Sign in


Forgotten your Password?

Enter your email address below and we'll send instructions and a link to reset your password


Unlock Sydney's hidden gems

All the latest and greatest places to eat, drink, stay and play in your city.

By signing up, you agree to periodic email marketing from Sitchu to the email address you provided. Terms and Conditions. Privacy Policy.
  • Sydney
  • Shopping
  • Classic Australian Books You Should Read In Your Lifetime

Classic Australian Books You Should Read In Your Lifetime

You’ll laugh, cry and be moved with this edit of classic Australian books.

Bridge of Clay by Markus Zusak (Image Credit: @simoneandherbooks)

There’s nothing better than cosying up with a hot drink and a ripping read. The hours fly by, and you’re drawn into worlds you could never have imagined. To help you meet your next great book love, we’ve turned back the clock and made our list of the best Australian books of all time. It's time to find a cosy corner and line up your literary bucket list with our edit of classic Australian books you should read in your lifetime.

The Best of Classic Australian Books

My Brilliant Career by Miles Franklin (Image Credit: @katelaidley)

My Brilliant Career by Miles Franklin (1901)

The legendary Miles Franklin is widely known as one of the most important writers of our time. Incredibly, this book was written while Franklin was still a teenager. The novel, a true Aussie classic, follows Sybylla, a headstrong girl and her adventures growing up in rural Australia in the 1890s. The story touches on everything from romance and family drama and serious issues of drought, alcoholism and crushing debt. If you can’t quite commit to the novel, definitely check out the Academy Award-nominated film adaptation.

Shop now 

The Merry-Go-Round in the Sea by Randolph Stow (Image Credit: @bookendmylife)

Merry-Go-Round in the Sea by Randolph Stow (1965)

Simply overflowing with the most beautiful, lyrical prose you’ll ever read, Merry-Go-Round in the Sea is a true Australian classic. Set in 1941, the novel shows you Geraldton and Western Australia through the eyes of Rob Coram, a six-year-old boy. As Rob grows up and the world around him changes, he grapples with what it means to be a grown up and the effect of the war on those around particularly his cousin and hero Rick. The book is brimming with the most glorious type of nostalgia and images of childhood. To borrow from the book itself, 'the merry-go-round would turn by itself, just a little above the green water. The world would revolve around him, and nothing would ever change… and it would be today forever.’

Shop now

Picnic at Hanging Rock by Joan Lindsay (Image Credit: @shelvesofsamantha)

Picnic at Hanging Rock by Joan Lindsay (1967)

This eerie and captivating mystery casts a long shadow over the Australian literary scene. Ethereal and enigmatic, the historical fiction novel is presented as if it were a true story and tells the tale of a group of girls leaving for a picnic on Valentine's Day in 1900. Three of them will not return.

Shop now

Oscar & Lucinda by Peter Carey (Image Credit: @justinereadsalot)

Oscar and Lucinda by Peter Carey (1988)

Peter Carey’s Booker Prize-winning novel follows its titular characters through a rather unusual love story. Oscar is a young English clergyman with a taste and a talent for gambling and Lucinda is an ambitious country heiress who moves to Sydney with the hopes of making a life for herself. Both serious gamblers, this mid-nineteenth story hinges off a bet and the roll of a dice.

Shop now

Cloudstreet by Tim Winton (Image Credit: @pagesandclouds)

Cloudstreet by Tim Winton (1991)

In one word? Epic. A sprawling tale that takes us through the lives of two families, the Lambs and the Pickles who live together in a Perth house over a period of 20 years. The novel follows the families as they face hardship and heartache, face tragedies and triumphs. The book is quintessentially Australian, and you’d be hard-pressed to ever find a better representation of Australian life from 1943 to 1963.

Shop now

Rakuten Kobo

Take Your Favourite Bookstore With You On the Go

With over 1.5 million eBooks and audiobooks on offer, Rakuten Kobo is here to make your reading life better. Integrate the power of reading into your every day with the free Kobo app and shop the always-open eBookstore, or elevate your reading experience with a Kobo eReader with features like adjustable brightness, blue light reduction and note-taking.

Sign up now

Looking for Alibrandi by Melina Marchetta (Image Credit: @thegeminibookshelf)

Looking for Alibrandi by Melina Marchetta (1992)

Though this is certainly more of a YA novel than the others on this list, this book is such a classic that we absolutely had to include it. Melina Marchetta’s debut novel tells us the story of Josephine Alibrandi as she navigates her HSC year at a private girl's school, navigates, racism, classism, and grief and figures out how to make those difficult first steps into adulthood. Plus, if you can get your hands on the film adaptation, it’s an absolute much-watch especially if you grew up in Sydney!

Shop now

True History of The Kelly Gang by Peter Carey (Image Credit: @itprusky)

True History of the Kelly Gang by Peter Carey (2000)

This Booker Prize-winning novel tells the tale of Australia’s most famous outlaw. Depicted as a rambling, first-person autobiography written by Ned Kelly as he flees from the police. The novel gives you a unique depiction of Ned Kelly and shows us who he really was – or at least who Peter Carey thinks he was – if he was a hero, a thief a murderer or something else entirely!

