Category Archives: books & readings

Marion Mahony Griffin – What A Life!

Particular major urban developments in Canberra have been promoted to be in line with the plans of Marion Mahony Griffin and Walter Burley Griffin or somehow in the spirit of the Griffins.

Continue reading Marion Mahony Griffin – What A Life!

What happens in Sydney – happens here

Book Review: Killing Sydney: The Fight For a City’s Soul


Elizabeth Farrelly’s new book “Killing Sydney: The Fight For a City’s Soul” is a must-read for anyone with an interest in their local planning issues.

Continue reading What happens in Sydney – happens here

Mythomania Peter Conrad

Recommended Reading

Mythomania: Tales of Our Times from Apple to ISIS – by  Peter Conrad, Thames and Hudson

Several years ago I had listened to most of Peter Conrad’s BBC podcasts on his topic of Myths – and loved them.

I have read just a little of this book so far – but can say that it as good as if not better than listening to the podcasts of Peter’s broadcasts. It is now part of my reading for the next weeks. And there are new topics covered.

Continue reading Mythomania Peter Conrad

NO is NOT enough

New book by Naomi Klein

“This is one attempt to uncover how we got to this surreal political moment. It is also an attempt to predict how, under cover of shocks and crises, it could get a lot worse.

And it’s a plan for how, if we keep our heads, we might just be able to flip the script and arrive at a radically better future.” — From the Introduction

Continue reading NO is NOT enough

Hillary Clinton

The Destruction of Hillary Clinton

I have already reviewed this book – click here.

However I cannot stop pondering the challenge this story throws up for anyone interested in equity, fairness, and the role of the media in so many aspects of our daily lives.

If we had a real media, this story would have been totally different. Instead what happened here was the total manipulation of the media and through them members of the public, by all forms of malicious groups of people and individuals.

Continue reading Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton

The Destruction of Hillary Clinton

It was on hearing certain phrases used over and over again on Australian TV programs talking about the 2016 US election campaign that I became suspicious that we were witnessing a lazy press.

Almost daily  the media was taking the same phrases and words and using them over and over again – with no evidence that they could be accurate except that they were the words and phrases being used by most journalists and commentators at the time.

On the basis we were supposed to accept their words as fact.

Continue reading Hillary Clinton

New Philosopher

Totally recommended reading

The theme being – Future thinking

From the publishers:

Although the term and precise starting point might be disputed, many anthropologists believe that ‘behavioural modernity’ – when certain traits such as abstract thinking and symbolic behaviour are said to have emerged in humans – started around 50,000 years ago.

Continue reading New Philosopher

Quarterly Essay – David Marr

David Marr – The White Queen

From the publishers: Most Australians despise what Pauline Hanson stands for, yet politics in this country is now orbiting around One Nation. In this timely Quarterly Essay, David Marr looks at Australia’s politics of fear, resentment and race. Who votes One Nation, and why? How much of this is due to inequality? How much to racism? How should the major parties respond to anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim voices? What damage do Australia’s new entrepreneurs of hate inflict on the nation?

Continue reading Quarterly Essay – David Marr

The Monthly

Recommended: The Monthly April 2017.

This is a must read for the articles on the ALT-Right by Richard Cooke – who pulls no punches and tells it as we all know it but it seems few in the press are game to do – well done Richard; and then there’s a condemning article – with maybe far too much detail – but totally providing an accurate picture of the damage done to the NBN by Malcolm Turnbull and his pals. And what a cover!

Click here for the website

Rebecca Huntley Still Lucky

Book Review

Still Lucky, Rebecca Huntley, 2017. This is a good book. The message is clear – Australians are far more optimistic than we have been led to believe by our governments and the media. This researcher has done the research, travelled the country, talked to loads of people over many years. If you are interested in her reports on her research and comments – this book will give you all that and more.

Continue reading Rebecca Huntley Still Lucky

Helen Garner

Review: Everywhere I Look, Helen Garner

Here’s a good read. Being a selection of essays and diary notes based on many events and sometimes those quite happenings that one observes.

I have not read any Helen Garner’s work but have a reasonable awareness of the topics she writes on. Other reviewers have related this work to previous writings – for me I had to take it all on face value.

