Among his books…

Peter has published more than a dozen books on a wide range of subjects, including Australian art, garden history, the natural environment and Australian social history.

Making Nature blends personal memoir, history and environmental politics to explore what nature means to us in the modern world.

What’s Wrong with Contemporary Art is a provocative and controversial critique of the commercialisation and politicisation of the visual arts today.

Australia’s Quarter Acre and Private Lives are lively, illustrated histories of the Australian suburban garden and Australian domestic life, respectively.

Hobart, one of a series of books on Australian cities published by the University of New South Wales Press, takes an admiring but far from uncritical tour through Australia’s smallest, most southerly, least prosperous but arguably most beautiful capital.

Silliness: a Serious History reveals the rich and entertaining history of this particular form of humour, from the madcap plays of Aristophanes to Monty Python and ‘people falling over’ on YouTube.

Peter’s savagely funny first novel, Asking for Trouble (published by HarperCollins in 2014) delves into the darkness that innocence conceals, the corrosive power of secrets and the consequences of standing up to bullies.

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Other books include:

The Green Desert (photographs by Peter Elfes)
Sydney, ABC Books, 2013

House (photographs by Robyn Stacey)
Sydney, Historic Houses Trust of NSW, 2011

Philip Wolfhagen (artist’s monograph)
Hobart, Craftsman House, 2005

Australian Studio Pottery and Chinapainting
Melbourne, Oxford University Press, 1986

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What critics have said

Silliness: a Serious History

Adelaide, Wakefield Press, 2019

‘Peter Timms’s Silliness: a Serious History is in fact a deeply literary book that is also a lot of fun to read.’ The Australian

‘Silliness, Timms amply demonstrates, has always been with us and of us. His research is detailed, his capacity to let it tumble lightly to the page makes the read simultaneously educative and amusing.’ Sydney Morning Herald

‘Timms’ interpretation of Tom and Jerry as an analogy for patricide is compelling and innately funny as an idea.’ Sydney Review of Books

‘An entertaining, if apparently light-minded, ditzy, frivolous, frothy, giddy, puerile and yeasty little book … Conversely, and very challengingly, it’s also a dense read from a masterful, erudite author, packed with impressive details.’ Manning Community News

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Asking for Trouble

Sydney, HarperCollins/Fourth Estate, 2014

‘I love this book. It is not too much to claim that Asking for Trouble is knocking at the door to the realm of such classics as Kipling’s Stalky & Co and Thomas Hughes’ Tom Brown’s Schooldays and Alec Waugh’s The Loom of Youth.’ Crikey

‘Peter Timms is an accomplished stylist… He has a sharp satirical eye for the low points of Melbourne’s culture in the year of its Olympic heights.’ Sydney Morning Herald

Asking for Trouble is most memorable for the candid warmth of its humanity.’ The Age

‘ … a witty and assured debut. Peter Timms’s stylish novel offers a coming of age story that is also a perceptive exploration of the darkness in a nation’s soul’ Michelle De Kretser

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Sydney, New South (University of New South Wales Press), 2009 (updated edition, 2012)

Hobart is not a history, but it includes the historical. It is not a walking tour, but, in part, takes you up, down and along Hobart’s streets. It is not a tourism pamphlet …but is altogether more authentic and thoughtful.’ Australian Book Review

‘… exudes a discriminating fondness for the city …’ Sydney Morning Herald

‘Timms takes a stroll through the city for a “biography” of his new home. His observations and interviews with a wide range of Hobart people reinforce many old frustrations but also prompt new insights’ Sunday Tasmanian

‘… sometimes it takes an outsider to skewer a city more accurately than someone with a lifetime of familiarity with it. I simply couldn’t put it down.’ Leo Schofield

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Private Lives: Australians at home since Federation

Melbourne, Miegunyah Press (Melbourne University Publishing)

‘It is impossible to read this finely written and beautifully illustrated book without reflecting on the houses one has lived in or known.’ The Age

Private Lives is a room-by-room tour of the Australian way of living since 1900. Here the suburbs are seen, not as desolate, lifeless and clusters of little boxes but something far richer and more rewarding.’ Courier Mail

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Australia’s Quarter Acre: the story of the ordinary suburban garden

Melbourne, Miegunyah Press (Melbourne University Publishing), 2006

Australia’s Quarter Acre displays how the most ordinary of gardens have been and continue to be extraordinarily important in Australian lives.’ The Australian

‘Timms has produced a unique social history of not only how and why people garden in Australia but what gardens mean to suburban life.’ The West Australian

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What’s wrong with Contemporary Art?

Sydney, University of New South Wales Press, 2004

‘Anyone who is interested in contemporary art in Australia should read this book. It’s extremely well written and has the advantage of being an important book with important things to say…’ Sydney Morning Herald

‘Timms’ analysis of the forces within contemporary art is engaging. At a guess most readers will share at least some of his reservations.’ Art Monthly Australia

‘Timms … offers readers the opportunity to make up their own minds about whether the overhyping of some contemporary art is worth it.’ The Age

‘After reading What Is Wrong With Contemporary Art? we felt as though we had been beaten around the head … we decided we would never discuss Peter Timms again and drank to it — we needed something to forget and help us get on with our lives.’ The Art Life

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Making Nature

Melbourne, Allen and Unwin, 2001

‘It is part memoir, part conservation treatise, part poetry and enduringly, a sensuous visual descriptive insight into the importance of the environment.’ Canberra Times

‘Peter Timms is a powerful story-teller. Sharing his own discoveries, pleasures and enthusiasms, he introduces new ways of looking and thinking about the meaning of the word “nature”.’ Australian Garden History

‘An important book that touches a nerve for modern society.’ Tim Flannery

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The Nature of Gardens

Melbourne, Allen and Unwin, 1999

A collection of essays by Marion Halligan, Margaret Scott, Belinda Probert, Carmel Bird, Alan Saunders, Tim Bonyhady, George Seddon, Warwick Mayne-Wilson, Morag Fraser and Peter Timms. Edited by Peter Timms.

‘This book offers thoughts for gardener and non-gardener alike — and turns out to be a jolly good read.’ Sunday Telegraph

‘There are passages here to make you dream of gardening bliss, but also elements that give serious pause before you reach for the shovel and seedlings.’ Qantas: The Australian Way

‘Timms is to be thanked, not only for this fertile and engaging book, sending out its shoots and runners in the mind, but for the resolution of his concluding essay, with its beautiful description of his garden-making in the bush.’ The Australian

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Some recent essays and articles

‘The Urge to Order’ for the book Breathing Space, published in 2021 to mark the twentieth anniversary of the founding of the Tasmanian Land Conservancy.

‘The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster’ for The Guardian newspaper, 2019.

‘An Eighty-Year Affair’, for the book Eighty Years of SAM, published by Shepparton Art Museum, Victoria, 2017.

‘Assuming the Mantle’ (about Tasmanian history and its influence on the present), in Griffith Review, No 39, Autumn 2013.

‘Going off Virally’ (about the purpose of art criticism), in Island, no 125, Winter 2011.

‘A post-Google Wunderkammer: Hobart’s Museum of Old and New Art redefines the genre’, in Meanjin, Autumn 2011.

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