Sutherland Shire Libraries Staff Picks 2010

The Sutherland Shire Libraries staff would like to wish you all a very Happy New Year. May it be filled with lots of love, laughter and resolutions you can keep.

As our final blog post of the year, we'd like to share with you some of our favourite books of 2010:


For Kids - Mirror by Jennie Baker. This book gives an insight into the lives of two boys and their families: one from inner city Sydney and the other from a remote village in Morocco. There are some great pictures with a great contrast between two cities. Adults will enjoy it too.

For Teens - A waltz for Matilda by Jackie French. This story is rooted in the words of our most famous national song. It is told from the points of view of those who had no vote in 1901: the women, indigenous people, the Chinese market gardeners and Afghan traders. It's a fantastic historical fiction read showing true guts and adversity of the young protagonist.

For Adults - Kitchen : recipes from the heart of the home by Nigella Lawson. This is a nice accompaniment to the show just screened on the lifestyle channel.


Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel. This is the story of King Henry VIII and those around him including Thomas Cromwell. A riveting, beautifully written book whose final sentence left me keenly anticipating the sequel.
It is no small feat by the author that, despite the reader's knowledge of the history of  Thomas Cromwell, Henry VIII,  Anne Boleyn, and the rest, the suspense is gripping nonetheless.
The heart of the novel is Mantel's creation of Cromwell's character, her imaginative leap into the workings of his mind, and - in particular  - the sharpness of his wit. There are some truly wonderful passages of description. Those who enjoy reading for the sheer joy of figurative language, rather than just a chore to get to the end of the story, will find much in this book that is rich and rewards your patience.


The Anthology of Colonial Australian Gothic Fiction by Ken Gelder and Rachael Weaver. This collects the best examples of Australian gothic short stories from colonial times. It took me back to being a Kid and reading all the old Australian ghost stories I could find.


Surface Detail by Iain M. Banks. Imagine you have the technology to record a persons mind completely down to their emotions and feelings to allow full personality and memory backups in case of accidents. Imagine then these virtual versions of people are so complete they can feel and think virtually which has led some races of the loose Galactic association, to create their own versions of digital Hells where their virtual citizens can suffer or just be punished according to their ideals. Of course there are some other races philosophically opposed to the idea of hurting your citizens (virtual or not), and are willing to go to Virtual war to bring about the closure of these digital torture realms. The story starts when one side realises they are about to lose this simulated war and decide that they will have to take the conflict to the 'Real universe' to win.
Iain Banks "Culture" novels are darkly humorous and very often deal with the dichotomy of an advanced, generally non violent and benign society, dealing with less technically and socially advanced peoples through the agents of "Contact" and "Special Circumstances". I really enjoyed this book and while in my opinion it is not the best example of Bank's work it is engaging and entertaining and I read through all 600 odd pages of it in only a couple of sittings.


Room by Emma Donoghue. Narrator Jack (5 years old) and his mother live in a 11-foot square, sound-proof cell in the yard of a sociopath who kidnapped Jack's mother 7 years earlier. This book tells the story of their nail biting escape. It is so rare to find a book so original in concept and style of writing but is still fresh and a joy to read, instead of deliberately difficult and obscure like so many literary books. And a book that can deal with a fairly gruesome theme without being salacious.


Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins. The Capitol is angry that Katniss Everdeen has defied the rules and survived the Hunger Games twice. Katniss, her friends, family and community may be held accountable. It was the final book in the Hunger Games trilogy and I had not been able to put either of the first two down until I had finished them. Most of the questions asked in the previous two books were answered and the ending wasn't bad. Highly recommend to anyone that likes a good survival story and being a young adult book it is not too heavy a read.


Born to Run : the hidden tribe, the ultra-runners, and the greatest race the world has ever seen by Christopher McDougall. Explores the world of the Tarahumara (mexican Indians), reputed to be the best distance runners in the world - in 1993, one of them, aged 57 came first in a 100 mile race wearing a toga and sandals. The author and a group of elite athletes make the journey to meet this tribe and take them on a 50 mile course, exploring the secrets of being a runner.


Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer. Don't know if I can say I 'enjoyed' the book, but I found it a very powerful, informative and interesting read about the raising of animals for food. It is also about the ending of small family-run farms and the corporate presence in what is now agri-business.
What I liked about the book is that Foer didn't undertake writing this book at all. As an expectant first-time father, he wanted to make informed choices about the food he would be feeding his child. Foer had been an on/off vegetarian for many years and didn't seem particularly swayed to raise his child as a non-meat eater so he decided to investigate where 'meat' comes from. He wrote to a large poultry corporation which pushes a 'family friendly' approach to ask whether he could visit some of their facilities to see what goes on for himself, but never received a response. After many months and letters with no contact from these people, he decided to undertake his own investigation. He was confused about the evasion and secrecy. His findings form the basis of this book.

I like that his book isn't just factual - there are plenty of statistics for those that want facts, but he also is a wonderful storyteller and weaves part of his own family's history into the tale and what food means in terms of identity, family and culture. I also like that Foer's book could easily have been a book based on the horrors of factory farming, but instead he has presented a well researched account on the impact of eating animals. Foer also presents various viewpoints - eg he visits and talks to 'old-fashioned' farmers who care about their animals and the products they're producing, an animal rights activist, and workers on the kill floor in abattoirs. I believe Foer has written a very powerful book that is easy to read. It isn't a preachy book but it's certainly about ethics and the important question of whether to eat animals or not. It's about how we choose to live our lives and the impact of the choices we make - do we support an industry based on the suffering of voiceless beings which have minimal rights as they are technically commodities and not individuals (unlike our pets).


Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen. I've read quite a few books this year so it was hard to pick a favourite, but this book was an interesting, as well as a surprisingly moving, read. I'm not sure why it appealed to me as I'm not a mad animal lover and I've never had a great interest in circuses - I think it was just very well written and wonderfully evocative of a bygone era. The story has it all - tragedy, romance, cruelty, love, injustice, intrigue and more than one murder. It will however, destroy any romantic notions you may have of circus life.
The book opens with the reminiscences of old Jacob Jankowski who is languishing in a nursing home. He relates how, as a 23 year old, he was about to sit his final veterinary exams when his parents were involved in a fatal car accident. When Jacob discovers that his father's veterinary practice was in dire straits and that there was no inheritance (because his kindly father was most often paid "in kind" and not in hard cash), he suffers a meltdown, abandons his studies, and runs off and joins the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth. Set in the Great Depression era, the author apparently did extensive research on circuses and conditions of the time and so she manages to create an exciting and convincing environment for her characters. As you would expect of a circus, the cast includes misfits, freaks and grifters but somehow Gruen manages to imbue all of them with qualities that make you either love or hate them, there is no middle ground. The story regularly jumps from Jacob's memories as a 23 year old to the present day. The author portrays old age as a most undignified and pitiful state, particularly in a nursing home, but still manages to make Jacob a lovable curmudgeon. While the ending was a little 'twee' and improbable, I'll admit it felt just right to me and I finished the book feeling very satisfied with the outcome.


My sister challenged me to read this insisting that I'd love it. While resisiting for a good few months (my sister and I have very different tastes) I finally picked it up and started reading it on my way to Nepal and I'm glad I did. Elizabeth Gilbert had everything a woman in her thirties was supposed to have - a marriage (and plans to start a family), a successful career, house and car. Yet she found herself suffering from depression and anxiety. One divorce and one heart break later, Elizabeth decides to embark on a journey of self-discovery around the world. She travels to Italy, India and Indonesia over the space of a year in the search of pleasure, devotion and balance.
I thought it was an enlightening book. There is so much of Gilbert's personality I could identify with (especially her love of travel) and there were times when it felt like the she was talking directly to her reader. The section on India was the most interesting and it's the place where Gilbert seems to really discover who she is. Written with raw honesty, I'd recommend this book to any person who has sometimes felt like there is something missing from their life.


A fine balance by Rohinton Mistry is probably my favourite book I have ever read. I liked the Indian setting, offering a glimpse into life in India in the 1970's, during the State of internal emergency. The characters and storyline are both very well developed, allowing the reader to feel both affinity and empathy with them and their situation. It is again, very well written and easy to read.

Unbearable Lightness by Portia de Rossi is a detailed and candid account of this Australian actresses battle with anorexia and coming out. It is really easy to read, I kept thinking she must have had a ghost writer!(she didn't)! Reading this gave me a new perspective on Portia de Rossi, showing hidden depths!

The maze runner is my new favourite Young adult novel. (replacing the "Tomorrow when the war began" series. It is a great dystopian book, combining adventure and suspense that keeps you guessing right up to the last page. I am now devouring the second in the series "Scorch trials"- awesome reading!

