HELLO BOOKCASE – exploring the shelves of people who love books



October 2016



BIG EGO BOOKS | Hello Bookshop

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big ego booksTwo artists, one underground car park and a collection of carefully curated books form the first in our Hello Bookshop series. We visited Raquel Caballero and Emily Hunt from Big Ego Books in their Kings Cross car park bookshop and discovered not everything can be found online. READ MORE



September 2016



Alistair Trung

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Visiting the studio of designer Alistair Trung and meeting his bookcase was an experience for all our senses. Worlds collide within the shelves and reveal cultures, people and subjects intersecting in ways unexpected and exciting.


Books are books but there are other layers as well. There is the ritual of sharing but even just the simple act of going through a bookcase is wonderful for me. There are worlds within worlds in here. I get excited with that.

There is something beautiful about going through a bookcase and accidentally moving onto something else. It’s actually wonderful because I get reminded of books that I’ve bought. I’m looking for a book and I bump into another book. I get distracted and slip into a wonderful digression. It’s such a beautiful encounter when you rediscover a book you forgot you had.


Books are like clothing; there is a lot of trash out there. I was reading about how many books get released each year. I feel there has to be a lot of editing down; when I get a book it has to be quality reference book. I have made mistakes too—some books are seductive but you have to be selective. It’s like anything in life: one has to go through and edit and then cultivate what you like.  

I’m not a fashion person per se—I’m more interested in culture. Everything inspires me. I am quite multi- dimensional. It’s often people offer me fashion books but I get frustrated because I want to be inspired by something else. The bookstores that know me offer me interesting things.

I’m not that orderly but it is categorised into culture, interiors and art. I have texture, clothing design and a lot of tribal culture, which I am very interested in. But the books that really galvanise me are the ones I go back to all the time.  


I am interested in books or people who write these books that are interested in the actual experience of things. I think we forget what it is like to experience things on different levels. They talk about things that never get articulated. Eyes of the Skin is a wonderful title. We are such a visual culture and I think the other senses can sometimes get shut down or desensitised. This book was given to me by a friend and it is fantastic. It talks about atmosphere, and the other senses which we forget about: smell, and touch.

We rely so much on image but we forget what a piece of clothing feels like to wear or the actual searching for a book through a bookshelf. Even reading a book on an iPad is very visual but you don’t feel it. You don’t get the same sort of comfort as holding or caressing a book.


This book is a gem I return to many times over, Plenty: Digressions on Food by Gay Bilson. Because of the way it is written, I can read this book from any chapter. I like books that have this facility.  I ‘m normally reading eight books simultaneously, so I have them all open, and depending on the mood I will zoom into the right book, at the right chapter without the need for chronological order.

Plenty is not the usual cliche cookbook, but a cerebral and sensuous collection of personal memories and musings on food and the arousal of the sense. I particularly love Bilson’s sensitive and poetic observations.

Or her comparison of a plump pair chicken livers to the winged roof of Le Corbusier’s chapel at Ronchamp.  There is a whole delightful chapter on the use and making of charcoal, and one on the collecting of bird nests.

I love the intimate size of this book with its beautiful paper that feels like flicking through a very ancient book. The photographic images are so distilled, sensory and sublimely calming.


A lot of cookbooks don’t catch me but this is so much more. She is multi-dimensional and very well read, and I think the way she expresses everything is so poetic, real and connected. It’s about food, lushness, abundance and eroticism. People don’t articulate this. It’s the same with fashion. It’s all dumbed down. The photos are wonderful too. You feel the essence of the tea, don’t you? You feel the warmth of it.


Another one of my very favourite books is Wabi Inspirations by Axel Vervoordt, known as a Belgium antique dealer and interior designer , yet he is so much more. I must have purchased about 15 copies of this book. My long held belief is to pass on the discovery of a great book. I only give people things I actually like. This book is a great example of how a person integrate a philosophy into their life and work.

In this case it’s the Japanese coined philosophy of Wabi Sabi , a Zen Buddhist belief in all things incomplete , imperfect and impermanent. Vervoordt makes beautiful connections of Wabi to avant-garde art movements such as Arte Povera, abstract expressionism, European Zero Art and the Japanese Gutai art movement.

I love how human this book is. Vervoordt reminds us: We only know things when we live themI think this is an extraordinary statement that touches precisely on the need for a many of us to look inward and process things for ourselves rather than the constant need to rely on “experts” and their coaching. I am interested in books that help to shape us into decent  feeling human beings. Books that awaken the spirit, and upon re reading, slowly help you to come into yourself.


Everyone feels it—most of us can’t articulate it. We need someone to awaken us. I have been awakened by these books. Slowly you start to come into yourself.

(I mention how the book In Praise of Shadows is a book that has been appearing on many of the bookcases we meet.)

Yes, I do have that book, In Praise of Shadows. It also talks about Western culture’s pursuit of perfection and that comes from the Greek– Roman quest for symmetry and the perfect idea. The book talks about the imperfections in everything and goes into other abstract levels of feelings. This is an extension of Axel Vervoordt’s book.


I did go through the exercise of putting a book together. I always wanted to go through the whole process of creating the content, right through the graphic design and the technical process of printing. The book was of my own work of clothing design  called ACT III. The canvas cover is from Japan, and the soy base paper stock from Holland.

I spent three weeks on the factory floor, working with the printer to achieve the correct colours for every page.

I like to write as well, so the book includes statements that encapsulate some of the thoughts that form my working and living philosophy. People often say the clothing I design is avant-garde, but that has never been my premise. Much of what I do is a protest to the insanity that goes on in the world.

I feel my role as a designer has always been about advocating logic, common sense and what feels truthful.

Books are vessels of written knowledge, just as textiles carry tangible memories of the incredible creative human hand.


Adhiel is the model featured in the book. She is Sudanese from the Dinka tribe , and is the epitome of a majestic ancestry. I had no idea about her background  before we started working, it slipped out months later through a conversation. I love this synergy, here I am ending up with the real thing I have been studying through books.

I have lots of books on tribal culture. I always go back to these books. They constantly rejuvenate my imagination. I get bored very quickly by fashion magazines. There is of course a lot of creativity in fashion, but often the ideas are disconnected to real life.


There are countless books on clothing and textiles, but it is so rare to find books that talk about feelings. On what it feels like to wear and have a relationship with clothing. People are constantly analysing, rather than connecting.

In tribal societies, body adornment, manipulation and dressing is connected to daily life. It is done with great daring, joy and innate flair.

I also collect tribal textiles, like Maasai leather capes, Dinka beaded corsets worn by men, Boubou robes from West Africa and metal embroidery from the Miao tribe of China.


These books are a constant reminder of things that have gone before.

I don’t read or listen to music when I travel because I like to be totally absorbed in my environment. I am very much present wherever I go. I like to travel very light so I will only carry a small book in my bag. I am always searching for new books when I travel. I am not so much a fiction person—it’s something that has never interested me.


When I was young and moved to Australia I wanted to learn English so I read all the great classics just to pick up the big words. The bigger the words the better the novel for me. I got so sick of it by the end, all the Brontes and Austens. My favourite books at that time were the World Book Encyclopaedias. I didn’t have any friends—I’ve always been a loner and at school I was always in the library. All my friends were the librarians. I started to develop an interest in textiles, clothing, tribal culture, architecture, abstract painters.


Baby Cashmere is one from a series of books about the journeys taken by the Italian fashion house, Loro Piana, to source the finest fibres around the world for their clothing.

This book explores in very concise writing, but beautifully sensitive photographic studies of the process of collecting baby cashmere in Mongolia, the people, their ancient way of living and the majestic landscape. Only 30 grams of the world’s finest cashmere is harvested from each kid just once in its lifetime.


