Reviews: e-books and audiobooks: Kerry Packer bio, Lynsey Addario memoirs
Kerry Packer: Tall Tales & True Stories
by Michael Stahl
Hardie Grant Books
As biographies go, Tall Tales & True Stories paints a vivid picture of Australian media mogul Kerry Packer, who, at his death 10 years ago at age 68, was one of the country's richest and most powerful people. This "baron of publishing" was his father, Sir Frank Packer's, second choice, after elder brother Clyde, to take over the family's business. Yet the "boofhead", as his father called him, turned a A$100 million inheritance into a media, property, agriculture and gambling empire worth A$6.9 billion in the 31 years he was at its helm. Michael Stahl, who never met his subject, was deputy editor on two Australian Consolidated Press magazines, which were passed to Packer along with the successful Nine television channel. Packer's working-class tastes (junk food, sports), non-academic background (he preferred TV to books) and larrikin ways had a certain appeal to Australians. Stahl's inclusion of quotes from Packer and anecdotes from those who knew him add to the book, although it's thin on contributions from family and close friends.
It's What I Do
by Lynsey Addario
(read by Tavia Gilbert)
It's no surprise that Steven Spielberg is keen to turn Lynsey Addario's memoirs into a movie starring Jennifer Lawrence. But some will consider it a stretch having the actor play the 1.54-metre-tall war photographer, whose extraordinary book provides few let-ups as she goes from one conflict zone to another, never knowing whether she will return home, let alone to whom. (Lovers don't wait.) Raised in Connecticut, Addario begins her career behind the camera, focusing on human rights and women's issues; her job gives her a sense of purpose. Gender sometimes plays a role in how she reacts in a crisis: in Libya, one of the scariest combat zones she had visited, she didn't want to be "the terrified girl who prevented the men from doing their work". Addario's book, read persuasively by Tavia Gilbert, who sometimes seems out of breath, is divided into four parts, including the 9/11 years (Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq). Listeners may understand Addario's exhilaration at watching uprisings unfold and end. But they will still be amazed at how close to the action photographers are willing to go.
The Drop Box
by Brian Ivie with
You’ll start The Drop Box wanting to recommend it – but you may change your mind when it becomes clear the story centres not on the drop box of the title but on author Brian Ivie’s acceptance of God. Nothing wrong with the latter, but many readers will have dashed expectations. Focusing on an American filmmaker who makes a documentary on unwanted, deformed babies deposited in a box in South Korea, the memoir does what it shouldn’t: tells rather than shows. So the book spares little time unwrapping the stories of the children, or leading the reader around the orphanage run by Pastor Lee Jong-rak, and offering a fleeting view of the babies and what happens to them after they are found. Ivie explains how he gelled with Jack Kerouac after reading On the Road. The message is that he was a normal, hot-blooded Californian with a creative streak. But then he learns what it means to love unconditionally. Readers should stick with the book at least until Ivie meets a newborn left in the box one afternoon. Then they’ll realise how much more of a story there is to tell.