29 books directly related to Sydney Australia 📚

All 29 Sydney Australia books as recommended by authors and experts. Updated weekly.

Seven Little Australians

By Ethel Turner,

Book cover of Seven Little Australians

Why this book?

First published in 1894, this is definitely a nostalgic choice; however, there’s a good reason why it became the first Australian novel to be continuously in print for 100 years in 1994. Esther Turner’s classic novel is Australia’s answer to Little Women, and if you don’t fall in love with the seven boisterous Woolcot children and end up in tears over the tragic events at Yarrahappini, I’m afraid you’re even harder-hearted than Captain Woolcot himself!


Lotus

By Jennifer Hartmann,

Book cover of Lotus

Why this book?

This story consumed me and I could not put the book down. I would wake up in the middle of the night to read more of it. As an avid reader, I have books that I liked, books that I loved, and then I have a list of books that are riveting and that speak to my soul. Those are the books I reread and think about often. This book was saved under that last list. Watching Oliver interact with everyone after the ordeal he went through was soul-shattering. Seeing Sydney be a source of comfort, patience and a well of overflowing love to him was just beautiful. Hartmann even made me feel emotions for someone I thought I would initially hate, but ended up feeling bad for at the end of the book. She is a magician with words. That’s why it is a top pick for me for sure. 


The Dying Trade

By Peter Corris,

Book cover of The Dying Trade

Why this book?

Corris and his protagonist, the hard-scrabble private detective Cliff Hardy, are quintessentially Australian. The Dying Trade introduces Cliff (smoker, drinker, ex-boxer) and sets the standard for all the books that follow in this series. It’s dry and laconic, with a wonderful sense of place (a very gritty 1980s Sydney). There’s a definite nod to the greats— Chandler and Hammett in this series; you know Cliff Hardy probably shouldn’t take this job, it’s odds-on he’ll cop a beating along the way, possible he’ll find love and lose it again. I enjoy the author’s economy with words and the moral complexity of his characters. If you like hard-boiled crime, this series is worth a look!

*Note: Sydney is much nicer than it may seem when you walk in Corris’s shoes!


Tirra Lirra by the River

By Jessica Anderson,

Book cover of Tirra Lirra by the River

Why this book?

I don’t often read books more than once, but this one I have, and I know I will read it again. The woman whose life is revealed this time is 70-year-old Nora Porteous. She has returned to her native Brisbane, Australia after having escaped it by marriage to Sydney, and having escaped that marriage to London. She now reflects wryly on how she developed throughout those years of hardship and joy as she also experiences the changes in the neighbourhood she ran from decades before. As we move through both her memories of the past and her experience of the present, the details that help us to understand her are extraordinary: ‘The man is unlocking the door. I have had to talk and smile too much in his car, and as I wait I consciously rest my face.’


Seven Poor Men of Sydney

By Christina Stead,

Book cover of Seven Poor Men of Sydney

Why this book?

Published in 1934, this is Stead’s first novel, and its Modernistic portrayal of a loosely connected group of young men and women existing and interacting in a poverty-wracked but rapidly changing between-the-Wars Sydney caused a literary storm at the time. The City, caught between its Colonial heritage and its future as a modern Twentieth Century metropolis is the real star of the novel even as its seven bewildered, beleaguered characters roam its bay and suburbs, its libraries, university, and pubs, attempting to negotiate their changing city and their place in it. I couldn’t write a novel about Sydney without visiting Christina Stead’s Sydney first.


The Harp in the South

By Ruth Park,

Book cover of The Harp in the South

Why this book?

This is an Australian classic. Published in 1948, Park wrote this, her first novel, when she moved to the crowded, chaotic impoverished inner Sydney suburb of Surry Hills. Fascinated and deeply stirred by what she saw, her novel centres on the close-knit Darcy family whose love for one another and enduring joy for life is in stark contrast to the harsh and occasionally brutal world around them. Park’s love for her characters and for her city shines through and provides a magical yet thoughtful window on a Sydney in the years immediately following the war. I worked in Surry Hills for many years and I set much of my last novel on its streets and laneways so to walk those same streets in Ruth Park’s footsteps was such a treat.


