Book Review: The Land Before Avocado by Richard Glover

The Land Before Avocado…

About the Book:

The new book from the bestselling author of Flesh Wounds. A funny and frank look at the way Australia used to be – and just how far we have come.
‘It was simpler time’. We had more fun back then’. ‘Everyone could afford a house’.

There’s plenty of nostalgia right now for the Australia of the past, but what was it really like?

In The Land Before Avocado, Richard Glover takes a journey to an almost unrecognisable Australia. It’s a vivid portrait of a quite peculiar land: a place that is scary and weird, dangerous and incomprehensible, and, now and then, surprisingly appealing.

It’s the Australia of his childhood. The Australia of the late ’60s and early ’70s.

Let’s break the news now: they didn’t have avocado.

It’s a place of funny clothing and food that was appalling, but amusingly so. It is also the land of staggeringly awful attitudes – often enshrined in law – towards anybody who didn’t fit in.

The Land Before Avocado will make you laugh and cry, feel angry and inspired. And leave you wondering how bizarre things were, not so long ago.

Most of all, it will make you realise how far we’ve come – and how much further we can go.

My Thoughts:

‘I wondered: was this history’s first mention of what was to become the ‘smashed avo’ breakfast – that destroyer of dreams, that harbinger of doom, that squanderer of fortunes – now cited as a prime example of the frivolous spending that prevents today’s millennials from joining the housing market?’

This book! I haven’t enjoyed a non-fiction book this much since…hhmmm…maybe ever? It’s an absolute lark. Hilarious, yet at times a shade horrific, but ultimately always stunningly honest. I was born in 1977, but many things contained within this book still lingered well into the 1980s – and a few even beyond that. Anyone over 40 will find much that is familiar within the pages of this book, and anyone under 40 will likely heave a sigh of relief at the cultural bullet they dodged merely by virtue of being born much later.

So what’s it all about? Richard Glover takes a journey back to the decade of 1965 through to 1975, and he actively and thoroughly examines Australian society in a bid to answer that age old question: were the glory days of the past really all that glorious, or are our memories not to be relied upon?

‘This book is largely a brutal attack on the past, challenging us to overcome our nostalgia and instead be optimistic about how the world has changed for the better and how it might continue to improve. All the same, some things about the period were excellent.’

Glover doesn’t just rely on memory though. All of his observations are backed up by research, anecdotal evidence, and valid comparisons. It’s sociology at its best: accessible rather than academic, entertaining, and substantive. Some things made me laugh, many made me cringe, and a few brought on a well of tears. All of them made me thankful for progress! As a talk back radio host, Glover has the gift of the gab and this translates onto the page very well. I laughed out loud all the way through this book and read many passages out to my teenage son, who was in part disbelieving that things could ever have been that way. Ultimately, I found this book uplifting. Glover aims by the end to demonstrate that Australia has come a very long way in a short amount of time. It’s a timely read within the context of the most recent federal election and gives hope to Australians who might be feeling despair at where our country is headed.

‘There’s a widespread resistance to the idea that things have improved – even though it’s so spectacularly clear that life is much better now than it was. Does that matter? Should we care if people convince themselves that life is getting worse, both in their own country and in the wider world, even if that view is difficult to justify? Does it matter if people look at the past through rose-coloured glasses? I think it does.

This is only partly a book about Australia in the ‘60s and ’70; it’s really an argument about the possibility of progress; about how quickly we can change; and how things that now seem laughable or downright objectionable were considered normal just a moment ago. Most of all, it’s an invitation to dream of further change.’


About the Author:

Richard Glover has written a number of bestselling books, including Flesh Wounds and The Mud House. He writes regularly for the Sydney Morning Herald and The Washington Post, as well as presenting the comedy program Thank God It’s Friday on ABC Local Radio. To find out more, visit

The Land Before Avocado

Published by HarperCollins Publishers Australia – Imprint: ABC Books – AU
On Sale: 22/10/2018

12 thoughts on “Book Review: The Land Before Avocado by Richard Glover

  1. I’m keen to look into this one now, after losing my last grandparent I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting back on my childhood and the simple times, although the bulk of my childhood was the eighties! I miss it. This one might be a nice reminder. Thanks for a lovely review and I’m glad you enjoyed a non fiction book this time!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This sounds really interesting – both the nostalgia, and the optimism of pointing out that there were many downsides to the ‘good old days’ and that change can be a very good thing!
    Thanks Theresa.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This one is on my radar and the only reason I haven’t read it is because I have too much else on the go at the moment.
    There’s another book in a similar vein, though it’s a real chunkster and not easy reading: It’s Called The Better Angels of Our Nature by Stephen Pinker, and it argues that the world is much less violent than it used to be. I had my doubts about the chapter which I read, (see but I still take his point that tabloid reporting makes us think that today’s world is a terrible place, out of all proportion to the reality.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Glover provides some really surprising statistics about crime and it’s reduction. That’s what I liked so much about this book, it’s not all just generalisations. He backs everything up with evidence. It’s a fairly slim book, wouldn’t take you long if you decided to slip it in one day.


  4. Glover is a genius, so witty and clever and insightful and resilient, everything one wants in a writer, on any subject! I’m really looking forward to reading this one (and probably passing it on to my parents, actually, because I think they’d get a kick out of it), I’m so glad to hear you enjoyed it! I know your standards for non-fiction are super-high, so if you say it’s great, it must be 😍 Glover also did a couple of episodes on the Story Club podcast, you should definitely give them a listen if you need a chuckle 😉👍

    Liked by 1 person

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