Understanding the natural world through books

In the flurry of modern life, it’s easy to forget our connection to the natural world.  The lessons we can learn from nature don’t simply stop when we leave school. Understanding how seasons, weather patterns and plant and animal lifecycles are all connected helps us to live a richer and more engaged life and understand our role in the natural flow of things.  Here are our recommendations for understanding the natural world through books.
https-::covers.booko.info:300:sixthThe Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History by Elizabeth Kolbert

Colbert’s book investigates the sixth great extinction to threaten the earth in the last half billion years.  While the others were caused by unnatural events such as asteroid impacts, the biggest threat to the earth is the impact that humans have made by living extravagantly.  Colbert writes: “One-third of all reef-building corals, a third of all fresh-water molluscs, a third of sharks and rays, a quarter of all mammals, a fifth of all reptiles, and a sixth of all birds are headed toward oblivion.”

 

https-::covers.booko.info:300:nyeUndeniable: Evolution and the Science of Creation by Bill Nye

‘Undeniable’ is a fantastic book in defence of science and the theory of evolution.  Bill Nye was the host of ‘The Science Guy’: a Science show that ran in the US in the 1990’s.  In this book he provides a compelling argument for the scientific unviability of creationism and insists that creationism’s place in the science classroom is harmful not only to our children, but to the future of the greater world as well.

 

 

https-::covers.booko.info:300:natureNature Anatomy: The Curious Parts and Pieces of the Natural World by Julia Rothman

Nature Anatomy is for anyone who appreciates and wants to explore the curiosities and beauty of the natural world in a new way. With whimsically hip illustrations by acclaimed illustrator Julia Rothman, every page is an extraordinary look at all kinds of subjects, including mineral formation, the inside of a volcano, what makes sunsets and much more. Exploring has never been so fun and easy.

 

https-::covers.booko.info:300:wildLonely Planet’s Wild World by Lonely Planet Publications

‘Wild World’ is the follow-up to the super-sized bestseller ‘Beautiful World’.  It’s a vivid and compelling portrait of the world in which we live. Incredible and majestic wildlife spectacles and natural phenomena are spellbindingly on display in this beautiful, no-expense-spared hardback.

 

 

the cabaret of plantsThe Cabaret of Plants by Richard Mabey

The Cabaret of Plants explores plant species which have challenged our imaginations, awoken that clichéd but real human emotion of wonder, and upturned our ideas about history, science, beauty and belief. Picked from every walk of life, they encompass crops, weeds, medicines, religious gathering-places and a water lily named after a queen. Beginning with pagan cults and creation myths, the cultural significance of plants has burst upwards, sprouting into forms as diverse as the panacea (the cure-all plant ginseng, a single root of which can cost up to $10,000), Newton’s apple, the African ‘vegetable elephant’ or boabab, whose swollen trunks store thousands of litres of water – and the mystical, night-flowering Amazonian cactus, the moonflower.

Famous authors who don’t reveal their true names

The use of pen names or pseudonyms is a time-honoured tradition in writing; many famous authors, including J.K. Rowling, Dr Seuss and Stephen King from last week’s blog post, have used one. Sometimes pseudonyms are used to obscure gender (such as for J.K. Rowling); sometimes it allows established writers to experiment with different genres; sometimes they are used simply to maintain privacy.  Here are some celebrated literary pseudonyms, past and present:

The Neapolitan Novels by Elena Ferrante
Book one: My Brilliant Friend

The true identity of Elena Ferrante, author of the Neapolitan Novels (My Brilliant Friend, The Story of a New Name, Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay, and The Story of the Lost Child), is the biggest literary mystery around. We know that she really is female and Italian, but Elena Ferrante is a pseudonym and she has never made a public appearance. The mystery adds enigmatic glamour to this saga about the intense friendship and rivalry between Elena and Lila, which spans 60 years through much personal and social turmoil.  The Neapolitan Novels have been widely praised for their complex and visceral depiction of female friendship and experiences.

A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket (aka Daniel Handler)
Book 1: The Bad Beginning

Lemony Snicket is not just a pseudonym, but a character in the darkly funny A Series of Unfortunate Events.  Author Daniel Handler writes as Lemony Snicket, a hapless writer who documents the misfortunes of the Baudelaire orphans – Violet, Klaus and Sunny – after their parents die in a house fire.  Throughout the 13-part series, the children try to foil their evil guardian Count Olaf – who wants to steal their inheritance – while unravelling the mystery surrounding their parents’ death.  The absurdist gothic grimness of these stories makes them popular with kids and adults alike, and reflect Daniel Handler’s love of Roald Dahl and Edward Gorey.