Continue reading Helen Garner

Being Turnbulled

9781760294885The Curious Story of Malcolm Turnbull, the Incredible Shrinking Man in the Top Hat

I wrote briefly about this earlier – and as I said before – it’s a book for anyone puzzled by the current loser who is Prime Minister.

click here for more on the book and here’s an article by the author about his dilemma–click here.

Continue reading Being Turnbulled

Being Turnbulled

9781760294885The Curious Story of Malcolm Turnbull, the Incredible Shrinking Man in the Top Hat

Here’s a book for anyone puzzled by the current loser who is Prime Minister. I am still reading it… click here or on the image. and here’s an article by the author about his dilemma–click here.   Review to follow…..

Quarterly Essay: Trump

Enemy Within: America politics in the time of Trump

9781925435207_fcThis essay by Don Watson, is totally recommended. If you are wondering what is going on with the USA and what is happening to democracy, then read this. It is not necessarily about Trump, but more about Don Watson’s observations of the American people and how they have ended up in this place – it is logical. This is in fact where the USA is today.

Continue reading Quarterly Essay: Trump

George Megalogenis

qe61The latest in this great series – Quarterly Essay – by George Megalogenis on Balancing Act: Australia between recession and renewal – hits all the buttons and makes the case for urgent action on how the country is being run – or more to the point how bad our governments have been for at least the last decade on so many things that effect the long term viable of the place.

Continue reading George Megalogenis

Quarterly Essay: Political Amnesia

Reviews: Quarterly Essay 60 — Political Amnesia

How we forgot how to govern, Laura Tingle, November 2015

qe60This is a recommended read for those with any sort of interest in how Australia has been and continues to be manged by the political ruling classes for the last couple of decades. I cannot say that anything Laura Tingle wrote about was shocking news, given my own experiences of dealing with governments and their bureaucracies,  but her insights and observations are definitely worth the read.

Continue reading Quarterly Essay: Political Amnesia

Notes on the Death of Culture

New Book: Mario Vargas Llosa, Notes on the Death of Culture

I suspect that many people would agree that the joys and subtleties of culture is under threat by mass media technologies and the expectations of the immediate. The demise of culture is addressed in a new book “Notes on the Death of Culture”. This is not a joyous read as it is more about being in a state of despair about so many things about us in western society.

Continue reading Notes on the Death of Culture

New Philosopher

Highly Recommended Reading.

newphilosopher9_cover-155x200The July 2015 issue of New Philosopher has the theme of Property. This magazine has loads of engaging short essays and heaps of great graphics — and photographs.

This issue on Property is very timely as the debate around housing, affordability and ownership continue to dominate how we are making decisions about our cities and towns.

Continue reading New Philosopher

Germany: Memories of a Nation

Book & Exhibition Review

Germany: Memories of a Nation, 2014

germanyI was somewhat aware of the complicated history of the German peoples. Over many years I had dipped into history books about various aspects of German histories. But despite this I had still not quite got my head around just how the German state as we know it today came into being.

This book by Neil MacGregor is recommended not only because it deals very well with the layers of history, but because he does this in a very accessible and enjoyable method. I cannot say the same for the exhibition.

Continue reading Germany: Memories of a Nation

New Philosopher

recommended reading: New Philosopher Magazine

np-cover7-123x162From their own marketing: There has been no shortage of health deities over the years, from the Aztec god of medicine Ixtlilton to the Afro-American Babalu Aye, spirit of illness and disease. There are at least 16 in Celtic mythology alone; the Greeks and Romans had more than 20 between them. You would be hard pressed to find a topic that matters more to humans – who are we without our health? Continue reading New Philosopher

Dreams and Imagination, MGA photography

Review: Photography Exhibition Catalogue

Dreams and Imagination: Light in the Modern City, Monash Gallery of Art , until 1st March 2015.

MGA-Light016I have just read a copy of a wonderful catalogue of a significant photographic exhibition at the Monash Gallery of Art (MGA). Yet again the MGA lives up to their reputation as ‘The Home of Australian Photography‘.