Another book from this series is about cloths woven from lotus stems from Lake Inle in Myanmar. It documents how Loro  Piana  discovers the village, becomes so inspired by the process that it eventually exclusively finances lotus fibre production to preserve the dying tradition.

6,500 lotus stems are needed to produce about four meters of cloth enough for one single jacket.

I’m so self-contained. I buy a lot of books because I was constantly getting fines from the library. I hate to return books because you need time and sometimes you need to go back to books. That’s when you know it’s a good book if you keep going back to it and it resonates with you. I do love libraries—I have so many library cards in my wallet. But I haven’t been for a while because I’m self-contained here now.


Jared Diamond’s The World until Yesterday is a fascinating and truly insightful book is about a man’s experiences of living over five decades in New Guinea. Drawing from his own field work, as well as evidence from Inuit, Amazonian Indians and other cultures. Diamond explores how tribal peoples approach essential human problems from childbearing, to old age, to health and conflict resolution. For me, this book is a reminder that while the Western world has global dominance from technological advances, we don’t necessarily have superior ideas about how to raise children,  care for the elderly or simply live well.


There never seems to be enough shelving for books , so I have many termite piles of books scattered on the table and floor . I have a habit of mixing them with collections of taxidermy, antique glasses , textiles and tribal jewellery.

Books are not for just reading, I adore the way they look  stacked up horizontally or accumulate vertically into columns among beautiful objects, fruit, foliage and flowers.


L ‘ Atelier Brancusi is a fantastic reference book is a  study of Branncusi ‘s studio , which was reconstructed permanently outside the Centre Pompidou by Renzo Piano.

It is full of amazing original photos, often taken by Brancusi himself, of how he organised the sculptures within the studio space. His sensitivity to scale in relation to space and light is so instinctive and precise. Half looking like an archeological dig , half cathedral, these studio images are an incredible revelation of how I could build my future home.


These are very special—19th century books from Japan. All of the characters are like an abstract painting. I got them from the markets in Tokyo.

 I love maps. I picked this Atlas up from the street. Can you believe someone was throwing it out?


Steve McCurry’s book from National Geographic [in which McCurry rediscovers the previously unidentified Afghan refugee girl he had photographed in 1984] is so eloquent about humanity. It’s very moving and shows there are other voices in the world—it’s not just the West. I got it about 10 years ago. He is a great photographer and creates such an atmosphere.


I am drawn to someone’s bookcase immediately—you find out who they are. For me it is so personal and something that deeply interests me. It’s so much more than just collecting books, it’s a great solace.

I have been reading about menopause – The Change: Women, Ageing and the Menopause by Germaine Greer. This book jumped out at me in a Glebe secondhand bookstore. It’s a subject linked very much to my work in designing clothing, and one that fascinates and concerns me as it not only deeply affects women physically , but profoundly alters their psyche, and sense of what it means to be a “real” woman.

Germaine Greer is simply not a contrarian for affect . Beyond being an academic, she is a very sensitive and perceptive human being who always reads between the lines. Greer’s analysis on this subject is really absorbing as she explores how the medical industry deals with menopause and how our cultural perception of women as a sex, profoundly affects how we deal with this taboo and mysterious condition.

I am also reading another Greer book, White Beech: The Rainforest Years. It is a really I uplifting book on how she found a piece of depleted land and its restoration to a thriving rainforest. Lots of sharp and touching insights into our human need to care and heal the injured and destroyed.


 African Textiles (John Gillow) is a wonderful reference book that surveys textile designs across the African continent. I particularly love the old photo references of people wearing traditional clothing.


Such a lush object and one of my very priceless books (IPEK The Crescent and the Rose). It is a study of textile and dress of the Ottoman Empire. The scale of this book is impressive to match its majestic content of large close up of handwoven silk brocades and garment details of buttons and collars.

I hyperventilate every time looking over this book.


It’s a beautiful surprise finding a book—one that expands your curiosity and lures and seduces you into getting a book you wouldn’t normally pick up.

I start up here when I work and go through my books and when I get some ideas I go downstairs and start making.

One of the most beautiful books and my most favourite is Worlds in a Small Room. Irving Penn went around the world and set up a simple tent and would photograph, for example, the Northern Lights. So much knowledge has been accumulated in this book.

Everyone’s bookcase has worlds in it.


About Alistair Trung

Born in Saigon ,Vietnam, Alistair Trung immigrated to Australia as a refugee at the age of eleven. Trung is proud to be a Vietnamese /Australian designer based in Sydney . He believes deeply in “the wisdom and beauty of world cultures and the importance of their preservation through reinterpretation “

Having graduated from the University of Technology , Sydney with an honours degree in Fashion and textile design, Trung however believes ” an apprenticeship with a tailor , learning how to knit and sew with your grandma, or growing up in the bush, is just as valid an education for designers. “

Alistair Trung was founded in 2000. Working beyond the fashion system , Alistair Trung remains a thriving and resolutely independent label with five boutiques in Sydney and Melbourne.

Trung believes in creating a language of clothing and dressing that is ” trans- seasonal , trans- occasional , trans- age , trans- size , and ultimately trans- gender. “

Trung’ s other passions are Pina Bausch, Anselm Kieffer, Chopin, green tea, book buying and ” the abstraction of everything.”


Leigh Russell and Kathy Luu spoke to Alistair Trung in 2014 and August 2016.

© Hello Bookcase 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.



August 2016



Anne Summers

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Anne Summers

On our visit to the bookcase of celebrity chef and writer, Christine Manfield, she suggested we meet the bookcase of Anne Summers, a pioneer of Australian feminism who continues to shake the system with her commentary, literature and insight. Anne agreed to introduce us to her bookcase and in sharing her collection, she unravelled stories from her past and present. One of her gifts to us on our visit was a long list of books to read.

Anne Summers

There is a little bit of method to this madness—all our art, cooking and travel books are in the downstairs library and the main library is upstairs. Our designer thought our blue Pelican books would look good all together down here. I recently heard on social media that Pelicans are now back in fashion. I have too many of them. 

I have recently read the four Elana Ferrante novels about the friendship of two women in Naples. I found them amazingly violent emotionally; it is so rare for women’s feelings to be portrayed with such rawness. They are a great series. I have also been reading the words of some younger Australian women: Emily Maguire’s latest novel, An Isolated Incident and Clementine Ford’s forthcoming Fight Like a Girl. Although Maguire’s is fiction and Ford’s is a political tract, both are informed by an anger at the violence that is currently a burden being ensured by too many women.

Anne Summers MONA

When MONA first opened in Tasmania I ordered the book Monanisms from them but I didn’t get to MONA until 2013. It was still in the box in the table until I opened it. And once I did open it I noticed David Walhs had made a personal inscription in which he referred to my first book (Damned Whores and God’s Police). It is a very special copy.


This bookcase also has catalogues from exhibitions I have been to—this one was wonderful, the Fred Williams exhibition in Canberra a few years ago. The catalogue from the Ballet Russes exhibition is important to me. My book, The Lost Mother, features the Ballet Russes and I was very keen to see it as it had a lot of costumes and set designs. It was great to see in reality the things I had included in my book.

The Stein exhibition, ‘The Steins Collect’, at the Metropolitan Museum in New York was extraordinary. It was the art collection of Gertrude Stein and her brothers of what they had collected of artists before they were accepted into the art world. This exhibition is about the artist each of the family members favoured. It was a fantastic exhibition because it was arranged as it was in their apartments, as best they could.

Anne Summer bookcase

I do document the books I read by keeping a list. I don’t write reviews of them all but sometimes I write what I think of the book. I have read 17 books over last 17 weeks partly because I have done a few plane trips which is a great chance to read straight through—I don’t normally get the chance to do that. I also took part in the Perth Writers’ Festival and chaired a few sessions which involved reading a lot of books.

