Book Reviews

Any Ordinary Day

Any Ordinary Day

In the October 2018 edition of Australian Book Review (ABR), Gail Bell reviews a new book by TV personality Leigh Sales, “Any Ordinary Day”.

For a book that wears its heart on its sleeve, there is plenty to admire. The main questions are answered. 

Sales, known for her trademark verve, disarms her audience with glimpses of her off-screen nerves behind the studio curtain, and delivers, surprisingly, a happy ending.

With The End in Mind & Letting Go

With the End in Mind & Letting Go

Gail Bell reviews 2 new books in the Sydney Morning Herald Spectrum on Saturday on February 3-4, 2018

“With The End in Mind” by Dr Kathryn Mannix & “Letting Go: How to Plan for a Good Death” by Dr Charlie Corke

Dr Charlie Corke is an Australian intensive-care specialist and a strong proponent of timely advanced-care planning. His book, Letting Go, walks the same terrain as Mannix but his map is the ICU of a busy hospital where decisions are made on the run, as it were, not in the relative quiet of a hospice setting.



Gail Bell reviews Kate Cole-Adams’ new book, “ANAESTHESIA: The Gift of Oblivion and The Mystery of Consciousness” in the Sydney Morning Herald Spectrum and The Melbourne Age on Saturday 24 June 2017.

Cole-Adams has had a distinguished career in journalism, a skill set she uses to advantage as she digs down into elusive concepts such as the nature of consciousness…

Her prose is sinuous, at times intoxicating, and witty.

Insomniac City: Bill Hayes’ memoir of life and love with Oliver Sacks

Insomniac City

In a book review titled “Insomniac City: Bill Hayes’ memoir of life and love with Oliver Sacks” published in the Sydney Morning Herald Spectrum on May 13-14, 2017 Gail Bell writes:

If this were just a book about a love affair between two literary men 30 years apart in age it would be riches enough, but it is so much more.

Bill Hayes is a guest at Sydney Writers’ Festival, May 22-28.

Finding Sanity: John Cade, Lithium and the Taming of Bipolar Disorder

In a book review titled “A Salve for Disordered Brains” in Spectrum, Sydney Morning Herald October 15-16, 2016, Gail Bell reviews FINDING SANITY: John Cade, Lithium and the Taming of Bipolar Disorder published by Allen & Unwin.

In this first biography of Cade, co-written by Greg de Moore and Ann Westmore, we follow Cade from his birth in 1912 to his death in 1980, marvelling at the lone-wolf researcher who spent his evenings out in the shed (or the new pantry at the Mental Hospital) tinkering with his experiments.

Getting to the Guts of It

In a book review titled “Getting to the Guts of It” in the Spectrum section of The Sydney Morning Herald July 11-12, 2015 Gail Bell looks at a bestselling book by a new German author Giulia Enders, Gut: The Inside Story of our Body’s Most Under-rated Organ published by Scribe.

“Enders was provoked into her search, she tells us, by a question about toileting put to her by a flatmate. The studious Enders hit the textbooks, lost herself in study of the ‘masterly performance’ of our inbuilt disposal factory and emerged with a gleam in her eye: she would answer the simple question at book length and in language that would not cause her flatmate’s eyes, along with the rest of us who are not gastroenterologists, to glaze over.”

Robyn Davidson and Mia Wasikowska make ‘Tracks’

In the March 2014 issue of The Monthly Magazine, Gail Bell meets the author of the iconic book Tracks, and the actress who plays her in the film of the same name. In “When Robyn met Mia”, Gail interviews Robyn Davidson and Mia Wasikowska on the eve of the Australian premiere of the film.

Wasikowska read the Tracks script before she came to the book. “My parents, when I told them I’d got the script, they were like, ‘You’ve got to do the part, she’s a legend.’ Then I read the book and I knew immediately who Robyn was, or felt I had an understanding of her. I was sort of desperate to play her then.”

Jim Sterba’s ‘Nature Wars’

In the September 2013 edition of The Monthly Magazine, Gail Bell reviews a new book for Arts and Letters: Nature Wars, American author Jim Sterba’s report on the latest developments in the age-old clash between humans and nature. “Home Invasions” looks at the Australian experience of wildlife moving into our cities and suburbs.

Possums drop like cannonballs onto the tin roof and race each other to their night feasts. A blue-tongue lizard feeds on my small strawberry patch. Bush rats, funnelwebs and water dragons never give up their quests to live indoors with us. Isn’t this what tree-changers hanker after? A benign cohabitation with nature? Well, yes and no.

As Robert Was Saying: In conversation with Robert Dessaix

In the March 2012 issue of The Monthly Magazine, Gail Bell interviews and profiles the celebrated Australian author, Robert Dessaix.

“On the eve of the release of his new book, As I Was Saying, Dessaix reflects on the beautiful things in his life – his home in Tasmania, his travels, his writing and his loved ones – and takes solace in a newfound discovery of a single, well spent day.” John van Tiggelen, editor.

In certain lights, his high forehead and robust white hair remind me of Beckett without the etched anger lines. The absence of visible anger in Dessaix’s face may be the result of his new “live for now” philosophy, just as it may be the genetic gift of those green eyes.”

Selling Sickness: How the World’s Biggest Pharmaceutical Companies are Turning us all into Patients

In the June 2005 issue of The Monthly Magazine, Gail Bell reviews a new book by Ray Moynihan and Alan Cassels. SELLING SICKNESS: How the World’s Biggest Pharmaceutical Companies are Turning us all into Patients exposes behind-the-scenes chicanery at work in major drug company dealings with the public.

Advertising experts, now embedded in the frontlines of the pharmaceutical industry, are busy “branding a condition” – like Adult ADD – where none existed before.