Chances are that I will not get to Melbourne to see this exhibition. However, the catalogue is a real gem and should be sought after by anyone interested in the development of Australian photography during the early 20th Century. (click on the images to enlarge)

Continue reading Dreams and Imagination, MGA photography

Sanctuary Magazine

Review of Sanctuary  Magazine

published quarterly by the Alternative Technology Association

S29-front-cover-web-e1415257835244Given the levels of climate change issues not being addressed effectively by our governments, many people look to various sources for inspiration and ideas to initiate their individual actions. Anyone renovating or building a house with environmental issues in mind will look to any available resources including particular TV programs and magazines for ideas and guidance.

Continue reading Sanctuary Magazine


Book Review

Canberra, Paul Daley, 2012

canberra-paul-daleyThis is small book is another in the city series published by Newsouth (University of NSW). I have previously reviewed Hobart (click here) and Adelaide (click here). Paul Daley has told a set of stories about Canberra, the National Capital. Sadly he seems to not have invested the time to gather local knowledge about the city, its people, its life style and its complexities as a 21st Century city of 380,000 people.

Continue reading Canberra

Climate Change

Book Announcement

This Changes Everything: Capitalism Vs. The Climate,
Naomi Klein 2014

ThisChangesEverything398x425Yet to read this, but I am listing as a suggestion for your Christmas reading and/or gift list. We have to move on climate change and I agree that it is an economic discussion, one about capitalism and corporate greed. No wonder our infamous Australia politicians want it off the agenda. It is about dealing with their mates and how they are ripping off the planet.

Continue reading Climate Change

Quarterly Essay – Clivosaurus

Review: Book

Quarterly Essay 56 – Clivosaurus

The politics of Clive Palmer, Guy Rundle, November 2014

9781863957014It has been extremely difficulty over the last year or so to get a clear picture of what the hell is going on with Australian Federal politics given the rise and rise of people such as Clive Palmer and his new PUPs – being the other members of the Palmer United Party. The  problem has been the reporting by the Australian media. They took the attitude early on to not treat Clive Palmer seriously. This book deals with this issue very nicely. It is a good read.

Continue reading Quarterly Essay – Clivosaurus

My Story Julia Gillard

Announcement: New Book

Julia Gillard’s – My Story

my storyHappy to promote this book. This story remains complex. There have been several thoughtful reviews of the book published online. As well as the usual crap from the mainstream media, who were part of the problem during Julia Gillard’s time as Prime Minister.  Sara Dowse has provided an intelligent and insightful review that is definitely worth reading. click here.


Hack Attack Nick Davies

2nd Notice: New Book
Hack Attack by Nick Davies

hack-attackJust to remind you that this book is worth reading. Sadly the ending is a bit depressing in that Nick considers the power elite have reshuffled a little but carry on a s before.

It has also been interesting to read the story of Rebecca Brooks. The question has been posed elsewhere, was she just a user of the corporate and political systems in order to climb the ladder to join the ranks of those in power?

Continue reading Hack Attack Nick Davies

Mark Henshaw The Snow Kimono

Announcement: Book – fiction
Mark Henshaw’s The Snow Kimono

snow_kimonoI have noted the very positive reviews of this new novel. Mark Henshaw is a local here in Canberra.

The Guardian has it wrong about his former career. Mark was a curator of prints at the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra. He led a double life for many years as curator and as an author.

Continue reading Mark Henshaw The Snow Kimono

Michael Moore of Canberra

Commentary: Articles by Michael Moore of Canberra

Michael-Moore-175x1751I have mentioned articles written by a local, Michael Moore. While he holds down a very busy job in health, he continues to devote serious time to punching out thoughtful articles in one of the local free newspapers. They are most welcomed.

Continue reading Michael Moore of Canberra

Andrew Leigh Economics of Just About Everything

Review: New Book
The Economics of Just About Everything: The Hidden Reasons for Our Curious Choices and Surprising Successes in Life. Andrew Leigh, 2014

resized_9781743314715_224_297_FitSquareI have had the pleasure of reading books and articles by Andrew Leigh. He happens to be my local Federal member of the House of Representatives. I have been positive about his writings.  I am not so sure about this book.

From the publisher: If you like fresh facts and provocative ideas, this is great train and weekend reading. You’ll soon see the world and the people around you in a new light. I disagree.  I may now see Andrew Leigh in a different light.

