The Details: On Love, Death and Reading cover

Shortlist year: 2021

Shortlist category: Non-fiction

Published by: Scribner Australia an imprint of Simon & Schuster


Tegan Bennett Daylight has led a life in books—as a writer, a teacher and a critic, but first and foremost as a reader. In this deeply insightful and intimate work, Daylight describes how her reading has nourished her life, and how life has informed her reading. In both, she shows us that it's the small points of connection—the details—that really matter: what we notice when someone close to us dies; when we give birth; when we make friends. In life's disasters and delights, the details are what we can share and compare and carry with us. Daylight writes with invigorating candour and compassion about her mother's last days, her own experiences of childbearing and its aftermath (in her celebrated essay 'Vagina'), her long admiration of Helen Garner and George Saunders, and her great loves and friendships. Each chapter is a revelation, and a celebration of how books offer not an escape from 'real life' but a richer engagement with the business of living. The result is a work that will truly deepen your relationship with books, and with other readers. The delight is in the details.

About the author

 Tegan Bennett Daylight

Tegan Bennett Daylight

Tegan Bennett Daylight is a writer, teacher and critic. Her books include the Stella Award shortlisted Six Bedrooms and the novels Safety and Bombora. She works as a lecturer in English and Creative Writing, and lives in the Blue Mountains with her husband and two children.

Judges’ comments

In the 'The Details, On Love, Death and Reading', Tegan Bennett Daylight has produced essays that are at once amusing, poignant and occasionally outrageously candid. The underlying theme: 'The words of great writers somehow enrich experience.' Daylight explores intimate tales of her own life, including her relationship with her own body and her husband, the death of her mother and the deaths of friends and their mothers. She explores the compelling detail of the writers and books that have most influenced her. Daylight has a deep regard of the writing of Helen Garner and in her own prose shows a similar capacity to enliven ordinary characters and events. Her eye for detail, first fostered by her mother Deborah, enriches the reflections of the author as teacher, daughter, mother, wife and friend. Just as her mother would provide a bored child a selection of books, Bennett Daylight invites the reader to be transported by her discrete yet superbly intertwined, eloquently written essays.