As Interpreter readers know well, summer is a great time to relax with friends and family, to take a holiday, to reflect on the year past – and to read. During the year it can be hard to find time for reading; especially for our ministers and MPs, who have less free time than most. So every year Grattan Institute releases a summer reading list for the prime minister.
The List contains books and articles that we believe the Prime Minister – or indeed any Australian – will find stimulating over the break. They're all cracking reads that have something compelling to say about Australia, the world and the future.
This year's list covers many vital subjects.
From the Lowy Institute's own James Brown we have Anzac's Long Shadow, a searing critique of the way in which rose-tinted invocations of war legend have crowded out meaningful public and political engagement in modern defence policy.
From a slightly more northern think tank we have A Rightful Place, Noel Pearson's outstanding Quarterly Essay that traverses history, philosophy and culture to make a powerful case for constitutional recognition of indigenous Australians.
Political tragics will be pleased by the inclusion of Fire and Ashes, the post-mortem of a spectacular political defeat. Penned by Michael Ignatieff in the wake of his party's flattening at the 2011 Canadian federal election, Fire and Ashes is packed with insights on the nature of modern democracy that are depressing and fascinating in equal measure.
Headlines were dominated earlier in the year by Thomas Piketty's blockbuster treatise on inequality, but most lack the time or inclination to slough through all 700 pages of Capital in the 21st Century. We've opted instead for Larry Summers' incisive nine-page summary: it covers off all the main bits, and adds a few handy critiques to bandy about at the dinner table.
If gift-shopping, kids, and Christmas lunch don't provide enough fodder for holiday squabbles, refer to The Wife Drought, Annabel Crabb's declaration that the main barrier to female professional advancement is a lack of wives for women and lives for men. Packed with data yet impishly written, The Wife Drought dissects the gender dynamics bedeviling Australia's labour force in a way that is both serious and seriously funny.
No reading list is complete without fiction. Capping off ours we have this year's must-read novel The Golden Age, a seamlessly shifting blend of poetry, pathos and humour from Joan London, one of Australia's finest story-tellers.
The 2014 Prime Minister’s Summer Reading List is being launched next Tuesday 9 December at the State Library of New South Wales, where ABC Presenter Geraldine Doogue will join Grattan Institute CEO John Daley in a discussion of the List. The event is free to the public and Interpreter readers are warmly encouraged to attend.