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Read one of my favourite Australian novels to escape to Australia without leaving your home.
This blog post idea came to me one afternoon as I was brainstorming alternative travel topics. Surprisingly I read more Australian novels when I was younger, as quite a few of these books are not from this century. In saying that though, I always try and support Australian authors whenever possible. So without further ado, here’s an extensive list of books set in Australia for a little bit of escapism.
My favourite Australian novels
Tomorrow, When the War Began series by John Marsden
This is a flashback to my high school days! First published in 1993, Tomorrow, When the War Began is one of the most popular Australian books. Best of all, there are seven page-turning books in the series, which follows six teenage friends who go camping in the Australian bush. They return to discover that their hometown has been invaded and everyone in their small town is now a prisoner.
Ultimately, the kids mercilessly fight back from the first book until the end. Plus, with boys and girls involved, there’s a dash of teenage romance as well. John Marsden himself has won every major Australian award for young people’s fiction. Tomorrow, When the War Began has also been made into a film and a short-lived TV series.
Tomorrow, When the War Began and the entire series on Amazon
The Dry by Jane Harper
One of the best contemporary novels set in Australia, The Dry is the debut novel of award-winning Australian author, Jane Harper. Although I don’t read a lot of mystery novels, this book had me gripped from start to finish. It follows Aaron Falk, a Federal Police investigator who returns to his country hometown for his childhood friend’s funeral. They find him alongside his wife and child in an apparent murder-suicide. Alternating between the past and the present, everything is not as it seems in The Dry 👀.
The Dry on Amazon
Forces of Nature by Jane Harper
Jane Harper has cemented her position as one of the best Australian authors with three bestselling Australian books. The latest is The Lost Man, which features different characters. However, Forces of Nature is my favourite out of her three Australian novels and Aaron Falk is the main protagonist once more. This time he’s investigating a case where a whistleblower mysteriously disappears on a remote hike/team-building exercise with four women colleagues. Readers hear from all the women as Falk and his partner try to piece together what happened.
Forces of Nature on Amazon
What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty
Confession: What Alice Forgot is my favourite Liane Moriarty book. Set in Sydney, Alice has a gym accident and wakes up as her 29-year-old self in her 39-year-old body. She discovers she’s divorcing the love of her life and has three children. From Goodreads: “Ultimately, Alice must discover whether forgetting is a blessing or a curse and whether it’s possible to start over.” Is your interest piqued? While on Amazon I just read that What Alice Forgot is being turned into a movie too (🙌🏻). Yay!
What Alice Forgot on Amazon
Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
Thanks to its turn as an Emmy Award-winning TV show starring Nicole Kidman and Reese Witherspoon, Big Little Lies is one of the most famous Australian novels right now. Alternating between the past and present, it follows three different women with children in the same school grade. Oozing with scandal, Big Little Lies is a juicy read you won’t be able to put down.
Big Little Lies on Amazon
Jessica by Bryce Courtenay
Speaking of the best Australian authors, Bryce Courtenay wrote a lot of bestselling novels in his day, including The Power of One. However, we’re here to discuss Jessica. Based on an inspiring true story, it takes place on a struggling family farm in the Australian outback during the outbreak of World War I. It’s one of those heartwrenching Australian novels that stays with you long after you close its covers.
Another book of his set in Australia is April Fool’s Day. I read this for my high school drama class and it’s a tribute to his son. He was a haemophiliac who contracted HIV/AIDS through an infected blood transfusion. Moral of the story: for the best Australian books, check out Bryce Courtenay.
Jessica on Amazon
Looking for Alibrandi by Melina Marchetta
If you’re looking for Australian classic novels, may I suggest Looking for Alibrandi? First published in 1992, I remember reading it in high school, watching the movie (one word: heartbreaking) and then reading the book again 🙃. Josephine Alibrandi is in her final year of high school at a Sydney Catholic school. However, over the tumultuous year, she falls in love for the first time and discovers life-changing family secrets. Melina Marchetta has a way with words and is one of my favourite Australian authors. If you enjoy Looking for Alibrandi, I recommend reading her other Australian novels.
Looking for Alibrandi on Amazon
River Run by Nicole Alexander
I randomly discovered Nicole Alexander through Kindle’s regular deals. But if you’re looking for novels set in the Australian outback you need to check her out. She has written quite a few Australian novels, but the only one I’ve read (so far) is River Run. Set over a week on a rural sheep property in the 1950s, Eleanor Webber returns home following a failed love affair in Sydney. Featuring mystery strangers, unwelcome guests and her trouble-making half-brother, add River Run to your reading list today.
River Run on Amazon
Cloudstreet by Tim Winton
You can’t write a list of the best Australian books without mentioning one of Tim Winton’s bestselling novels. Winner of the Miles Franklin Award, Cloudstreet is highly regarded as one of the greatest works of Australian literature. Two families leave the country for the big city (Perth, Western Australia) and consequently end up living altogether in a house called Cloudstreet.
Set over two decades (1944 to 1964), Cloudstreet features elements of love, loss, laughter and sorrow. If you want to read an Australian classic, I recommend Cloudstreet. Jorja from The Wanderlust Life also mentioned that one of her favourite Australian fiction books is Tim Winton’s Blueback. Penguin Books Australia says it’s “an achingly beautiful story about family, belonging and living a life in tune with the environment.”
Cloudstreet on Amazon
Campaign Ruby by Jessica Rudd
This may not be one of the most popular Australian books, but I like the Campaign Ruby series by Jessica Rudd. Yes, she’s the daughter of former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd. It follows Ruby as she becomes the financial policy adviser to the Federal Leader of the Opposition. The easy-to-read book features dashes of politics, scandal and romance (of course). Ruby Blues is the sequel and you will be pleased to know it’s just as good.
Campaign Ruby by Jessica Rudd
Honourable mentions take one: Australian novels I’m yet to read
Although this post focuses on my favourite Australian novels, I thought I’d also include a few popular Australian books I haven’t read yet. Firstly, for some reason, I still haven’t picked up Graeme Simsion’s The Rosie Project (shame on me, I know). Then there’s The Secret River by Kate Grenville, one of the top Australian historical fiction novels.
Another book that continuously pops up when you research Australian novels is Jasper Jones. I’ve also heard Scrublands is perfect for Jane Harper fans 🙋♀️. My final oversight is Boy Swallows Universe, which is set in Brisbane in the 1980s. Goodreads says it’s a novel of “love, crime, magic, fate and coming of age.”
I couldn’t finish this post without mentioning a few fantastic Australian fiction authors who set their books elsewhere. Firstly, from country New South Wales to London, Kate Morton’s bestselling novels include The Lake House and The Clockmaker’s Daughter.
Next, Hannah Kent is the author of Burial Rites, the international bestseller set in Iceland. Finally, I am a big fan of Australian author Sally Thorne’s romance novels: The Hating Game and 99 Percent Mine. However, they’re both not set in a specific city.