On a trip to London in March 2014 via Tokyo I read the diary of Watkin Tench who in 1788 sailed with the first fleet to Australia. He published his book which was incredibly popular in its day but was forgotten until Tim Flannery discovered him and republished his diary.

I interviewed Tim so I read a lot of his books to prepare. What was interesting was that he is a scientist, zoologist and also an historian and very interested in Australian history. You might not think that reading a journal of a marine between the years 1788–1791 is so riveting but I literally could not put it down. It is a remarkable book that describes Sydney and the Aboriginal people before any derogation from us. The book has sold over 50,000 copies and continues to sell.

Anne Summer Reports

On the way back from London in 2014 I read Apple Tree Yard by Louise Doughty as an ebook. I hadn’t heard of this writer before but she has a huge following and I discovered she is an extraordinary writer.  

I decided to write a review of it for my magazine, Anne Summers Reports, because I was surprised that no other reviews mentioned the rape, only the trial. This makes it seem like a court room drama but it’s actually about violence against women. Steig Larsson writes about violence against women [The first book’s original title, Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, was Men Who Hate Women but was changed for the English speaking market] and that’s acceptable but in our culture we don’t want to mention it. The rape in Apple Tree Yard is an acquaintance rape—the most common form—somebody you know. Because it is so ordinary it is horrifying.

I also read I am Mahalia, a memoir of the young girl who was shot by the Taliban. I heard her speak in London and she was quite remarkable so I bought the book—I wanted to know and read more about her from her own point of view.

Anne Summers books

Two books that were a huge influence on me in my twenties were The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan and The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir. The Second Sex is the most revolutionary book about women ever written. This first line says it all in a nutshell: One is not born but rather becomes a woman. The Feminine Mystique of course describes the fate of educated women who gave it all up to become housewives and mothers in the 50s. It’s great for a while but then the kids grow up, the husband loses interest and it all goes downhill from there. This generation of yummy mummies are doing it all again. I think every woman should read this book.  

These books gave me knowledge. I read these books in the late 60s/early 70s when the second wave of the women’s movement was just getting going. My generation was educated and we didn’t have any sense that anything was wrong in our lives. We didn’t feel oppressed and we thought we could do whatever we liked. It was a shock to find out we couldn’t and we found out that women were getting paid far less than men. These books came along and said you’re not born a woman, you become a woman and society tells you how a woman ought to be. A thousand years earlier a woman was something completely different. The only thing that defines women is that we can have children—everything else is cultural.


So many of my books are precious to me but the most incredible book is the first book I wrote, Damned whores and God’s police: the colonization of women in Australia, in 1975.

In the lead-up to my book being published I was reading books by my contemporaries: Germaine Greer’s The Female Eunuch, Robin Morgan’s anthology Sisterhood is Powerful (an anthem for the women’s liberation movement) and Sexual Politics by Kate Millet.


In Britain, Sheila Rowbotham and Juliet Mitchell were leading the discussion on issues for women at that time and helping us think our way through the constraints and barriers being placed on women. The point about these books is that they were either American or English and we had nothing in Australia that told our story and that fitted into our history and our society. I was bold enough at the age of 27 to think that I could write a book that provided a way of giving Australian women an understanding of their own story, using our history and our society as it was then. I thought it was going to be a quick book but it ended up taking me four years to write and was much bigger than I anticipated, but I enjoyed it.

The book is in two halves—the first half looks at history and the second half is about contemporary society then (in the 70s). It has been reprinted and also released as an ebook. I have been told that it is still relevant for this time.


My new book is a memoir. I have already published an earlier autobiography, Ducks on the Pond (1945–1976). This book will look at my life as a grown-up. One of the themes will be about how you keep on changing. You leave school and suddenly you are an adult but it doesn’t stop there. I am particularly interested in how we as women keep changing. I am unmarried with no children but I am living a happy life with my partner. Women today have lots of life-style options: they can be in same sex relationships with children, and women can be fulfilled being single. It is about how being a woman has changed and how we feel about it—the freedoms and also the violence being worse than ever. Not that all women have to deal with violence but enough women do and it’s something we all need to be worried about.


The Lost Mother

I enjoy rereading some books in my library—The Great Gatsby I sometimes go back to and did when the film came out, Anna Karenina and Madame Bovary I enjoy rereading—books about tragic women. They are classic books that tell us about lives that we can’t relate to but are incredible stories and we learn from them.

In my book The Lost Mother there is a strong Russian theme. This book is about a painting of my mother that was painted when she was ten years old. The artist saw her at Mass one day and asked to paint her. She was just a subject so her parents didn’t have any rights to ownership to the painting. The painting disappeared and the book is, in part, the story of finding it. It was bought by a Russian woman who was a former ballerina living in Melbourne. I now have the painting back and it is hanging on my wall.

It is always a temptation to reread my own books but I do so only for research.

I read a huge amount as a child and I started writing when I was seven and have written ever since. I read everything I could get my hands on—a mixture of English books and a lot Australian novels. I enjoyed the Seven Little Australians and the Billabong series about adventures of girls in the outback by Mary Grant Bruce.

My parents would buy me a lot of books and I had a huge library and kept them all but then gave them up as an adult to my oldest niece Amy when she was eight. 


I have been one of those people who would always underline in pencil but now I don’t care. Books are more replaceable now. I have completely run out of room for my books and up until recently we had books climbing up the stairs. That is why I try to buy ebooks now.

We did do a large cull and took two full bags around to the Wayside Chapel—books that we have multiple copies of or ones we won’t read. I want to keep most of my books for research for my new book—sometimes it might just be for a visual reference. I’m hoping when I finish this next book I might be able to get rid of some more.

I enjoy collecting books because I always liked the idea of having my own library. It’s a pre-Google thing but if I want to know something I have it on hand. There are some things that Google can’t capture. I regard this section as my reference library and it’s organised by all the books that I have written, and this is for dictionaries and reference books. I have an Australian, English and American dictionary—I know they are on the way out but I’m holding onto mine.


I keep these diaries from [restaurateurMichelle Garnaut, which she sends every year to her friends. They are quite elaborate and she always outdoes herself with the various new elements each year, for example, rare recipes or a CD or a pop-up of some kind. Michelle is a philanthropist and businesswoman, and has restaurants in Beijing and Shanghai. She also runs the Shanghai Literary festival which I attended in 2010.

Everyday Sexism is a book from Laura Bates and she has collected everyday examples of sexist attitudes and behaviour (when I was her age it was the kind of thing we used to do) and encouraged people to put it on her website and social media. They were pouring in by the thousands and it is the mundaneness of them all that makes them so oppressive. It’s an example of what women put up with walking down the street all the time. It started out in England and it just spread.  


I like to keep all my Australian fiction books together. I am going to the Stella Prize this evening (April 2014) and I am hoping The Forgotten Rebels of Eureka by Clare Wright will win [Clare Wright won the 2014 award]. It’s a fantastic book. What she has done is write about Australia’s most famous episode, the Eureka Stockade, which a lot of people say is the start of Australian nationalism and defiance and where we developed our own flag. The story was always told that there were only men there but she talks about how the rebels included women. She not only recreates the brutality of the battle of Stockade but also talks about everyday life.

 One of the examples of her historical research was to go through all the papers from that period and look through all the advertisements. She noticed ads for breast pumps which got her thinking about the number of women having babies in the goldfields and the story of childbirth, midwifery, child care in those times. After reading her descriptions of how primitive childbirth was on the goldfields I had to put the book down. It’s gut wrenching stuff.

It’s the second year of The Stella Prize [2014] and it was set up because the shortlist for the Miles Franklin Prize for the last few years was dominated by men and so a lot of women got pissed off with the underrepresentation of women. They started their own prize modelled on the Orange Prize in Britain, but which awards fiction and non-fiction. It was named after Miles Franklin whose first name was Stella, to stick it up them even more. In the first year of the awards (2013) Mateship with Birds by Carrie Tiffany won and I have just read it and it is amazing.  