Flight 714 (The Adventures of Tintin)

By Hergé,

Book cover of Flight 714 (The Adventures of Tintin)

Why this book?

I couldn’t resist adding a Tintin graphic novel to my list since Herge’s adventure series is widely beloved — and this one is a particular favorite. The story opens when the miserly millionaire, Laszlo Carreidas, "the millionaire who never laughs," invites Tintin, Captain Haddock, and Professor Calculus to accompany him on his private jet to Sydney instead of taking commercial Flight 714. It all seems rather jolly — until the millionaire’s jet is hijacked and diverted to a volcanic island in Java. As always, Herge nails the geographical details, plot twists, cheeky humor — and the idiosyncrasies of human nature, like grizzled Captain Haddock’s constant frustration with absentminded Professor Calculus. As a kid, these books opened entire worlds to me — I couldn’t wait to grow up and embark on my own adventures!

Pros & Cons

By Sydney Logan,

Book cover of Pros & Cons

Why this book?

This book still fits into my niche of romantic suspenseful thrillers, but has an air of fun Rom-Com style writing and not the dark gritty suspense of my other recommendations. I loved this story. Sydney Logan was very creative with building the lust and desire between two professional thieves that are typically out to rival each other. A book about con artists may turn some off, but the sweet sassy relationship built between Ethan and Jenne will suck you in. Just when you think it's all flowers and chocolate, Logan has Ethan hiding Jenne away from a bigger threat until they join forces and take revenge. Suspense, intrigue, angst, and sass… This book is a homerun! 


Voss

By Patrick White,

Book cover of Voss

Why this book?

I first read Voss – Patrick White’s 1957 fictionalised account of the doomed expedition and eventual disappearance of German explorer Ludwig Leichhardt - 25 years ago at university. I returned to it a couple of years ago as I embarked on my fifth novel, similarly set in 19th century Sydney, recalling how I enjoyed the novel in my earlier reading but finding myself, in this my second reading two decades later, utterly blown away by White’s stunning and bitingly witty evocation of mid-1800s Sydney society. 


The Riddle of Tanglewood Manor

By Tracey Hawkins,

Book cover of The Riddle of Tanglewood Manor

Why this book?

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. 


My Beautiful Death

By Eben Venter,

Book cover of My Beautiful Death

Why this book?

Eben Venter, though born in the heart of the South African ‘platteland’ (the South African equivalent of ‘fly-over country’), has spent much of his adult life in Australia, and the novel poignantly straddles the two locales: the constricting conservatism of the protagonist’s farm background, and the bewildering freedoms and opportunities of a more cosmopolitan setting. Here that conflict is heartbreakingly acted out and in a grim sense resolved in the main character’s losing battle against AIDS, and his death-bed reconciliation with his hitherto unbending father. Venter gives us a harrowing account of what it is like to die of a disease that wastes your body, blinds you, and makes you mad before killing you. It is all the more remarkable that the experience is registered from the inside, as it were, in a subjective stream of consciousness. The poignancy of the novel is intensified for me by knowing that the doomed protagonist is in fact a fictionalised tribute to the author’s brother, who died of AIDS.


The Timeless Land

By Eleanor Dark,

Book cover of The Timeless Land

Why this book?

A bold and broad-sweeping book, written in the 1940s, described as a novel but featuring a mix of real and fictional characters, The Timeless Land is a beautifully imaginative telling of the arrival of the First Fleet in what became Sydney in 1788, as seen through the eyes of the Aboriginal people, the Governor and his officers, convicts and the odd settler. The depiction of the part-real, part-invented Aboriginal people may cause raised eyebrows nowadays, but the book is based on thorough research and written with great imagination and sensitivity. I love the mix of the real and the imaginary, while never distorting the facts. It’s a brilliant way to paint a vivid portrait of a subject, I’ve done it myself (if I may be presumptuous enough to bracket myself with Ms. Dark).


