The 10 best non-fiction books of 2015

For a sophisticated stocking stuffer, look no further than the longlisted titles for this year’s Walkley Book Award.

By Annalise Bolt

The Straight Dope

Chip Le Grand

The Straight Dope

Winner of the Walkley Book Award. It was the darkest day in Australian sport and a scandal that is still unfolding two years down the track. In 2013 the Australian Crime Commission handed down a report that alleged widespread use of performanceenhancing drugs across the AFL and NRL. Le Grand’s book cuts through the controversy to flesh out what happened behind closed doors at Essendon and Cronulla. It gives a comprehensive picture of the major actors, including the highpressure clubs, the sport scientist determined that his players would win at all costs and an anti-doping commission that was out of its depth. Melbourne University Press

The War on Journalism, by Andrew Fowler

Andrew Fowler

The War on Journalism

Amid market turbulence, creaking monopolies and a crackdown by governments on whistleblowers, this book tells the unhappy tale of the many challenges facing the media industry. Longtime investigative ABC journalist Andrew Fowler argues that journalists have dug their own graves by using the internet too little too late, failing to cut through government rhetoric and losing sight of their role in the democratic process. As Fowler warns, not everyone in the media will be pleased by his book; nevertheless, it provides much food for thought about a rapidly changing industry. Random House Australia

catch and kill

Joel Deane

Catch and Kill

Four men dubbed “the Golden Four” by a party member were responsible for Labor’s historic rise from a dire political low to its longest hold on power in Victoria. Joel Deane, as the speechwriter and press secretary for premier Steve Bracks, was there through it all. This is his inside account of Labor’s dream run in Victorian state politics through the 1990s and 2000s thanks to Bracks, John Brumby, John Thwaites and Rob Hulls – a formidable team who remain friends today. Deane, a novelist and poet, weaves together dozens of interviews with party insiders as well as his own experience as a staffer to explore Labor’s run in power and the winnertake- all game that is politics. University of Queensland Press

The rise and fall of gunns

Quentin Beresford

The Rise and Fall of Gunns Ltd

This book delves into the spectacular fall of a business that ravaged the environment to build an empire worth $1 billion. At its peak the biggest private employer in Tasmania, Gunns was an economic powerhouse in Australia’s smallest state, but it wreaked havoc on Tasmania’s forests through wood-chipping. Quentin Beresford delves into the collapse of the forestry giant, highlighting corruption and political deals, a CEO convicted of insider trading and attempts to silence vocal environmentalists. New South Publishing

Charles Bean

Ross Coulthart

Charles Bean

Our nation’s identity would be remarkably different if it weren’t for Charles Bean. As Australia’s official war historian in WWI, his writings undoubtedly helped create the Anzac legend and still resonate with what it means to be Australian. But were his writings the whole story (or even the true story) of Australia’s involvement in the war? Investigative journalist and Gold Walkley winner Ross Coulthart separates fact from fiction in his story of the life and work of the iconic historian. He scoured through everything Bean ever wrote, including his extensive personal documents, and interviewed Bean’s surviving daughter to uncover the difference between what Bean wrote and what he knew. HarperCollins

Inconvenient genocide

Geoffrey Robertson

An Inconvenient Genocide

Governments across the globe are yet to agree on one of the most controversial issues of the 20th century – whether half the Armenian population, around 1.5 million people, was wiped out by the Ottoman Empire in 1915. Among the nations that explicitly recognise the genocide are France, Spain, Germany, France and Canada, but glaringly absent are Australia, Britain and the US. On the 100th anniversary this year, neither Tony Abbott nor Julie Bishop would use the word “genocide” to describe the events, a nod to Turkey’s geopolitical importance to Western powers. Geoffrey Robertson argues that not only was this dark corner of history in fact genocide, but that, even putting aside moral and ethical obligations, governments must legally recognise it as such. Random House Australia


Brenda Niall


One of Australia’s most influential figures of the 20th century, Daniel Mannix held the position of Catholic Archbishop of Melbourne for 46 years. In his 99 years of life, he became famous as much for his bold politics as for his religious leadership. Despite all this, Mannix was such a private man that he even set fire to his personal papers. Niall, an award-winning biographer, dug through the Irish and Australian archives to expansively chronicle his extraordinary life. Text Publishing

Acute Misfortune, by Erik Jensen

Erik Jensen

Acute Misfortune: The Life and Death of Adam Cullen

Erik Jensen was 19 years old when he was invited into the home of controversial artist and Archibald Prize winner Adam Cullen to write his biography. Four years later, he was a pall-bearer at his funeral. Acute Misfortune isn’t quite the biography Cullen imagined, but instead a startlingly intimate memoir that takes the reader behind Cullen’s untamed artistic persona to show a complex man in many ways responsible for his own demise. Black Inc.

The Family Court Murders

Debi Marshall

The Family Court Murders

Marshall is the 2015 recipient of the Leadership in Journalism award. Digging deep into a 30-yearold cold case, Debi Marshall took on a man suspected of murdering four people in the pursuit of what he saw as justice. This is the true crime account of the Family Court bombings and murders that outraged Sydney in the 1980s. Only now, following Marshall’s book, has anyone been charged. The accused is John Warwick who, after a messy custody battle with his ex-wife, allegedly terrorised members of the judiciary and the public, committing shootings, murders and bombings over five years. Random House Australia

Blood and guts

Sam Vincent

Blood & Guts

Once an active whaling nation, Australia has become one of the fiercest opponents of Japan’s whaling program. In this piece of immersive journalism, Vincent takes his readers from the decks of a Sea Shepherd protest ship to Japan to explore the motives behind the hunt, and into the International Court of Justice to cut to the core of a conflict that shows no sign of abating. He also sheds light on how the tide has turned so strongly against whaling in Australia. Black Inc.