A History of Books

Gerald Murnane



The major work of fiction in this collection, ‘A History of Books’, explores the relationship between reading and writing in twenty nine sections, each of which begins with the memory of a book that has left an image in the writer’s mind. The memory of the books themselves might have faded, but the images remain in their clarity and import – scenes of discord and madness, a stern-faced man, a young woman on a swing, a glass of beer and rays of sunlight, mountain and woodland and horizon – images which together embody the anxieties and aspirations of a writing life, and its indebtedness to what has been written and read. ‘A History of Books’ is accompanied by three shorter works, ‘As It Were a Letter’, ‘The Boy’s Name was David’ and ‘Last Letter to a Niece’, in which a writer searches for an ideal world, an ideal sentence, and an ideal reader.

‘If you have not read him, you should do so. He is a staggering original…’ Peter Craven, The Age


Print ISBN : 978-1-920882-85-3
Epdf ISBN : 978-1-922146-22-9 
Epub ISBN : 978-1-922146-21-2 
pp : 208
Published : May 2012


About the Author

Gerald Murnane
Gerald Murnane was born in Melbourne in 1939. He is the author of eleven works of fiction, including Tamarisk Row, The Plains, InlandBarley PatchA History of Books, A Million Windows, and Border Districts, and a collection of essays, Invisible Yet Enduring Lilacs. He is a recipient of an Emeritus Fellowship from the Australia Council, the Patrick White Literary Award, the Melbourne Prize for Literature, the Adelaide Festival Literature Award for Innovation and the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award. His last work of fiction, Border Districts, received the the 2018 Prime Minister's Literary Award for Fiction, was shortlisted for the 2018 Miles Franklin Literary Award and the 2018 ALS Gold Medal, and longlisted for the 2018 Voss Literary Prize.

Visit the Gerald Murnane: Online Archive


A History of Books was shortlisted for the Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards in the fiction category. You can read the judges’ comments here.


Sydney Morning Herald – review my Andrew Riemer
Sydney Morning Herald – review by Peter Craven
ANZ LitLovers