From biographies to sci-fi, the team at FIIG share their favourite reads and podcasts for 2021.
By Elspeth Muir
Longlisted for the 2017 Stella Award, this book will stay with you long after reading the final page. This non-fiction memoir tells the story of Elspeth Muir’s youngest brother, who in 2009 after finishing his last university exam celebrated with some mates and lots of alcohol. Later that night he staggered to Brisbane’s iconic Story Bridge, and after removing his phone, wallet, T-shirt and thongs, climbed over the railing and jumped to his death into the Brisbane River below.
After his body was found, it was discovered his blood-alcohol reading was almost 0.3.
Retelling her grief, and the unanswered questions that followed, Elspeth set out to explore why some people drink so much, and what happens when we do?
Here she tries to unravel the culture and behaviour behind heavy drinking, and the toxic outcomes such as sexual assault, black-outs and one-punch killings. All the while grappling with the actions of her much-loved brother that night. She meets with the father of a son lost to a one-punch killing while also reviewing her own relationship with alcohol.
While at times sad and confronting, Elspeth adds her quirky humour throughout and puts the topic of alcohol abuse front and centre. A worthwhile read to better understand the complex matter, and certainly for anyone with teenagers!
Reviewed by Jessica Rusit, Associate Director - Fixed Income Investment Strategy
The Price of Tomorrow
By Jeff Booth
A fascinating book which talks about our current economic system being unfit for the new technological era.
The book is written by Jeff Booth who is a tech visionary and highly successful business leader at the forefront of technological change.
Jeff offers a fascinating theory predicated on the deflationary impact of exponential technological change coupled with increasingly easy credit. He details the choices we face as we run full speed into the future, and the new framework that is needed to create continued abundance.
Few books offer a more concise, challenging, and illuminating view of the world as it is today.
Reviewed by Ben Taylor, Director - Fixed Income
By Frank Herbert
I first read the Dune series in high school and excited by the new movie I decided to read them all again.
Dune is a great book, even if it lags behind in certain areas. There are few story beats at all with most of the novel focussed on world/universe building, that isn’t a bad thing though as the universe Dune inhabits is colourful, varied and fully formed.
Dune’s narrative is simple and easy to follow, it’s a messianic story painted on a backdrop of political manoeuvring.
When you accept that the ending is told to you in the first few chapters you can really enjoy the book as the whole Dune Series is about knowing the outcome but seeing the interesting way you arrive there.
Reviewed by James Borg, HR Specialist
Failure of a Mission: Berlin 1937-1939
By Sir Nevile Henderson
Failure of a mission is a memoir written by Sir Nevile Henderson who was the English Ambassador to Germany in the late 1930’s.
This book is a detailed examination of what Henderson calls the ‘failure of his mission’, essentially when asked to be the Ambassador his ‘mission’ was to carry the policy of appeasement to achieve peace in Europe.
Nevile laments that in hindsight this failure is painfully obvious, nevertheless he failed in his mission for peace and Europe was plunged into the Second World War.
I read this book years ago but it has new meaning for me; even intelligent, capable and determined people can be influenced by factors outside their control and fail. You might fail in something small or fail in something great (in Henderson’s case), but failure is an innate part of life and accepting the things that are outside your control is part of being human.
Reviewed by James Borg, HR Specialist
The Code of the Woosters
By PG Wodehouse
Earlier in the year I was talking to a friend about Oscar Wilde when I was asked if I had ever read PG Wodehouse. Slightly embarrassed to admit that I hadn’t, I went out and bought a couple of his books to correct this oversight.
Most people will be familiar with the famous duo of Jeeves and Wooster. I thought I was too but I wasn’t prepared for the incredible humour laced throughout the book. To be clear, this is not humour that will appeal to everyone however it very much appealed to me. Wodehouse whisks us away to upper class English life c.100 years ago. Not so hard for him to imagine given that the book was first published in 1938.
The genius of the story is that the main thrust of the plot is so incredibly trivial. In short, the bumbling Bertie Wooster goes to stay at an associates country pile (Totleigh Towers) on a mission to steal an 18th century cow-creamer that has caught the eye of his Aunt Dahlia. Despite this supposedly simple task the story evolves in an increasingly complex, hilarious and at times utterly absurd ways. Romantic entanglements are also never far from the action with preposterously named characters such as Stiffy Byng and Gussie Fink-Nottle playing key roles.
