A Guide to Great Books to Buy for Christmas

Holiday reading, Christmas gift guide, great books

Reading on holiday is one our favourite things. Image by Shutterstock

Giving books for Christmas is a wonderful idea, and we have put together a collection of great reads to help you tick off your shopping list.

Loving Country
By Bruce Pascoe and Vicky Shukuroglou

Loving Country, Bruce Pascoe, Hardie GrantLoving Country is a powerful and essential guidebook that offers a new way to travel and discover Australia through an Indigenous narrative. In this beautifully designed and photographed edition, co-authors Bruce Pascoe and Vicky Shukuroglou, in consultation with communities and Elders across Australia, show travellers how to see the country as herself, to know her whole and old story, and to find the way to fall in love with her, our home.

Featuring 18 places in detail, from the ingenious fish traps at Brewarrina and the rivers that feed the Great Barrier Reef, to the love stories of Wiluna and the whale story of Margaret River, there is so much to celebrate. This immersive book covers history, Dreaming stories, traditional cultural practices, Indigenous tours and the importance of recognition and protection of place. It offers keys to unlock the heart of this loving country for those who want to enrich their understanding of our continent, and for travellers looking for more than a whistle-stop tour of Australia.

Bruce and Vicky hope that all communities will be heard when they tell their stories, and that these stories and the country from which they have grown will be honoured.


Loving Country is written by Bruce Pascoe and Vicky Shukuroglou, is priced at $45 and published by Hardie Grant Travel.

Ikaria Ikaria, Greece, Hardie Grant Travel
By Meni Valle

In the Aegean Sea lies the Greek island of Ikaria, where blue Mediterranean waters lap against a mountainous coastline and rocky trails lead to quaint villages, and where the locals seem to hold a secret.

Ikaria is known worldwide for its incredibly high life expectancies and low rates of chronic disease, much of which can be attributed to diet. Born to Greek parents, Meni Valle has always been fascinated by her family’s traditions of cooking and eating. In Ikaria, Food and Life in the Blue Zone, Meni collects traditional recipes from across the island that encapsulate the best of Mediterranean food: vegetables, beans, whole grains, small amounts of meat and fish, a couple of glasses of wine, and plenty of olive oil. But she also tells the stories that make up Ikaria, where life is all about taking time: time to cook, to eat, to nap, to spend with family and friends, to enjoy and to appreciate. With intimate glimpses of the island’s festivals, produce, kitchens and people, Ikaria is a cookbook that will transport and transform you.

Ikaria is written by Meni Valle, priced at $45and published by Hardie Grant Books.

Places we swim Sydney
By Caroline Clements and Dillon Seitchik-Reardon

From lap pools to ocean pools, harbour pools to waterfalls, Sydney is arguably the best major city in Australia for swimming, if not the world! And Places We Swim Sydney covers the very best of the city’s famous and hidden swimming spots.

After the success of their first book, Places We Swim, authors Caroline Clements and Dillon Seitchik-Reardon have followed up with a deep dive into Sydney in this ultimate city guide to the aqueous outdoors. Places We Swim Sydney is divided into six city regions, encompassing walks and swims within two hours of the CBD – from Manly in the north, to Maroubra in the east, Royal National Park in the south, and out to the Blue Mountains in the west. You’ll discover just what makes each swimming spot unique, learn the best time to go, gain some useful local knowledge and find out the most delicious things to eat nearby.

With destinations ranging from neighbourhood city pools to gorges that feel like the outback, Places We Swim Sydney is a celebration of not just these magnificent swimming locations, but of the diverse landscapes and water-loving communities that make up Sydney.


Places we Swim – Sydney is written by Caroline Clements and Dillon Seitchik-Reardon, priced at and published by Hardie Grant.

Flower: Exploring the World in Bloom
By Various

You don’t have to be a gardener to fall in love with this beautiful book, Flower: Exploring the World in Bloom.

It takes readers on a journey across continents and cultures to discover the endless ways artists and designers throughout history, have depicted flowers and floral motifs. The captivating survey is a collection of more than 300 spectacular images of flowers depicted in art, history, science and culture.

It has been curated by an international panel of experts on the subject, including art historians, botanists, floral designers and museum curators. Readers will learn about 17th-century tulipomania, Victorian orchidelirium, the Japanese art of ikebana and the Flower Power political movement.

The images span a wide variety of styles and media featuring both renowned and lesser-known works. Flower features a wide range of artists and image-makers including icons such as Cecil Beaton, Rachel Ruysch, William Morris, Pierre-Joseph Redouté, Ansel Adams, Claude Monet and Leonardo da Vinci. Contemporary creatives include Lewis Miller, Azuma Makoto, Nick Cave, Yayoi Kusama, Flora Starkey, Jeff Wall and Alexander McQueen.

This volume also showcases a broad range of types of flowers from all over the world, from much-loved garden blooms and wild flowers, to exotic and tropical varieties. Readers will find roses, irises, tulips, daisies and poppies sharing pages with fritillaries, hollyhocks, cacti, orchids and cherry blossoms.


Flower: Exploring The World in Bloom is written by various, priced at $79.95, and published by phaidon.com

The Man Behind The Maps
By James Niehues

James Niehaus, ski maps, ski trail maps, The Man Behind the MapsWhen you go to a ski resort and head up the lifts on day one, chances are you have a trail map in your ski jacket. And you might not have realised that 300 trail maps have been hand-painted. That’s right – hand painted.