Continue reading Andrew Leigh Economics of Just About Everything

Fashion Photography Magdalene Keaney

Notice: New photography book
Fashion Photography Next, Magdalene Keaney

With contributions by Eleanor Weber

9780500544358_26798I have just seen this new book on the tables at Readings in St Kilda, Melbourne. So that means you can order in Australia and they deliver it for free.

This is a WOW book. It is about photography, about contemporary practice of  fashion photography, and it is published in a lavish and stylish book.

Continue reading Fashion Photography Magdalene Keaney

Architecture of Enjoyment

Announcement: New Book on Architecture
Toward an Architecture of Enjoyment, 2014, Author: Henri Lefebvre

image_miniI’m about to get my hands on a copy of this book. Having read some of the commentary about the author and the concepts he is dealing with, the book reinforces the need for more discussion about the topic of enjoyment of architecture and urban spaces.

My life is already involved with dealing with planning bureaucracies that lack vision and any notion of good design. I have posted several times about the blandness of architecture in our cities.

Continue reading Architecture of Enjoyment

The Saturday Paper

Review: Media


I am recommending that you read a couple of articles in last weekend’s Saturday Paper. As a general comment, The Saturday Paper is a good read. At times the combined effect of their well written articles about current issues can be a little depressing.  Australia’s has one of its worst governments and most commentators are doing the right thing in examining just how much trouble these people are causing the country. It is not good news. My preference is that I would like to see more regular articles on the visual arts!

Continue reading The Saturday Paper

Andrew Leigh and a new book

Notice: New Book
The Economics of Just About Everything: The Hidden Reasons for Our Curious Choices and Surprising Successes in Life.
Andrew Leigh, 2014

resized_9781743314715_224_297_FitSquareMy review will have to follow once I have a copy and have read it. Having received notice of the book, I have been checking several comments online, and knowing Andrew Leigh’s early writings and books, I feel very confident that this will be another good read.

Here is some text copied from the publisher’s site:

Continue reading Andrew Leigh and a new book

Where Song Began: Tim Low

Review: Book
Where Song Began: Australia’s Birds and How They Changed the World, Tim Low

9780670077960-1Ever now and then along comes a great book. This is one of those. If you already admire Australian birds, this book will still change the way you think about them.

I will never be able to walk past a group of Choughs and not wonder about if one of them has been kidnapped from another group and is now being used as a slave. There are many such fascinating things about birds in this book.

Continue reading Where Song Began: Tim Low

The Monthly on Supermarkets

The duopoly of supermarkets in Australia

8061542291243433879There is a very hard-hitting article in the August 2014 issue of The Monthly on how the two large supermarkets have been allowed to rip anyone and everyone off. Even more depressing is that it points to how we, as consumers,  are continuing to allow this to happen.

The major point raised by the article is how this dominance of the two of these supermarkets has reduced the food security in this country.

Continue reading The Monthly on Supermarkets

Canberra Architecture

Review: Book
Canberra Architecture, Andrew Metcalf
Watermark Architectural Guides, 2003

CanberraI picked up this book quiet a while ago but it is only now that I have had time to look through it. I am glad I did, as after reading through quite a bit of it, I have become more aware that Canberra has a reasonable amount of good and notable architecture.

I have a quiet interest in good architecture and have spent some energies complaining about the current crop of badly designed houses and commercial buildings being thrust onto Canberra. Residents have despaired that good design in our civic areas and suburbs has become a thing of the past.

Continue reading Canberra Architecture

Annabel Crabb

Comment: Book Reviews
Annabel Crabb and the reviews of Hilary Clinton’s Book, Hard Choices

There’s a good chance that I will not buy Hilary Clinton’s Book, Hard Choices. I admit to not reading any of these large political biographies. I do however often follow the media’s comments on such productions to sense just how the media treats the authors (even if they are mostly ghost writers).

Continue reading Annabel Crabb

Manhattan: The Island at the Centre of the World

Review: Book
The Island at the Centre of the World: The Untold Story of Dutch Manhattan and the Founding of New York, by Russell Shorto, 2004

centreofworldSurely the citizens of the USA would have by now have worked out the history about their first colonists.

They probably thought so until the research behind this book surfaced and now they can read about the real history from this author, Russell Shorto.

