The Best Holiday Books for Christmas

It’s time to crank up the Buble, pop the Christmas mince pies in the oven and settle down with a great book to get you into the Christmas mood.

We have scoured the bookstores to bring you the ultimate Christmas Holiday Reading List to get those festive feelings flowing…sit back and enjoy!

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

It’s a classic and it’s amazing! In this beautiful story Charles Dickens invents the modern concept of Christmas Spirit and offers one of the world’s most adapted and imitated stories. We know Ebenezer Scrooge, Tiny Tim, and the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future, not only as fictional characters, but also as icons of the true meaning of Christmas in a world still plagued with avarice and cynicism.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Life Adventures of Santa Claus by L Frank Baum

Written by the author of The Wizard of Oz, The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus tells the captivating story of Neclaus, a child found and raised in the magical Forest of Burzee by a wood-nymph. Among the imortals, Neclaus grows an innocent youth, until the day when he discovers the misery that rules the human world and hovers, like a shadow, above the heads of the children. Now, in the attempt of easing human suffering, he, with the help of his imortal friends, will have to face the forces of evil and of resignation, in order to bring joy to the children and teach them, for the sake of humanity, the importance of sharing and caring for each other.

 

Christmas Days:  12 stories and 12 Recipes for 12 Days by Jeanette Winterson

The tradition of the Twelve Days of Christmas is a tradition of celebration, sharing and giving. And what better way to do that than with a story? Read these stories by the fire, in the snow, travelling home for the holidays. Give them to friends, wrap them up for someone you love, read them aloud, read them alone, read them together. Enjoy the season of peace and goodwill, mystery, and a little bit of magic. There are ghosts here and jovial spirits. Chances at love and tricks with time. There is frost and icicles, mistletoe and sledges. There is a Christmas Tree with mysterious powers. There’s a donkey with a golden nose and a tinsel baby that talks.There’s a cat and a dog and a solid silver frog. There’s a Christmas cracker with a surprising gift inside.There’s a haunted house and a disappearing train. There are Yule-tides and holly wreaths. Three Kings. And a merry little Christmas time.

 

Letters from Father Christmas by JRR Tolkin

Every December an envelope bearing a stamp from the North Pole would arrive for J. R. R. Tolkien’s children. Inside would be a letter in strange spidery handwriting and a beautiful coloured drawing or some sketches. The letters were from Father Christmas.They told wonderful tales of life at the North Pole: How all the reindeer got loose and scattered presents all over the place, How the accident-prone Polar Bear climbed the North Pole and fell through the roof of Father Christmas’s house into the dining-room, How he broke the Moon into four pieces and made the Man in it fall into the back garden, How there were wars with the troublesome horde of goblins who lived in the caves beneath the house! Sometimes the Polar Bear would scrawl a note, and sometimes Ilbereth the Elf would write in his elegant flowing script, adding yet more life and humour to the stories. From the first note to Tolkien’s eldest son in 1920 to the final poignant letter to his daughter in 1943, this book collects all the remarkable letters and pictures in one enchanting edition.

 

Holidays on Ice by David Sedaris

David Sedaris’s beloved holiday collection is new again with six more pieces, including a never before published story. Along with such favorites as the diaries of a Macy’s elf and the annals of two very competitive families, are Sedaris’s tales of tardy trick-or-treaters (“Us and Them”); the difficulties of explaining the Easter Bunny to the French (“Jesus Shaves”); what to do when you’ve been locked out in a snowstorm (“Let It Snow”); the puzzling Christmas traditions of other nations (“Six to Eight Black Men”); what Halloween at the medical examiner’s looks like (“The Monster Mash”); and a barnyard secret Santa scheme gone awry (“Cow and Turkey”).

 

 

The Gift by Cecelia Ahem

The Gift is a magical, fable-like Christmas story from Cecelia Ahern, the celebrated New York Times bestselling author of P.S. I Love You and Thanks for the Memories. The story of Lou Suffern, a successful executive frustrated by the fact that he spends more time in the office than with his doting wife and two young children, The Gift is a tantalizing tale.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hercule Poirot’s Christmas by Agatha Christie

Simeon Lee has demanded that all four of his sons visit the family home for Christmas. But the cantankerous patriarch has anything but a heartwarming family holiday in mind. He bedevils each of his sons with barbed insults, while at the same time lavishing attention on his very attractive, long-lost granddaughter. Finally he announces that he is cutting off his sons’ allowances and changing his will to boot. So when the old man is found lying in a pool of blood on Christmas Eve, there is no lack of suspects. Intrepid Belgian detective Hercule Poirot suspends his holiday sorting through the myriad suspects and motives to find the truth behind the old man’s death.

