Summer reads from UOW

Our top picks from our alumni authors

Dive into the literary worlds of fellow alumni for a summer of imagination and insight.

Summer is the perfect time to catch up on all of the books beside your bed (and add a few more to your library!)

As you step away from your workstation to embark on journeys, reunite with family, and indulge in the pleasure of reading over the holidays, we invite you to explore some of the amazing books that have been crafted by our talented University of Wollongong (UOW) Alumni.

Whether you're a fiction enthusiast, seeking self-help inspiration, or searching for something special for your children, rest assured—we have a book for every reader. 

For fans of fiction

Dirt Town - Hayley Scrivenor

Set in a small Australian town, Dr Hayley Scrivenor's debut novel, Dirt Town revolves around Esther Bianchi's mysterious disappearance, focusing on the aftermath experienced by those left behind.  

The book emerged from the depths of a creative writing PhD journey and was inspired by the town where Hayley grew up. Navigating  themes of societal responsibility and authenticity, the novel prompts reflection on what one owes to others, especially when unseen. The storyline, rooted in personal experiences, weaves life-or-death stakes into a compelling narrative.  

A woman with short brown hair and glasses is standing in her home office, smiling

Dirt Town became an instant #1 Australian bestseller in 2022. It has been translated into multiple languages and won a number of national and international awards, including an ABIA for General Fiction Book of the Year, a Lambda Literary award for LGBTQ+ Mystery, a Davitt Award for Best Debut Crime Book, and the UK Crime Writers' Association 'New Blood' Dagger. 

Scrivenor credits her PhD supervisor, Dr Shady Cosgrove, for pushing her to address the critical question: 'Why should the reader care?' She’s told us that it’s a lesson she’s holding on to as she works on her next book, which will hopefully be out in late 2024.

Sign - Colin Dray

Dr Colin Dray’s debut novel Sign is a novel of strength, quiet courage and the struggle to overcome silence. The main character, Sam, is a young boy who has just recently lost his voice as a result of an operation. A poignant metaphor for the broader experience of being talked over and having one's pain misunderstood, Colin explores the silent struggles of trauma, focusing on the universal yearning to be heard, particularly among the young who often feel drowned out.  

Drawing inspiration from childhood road trips, Colin deftly weaves memories of hot cars, greasy food, and peculiar destinations into the narrative. The novel also incorporates the allure of urban legends, seamlessly blending modern mythic horror into the storyline.

A man with glasses and a black jumper is standing in front of a white backdrop

As a teacher of English literature and creative writing, Colin brings a nuanced perspective to storytelling. His short fiction has appeared in publications such as Meanjin, and his non-fiction has been published in  Australian Literary Studies,  and  Antipodes. Lucky for us, Colin has another book underway. It’s an idea that he has been brewing for quite some time and is excited to share with our community, so watch this space.

Self-help and motivation

The Mindful High Performer - Chelsea Pottenger

Chelsea Pottenger, Founder and Director of EQ MINDS, is a Mental Health Ambassador for R U OK? and published author. Her work is deeply rooted in personal experience, having battled severe postnatal depression (PND) following the birth of her daughter nine years ago. Chelsea's journey to recovery led her to retrain and embrace a transformative lifestyle, incorporating tools to manage and optimise her mental health.

A woman with blonde hair is wearing a brown jumper and white pants. She is sitting on the floor of a verandah, smiling.

Today, Chelsea is a prominent figure in mental health advocacy, serving as an international motivational speaker, accredited mindfulness & meditation coach, and author of The Mindful High Performer. Collaborating with global giants like Google, Optus, CBA, and Macquarie Bank, Chelsea strives to enhance team wellbeing. In The Mindful High Performer, Chelsea shares science-based tools to achieve optimal mental health, offering a guide to reduce stress, reframe negative thinking, tap into positive energy, and fortify resilience. According to Chelsea, "self-care isn't selfishness; it's self-preservation."  

Add this to your list and make yourself a priority in 2024. 

Children's literature

Alight - Sam Lloyd

Dr  Sam Lloyd is a scientist, fire ecologist and writer with a passion for the Australian bush and children’s literature. Through storytelling, art and a love of books, Sam strives to engage children in the world of science and nature. Sam recently published her first book, a children's non-fiction narrative story with CSIRO Publishing, titled Alight: A story of fire and nature.  

Alight beautifully narrates the story of Australian native plants and animals during a planned fire, gently teaching the significance of healthy fire in the Australian bush. This captivating book combines non-fiction information with a narrative that engages young readers with cute and fascinating characters. From Christmas Bells thriving after fire to the challenges faced by Antechinus and Wallum Sedge Frog, the story unfolds under the watch of the Old Eucalypt.  

A woman with dark hair is standing in front of a green tree, smiling

Alight not only introduces small children to the concept of planned fire in the Australian bush, but it will also serve as a valuable resource for educators looking to delve into the beauty and understanding of the role of fire in helping maintain the the health of the bush.

With a nod to her studies at UOW, Sam has dedicated to the book to her two UOW Honours/PhD supervisors, Professor Rob Whelan and David Ayre, who sadly passed away in 2023.

Alight is the perfect way to introduce small children to fire in the landscape, an increasingly important and recurring event in our environment. 

Inspired by true events

The Sun Will Rise - Misha Zelinsky

Misha Zelinsky is an expert on global authoritarianism and Fulbright Scholar, economist and lawyer. He spent 2022 and 2023 covering Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as a war correspondent for The Australian Financial Review. His latest book, The Sun Will Rise, is inspired by what he witnessed during the war and the complex history between Ukraine and Russia. 

The Sun Will Rise is a story about good versus evil, never giving up, and fighting for beliefs against impossible odds. Misha describes the book as a "love letter to humanity, democracy, and freedom," urging people to stand up for free and open societies. 

A man with an army vest is sitting in the back of a ute looking into the distance

The Sun Will Rise focuses on ordinary Ukrainians, teachers, farmers, and doctors, who bravely defended their homes. Misha chose fiction to convey the timeless struggle, believing that stories and characters connect with people. He hopes the book will help readers overwhelmed by bad news and geopolitics to connect with the conflict differently. Ultimately, Misha emphasises the global significance of standing with Ukraine, stating that what happens there affects everyone. 

The Sun Will Rise is a timely read. For those seeking to understand the motivations behind the Ukrainian struggle and why it resonates on a global scale, this book is the perfect place to start.  


Returning - Kirli Saunders

In 2020, Kirli Saunders was honoured with the title of NSW Aboriginal Woman of the Year. Subsequently, in 2022, she was recognised with an Order of Australia Medal (OAM) for her remarkable contributions to literature. Fresh from this achievement, Kirli has recently unveiled her newest endeavour. 

Released just last month, Returning is a multi-medium visual poetry project. It serves as a poetic and visual feast, guiding you through her personal journey of self-discovery and reconnection with Country. Kirli delves into significant contemporary themes, including decolonisation, identity, First Nations matriarchy, queerness, justice, love, liberation, and truth-telling. Against the tumultuous backdrop of natural disasters, the COVID pandemic, and the Black Lives Matter Movement, Returning unfolds as a poignant reflection on these times of profound upheaval. 

A woman with light brown hair is wearing a bright blue top. She is standing in front of a green bush with one hand on her hip, smiling Each poem is accompanied by powerful and moving artwork that was crafted in direct response to the essence of the poem. The artworks, visual poems, were originally shown at SHAC Gallery, Gundungurra land, in 2021 in the exhibition named Returning. This book promises to captivate your senses, offering an experience that transcends words alone. 

We think that Returning would make the perfect Christmas gift.