Shop now

The Turning by Tim Winton (Image Credit: @penguinbooksaus)

The Turning by Tim Winton (2005)

The delicately interlaced short stories in Tim Winton’s The Turning tell the story of modern-day Australia. With Winton’s distinct light illuminating the good, the bad and the ugly. While there are moments of hope, Winton leans into everything that makes us uncomfortable, shining light on struggle with genuine tenderness and without a shadow of judgement. Throughout all 17 short stories you’ll always find something beautiful to hold onto.

Shop now

The Secret River by Kate Grenville (Image Credit: @reading_in_chaos)

The Secret River by Kate Grenville (2005)

Set on the Hawkesbury in the early nineteenth century, The Secret River tells the story of the genesis of ‘Australia’ as we know it today. The story explores the journey of a convict transported to New South Wales, who was then freed and ‘given new land.’ The story of a shadowy chapter in our nation's past without ever shying away from the fact that our country was invaded, and the land stolen from the rightful, traditional owners.

Shop now

Jasper Jones by Craig Silvey (Image Credit: @n.wiklund.reads)

Jasper Jones by Craig Silvey (2009)

Set in a small town in rural Western Australia (it’s crazy how many of these classic books are sent in Western Australia!), Jasper Jones is a YA Australian gothic tale. Set in 1965, the story centres on 13-year-old Charlie Bucktin and begins as whispers run through a small town after a young girl goes mysteriously missing. It’s been called Australia’s answer to To Kill A Mockingbird so that should give you a good gauge of just how good this book is!

Shop now

The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan (Image Credit: @penguinbooksaus)

The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan (2013)

Winner of the Man Booker Prize, Richard Flanagan’s sixth novel is considered his magnum opus. Unsurprisingly, as one of the best books of all time, the book delves into the trauma suffered by Australian POWs during a brutal Japanese project that became known as the ‘Thailand-Burma Death Railway’. Survivor, Dorrigo Evans, is a feted war hero in old age but remains haunted by the personal mistakes, lost loves and trauma that have trailed him since that unspeakable time in his life. Dark, sprawling and rooted in history, the novel is a deeply affecting examination of how hard it is to live after survival.

Shop now

Bridge of Clay by Markus Zusak (Image Credit: @simoneandherbooks)

Bridge of Clay by Markus Zusak (2018)

This novel from literary legend Markus Zusak – of The Book Thief fame – tells the tale of five brothers and their mysterious absentee father in a Sydney suburb. The story centres on Clay who will do anything to keep his family together but, how far is he willing to go and how much is he willing to forgive?

Shop now

Too Much Lip by Melissa Lucashenko (Image Credit: @blackfulla_bookclub)

Too Much Lip by Melissa Lucashenko (2018)

Melissa Lucashenko’s searing dark comedy is written entirely in the voice of stripped-back, salt-of-the-earth chatter – not the stylised prose that many would expect of a Stella Prize and Miles Franklin award-winning book. Unrelenting and acerbically funny, the novel is an unvarnished portrait of intergenerational Aboriginal trauma set among family drama, corrupt politicians and greedy developers. Every page is set at a ripping pace, ablaze with magic realism, spilled secrets and unforgettable characters, leading to the discovery that no matter how frayed the ties, the power of family is ultimate. Not only is this a must-read, it is one of the best books of all time. 

Shop now

Classic Australian Children's Books

The Adventures of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie by May Gibbs (Image Credit: @waterbearreads)

The Complete Adventures of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie by May Gibbs (1918)

With characters inspired by the Australian bush itself, The Complete Adventures of Sungglepot and Cuddlepie is an Australian national treasure. Following the adventures of the two gumnut babies and their quest to stay clear of the banksia men, the stories are perfect bedtime reads for young and old alike. Impeccably illustrated, this collection makes for a brilliant gift. 

Shop now 

The Magic Pudding by Norman Lindsay (Image Credit: @designfortoday)

The Magic Pudding (1918) 

One of Australia's favourite artists is behind this classic that has now been loved by children and adults alike for well over 100 years. If you haven't read this adventurous tale yet, let us fill you in. The main characters are a koala, sailor and penguin and their magic pudding as well as their pudding thief adversaries Possum and Wombat. Sound like a ride? It's the very best kind.

Shop now 

The Rainbow Serpent by Dick Roughsey (Image Credit: @evie_barrow)

The Rainbow Serpent (1986)

Many children of the '90s will recall this being read to them after a sweaty lunchtime sitting on the asphalt. Undoubtedly an Australian classic, The Rainbow Serpent draws inspiration from The Dreamtime stories depicting how the ridges, mountains and gorges came to be. Another picture book with divine illustrations, we think this beauty deserves a place on every Australian's bookshelf. 

Shop now 

After working your way through the best classic Australian books of all time, you may be after more to read. Check out our edit of the best Australian coffee table books and best new Australian fiction

Our Sitchu editors work hard to deliver you the best products, events and venues that we hope you will love, each one is selected independently. Sitchu may receive an affiliate commission when you follow some links.

Stay in the loop