Crystelle Cordero, Media & Communications Manager, ANZ Stadium

While Australia grapples with living in self-isolation amid the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve all suddenly found ourselves… at home. Alone. With time on our hands.

And while it’s important we stay inside and do our part to flatten the curve, it’s equally important to take a break from work and the news.

To help you find some blissful escapism, we present 10 most engaging, absorbing and distracting reads, as recommended by our VenuesLive bookworms.

Enjoy!

Note: We are starting a monthly VenuesLive Book Club and would love you to be a part of it! If you’re interested, please drop Paula Brodie and myself an email by Monday 6 April.

 

Alannah Brady, Corporate Hospitality & Sponsorship Coordinator, ANZ Stadium

Title: Where the Crawdads Sing

Author: Delia Owens

Genre: Fiction / Mystery

Why you should read it: Before I started, I had to have a quick google on what a Crawdad was (and for anyone unsure – it’s a crayfish and no, they can’t actually sing).  If the title isn’t intriguing enough for you, the plot is incredibly gripping and I could not put it down!

The story is set in North Carolina in the mid 1900’s, following two separate timelines that slowly begin to intertwine. The first timeline is about the life and adventures of a young girl living on the outskirts of town in the swampland, abandoned by her family and living in isolation from the townspeople (a relatable theme for many of us right now!). The second timeline follows the murder investigation of the town’s most popular sports star.

It’s a beautifully written story that touches on prejudice, privilege and segregation – and there’s a wild twist at the end! If that hasn’t sold you, Reece Witherspoon recently picked up the production rights and is set to bring the book to life on the silver screen.

 

Julian Keith, Media & Communications Manager, Bankwest Stadium

Title: The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle

Author: Stuart Turton

Genre: Mystery / Thriller

Why you should read it: “The future isn’t a warning my friend, it’s a promise, and it won’t be broken by us. That’s the nature of the trap we’re caught in.”

At 11pm, Evelyn Hardcastle will die. It cannot be stopped, only observed. Solve the crime, find the murderer, earn your freedom – that’s the directive for our lead Aiden Bishop as he lives the same day on repeat at Blackheath Manor in the hunt for Ms Hardcastle’s killer.

Stuart Turton’s debut novel is a whirlwind of twists, turns and intricacies that will have you tearing through mind-boggling page after page. This is Agatha Christie meets Groundhog Day with a sprinkling of Inception. Give yourself up to this book, don’t go looking for answers, they will find you.

Note: The Audiobook adaption is particularly good.

 

George Perry, Project Manager, VenuesLive, NSW

Title: To Kill A Mockingbird

Author: Harper Lee

Genre: Historical Fiction

Why you should read it: In the last millennium, when I was in Year 9 at school, I was required to write a book review of the prescribed text. Instead of reading the book, I bought course notes of the book and wrote the review based on that*.

25 years on, I decided to read the book – To Kill A Mockingbird.  I have now read it four or five times and it is the greatest book I have ever read.

Based on America’s south in the 1930s, it is a story of Atticus Finch, a white lawyer who defends a black man falsely charged with the rape of a white woman. Seen through the eyes of Atticus’ children, Scout and Jem, it highlights the dreadful and overt racism and prejudice of the day and Atticus’ determination to see justice for his black client.

It is a beautifully written book by Harper Lee and the movie of the same name is excellent. Every home should have a copy of this book.

* I got 8/10 for the review. Suckers!

 

Crystelle Cordero, Media & Communications Manager, ANZ Stadium

Title: Boy Swallows Universe

Author: Trent Dalton

Genre: Fiction

Why you should read it: Brisbane, 1983: A lost father, a mute brother, a mum in jail, a heroin dealer for a stepfather and a notorious crim for a babysitter. It’s not as if 12-year-old Eli’s life isn’t complicated enough already. He’s just trying to learn what it takes to be a good man, but life keeps throwing obstacles in the way – not least of which is Tytus Broz, legendary Brisbane drug dealer. But Eli’s life is about to get a whole lot more serious. He’s about to fall in love. And, oh yeah, break into Boggo Road Gaol on Christmas Day, to save his mum.

Trent Dalton’s Boy Swallows Universe was labelled one of the must-read books of 2019, and after ignoring the hype for a couple months (because books about drug dealers and career crims aren’t typically my thing) I finally gave in. And it blew my mind.

A story of brotherhood, true love and the most unlikely of friendships, Boy Swallows Universe hypnotises you with wonder, then hammers you with heartbreak.

This will be the most magical, joyous and exhilarating novel you will read while in isolation. Guaranteed.

 

Graham Mason, Head of Media, Communications & Government Relations, Optus Stadium

Title: The Road

Genre: Fiction / Post-apocalyptic

Author: Cormac McCarthy

Why you should read it:  Quite simply, the COVID-19 pandemic is a walk-in-the-park compared to this post-apocalyptic world presented by Pulitzer Prize winning novelist Cormac McCarthy.

