Jessica Dettmann is a Sydney-based writer, editor and performer. After a decade working as an editor in publishing, she switched to writing fiction. Her first novel, How to Be Second Best, is published by HarperCollins.
THE ELEPHANT AND THE BAD BABY
When I was three, this tale of a baby and an elephant who go on a crazed shoplifting spree was the first book I claimed to be able to read (I had memorised it). I came back to it as a parent (this time I actually read it) and realised repetition, overlong sentences, unbelievable plot – all the things that editors try to get rid of – are what makes this book magical.
BROTHERS IN ARMS
Sandra Harvey & Lindsay Simpson
This story of Sydney bikie gangs and the Milperra massacre instilled in me a love of crime-writing only equalled by my fear of actual crime. Horrifying and fascinating, it was entirely inappropriate for a 10-year-old to read. A salient reminder to be careful which books I leave around, now I have small readers in the family. But it also taught me that great storytelling is great storytelling, and kids can handle more than you think.
BROTHER OF THE MORE FAMOUS JACK
A perfect, clever, unpretentious and funny story of the relationship between a girl called Katherine and a glorious family called the Goldmans. Barbara Trapido writes with such affection and rich detail that it's hard to believe none of the people in the book exist. I buy this every time I see it in a bookshop – a one-person campaign to keep it stocked and in print.
This book so entranced me at 15 that I stole it from my school library. It's an elegantly written, tightly plotted romantic comedy with Shakespearean levels of coupling, coincidence and confusion. Mary Wesley, who didn't have her first novel published until she was 70, has excellent things to say about class, love, sexual power, mothering and ageing.