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Sarah Armstrong: books that changed me

Sarah Armstrong Photo: Donatella Parisini Journalist and producer for Foreign Correspondent: Author Sarah Armstrong. Photo: Supplied

Sarah Armstrong has been a journalist and producer for ABC radio and Foreign Correspondent on ABC TV. Her first novel, Salt Rain, was shortlisted for the 2005 Miles Franklin Award. Her third novel, Promise (Macmillan), is about a woman who runs away with her neighbour’s son after she suspects he is being abused. She lives in northern NSW with her husband, the writer Alan Close.

The Chrysalids

John Wyndham

When I was a kid, we didn’t have a television and I read all day long, including at school where I hid a book on my lap. I discovered John Wyndham when I was about 10, and I still remember the exhilarating and disturbing experience of reading The Chrysalids. This post-apocalyptic story with child protagonists was the first time I really felt the unsettling power of fiction.


Gillian Mears

This is a collection of linked short stories by Gillian Mears, who, so sadly, died in May. Set on the north coast of NSW, Fineflour is her second book, and tells the stories of those living in a riverside town. Gillian’s writing is wry, melancholy and exquisitely tender. When I first read it I felt a profound resonance, as if she was articulating, in a way I couldn’t, something about how I observe the world.

Playful Parenting

Dr Lawrence Cohen

After my daughter Amelia was born six years ago I read way too many parenting books and was tying myself in knots, until I read Playful Parenting. Larry Cohen says children use play to communicate deep feelings, release tension and get close to those they love. Coming to see playfulness as an essential aspect of parenting – and not least for dealing with conflict – has made our family’s life smoother and much more relaxed.

The Turning

Tim Winton

Another collection of linked short stories! I’ve read this book many times and am always moved and inspired. There’s an economy and spare quality to his writing that is all the more admirable because he conveys so many subtle and complex layers of meaning. In The Turning, Tim Winton captures, for me, the vulnerability and beauty of being alive. I re-read it every so often for a masterclass in writing.

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