Thursday 26 Nov 2020 | 00:57 | SYDNEY
Thursday 26 Nov 2020 | 00:57 | SYDNEY

Lowy staff talk about the year in books (part 3)


Rory Medcalf


18 December 2007 15:16

I’ve just finished Christopher Koch’s new novel The Memory Room.  It is a powerful story, with surprisingly evocative descriptions of Canberra’s (not to mention pre-prosperity Beijing’s) peculiar charms. But what makes this book even more special is its sustained, if sometimes slightly awkward, effort to capture the flavour of Australia’s intelligence and diplomatic world, not a regular subject for fiction.

The best non-fiction books on international security I have read in the past 12 months are George Packer’s The Assassin’s Gate (on Iraq) and Steve Coll’s Ghost Wars (on Afghanistan), though both are a year or two old. Also illuminating is  Jeremy Scahill’s Blackwater: a detailed and damning if  melodramatic chronicle of the rise of this giant among private armies and its talent for losing hearts and minds in Iraq. 

On my summer reading list is Peter Hessler’s Oracle Bones, which China watchers assure me is an exquisitely rendered portrait of the new China, its people and what drives them. And, as the weather warms up, Thomas Homer-Dixon’s The Upside of Down promises tips on how civilisations can cope with environmental disaster -- along with lessons on what happens when there’s no plan B.

Click on the names for books-of-the-year nominations from  Bill Bowtell and Allan Gyngell.