyn Davidson,

Book cover of Tracks: A Woman's Solo Trek Across 1700 Miles of Australian Outback

I read this book in my twenties and then again in my forties and loved it just as much the second time. With her four camels and dog, Robyn Davidson trekked from Alice Springs westward across Australia’s desert all the way to the ocean. Her eight-month journey was often gruelling but just as often it was joyous and exhilarating. She endured sweltering heat, lecherous men, poisonous snakes, and more than once, her camels vanished in the night and she’d spend days searching for them. As she walks, she contemplates life while immersed in the staggering beauty of her surroundings. This is the kind of transformational odyssey that compels you to explore this planet before it’s too late.  


Who am I?

Laurie Gough is a journalist and award-winning author of three memoirs: Kite Strings of the Southern Cross: A Woman’s Travel Odyssey; Kiss the Sunset Pig: An American Road Trip with Exotic Detours; and Stolen Child: A Mother’s Journey to Rescue Her Son from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Over twenty of her stories have been anthologized in literary travel books and her books have been translated into several languages. She has been a columnist for The Globe and Mail, and has written for The Guardian, The L.A. Times, Maclean’s, The Walrus, USA Today, Salon.com, The National Post, Canadian Geographic, among others.


I wrote...

Kiss The Sunset Pig: A Canadian's American Road Trip With Exotic Detours

By Laurie Gough,

Book cover of Kiss The Sunset Pig: A Canadian's American Road Trip With Exotic Detours

What is my book about?

Laurie Gough is heading west across the USA in a beater car named Marcia, hoping this is a homecoming to the land of her dreams. Back in her early twenties, she lived in a cave on a beach in California for six days and found purpose in her life, listening to waves in the moonlight. The trouble is, she’s now lost that enthusiasm. As she makes her way across the country, meeting a variety of eccentric characters, she recalls her adventures of the last decade – in Greece, the Arctic, Sumatra, the Yukon, Korea, Thailand, Jamaica – trying to discover where she lost her younger, more free-spirited self.  As she closes in on the place of her dreams, she peels back the layers of cynicism that life builds up around us, and finds that our old selves may be still inside us if we only bother to look.

Ultimate Road Trips Australia

By Lee Atkinson,

Book cover of Ultimate Road Trips Australia

Australians love a road-trip – the longer, the better. This book, by one of Australia’s top driving holiday experts, is jam-packed with information and advice to make yours as easy as possible. Driving is definitely the best way to see our vast continent, and the route maps and distance lists are hugely useful. It’s a great resource on where to stay – everything from swank hotels to camping spots – and what to do. Want to know the best time of year to visit a certain place? That’s covered too.


Who am I?

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!


I wrote...

Frommer's Australia

By Lee Mylne,

Book cover of Frommer's Australia

What is my book about?

Find the Australia of your dreams – scope out Sydney’s best surf beaches, find the top laneway cafes and street art scenes in arty Melbourne, discover the best places to come face-to-face with Australia’s unique wildlife, and the most colourful underwater playgrounds on the Great Barrier Reef. Learn why Indigenous experiences are the key to unlocking Australia’s reality. Then there are the hotels, restaurants and unmissable attractions…and I’ve visited them all.

Updated every year (until the pandemic temporarily interrupted travel plans), this guide distills the best of Australia’s capital cities and their surrounds. The Frommer’s format is tried and tested, honest and opinionated and designed to appeal to all budgets.

Australian Geographic Outback Queensland

By Danielle Lancaster,

Book cover of Australian Geographic Outback Queensland

The Australian Outback is a must for anyone who wants to see this country in all its diversity. Far from being just desert, the Outback is varied and fascinating. While this book only covers Queensland, it is a rich introduction to what the Outback offers. Photojournalist Danielle Lancaster knows it well, and the large-format images bring the scenery, wildlife, history, and towns of Queensland’s Outback to life. Whether you are interested in National Parks, dinosaur fossils, desert dunes, stunning gorges, or history, there’s plenty of interest here. As well as an introduction to places you may want to see, it’s also a beautiful souvenir.


Who am I?

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!


I wrote...

