The Greatest Australian "Fiction" Books Since 1980

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This list represents a comprehensive and trusted collection of the greatest books. Developed through a specialized algorithm, it brings together 280 'best of' book lists to form a definitive guide to the world's most acclaimed books. For those interested in how these books are chosen, additional details can be found on the rankings page.

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  1. 1. 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.

  2. 2. 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.

  3. 3. 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.

  4. 4. 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.

  5. 5. 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.

  6. 6. 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.

  7. 7. Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts

    The novel follows the life of a convicted Australian bank robber and heroin addict who escapes from prison and flees to India. Settling in the bustling city of Mumbai, he assumes a new identity and immerses himself in the local culture, forming a close bond with the people in a slum. As he navigates his new environment, he becomes entangled in various criminal activities, including running a free health clinic, working for the Bombay mafia, and fighting in Afghanistan. Throughout his journey, he grapples with love, forgiveness, and his quest for redemption, all while exploring themes of good and evil, friendship, and the complexities of the human spirit.

  8. 8. Schindler's Ark by Thomas Keneally

    The book is a historical novel based on the true story of a German industrialist who becomes an unlikely humanitarian amid the barbaric Nazi reign. When he witnesses the horrors inflicted upon the Jews, he is moved to save as many as he can by employing them in his factory. His actions, driven by courage and compassion, lead to the salvation of over a thousand Jewish workers from certain death in the Holocaust. The narrative explores themes of morality, survival, and the capacity for good in the face of overwhelming evil, as the protagonist navigates the complexities of war and the human spirit.

  9. 9. The Children's Bach by Helen Garner

    "The Children's Bach" is a captivating novel that explores the complexities of family dynamics and the pursuit of happiness. Set in Melbourne, the story follows a group of interconnected characters as they navigate their relationships, dreams, and disappointments. Through beautiful prose and keen observations, the author delves into themes of love, loss, and the search for meaning in everyday life, creating a poignant and thought-provoking narrative.

  10. 10. Illywhacker by Peter Carey

    The novel is a sprawling tale of deception, magic, and family history, narrated by a 139-year-old Australian con artist. He recounts his life's adventures, from snake handling to aircraft manufacturing, while weaving in the stories of his descendants. The narrative is a blend of historical fiction and tall tales, exploring themes of national identity, truth, and the art of storytelling itself. Through the protagonist's unreliable narration, the book challenges the reader to discern fact from fiction, all while painting a vivid picture of Australian society and its transformation over the 20th century.

  11. 11. 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.

  12. 12. The Arrival by Shaun Tan

    "The Arrival" is a wordless graphic novel that tells the story of a man who leaves his troubled homeland to seek a better life in an unknown country. The man's journey is filled with strange, surreal experiences as he navigates a new culture, language, and way of life, all while missing his family. The book explores themes of immigration, displacement, and hope in a beautifully illustrated, silent narrative.

  13. 13. The Sea And Summer by George Turner

    "The Sea and Summer" by George Turner is a dystopian novel set in a future Australia where climate change and economic disparity have created a stark divide between the rich and the poor. The story follows the lives of two families, the Kents and the Coulters, as they struggle to survive in a decaying city plagued by extreme weather conditions and social unrest. As tensions rise and the gap between social classes widens, the characters must confront the harsh realities of their world and make difficult choices to ensure their survival.

  14. 14. The House Tibet by Georgia Savage

    "The House Tibet" is a novel that explores the complex tapestry of family life, identity, and the enduring impact of history on personal lives. The story follows a woman who, after the death of her mother, inherits a house filled with mysterious artifacts and echoes of the past. As she delves into her mother's secretive history, she uncovers connections to Tibet and a family legacy shaped by love, loss, and the struggle for freedom. The narrative weaves together the present and the past, revealing how the political turmoil of Tibet has rippled through generations, affecting the lives of those far removed from its borders. The protagonist's journey is one of self-discovery and reconciliation, as she comes to terms with her heritage and the threads that bind her to the enigmatic House Tibet.

  15. 15. 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.

  16. 16. 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.