So do you have a favourite book of 2010?

Let us know by leaving a comment. We're always looking for new books to recommend and we'd love to hear from you.

See you in 2011!

Check out our new eBook Collection

You may be aware of Sutherland Shire Libraries Overdrive service, which allows Library members to download eBooks and audio-books direct to their PC or smart phone. Now we have a whole new collection of eBooks with infobase publishing. These eBooks cannot be downloaded, but they are available for reading online with no need to borrow or install any software.

Library members can read the eBooks straight from their PC. They can also make notes, bookmark pages and search within a particular title. Right now we have a number of eBooks covering literature, science and religion.These are great for HSC students as they often cover subjects from the syllabus - now you can read Hamlet and make notes directly next to it. These eBooks could make a great alternative to our print collection, especially when there's a last minute assignment due and all our print books are checked out.

You can access this great service from home or within Sutherland Shire Libraries but you must hold a valid Sutherland Shire Libraries card.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

All Sutherland Shire Libraries would like to wish you a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

We hope you've enjoyed our Library services, collections and events in 2010 and we look forward to seeing you in 2011.

Welcome to our New Look website!

This December, a new website has been launched for Sutherland Shire Libraries and all Sutherland Shire Council business units. This is the result of months of hard work from a great web development team.

Our new website has been redesigned with you, the user, in mind. We want to make sure it is easier for you to find the information you need.

On our new site, you'll be able to search for books, articles, historical photographs, e-books and audio-books as well as locate opening hours and see up-coming events, all from our home page. You can also browse our information depending on who you are and what you're looking for. There's something for everyone, including kids and parents, young people, HSC students, book lovers, family historians, diverse cultures and seniors.

If you find a page you like, you can share it on Facebook, Twitter or MySpace and if you have a specific information query, try using our 'Ask a Librarian' form located on the home page.

These are just some of great features on the new website. We hope you enjoy exploring it further. Let us know what you think by leaving a comment below.

Literary legend Ruth Park dies aged 93

Ruth Park, the author of classic Australian novels and children's books has died in Sydney, aged 93.
Born in Auckland in 1917, Park spent much of her childhood living in tent camps in remote regions as her father worked as a road and bridge builder. Park later reflected that this early exposure to nature influenced her sense of belonging in the adult world.

Park later attended the University of Auckland and became a journalist with the Auckland Star. She moved to Australia in 1942 and married Darcy Niland, a journalist and author most famously known for The Shiralee. Together they raised five children.

While Park made a living writing plays for ABC Radio she is best known for her popular novels and children's books. Her best-seller The Harp in the South was published in 1948. It told the story of an Irish Australian family living in the Surrey Hills slums during the depression. The novel received rave reviews and was translated into 37 languages. She went on to write Poor Man's Orange and Swords and Crowns and Rings (for which she won the Miles Franklin Literary Award).

In 1962, Park wrote her most famous children's book The Muddleheaded Wombat which led to a series of picture books. In 1980, her best known young adult novel Playing Beattie Bow was published.

Park had published two autobiographies: A Fence around the Cuckoo and Fishing in the Styx.

Ruth Park was one of the greatest authors in Australian history. Her books richly portrayed our social history and she made a great impact on the writing industry.

Christmas Storytime at Engadine Library

Engadine Library had a special visitor when it hosted a Christmas story time last Friday. While the children were entertained with Christmas stories, rhymes and a film Santa made a surprise visit and gave each child a small gift to take home. Lots of fun and photo opportunities was had by all.

HSC Lectures 2011 - be the first to know

For the past 2 years, Sutherland Shire Libraries has been host to a very popular series of HSC lectures.These lectures have been presented by a range of experienced and knowledgable guest speakers including senior markers, study guide authors and head teachers. The lectures have given students a great opportunity to prepare for the HSC with good tips and guidance. They have been so popular, in fact, that places fill up quickly so it is important to book early.

Now you can be among the first to know about the HSC Lectures to be held in May/June and September 2011. All you need to do is leave your name and email address at any Sutherland Shire Library and we will notify you when the program is finalised and the tickets are available for purchase.

Lectures have so far been planned for English - Belonging, Biology, Legal Studies and Business Studies. They run for 2 hours and are generally held in the evening at Sutherland Library. Tickets are $5.00/lecture.