 

 

 

The Christmas Card by Dilly Court

The perfect heartwarming romance for Christmas, rich in historical detail. She turned the picture of the Christmas card over with her frozen hands, a pretty picture of a family gathering at Yuletide. How different from her own life; stiff with cold on the icy cobbles, aching for shelter . . .

When her father dies leaving Alice and her ailing mother with only his debts, the two grieving women are forced to rely on the begrudging charity of cruel Aunt Jane. Determined to rid herself of an expensive responsibility, Jane tries forcing Alice into a monstrous marriage. And when Alice refuses, she is sent to work in a grand house to earn her keep. Finding herself in sole charge of the untameable and spoilt young miss of the house, Alice’s only ally is handsome Uncle Rory, who discovers that Alice has talents beyond those of a mere servant. But when someone sets out to destroy her reputation, Alice can only pray for a little of that Christmas spirit to save her from ruin . . .

Phew…that should rid you of any grinchy feelings! Happy Reading!

Thanksgiving and Giving Thanks

As our friends in the US celebrate Thanksgiving today, we at Team Booko are also reflecting on Thanksgiving and thankfulness in general. Thanksgiving traditions are borne of the harvest festivals of Europe, and of the age-old practice of giving thanks to God at significant events; modern-day Thanksgiving is characterised by travelling home – there are more long-distance travellers at Thanksgiving than at Christmas – and of course, a traditional feast including roast turkey, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie.   Although Thanksgiving seems a quintessentially American holiday, it is celebrated in places as diverse as Canada, Liberia and Norfolk Island, and its messages of gratitude, community and sharing will find resonance in any part of the world.

The Thanksgiving Story by Alice Dalgliesh, illustrated by Helen Sewell

The Thanksgiving Story is a classic picture book about the events leading up to the first Thanksgiving, as seen through the eyes of three children.  Giles, Constance and Demaris Hopkins are travelling on the crowded Mayflower with their parents, bound for a place where they hope to practise their religion freely.  Alice Dalgliesh adds lots of historical detail to enrich a familiar story of early hardships ultimately overcome with the help of the Native Americans, leading to the first successful harvest. A Caldecott Honor book.

‘Twas the Night Before Thanksgiving by Dav Pilkey

’Twas the Night Before Thanksgiving is no ordinary story – simply because it is written by Dav Pilkey (of Captain Underpants fame).  Dav has taken the classic Christmas poem and given it a Thanksgiving twist.  Eight children are enjoying an excursion to a turkey farm on the eve of Thanksgiving. When they realise that the cute baby turkeys are earmarked for Thanksgiving dinner, some quick thinking is required. Sufficed to say that those children end up with plump feathered guests at their respective (vegetarian) Thanksgiving feasts!  Something funny and a bit different for this tradition-laden day.

1621: a New Look at Thanksgiving by Catherine O’Neill Grace and Margaret M. Bruchac

The events surrounding the first Thanksgiving have become mythologised over the past centuries.  1621: a New Look at Thanksgiving invites readers to see through the myths, by showing the events from the perspective of the Wampanoag, one of the Native American tribes who shared that first Thanksgiving feast.  It is richly informative about the Wampanoag’s culture and way of life.  1621: a New Look at Thanksgiving reminds us that history is often subjective, and challenges us to think and question what we know.

The Thankful Book by Todd Parr

When you are a kid and the grownups keep nagging you to say “thank you” to everything, it can be hard to understand what there is to be thankful about.  The Thankful Book, with its bright colours, simple pictures and gentle text, reminds us of the little things that brightening our days – music that makes us want to dance; friends that make us smile; hair that make us unique.  The Thankful Book is wise and joyous, and sure to spark good conversations about happiness and thankfulness.

The Gratitude Diaries: how a Year Looking on the Bright Side can Transform your Life by Janice Kaplan

“Always look on the bright side of life” can have life-changing effects – just ask Janice Kaplan.  The editor and former journalist made a new year’s resolution to show more gratitude for a year, and it had remarkably positive effects on her physical and mental well-being. Janice Kaplan discovers that not only can a positive attitude influence our sense of fulfilment, it can change our neural pathways and even influence our children’s happiness.  The Gratitude Diaries is a skilful blend of self-help, memoir and popular science that will both entertain and inspire.

What’s on Your Festive Table this Year?

Six more weeks to go…. as my stress level rises with the growing list of things-to-do-before-year’s-end, so does my excitement and anticipation for the festive season.  For me, year’s end is the delicious time of year – a whirlwind of catch-ups and family birthdays as well as Christmas and New Year – all made more memorable with delicious and plentiful food.  No matter what your cultural or religious traditions, it’s a great time to wind down and catch up with loved ones – and the following books will provide food inspiration whatever the occasion.  Of course, half the fun in entertaining is browsing cookbooks and choosing the right dishes….

