Books for Australian states

Last week, Annabel Smith tweeted a link to a fantastic article, The Literary United States: A Map of the Best Book for Every State. It got me thinking about an Australian equivalent.

Strictly speaking, an Australian literary map isn’t quite as crowded (not as many states in comparison to the US). It would be nice to do an Australian one that reflected cities and regional areas but that’s a big project (and for that matter, actually put it on a map…). For the time being, here are my favourite books set in different states.

Victoria: for Melbourne, The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas. For regional Victoria, Carrie Tiffany captures the Mallee perfectly in Everyman’s Rules for Scientific Living.



New South WalesFoal’s Bread by Gillian Mears (regional) and The Harp in the South by Ruth Park (for Sydney).



Queensland: He Died With A Felafel In His Hand by John Birmingham.


Northern Territory: We of the Never Never by Jeannie Gunn.


Western Australia: Red Dog by Louis De Bernières (and honorable mention to The Light Between Oceans by M. L. Stedman).



Tasmania: When the Night Comes by Favel Parrett.


I’ve struggled with books for the Australian Capital Territory and South Australia. My son is reading Storm Boy by Colin Thiele at the moment – it’s set in a beautiful part of South Australia but I don’t count it as a particular favourite. Any ACT or SA suggestions that I may have overlooked?

16 responses

  1. I just picked up Everyman’s Rules for Scientific Living at a used book sale – now I’m excited! After reading that US Map/Book article, I did something similar because I generally disagreed with a lot on that list.

    • I love Everyman’s Rules because it’s set in a part of the state (that I live in) that is really beautiful (a side note, I worked with the author at the Dept. Natural Resources – a shared passion for environmental management and writing… the difference being she’s written books and I just read them…).

  2. Okay, now you’ve got me a little obsessed. I found this – . How about SA authors Max Fatchen, Mem Fox and especially Peter Goldsworthy? Then there’s his amazingly talented daughter Anna Goldsworthy, a concert pianist, who wrote the book “Piano Lessons” (Now also a stage play). . My Mum is a piano teacher and absolutely loved this book – she knew of many of the characters as they’re all SA based. TBR list? I think I’ll put it on mine…

    • I read Anna Goldsworthy’s book about motherhood and really enjoyed it… now trying to recall whether it was set in Adelaide or if she’d moved… So I guess I ought to put Piano Lessons on the list!

  3. Nice work! I chose Cloudstreet for my Perth ‘metro area’ (!) book. A friend suggested Picnic at Hanging Rock for regional Victoria. Glad you took up the challenge.

    • I did think about including Tim Winton but Red Dog stole my heart – I have given that book to so many people.

      I reckon you’re more aware of books (and movies) set in your own city/ home. My Melbourne and Victoria could have included a dozen more, notably Picnic at Hanging Rock and Chloe Hooper’s The Engagement (a book I still think about years later). Likewise, there were many aspects of The Rosie Project that I loved because it was set in Carlton and the genetics department of Melbourne Uni (where I am currently studying genetics!).

  4. For Melbourne I love the Phryne Fisher books and also Shane Maloney’s books for a more modern day take on Fitzroy etc. For Western Australia I thought Jasper Jones by Craig Silvey was interesting. And The Turning by Tim Winton for beach town and Cloustreet for city.

  5. For an ACT novel, try a Marion Halligan. While some of her books are set around Newcastle (NSW) and France, others show her affection for her adopted city, Canberra. Try The Point, Lovers’ Knots or The Fog Garden.

  6. I started a project that I called State by State about three years ago, where I planned to create such a map of Australian books. I despaired when one weird Blogger night, I lost all the work I had done on Victoria. I haven’t looked at it since.
    Yours is the second post this week that I have stumbled across that seems to be telling me to revive my old idea.

    If I can include non-fiction – there is the wonderful city series published by New South – Delia Falconer’s Sydney and Goldworthy’s Adelaide are fabulous. I hope to get to all the books eventually.

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