Red Herrings for Breakfast

By Annabet Ousback,

Book cover of Red Herrings for Breakfast

Why this book?

This is a searing memoir about siblingsAnnabet and Anderswho grew up in an abusive household in a privileged Sydney suburb; but it is also the author’s search for the reasons behind her gay brother’s suicide. Anders Ousback became an accomplished restaurateur and potter, yet Annabet explores how despite this success, he never really outran his demons. She courageously searches for their source, using his surviving journal as clues, and what she finds throws up an incomplete and terrifying picture of a young gay Australian boy faced with the ‘rules’ of gender and sexual politics in postwar Sydney, where gay men were expected to pretend to survive. The real red herring in this story is unforgettable.


When No One Is Watching: A Thriller

By Alyssa Cole,

Book cover of When No One Is Watching: A Thriller

Why this book?

The best thing about When No One is Watching is the tension doesn't let go until the end. The protagonist Sydney Green is Brooklyn-born and trying to save her neighborhood from gentrification. But it isn't long before she's discovering a few too many coincidences that might just add up to a conspiracy. The more Sydney and her neighbor, Theo, learn about the communities past, the more their lives are in danger. Just remind yourself to breathe while reading this.


Crimson Lake

By Candice Fox,

Book cover of Crimson Lake

Why this book?

This was my first foray into suspense from down under. I met Candice Fox a few years back when we shared the table on a panel discussion at ThrillerFest. However, it took me another five years to pick up her book. The big mystery should be, why did I wait so long? Crimson Lake is a dark read that is suspenseful and mysterious. The two main characters, Ted and Amanda, apart are damaged individuals, but when together make for a quirky, if not unusual team.

These characters are the book's biggest strength. They are compelling, and you can't help but feel sympathetic for Ted who has been convicted in the court of public opinion despite never having been convicted in a court of law. Amanda, as well, is a character that I found more and more interesting with every page turn. And Fox is an incredible wordsmith when it comes to creating visual imagery that drops the reader right in the middle of the action. This is the first book in a three-book series that I hope will soon have a fourth book.


The Women in Black

By Madeleine St John,

Book cover of The Women in Black

Why this book?

This sweet and sharp coming-of-age tale is set in my hometown, Sydney, in the 1950s. It centres on book-loving young poet, Lisa, who takes a summer job in the fancy frock section of a department store while waiting to find out if she’s made it into university. When I first read this novel, I felt I’d stepped right into Lisa’s shoes, finding my confidence all over again as she does, leaving the suburbs for the city. The Women in Black is a sequin-studded exploration of the importance of stories to us all – and especially for post-war migrants making new homes and new stories. I just adore the idea that a novel about books and frocks and the hearts of young women has become a literary classic. 


Garden Spells

By Sarah Addison Allen,

Book cover of Garden Spells

Why this book?

Sarah Addison Allen writes beautiful descriptions. Many of her books are set in the south, transporting to humid air, chirping cicadas, and food expressing love—Garden Spells is a wonderful example of southern literature with a twist of magic. Similar to two of my favorite movies, Simply Irresistible (food that makes people feel things) and Practical Magic (two sisters who use magic to deal with a difficult situation), this story is even more emotionally complex. Claire and Sydney give the reader insight into the downfalls of selflessness and how everyone has a unique gift to be embraced, not shunned due to worries about a “reputation.” And as a foodie myself, I love the idea of gardens and apple trees providing magical ingredients. 


Ivory's Story

By Eugen Bacon,

Book cover of Ivory's Story

Why this book?