About Anne

Dr Anne Summers AO is a best-selling author, journalist and thought-leader with a long career in politics, the media, business and the non-government sector in Australia, Europe and the United States.

She is author of eight books, including the classic Damned Whores and God’s Police, first published in 1975. This bestseller was updated in 1994 and, again, in 2002 and stayed continuously in print until 2008. A new edition was published by NewSouth on International Women’s Day 2016.

Her previous books are The Misogyny Factor (2013), The Lost Mother: A Story of Art and Love (2009, 2010) and On Luck (2009), The End of Equality(2003), Ducks on the Pond (1999), Gamble for Power (1983) and Her-Story: Australian Women in Print (with Margaret Bettison – 1980). She writes a regular opinion column for the Sydney Morning Herald.

Anne was involved in the early 1970s, in helping start Elsie, Australia’s first women’s refuge and Refractory Girl, a women’s studies journal.

In 1975 she became a journalist, first on The National Times, then in 1979 was appointed Canberra bureau chief for the Australian Financial Review and then the paper’s North American editor.

She ran the federal Office of the Status of Women (now Office for Women) from 1983 to 1986 when Bob Hawke was Prime Minister and was an advisor, on women’s issues among other things, to Prime Minister Paul Keating for a year prior to the 1993 federal election.

In 1987 in New York she was editor-in-chief of Ms. – America’s landmark feminist magazine – and the following year, with business partner Sandra Yates bought Ms. and Sassy magazines in the second only women-led management buyout in US corporate history.

In November 2012 she began publishing Anne Summers Reports a lavish free digital magazine that promises to be ‘Sane Factual Relevant’ and which reports on politics, social issues, art, architecture and other subjects not covered adequately by the mainstream media.

In September 2013 Anne launched her series of Anne Summers Conversations events with former prime minister Julia Gillard in front of a packed Sydney Opera House.

Anne was chair of the board of Greenpeace International (2000-2006) and Deputy President of Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum (1999-2008).

In 1989 she was made an Officer in the Order of Australia for her services to journalism and to women. In 2011, along with three other women, Anne was honoured as an Australian Legend with her image placed on a postage stamp.

Anne was a leader of the generation and the movement that changed Australia for women. Her involvement in the women’s movement has earned her community respect.  She has received Honorary Doctorates from Flinders University (1994), the University of New South Wales (2000), the University of South Australia (2014) and the University of Adelaide (2015).

Anne lives in Sydney with Chip Rolley, her partner of 27 years who was the editor of The Drum, the ABC’s opinion website and Artistic Director of the Sydney Writers Festival from 2010-2012.





Leigh Russell and Kathy Luu spoke to Anne Summers on 29 April 2014 and August 2016.

© Hello Bookcase 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.



July 2016



Bernard Zuel

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Bernard Zuel, senior music writer and reviewer for Fairfax Media, is well known for his love of music but digging deeper we discovered an impressive book collection that is as eclectic as his taste in music. Every corner of his shelves holds memories from his life—just like his treasured vinyl.

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Despite what people might think I don’t read as many music biographies as you might expect. Music tends to fill so much of my life anyway. I enjoyed a two-part Elvis biography by Peter Guralnick (Last Train to Memphis: The Rise of Elvis Presley and Careless Love: The unmasking of Elvis)—it’s really thorough. I’m not particularly an Elvis fan but it is fascinating for its depth of cultural context, if nothing else.

Morrissey didn’t like the book Morrissey and Marr: The Severed Alliance by Johnny Rogan because he wasn’t painted as perfect and godlike. I am a massive Smiths fan so it was great to read. Morrissey tried to sue the author, but he has tried to pretty much sue everyone.

One book that wasn’t that good but was really hilarious to read when I was in my late teens was the Doors bio No One Here Gets Out Alive. Every 15-year-old has a Doors period and I had mine. It’s not bad but what is interesting about it is that it gives you the sense of the lifestyle—a bit like the Zeppelin book that came out about the same time, Hammer of the Gods, which is all about the excesses of the rock star life. This book makes Jim Morrison out to be this great poetic wild genius. As a 15–16-year-old boy you’re thinking, ‘Oh yeah, that’s what I want to be’—he had it all.

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Recently I read the Dylan Chronicles autobiography, which is just brilliant. Everything Dylan says should not be believed 100 per cent but it’s funny and truthful in its own way about the context. The most interesting part of biographies for me is the cultural context. The stories tend be reasonably similar: struggle, success, trouble, falling out, recovery. Biographies tend to follow that pattern. My father reads almost nothing but sports bios—and they make music biographies look so varied! There is a whole bunch of books that come out written by decent but mostly hack writers who whack it all together to construct a hero’s journey. 

The biography from manager and early producer of the Stones, Andrew Loog Oldham, is a good one—again, because he is quite free, not structured and not trying to tell the hero’s story. He does make himself out to be clever but it’s about the madness of an industry.

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Mark Lewisohn’s book, The Beatles: All These Years, Volume 1 – Tune In is not the most elegantly written Beatles book but its exhaustive detail and depth of information is great and was able to surprise me with material I didn’t know—and I’ve read far too many Beatles-related books to legitimately be surprised any more.

Like-a-rolling-stoneLike a Rolling Stone, was actually one of my favourite books because it’s ridiculous. It’s 250 pages on one song. Rolling Stone writer Greil Marcus is a fantastic writer and I have a couple of his other books, but he radiates from this song out to everything: historical (as in pre-western culture), to politics, to social events, to regular life, to Dylan’s brilliance and madness—and all in the context of one song. It shouldn’t be good. It shouldn’t be something you’d recommend to someone but I would even recommend it to people who don’t like Dylan, which is most people, including my wife.

I don’t read as many as I could and I often have them on my shelf for years before I get to read them.  

Don Watson’s book on Paul Keating is a favourite of mine despite the fact that, like the Morrissey book, Keating hated it. It’s less about Keating and more about passion, intent, commitment and the way we fall short and what happens when you fall short.

Keating is one of the great world characters who left a mark that some of the others before and after him couldn’t hope to, even if they were more successful. Keating for me is my Whitlam. Whitlam is a great character that was part of my very early childhood. So the theology of that has been part of my growing up. My parents weren’t particularly political but I was and so the Whitlam figure was very important. Keating played that role for me for my generation.  


James Ellroy’s second set of linked stories I thought wore out a bit early, but that was principally because I had grown tired of his style by halfway through The Cold Six Thousand. The staccato pacing and highly contrived dialogue was too familiar by then and overstayed its welcome. I am curious, though, about the earlier ones and will re-read them in the next few years, the LA Quartet in particular, which I remember being blown away by.

People often ask me if the crime fiction books I read are a guilty pleasure but I don’t read the rubbish, I like very good writers. People used to give me Patricia Cornwell books—but they’re just formulaic and I don’t see the point. I think with authors like Peter Temple people are finally seeing something more in crime writing. There’s just good solid writing with a good understanding of the way people work.

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My wife guided me to one of my other great loves. We had been backpacking in 1998 and on that trip I had picked up Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter and I loved that. She had a pile of books on the trip and since then, Jane Austen has become one of my great loves, which I would not have come across at an old boys school in the 70s and 80s. So that style was fantastic to dive into. Pride and Prejudice was the first one I read and one of the few books I re-read. It became my daughter’s favourite as well (she also shares our love of Shakespeare). I quite enjoyed Emma as well.

I guess you could say that one thing I got my wife onto, though strictly speaking not in exchange for the Austen, was Christopher Brookmyre, a Scottish author we now have both read extensively. She grew tired of me chortling each night when I was reading his books in bed and finally investigated, despite never having been a crime fiction fan before.

