Schindler’s Ark by Thomas Keneally

Australia is famous for many things, like koalas, kangaroos and Kylie, but literature is not usually one of them. It should be – Australian authors are slowly but steadily taking over the world’s bookshelves. Today, it is Tim Winton’s novel about surfing and taking risks, Breath. A few months ago, it was Geraldine Brooks and her worldwide bestseller People of the Book – one of the best books about a book you could hope to read.

And then there is Peter Carey – a two-time Booker Prize winner and an Aussie legend – and Thomas Keneally, who wrote Schindler’s Ark, and also Markus Zusak, author of The Book Thief – a young adult novel that sells and sells and sells.

AbeBooks has selected 20 must-read Aussie writers - from mega-selling superstar authors to up-and-coming talents to established veterans on the Oz Lit scene - to celebrate the literary talent of this remarkable nation.


Top 20 Australian Authors

  1. Peter Carey
  2. JM Coetzee*
  3. David Malouf
  4. Shirley Hazzard
  5. Thomas Keneally
  6. Geraldine Brooks
  7. Tim Winton
  8. Helen Garner
  9. Michelle de Kretser
  10. Markus Zusak
  1. Peter Temple
  2. Shane Maloney
  3. Kate Grenville
  4. Richard Flanagan
  5. Andrew McGahan
  6. Alexis Wright
  7. Kerry Greenwood
  8. BC Pierre
  9. Frank Moorehouse
  10. Gregory David Roberts


Peter Carey
True History of the Kelly Gang by Peter Carey Now based in New York, Carey is one of only two authors to have won the Booker Prize twice. He’s a legitimate big-hitter of literature – up there with Rushdie, Roth and McCarthy. His 2001 novel, True History of the Kelly Gang, has no punctuation but it is exceptionally readable as Kelly’s remarkable bushwhacking adventures are given a fresh grainy interpretation. Also don’t miss his 1988 novel, Oscar and Lucinda - the story of an Anglican priest who meets an Australian heiress who owns a glass factory. They place a bet that the priest cannot transport a glass church to a settlement in the back of beyond.

The Tax Inspector
The Unusual Life of Tristan Smith
Jack Maggs
My Life as a Fake
Theft: A Love Story
His Illegal Self


JM Coetzee
Waiting for the Barbarians by JM Coetzee OK – we know he is really South African but John Maxwell Coetzee lives in Australia and became an Aussie citizen two years ago. "I was attracted by the free and generous spirit of the people, by the beauty of the land itself and - when I first saw Adelaide - by the grace of the city that I now have the honour of calling my home." He won the 2003 Nobel Prize in Literature – not bad for a former computer programmer but awards count for little with Coetzee. He did not collect either of his Booker gongs, Life & Times of Michael K in 1983 and Disgrace in 1999, but London is a long away from Adelaide. The Observer newspaper polled literary types in 2006 and named Disgrace one of the ‘greatest novel of the last 25 years.’ Disgrace could win the Best of the Bookers vote.

In the Heart of the Country
Waiting for the Barbarians
Age of Iron
The Master of Petersburg
Elizabeth Costello
Slow Man
Diary of a Bad Year


David Malouf
Remembering Babylon by David Malouf A Lebanese-Australian author, Malouf is a playwright as well as a novelist. His 1993 novel Remembering Babylon was shortlisted for the Booker Prize – it is a tale of friendship and warfare. He is also well known for his 1982 Fly Away Peter – a book that examines Australia’s racist colonial past. Malouf is also an accomplished poet and short story writer.

An Imaginary Life
Harland's Half Acre
The Great World
The Conversations At Curlow Creek
Untold Tales


Shirley Hazzard
The Great Fire by Shirley Hazzard Like so many Australians, Hazzard has travelled and lived around the world. She used to work for the United Nations as a clerk but quit the UN and its mountains of paperwork to become a full-time writer. She picked up a National Book Critics Circle Award in 1980 for her third novel, The Transit of Venus – the story of two sisters who travel to England from Australia in the 1950s in search of a fresh start. Hazzard has also penned two books criticizing the United Nations - Defeat of an Ideal and Countenance of Truth.

The Evening of the Holiday
The Bay of Noon
The Great Fire


Thomas Keneally
Bring Larks and Heroes by Thomas Keneally Another of Australia’s major literary talents, Keneally won the 1982 Booker Prize with Schindler’s Ark – the moving story of a German entrepreneur who saves countless Jews from the death camps. The movie version was called Schindler’s List. He has written 30 novels as well non-fiction and plays. This guy was churning out novels decades before anyone regarded Australian literature as an international force.

Bring Larks and Heroes
Three Cheers for the Paraclete
A Dutiful Daughter
The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith
Blood Red, Sister Rose
Flying Hero Class
Woman of the Inner Sea
Find more books by Thomas Kenneally


Geraldine Brooks
March by Geraldine Brooks Brooks, a former Sydney Morning Herald and Wall Street Journal reporter, won the Pulitzer Prize in 2006 for March – a book about the absent father from Little Women. Historical fiction is her specialty and this year People of the Book has earned rave reviews for its story of the Sarajevo Haggadah – a priceless Jewish book rescued from Serb shelling during the Yugoslavian war.

Nine Parts of Desire: The Hidden World of Islamic Women
Foreign Correspondence: A Pen Pal's Journey From Down Under to All Over
Year of Wonders


Tim Winton
The Riders by Tim Winton One of the current flavours of the month for Breath – a book about surfing, recklessness and friendships, Winton has been producing novels since the early 1980s. He also writes plays, non-fiction, children’s fiction and short stories. Winton prefers to keep a low profile but supports environment issues. In Australia, he’s been a literary stalwart for a long time so international acclaim is overdue for this writer.