The story steps up a notch when Aunt Dahlia visits Totleigh Towers to check on Bertie’s progress and the local constabulary also get involved. Fortunately for Bertie, Jeeves is close at hand throughout to provide sage advice and rescue him from his incompetence.
If you like Oscar Wilde then you are certain to enjoy Wodehouse’s preposterous and absurd humour. There is almost a ‘laugh out loud’ moment on every page which is all the more impressive as the story goes down a rabbit warren of complexity. Does Bertie walk away with the cow creamer? You will have to read the book (or search the internet) to find out.
Reviewed by Darryl Bruce, State Manager - WA
Rather his Own Man
By Geoffrey Robertson
I understand that Geoffrey Robertson is a household name in Australia but I was only vaguely familiar with him from my time living in England. At the start of the year I read his book ‘Who Owns History’ which is an interesting read in its own right and it piqued my interest in Robertson the man. I was also aware that he was doing a book tour around Australia. I booked tickets and planned to read his memoir before he came to Perth in early July* this year.
I would not exactly say that humility oozes from the pages but his story is without question a fascinating one. Starting from humble beginnings in Sydney to becoming a Rhodes Scholar, a controversial honour in its own right these days which he discusses, and eventually setting up a vast human rights practice, Doughty Street Chambers, in London.
Not only is his personal story fascinating but his work has taken him on an amazing journey and bought him into the orbit of many of the world’s rich and (in)famous. He talks through some of the landmark cases that he has been involved in but manages to do it in a way that is readable for those of us without a legal background. He is clearly a staunch human rights advocate and articulates himself exquisitely on the topic. He also talks about how the justice system is imperfect and hence doesn’t always produce the ideal result.
He is a workaholic with a busy day job together with writing and television commitments. However in the book we also get a glance into his family life with his long time, but recently (2017) separated wife, Kathy Lette, and their two children. We also learn of passions for tennis and opera albeit I am not entirely sure how he manages to fit it all in!
I found the book fascinating albeit I imagine his story is better known to most Australians than it was to me. I look forward to reading more of his work ahead of his rescheduled trip to Perth which is now expected in August 2022, hopefully!
*I needn’t have bothered rushing as Covid postponed the event by 12+ months
Reviewed by Darryl Bruce, State Manager - WA
The Dinner List
By Rebecca Serle
At the start of the year I wanted to challenge myself to read books only by female authors. Why? Why not. It seemed like an easier new year’s resolution than committing to an unachievable exercise regime.
Sabrina attends her fantasy 30th birthday dinner party where her five guests are the five people on her ‘If you could have dinner with anyone (alive or not) who would that be?’ list that she has kept and updated through her life.
At 30 years old, Sabrina feels conflicted with what her life has become - it isn’t what she expected, and she’s not quite sure how her choices have led her to this dinner party moment. The cast of dinner party guests throw interesting questions and scenarios at Sabrina that allow her to reconsider her choices and look at them from a different angle.
Once you come to terms with the absolutely ridiculous premise of this story, it’s actually a lot of fun and makes you consider what you would do if you were in the same situation. The characters take you on a contextual journey and the author throws in a subtle romance between fantasy Audrey Hepburn and another dinner guest which is delightful to read if you’re a fan of Audrey Hepburn.
Reviewed by Samantha Edwards, Marketing Manager
The old man and the sea
By Ernest Hemingway
2021 is a year that is definitely open to all forms of interpretation so I thought it would be fitting to go with one of Ernest Hemingway’s greatest novels “The Old man and the Sea”. This short read, like the year we have all endured, can be opened to all forms of perspective by the reader and the way Hemingway writes really allows your imagination to run wild and feel the emotion of the story. I now know why it received an accolade of awards.
You may have seen on SBS the three episode documentary on Hemingway’s life and the third episode talks to this novel stating it could be related to him writing about his own life and struggles.
Set in Cuba, Hemingway personifies life by telling the story of an old fisherman that takes on a challenge that most would give up on. He goes into his battle knowing himself and with fearless conviction inspires all those around him. It is a story of resilience and perseverance against the odds. I will leave it to you to explore how this journey makes you feel. The last word of this novel left me with a smile, “Lions”. Enjoy the read.
Reviewed by Charles Buxton, Associate - Fixed Income