The Bride Stripped Bare by Anonymous (aka Nikki Gemmell)

Years before 50 Shades of Grey, there was The Bride Stripped Bare.  The Bride Stripped Bare was published anonymously, and purported to be a diary documenting the secret sex-life of a seemingly-contented young wife.   Praised for its subversive role-reversals and uncompromising portrayal of female sexuality, it became a publishing sensation, bringing respectability and literary kudos to erotic fiction.  The anonymous author was quickly outed as established-author Nikki Gemmell, who said anonymity during the writing process was liberating, enabling her to tell a much franker, more honest story.

Unfinished Portrait by Mary Westmacott (aka Agatha Christie)

Agatha Christie, Queen of Crime, also used a pseudonym to escape her established reputation.  Over a period of 30 years, she wrote six “psychological romances” under the name of Mary Westmacott.  These bitter-sweet stories explored love and relationships in all of their destructive, obsessive glory.  Unfinished Portrait is the story of Celia, a young writer in the midst of divorce and contemplating suicide.  She meets Larraby, a successful painter, who manages to dissuade her, and discovers her life story in the process.  Unfinished Portrait is semi-autobiographical and offers fascinating glimpses into the otherwise very private life of Agatha Christie.

They’re a Weird Mob by Nino Culotta (aka John O’Grady)

A somewhat-forgotten classic now reissued with a great cover.  Written and set in the ‘50s, They’re a Weird Mob documents the (mis)adventures of Nino Culotta, an Italian journalist recently arrived in Australia.  Nino is on assignment, to learn and describe the Australian lifestyle to readers back home.  Knowing only proper English (from textbooks), Nino is bewildered by Aussie slang and customs, resulting in many hilarious encounters.  They’re a Weird Mob has been hugely successful, with readers loving the way it pokes affectionate fun at Australian society.  It may not be politically correct by modern standards (Nino Culotta is really John O’Grady, who is Irish) but it perfectly captures the beginnings of multicultural Australia.

How to jumpstart your journaling

Journaling is said by some to be the mindfulness trend of the year (2015 belonged to colouring-in for grown-ups).  It’s also widely referred to as the first place to start when you are thinking about moving forward with your writing.  Journals are great places to jot down those seemingly innocuous thoughts and musings that some people choose to take a step further and get published.  There are also a number of benefits associated with clearing your head and making sense of what can be an overwhelming world at times.  Here are our recommendations for books to guide you on your journaling process:

https-::covers.booko.info:300:storyYour Life as a Story by Tristane Rainer

Rainer is an expert in the autobiographical field.  In this book, she shares her techniques for finding the appropriate story structure for the different events in your life.  This book also touches on how to find important messages in the various events of your life and how to communicate these effectively in a narrative format.

 

 

 

https-::covers.booko.info:300:startStart where you are: A Journal for Self-Exploration by Meera Lee Patel

Start Where You Are is an interactive journal designed to help readers nurture their creativity, mindfulness, and self-motivation. It helps readers navigate the confusion and chaos of daily life with a simple reminder: that by taking the time to know ourselves and what those dreams are, we can appreciate the world around us and achieve our dreams.  Featuring vibrant hand-lettering and images, this is a beautiful keepsake for your writing.

 

https-::covers.booko.info:300:tidyingLife-Changing Magic: A Journal – Spark Joy Every day by Marie Kondo

This is a gratitude journal from Marie Kondo, the author of the ‘The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up’.  Kondo encourages readers to ask what sparked joy for them each day.  Instead of just feeling joy for objects, events, people and daily activities are reflected on and appreciated.  Included are inspirational quotes from ‘The Life Changing Magic of Tidying up’ and covering 3 years, this journal is perfect for those wanting to focus on appreciating each day.

 

https-::covers.booko.info:300:365365 Journal Writing Ideas by Rossi Fox

This is perfect for when you’re staring at a blank page and have no idea what to write.  The focus of the book is on guided journal writing.  It’s split into weeks (and days) but numbered so you can literally pick it up and start at any time.  There are daily writing prompts which encourage you to get into the habit of writing.  This book services as a place to remember your daily activities, appreciate where you are and gain a sense of purpose with regards to achieving your goals.  Included are short story writing ideas, light hearted questions and prompts to get your thinking cap on.

