The Greatest Australian Books of All Time

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This list represents a comprehensive and trusted collection of the greatest books in literature. Developed through a specialized algorithm, it brings together 215 'best of' book lists to form a definitive guide to the world's most acclaimed literary works. For those interested in how these books are chosen, additional details about the selection process can be found on the rankings page.

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  1. 1. The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough

    "The Thorn Birds" is a sweeping family saga that spans three generations of the Cleary family, set against the backdrop of the Australian outback. It focuses on the forbidden love between the beautiful Meggie Cleary and the family's priest, Father Ralph de Bricassart. The novel explores themes of love, religion, and ambition, as Meggie and Ralph struggle with their feelings for each other and the choices they must make.

  2. 2. The Man Who Loved Children by Christina Stead

    This novel explores the complex dynamics of the Pollit family, focusing on the relationship between the egotistical patriarch Sam and his idealistic daughter Louie. Set in Washington D.C. during the 1930s, the story provides a stark portrayal of a dysfunctional family, where Sam's delusional optimism and insensitivity clash with Louie's growing disillusionment and rebellion. The narrative delves into themes of family conflict, emotional abuse, and the struggle for individual identity within the confines of family expectations.

  3. 3. Schindler's List by Thomas Keneally

    The book tells the true story of a German businessman who saves more than a thousand Polish Jews during the Holocaust by employing them in his factories. The protagonist's transformation from a greedy high living war profiteer to a savior of lives forms the crux of the narrative. It offers a chilling yet inspiring account of the horrors of the Holocaust, human resilience, and the power of one individual to make a significant difference.

  4. 4. True History of the Kelly Gang by Peter Carey

    This historical novel is a fictionalized account of the life of Australian outlaw Ned Kelly, told in the form of a journal written to his daughter. The narrative explores Kelly's life from childhood, his family's struggles with poverty and the law, his involvement in horse thievery, and his eventual formation of the Kelly Gang. The story culminates with the gang's infamous standoff with the police at Glenrowan, providing a humanizing perspective on a figure often portrayed as a ruthless criminal.

  5. 5. Voss by Patrick White

    Set in 19th-century Australia, the novel follows a German explorer, Voss, as he leads a doomed expedition into the outback. Parallel to this, Voss develops a romantic relationship with Laura Trevelyan, a young woman he meets before his departure. Despite their physical separation, their spiritual and emotional connection deepens as Voss's journey becomes increasingly perilous. The narrative explores themes of obsession, the human condition, and the dichotomy between civilization and wilderness.

  6. 6. Oscar and Lucinda by Peter Carey

    "Oscar and Lucinda" is a novel that tells the story of two unconventional individuals, Oscar and Lucinda, who meet on a ship going to Australia in the mid-19th century. Oscar, a young English clergyman, and Lucinda, a teenage Australian heiress, bond over their shared love of gambling. Their mutual obsession leads to a high-stakes wager that will have lasting consequences for both of them. The novel explores themes of love, faith, and obsession against the backdrop of Victorian-era England and Australia.

  7. 7. Cloudstreet by Tim Winton

    "Cloudstreet" is a sweeping family saga set in post-World War II Australia, following two families, the Pickles and the Lambs, who come to live together in a large, ramshackle house on Cloud Street over two decades. The story explores their struggles, triumphs, and the ways they are haunted and blessed by a mysterious spiritual presence. The novel is a celebration of endurance, unity, and the many forms of love, set against the backdrop of a changing Australia.

  8. 8. The Power of One by Bryce Courtenay

    This novel follows the life of a young English boy named Peekay who grows up in South Africa during the 1930s and 1940s. Despite facing bullying, racial segregation, and the hardships of World War II, Peekay remains resilient and determined to follow his dream of becoming a world-class boxer. Along his journey, he encounters various mentors who teach him about survival, love, and the power of one person to make a significant difference in the world.

