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March 21, 2024

Feeling bookish

CityMag checked in with the well-read folk at Adelaide City Libraries for a month’s worth of book recommendations. Our criteria? Something unexpected, engaging and a page turner.

  • This article was produced in collaboration with City of Adelaide.

The Baron in the Trees
by Italo Calvino   

Classic fiction recommended by Rose

This classic by Italian author Italo Calvino operates on the unusual premise of the protagonist spending his life – as the title suggests – in the trees.

Set in 18th century Italy, son of the Baron of Ombrosa, 12-year-old Cosimo takes refuge in the trees of the garden after a family spat and then encounters his young and beautiful neighbour who challenges him to never set foot on the ground again.

Despite being tree-bound, the story of his life reads as entirely normal. If anything, it is easy to forget the absurd proposition on which the story is founded.

This book is superbly written (and translated) and is a brilliant tale of acceptance, adventure and independence.


Bill Cunningham: On the Street
by Bill Cunningham

Coffee table book recommended by Belinda

Photographer Bill Cunningham debuted On the Street in the New York Times in 1978 by illustrating emerging fashion trends with candid photographs of anonymous people hustling around Manhattan – most notably at the corner of 57th Street and Fifth Avenue.


Did you know? You can access an extensive catalogue of films and documentaries on Beamafilm. It’s available 24 hours a day and it’s free using your Adelaide City Libraries card. Find out more here

I love this book because Bill Cunningham (1927-2016) was quite the enigma, preferring to observe and record, rather than to insert himself and to fawn over the rich and famous. 

Complementing this beautiful book is a 2010 doco titled Bill Cunningham: New York. It’s here where you learn more about who Bill was and who he was venerated by. As Vogue’s editor-in-chief, Anna Wintour says in the film, “We all get dressed for Bill”.


Hello Beautiful
by Ann Napolitano

Contemporary fiction recommended by Vicki

The story spans several years and is focused on four sisters and their relationships with each other. The characters circling the girls are pivotal to the individuals they become.

The story starts when the sisters are teens living in the same household. As they navigate the world as adults, they all need to decide on their life priorities, what they are willing to sacrifice and endure, and ask themselves how important their relationship with each other is.

While the book contains themes of suicide, grief and mental health, the main overarching themes are love, connection and the complications of family relationships.


The Fraud
by Zadie Smith 

Historical fiction recommended by Cate

This is a sprawling tale full of digressions which ranges across thirty or so years of Victorian England, Jamaica and colonial Australia.

The central fraud (just one of many ‘frauds’) is the infamous Tichborne legal case where in 1866 a butcher from Wagga claimed he was the shipwrecked scion of wealthy British aristocrats.

The case was one of the lengthiest trials in English history, continuing until February 1874 and occupying 188 days in court.

At its heart is also another story, the painful and profitable role of the sugar plantations in the wealth of Victorian Britain, even decades after the abolition of slavery. The Fraud does not sacrifice complexity for a tidy story. But Zadie Smith’s unfailing humour and exceptionally elegant style kept me engrossed in this untidy, funny, moving tale.


Beastie Boys Book
by Adam Horovitz and Michael Diamond

Pop culture/music audiobook recommended by Luke


Borrow this title and thousands of eBooks, audiobooks and eMagazines using the Libby app. Log in using your Adelaide City Libraries card and browse books for all ages that you can borrow and enjoy for 21 days. Join now.

Thoughtful, chaotic and hilarious, the book itself is very unique in the way it is compiled, so it was such a thrill to wait and see which guest narrator would pop up in the next chapter.

The audio cast alongside Adam Horovitz and Michael Diamond is endless, but includes (to name a few) Snoop Dogg, Ben Stiller, Will Ferrell, Spike Jonze, Chloë Sevigny, Jarvis Cocker, Bette Midler and Steve Buscemi.

If you like music memoirs and super unique listening experiences, this comes very highly recommended, but you don’t necessarily need to be a fan of hip hop or the Beastie Boys to enjoy it.


A potted history of book recommendations


Drop into one of the Adelaide City Libraries:

City Library – 3rd Floor Rundle Place (enter off Francis Street)

Hutt Street Library – 235 Hutt Street

North Adelaide Library – 176 Tynte Street

Find out more on Instagram or visit the website.

The history of book recommendations probably stretches back to 285 BC and the Great Library of Alexandria. But really it was Gutenberg’s mechanical printing press in 1436 that made literature more available and literacy a thing for the masses.

Cue the book recommendations. Not sure what to read or listen to next? Your Adelaide City Libraries team can help you find your next favourite adventure.

Fancy starting a book club? Ask about the special collections of book sets to get everyone reading together. And, if you want to get hands-on creatively – with podcasting, video editing, animation or graphic design – book some time in the free Media Lab in the City Library in Rundle Place, a place of possibility.

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