9 thought-provoking books to broaden your mind

9 thought-provoking books to broaden your mind

Sharp minds need to be stimulated by great books. For the Latrobian that wants to go above and beyond their course recommended reading and broaden their mind, here are nine of the best new reads from La Trobe’s leading academics.

1. Australian History in 7 Questions by John Hirst

Why didn’t Indigenous Australians take up farming? What effect did convict settlers have on national identity?

In Australian History in 7 Questions, one of Australia’s most prominent historians, the late, great Dr John Hirst, offers a lively insight into how Australia became the nation it is today.
Hirst’s concise book delivers a thematic approach to Australian history, written in an engaging and accessible, conversational style.

The Sydney Morning Herald said of this book: ‘You don’t have to agree with all Hirst’s assertions to find this an excellent tool for provoking debate.

2. The Forgotten Rebels of Eureka by Clare Wright

The Eureka Stockade was a landmark moment in Australian history, where miners and military men battled over unfair law reforms in what is now considered the birthplace of Australian democracy

But were women at the Eureka rebellion? If so, how many, and what was their experience and role on the field.

This is the question behind Dr Clare Wright’s ground-breaking Stella prize winning book, which reveals there were, in fact, thousands of women on the goldfields – and many of them had active and pivotal roles within the rebellion.

The Stella prize judges described Wright’s book as a ‘rare combination of true scholarship with a warmly engaging narrative voice.’

3. Witch-Hunt and Conspiracy: The ‘Ninja Case’ in East Java by Nicholas Herriman

In this fascinating book, Senior Anthropology Lecturer Dr Nicholas Herriman explores the witch-hunt craze that swept a region of Java, Indonesia in 1998.

This book brings unique insight and prize-winning analysis to the sporadic killings of ‘suspected sorcerers’ among neighbours, family members and friends that turned into an outbreak of violence.

Herriman writes that ‘the killing of sorcerers and subsequent ninja killing in 1998 Indonesia far eclipsed the number of victims in the Salem witch trials’ and yet ‘the Indonesian events did not attract a fraction of the academic attention devoted to Salem’.


4. Autonomous Motherhood? A Socio-Legal Study of Choice and Constraint by Fiona Kelly, Susan Boyd, Dorothy Chunn & Wanda Weigers

Women now have the economic and social freedom to parent alone. Those that do so may choose to conceive via donor insemination or adopt; others become pregnant after a brief sexual relationship and decide to parent alone.

As the authors of this book highlight, however, women that choose to single-parent still must negotiate a social-legal framework that suggests their choice goes against the interests of society, fatherhood and children.

Co-authored by our Law School Associate Professor Dr Fiona Kelly, Autonomous Motherhood? employs a feminist framework to probe fundamental assumptions within the law about the nature of family and parenting.

5. Mind of the Islamic State by Robert Manne

Shortly after the fall of Mosul in June 2014, US General Michael Nagata commented on the struggle against the Islamic State: ‘We have not defeated the idea. We do not even understand the idea.’

In this gripping book, Emeritus Professor of Politics Robert Manne traces the evolution of the Islamic State’s worldview to offer a rare insight into an ideology few understand.

Manne mines the 1960s prison writings of Sayyid Qutb all the way to its glossy online magazine of horror, Dabiq. He reveals the crucial role of texts such as The Management of Savagery, and figures such as al-Zarqawi, who set out to pit Sunni against Shia, thus tearing Iraq apart.

Former staffer writer at The New Yorker Mark Dannar hailed Manne’s book as ‘Essential reading for anyone interested in terrorism and how it has evolved…’ Guardian Middle East correspondent Martin Chulov said: ‘If you want to understand how it all began, this is an essential read’.


6. Paved with Good Intentions: Terra Nullius, Aboriginal Land Rights and Settler-Colonial Law by Hannah Roberts

Over a century before Mabo and generations before ‘Terra Nullius’, Aboriginal land rights were briefly acknowledged, sparked by the anti-slavery and humanitarian movements.

In the push to colonise South Africa and Port Phillip, well intentioned people voiced humanitarian concerns about Aboriginal dispossession – both in London and closer to the frontier. Yet those good intentions paved the way – not for recognition and respect, but – for a settler-colonial legal system that denied Indigenous sovereignty, land title and even legal subjecthood for decades.

In this important book, our Law School Lecturer Hannah Roberts prises apart a pivotal moment in Australia’s legal history to reveal the machinations of colony and empire amid the turbulent confluence of ideas about ‘civilisation’, ‘property’ and ‘the noble savage’.

7. All the Beginnings: A Queer Autobiography of the Body by Quinn Eades

Dr Quinn Eades is a researcher, writer and award-winning poet whose work lies at the nexus of feminist and queer theories of the body, autobiography and philosophy.

In his revelatory debut, Dr Eades (formerly Karina Quinn) examines a life marked by trauma and joy. Ultimately, all the beginnings is a book about falling in love with writing, children, mothers and the self.

Dr Eades lectures in Interdisciplinary Foundation Studies and is the founding editor of Australia’s only interdisciplinary, peer-reviewed, gender, sexuality and diversity studies journal, Writing from Below.

8. Queer Wars: The New Global Polarization Over Gay Rights

Emeritus Professor Dennis Altman AM co-authors Queer Wars, which explores the international polarisation of sexual and gender rights.

The claim that LGBT rights are human rights encounters fierce opposition in many parts of the world, as governments and religious leaders use resistance to LGBT rights to cast themselves as defenders of traditional values against neo-colonial interference and western decadence.

This book asks why sexuality and gender identity have become so vexed an issue between and within nations, and how we can best advocate for change.

Altman is one of Australia’s leading political and social commentators. His first book, Homosexual: Oppression & Liberation, was a pioneering step for the gay liberation movement.

9. From the Paddock to the Agora: Fifty Years of La Trobe University

Coinciding with our 50th year celebrations, From the Paddock to the Agora: Fifty Years of La Trobe Universitycombines memorable photos and images with vivid essays by leading La Trobe scholars evoking the university’s past and present.

A great piece of memorabilia, the book’s contributors include author and speechwriter Don Watson; historian, author and broadcaster Clare Wright; public intellectual Robert Manne; writer and political commentator Dennis Altman; scientist Marilyn Anderson; and Bendigo Honorary Associate Penny Davies.

Want to know more about our experts on campus? Read all about 10 of La Trobe’s Boldest Thinkers

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