Yes, I know. Surely it can’t be time to think about Christmas gifts already. Wasn’t it only last month that we packed down the Christmas tree and re-gifted Uncle Fred’s fondue set and Cousin Thelma’s car wash kit?
Fear not my intrepid friends. I come with gift ideas (of the literary type) to inspire and to entertain the outdoorsy types in your lives. Read on…
Top Walks in Australia by Melanie Ball (2016, Explore Australia Publishing)
Best suited to: Anyone interested in bushwalking/hiking in Australia.
I am usually pretty sceptical about this type of book. However, I was excited when I started flicking through this resource heavy guidebook. With over 7 walks in each state and territory of Australia, with a variety of difficulty, terrain and duration, every hiker is guaranteed to find something in here that suits. This book is a great starting point for people looking to go bushwalking in Australia and I can easily see that it could become something of a bucket list for many. 88% of the walks range from half to full day walks, with 12% describing overnight or multi-day trips. Popular longer walks such as the Overland Track (TAS), Coast Track (NSW), Wilsons Prom (VIC), Jatbula (NT) and the Thorsburne Trail (QLD) are included, along with loads of lesser known spots for shorter walks in each state. The information and presentation is clear, professional and concise, including walk summaries, maps, preparation and sections on flora, fauna and history. As an experienced bushwalker who is comfortable ‘off-track’, this book still holds clues and ideas for venturing further away from my usual stomping grounds.
On Track – Searching out the Bundian Way by John Blay (2015, UNSW Press)
Best suited to: Someone with an interest in Aboriginal travelling routes, off-track walking and Australian History
Recommended by LotsaFreshAir reader, Charl, this book takes it’s reader on a journey. It’s the kind of book you want to read with a topographic map on hand to follow the author’s poetic descriptions of the rolling Snowy Mountains, as he walks this 360km journey to the sea. The Bundian Way describes an ancient Aboriginal route that naturally hugs the easiest way from Kosciusko to Eden. As John Blay gently leads us along, seemingly holding our hand, we discover not only the diversity and wonder of the route, but find ourselves falling (quite naturally) into the history, both Black and White of the Monaro region. The parallels between journey, history and reconciliation of story, work to move us towards a shared pathway, with the prospect of the Bundian Way becoming one of the future ‘great walks’ of Australia.
Rockhopping by Trace Balla (2016, Allen & Unwin)
Best suited to: Younger readers, 8-10yrs old… and crusty old bushwalkers
How do I even begin to explain how much I love this picture book? I’m clearly not the only one though, as it’s won many awards and now holds pride of place on my coffee table. It’s written with warmth, heart and humour and with such delightful illustrations that younger, pre-readers will appreciate it to. It follows the adventures of a young boy and his Uncle Egg who go for an overnight bushwalk in the Grampians. Experienced bushies will smile as they see very familiar activities and experiences viewed through the eyes of our young hero. There’s a lot of detail in here (in an Andy Griffiths 78 Storey Treehouse kind of way), that I found myself being delighted every time I turned the page. With teacher resources and a downloadable pocket nature guide, reading it is only half the adventure!
The Nargun and the Stars by Patricia Wrightson (1973-2009. Various)
Best suited to: Early teens and reminiscent oldies
I can’t believe I never read this as a kid growing up in Australia, however thanks to my mates Bridie and Hugh, this has all changed. First published in 1973, this young adults fiction was one of the first to touch upon Aboriginal Dreamtime stories and mythology. In many ways, it was a pioneering book, during the time when Australian schools were not teaching much in the way of First Peoples history and significance. It’s a great read (even for a crusty like me), heavy in woo-woo (some would call it a ‘fantasy novel’) and draped in a message of white settlement, wilderness, progress, the environment and man’s need to control the seen world. It’s the story of an orphaned city boy who comes to live with distant relatives on a sheep farm in the Hunter region of NSW, where the heroes are those who acknowledge and respect the unseen. Possibly spooky at times, so bear that in mind for younger readers.
Seven Walks – Cape Leeuwin to Bundeena by Tom Carment (2014, Roc-Hin)
Best suited to: Armchair bushwalkers, artists and those who love a good coffee table journey
There’s very few hardcover coffee table books that actually draw me into reading every word. This one is different. We journey with award winning painter and artist, Tom Carment and his friend, photographer Michael Wee, crossing Australia with their feet pressing down upon seven of this country’s best known multi-day walks. We eavesdrop as they discover the joys and surprises of putting on a backpack and being self sufficient amongst the Aussie bush. From the Blue Gum Forest in the NSW Blue Mountains, to Wilpena Pound and the Heysen Trail in SA and the Cape to Cape in WA, their stories are told through a moody photographic style and Tom’s light handed watercolours and thoughtful words.
And because one book about the illusive Balls Pyramid is never enough, I give you two!
Balls Pyramid – Climbing the World’s Tallest Sea Stack by Dick Smith (2016, Dick Smith Adventure)
South Pacific Pinnacle – The Exploration of Balls Pyramid edited by Jim Smith & Keith Bell (2016, Den Fenella Press)
Best suited to: Climbers & adventurers (aspiring and otherwise), history and Lord Howe buffs and the curious.
These two books are fascinating… in many ways. They both tackle the same subject of the history of climbing on the world’s highest sea stack (Balls Pyramid, 600m high), with two unique perspectives and not a short supply of breath-catching adventure. There’s a wonderful, rich history held within these two tomes and both of the hard-cover coffee table books make excellent work of sharing the details, challenges and victories of each ascent – successful and otherwise. There’s only been 54 people who’ve summited the peak and with climbing now banned (oh yes, both books have strong, poorly veiled opinions on this) it is unknown who will be the next. Great original photographs and diagrams in each, with the differences in budgets available for self-publishing evident in the quality of Howard Whelan’s editorial and design job on Dick’s book, whilst the technical details shine brighter in Jim and Keith’s book. For the serious and experienced climbers, go for Jim and Keith’s… for the rest of us – head to Dick’s.
The Weed Forager’s Handbook – A guide to edible and medicinal weeds in Australia by Grubb & Raser-Rowland (2012, Hyland House Publishing)
Best suited to: Experienced bushwalkers, survivalists, bad gardeners, homesteaders and hippies.
If you’ve ever sworn at stinging nettle as you’ve brushed past it in a damp bushland space, think how good you’d feel when you chow down on a tasty and delicious serving of Stinging Nettle Gnocchi. Or what about Purslane Yoghurt Dip or Prickly Pear Pizza? All these recipes, along with a detailed field guide to edible and medicinal weeds in Australia is all available in these 166 pages. Photos, drawings, advice and vivid descriptions (along with a few poison warnings!) are all included. Makes me want to head down to the Coxs River right now!
Best suited to: Car campers, picnic tragics, Aussie roadtrip and wholefood inspiration
With one of the best laughs and genuine warm smiles in the authentic foodie world, Jane shares a stack of great, simple and wholefood recipes, mixed with travel stories of a family roadtrip along the southern coastline of Australia. As you’d imagine, it includes fabulous seafood and cooking techniques for simple, tasty and fresh food. From gathering cockles on the Fleurieu Peninsula, freshly shucked oysters from Bruny Island and raspberries at the Albany Farmers market, this book will have you heading for your calico shopping bag and stoking the campfire!
Other recommendations by LotsaFreshAir readers:
- My Year without matches – Escaping the city in search of wild by Claire Dunn (recommended by Mike Fuery)
- The Wander Society by Keri Smith (recommended by Ainslee Dennis)