Jamie’s Christmas by Jamie Oliver

It has taken Jamie Oliver seventeen years of fine-tuning to achieve the recipes worthy of his “epic” Christmas cookbook. He’s planning to do only one Christmas cookbook, so he wants to do it right.  Jamie’s Christmas is not just a collection of recipes – it is a manual that aims to guide and reassure.  There are plans, tips and shortcuts to minimise the stress of entertaining a crowd. Besides show-stopping mains and desserts (for vegetarians and vegans as well as meat-eaters), there are extensive chapters on sauces, salads, sweet treats and edible gifts.  Happy days!

Celebrating Christmas by the Australian Women’s Weekly

Antipodeans looking forward to a summery Christmas (think fresh seafood, juicy mangoes and ripe cherries) are forging a new style of Christmas feasting.  And the Test Kitchen of the Australian Women’s Weekly – synonymous with foolproof recipes – is ready to guide you with step-by-step instructions.  Celebrating Christmas has everything from menus to drinks, and ideas for decorations and leftovers.  There are recipes for both casual and formal occasions including brunches, lunches and dinners.  Whether you prefer a traditional or modern gathering, Celebrating Christmas has great ideas for you.

Basics to Brilliance by Donna Hay

The premise of Basics to Brilliance is, well, brilliant.  Take some basic recipes – and Donna Hay is here to show you how they should be done – then expand your repertoire by learning some variations with wow factor.  Thus a plain grilled steak can be transformed into beef skewers with a fresh and zingy chimichurri sauce.  This formula is a great way for beginner cooks to experiment and gain confidence, while giving experienced cooks fresh ideas.  Basics to Brilliance offers lots of inspiration for both home cooking and entertaining.

Appetites: a Cookbook by Anthony Bourdain with Laurie Woolever

Age and parenthood are mellowing Anthony Bourdain (just a little), and his latest book, Appetites, reflects this life stage.  It’s a collection of family-oriented recipes that should appeal to even the fussiest of youngsters.  The dishes range from scrambled eggs to Italian, Malaysian and Korean classics, striking a good balance between comforting and exotic, and reflecting Bourdain’s extensive travels.  Add some irreverent commentary and a cover by Ralph Steadman (known for his work with Hunter S. Thompson) and the result shows that Anthony Bourdain hasn’t lost his gonzo cool.  

The Cook’s Table by Stephanie Alexander

For many people, food forms an integral part of memories and traditions – whether it’s birthday cake or greasy fry-ups – and Stephanie Alexander is no exception.  In The Cook’s Table, Stephanie has arranged 130 recipes into twenty-five themed menus, such as “A Jamaican Jerk Party” and “Autumnal Italian Lunch in a Suburban Farm”; which are based on memorable occasions throughout her long and celebrated life.  Stephanie’s reminiscences encourage us to reflect on our own special foods – while she also invites us to create our own memorable occasions, through sharing her delicious dishes with our families and friends.

Cocktails for the Holidays: Festive Drinks to Celebrate the Season by the Editors of Imbibe Magazine

If you want to host a gathering but don’t feel like cooking, how about a drinks party instead?  Get great ideas on stylish and seasonal drinks in Cocktails for the Holidays.  Fifty recipes compiled by the award-winning Imbibe magazine cover any festive events from breakfasts to nightcaps.  From classics to the drinks du jour, and from hot toddies to sparkling punches, these drinks just shout festive cheer.

Books to help you win the Board Games This Christmas

Okay, we all know that the festive season is looming and with that comes the inevitable obligatory “Family Board Game Fun Time”…except this year we have a doozie for you*… a list of books that will help you beat Great Aunty Myrtle.

*actually these make great gifts for any board game fanatic but in the spirit of competition, don’t gift the books of the games you are likely to play…or at least read them first!

Monopoly

The Monopoly Book: Strategy and Tactics of the World’s Most Popular Game by Maxine Brady

Let’s get something straight, Monopoly is not a game of chance. There are ways to actually get Mayfair and Parklane first rather than end up with Stand and Whitehall…every single time!

One of the principal functions of this book is to explain and clarify the rules of Monopoly, and show how to avoid some of the obstacles that get in the way of just playing the game. It also catalogs some of the many strategies that operate during a good game, but which most players seem unconscious of, even when they themselves are using the strategies to excellent advantage. There are definite techniques by which you can improve your chances of winning.

 

Trivial Pursuit

The Ultimate Trivial Pursuit Question & Answer Book by Puzzle Wright Press

We all know a cousin who thinks they know everything and seem to be able to fill that little round disc with every piece of pie before you have even managed to get the pink entertainment one! So this book is definitely for you.
Trivial Pursuit is a game unlike any other because it tests your knowledge of events that have all happened outside the realm of the game so you have to actually study to win this one. Luckily, this book is a collection of over twenty-five years of trivia questions featured providing questions and answers in the fields of geography, entertainment, history, arts & literature, science & nature, and sports & leisure.