My wife has a children’s book collection from the first half of the 20th century, and reprints of earlier ones. It began with books her aunt, who was born in 1921, had and includes ones with dedications going back to 1907—gifts and school awards in particular. There are familiar names such as Ethel Turner and Enid Blyton but many more that have long passed into oblivion. She has not read all of them but then they were bought to preserve them more than anything. Some of them are incredibly odd, almost hilarious really—the language, attitudes and the style.


The Tax Inspector is my favourite Peter Carey book because it is so nasty and odd. I loved Oscar and Lucinda. Bliss was my first one—I really enjoyed it but I haven’t re-read it. I’ve been asked about it before but now my memories are coloured by the film. If I ever get around to re-reading I think my response would be completely different as it is almost 20 years ago and I’m picturing Barry Otto now in my memory of the book. It’s hard not to be Australian and not read either Carey or Winton.

I have hardly re-read any of my books. Pride and Prejudice would be one of the few. I have enough trouble keeping up with the books that I have bought and I’ve been given, so I feel guilty if I re-read. When I read about people who read particular books every year I think that sounds good and I could probably do it—but I still have several Chabon books over there I haven’t read and I have many Doris Lessing’s still ahead of me.

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If I had heroes Helen Garner would be one. I like her honesty about everything—herself and others. My favourite book of hers is The Spare Room because it’s the one I read most recently and is quite strong. Her book, Joe Cinque’s Consolation, was just as engrossing as journalism.

I don’t work in that area—the stuff I write about principally is arts—but I like the idea of journalism being both powerful and truthful, and as a writer that is what appeals to me about people like Helen Garner and Truman Capote.

Stasiland by Anna Funder had been on my shelf for a few years before reading it. It’s not fiction, but lately I’ve seen a few films about the East German experience. It presents the simple facts of a world where one in every eighth person was an informer or a worker for the security apparatus. The dull brutality of society where hope is just crushed without having anybody directly do that to you. There is a poem at the end of the book Charlie’s poem, which pretty much sums it up.

Having been mostly a fiction reader through my twenties and thirties, I finally grew up and started reading more non-fiction.


bz9One of my late-teen favourites was Owen Meany from A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving. I loved the idea of the passion and intellect of his character. John Irving was one of my first proper writing adult discoveries as a late teen. I had been reading a lot of Wilber Smith in my early teens and then discovered John Irving—so I realised I could read adult books and they weren’t rubbish.

John Updike is the other most influential writer for me as an impressionable late teen / early twenties—he’s an inspiring writer, not that I have aspirations to become a novelist. I learnt more about adult life from the lyrics of Hal David (lyricist for Burt Bacharach) than anything that I saw an adult do but from Updike I learnt most about what people do.

His book Couples was the first book that devastated me. It’s like most of his books around then—it’s about lives, just middle class American lives. Betrayal, love, lust, weakness—and that book devastated me because of the power of the repercussions in these people’s lives and the ongoing effects of the decisions you make in haste. The writing is just brilliant. But I read him and thought adulthood is so hard but so exciting. There is pleasure and excitement in his books and the characters were all 20 and 30 years older than me, particularly at the end of the Rabbit books where the main characters were in their 50s. So having fallen into John Irving I found writing but with Updike I was getting power and emotional force.


My favourite style of writing would be from Michael Ondaatje, a Sri Lankan writer who lives in Canada and wrote The English Patient. I love his use of language and the sensuality of his writing. That use of language takes me to one of my favourite books that I have bought for a few people over the years (not a lot of them may have enjoyed it as much as me)—Winter’s Tale by Mark Helprin. It is florid and incredibly convoluted, overwritten in lots of ways. But it was given to me by a close friend, although to be fair his previous recommendation was Bridges of Madison County, which was shocking. I was so traumatised by reading it—it’s such a small book yet I got it down really quickly. It’s awful. He gave me this book, which is wildly elaborate and over-the-top. I have bought it for a number of people over the years. I just revel in the language, and the story is fantastic but the beauty in the book is the description of fog, of landscape as much as the characters.

Cormac McCarthy is my most exciting discovery. When I read Blood Meridian I was devastated by it and then The Border Trilogy: All the Pretty Horses, The Crossing, Cities of the Plain. Particularly the first two—the language, the violence, the depth of thinly drawn yet substantial characters. I am also heavily into crime fiction—it’s what gets me most excited.


Bizarrely I haven’t read fantasy since my early twenties. I was a massive science fiction fan—Silverberg etc—those were the really good things I was reading in my teens. When the Game of Thrones show started it worked so well so I decided to give the book a go. After 25 years of not reading fantasy I was sitting there with five books of ridiculous length and reading about sorcery. I don’t feel any great need to start reading fantasy novels again but it was enjoyable.


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Two of the most influential books for me as a writer and as a fan are Elvis Costello’s The Singing Dictionary and the complete Beatles lyrics. These are both lyric books essentially. The Beatles were my first and enduring music love affair and Elvis Costello is the most committed and so am I. But when I was trying to write songs or write about songs reading the lyrics was really important.


I’m not a rarities collector; and it’s the same with my music—I don’t collect things just because they are rare. I have rare things but I get them because I want them. I buy box sets because I’m a nerd. I spent $400 on a Smiths box set because I like the substance of it. With books, I don’t seek out rarities.

I haven’t made the crossover to a screen [e-reader] yet. I don’t have any philosophical objection to it, I just don’t have any need for it. I think my eyes will survive a little bit longer reading from a page. I spend so much of my life in front of screen.

I give people books but I don’t give them books after I’ve read them. I don’t understand why I have to keep them—I’m not a collector. I have all the records that I grew up with and I still buy vinyl. I would never give them away so I’m possibly a bit of a hoarder. Given that I don’t re-read much at all there’s no need to keep the books—but I can look at my books and remember when I read The English Patient. I like that feeling. I love Grahame Greene and I have only read three of his books but I like knowing that I can re-read them if I want to. But also they are part of my experience.


About Bernard

Bernard Zuel ran away from law to journalism – and weekend DJing – and after several years freelancing and then learning his craft at a suburban newspaper moved to the Sydney Morning Herald in 1992. After various rounds in straight news he became editor of the entertainment supplement Metro before concentrating firstly on arts journalism and then more specifically music. He is the senior music writer and critic for the Sydney Morning Herald, Age and Sun-Herald, a founding judge of the Australian Music Prize and a regular commentator on arts for TV and radio.

Leigh Russell and Kathy Luu chatted with Bernard on the 20th August 2013 and July 2016.  Images by Kathy Luu © Hello Bookcase 2013. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.



June 2015



Interview: Paul Capsis

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The bookcase of Paul Capsis is screaming with teenage obsessions. Obsessions that carried him from his small bedroom in Surry Hills as a youth to where he belongs today, on the stage and screen. Paul’s exuberance doesn’t leave the stage when the show is over and on our visit we were drawn into his world of Hollywood stars from the golden era, Janis Joplin, the poetry of Rimbaud and Omar Musa.


My books go through different periods of my life and different obsessions. The oldest book I have is one that I read when I was ten years old – Suzie Quatro by Margaret Mander. It is inscribed with when I first read it in 1976 and I  reread it in 1996. I don’t date my books anymore as one day they will go to other people, but I could never get rid of this book.

Suzie was one of my earliest obsessions as a child and was the first concert I ever went to at the Horden Pavilion. Before Suzie, I was crazy for Skyhooks and I had Million Dollar Riff by Jenny Brown. But I never read the book; I just loved their image. The image was the thing that always got me – Suzie’s leather pants and jumpsuits and the Skyhooks – men in make-up and shiny clothes.


Janis Joplin completely changed everything. I came across a book on her as a 12-year-old in a second-hand shop – this is when it changed for me and I decided I wanted to be a performer. I had to know everything about her – I hadn’t even heard her, I was just fascinated her image. I can look at any photo of her now and date it and tell you where it was taken.

