My Life In Books
Jane Harper is the author of The Dry, Force of Nature, The Lost Man and The Survivors. Her books have sold more than three million copies and have won awards including the CWA Gold Dagger and the Australian Book Industry Awards book of the year. She worked as a print journalist for 13 years and lives in Melbourne with her family. Her novel Exiles has just been published by Macmillan.
The books on your bedside table?
I’ve been reading and enjoying The Bullet That Missed, the third instalment of Richard Osman’s fantastic series. I got it as a Christmas present and it’s been a perfect Australian summer page-turner.
Your favourite literary character?
I’ve been a sucker for Lee Child’s Jack Reacher for 20 years, and for the all five Walsh sisters courtesy of Marian Keyes for even longer. They’ve been constant companions that I’ve reached for during many important life milestones.
Your book of the year so far?
Embrace Kids: How You Can Help Your Kids to Love and Celebrate Their Bodies by Taryn Brumfitt and Dr Zali Yager. This inspiring and eye-opening book guides parents through the minefield of helping their children avoid the horribly toxic diet culture that so many of us grew up with. Taryn Brumfitt has been named Australian of the Year for her tireless campaigning to encourage children to celebrate their whole selves in a positive light.
The first book you remember?
My mum used to read me the Meg and Mog books, written by Helen Nicoll and illustrated by Jan Pienkowski. We’ve still got my childhood copies and I’ve been reading them now to my own little ones, so I’m delighted to confirm they’ve absolutely stood the test of time.
A book that changed your life?
The Life You Can Save by Peter Singer really altered the way I look at the world and my own place within it. It discusses the opportunity we have to change someone else’s life for the better. The audio book narrators include Stephen Fry, Kristen Bell and Paul Simon.
The book you couldn’t finish?
There are loads. I fully subscribe to the school of thought that life’s too short to read books you don’t enjoy. If a book’s not for me after I’ve given it a fair go, I’ll put it aside with zero shame, although I do quietly wish there weren’t quite so many of the classics on my personal did-not-finish list.
Your Covid comfort read?
I coped with the uncertainty by relying on some very familiar favourites. Goodnight Mister Tom by Michelle Magorian was one I felt I could just sink into and let the outside world pass by for a while.
The book you give as a present?
Last year I gave copies of The Younger Wife by Sally Hepworth, and Everyone in My Family Has Killed Someone by Benjamin Stevenson. They’re both Australian authors, and these books are fantastic crowd-pleasers. Sally’s fun and twisty domestic noir mysteries have made her a firm favourite in Australia, and Benjamin’s dazzlingly fresh twist on classic crime is a must-read for anyone who counts themselves as a fan of the genre. I have pressed copies into hands all year long and have basked in the thanks.
The writer who shaped you?
I think my love of writing is a direct result of my love of reading, which was shaped firmly in childhood. I was lucky enough to grow up in a house where reading was enjoyed and encouraged. So many books from that time have stuck with me but the one that has always lingered is The Witches by Roald Dahl. It terrified me, but was like nothing I’d ever come across before. It was the first book that truly opened my eyes to how broad fiction really can be.
The book you would most like to be remembered for?
I actually like to tell myself it could be something really fantastic that I haven’t even written yet. Why not be optimistic!