 

Risk

Total Diplomacy: The Art of Winning RISK by Ehsan Honary

Risk is a complex board game involving both luck and skill. The goal is simple: take over the world. Despite this simple goal, the game is very complicated and dynamic. Players attempt to take over the world by eliminating all other players who are eliminated when they lose all of their troops on the game board. Players must be skilled in troop deployment and must be aware of the underlying probabilities present in the game.

This book aims to teach you how to beat all relatives this Christmas in your own way. But the book’s lessons evolve outside of the game, learn how to use diplomacy effectively to get what you want in life and apply this knowledge to negotiate more successfully and be in control.

 

Scrabble 

Collins Little Book of Scrabble Secrets by Collins Dictionaries

Inside the covers of this little book lie the secrets of Britain’s only ever Scrabble World Champion. Scrabble is played by millions but mastered by very few and unless you’re a Scrabble player who likes to lose, this book is a must. In it Mark Nyman spells out the most useful two letter words, what to do when you have a case of irritable vowel syndrome, strategies for how to get off to a flying start and lists our language’s strangest and most unbelievably useful words. Between these golden tips come anecdotes and words of wisdom from a lifetime at the top. Be careful who you give it to though.

 

 

 

Twister

Element: Yoga for Beginners DVD

Okay so this isn’t technically about Twister…nor is it a book… but it will certainly help you put left foot blue and right hand yellow without spilling any of your Christmas Mince pie or falling over Uncle Jo.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bring on Family Board Game Fun Time!

Great Books of 2016 to Gift This Christmas

The season of gifts, tinsel and joy is looming. Every year people promise themselves not to leave it all to the last minute, so with that in mind we have come up with a list of the best books to give as gifts to all the different people in your life.

Make sure you follow us on Facebook where we will be revealing more top picks of great books, board games and DVDs each day in December leading up till Christmas.

For the Postman…

Every Song Ever by Ben Ratliff

What does it mean to listen in the digital era? Today, new technologies make it possible to roam instantly and experimentally across musical languages and generations, from Detroit techno to jam bands to baroque opera—or to dive deeper into the set of tastes that we already have. Either way, we can listen to nearly anything, at any time. The possibilities in this new age of listening overturn old assumptions about what it means to properly appreciate music—to be an “educated” listener. In Every Song Ever, the veteran New York Times music critic Ben Ratliff reimagines the very idea of music appreciation for our times.

 

 

Party of One by Dave Holmes

Dave Holmes has spent his life on the periphery, nose pressed hopefully against the glass, wanting just one thing: to get inside. Growing up, he was the artsy kid in the sporty family. And in his twenties, in the middle of a disastrous career in advertising, he accidentally became an MTV VJ overnight when he finished second, naturally, in the Wanna Be a VJ contest, opening the door to fame, fortune, and celebrity — well almost. But despite all the close calls, or possibly because of them, he just kept trying, and if (spoiler alert) he never quite succeeded, at least he got some good stories out of it. In Party of One, Dave tells the hilariously painful and painfully hilarious tales of an outsider desperate to get in, of a misfit constantly changing shape, of a guy who finally learns to accept himself.

 

 

For the Teacher…

 

Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond

Even in the most desolate areas of American cities, evictions used to be rare. But today, most poor renting families are spending more than half of their income on housing, and eviction has become ordinary, especially for single mothers. Desmond provides a ground-level view of one of the most urgent issues facing America today. As we see families forced into shelters, squalid apartments, or more dangerous neighbourhoods, we bear witness to the human cost of America’s vast inequality–and to people’s determination and intelligence in the face of hardship.

 

 

 

Who Cooked Adam Smith’s Dinner? by Katrine Marcal

Adam Smith, the founder of modern economics, believed that our actions stem from self-interest and the world turns because of financial gain. But every night Adam Smith’s mother served him his dinner, not out of self-interest but out of love. Today, economics focuses on self-interest and excludes our other motivations. It disregards the unpaid work of mothering, caring, cleaning and cooking and its influence has spread from the market to how we shop, think and date. In this engaging takedown of the economics that has failed us, Katrine Marcal journeys from Adam Smith’s dinner table to the recent financial crisis and shows us how different, how much better, things could be.

 

For the Hairdresser…

 

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

I know we wrote about this one last week…but it is sooo good!  When Breath Becomes Air chronicles Kalanithi’s transformation from a medical student asking what makes a virtuous and meaningful life into a neurosurgeon working in the core of human identity, the brain, and finally into a patient and a new father. What makes life worth living in the face of death? What do you do when when life is catastrophically interrupted? What does it mean to have a child as your own life fades away? Paul Kalanithi died while working on this profoundly moving book, yet his words live on as a guide to us all. When Breath Becomes Air is a life-affirming reflection on facing our mortality and on the relationship between doctor and patient, from a gifted writer who became both.

