Books are a wonderful way to escape to far-flung places and find out about exotic destinations. Equally, they’re also a great conduit to discover and understand the place that we come from.
With that in mind, here’s a list of some fantastic books about Western Australia that will leave you with a new insight and perspective into this unique part of the world.
No other author brings West Australia’s landscape and characters alive like Tim Winton. Any of Winton’s books can be listed here – Dirt Music, Breath, Lockie Leonard, An Open Swimmer, Island Home.
Cloudstreet is one of Australia’s classic novels and chronicles the fortunes and misfortunes of two rural families who move to Perth and make a go of it over the course of 20 years from 1943 to 1963. A great story about love and family values, set against the backdrop of Perth’s inner city suburbs.
Everybody’s favourite dog, this is the story of an adventurous and spirited cattle dog and the people he meets in his quest to find his master.
Set in Karratha in the seventies, Red Dog is as ochre as the red Pilbara dirt. Described as the canine version of Crocodile Dundee who made Lassie look like a wuss, Red Dog embodies the spirit and the characters of a WA mining town in the seventies.
Set in the mid-sixties in the fictional regional mining town of Corrigan, Jasper Jones is a whodunnit mystery with plenty of family drama, racial tensions and adolescent angst thrown in the mix.
The book tells the tale of 13-year-old protagonist, Charlie Bucktin and 14-year-old rebel Jasper Jones, as they seek to find the truth behind a death in their community. Although written for young adults, this book is for both young and old.
Described as the extraordinary journey of an ordinary man, this is the acclaimed and humble story of Albert Facey, who despite all the hardships he endured, still felt that his was a fortunate life.
This autobiographical book recounts Facey’s early impoverished life in rural WA, his experience in Gallipoli, the dark years of the Depression and many other tales of suffering and loss that are impossible to fathom today. This is a very moving but inspiring book that also tells the story of WA during the early nineteenth century.
The Last of the Nomads is a deeply moving story of Warri and Yatungka, the last of the Mandjildjara people to remain in the Gibson desert, the traditional home of the tribe.
This is a very informative account of earlier Aboriginal live and the significance of the country to Aboriginal people. The book also gives a history of Wiluna, the Canning Stock Route and early European exploration.
My Place, is the autobiographical story of Sally Morgan, It traces Morgan’s her experiences growing up in suburban Perth in the sixties and seventies as she uncovers her previously unknown indigenous heritage.
The book looks at three generations of indigenous women as Morgan interweaves the personal stories of her mother and grandmother that they kept secret.
This semi-autobiographical novel is a fictionalised version of Drewe’s life growing up in Perth and how the killings of the real life serial killer Eric Edgar Cooke terrorised the people of Perth at the time.
For those that like crime fiction, Red Dirt Talking is a missing person’s tale set against the backdrop of north-west WA’s big wet.
This book follows the story of a missing eight-year-old girl and an anthropology graduate who is determined to find out what’s happened to her.
On a remote island off the coast of WA, a young couple finds a boat adrift carrying a dead man and a baby. They decide to keep it as their own and years later, as they return to the mainland they uncover the consequences of their actions.
Set in the 1920s, Light between Oceans has since been filmed into a movie.
Boy on a Wire is a coming-of-age memoir set in 1960s Western Australia this fictionalised autobiography, looks at Doust’s experience of being sent from a small rural town to boarding school in Perth.
The book follows the journey of Jack Muir, the hot-blooded but totally lovable protagonists as he grapples with the perils of school life.
Set in the first decades of the nineteenth century around Albany, That Deadman Dance explores the early contacts between the Aboriginal Noongar people, early European settlers and American whalers.
The hero of the novel, is Bobby, a young Noongar man who befriends the new arrivals. Eventually, the two worlds collide and Bobby must decide between his traditional life and the new world presented to him by the European settlers.
The list of great novels set in Western Australia could go on – what’s your favourite book set in WA? Comment below and I’ll add it to the list.
Great list! I’ve only read five of them. I think the Merry Go Round In the Sea by Randolph Stow is another one. Was going to talk about my favourite, but they are all favourites 🙂 Also for some Perth recent history – TAG Hungerford writes about growing up in South Perth / Como and is a really good read.
Thanks Sally, great additions. I’ve heard about both of these but didn’t want to vouch for anything that I haven’t read. Along with your recommendations about books on India my reading list is getting pretty long.
Oh so many books I need to read!
Secrets Mothers Keep by Linda J Bettenay is a book based in my home town. It is a true crime story from the 1920’s. I found it a really interesting read.
Hi Anne, hope you’re getting time to read. Sounds really good, what a different place WA must have been in the 1920s. I can’t imagine.
Great list Nina, ashamedly I’ve only read My Place from this list, and that was because we were made to at school. Thanks for the inspiration.
Awesome post! Just the info I needed. Nice & concise too, book reviews that don’t give away too much are the best.
Thanks Sarah, glad it helped. Let me know if you come across any more I can add to the list.
I have read 3 of those but will look out for some of the others. You have a great travel blog here. I saw you mentioned being Swiss on Red’s blog. I’m married to one.
Hi Diane, thanks for the visit. Yes, I grew up in Switzerland but these days I like to call WA home. Happy reading, I hope this list gave you some inspiration for other books.
The Last of the Nomads & My Place are favourites of mine.
Mutant Message DownUnder by Marlo Morgan is another great however is focused on Aboriginal Australia rather then WA but one I absolute can’t go past is Wishes for Starlight by Linda J Betteney. its the kind of book you can’t put down. Based here in the Perth Hills. I’ll have to check out some of the ones you have recommended I think?
Thanks Chelle, they sound like fantastic additions to the list. I’ll get a copy of Wishes for Starlight.
I haven’t heard of most of these, but I do remember slugging my way through A Fortunate Life as a teenager. It was a long, slow read.
Same, we must have all had the same English teacher. I think it needs to be read again as an adult to be fully appreciated. It is a really lovely book and I love his honest and simple style of writing.
I agree – Linda Bettenay’s books should be on this list! Do you know she has put out a third book – ‘The Apple Core Wars’? This is a brilliant read about 2 local hills men who grow up not liking each other, go to Nagasaki, and return after the war to be friends. With all the ‘can’t put down’ qualities of her first two books it is a great ‘must’ read!
Thanks Marie, that’s great to know, I will have to get a copy.