Ivory Tembo is a wonderfully dynamic character, brought to life with sensitivity and fascinating insight. The story is set in modern-day Sydney where a killer stalks the night, with Ivory Tembo the officer investigating the brutal murders. Extraordinary character development unfolds in just a few pages, from Ivory’s fractured youth growing up in foster care, to an emotionally vulnerable young woman, to her present-day tough, determined persona that serves her well as a detective. Forced to delve into her heritage, she is supported by a vibrant cast who bring folktale to life. With the help of a medicine woman, the mystery ventures into the supernatural, taking Ivory on an instinctive journey to unify two worlds.

The Book Rescuer: How a Mensch from Massachusetts Saved Yiddish Literature for Generations to Come

By Sue Macy, Stacy Innerst (illustrator),

Book cover of The Book Rescuer: How a Mensch from Massachusetts Saved Yiddish Literature for Generations to Come

Why this book?

I’m so glad there is a children’s picture book biography of Aaron Lansky. His own memoir for adults, Outwitting History: The Amazing Adventures of a Man Who Rescued a Million Yiddish Books, is so entertaining and engrossing that I’ve read it twice. While this picture book doesn’t have space for all of Lansky’s funny, touching stories, it does get across the amazing fact that thanks to one young man who refused to believe that a “dying” language should be buried, Yiddish was given new life—and a permanent address at the Yiddish Book Center in Amherst, Massachusetts. (I recently visited, and it’s spectacular! There is a great children’s section, too, full of books, games, and fun activities.)


Frances and the Monster

By Refe Tuma,

Book cover of Frances and the Monster

Why this book?

A visual and cinematic adventure that sweeps you through a pre-WWII version of Switzerland, this Frankenstein-inspired story is jam-packed with action and humor. The primary characters are all idiosyncratic in a memorable way—Frances, who lost an ear in a car crash; Fritz, the monkey juiced up on intelligence serum; and Hobbes, the android tutor. Even the secondary characters are crafted with heart and colorfully distinct in their own respects. The cliff-hangers and twists pushed the action along and I’m sure this will be a story kids read late into the night wanting to find out what happens next. I received an advance copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.

Truly Madly Guilty

By Liane Moriarty,

Book cover of Truly Madly Guilty

Why this book?

On to the suburbs of Sydney where three families gather for a backyard barbeque that culminates in epic disaster. Liane Moriarty’s books each have their own flavor but what always makes her writing for me, is the utterly relatable characters. In this story, I felt completely ‘known’ by mother of two, Clementine. Selfish when she knows she shouldn’t be, wracked with guilt over things that simultaneously are and aren’t her fault, letting herself embrace her sexuality only to come up against dire consequences. Liane Moriarty’s famed novel is Big Little Lies but if you’re looking for more of the same best pal characters and unthinkable moral dilemmas, put this one on your list. 


Transmutation: Stories

By Alex Difrancesco,

Book cover of Transmutation: Stories

Why this book?

I picked up Transmutation when it was very difficult for any book to hold my interest—during the constant low-level depression that colored the seemingly endless extended lockdown in Sydney in 2021. It held me spellbound. I had an inkling it would: I adored DiFrancesco’s earlier work, Psychopomps, which I read in 2019. The stories of Transmutation are electric and warm and sad. Like the other stories and novels on this list, they never fully answered my questions, never wrapped anything up in a neat bow. They left me immensely satisfied.


The Reminders

By Val Emmich,

Book cover of The Reminders

Why this book?

I was honored to read an early draft of this novel by fellow human and Jerseyite, Val Emmich, and was immediately taken with the voice of Joan, a 10-year-old girl with a special condition that gives her the ability to remember everything, but is afraid of being forgotten. To remedy that, she wants to win a prestigious songwriting contest by writing a song that makes people both want to dance and cry (two of the strongest feelings in her opinion). So she strikes a deal with Gavin, an adult songwriter who she believes can help her make that happen. Jersey City is the primary setting for this novel, a city that along with its many other charms, offers spectacular views of the New York City skyline. 


