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We all have skills that we take for granted. Simple things like the ability to count, read or write. Take a moment to contemplate this: Internationally one in five adults are illiterate. That’s 20% of the population worldwide!

Today marks International Literacy Day (ILD), a cause that aims to raise awareness and bridge the education gap. Knowing how to read and write can break the cycle of poverty. You can get involved or learn more about the foundation behind the cause here.

ILD is a good excuse to get lost in a good book, so we’ve listed a few of our favourites Australian novels to get you in the mood:

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Genre: Historical Drama
Plot: After her brother’s death, Liesel arrives in a distraught state at the home of her new foster parents, Hans and Rosa Hubermann. During her time there, she is exposed to the horror of the Nazi regime and struggles to find a way to preserve the innocence of her childhood in the midst of her destructive surroundings. As the political situation in Germany deteriorates, her foster parents hide a Jewish man named Max, putting the family in danger. Hans, who has developed a close relationship with Liesel, teaches her to read in secret. Recognising the power of writing and sharing the written word, Liesel begins to not only steal books the Nazi party is looking to destroy, but also write her own stories and share the power of language with Max.

Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks

Genre: Historical Drama
Plot: When an infected bolt of cloth carries plague from London to an isolated village, a housemaid named Anna Frith emerges as an unlikely heroine and healer. Through Anna’s eyes we follow the story of the fateful year of 1666, as she and her fellow villagers confront the spread of disease and superstition. As death reaches into every household and villagers turn from prayers to murderous witch-hunting, Anna must find the strength to confront the disintegration of her community and the lure of illicit love. As she struggles to survive and grow, a year of catastrophe becomes instead annus mirabilis, a “year of wonders.”

Cloudstreet by Tim Winton

Genre: Fiction
Plot: Precipitated by separate personal tragedies, two poor families flee their rural homes to share a “great continent of a house”, Cloudstreet, in the Perth suburb of West Leederville. The two families are contrasts to each other; the devoutly religious Lambs find meaning in hard work and God’s grace, while the Pickles hope for good luck and don’t share the Lambs’ appetite for hard work. Though initially resistant to each other, their search and journey for meaning in life concludes with the uniting of the two families, with many characters citing this as the most important aspect of their lives. As a novel, Cloudstreet has a circular structure, opening and ending with a shared celebratory family picnic – a joyous occasion which, ironically, is also the scene of Fish’s long sought-after death or return to the water. The novel is narrated effectively by flashback “in the seconds it takes to die” by Fish Lamb, or the ‘spiritual’ omniscient Fish Lamb, free of his restricting retarded state. As such, the novel gives a voice to social minorities, the Australian working class and the disabled.

The Slap by Christos Tsiokas

Genre: Drama
Plot: At a barbecue in suburban Melbourne, a man slaps a three-year-old boy across the face. The child, Hugo, has been misbehaving without any intervention by his parents, the steely-eyed Rosie and the wimpish Gary.  The slapper is Harry, cousin of the barbecue host and adulterous businessman whose slightly older son, Rocco, is being threatened by Hugo. This event sends the other characters into a spiral, agonising and arguing over the notion that striking a child can ever be justified. Some believe a naughty boy should be taught some discipline, others maintain the police ought to be brought in to investigate a common assault with a range of positions in between.

Ice Station by Mathew Reilly

Genre: Thriller
Plot: After a diving team at Wilkes Ice Station is killed, the station sends out a distress signal. A team of United States Recon Marines led by Shane Schofield, code named Scarecrow, arrives at the station. At the station he finds several French scientists have arrived, and several more come after the Marines’ arrival. The French reveal themselves as soldiers and a fight ensues in the station, claiming the lives of Scarecrow’s men Hollywood, Legs and Ratman, along with several scientists and most of the French soldiers, while Mother loses her leg, Samurai is badly injured, and two French scientists are captured.

Have you read a great book lately? Tell us about it in the comments

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