 

Try Hard: Tales from the Life of a Needy Overachiever by Em Rusciano

A hilarious, heartfelt memoir from one of Australia’s most adored performers. Funny, feisty and fabulous, Em Rusciano’s insights into her world of mayhem, stardom and motherhood is a laugh-out-loud, cry-out-loud balm for the soul. From her exploits at Miss Sheila’s Fancy-pants School of Dance and her efforts to secure a solo at the end-of-year performance, to embracing the spotlight as an Australian Idol contestant and her deep and abiding love for John Farnham, Em Rusciano is a self-confessed hobbit with a taste for glitter. And behind the stage makeup Em is an overachiever of epic proportions – an elite athlete, the hardest working mum you’ll ever meet, and the best friend The Gays could ever have. She also has a heart bigger than Phar Lap’s, tells the best dirty jokes, and loves those closest to her ferociously. When the chips are down, you definitely want her on your side.

 

For the work Kris Kringle…

Seinfeldia by Jennifer Kieshin Armstrong

The hilarious behind-the-scenes story of two guys who went out for coffee and dreamed up Seinfeld—the cultural sensation that changed television and bled into the real world, altering the lives of everyone it touched. Comedians Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld never thought anyone would watch their silly little sitcom about a New York comedian sitting around talking to his friends. NBC executives didn’t think anyone would watch either, but they bought it anyway, hiding it away in the TV dead zone of summer. But against all odds, viewers began to watch, first a few and then many, until nine years later nearly forty million Americans were tuning in weekly. In Seinfeldia, acclaimed TV historian and entertainment writer Jennifer Keishin Armstrong celebrates the creators and fans of this American television phenomenon, bringing readers behind-the-scenes of the show while it was on the air and into the world of devotees for whom it never stopped being relevant.

 

Jamie Oliver’s Christmas Cookbook by Jamie Oliver

Jamie Oliver’s Christmas Cookbook will be packed with all the classics you need for the big day and beyond, as well as loads of delicious recipes for edible gifts, party food and new ways to love those leftovers. It’s everything you need for the best Christmas ever. Chapters: Introduction, Smart Starters, The Main Event, Veggie and Vegan Plates, The Wonderful World of Potatoes, Scrumptious Vegetables, Gravy, Sauces and all the Trimmings, Incredible Leftovers, Spectacular Festive Puddings, Afternoon Tea and Sweet Treats, Cute Edible Gifts, Super-Fantastic Salads, Dips, Bites and Handheld Nibbles, Perfect Christmas Drinks, Guide To Roasting Meat.

 

For the local donation…

 

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by JK Rowling

The Eighth Story. Nineteen Years Later. It was always difficult being Harry Potter and it isn’t much easier now that he is an overworked employee of the Ministry of Magic, a husband, and father of three school-age children. While Harry grapples with a past that refuses to stay where it belongs, his youngest son Albus must struggle with the weight of a family legacy he never wanted. As past and present fuse ominously, both father and son learn the uncomfortable truth: sometimes, darkness comes from unexpected places.

 

 

 

 

 

Ruby Red Shoes Goes To London by Kate Knapp

The third book in the best-selling Ruby Red Shoes series. Ruby and her grandmother love to travel and now they are in London, the home of red buses, red telephone boxes and red letter boxes. No wonder Ruby’s red shoes feel especially at home in this wonderful city!

 

 

 

 

 

 

…and a little something for you

 

The Art of Dinosaur Designs by Louise Olsen

As young art students Louise Olsen and Stephen Ormandy began selling resin jewellery with a stall at Sydney’s Paddington markets. Today they have a business that employs 85 people and nine stores around the world including New York and London. Dinosaur Designs is the name of their jewellery and homewares company, admired around the world for its bold, colourful designs and unique fusion of art and design. Almost every Dinosaur Designs piece is still handmade by artisans in its Sydney studio, because creativity remains at the core of what they do.  With this book Olsen and Ormandy open their hearts, minds and studio doors, to share their inspirations, ideas and process.

Enjoy!

Great books that help you to reflect on life

Connecting with a book is up there with some of the greatest feelings you can have. When it happens it’s hard not to want to recommend it to everyone you see. It’s my goal to have at least a handful of books that I can pop in my ‘toolbelt’ to help me navigate through life. So far I have three (follow us on Facebook to find out what they are). I love a book that stops me in my tracks and forces me to assess my life. Finding a book that helps to shape you, helps to cement your values and offer a little perspective when you need it most is a bit of a gem and needs to be held onto.

Here are a few of our team’s favourites that may just become a gem to you.

