May reading guide: From heartbreak recipes to Australia’s LGBTQI+ history

Photo: TND/Ultimo Press/Allen & Unwin/HarperCollins Australia

Photo: TND/Ultimo Press/Allen & Unwin/HarperCollins Australia

This year has been tough for many in the LGBTQI+ community, but there’s a lot to be learned from history.

Some of this month’s new book releases dive into Australia’s true historical LGBTQI+ stories, as well as look into how companies have pivoted to digitise the customer experience. There’s also tips on how to deal with difficult people in your life.

Here are 10 books to check out in May.

The Swipe-Right Customer Experience

Sanna Eskelinen and Belinda Gerdt

(HarperCollins Australia/$32.99)

The COVID-19 pandemic forced everybody to rethink how they operate, and question the role that technology plays in business and in our lives.

In this new era, customer experience is not just a digital experience, but a perfect combination of real life and digital interaction. It could be a meditative museum experience combining art with augmented reality, or an entertaining shopping experience at a mall with omnichannel support in a virtual fitting room.

The Swipe-Right Customer Experience shows how the best companies have transformed the customer experience beyond offering a technology add-on.

Release date: May 20

Ethics in the Real World

Peter Singer

(Text Publishing/$24.99)

A fully updated and expanded edition of Australian philosopher Peter Singer’s collection of short essays, including 37 new works to bring the total count to 90.

Free speech and fake news, stopping Putin, pandemic ethics, climate change, extreme poverty, abortion, euthanasia, sports doping, the sale of kidneys, happiness, climbing Mt Everest, the parenting style of elephants, our relationship with kangaroos and colonising space.

Singer brings clarity, focus and brilliant analysis to a wide range of current real-world ethical matters. These provocative short essays will challenge—and possibly change—the way you think.

Release date: May 2

Difficult People

Rebecca Ray

(Pan Macmillan Australia/$36.99)

An explosive boss, a controlling boyfriend, an interfering mother-in-law, a friend who talks only about herself – we all know them, but how do we deal with them?

Difficult people take over our lives and live rent-free in our heads. We steel ourselves before we meet them, can’t relax when we are with them, and ruminate on their behaviour after they’ve gone.

In Difficult People, clinical psychologist Rebecca Ray shows us how to recognise (and understand) difficult people and provides us with practical strategies for self-preservation.

Release date: May 30


Charlotte Ree

(Allen & Unwin/$39.99)

Part memoir, part recipe book, Heartbake takes readers on Sydney-based Charlotte Ree’s journey of learning to cook in the wake of a divorce.

With each meal that she masters—a boiled egg, grilled cheese, lasagne, ricotta and pesto ravioli in a brown butter and sage sauce—readers follow the story of Ree’s search for love in friendship, family, romance, and in herself.

Release date: May 2

The Crossing

Sophie Matterson

(Allen & Unwin/$34.99)

In 2020, most of 31-year-old Sophie Matterson’s friends were getting engaged or starting families, but Matterson longed for adventure, independence and purpose.

So, she broke up with her long-term boyfriend, packed all her belongings into saddlebags, and trained her wild camels to walk in a string behind her.

Her 18-month, 4750km-long solo crossing was the ultimate test of resilience and self-sufficiency—with each state in various forms of lockdowns, Matterson would often walk for weeks without seeing another soul. She crossed harsh deserts, navigated treacherously beautiful salt lakes, and visited country towns and isolated cattle stations.

Release date: May 2

She and Her Pretty Friend

Danielle Scrimshaw

(Ultimo Press/$35.99)

The debut novel of Australian writer and historian Danielle Scrimshaw offers a joyous look at the history of lesbian and bisexual women in Australia – from colonisation to convict times, through suffrage and liberation to today.

Instead of lovers, women’s relationships throughout history have been documented as those of particularly close friends; the type that made out, worked, lived, and were buried together.

She and Her Pretty Friend aims to dispel this myth by exploring women’s relationships through Australian history, each chapter centring on a specific person, couple, or time period.

Release date: May 3

Mr Smith to You

Kerry Taylor

(Affirm Press/$34.99)

A novel based on the true story of Australian jockey Bill Smith – a life lived in secret.

For most of his 76 years, Bill Smith preferred solitude over socialising and horses over people. But a fall lands him in full-time care and it becomes impossible to maintain his privacy.

Nurse Maureen Bannon resents having to look after grumpy old buggers like Mr Smith, but when she discovers Bill’s secret, an unlikely alliance is formed; Bill was assigned female at birth, a fact that shaped his life but never limited his ambition.

With Bill’s health declining, Maureen wants to find someone who knows and loves him, but only one name seems to mean anything to Bill – Catherine, his first love.

Release date: May 30

8 Lives of a Century-Old Trickster

Mirinae Lee

(Hachette Australia/$32.99)

At the Golden Sunset retirement home, it’s not unusual for residents to invent stories. So when elderly Ms Mook first begins to unspool
her memories, the obituarist listening to her is sceptical.

Stories of captivity, friendship, murder, adventure, and spying. Stories that take place in WWII Indonesia; in Busan during the Korean war; in cold-war Pyongyang; in China. The stories are so colourful, varied and occasionally unbelievable that surely they can’t all belong to the same woman. Can they?

Release date: May 9


R. F. Kuang

(HarperCollins Australia/$14.99)

Authors June Hayward and Athena Liu were supposed to be twin rising stars; same year at Yale, same debut year in publishing. But Athena’s a cross-genre literary darling, and June didn’t even get a paperback release. Nobody wants stories about basic white girls, June thinks.

So when June witnesses Athena’s death in a freak accident, she acts on impulse: she steals Athena’s just-finished masterpiece, an experimental novel about the unsung contributions of Chinese labourers to the British and French war efforts during WWI.

But June can’t get away from Athena’s shadow, and emerging evidence threatens to bring June’s (stolen) success down around her.

Release date: May 16

Lose You to Find Me

Erik J. Brown

(Hachette Australia/$19.99)

Tommy Dees has been working at Sunset Estates Retirement Community to get the experience he needs to attend one of the world’s best culinary schools, and he needs a letter of recommendation from his sadistic manager.

In exchange for the letter, Tommy has to meet three conditions – including train new-hire Gabriel.

Gabe, with the dimples and kind heart, is who Tommy crushed on during summer camp at age ten but never saw again. Unfortunately, Gabe doesn’t remember Tommy at all. The training proves distracting as old feelings resurface, and the universe seems to be conspiring against them.

Release date: May 9

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