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Books that changed me: Rebecca James

Rebecca James’ first novel, Beautiful Malice, was an international publishing sensation. Rebecca lives in Canberra with her partner and their four sons. Her new book, Sweet Damage, is published by Allen & Unwin.

Telling Liddy, by Anne Fine

Reading one of Anne Fine's adult novels is like sitting down with a close friend and a glass of wine, and indulging in a satisfying few hours of gossip - and this story is definitely one of her best. She's just brilliant at darkly comic domestic drama. Read her and laugh. (Or more accurately, snigger.)

The Amateur Marriage, by Anne Tyler

This is the story of an imperfect and volatile marriage, which shows how two otherwise decent people can bring out the worst in each other. Anne Tyler is a genius, and the best thing about her is that she can show human beings at their very worst while never denying anyone's humanity. Tyler doesn't flinch from revealing the flawed nature and ugliness of both of the central characters in this book.

Why We Get Fat: And What to Do about it, by Gary Taubes


Hard as it may be to believe that a book about nutrition can be a page-turner, in this case it's true. Taubes argues not only that it's carbohydrates rather than saturated fats that make us fat, he also turns the whole healthy food pyramid upside down. And though I don't know how much of what he says is correct (for now I'm perched on the fence), this is definitely a thought-provoking read.

We Need to Talk about Kevin, by Lionel Shriver

I was so gripped by this book I stayed up all night to finish it. The funny thing is that I don't think I read it the right way. I'm not entirely convinced by the idea that maternal uncertainty can create a psychopath, which is apparently the point Shriver was trying to make. I simply enjoyed this book as a thriller and concluded that bad-seed Kevin was just born a monster.

The First Stone, by Helen Garner

I find some elements of feminist discourse relating to sexual harassment both astonishing and upsetting. I don't always feel the way I'm apparently supposed to. Am I wrong to feel a sense of power where I'm meant to be a victim? Helen Garner is neither moralistic nor absolute in her analysis of the Ormond College sexual-harassment case, and that's why it's such a relief to read.