The Richest Man In Babylon by George S. Clason

Hailed as the greatest of all inspirational works on the subject of thrift and financial planning Clason delivers classic insights into wealth accumulation through a series of parables set in ancient Babylon. The Richest Man in Babylon is a book you will want to read yourself, recommend to friends, and give to young people just starting out in life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Brief History Of Time: From Big Bang To Black Holes by Stephen Hawking

Was there a beginning of time? Could time run backwards? Is the universe infinite or does it have boundaries? These are just some of the questions considered in an internationally acclaimed masterpiece by one of the world’s greatest thinkers. It begins by reviewing the great theories of the cosmos from Newton to Einstein, before delving into the secrets which still lie at the heart of space and time, from the Big Bang to black holes, via spiral galaxies and strong theory. To this day A Brief History of Time remains a staple of the scientific canon, and its succinct and clear language continues to introduce millions to the universe and its wonders.

 

 

 

A Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela

The riveting memoirs of the outstanding moral and political leader of our time, A Long Walk To Freedom brilliantly re-creates the drama of the experiences that helped shape Nelson Mandela’s destiny. Emotive, compelling and uplifting, it is the exhilarating story of an epic life; a story of hardship, resilience and ultimate triumph told with the clarity and eloquence of a born leader.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

At the age of thirty-six, on the verge of completing a decade’s training as a neurosurgeon, Paul Kalanithi was diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer. One day he was a doctor treating the dying, the next he was a patient struggling to live. When Breath Becomes Air chronicles Kalanithi’s transformation from a medical student asking what makes a virtuous and meaningful life into a neurosurgeon working in the core of human identity, the brain, and finally into a patient and a new father. What makes life worth living in the face of death? What do you do when when life is catastrophically interrupted? What does it mean to have a child as your own life fades away? Paul Kalanithi died while working on this profoundly moving book, yet his words live on as a guide to us all. When Breath Becomes Air is a life-affirming reflection on facing our mortality and on the relationship between doctor and patient, from a gifted writer who became both.

 

…and because it’s nearly Christmas…

 

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

A cruel and bitter old miser, Ebenezer Scrooge, has no time for festivities or goodwill toward his fellow men and is only interested in money. Then, on the night of Christmas Eve, his life is changed by a series of ghostly visitations that show him some bitter truths about his choices and help him reflect on his past, present, and future in one of the most widely read and frequently adapted holiday classics.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Happy Reading.

Books that illuminate life’s journey

Our lives are long journeys full of tough questions and unexpected trials and tribulations.  Don’t you wish there’s a manual for it?  For Booklovers, the solution is simple: books can be our wise counsel, chronicler and companion.  Here are titles that can delight, entertain, enlighten and accompany you through many stages of life:

 

The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery

The Little Prince is a poignant story that can be read on many levels.  Younger children will delight in the charming, fantastic story of a little prince who lives on an asteroid the size of a house, and his curious adventures whilst exploring the universe; older children may start to recognise certain caricatures in the story; while adults might appreciate it as a fable about love, loss and loneliness, with philosophical musings about human nature and relationships.  This 70th Anniversary Edition is a deluxe gift set containing a hardcover book with the original illustrations in full colour, two CDs of an unabridged reading by Viggo Mortensen (aka Aragorn of Lord of the Rings), as well as a code for audio download.

The Alchemist by Paolo Coelho

It has sold over 65 million copies across 80 languages; many people credit it with changing their lives.  What makes The Alchemist so special?  The Alchemist is a timeless and dreamy story about Santiago, an Andalusian shepherd who tries to fulfil a prophecy by travelling to Egypt, but finds his Personal Legend (destiny) instead.  Through Santiago’s quest, Paolo Coelho invites us to look inside ourselves to discover our own Personal Legends. His poetic, spiritual language, crafted into beloved messages such as ‘When you want something, the whole universe conspires to help you’, is uplifting and sure to inspire.

A Good Life: Philosophy from Cradle to Grave by Mark Rowlands

In the near future, Nicolai finds a manuscript written by his late father Myshkin.  The manuscript is Myshkin’s record of how he lived his life, the issues he faced, and the decisions he made.  In A Good Life, philosopher Mark Rowlands uses this fictional narrative to explore moral and ethical questions including abortion, compassion, animal rights and euthanasia.  This clever hybrid of philosophy and literature is funny, unsettling and challenges us to also question ourselves on these knotty issues.

Feast: Food that Celebrates Life by Nigella Lawson

Across cultures and eras, food has been an important element in how we mark life’s milestones.  Nigella Lawson, ever a champion of food-as-celebration, has gathered this collection of enticing recipes to suit any sort of feasting – not just Christmas, Thanksgiving or Easter, but also Eid, Passover, weddings and kids’ parties.  It’s worth seeking out the original UK edition of Feast (just click on this cover image for stockists), which contains a chapter on funeral feasts – which powerfully and poignantly highlights the power of food to comfort and bring people together, in sorrow as in joy.