Frommer's Australia

By Lee Mylne,

Book cover of Frommer's Australia

What is my book about?

Find the Australia of your dreams – scope out Sydney’s best surf beaches, find the top laneway cafes and street art scenes in arty Melbourne, discover the best places to come face-to-face with Australia’s unique wildlife, and the most colourful underwater playgrounds on the Great Barrier Reef. Learn why Indigenous experiences are the key to unlocking Australia’s reality. Then there are the hotels, restaurants and unmissable attractions…and I’ve visited them all.

Updated every year (until the pandemic temporarily interrupted travel plans), this guide distills the best of Australia’s capital cities and their surrounds. The Frommer’s format is tried and tested, honest and opinionated and designed to appeal to all budgets.

Of Wolves and Men

By Barry Lopez,

Book cover of Of Wolves and Men

Lyrical and personal, this breathtaking book leads you on a journey to discover sides of the wolf you might never have expected would exist. The way a deer signals to the wolf that it will give in to the chase, to become the wolf’s prey, and the wolf’s ‘reply.’ Lopez gets into the head of wolves and the social systems of wolf packs. Years ago, travelling through rural Washington State, USA, I met the endangered buffalo timberwolves close-up. I carried Lopez’s thoughts in my head to calm my nerves. After reading this book, I longed to learn as much about killer whales such that we could have this same intimate relationship with them, learning about their ways, understanding their signs. It took time but eventually, we did just that.


Who am I?

I’ve spent most of my life since the 1970s working with whales and dolphins. I was lucky to get involved in one of the first field studies for killer whales and since then have led other research in the Russian Far East. I have worked with entomologists in Costa Rican rainforests, blue whale scientists in Québec and Iceland, humpback whale scientists in Hawaii. I’ve searched for rare North Atlantic right whales in the Bay of Fundy, measured Canada’s tallest trees in British Columbia and seen the wild plant ancestors of maize growing in the mountains of Mexico. Field research—studying and living in nature—makes us empathize with Planet Earth.


I wrote...

Orca: The Whale Called Killer

By Erich Hoyt,

Book cover of Orca: The Whale Called Killer

What is my book about?

When Erich Hoyt's Orca: The Whale Called Killer was first published in 1981, little was known about orcas. He and his colleagues spent seven summers following these intelligent, playful creatures in the waters off northern Vancouver Island. Hoyt's group dispelled the negative mythology about orcas while uncovering intimate details of their social behavior. 

This revised 2019 fifth edition includes Hoyt's original account, plus exciting new chapters that bring readers up to date on the revolution in orca research and understanding. Hoyt's youthful adventures turned into his life's work. Now a world-renowned expert on whales and dolphins, he shares orca wisdom along with stories from additional field study in Russia’s Far East and return trips to meet the descendants of the orcas he encountered years earlier.

The Thorn Birds

By Colleen McCullough,

Book cover of The Thorn Birds

I love an epic family saga, and this book has it all—sweeping Australian countryside, forbidden love, family conflict, and, most of all, a struggling girl growing up to find herself, her voice, and her strength through whatever life throws her way. Meggie Cleary may not have been born with any advantages, but she makes the best of what she’s given and overcomes. Her metamorphosis from unfavored girl to strong woman deserves regular re-reads.


Who am I?

I’ve always been drawn to stories about underdogs overcoming adversity in different ways. There were times growing up when I didn’t feel like I fit in with my peers, and I’m sure that’s contributed to this fascination. There’s just something so satisfying about a character who others think is down for the count getting back up and winning. As a writer, my women’s fiction stories often center around characters who are in need of personal growth. Overcoming challenges and choosing a truer-to-self path are common themes. That’s why the books on this list found their way to my heart.


I wrote...

These Numbered Days

By Anna E. Collins,

Book cover of These Numbered Days

What is my book about?

When Annie Wolff’s ex-husband dies, she breaks her self-imposed exile and returns home to Washington to make sure her kids are okay. Annie hasn’t seen Grace and Connor in eight years, and with her in-laws making a bid to adopt them, this is her last chance to set things right. She only hopes the depression that once sent her running will remain in check.