 

https-::covers.booko.info:300:journallingThe Ultimate Guide to Journaling by Hannah Braime

In The Ultimate Guide to Journaling, you’ll find the tips, inspiration, and prompts you need to start and maintain a journaling practice for DIY self-discovery. This clear and concise handbook shares everything you need to know to deepen your relationship with yourself using this powerful personal development tool. This book covers topics like how to journal, which tools to use, and how to make it a regular habit, as well as over 30 different journaling techniques and useful prompts.

 

 

 

Author spotlight: the modern masters – Stephen King, J. K. Rowling, Dr Seuss, Hunter S. Thompson

Each generation has its own crop of captivating storytellers.  Here are some contemporary authors whose works, we believe, will still be enjoyed for generations to come:

Carrie by Stephen King

It’s hard to believe that Carrie, Stephen King’s first published novel, is over 40 years old.  Carrie is a bullied teenager, wanting to fit in, and ultimately using her telekinetic powers to take revenge on her tormentors.  Her ordeal has continued to resonate with readers, including some who have gone onto become horror writers themselves.  Carrie also broke literary new ground, both with its inventive structure – with the story told from multiple first- and third-person viewpoints – and its contemporary, naturalistic setting, unusual for the horror genre at the time.

 

American Vampire by Stephen King and Scott Snyder

Stephen King may be best-known for horror novels, but he has excelled across a range of genres and storytelling formats.  American Vampire is Stephen King’s first foray into comics; it contains two interconnected stories introducing Skinner Sweet, a violent outlaw turned into the first American Vampire – a new breed immune to sunlight and with unusual strengths and weaknesses.  The first story, set in the 1920s, concerns aspiring actress Pearl, who was (uncharacteristically) saved by Skinner from death when he turned her into a vampire.  The second story, set in the Wild West in the 1880s, traces Skinner’s history.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them by J.K. Rowling

Excitement is already building about the big-screen adaptation of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, which will be released later this year.  With J.K. Rowling writing the screenplay herself, and the casting of Oscar-winner Eddie Redmayne in the lead role, Potterheads should be in for a treat.  Fantastic Beasts is first mentioned in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, as a textbook that Harry and his friends use at Hogwarts. It is supposedly written by Newt Scamander, a famous Magizoologist, and is a guide to the magical creatures found in the Harry Potter universe.  Sales of this book has raised millions for the charity Comic Relief.

The Cuckoo’s Calling by J.K. Rowling (as Robert Galbraith)

The Cuckoo’s Calling is a classic detective story featuring Cormoran Strike, a one-legged former military police turned private eye.  It is tautly-written, with deft social comedy and complex characterisation.  With glowing reviews from both professional reviewers and the reading public, it was described as a “stellar debut” by Robert Galbraith… but the biggest twist in this story is that the ’nobody’ Robert Galbraith is the pseudonym of a very famous ‘somebody’ – J.K. Rowling.  The Cuckoo’s Calling is the novel that dispels any remaining doubt about J.K. Rowling’s abilities as a masterful storyteller.

What Pet Should I Get? by Dr. Seuss

A new Dr Seuss book – rediscovered after his death – sounds almost too good to be true.    What’s more, it’s a classic Dr Seuss story starring the siblings from One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish!  What Pet Should I Get? follows brother-and-sister Jay and Kay as they go to a pet store to choose a pet.  A noon deadline makes their decision very difficult!  Why this almost completed manuscript was never submitted will remain a mystery; but careful detective work by the publishers suggests that this story may be the precursor to One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish.

Come Over to My House by Dr Seuss (as Theo LeSieg), illustrated by Richard Erdoes

This is a lesser-known Dr Seuss book but my personal favourite.  Theo LeSieg is the name used by Dr Seuss for stories he wrote that were illustrated by others. (LeSieg spelt backwards is Geisel, Dr Seuss’ real name).  Come Over to My House  shows its readers children from different countries around the world, in their national costumes and diverse traditional houses.  The colourful pictures and rhyming text make it a fun as well as educational story.  With cheerful and charming vintage illustrations, Come Over to My House is reminiscent of Miroslav Sasek’s wonderful This is… series (such as This is Paris).