James Niehues started painting trail maps back in 1988 when he painted Colorado’s Winter Park. He has since meticulously created over 300 ski resort maps, of ski playgrounds on five continents, including famous places like Aspen, Whistler, as well as places in Australia and New Zealand. James said: “Each view is hand-painted by brush and airbrush using opaque watercolour to capture the detail and variations of nature’s beauty. In many instances, distortions are necessary to bring everything into a single view. The trick is to do this without the viewer realising that anything has been altered from the actual perspective.”

Featuring over 200 ski resort trail maps hand-painted by one legendary artist, this beautiful 292-page hardcover coffee table book is the first and definitive compilation of the art created by James Niehues during his 30-year career.

The Man Behind the Maps is written by James Niehues, priced at US$90, and self-published. You can purchase it for the ski lover in your life HERE.

The Big Book of Great Australian Bush Yarns
By Graham Seal

Graham Seal is one of Australia’s master storytellers. This bumper collection of yarns from the bush includes two bestselling collections: Great Australian Stories and Larrikins, Bush Tales and Other Great Australian Stories.

It gathers some of our best stories since colonial times, retold in Graham’s warm style.
It takes a certain character to make a living in the Australian bush. In the most difficult situations, laughter often comes to the rescue. Here are pioneers and battlers, convicts and settler’s children, and a land that tests them with fire, flood and drought, in stories resonant with Australia’s distinctive wry humour.

Graham Seal is the bestselling author of Australia’s Funniest Yarns, Great Australian Journeys, Great Bush Stories and Great Convict Stories.


The Big Book of Great Australian Bush Yarns is written by Graham Seal, priced at $32.99, and published by Allen & Unwin

The 52 Week Project
By Lauren Keenan

Lauren Keenan was separated from her husband, lonely and miserable. She realised that things needed to change. It was time to try something new.

52 new things in fact. 52 new things in 52 weeks. Her year of new experiences was a game changer. It repaired her relationship with her husband, she regained confidence and she realised how satisfying it can be to push yourself to your limits and to do things alone. She also learned that true happiness is more likely to be found in the everyday fabric of life.

Lauren Keenan is a Senior Foreign Policy Officer at the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.


The 52 Week Project is written by Lauren Keenan, priced at $29.99 and published by Allen and Unwin.

You Shouldn’t Have Joined
A memoir by General Sir Peter Cosgrove

Sir Peter Cosgrove, great book, General Cosgrove

The warm, fascinating memoir of one of Australia’s most popular and prominent public figures
General Sir Peter Cosgrove AK AC (Mil) CVO MC (Retd) is one of Australia’s most significant public figures. As a soldier he saw action in Vietnam, winning the Military Cross, and rose to the very top of his profession, becoming Chief of the Defence Force.
In 2014, Cosgrove became Australia’s Governor-General. As Governor-General he travelled far and wide, supporting Australians in times of crisis, sadness, joy or celebration, representing us on the world stage with humour, intelligence and a force of personal magnetism that was felt by everyone from prime ministers to presidents. When he retired in July 2019, it was as one of the most beloved and respected governors-general in Australia’s history. Cosgrove represents the traits we truly value: warmth, humanity, toughness and loyalty. His humour and empathy shone through the pomp and ceremony, and his time as Governor-General will be remembered as much for his laughter as for the usual dignities of the office. And every step of his journey has been accompanied by his wife Lynne – very much a part of his story. You Shouldn’t Have Joined . . . is the memoir of Cosgrove’s extraordinarily full and eventful life, written with intelligence, forthrightness, compassion, and a brilliant eye for a telling anecdote.
General Sir Peter John Cosgrove, AK, CVO, MC is a retired senior Australian Army officer who served as the 26th Governor-General of Australia from 2014 to 2019.


You Shouldn’t Have Joined is written by General Sir Peter Cosgrove, priced at $49.99 and published by Allen & Unwin.

Together Apart Life in Lockdown
By Belinda Jackson and Jude van Daalen

Together Apart, Life in Lockdown, Belinda Jackson
When COVID-19 hit Melbourne the lives of the locals changed dramatically. Overnight.

Together Apart gives a rare glimpse into life in lockdown, beautifully capturing the isolation, frustration, hope, humour and human need for togetherness that quickly became part of our daily lives.

What started as a conversation over the back fence to break the solitude of lockdown has grown into a friendship and a partnership between portrait photographer Jude van Daalen and her next-door neighbour, journalist Belinda Jackson.

Photographed, written and printed in Melbourne, Together Apart is Jude and Belinda’s black-and-white coffee table book featuring 60 portraits of people in their neighbourhood. There is the footy coach, the surfer, the artist, the yogi and the kids.



Together Apart Life in Lockdown is written by Belinda Jackson and photographed by Jude van Daalen, is priced at $69 and is self-published. Buy it here.

The Illustrated World of Couture
By Megan Hess

Megan Hess, Couture, Fashion icon, great books
Hundreds of hours, many expert hands and unimaginable metres of fabric: couture is truly wearable art, where creativity and craftsmanship collide. Megan Hess has spent her career documenting fashion’s most beautiful people, places and pieces. In The Illustrated World of Couture, she brings to life its most important – and intriguing – art form, with fascinating insights and exceptional illustrations.

Worn by only a handful of people worldwide, couture still has incredible influence, even beyond the traditional boundaries of fashion. In this unique collection, follow Megan through the intricate details, multifaceted inspirations and dramatic shows that define the couture experience. Let her introduce you to the generations of creators who conceive and craft these fantastical garments, and the collectors who treasure them. And travel with her to the exclusive ateliers and glamorous events of the world’s fashion capitals to see how couture is both designed and displayed.


The Illustrated World of Couture is written by Megan Hess, priced at $60 and published by Hardie Grant.