As she’s drawn back into the lives of her now-teenage kids, Annie also stumbles into the path of Wic Dubray—the handsome woodworker who leases her a room. Now, Annie must navigate old memories, hostile relatives, her wavering mental health, and a growing fondness for Wic for a chance to win back her children, her life, and maybe find love.

Australian Aboriginal art

By Ronald Berndt,

Book cover of Australian Aboriginal art

I have a deep admiration for the art of indigenous Australians with their connection to nature and mother earth. I grew up in outback Australia near a pre-historic sacred site with an awe-inspiring cave drawing of a giant serpent. This book, written by several scholars, is a comprehensive resource on Aboriginal art. The illustrations cover traditional bark paintings and cave drawings, some dating back more than 30,000 years. The authors’ analysis of symbols is informative. I consider Aboriginal artists to be the first anatomists. Long before Leonardo, they were drawing the inner structures and organs of humans and animals. 


Who am I?

A practising artist for more than 60 years, my main source of inspiration is people and the natural world. I work in a variety of media including painting, sculpture, and printmaking. Drawing is the foundation of my art and I always keep a sketchbook handy. As a left-hander in a right-handed world, drawing became my main means of expression from an early age, when I instinctively wrote back-to-front with my left hand but was made to use my right. In addition to my art practice, I have taught drawing and developed a teaching method based on 7 principles that are outlined in Draw Like da Vinci.  


I wrote...

Draw Like Da Vinci

By Susan Dorothea White,

Book cover of Draw Like Da Vinci

What is my book about?

Leonardo da Vinci's drawings are among the most magnificent ever created. But how did he achieve his effects? Choose his materials? Define his approach? Susan Dorothea White, an internationally known artist and teacher, helps students gain an invaluable understanding of Da Vinci's techniques for depicting the human form and dealing with perspective, line weight, light, shade, and character.

The basic principles of drawing are explained through Leonardo's art. White analyses the fundamentals into seven Ps of drawing – Perspective, Proportion, Perception, Position, Placement, Planes, Priority. Illustrated with drawings by Leonardo and over 100 of her drawings, the book contains exercises on different techniques, including goldpoint and chalk on emery paper. Being a left-hander helped White decipher Leonardo's technique.

The Riddle of Tanglewood Manor

By Tracey Hawkins,

Book cover of The Riddle of Tanglewood Manor

I loved the title of this book, it had me intrigued from the start. I like writing clues and riddles into my own adventure stories, so I found this one irresistible. The story starts in Sydney where I grew up and leads us to a typical outback country town in Australia. Instead of a place I wish I could travel to, this one is very familiar to me. Its setting is similar to my own adventures, based on childhood holidays and memories. Instead of taking me on an adventure to a different country, this book travels back in time to the early 1920s. I found I was desperate to solve each riddle before the main character and unravel the mystery to safely bring the kids home, back to their own reality. 


Who am I?

I am an adventurous exploring soul who loves nature. Whether it’s simple short drives discovering little country towns in my region or travelling further afield, I am in my happy place. As a mother of three grown sons, two of which were reluctant readers, and as a former primary school teacher with a passion for literacy, I know the struggle parents face with teaching a love of reading to their children. Writing adventure stories in unique settings around the world combines my love for travel and early literacy. My adventures help to intrigue children and hook them into reading while fulfilling a fascination with unfamiliar places and developing their imagination with mystery and intrigue.


I wrote...

Secrets Hidden Below, the Adamson Adventures 1

By Sandra Bennett,

Book cover of Secrets Hidden Below, the Adamson Adventures 1

What is my book about?

Aussie kids are naturally drawn to the sun, sand, and surf. Add an intense and intriguing pirate treasure hunt around the exotic island of Bali and you have a fun and thrilling adventure. Follow the clues that lead the kids to unusual and beautiful places but beware of the guardian snake that will refuse you entry into a cave. Hold your breath to avoid the stench of rotten-egg gas in the natural spring waters and watch out for the volcano spirit that lurks at the top of the mountain. 

