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Dan Andrews quit to read a pile of books. Love in the Time of Cholera, perhaps?


September 29, 2023 — 11.30am

September 29, 2023 — 11.30am

The Japanese have one cute word for a concept that takes English about 10 words to describe. It’s tsundoku: the stack of books you’ve bought and haven’t yet read. Dan Andrews has a tsundoku tucked away in the corner of his room, apparently. Post-resignation as Victoria’s premier, he’ll be chomping his way through it, he says.

A snapshot of those spines might shed some light on the true character of the premier who rarely smiled. Mao’s Little Red Book, perhaps. How to Smoke Pot (Properly): A Highbrow Guide to Getting High? Perhaps not.

Daniel Andrews, as state opposition leader in 2014, watches his wife, Catherine, reading to children at the State Library. Where might he start reading now that he’s resigned as premier?

Daniel Andrews, as state opposition leader in 2014, watches his wife, Catherine, reading to children at the State Library. Where might he start reading now that he’s resigned as premier? Credit: Robert Prezioso

I have two tsundoku teetering by my side of the bed and a horizontal tsundoku jammed into a bookshelf. (My partner has Steve Waugh by his side, 801 pages of him.) This isn’t a show-off thing. It’s more an indication of how much I want to read before my eyes pack up and my body goes to god.

On top of this – well, to the side – is a growing pile of the magazines I’ve subscribed to. I wonder if the Japanese have a word for “pile of magazines you know you will never read but hang on to for a year and then place lovingly in the recycle bin (or op shop)”.

The point is there’s so much to read and so little time.


At any time-poor age, you must make a choice if you’re going to get through your literary lot. I run a finger across the spines in my book piles. Old classics or modern? Books I think I should read but don’t want to (A Tale of Two Cities), books I want to read but know I won’t understand (Ulysses), books that will fill me with wanderlust (Lonely Planet’s Egypt) or just plain lust (Gorbachev’s Memoirs – ooh, that birthmark), books that will make me feel dumb (How Proust Can Change Your Life) or spooked (The Shining) or titillated (Portnoy’s Complaint).

This last one is a lie. I read it years ago when I found it on my father’s bookshelf wedged between The Geneva Conventions and The Innocence of Father Brown. It alarmed me no end. I was 12 at the time.

An old school friend has already made his choice. He told me last week: “I don’t read books anymore. I read three newspapers every day. I have to choose between the world and books, and I choose the world.” (Maybe two newspapers are enough, I say to my friend.)

So what will Dan Andrews choose? We may never know what already sits in his tsundoku but I think it behoves us to offer some suggestions. He was, after all, Victoria’s longest-serving Labor premier. A mix of fiction and non-fiction is good, preferably read to some background music such as Bridge Over Troubled Waters or Heartbreak Hotel.


As a nod to Dan’s role during the pandemic and the need for some tender loving self-care, I’m thinking a good start would be García Márquez’s Love in the Time of Cholera. Either that or One Hundred Years of Solitude by the same author. These could be followed by a grittier read that former Victorian health minister Jenny Mikakos might have favoured following her oft-questioned resignation: Did She Kill Him? A Victorian Tale of Deception, Adultery and Arsenic. Andrews was in a few scrapes during his tenure – the stairs accident, the car accident. Let’s go with Annie Proulx’s Brokeback Mountain, Anne Tyler’s A Slipping Down Life and Lance Armstrong’s It’s Not About The Bike, preferably read simultaneously in one sitting.

The $1.1 billion contract that Andrews ripped up for the East West Link doesn’t have to be wasted. That paper can now be put to good use with Origami: Step By Step. And for all the memory problems at inquiries by the state anti-corruption agency, IBAC, I recommend The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat by Oliver Sacks, not that Dan Andrews would ever mistake his wife, especially when she’s driving.

My choice? I pluck Wuthering Heights from my tsundoku. It falls into the “should have read by now – can’t believe you haven’t” category. It smells of old paper and dust and its typeface must be in seven-point. It seems like the perfect time to read the thing.

I’m in for a shock. I know that Heathcliff’s tall, dark and handsome, but he also kills puppies. I honestly tried to like him until he did that. He and Catherine are a gruesome twosome and the entire story is dedicated to their rottenness. How did this become a classic, I wonder (of course, the writing’s superb).

Wuthering Heights has laid me low. The cancelling of the Commonwealth Games and Victoria’s record debt have laid Dan Andrews low. We both need a dig-in-your-guts belly laugh to raise the spirits.

Michael McIntyre’s memoir Life & Laughing pops up on Audible. English-born McIntyre specialises in situational comedy. He’s also the narrator of his book and does delicious impersonations of family members – but not, repeat, not politicians. The chapters on his teenage years are excruciatingly good.

Two minutes in, Dan Andrews, and you’ll be writhing on your couch in hysterics.

Jo Stubbings is a freelance writer and reviewer.