  9. 9. Remembering Babylon by David Malouf

    The novel explores the life of a young man who, after being shipwrecked, is raised by Aboriginals in 19th century Australia. After sixteen years, he attempts to reintegrate into European society, but is met with suspicion and hostility due to his adopted culture and lifestyle. The book delves into themes of identity, belonging, and the clash between Aboriginal and European cultures.

  10. 10. The Getting Of Wisdom by Henry Handel Richardson

    The novel is a coming-of-age story set in late 19th-century Australia, following the experiences of Laura Rambotham, a spirited and intelligent country girl sent to a prestigious Melbourne boarding school. Struggling with the rigid social hierarchies and the expectations placed upon her, Laura faces numerous challenges and humiliations, but she remains determined to find her place in the world. Through her journey, the book explores themes of education, social class, friendship, and the quest for personal identity, ultimately illustrating the complexities and trials of growing up and the bittersweet acquisition of wisdom.

  11. 11. The Transit of Venus by Shirley Hazzard

    The novel follows the lives of two orphaned Australian sisters, Caroline and Grace Bell, who move to England in the post-World War II era. The story revolves around their relationships, particularly Caroline's complex and often tragic love life. The narrative is filled with themes of love, fate, time, and the intricate complexities of human relationships, all set against the backdrop of significant historical events.

  12. 12. My Brilliant Career by Miles Franklin

    The book follows the story of a headstrong and ambitious young woman named Sybylla, who dreams of escaping her rural life and becoming a writer. Set in late 19th century Australia, Sybylla faces societal expectations and struggles with her own desires for independence and self-expression. As she navigates through love, family, and societal pressures, Sybylla's journey becomes a reflection of the challenges faced by women in a patriarchal society, ultimately questioning the sacrifices one must make to pursue their dreams.

  13. 13. The Fortunes Of Richard Mahony by Henry Handel Richardson

    "The Fortunes of Richard Mahony" is a trilogy that chronicles the life of an Irish-born man who emigrates to Australia during the gold rush of the 1850s. The narrative follows his journey, detailing his struggles with mental health, the challenges of marriage, and the difficulties of raising a family in a foreign land. The story provides a deep insight into the complexities of human nature, the societal norms of the time, and the challenges faced by immigrants.

  14. 14. The Road from Coorain by Jill Ker Conway

    "The Road from Coorain" is a memoir that chronicles the author's journey from her childhood on a remote sheep station in Australia, through her adolescence in war-ravaged Sydney, and finally, to her departure for America. The narrative explores themes of self-discovery, gender roles, and the power of education while providing a vivid portrayal of life in the Australian outback. The memoir also delves into the author's complex relationship with her mother and the impact of her father's death on their family.

  15. 15. Inland by Gerald Murnane

    Inland is a complex and introspective novel that explores the inner workings of the human mind and the concept of reality. The story is narrated by a man who is reflecting on his life, his relationships, and his experiences, using the vast landscapes of his native Australia as a metaphor for his inner world. The narrative is non-linear and often fragmented, reflecting the man's scattered thoughts and memories. The novel is a deep exploration of the human psyche, the nature of memory, and the power of the imagination.

  16. 16. Carry Me Down by M.J. Hyland

    The novel is a coming-of-age story about a young boy named John Egan who lives in Ireland with his parents. John possesses an unusual gift for detecting lies, which he believes makes him a "human lie detector." As he navigates the complexities of adolescence, his family's financial struggles, and his own emotional turmoil, John's unique ability begins to cause more harm than good. The story explores themes of truth, deception, and the lengths one will go to preserve self-identity.

  17. 17. The Living and the Dead by Patrick White

    "The Living and the Dead" is a novel that explores the lives and relationships of the Standish family living in London. The story delves into the complexities of the human condition, as it portrays the characters' struggles with their identities, societal expectations, and the inherent loneliness of existence. The narrative is characterized by its rich, introspective, and often satirical examination of the upper-middle-class life, the disillusionment of youth, and the search for meaning.

