Our Books

Essay collections from the SRB

Open Secrets: Essays on the Writing Life

Open Secrets: Essays on the Writing Life (2022)

The lives of writers are a topic of perennial fascination to readers – and indeed to other writers. And yet the writer at work is often a mythologised figure, distant from the cares of the day. In Open Secrets, Australian writers reflect upon the material conditions that give rise to their writing practice. What is it that writers do with their days? These essays document writing lives defined as much by procrastination, distraction and economic precarity as by desire and imagination, by aesthetic and intellectual commitments. Labour is at the heart of this collection: creative labour, yes, but also the day jobs, side gigs, and care work that make space for writing. Bringing together an eclectic and distinctive set of writers, Open Secrets is a rich and provocative account of contemporary Australian literature.

The writers included in the collection are Sunil Badami, Vanessa Berry, Miro Bilbrough, Luke Carman, Lauren Carroll Harris, Maddee Clark, Justin Clemens, Lisa Fuller, Elena Gomez, Eda Gunaydin, Tom Lee, James Ley, Fiona Kelly McGregor, Oliver Mol, Suneeta Peres da Costa, Ellena Savage, McKenzie Wark, Laura Elizabeth Woollett and Fiona Wright.

Open Secrets is edited by Catriona Menzies-Pike, editor of the Sydney Review of Books.

Open Secrets will be in bookshops from May 2022 and is available for pre-order.


Second City: Essays from Western Sydney

Second City: Essays from Western Sydney (2021)

Second City is a showcase of the diverse literary talents that make Sydney’s Western Suburbs such a fertile region for writers. It’s an anthology that brings together raconteurs, reporters and polemicists, critics, philosophers and observers of daily life.

Beginning with Prime Minister’s Award-winning author Felicity Castagna’s warning about the dangers of cultural labelling, this collection of essays takes resistance against conformity and uncritical consensus as one of its central themes. From Aleesha Paz’s call to recognise the revolutionary act of public knitting to Frances An’s ‘counter-revolutionary’ attack on the repressive clichés of ‘women of colour’, Sheila Ngoc Pham on the importance of education in crossing social and ethnic boundaries, and May Ngo’s cosmopolitan take on the significance of the shopping mall, the collection offers complex and humane insights into the dynamic relationships between class, culture, family, and love. Eda Gunaydin’s ‘Second City’, from which this collection takes its title, is both a political autobiography and an elegy for a Parramatta that has been lost to gentrification and redevelopment. Zohra Aly and Raaza Jamshed confront the prejudices which oppose Muslim identity in the suburbs, the one in the building of a mosque, the other in the naming of her child. Rawah Arja writes in a comic vein on the complexity of the Lebanese-Australian family, Martin Reyes on the overlay of experiences as a hike in the Dharawal National Park recalls an earlier trek in Bangkong Kahoy Valley in the Phillipines. Finally, Yumna Kassab’s essay on Jorge Luis Borges reminds us that Western Sydney writing can be represented by no single form, opinion, style, poetics, or state of mind.

Second City is edited by Catriona Menzies-Pike, editor of the Sydney Review of Books and Luke Carman, author of An Elegant Young Man and Intimate Antipathies.

Find Second City in bookshops or order online.


The Australian Face

The Australian Face: Essays from the Sydney Review of Books (2017)

At the end of 2017 the Sydney Review of Books celebrated five years online. Over this period, we published more than five hundred essays by almost two hundred Australian writers. To mark the occasion, we published an anthology of essays from the SRB on Australian fiction, poetry and non-fiction called The Australian Face.

Edited by Catriona Menzies-Pike and James Ley.

Contributors: Ben Etherington, Jane Gleeson-White, Kerryn Goldsworthy, Evelyn Juers, Julieanne Lamond, Anthony Uhlmann, Ali Alizadeh, James Ley, Jeff Sparrow, Lisa Gorton, Emmett Stinson, Simon West, Michelle Cahill, Ivor Indyk, Nicholas Jose, Zora Simic, Ellen van Neerven.

The essays in this anthology are contributions to ongoing arguments about the condition and purpose and evolving shape of Australian literature. They reflect the ways in which discussions about the state of the literary culture are constantly reaching beyond themselves to consider wider cultural and political issues.

The Sydney Review of Books was launched in 2013 out of frustration at the diminishing public space for Australian criticism on literature. There’s even less space for literature in our newspapers and broadcast media now. The Sydney Review of Books, however, is thriving, as the essays in The Australian Face show. Here, you’ll read essays on well-known figures such as Christos Tsiolkas, Alexis Wright, Michelle de Kretser and Helen Garner, alongside considerations of the work of writers who less frequently receive mainstream attention, such as Pi O and Moya Costello.

In bookshops and available for purchase here.