For more information please contact Karen Pender or Ruth Ivery, HSC Reference Resources Librarians on 9710 0351 or send an email to

Discover your family history with our trial

Sutherland Shire Libraries have recently subscribed to a trial of the popular genealogy web site

This site can help you with all your family history research. It contains 50 million historical records covering Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea and the Pacific Islands. The collection includes cemetery, death, land, military, court and migration records, electoral rolls, criminal reports, directories, almanacs and Government Gazettes.

There are also thousands of social, government and general history records - handy for those with an interest in Australian history or great for those end-of-year school projects.

Our Central Library at Sutherland holds a number of useful resources for genealogists including books, CD-Roms and microfilm while all Sutherland Shire Libraries (excluding Bundeena) have a subscription to So if you're interested in researching your family tree, you can always find something to help you at your local Library.

Come in today, try out and tell us what you think. You can access the database for free via the PCs in Sutherland Shire Libraries - just ask staff! The trial ends January 2011.

Author Talk at Miranda Library - Sue Whiting on 'Get a Grip, Cooper Jones'

A class of 24 Year 8 students from Port Hacking High School were invited to attend an author talk at Miranda Library today with local children's and teenage fiction writer Sue Whiting discussing her latest teen fiction novel 'Get a Grip, Cooper Jones'. A novel about life spinning out of control and becoming way too complicated.

Sue developed her passion for children's literature as a primary school teacher and now divides her time between working as a children’s book editor and writing stories for young people.

It was an entertaining and informative session for the students, with Sue explaining the story behind her new book, which took 8 years to write, with some parts of it inspired by local events including the 2002 bushfires that hit Stanwell Tops.

Kids were given the chance to ask Sue questions about her life and her work, getting useful tips for any budding writers in the group.

Here is a video on 'Get a Grip, Cooper Jones'

Look out for more upcoming Author Talks to be held in Sutherland Shire Libraries.

For more information on Sue Whiting & 'Get a Grip, Cooper Jones' click here

Elderly Chinese group library tour

"Wow, this is a big library…”; “Wow, it
is a cozy, neat
and tidy place…”; “Wow, there are so many books, the library is so generous…” and more.

These are some of the comments from the Gymea Community Centre Elderly Chinese Group who visited the Sutherland Library recently. The group members are mostly over 70 years of age.

The tour began with a brief introduction of the Sutherland Libraries and the services provided by the Libraries, followed by a “backroom” tour to see what special librarians do in the library, and ended with a Q&A session and the Chinese collection tour.

The group was impressed by the size, collection and services offered by the Library, especially local studies and audio visual collection.

Half of the visiting group has applied for library membership after the visit. In some countries, being a library member incurs cost and only paid members are allowed entry to a library. This is the first library visit for some of the group members.

Besides Chinese language collection, the Sutherland Libraries also have a collection of Arabic and Greek language items. Through the Library’s interlibrary loan service, library members can gain access to
other language items that are available in the other public libraries in Australia.

Books for Christmas? What to choose!

Are you having trouble deciding what titles to choose for Christmas gifts, or to soak up yourself, during the (potentially wet) holidays? Then here is a list of some of the online tools which can help you to choose. All are freely available, though the first, NoveList Plus, does require you to be a library member.

NoveList Plus offers over 200,000 titles to choose from. It includes fiction and non-fiction catering for all reading levels for children, young adults and adults. You can discover titles by a range of options including using plot descriptions, award lists, read alike suggestions, genre, style and of course author and title. Click to check if Sutherland Library holds your choice. is your local booklovers blog. It’s a blog for anyone who loves books, DVDs or music. Here, you can check out what other people are reading/watching/listening to and find that next good book, movie or sound recording. You can even register to become a contributor and tell others of your favourites.

All Readers features a detailed search by plot, setting or character. Finding a story about farm life, featuring animal care, set in Australia is just a few clicks away. Lists by genre are also available.

Fiction DB says it has ‘everything you need to know about fiction books and authors’. You can find complete author book lists, books in series, descriptions, reviews, and author pages. is a fun way to get an author suggestion. Enter an author and get a map of similar works or type in 3 of your favourite authors and get a suggestion, reject this and get other!

Libraries Alive has an impressive set of links to many Australian book choice tools.

There is something new and exciting for everyone within every one of these sites, so try some out today. Don’t forget to check the Sutherland Library catalogue, and reserve your copy.

Happy Christmas reading!