Stiff: the Curious Life of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach

Booko featured Mary Roach’s work earlier this year as one of the most popular TED talks ever.  However, her brand of quirky investigative journalism was already perfected in her first book, Stiff: the Curious Life of Human Cadavers.  Mary Roach’s take on Life After Death looks at what happens to our bodies after we die.  In fact, she sees cadavers as having a rich and meaningful second life, contributing to scientific advances in medical research, safety testing, body farms, and even composting.  With its unusual subject and skilful balance of information, gore and laugh-aloud humour, Stiff is an endlessly fascinating, unforgettable book.

The Greatest Books On Decision Making

Decision making…oh yes…for some it appears straight forward, easy and over in a flash. For others it’s a little more like running around in circles, going back and forward and not to mention the mental fatigue wondering if the right decision has been made. Luckily, there are a plethora of books on the market to arm us with tips and tricks and bring clarity to the method of decision making.

Blink by Malcom Gladwell

In his landmark bestseller The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell redefined how we understand the world around us. Now, in Blink, he revolutionises the way we understand the world within. Blink is a book about how we think without thinking, about choices that seem to be made in an instant-in the blink of an eye-that actually aren’t as simple as they seem. Why are some people brilliant decision makers, while others are consistently inept? Why do some people follow their instincts and win, while others end up stumbling into error? How do our brains really work-in the office, in the classroom, in the kitchen, and in the bedroom? And why are the best decisions often those that are impossible to explain to others?

 

Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

Daniel Kahneman is a renowned psychologist and winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics, who engages us in a lively conversation about how we think, revealing where we can and cannot trust our intuitions and how we can tap into the benefits of slow thinking. He offers practical and enlightening insights into how choices are made in both our business and our personal lives–and how we can use different techniques to guard against the mental glitches that often get us into trouble. Winner of the National Academy of Sciences Best Book Award and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and selected by The New York Times Book Review as one of the ten best books of 2011, Thinking, Fast and Slow is destined to be a classic.

 

And in order to be fair…here’s a title that fights against eradicating our less decisive mindset…

 

Messy by Tim Harford

The urge to tidiness and decisiveness seems to be rooted deep in the human psyche. Many of us feel threatened by anything that is vague, unplanned, scattered around or hard to describe. We find comfort in having a script to rely on, a system to follow, in being able to categorise and file away. We all benefit from tidy organisation. A large library needs a reference system. Global trade needs the shipping container. Scientific collaboration needs measurement units. But have the forces of tidiness marched too far?

In MESSY, Tim Harford reveals how qualities we value more than ever – responsiveness, resilience and creativity – simply cannot be disentangled from the messy soil that produces them. This, then, is a book about the benefits of being messy: messy in our private lives; messy in the office, with piles of paper on the desk and unread spreadsheets; messy in the recording studio, the laboratory or in preparing for an important presentation; and messy in our approach to business, politics and economics, leaving things vague, diverse and uncomfortably made-up-on-the-spot. It’s time to rediscover the benefits of a little mess.

 

It would have been so much easier to have just grown up knowing how to make great decisions…so for those of you that are helping to shape the next generation, here are a few titles for children.

 

What Pet Should I Get? by Dr Seuss

What happens when a brother and sister visit a pet store to pick a pet? Naturally, they can’t choose just one! This tale captures a classic childhood moment, choosing a pet, and uses it to illuminate a very important life lesson. It is hard to make up your mind, but sometimes you just have to do it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Have You Filled A Bucket Today? Carol McCloud

This book is brilliant. My children’s school uses this book within all classes to encourage positive behaviour. Through simple prose and vivid illustrations, this heartwarming book encourages positive behaviour as children see how rewarding it is to express daily kindness, appreciation, and love. Bucket filling and dipping are effective metaphors for understanding the effects of our actions and words on the well being of others and ourselves. This book helps children to stop and consider feelings of those around them before they decide to act.

 

Happy reading.

Books that guide us through young adulthood

It’s no secret that the books we read can help to shape our lives. As we move through different stages there are often a handful of key books and characters that we relate to and help us make sense of the people and world around us.

One particularly ‘testing’ time is between the ages of 8 and 12. These young adults face a variety of hurdles and curveballs as they grow up and learn to find their place in the world. Sometimes listening to yet another tale from mum and dad is just too much to handle and so they turn (hopefully) to books.

Filled with characters working through life defining experiences such as gaining independence, forming friendship, going on adventures and growing curiosity the genre of Young Adult is fast becoming literature which is adored by readers of every generation.

The Chronicles of Narnia, the 13th Story Treehouse series, the Harry Potter books, and just about anything by Roald Dahl are just a few examples of titles that aid a 8 -12 year old through this exciting period of their life.

The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis

Journeying into magical realms, battles between good and evil and talking creatures await and delight every reader who settles in to enjoy these books.