This book is the precursor to Russell Shorto’s later book, Amsterdam, reviewed earlier – click here.  Both are fascinating reads.

Continue reading Manhattan: The Island at the Centre of the World

50 People Who Stuffed Up Australia

Review: Book
50 People Who Stuffed Up Australia; by Guy Rundle & Dexter Rightwad, 2012

9781742703831Sometimes I really like Guy Rundle’s style of commentary. But I have to admit that at other times I find I just do not get engaged and do not finish reading his regular online comments and essays.

The latter applies to this book. I just did not take to his style on this subject. It seemed far too exaggerated an effort to bring about a list of 50 well-known people and to twist the stories to class them as people who stuffed up Australia.

Continue reading 50 People Who Stuffed Up Australia

Clive James

from the Conversation
Clive James on death, dragons and writing in the home stretch

4fh6nk9q-1401790169One wonders how Clive James would react to the realities of attitudes within Australia today. His illnesses have restricted him to staying close to his hospital which has meant he will not be coming home for a last visit. Therefore he has to revisit Australia through his memories.

Eureka Henrich has provided a piece on Clive’s presentation at the Australia and New Zealand Festival of Literature & Arts at King’s College London. His appearance there surprised everyone simply as his illnesses are so restricting to his travel. Click here for the piece.

HOME Witold Rybczynski

Review: Book
Home: A short history of an idea
by Witold Rybczynski 1986

134218I bought this book about tens years ago – maybe even more. I can remember starting to read it and thinking what a great little book. Then the business of work interfered with normality and sadly enough time did not materialise again to sit down peacefully and get into this little gem; until now.

I found the book amongst so many other unloved publication the other week and immediately set out to enjoy it fully. I did. I now recommend it highly. What an intelligent and entertaining writer.

Continue reading HOME Witold Rybczynski

Climate Politics

Book Review:  as posted on Inside Story
Power Failure: The Inside Story of Climate Politics Under Rudd and Gillard
By Philip Chubb, Black Inc.

gillardruddThere’s a good book review uploaded to the online site Inside Story. The book is  The Inside Story of Climate Politics Under Rudd and Gillard.

Andrew Dodd provides a thorough overview of Philip Chubb’s insider account of the demise of Kevin Rudd’s climate scheme.

His review males the book to be essential reading. My stack of books is already too high so I have provided this review as a way of tempting others. Click here.

Art As Therapy NGV

Review: Visual Arts Book
Art as Therapy: Works from the collection of the National Gallery of Victoria, Alain de Botton and John Armstrong

Art-as-Therapy-bookThis soft cover book is the guide for the special labels placed around the State Art Gallery of Victoria’s St Kilda Road Venue.

As a first comment I have to say that I was disappointed and was in fact a little taken aback by the style and contents. I am not so sure about how this effort enhances the gallery visit within the NGV*.

Continue reading Art As Therapy NGV


Review: Book
Amsterdam: A History of the World’s Most Liberal City, Russell Shorto, published 2013

Amstersdam-250x378If you have any interest in liberal thinking, tolerance and the enlightenment, then this is a book you must read.

Given the threats to these values almost daily by the current Australian government, it is a must to take time out and do a reality check on just how far backwards these elected clowns are trying to take us.

While obviously about the city, this book is really a celebration of the people and their influence on the whole western world.

Continue reading Amsterdam


Review: book
Hope, Refugees and their supporters in Australia since 1947,
Ann-Mari Jordens, 2012

HopeCover9MayI have mentioned this book in an earlier blog – click here.

I make reference to this great piece of research again as I have been recently disgusted how particular media voices continue to express pride in the current government claims in that they ‘stopped the boats’. This phase has been used in a totally unfeeling manner as if there were not real people involved.

Continue reading Hope

Refugees and Australia

Comment and Book Notices
Australia and refugees

Hope: Refugees and their Supporters in Australia since 1947, Ann-Mari Jordens, 2012

That Sinking Feeling: Asylum Seekers and the Search for the Indonesian Solution, Paul Toohey, 2014

Photo: SMH – Dean Sewell

 The above photograph was attached to a 2004 Sydney Morning Herald article. Has it been that long that Australia has been doing these dreadful things to refugees? No. It has been much longer than 10 years. The really sad fact is that in 2014 this country has implemented programs to deal with boat refugees that just cannot get any worse.