I grew up in a strict Maltese family so instead of going out, I would go to my room and spend hours looking through my books. She was the wild woman of Rock and Roll and through her I discovered other people, music and even philosophy. For me going through my teen years and the awkwardness, it was her voice and message that I connected with. I wrote a piece in Women of Letters on how this woman changed my life.

I have met a lot of people who knew Janis. I met one woman who used to shoot up with her, she told me that they would sit in bed and read – stoned.


My two favourite books of recent times which I feel like are more than a read, they take you into another realm are Jim Sharman’s memoir Blood and Tinsel and Patti Smith – Just Kids.  I sobbed at the end of Blood and Tinsel – I loved the last message that was conveyed on handing it on to the next generation.  These books both evoke a time that has gone.

I’m starting to read poetry and I have got into Australian poet, Omar Musa – he is so exciting and his  finger is on the pulse and that is what Sharman’s book is about. I was blown away by a book I read recently, Justin Vivian Bond’s Tango. It’s about gender and I could relate to it as I thought I was a girl when I younger, but I got over it – sort of.

I’m very proud of my play, Angela’s Kitchen getting published by Currency Press – it was the first play I wrote. I am often asked when am I bringing it back to the stage as it had a real impact. It’s a play I can do at any age. That book sits between Patti and Janice in my bookcase.


I have scrapbooks that are filled with my work. I have kept everything, as it was unimaginable to me that I would become a performer so I had to keep it all to prove it really happened, but then I went a bit overboard.

These are my private books and no-one has ever seen them. Everything is in strict date order; if I wasn’t a performer I would be an archivist. I have also kept a journal since I was 18. One day I will digitise it all.


I love the writing of Christopher Isherwood and the first book of his I read was Goodbye to Berlin. My favourite film is Cabaret and the story is based on that book. I had to sticky tape the cover back on Prick Up Your Ears by John Lahr because I wore it out, it’s about playwright Joe Orton and his lover. This book is inscribed 1986, London and I read it just before the film came out in 1987.

I never thought I would be a book person as I wasn’t very good at school, it is something that has happened as I got older.


The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron is a very important book to me. I was feeling uninspired as a performer and it was given to me as a present. I didn’t think I needed it and I put it in my giveaway pile but I took another look at it and I got stuck into to it. It’s all about the process and it was the first the time I had read someone describing what we go through as an artist and the challenges. Completing it was a total release and I came out of it empowered. I recommend this book to so many people.


Barrie Kosky gave me this Marlene Dietrich book when we were in Vienna for Boulevard Delirium, it’s in German, but it’s all on Marlene’s diaries and has rare pictures.  My favourite thing in that show was when I did the Dietrich scene. She got to a certain age and that was it  – no more photos and became a recluse and wouldn’t even let her friends see her. She was all about controlling her legacy and how she would be remembered.

My favourite type of book is a biography and I have so many of the early ones still boxed away. Lauren Bacall signed one of my books and she was cross with me because my pen didn’t work.  She snapped, “Give me a pen that works.” There was just the two of us standing at the door of the Old Majesties Theatre in Sydney, 1986.


On my to read pile is getting higher and higher – I’ll find them at garage sales or second-hand stores  I just picked up a  book on Rimbaud  by Graham Robb over the weekend.  Rimbaud died in 1891 and was so ahead of his time. He shocked many people and they thought he was nuts. He then gave up poetry and never wrote again, he worked and lived in Africa. He had previously lived a debauched life with an older man. When I was in London I found Edmond White’s biography on him and I couldn’t put it down

I started reading Proust once – I couldn’t go beyond the first page, it was so heavy.

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I was given these wonderful paintings by one of my favourite artists Lucy Culliton. I went to one of her exhibitions recently at Ray Hughes Gallery and I said that one day I want to own a Lucy and she sent these to me. For now they will live in my bookcase until I get them framed.


 About Paul

Spanning an extensive career, Paul Capsis is probably best known as a performer of theatre, concert and cabaret. Critically acclaimed theatre highlights include: Angela’s Kitchen (his co-written solo piece), Little Bird (commissioned by the State Theatre Company of South Australia and Adelaide Cabaret Festival as a one Spanning an extensive career, Paul Capsis is probably best known as a performer of theatre, concert and cabaret. Critically acclaimed theatre highlights include: Angela’s Kitchen (his co-written solo piece), Little Bird (commissioned by the State Theatre Company of South Australia and Adelaide Cabaret Festival as a one-man musical), The Threepenny Opera (best supporting actor Sydney Theatre Awards), Boulevard Delirium, Three Furies, The Rocky Horror Show, All About My Mother, Thyestes and Volpone with various State and independent theatre companies throughout Australia.   Paul has also worked extensively internationally, his favourites being New York, London, Vienna, Shanghai and Hong Kong. 

Paul takes a leading role in the Australian feature film, THE BOY CASTAWAYS and appears in the acclaimed telemovie, CARLOTTA. His debut feature film role was the groundbreaking Australian film HEAD ON.

Paul has recorded four albums in addition to the commercially released soundtrack of THE BOY CASTAWAYS and is a popular guest for various television programs.

Award highlights: Five Helpmann awards, including in 2012 for Best Actor in a Play and Best New Work (for Angela’s Kitchen), Greenroom award, Film Critics Circle Award and the 2010 Sidney Myer Individual Performing Arts Award.


Leigh Russell and Kathy Luu chatted with Paul on the 11th December 2013.  Images by Kathy Luu © Hello Bookcase 2013. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.



February 2015



Hello Library – Sydney

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We believe that to really get to know someone the best place to start is with the shelves of their bookcase.

The largest bookcase in any city is its library.

We will be visiting  selected City of Sydney libraries throughout February and March and chatting with the people who inhabit them.

Follow our conversations at Hello Library.

If you would like to be in a conversation with Hello Library about your local library and your love of books, this is where we will be:

Customs House Library
Tuesday 10 Feb
11am – 1pm
31 Alfred Street
Circular Quay NSW 2001

Kings Cross Library

Monday 16 Feb
2pm – 4pm
Level 1, 50–52 Darlinghurst Road
Kings Cross NSW 2011

Newtown Library
Monday 23 Feb 

11am – 1pm
8–10 Brown Street
Newtown NSW 2042

Surry Hills Library
Tuesday 3 March
1pm – 3pm
405 Crown Street
Surry Hills NSW 2010


more dates to follow.

Supported by






December 2014



Happy New Year!

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We have had an exciting year visiting amazing bookcases and meeting their owners – we will be sharing these with you in early 2015. (Our featured image is a sneak peek on our next bookcase)

We are also excited to announce that in 2015 Hello Bookcase will be introducing Hello Library. The Hello Bookcase team will be exploring  City of Sydney libraries and sharing with you our findings. The project will include interviews, a book and exhibitions.  Sign up to our mailing list to ensure you are the first in the know (look over to your left and you will find our sign up form).  We will also be providing updates on where you can find us if you would would like to participate at your local City of Sydney Library.

Happy New Year!

Leigh and Kathy




October 2014



Interview: Dr Gene Sherman AM

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Gene Sherman greeted us with her arms wide open and lead us through her home as she introduced us to the many bookcases that flowed through every room sharing the space with the Sherman’s extensive art collection. Gene generously shared stories with us from her childhood in South Africa, travels through Asia, studies, family and the books with which she shares her home.


Over the last ten years I have documented my reading – I don’t summarise the plot, the impulse is to critique, to document what I think of the book. I wish I had done this earlier – I have read every single day since the age of six. If I don’t read I can’t function the next day – reading is an essential part of my life and it always has been.