The Narnia Chronicles, first published in 1950, have been and remain some of the most enduringly popular children’s books ever published. The best known, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, has been translated into 29 languages and hit the big screen in a film edition.

 

 

 

The 13 Story Treehouse by Andy Griffiths

Andy and Terry live in a treehouse. But it’s not just any old treehouse, it’s the most amazing treehouse in the world! This treehouse has thirteen stories, a bowling alley, a see-through swimming pool, a secret underground laboratory, and a marshmallow machine that follows you around and automatically shoots marshmallows into your mouth whenever you are hungry.

This is the start of a series of treehouse stories with Terry and Andy who enjoy completely nutty adventures because ANYTHING can happen in a 13-storey treehouse.

 

 

 

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J.K Rowling

We very much doubt any of these series need an introduction, especially Harry Potter…but here goes.

Harry Potter is a series of fantasy novels chronicling the life of a young wizard, and his friends, all of whom are students at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. The main story arc concerns Harry’s struggle against Lord Voldemort, a dark wizard who intends to become immortal, overthrowing the Ministry of Magic, and gain control of all wizards and Muggles (non wizards). There are many themes within this series including fantasy, drama, prejudice, madness, coming of age and elements of mystery, thriller, adventure, horror and romance. According to Rowling,however, the main theme is death.

 

Come and join us on Facebook to share what your favourite books were for getting through this phase of your life.

Join the Slow Education Revolution

Not a week goes by without media attention on our education systems – whether standardised testing offer useful insights; whether exam-pressure causes excessive stress; or whether we are teaching the “right” knowledge when professions change and evolve so quickly. The Slow Movement argues that exam-based education encourages teaching-to-the-test and cookie-cutter uniformity; and instead proposes Slow Education as a better option.

Like other aspects of the Slow Movement, Slow Education is about deep connections with its subject matter – learning.  It focusses on the process of learning; it encourages educators to tailor learning experiences to their local context and to suit their students’ interests; and it encourages students to reflect on, and discuss how and what they have learnt.  This creates students who learn how to learn, who learn deeply and become self-motivated through interest in their own work.  Such ideas are not new – many alternative educational approaches, such as Montessori and Waldorf/Steiner, share these concerns; and many conventional schools already use techniques such as play-based or inquiry-based learning to stimulate and engage their students.  

Everyone can and should have an opinion on education, not just parents or educators – because education can influence the future direction of many aspects of our society.  So to get you thinking, here are some books that discuss why and how education should be changed, as well as resources on how to enrich children’s learning through fun, interactive experiences:

Finnish Lessons 2.0: What the World can Learn from Educational Change in Finland? by Pasi Sahlberg

The Finnish education system is considered a marvel by English-speaking countries – Finnish students have high proficiency in science, maths and reading despite the Finns’ “unconventional” disregard for standardised testing, late start to formal education (at age 7) and emphasis on play.  In Finnish Lessons 2.0, Pasi Sahlberg uses his experience as a teacher, teacher trainer and policy developer to explain how Finland made such impressive improvements to its education system through thoughtful reforms.

Creative Schools by Ken Robinson and Lou Aronica

Ken Robinson is an authority on arts education and has given three TED talks about the role of creativity in education – including THE most-watched TED Talk ever, with over 41 million viewings. Creative Schools picks up on this TED talk, arguing that the current education system, with its focus on exams and factory-like mass education, stifles creativity.  Instead he urges everyone – educators, policymakers and parents – to push for change, to a system that awakens creativity, as well as fostering diversity and curiosity.   

Most Likely to Succeed: Preparing our Kids for the Innovation Era by Tony Wagner and Ted Dintersmith

Tony Wagner is an education expert and Ted Dintersmith is a venture capitalist; in a convergence of idealism and materialism, their joint proposition in Most Likely to Succeed is that education should move away from content/fact delivery and towards fostering life skills such as collaboration, creativity and critical thinking.  They argue that this is a better way of future-proofing our children, of helping them become successful in the long run.  Most Likely to Succeed is derived from the critically-praised film of the same name.

Amazing (Mostly) Edible Science: a Family Guide to Fun Experiments in the Kitchen by Andrew Schloss

Even without systemic change, we can encourage curiosity and creativity in children, through hands-on deep learning.  Amazing (Mostly) Edible Science contains projects ranging from edible slime, to glow-in-the-dark jelly and “glowing, bouncy eggs”.  The edible aspect adds extra excitement (and also reduces concerns about handling harmful chemicals) to the exploration of some fundamental scientific concepts.  Projects use supermarket ingredients and come with detailed instructions and safety advice.  Amazing (Mostly) Edible Science is a recent title in a very user-friendly series that includes Kitchen Science Lab for Kids, Outdoor Science Lab for Kids, and Art Lab for Kids.