The Fatal Shore, Robert Hughes, 1987 — The definitive chronicle of the country’s convict beginnings by one of the world’s most esteemed art critics, who grew up in Sydney.
In a Sunburned Country, Bill Bryson, 2000 — An irreverent overview of the country that is jam-packed with factual information and hilarious anecdotes.
The Road from Coorain: Recollections of a Harsh and Beautiful into Adulthood, Jill Ker Conway, 1992 — An incredible memoir about growing up in the outback, coming of age in Sydney of the 1950s and coming into her own as a historian and educator. Ker Conway ultimately became Smith College’s first female president.
The Songlines, Bruce Chatwin, 1987 — This brilliant meditation on why men wander and tell stories by one of the best travel writers of the 20th century illuminates much more than just the aboriginal culture.
Unreliable Memoirs, Clive James, 1981 — The prolific, award-winning Australian author’s acerbic memories of growing up in suburban Sydney.
Sydney, Jan Morris, 1992 — The author of numerous travel books, Morris gives a historical and social look at Australia’s largest city, founded in 1788 as a run-off for British convicts.
Thirty Days in Sydney, Peter Carey, 2001 — A slim and amusing volume by a native who muses on the modern metropolis.
Bliss, Peter Carey, 1981 — A satiric and highly entertaining novel delves into a Sydney ad-exec’s spiritual crisis.
The Unknown Terrorist: A Novel, Richard Flanagan, 2007 — A page-turner about a Sydney pole-dancer whose one-night-stand puts her under suspicion for abetting a terrorist in the attempted bombing of Sydney’s Olympic stadium.
Lillian’s Story, Kate Grenville, 1986 — A poetic first novel that creates a fictional autobiography for Lil Sanger, a trouble Sydney homeless woman; the emotional survival story won the Austalian/Vogel award.
Carpentaria, Alexis Wright, 2006 — This critically acclaimed novel takes place in the fictional town of Desperance and sheds light on Aboriginal culture and the difficulties the indigenous tribes face, including interacting with local white officials.
Children and Teens
My Girragundji, Meme McDonald, 1998 — A heartwarming children’s tale of a young boy torn between his traditional aboriginal family and the modern world who finds friendship with a tree frog.
This is Australia, M Sasek, 1970 —Part of M. Sasek’s beloved travel series, this book takes children on a tour of the people, sights and animals of Australia.
Muriel’s Wedding, P. J. Hogan, 1994 — Toni Collette stars as a homely, Abba-obsessed local girl in Porpoise Spit, Australia who finds love with the help of friend Rachel Griffiths in a feel-good comedy.
Strictly Ballroom, Baz Luhrman, 1992 — The writer/director’s breakthrough is a likeable musical comedy set in the world of ballroom dancing competitions.
Crocodile Dundee, 1986 — Classic 1980s outback adventure set in the Northern Territory.
Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, 1994 —Quirky tale about three drag queens traveling from Sydney to Alice Springs in a bus.
Rabbit-Proof Fence, 2002 — Based on the true story of the so-called “Stolen Generation” of young Australian Aboriginal children who were taken from their families by the government and forcibly “integrated” into white culture.
Ned Kelly, Gregor Jordan, 2003 — Starring Heath Ledger, this film recounts the true story of Ned Kelly, a notorious Australian outlaw, and sheds a light on 19th century Australia.