Set in a world that has been hit by a catastrophe – we never learn what it actually is – it is about a father and son traversing a burned, ravaged America, on the road heading to the coast, trying to survive. There is not much of the population left and those that are out there, you don’t want to meet.

The best insight to this book is one provided by Jeremy Clarkson. Yes, that Jeremy Clarkson. He claimed he and his wife once found themselves on holiday in the Bahamas both reading The Road.  Clarkson said at one stage, while reading the book by the pool, he was pulling his towel up over him to try to keep warm.  At the same time, he looked across at his wife and she was sobbing.  Terrifying, dazzling, beautiful, shocking, amazing – all these words describe this novel.

 

Greg Sleigh, General Manager Commercial, Optus Stadium

Title: Medium Raw

Genre: Non Fiction / Food & Drink

Author: Anthony Bourdain

Why you should read it: This week I’m reading Medium Raw – the sequel to Kitchen Confidential and the last book Anthony Bourdain wrote about food before he passed away. The last four pages of the final chapter, ‘Still Here’ contain the ultimate acknowledgment of a post event scene:

‘What I do miss, I tell them, is that first pull on a cold beer after work. That is irreplaceable… That single moment after a long and very busy night, sitting down with your colleagues, taking a deep breath with unspoken congratulations all round- and then that first sip of cold, cold beer. It tastes like victory.

You look at each other with the intense camaraderie of people who suffered together and think, ‘we did well tonight. We will go home proud. There are nods and half smiles. A sigh. Maybe even a groan of relief.

Once again. We survived. We did well.  We’re still here.’

 

Hayley Molloy, Sales Executive, Optus Stadium

Title: A Little Life

Genre: Fiction

Author: Hanya Yanagihara

Why you should read it: This is my most favourite book, despite the tough subject matter, I couldn’t put it down.  It’s also a book that stays with you afterwards, and you can’t stop thinking about it.

The story follows four friends in New York, from college to middle age, and centralises around one particular member of the friendship group and the story slowly reveals his life and what has brought him to where he is today. It deals with male relationships, abuse, trauma, recovery, chronic pain and self-harm, so it is a heavy subject matter, but so worth it!

Not many books can make me cry, but this definitely did. The story is so tragic, but also so beautiful in how friendship and love can get people through the toughest parts of life, I highly recommend it!

 

George Perry, Project Manager, VenuesLive NSW

Title: Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup

Author: John Carryrou

Genre: Non-fiction / Business / Crime

Why you should read it: Chances are, unless you read the business or health sections of the paper or news websites, you won’t have heard of Theranos or Elizabeth Holmes. John Carryrou, a Wall Street Journal journalist, outlines the spectacular rise and even more spectacular implosion of a company promising to revolutionalise blood testing.

Holmes, a twenty-something Stanford dropout and one-time darling of Silicon Valley, through her company Theranos, promised the world that she was producing a machine that could undertake hundreds of blood tests instantly with just a single drop of blood.  Its promise, and the charm of Holmes, sucked in some sort of the smartest and most judicious investors in the US.  The only problem was that the machine, and the technology, didn’t work. And was never going to.

Bad Blood is a fascinating chronicle of Holmes and her once ‘unicorn’ company, but is more than just the sad demise of another start up in Silicon Valley. It charts the rise of the company to a value of US $9 billion (and Holmes’ personal wealth at half that) to zero and Holmes now facing a raft of criminal charges.

An incredible story of lies, narcissism, bullying, and deceit not only of her staff, investors and desperate patients but also the Federal Drug Administration. It’s a cracking read that will leave you shaking your head in disbelief.

 

Kelvin Smith, Building Services Manager, VenuesLive NSW

Title: The Book Thief

Author: Markus Zusak

Genre: Historical fiction

Why you should read it: Set in Nazi Germany 1939, the narrator is Death who has never been busier. The story begins with Liesel, the main character, standing by her brother’s graveside. Her life is forever changed when she picks up a single object partially hidden by the snow. It is the Gravediggers Handbook, left there by accident, and it is her first act of book thievery.

So begins a love affair with books and words as Liesel with the help of Hans, her lovable accordion playing foster father, learns to read in these dangerous and dark times.

The Book Thief will make you happy, angry and very sad. It is also very thought provoking.

 

Paula Brodie, Project Manager, VenuesLive NSW

Title: The Land Before Avocado

Author: Richard Glover

Genre: Non-Fiction

Why you should read it: With all the constant bad news we hear across the globe on a daily basis (that is even worse at the moment) we forget how far society has progressed.  Richard Glover tells entertaining stories of growing up in Australia in the 60’s and 70’s and shows that in many ways, life was not as rosy as is sometimes remembered.  This book reminds us of the things that were great and the not so great such as corporate punishment in schools, the impact of lax alcohol laws, smoking, censorship, gender inequality and more.  It’s an entertaining light read that in times of turmoil helps to remind us of all the good of the now.

‘We didn’t even have iceberg lettuce. Well, we did – but it wasn’t called iceberg lettuce. It was just called lettuce.  The reason? There were no other kinds.’