An Open Swimmer
That Eye, The Sky
In the Winter Dark
The Riders
Dirt Music


Helen Garner
The First Stone by Helen Garner A former high school teacher who was sacked for giving an impromptu sex education lesson to her 13-year-old pupils, Garner’s novels address sexual desire and the family. Australian female novelists are outnumbered by their male counterparts so Garner has been a figurehead since the 1970s. Her first novel, Monkey Grip,from 1977, tells the story of a group of people living on welfare in Melbourne.

The Children's Bach
Cosmo Cosmolino
Spare Room
Honour & Other People's Children: Two Stories
Postcards from Surfers
My Hard Heart: Selected Fictions


Michelle de Kretser
The Hamilton Case by Michelle de Kretser Born in Sri Lanka, de Ketser immigrated to Australia when she was 14. She has worked as an editor at Lonely Planet and studied for an MA at the Sorbonne. With just three novels to her name, she is part of the new generation of Aussie novelists. The Lost Dog is picking up international acclaim – she’s the verge of the big time.

The Rose Grower
The Hamilton Case
The Lost Dog


Markus Zusak
The Book Thief by Thomas Keneally One of the hottest authors in the young adult genre, Zusak has enjoyed worldwide success with this novel, The Book Thief. The New York Times described it as ”Harry Potter and the Holocaust” as Death himself narrates this World War II-based story.

The Underdog
When Dogs Cry
The Messenger
Fighting Ruben Wolfe
Getting the Girl


Peter Temple
The Broken Shore by Peter Temple A five-time winner of Australia’s Ned Kelly crime fiction writing award, Temple began writing in the 1990s after working as a journalist and a lecturer. He is best known for his Jack Irish series.

Bad Debts
An Iron Rose
Shooting Star
Black Tide
Dead Point
In the Evil Day
White Dog
The Broken Shore


Shane Maloney
The Big Ask by Shane Maloney A list of Australians has to have someone called Shane on it. Maloney is best known for penning the Murray Whelan crime novels where the hero is a politician working his way through the ranks while solving murders and shady deals around Melbourne. Sounds feasible!

The Brush Off
Nice Try
The Big Ask
Something Fishy
Sucked In


Richard Flanagan
Gould's Book of Fish by Richard Flanagan Flanagan is an author, historian and film director from Tasmania. A keen outdoors type, he has canoed the Franklin River in the Tasmanian wilderness 13 times although we don’t know why. He has written four novels since 1994 and they have all been critically acclaimed and picked up literary awards.

Death of a River Guide
The Sound of One Hand Clapping
Gould's Book of Fish, A novel in twelve fish
The Unknown Terrorist


Kate Grenville
The Secret River by Kate Grenville Grenville chose her own last name – a family tradition apparently. She selected the last name of her paternal grandmother. A collection of short stories, Bearded Ladies, put her on the literary map in 1984. Grenville, who spent seven years living in the UK, won the 2001 Orange Prize for Fiction with The Idea of Perfection. She has worked in the movie industry. Very well regarded by the critics.

Bearded Ladies: Stories
Lilian's Story
Joan Makes History: A Novel
Dark Places
The Idea of Perfection
The Secret River


Andrew McGahan
The White Earth by Andrew McGahan The ninth of 10 children, McGahan broke through in 1991 with the release of Praise. He dropped out of an arts degree at the University of Queensland and returned to work on the family wheat farm.

Last Drinks
The White Earth


Alexis Wright
Carpentaria by Alexis Wright An indigenous Australian author, who is best known for the Miles Franklin Award-winning novel Carpentaria. The book tells the story of the Aboriginal people in Desperance and their conflicts with the police, local government, and a multinational mining operation established on sacred land. Wright is a land rights campaigner.

Plains of Promise
Le pacte de serpent
Croire en L’incroyable (Believing the Unbelievable)


Kerry Greenwood
Cocaine Blues aka Death by Misadventure by Kerry Greenwood Her day job is being a dull old lawyer but in her evenings Greenwood has written 27 books since 1991. She is best known for a series of detective novels starring Phryne Fisher.

Cocaine Blues aka Death by Misadventure
Flying Too High
Death at Victoria Dock
Murder on the Ballarat Train
The Green Mill Murder
Blood And Circuses
Ruddy Gore
Urn Burial
Raisins and Almonds


DBC Pierre (Peter Warren Finlay)
Vernon God Little by DBC Pierre Probably should not be on this list as he claims to be Mexican but he was born in Australia. DBC Pierre is a pseudonym and stands for ‘Dirty But Clean’ – a childhood nickname. He won the 2003 Booker Prize for Fiction with Vernon God Little – his debut novel. Vernon God Little concerns a 15-year-old boy in small town Texas and the suicide of a friend. The book riffs on America’s trailer park culture and how the US is perceived.

Ludmila's Broken English


Frank Moorhouse
Dark Palace by Frank Moorhouse Moorehouse has been writing since the 1960s. As well as novels, he is admired for his short stories and screenplays. He’s regarded as one of Australia’s finest living writers.

Futility and Other Animals
The Americans, Baby
The Electrical Experience
Tales of Mystery and Romance
The Everlasting Secret Family
Grand Days
Dark Palace


Gregory David Roberts
Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts Best known for the novel Shantaram, Roberts is infamous in Australia for being a convicted bank robber and heroin addict. In 1978, he was sentenced to 19 years in prison for a series of armed robberies while addicted to smack but escaped from a maximum security prison in 1980 and fled to India. Hey – you cannot make this stuff up. Surely, he should be on Oprah? After various stints in prison, he began writing. Shantaram is a thriller based on his own experiences – he has only one book to his name.