  18. 18. The Tree of Man by Patrick White

    This novel tells the story of Stan Parker, an ordinary and hardworking man living in the Australian outback. The narrative chronicles his life, including his marriage to Amy, the birth of their two children, and the various struggles they face such as financial hardship, natural disasters, and the challenges of rural life. The book provides a deep and introspective look into the human condition, exploring themes of love, death, faith, and the search for meaning.

  19. 19. The Commandant by Jessica Anderson

    "The Commandant" is a historical novel that explores the life of Frances Forbes, the wife of Commandant Patrick Logan, who was a penal colony superintendent in Australia during the 19th century. The story, narrated by Frances, provides a detailed account of their life in the colony, including the harsh conditions, the social hierarchy, and the relationships between the convicts, soldiers, and officers. The narrative also delves into Frances' personal life, her loneliness, her relationship with her husband, and her struggle to maintain her sanity amidst the harsh and isolated environment.

  20. 20. A Fortunate Life by A.B. Facey

    "A Fortunate Life" is a memoir that chronicles the extraordinary life of a man who overcame immense hardships and adversity to find happiness and contentment. From his humble beginnings in rural Australia to his experiences as a soldier in World War I, the author shares his remarkable journey filled with poverty, loss, and resilience. Despite facing numerous challenges, he remains optimistic and grateful for the opportunities life has presented him, ultimately proving that a fortunate life is not defined by material wealth, but by the strength of the human spirit.

  21. 21. Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

    In a seemingly idyllic beachside town, three women's lives become entangled when their children start kindergarten. As the school year progresses, secrets, lies, and betrayals slowly unravel, leading to a shocking incident that will change their lives forever. With a mix of humor, suspense, and poignant moments, this gripping novel explores the complexities of motherhood, friendship, and the consequences of keeping secrets.

  22. 22. The Bone is Pointed: An Inspector Bonaparte Mystery #6 by Arthur William Upfield

    This mystery novel centers around Inspector Bonaparte, who investigates the disappearance of stockman Jack Anderson from a cattle station in the Australian Outback. As he delves into the case, Bonaparte faces a unique challenge: he's been cursed by an Aboriginal wizard. As his health declines, he must solve the mystery before the curse takes its toll. The narrative weaves elements of detective fiction with insights into Aboriginal culture and the harsh realities of life in the Australian Outback.

  23. 23. Death of a Lake by Arthur William Upfield

    In "Death of a Lake", a young woman goes missing in the Australian Outback, causing a detective to suspect foul play when a local lake begins to dry up and reveal disturbing secrets. The detective has to navigate treacherous environmental conditions, local superstitions, and a cast of eccentric characters to solve the mystery. As the water levels continue to drop, the tension rises, culminating in a dramatic climax that reveals the truth about the missing woman and the secrets hidden beneath the lake's surface.

  24. 24. The Great Fire by Shirley Hazzard

    "The Great Fire" is a historical novel set in the aftermath of World War II. The story follows a British war hero, Aldred Leith, who is sent to occupied Japan to research the effects of the war on the country's culture. During his stay, he falls in love with a young girl, Helen, who is the daughter of the Australian camp commander. Despite the age difference and societal expectations, the two form a deep bond. The book explores themes of love, war, cultural change, and personal transformation.

  25. 25. The Female Eunuch by Germaine Greer

    This book is a seminal feminist text that explores the oppression of women in society. It critiques the traditional roles and expectations of women in the mid-20th century, arguing that societal norms and conventions force women into a secondary, submissive role, effectively castrating them. The book encourages women to reject these norms and to embrace their own sexual liberation, arguing for the need for a revolution in the way women perceive themselves and their place in society.

Download

If you're interested in downloading this list as a CSV file for use in a spreadsheet application, you can easily do so by clicking the button below. Please note that to ensure a manageable file size and faster download, the CSV will include details for only the first 500 books.

Download