Secrets Hidden Below was a shortlisted winner of the Australian Speech Pathology Book of the Years awards 2019. It includes history, culture, and Indonesian language for inquisitive minds that enjoy reading about diversity and resilience.

The Shark Net

By Robert Drewe,

Book cover of The Shark Net: Memories and Murder

This is a memoir by a great Australian writer of literary fiction. Set in Perth in the late 40s, the 50s, and early 60s, this book is not fiction, but it’s as profoundly satisfying as a fine novel, and the author uses, with great artistry and authority, certain conventions of fiction. It’s coming-of-age interwoven with the chilling true-crime story of a lurking serial killer, who turns out to have close ties to the author’s own family; one of the victims is a boy the author knew. Perth, on the southwest coast of Australia, bordered by the Indian Ocean on one side and the vast Australian outback on the other, is often called the most isolated city in the world. It’s known for being a bland, safe place with a low crime rate, making it the perfect sundrenched-but-sinister setting for scandal, murder, and awakening sexuality. Drewe is a powerful writer, and…


Who am I?

I took an early plunge into literature because of my very smart, highly literate parents, and it shaped my young brain. When my brilliant mother came down with Alzheimer’s, I had been a professional published writer for years, with a penchant for the non-pollyanna side of life. Here was the perfect subject matter. My aim was to take on her disintegration and downfall and turn it into art, to produce something as pitiless and unladylike as the disease itself. If people learn something about Alzheimer’s by reading it, that’s fine. But my larger purpose was to do her (and my) ordeal justice via the powers she bestowed on me.


I wrote...

Death in Slow Motion: A Memoir of a Daughter, Her Mother, and the Beast Called Alzheimer's

By Eleanor Cooney,

Book cover of Death in Slow Motion: A Memoir of a Daughter, Her Mother, and the Beast Called Alzheimer's

What is my book about?

When her once-glamorous and witty novelist-mother got Alzheimer's, Eleanor Cooney moved her from Connecticut to California to care for her. Intense, searing prose, punctuated with the blackest of humor, Cooney documents the slow erosion of her mother's mind, the powerful bond the two shared, and her own descent into drink and despair.

As her mother gropes in the gathering darkness for a grip on the world she once knew, succeeding only in conjuring sad fantasies of places and times with her late husband, Cooney revisits their true past. Death in Slow Motion becomes the mesmerizing story of Eleanor's actual childhood, straight out of the pages of John Cheever; the daring, brilliant mother she remembers; and a time that no longer exists for either.

Around the World Mazes

By Sam Smith,

Book cover of Around the World Mazes

Here’s another maze book by Usborne, Around the World Mazes by Sam Smith (as I mentioned previously, Usborne publishes great children’s books!). Unlike The Big Maze book this book has an overarching theme linking all the mazes, ‘places around the world’, also, each maze covers the entire double-page spread, so there are fewer mazes but with greater visual impact. While the delightfully illustrated mazes will appeal more to younger children, they do playfully bring to life the different locations they depict, whether that be the Australian Outback or coast of Vancouver, and so provide educational content along with oodles of fun!


Who am I?

I am an author, illustrator, and award-winning creative director. I have loved to draw and make things since a young age, mostly wacky contraptions (inspired by my love of the Hanna-Barbera Wacky Races cartoons). I’m also passionate about mazes, having spent many family holidays drawing mazes on a small whiteboard for my two boys to complete.


I wrote...

Mega-Maze Adventure!: A Journey Through the World's Longest Maze in a Book

By Scott Bedford,

Book cover of Mega-Maze Adventure!: A Journey Through the World's Longest Maze in a Book

What is my book about?

Not just a maze––the book itself is a maze! Every page (including the cover) has a portal hole cut into it, allowing the maze to run from page to page and make this the world's longest maze in a book. Every spread is a journey through an imaginative world: there's Robot World and Butterfly World, Ski World and Underwater World, Dragon World, and Skyscraper World.

Filled with hypnotic details, hidden surprises, fun facts, and bright, swirling, richly-colored details, every page is a compelling adventure. This maze book is the first of its kind, and a totally immersive, compelling, and challenging experience for young people (and their parents!).

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