Continue reading Refugees and Australia

Post-Soviet Architecture

Review: Book
The Butt-Ugly Allure of Post-Soviet Architecture

The photographs of architecture of the Post-Soviet era.

There’s a review in WIRED online of a book. To quote: Frank Herfort moved to Moscow with no intention to make a book. Like all photographers, the German-born artist always keeps one eye open for potential subjects, but making a book of architectural photos was never the plan. “While scouting the new city for myself, I began to notice these amazing buildings.”

Continue reading Post-Soviet Architecture


Review: Book
Adelaide, Kerryn Goldsworthy, 2011

9781742232621.jpg.400x0_q20This is another of those smallish book  published about Australia’s capital cities. I have already reviewed Hobart, by Peter Timms.

I have to confess that I did not take to the book on Adelaide and at times seriously considered giving up. In the end I had a move quickly through whole sections in order to see where the author was going.

Continue reading Adelaide


Book Review (re-posted): Soils

What Has Nature Ever Done for Us

There is book review on the Guardian site. This is timely as Australia government goes through all sorts of actions to set the clock back on environmental issues. I dread what chance anyone would have right now of confronting this government over the long-term treatment of our soils, our biodiversity; in fact anything at all to do with nature.

Continue reading Soils


Review: Book
Hobart, Peter Timms, 2012

Please note this is the 2012 revised edition. The original 2009 edition was titled In Search of Hobart.

This smallish book I picked up for several reasons. I know Peter Timms, I have read and enjoyed his previous writing, I know several people who live in Hobart and it is a city that I have visited for many reasons over several decades.

Peter writes not as a historian or travel writer, or as one doing a tourism promotion. Instead Peter uses a reportage style, he tells stories about people, the places and events. All this is based on research of available documents and interviews and observations of a diversity of people. In summary, this is an interesting read. For whom is a good question.

Continue reading Hobart

Green Wash

Review: Book

Green Wash, Big Brands and Carbon Scams,
Guy Pearse, Black Inc. 2012

The science is in. Climate change is happening and has been happening since the industrial revolution. People who are concerned about climate change are frustrated by all the denials and misleading information being promulgated.

The sad facts are that the chickens are coming home to roost and still there continues to be a complete lack of action to address the issues.

The general outlook has become more bleak in recent years as our elected governments have stalled in taking the required urgent and realistic actions.

We have no leaders within government.

Continue reading Green Wash

Philosophy in the Garden

Review: Book

Damon Young, Philosophy in the Garden

Melbourne University Press

From Damon’s own blog:

Damon Young explores one of literature’s most intimate relationships: authors and their gardens. For some, the garden provided a retreat from workaday labour; for others, solitude’s quiet counsel. For all, it played a philosophical role: giving their ideas a new life. This book reveals the profound thoughts discovered in parks, backyards and pot-plants. It does not provide tips for mowing overgrown cooch grass, or mulching a dry Japanese maple. It is a philosophical companion to the garden’s labours and joys.

Continue reading Philosophy in the Garden

The Year My Politics Broke

Review: Book

The Year My Politics Broke, Jonathan Green 2013

Jonathan Green hits the nail on the head so many times. This is a reality read and one that could leave you completely devastated given the current levels of political debate and the sparsity of good journalism is very much a worry.

Politics in the country is definitely off the rails. The whole Murdoch and Rudd and Rabbott thing has been damaging to any notion of fairness left in the world we live and work.

It seems that within Australia anyone can say they are being open and transparent, that they have plans for the future, are having a governance review, and that they have inherited questionable budgets.

The reality is that they lie, are bullies, and pursue their own interests at the cost of anyone else.

Continue reading The Year My Politics Broke

Untangling The Web

Review: Book

Untangling the Web, Aleks Krotoski 2013

If you are reading this then you are on the web. After more than twenty years of being on the web it’s timely to benchmark what is happening?

In her book, Aleks takes us through some of the questions such as just how much have we changed because of the world-wide web, Facebook, twitter and google and all internet thingys.

Do not expect her to supply you with all the answers as the internet is very much a work in progress.


Continue reading Untangling The Web