Good Reading : August 2008
foreword Before Darwin, Jean-Baptiste de Lamarck created the ﬁrst theory of evolution, an idea so powerful it promised to become the great unifying force of science. But for two hundred years Lamarck’s grand idea polarised the scientiﬁc establishment and became a byword for discredited belief, until on the eve of his bicentenary, science ﬁnally caught up and proved him right. This is the story of Lamarck’s own travails in treacherous times and of the Australian man who, almost two centuries later, would decode the evidence and put Lamarck back on the world stage. This is a roller-coaster ride of intelligence, stubborn vision, belief and despair that begins with a new ending and ends with a new beginning. ROSS HONEYWILL lamarck’s evolution TWO CENTURIES OF GENIUS AND JEALOUSY RRP $29.95 Available now from all good booksellers www.lamarcksevolution.com I’ve been watching with interest the furore in the UK over the plan by publishers to place age guides on children’s books. Authors are being very vocal in opposition, taking out advertising to lobby against it. In an earlier poll on our website 90 per cent of readers voted to say that it would be helpful to have age guides on books, so we decided to run another poll, but this time we also invited booksellers and industry professionals to comment. Seems readers still say a resounding yes, but the industry is split.You can view the final results on our website. I can understand the authors’ reasons for being against it.What if a five-year-old had a reading age of seven, or a seven-year-old a reading age of five? Should we dictate at what age they should read a particular book? But if I put my old bookseller hat on, I know from long experience that book buyers want guidance. And for this reason we suggest an age guide in the children’s books pages within this magazine. It is only there as a guide. And it’s an age plus guide, so that it could be read by any age above that. After all, I am a great lover of children’s fiction as I know many of you are. If you have no guide, don’t know the author, can’t find someone to help you and can only read the blurb on the back of the book, how is a buyer meant to know? But there are a range of opinions out there.What do you think? Since our last issue, I have finished reading The Secret River by Kate Grenville. I was interested to see it on the list of books you suggested I read. I have attempted to read it before, but I put it down as it didn’t grab me.When it won the highest number of votes on our online poll, I was hesitant to pick it up again for this reason. But to my pleasant surprise, I very much enjoyed it. I spent a lot of my youth on the Hawkesbury River, as my father is a fan of riverboats. (Or ‘stink boats’ as sailors call them. He calls speedboats ‘plastic fantastics’.) I happily whiled away many a weekend, fishing and going on adventures in the dinghy with my friends and family. The Secret River makes you think about the confusion and terror that Sydney’s Indigenous population must have felt as settlers forcibly took ownership of land. Individual ownership of parcels of land was not something they understood, nor did the settlers understand the Indigenous connection with the land. Choosing what to read is all about the mood you’re in, isn’t it? Maybe I had something on my mind during my first attempt at The Secret River; maybe I just felt like something else to read. But I am grateful that you selected it and thank you to all who voted. Can you guess what I’m reading now? Here’s a clue: ‘Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.’ In this issue we have our annual Fathers’ Day Gift Guide to help you choose a gift for your book-loving dad. Also this month, Ben Naparstek profiles Clive Hamilton, an author, social commentator and executive director of the Australia Institute. He chats with Ben about his new book The Freedom Paradox. Australian writer Alison Goodman’s new book The Two Pearls of Wisdom is released this month and if you enjoyed Lian Hearn’s ‘Otori’ series this will be a book you’ll be keen to read. Stephen Martin provides us with a guide to some good chilly reads set in Antarctica and we also fossick amongst authors’ graves in Paris. A very diverse lot! But that’s not all.Turn the pages to find what else awaits your reading pleasure.