A senior editor at Elle.com, Estelle Tang is on the ground at Sydney Writers' Festival, bringing us a daily wrap-up of the ideas, discussions and debates as they unfold. Today, she shares her not at all overwhelming reading list compiled across Festival week. 

The obvious corollary of seeing such a range of devoted, talented artists speak about their work is an immediate desire to visit a bookshop or library. Sometimes it’s an in-depth interview with an author that snares you, directing you to delve deeper into their catalogue; or you see a panel featuring a sharp and funny writer you’ve never read before. Then, there’s the chatter you overhear at the book stall, the names you trade with friends who’ve gone to different events than you. And, other times, it can be the most fleeting conversation or detail that intrigues you about a book. It’s all a little idiosyncratic, yet the most delightful thing in the world.

Here are eight books I’ve added to my reading queue after this rich week of literary indulgence.


Lot by Bryan Washington

I asked A Strange Object founder Callie Collins, who hails from Austin, about the Texan writers I might not have read yet, and she reminded me that Festival guest Bryan Washington has a story collection set all around Houston – the holy land that also spawned Beyoncé, of course.

Insomnia by Marina Benjamin

Angela Ledgerwood, who conducted an in conversation withAeon editor Benjamin about the book, told me I’d like this slim personal study of a common affliction, which weaves together musings on everything from Nabokov’s dream diaries to Greek mythology.

The Little Girl on the Ice Floe by Adélaïde Bon

I met Adélaïde at an author event and was immediately enchanted by her bright green coat and sunny manner. Immediately afterward, I admired both even more when the French writer explained that her book detailed the court case of the man who raped her in a stairwell when she was nine.

How to Write an Autobiographical Novel by Alexander Chee

It’s been on my to-read list for an age – it’s finally time!

Lanny by Max Porter

Festival Director Michaela McGuire mentioned this book so many times I thought I was stuck in a Westworld host loop, or something, so I have to really get on to it. 

The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai

Benjamin Law, who interviewed Makkai at the Festival, is just the latest in the long line of people who have told me they were destroyed by this acclaimed novel about the AIDS crisis in 1980s Chicago and its repercussions.

Natives: Race and Class in the Ruins of Empire by Akala

No other name has come up more amongst other Festival guests than author and hip-hop musician Akala’s, possibly because he managed to fit in a gig at Max Watt’s in amongst his Sydney Writers’ Festival commitments this week.

Wordy by Simon Schama

Someone told me the beloved BBC presenter was wearing metallic green boots at the Festival and I have no intention of trying to verify this fact – it’s just too good. His book sounds good, too