I have been very successful in introducing the love of reading to my granddaughter who is ten – her family have moved to Tel Aviv – and I thought if there was one gift I can give her – the gift of reading, was what I wanted to pass on. They have now settled and she is still reading. I read to my six grandchildren and our children’s library grows by the minute. 


At the moment Brian’s (Gene’s husband) library is filled with books about the history of the Holocaust, books on animal protection and the works of J.M Coetzee. We have an animal protection foundation called Voiceless with John Coetzee, Michael Kirby as co-patrons. A huge conference on J.M Coetzee celebrating his 75th birthday has been organised at the University of Adelaide in November 2014. Brian will be speaking at the conference so I piled Coetzee’s entire oeuvre on Brian’s desk. He will reread several or many of them. The first Coetzee book I read was Waiting for the Barbarians – a searing, unforgettable experience. 

Coetzee like our family is a vegetarian and wrote a book called Elizabeth Costello, a central protagonist and kind of an alter ego for him – and in two chapters she talks about the lives of animals – which were published separately.

I have just finished reading a book documenting the correspondence between Coetzee and Paul Auster, Here and Now: Letters, 2008 – 2011 a three-year correspondence between the two of them on a range of topics published in 2013. Two highly intelligent, well read, and respected fiction writers from very different backgrounds who have a rich and layered conversation via letters. I would dearly love to explore the bookcases of both Coetzee and Auster.


Now that I am not teaching French Literature and obliged to read prescribed texts I tend to read in clusters, I read a fictional account of the wife of F. Scott Fitzgerald, Therese Anne Fowler’s Z: A Novel about Zelda Fitzgerald. I highly recommend it. Her life is imagined but is clearly rooted in reality. It is difficult to know how much is real. The author clearly states that there has been considerable research but that she hasn’t stuck rigidly to the facts.

I admired Rachel Kushner’s – The Flame Throwers.  A first novel – a young voice. It took me a while to get into it but I persevered. A beautifully told tale set in the New York art scene in the seventies. Affairs of the Art by Katrina Strickland continued my art world reading during a specific period.


I don’t often reread books, I have too much I still want to read. The times I have reread much loved books, I found myself disappointed – there is inevitably a gap in age and experience. I read Anna Karenina by Tolstoy when I was 18 or so I thought then it was the best thing I had ever read.  I then reread it around 10 years ago and it didn’t have the same impact. The Glass Bead Game by Hermann Hess was a book that made a huge impression on me I haven’t read it for decades and hesitate to do so for fear of destroying my earlier sense of wonderment.  

One of the books I remember leafing through with my father as a child was a very large textile – covered grey book with fraying edges. We poured over large colour plates of Impressionist and Post Impressionist work. My mother’s sister was a practising, exhibiting artist and when my father became successful in business he turned to art collecting. We had many books on art and we went regularly to exhibitions. My art interest was inspired by a world of activity rather than by a specific event of moment. 

The book that stands out for me from my childhood is Little Women. I read this classic rite-of-passage book many times as a child. The story and writing have transcended time. My mother was one of four girls and my grandmother-like Marmee in Little Women – raised four girls. She lost two husbands over a fairly short period and raised the four girls earning income as a seamstress. Each of the girls in my mother’s family corresponded, in my mind, to each of the young girls in the book. My mother closely resembled Beth. 


When I started the gallery I went to Japan for the first time in 1987. My deep interest in literature helped me enormously to grasp what was for me a very foreign and unfamiliar culture. Instead of learning Japanese I decided to read Japanese literature for two years and nothing else. The book that most affected me was The Makioka Sisters by Tanizaki Jun’ichirō a tale about four sisters set in the 40s in Japan. In those times Japanese daughters had to marry in order of age and the book is about the youngest daughter waiting for her older sister to marry in order to be able to move into marriage herself.

So I had Little Women, my mother’s family and The Makioka Sisters all tied together in my mind.

Tanizaki became a favourite – In Praise of Shadows 1933 made an enormous impression on me. A tiny book, very potent and seminal in exposing and comparing Japanese and Western aesthetics. The title sums up the content in many ways: Bright, shiny and overt in the West. Shadowing, subtle and covert in Japan.


I am not a collector of rare books – I buy books for content. I like books to be well designed but design is not what draws me to them. If I could only keep a few of my books Cultural Amnesia by Clive James would be included. That book helped me get through a difficult time a few years ago. It is a series of short chapters or essays on a variety of people: Hitler (Tyrants and despots are included), Machiavelli, Miles Davis, Freud, Coco Chanel and many other well-known 20th century luminaries. James, an Australian expat living in London – and now terminally ill – is one of our country’s thinkers and amongst our most compelling writers.


A beautifully illustrated edition, Freud’s Interpretation of Dreams was given to me as a gift by Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson the editor and a friend. Jeffrey is a psychoanalyst currently living in New Zealand. The Writings of Simon Schama would certainly be on my list of highly significant books. Schama is a British historian and art historian who writes about history through art. I am also fascinated by architecture so I would include The Phaidon Atlas of 21st Century World ArchitectureAn enormous – impractical-to-read tome due to its size and weight.


have a largish Asian Contemporary Art and Literature library upstairs in my study. Until recently I had several shelves of French books related to my doctorate. These now have been given to Sydney University’s French Department and I now have a little more room. I also have all the books the gallery has published and books related to our publications.

My daughter (Ondine Sherman) has published her own book – The Miracle of Love 2013 about her journey with her family and specifically about her twin sons who were born with a rare condition which deprives them of speech or the ability to walk. They are identical twins with the same DNA (as is always the case with identical twins). It’s been a tough journey but she has been an amazing mother and has proved to be a remarkable writer.


I did my doctorate in French literature on André Gide and the Old Testament. Gide has fallen out of favour whilst Proust is currently still read. Gide was an important early 20th century writer who wrote solidly for 60 years. He married into a wealthy family and was free to write full time during the course of his long life.

My Ph.D. thesis was completed in Sydney but mostly done through University of Sorbonne – Paris IV in 1974-1980. I had classical Hebrew as part of my education in Johannesburg. From the age of six I learnt the Old Testament in Hebrew. The only topic I could find in Frances’s Service des Doctorats that hadn’t been tackled at the time was Gide and the Old Testament. I reread the Bible in French, in the Protestant translation that Gide would have read himself. I reread it as a series of myths and stories.


Books for me are not precious, I read them to learn and experience. Next to my bed are piles of books on my current list – My niece Mia Freedman’s book, Mamma Mia is there as well as Romona Kaval’s By the Book which was recommended to me. She tells of her life through the books she has read. Maybe one day I will write a book about my years as a reader.


About Gene

Dr Gene Sherman AM is Chairman and Executive Director of Sherman Contemporary Art Foundation. She was formerly Director and Proprietor of Sherman Galleries, representing major artists across Australia and the Asia-Pacific region (1986–2007). She is Adjunct Professor, UNSW Art & Design (formally COFA), Deputy Chair of the National Portrait Gallery Board, a member of the Australian Institute of Art History Board, an Asialink Asia Literacy Ambassador, and a member of the Art & Australia magazine Advisory Board, the Tate Asia-Pacific Acquisitions Committee and the International Association of Art Critics. The Foundation is a member of CIMAM, the International Committee of ICOM for Museums and Collections of Modern Art. Dr Sherman’s awards include the Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres (2003), Doctorate of Letters honoris causa (The University of Sydney, 2008) and Member of the Order of Australia (2010).


Leigh Russell and Kathy Luu chatted with Gene on the 16th July 2013.   Images by Kathy Luu © Hello Bookcase 2013. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.



June 2014



Interview: Akira Isogawa

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DSC_2848Amongst the exquisite waves of racks filled with archived fashion collections sits a graceful bookcase filled with a book collection that has provided inspiration and filled the heart of fashion designer Akira Isogawa. Books bursting with samurais, landscapes, history and adventures that have influenced some of Akira’s most beautiful creations came alive the morning Akira introduced us to his bookcase. 