  17. 17. Tomorrow, When The War Began by John Marsden

    The book follows a group of teenagers who return from a camping trip to discover that their country has been invaded and their families taken prisoner. As they grapple with the harsh reality of their situation, they must transform from carefree adolescents into resourceful and determined fighters, struggling to survive and launch a guerrilla war against the occupying forces. The story explores themes of friendship, survival, and the loss of innocence, as the characters are thrust into a brutal conflict that forces them to confront the complexities of adulthood and warfare.

  18. 18. Looking For Alibrandi by Melina Marchetta

    The novel is a coming-of-age story that follows the life of a high school girl of Italian-Australian descent, living in Sydney. Throughout her final year at a prestigious Catholic school, she navigates the complexities of her family's immigrant history, her identity, and the social pressures of adolescence. As she deals with her own personal crises, including meeting her estranged father and grappling with an unexpected tragedy, she embarks on a journey of self-discovery, challenging the expectations of her family and society to ultimately find her place in the world.

  19. 19. 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.

  20. 20. The Riders by Tim Winton

    The novel follows the turbulent journey of an Australian man who travels to Ireland with his young daughter to reunite with his wife, only to discover upon arrival that she has mysteriously disappeared. As he searches across Europe for his missing wife, grappling with the uncertainty of her fate and the challenge of caring for his daughter alone, he is forced to confront his own shortcomings and the reality of his crumbling marriage. The narrative is a haunting exploration of hope, despair, and the complexities of love and identity, set against a backdrop of richly depicted landscapes that mirror the protagonist's inner turmoil.

  21. 21. The Ancient Future Trilogy by Traci Harding

    The series blends elements of fantasy, science fiction, and historical fiction, following the journey of a young woman who is transported back in time to the age of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. With her knowledge of the future and her emerging psychic abilities, she becomes a pivotal figure in the ancient world, influencing historical events and intertwining her destiny with legendary characters. As she navigates the challenges of her new life, she also uncovers mysteries that link the past, present, and future, revealing a timeless battle between light and darkness. Her adventures across time explore themes of destiny, reincarnation, and the interconnectedness of all things.

  22. 22. The Sugar Mother by Elizabeth Jolley

    The novel centers around a middle-aged couple, Edwin and Cecilia, whose tranquil life is disrupted when Edwin, a university professor, is left alone while his wife travels abroad. During her absence, a vivacious and pregnant neighbor, Leila, ingratiates herself into Edwin's life, bringing along her own brand of chaos. As Edwin becomes entangled in the lives of Leila and her friends, he confronts unexpected desires and ethical dilemmas, leading to a complex exploration of relationships, fertility, and the longing for family. The narrative delves into themes of loneliness, the search for companionship, and the impact of outsiders on a settled existence.

  23. 23. Forty Seventeen by Frank Moorhouse

    The novel explores the life of George Brewster, a middle-aged, divorced Australian consul-general living in Europe, who is grappling with the complexities of diplomatic life, personal relationships, and aging. As Brewster navigates through a series of professional and romantic entanglements, he reflects on his past and contemplates his future, revealing the intricacies of his inner world and the challenges of maintaining one's identity in the face of societal expectations and personal desires. Set against the backdrop of international politics and cultural exchanges, the story delves into themes of love, loneliness, and the search for meaning in a transient world.

  24. 24. Ice Station by Matthew Reilly

    In this high-octane thriller, an elite team of American Marines is dispatched to a remote Antarctic research station after a distress signal indicates the discovery of an unknown entity buried deep in the ice. Upon arrival, the team finds themselves embroiled in a deadly battle with foreign commandos who are also intent on securing the mysterious find. As the soldiers navigate treacherous ice caverns and confront the harsh elements, they uncover a secret that could change the course of history, all while fighting to survive against overwhelming odds and prevent the artifact from falling into the wrong hands.

  25. 25. Jessica by Bryce Courtenay

    The novel is a gripping tale of a young Australian woman's resilience and determination in the face of overwhelming adversity. Born into a life of hardship in the bush, Jessica is a tomboy who is more at home with horses and fencing than in the kitchen. When her dreams and rights are trampled by her family's betrayal and a corrupt legal system, she must fight to clear her name and seek justice. Set against the backdrop of World War I and the harsh Australian outback, her story is one of love, loss, and the unyielding spirit of a woman who refuses to be broken by the world.

Reading Statistics

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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.

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