*Australian Colors: Images of the Outback, photographs and text by Bill Bachman (1994). The culmination of a two-year adventure, this photo book celebrates the bush from its Aboriginal roots to its present mosaic of cultures and urban spaces.
Chasing Kangaroos: A Continent, a Scientist, and a Search for the World's Most Extraordinary Creature, by Tim Flannery (2004). It's all kangaroo all the time as Melbourne paleontologist Flannery goes in search of fossils of the intriguing marsupials. In this memoir he explores Australia's natural history (and learns of folk tales of flesh-eating kangaroos) as he meets with kangaroo hunters and advocates, farmers, Aborigines, and other scientists in the vast Australian outback.
*Cold Beer and Crocodiles: A Bicycle Journey into Australia, by Roff Smith (2000). What's a man to do when, after 15 years, he doesn't understand his adopted country? If that man is Yankee journalist Roff Smith, he grabs his bike and makes a nine-month, 10,000-mile circuit of the place. He discovers a people who defy categorization but welcome visitors with (what else?) beer.
From Alice to Ocean: Alone Across the Outback, by Robyn Davidson (1992). With only four camels and a dog to accompany her, Davidson sets off on a 1,700-mile trek across the deserts of Western Australia. She encounters both the badhaving to kill wild camels that were trying to attack her ownand the good, like hunting with the Aborigines. Vivid photos by Rick Smolan accompany the text.
Greater Nowheres: Wanderings Across the Outback, by Dave Finkelstein and Jack London (2005). This comic memoir trails an odd couple traveling through Australia in pursuit of the infamous saltwater crocodile. Their goal, however, takes a backseat to their meetings with local kangaroo hunters and bush rangers, and the surprising things they stumble uponall adding to the offbeat charm of the Australia they discover.
*In a Sunburned Country, by Bill Bryson (2000). Bryson would probably be the perfect desert-island companionan acerbic naturalist and historian who just can't keep an absurd moment or thought to himself. His Australia story teems with toxic caterpillars and ridiculous place-names ("Tittybong," for one).
In Tasmania, by Nicholas Shakespeare (2006). Set in timeless Tasmania, a former English penal colony, Shakespeare unfolds 200 years of Tasmanian history through his visits with quirky distant relatives, discovery of the cliffs of Maria Island National Park, and encounters with the descendants of Tasmanian Aborigines.
Keep Australia on Your Left: A True Story of an Attempt to Circumnavigate Australia by Kayak, by Eric Stiller (2000). "The Australian coastline is a nightmare of tightly coiled inlets and rocky coves and sheer rock cliff faces and bays as huge and forbidding as Saharan deserts," writes Stiller, a kayak salesman, at the onset of his journey. The story follows him and his male-model companion on their dramatic kayak trip through the Tasman Sea (sharks, crocodiles, and toxic jellyfish), and their adventures on land (outrageous nights in remote towns).
One for the Road, by Tony Horwitz (1987). After moving to Sydney with his Australian bride, Horwitz is anxious to explore his adopted home. But it's not the city he wants to see. All warnings set aside, Horwitz hitchhikes 7,000 miles(11,265 kilometers) through the Australian outbackthrough Queensland, Alice Springs, Darwin, and Perthand survives a cyclone, encounters opal diggers and a jackeroo, and learns the ways of the bush in a sunburned land.
Sean & David's Long Drive, by Sean Condon (1996). With a 1966 Ford Falcon and no plan, two adventuresome Australians take off from their home in a Melbourne suburb and head west on the Great Ocean Roadjust the beginning of a 8,700-mile (14,000-kilometer) journey that has them meeting up with some of the outback's locals and going on what Condon calls a "croc spotting" adventure.
*The Songlines, by Bruce Chatwin (1987). More lyrical than anthropological, The Songlines explores the "labyrinth of invisible pathways which meander all over Australia," the "dreaming-tracks" or "songlines" of the Aboriginals. But in the end, this, like so many of his books, is a tale of Chatwin's ecstatically nomadic tilt.
*30 Days in Sydney: A Wildly Distorted Account, by Peter Carey (2001). "A metropolis is, by definition, inexhaustible, and by the time I departed, thirty days later, Sydney was as unknowable to me as it had been on that clear April morning when I arrived," concludes Carey. But his impressionistic ramble through his homeland is telling indeed.
*Tracks: A Woman's Solo Trek Across 1,700 Miles of Australian Outback, by Robyn Davidson (1980). Davidson is your typical crazy aunt. With her dog and four camels as companions, she walks across the landscapes and contradictions of rural Australia. She's at times touchy, confrontational, vulnerable, and loopy, but her story is a page-turner.