Dinner with the Schnabels

By Toni Jordan,

Book cover of Dinner with the Schnabels

Why this book?

The main protagonist Simon Larsen reminds me a little of my character, Oliver Clock, where for a while things had been going pretty well for him, until they very definitely don’t. When Simon’s world collapses around him – his business fails and he loses the family home he can’t seem to find the best way out, let alone get off the couch. This is a funny, warm, and brilliantly observed novel about the chaos of marriage and families – especially those whom you’ve married into. As a writer, I admire the author’s clever way with words and as a reader, I laughed out loud in parts. 


Playing Beatie Bow

By Ruth Park,

Book cover of Playing Beatie Bow

Why this book?

Like with my first recommendation, I feel that this book appeals to a desire for adventure that we all had as kids. Who didn’t dream of Time Travel adventures as a kid? And again, as an adult, I have of course come to realize that I’d not last a day if I were to fall into this sort of adventure – and although time travel is supposedly possible, albeit only as a one-way journey due to the nature of time-dilation, the undertaking of such a journey, and the physical aspects of what is involved, I’d never want to do it now. Of course, in Playing Beatie Bow, Abigail’s time travel method is very simple (and impossible), but the trouble she gets into in the past is complicated, complex, and dangerous. The book’s dual settings might not appeal to young readers of today, but its lessons about learning to live without pretensions, luxuries, or even the simplest of modern conveniences, are timeless and would, hopefully, always appeal to anyone’s better angels.


Sidewalk Flowers

By Jonarno Lawson, Sydney Smith (illustrator),

Book cover of Sidewalk Flowers

Why this book?

Another beautiful book with wonderful ink lines and a limited palette. We join a little girl and her father on a walk through an urban area. The dad is distracted by his phone but the little girl sees and gathers wildflowers and then presents them to those in need of comfort. A poignant story on the importance and power of noticing small things.

In the Wake of Madness: The Murderous Voyage of the Whaleship Sharon

By Joan Druett,

Book cover of In the Wake of Madness: The Murderous Voyage of the Whaleship Sharon

Why this book?

Studying the journals of the surviving crew, the historian of this real-life nineteenth-century tragedy pieces together the situation aboard the ship that set sail out of Massachusetts for the whaling grounds of the North Pacific. What happens aboard makes the literary Captain Ahab's monomaniacal actions seem heroic in comparison. Druett's true-crime-at-sea story provides a brutal counterpoint to the American epic, Moby Dick, and calls to mind The Wreck of the Whaleship Essex, a true account that is said to have inspired Melville. I pick Druett's account because of its historical true-crime approach, and because it is a lesser-known account.


Fancy Pants

By Cathy Marie Hake,

Book cover of Fancy Pants

Why this book?

Remember that song from Disney's Mulan – "I'll Make a Man Out of You"? Move that to the wild west with an English lady named Sydney disguised as a boy and a ranch owner determined to turn his partner's British fop of a "nephew" into a cowhand worth his salt, and you've got a good idea of the crazy antics awaiting you in Fancy Pants. With a strong supporting cast of characters and a giggle-inducing plot, this book is sure to leave you grinning.


Fairyland

By Sumner Locke Elliott,

Book cover of Fairyland

Why this book?

Elliott came out to his fans with this beautiful novel charting the life and times of Seaton Ross, a protagonist in the author’s image. Despite the terrible series of obstacles placed in Seaton’s way, from overbearing or absent family, deeply closeted and self-centred lovers to furious fag hags, he manages to escape Australia—just as Elliott didwithout developing a lasting hatred in his exile. Rendered with the author’s signature wit (he took a leaf from E. M. Forster), the homophobia of Australia’s working classes becomes a source of this novel’s pathos, so that when Seaton encounters the most shocking consequences a gay man can face, we are ill-prepared. A wry, sexy, heartfelt swan song from the Australian who made it big in the American broadcasting industry.