For every season when I start thinking about the colour palate or motif I go through Textile Design 11 and Textile Design IV by Kamon Yoshomoto to draw inspiration. I found the books in Kyoto in a bookstore called Maruzen – they also deal in foreign books and it is the oldest bookstore in Japan (established in 1869). Whenever I go back to Japan, I visit Maruzen. I like to draw inspiration from the Kimono designs and these books suggest all sorts of patterns – they were a great find. Every season my team and I develop our own motifs using these books as a source of inspiration.

Fashion Geography by Hamano Yasuhiro is a great book for silhouette – even for accessories and headpieces. It’s another book I use for inspiration –- I have had this book for about 20 years.




I have a few books by Issey Miyake East meets West explores his early work. Some of his prints were inspired by the Yakuza – he translated the tattoo motif onto textile and in other designs he went a little bit tribal. He is retired now and the responsibility for designing his collection has been passed onto a younger generation. It is quite an interesting book as it also includes interviews with himself and his associates. What I like about his work is that the designs are very fluid – the fabric is almost as though it is alive. DSC_2881-1 DSC_2884 Akira-3 I visited a friend of mine who lives near Gosford, NSW. There is a property in that area that has been landscaped by Edna Walling and that is how I got to know her work. The way she designs is not regimented – it is very free formed.  There is one garden that she designed where she just threw the seeds randomly. She seems to have a free spirit and that’s what got me interested in her work.

I showed one of her sketches to an artist based in Indonesia who specialises in applying to textiles. On one of my visits I presented this book to him and showed him one of the images that I liked the colour palate of and asked him to think about the colours and shapes and to enlarge it and it become a motif inspired by her work. DSC_2686 I am very random of the selection of the books that I read – often the books I buy are inspiration for my collections. The books I read are normally ones that end up on my table – they reach me.

I have just finished Samurai Williams by Giles Miton, it was given to me by a friend of mine – Edmund Capon who was the director of the Art Gallery of NSW. This is based on a true story of an Englishman who arrived in Japan in 1611 and he eventually become Japanese, he never left and it is similar to what I have done. I arrived in Australia 300 years later and also never left.

I enjoyed the story of living in a culture that is considered opposite – East and West.I could identify with the main character in this book, as I feel more comfortable in Australia. There is now a certain disconnection between Japanese culture and myself. When I arrive in Kyoto to visit my family I do observe what is going on but I don’t feel like I am in it anymore.  This book gave me a lot of energy and I feel like I need to reread it again.

I would love to explore Edmund Capon‘s book collection – it would be amazing and his knowledge in regard’s to art and history in the East is extensive. DSC_2737 When I presented one of my first collections on the runway, which was part of Australian Week in 1997 – The History of Korean Fashion was one of my inspirations for that particular collection. I used the images for styling reference – hairstyles and layering ideas. Korean culture is in sync with Japanese culture. This book was given to me from a friend who lived in New York but would travel to Korea a few times of year for work. It is not written for foreigners so there is no English translation. DSC_2652 DSC_2662 When  designing the costumes for Romeo and Juliet presented by The Australian Ballet which premiered in 2007 I went to the book Samurai – Illustrated History by Mitsuo Kure. There was a battle scene in Verona – I used a reference from Roman history and also Japanese medieval history as a source of inspiration. The armour was designed from the medieval era from Japan.

I read Salomé by Oscar Wilde many years ago after Graeme Murphy from the Sydney Dance Company contacted me in 1997 and asked me to design stage costumes for modern dance for Salomé. That was my first design for the stage.    DSC_2658 DSC_2812 I still have textbooks that we were given to me in primary school – those books had essays within them that really influenced me.  I only have a few of them here but I will be returning to my family home in Kyoto to get all of my books.  One of the essays I remember reading when I was ten years old was written by Sei Shōnagon. She wrote about the seasons and how each one represented the best time of the day.

Winter – early morning
Spring  – dawn
Autumn – sunset
Summer – midnight

Another textbook  I have is from high school, Japanese Language and References. It is a  very image based book and had a strong sense of history – and includes Japanese costume from the sixth  to ninth centuries. It was a very humble book that I was obsessed with. I used to copy the images page by page and when I look back my desire to draw fashion came out around that time. During this period they would wear 12 layers of silk to make it complete – I used to draw this sort of figure all the time and colour it. Each combination of colour would represent a particular season.  I loved this book and I am so glad I kept it as it also features one of my childhood hero’s  – the novelist Natsume Sōseki. DSC_2830 When I was younger I also enjoyed reading books by Yukio Mishina, any books he wrote I liked to tap into it. His view on Japanese culture was interesting and  he went so extreme that he lost hope with Japanese culture and thought it was becoming Americanised. He ended up committing  a ritual suicide later on in his life  – he did it in the same manner as the Samurai with one of his right hand men beheading him with a traditional Japanese sword after he had cut his stomach.  DSC_2587 DSC_2912 I went through recently and got rid of a lot of my magazines– a magazine is all about a certain trend as it comes out so frequently. If it doesn’t usually mean something to me, I will let it go or I will take out what I want to keep and archive it.  The Face magazines I have from the 80’s have highly styled images. I like the editorial content of the Italian Vogue and the Casa Vogue.  The images are beautiful and it is my favourite magazine. I find women’s fashion much more exciting men’s fashion – it speaks to me more.  There is a magazine that I want to find – a first edition of the magazine Sarai – it is similar to Monocle but the content is focused on the cultural aspect of Japan and history. It is published by Gakken, who are  one of the largest publishers in Japan. DSC_2904

One of my most treasured books is one I purchased in Sydney over 20 years ago, Harper’s Encyclopaedia of Mystical & Paranormal Experience. When I first saw the book I flipped through the pages and the preface by the author and it intrigued me. A few subjects were appearing that I was familiar such as Zen Buddhism, as my family are Buddhists I was interested in how it is interpreted in English.  I shared this book with Christiane Lehmann who is also interested in spiritualism and  I feel she understands my book tastes the best. Before I started my own label I was living with Christiane and she now works for me.  

One book that I like to always have in my collection is an atlas. I travel a lot and there is something grounding about staying in touch with a map. The world has changed so much even in the last 20 years and  I appreciate keeping books. I love the smell and feel of books. I also prefer the old fashioned way of communication –  phone conversations or meeting face to face rather than text messages.  DSC_2564

DSC_2699 About Akira
Born in Kyoto Japan, Akira moved to Australia in 1986 where he studied fashion design at the Sydney Institute of Technology. Since 1998, Akira has shown his collections in Paris, where he presents Spring/Summer and Autumn/Winter collections. His work has been embraced by the Australian arts sector. In 2004/05 Akira Isogawa: Printemps Ete opened at the National Gallery of Victoria.

In 2003 the Sydney Festival staged an exhibition of his garment construction techniques at Object Gallery. He has also been invited to exhibit at the Museum of Contemporary Art and has been included in the Powerhouse Museum’s Fashion of the Year retrospective. In 1999, he was named Designer of the Year and Womenswear Designer of the Year at the Australian Fashion Industry Awards in 1999.

In 2007 he was awarded the Australian Fashion Laureate Award for his contribution to the Australian Fashion Industry. In 2005 he was honoured by Australia Post and his image appeared on an ‘Australian Legend’ postage stamp. He has designed costumes for Sydney Dance Company and in 2011 he completed designing the costumes for the Australian Ballet’s production Romeo and Juliet.

Most recently Akira worked on a collaboration project and together with Woven Image launched a soft furnishing collection. DSC_2672 Leigh Russell and Kathy Luu chatted with Akira on the 27th August 2013.   Images by Kathy Luu © Hello Bookcase 2013.
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April 2014