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson

Hunter S. Thompson is the father of gonzo journalism – a subjective, personal style of reporting which engages readers through the author’s first-person commentaries as much as through the subject matter; and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
is his masterpiece.  This novel, based on actual roadtrips undertaken with his activist-attorney friend, is
notable for its extensive references to illicit drug use, and its critique of the counterculture movement.  Angry, intoxicated, politicised, anti-authoritarian, Hunter S. Thompson’s distinctive writing makes him a pop-cultural as well as literary sensation.

Kingdom of Fear by Hunter S. Thompson

The second-last book published in his lifetime, Kingdom of Fear is subtitled “Loathsome Secrets of a Star-crossed Child in the Final Days of the American Century”.  Part-memoir, part-satire and part-polemic, Kingdom of Fear shows that age has not diminished his anger nor wit.  In section after section, he argues for a need to distrust authority, especially in these Post-9/11 times, with governments granting ever more power to the police and military.  Still angry and radical, this is his clarion call to maintain the rage.

 

Writing for the Web: A Beginner’s Guide

When we consider the virtues of published writing, we normally think of books, E-Books, White Papers etc.  When you are writing in the digital age, the platforms for writing have invariably increased.  If you are writing for social media, blogs or a website, one of the greatest influences will be WHERE the writing will be housed.  This will influence your tone, style and most significantly, your word count.  Depending on your comfort (and interest) levels, you could find yourself making a respectable income writing blogs.  (Okay, okay, we chose a list of the uber-successful global bloggers as an example).  However, if this is something you are interested in, this selection of books is a useful guide when you are starting out and beyond.

 

https-::covers.booko.info:300:thinkDon’t Make Me Think by Steve Krug

I know people who, when recruiting for digital roles said: ‘If they haven’t read this book, don’t give them the job’.  This seems a bit harsh but the underlying sentiment is: this is the fundamental book that digital teams need to read when they are starting out.  It discusses how to design usable Web sites by exploring how users really use the Web and offers suggestions for streamlining navigation, creating a home page, and writing for Web sites.

 

https-::covers.booko.info:300:WriterThe Digital Writing Workshop by Troy Hicks

Troy’s clean, clear writing style is useful when you are navigating countless new terms for the technology used in digital forums.  Troy’s focus is firstly on the writer, then the writing and lastly the technology as he explains how new technologies can be harnessed to advance the writing medium.  We love the easy-to-read style of this book.

 

 

 

https-::covers.booko.info:300:blogHow to Blog for Profit without Selling your Soul by Ruth Soukup

Do you want to earn a living doing what you love? Whether you have been blogging for years or just a few weeks, How to Blog For Profit (Without Selling Your Soul) offers solid advice and practical action plans for creating an authentic, successful, and profitable blog. With wit, wisdom, and the insight of someone who’s been there, Ruth Soukup shares how she grew her own blog, Living Well Spending Less, to over one million monthly visitors.  We love the insights into Soukup’s own learnings along the way.

 

https-::covers.booko.info:300:wordsLetting Go of the Words: Writing Web Content that Works by Janice (Ginny) Redish

Ginny’s easy-to-read style will teach you how to plan, organize, write, design, and test your content.  Learn how to have great conversations through your site or app. Meet your business goals while satisfying your site visitors’ needs. Learn how to create useful and usable content that your target market (or clients) will love.

 

 

The Yahoo Style Guide, edited by Chris Barr

WWW may be an acronym for the World Wide Web, but no one could fault you for thinking it stands for wild, wild West. The rapid growth of the Web has meant having to rely on style guides intended for print publishing, but these guides do not address the new challenges of communicating online. Enter The Yahoo! Style Guide. From Yahoo!, a leader in online content and one of the most visited Internet destinations in the world, comes the definitive reference on the essential elements of Web style.

https-::covers.booko.info:300:contentContent Strategy for the Web by Kristina Halvorson and Melissa Rach

This book is essential reading: content strategy helps you plan your writing and ascertain which topics will be of most interest to your target markets.  It also includes the tone, types of content you can use and which channels should be used.  This book also describes the value of content strategy, discusses how to audit and analyze content, and looks at ways to maintain content over time.

Spotlight on timeless authors – Orwell, Tolkien and C.S. Lewis

What makes an author’s works timeless? At Team Booko, some of our favourite authors include C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien and George Orwell.  We think they are timeless because their stories remain fresh and captivating decades after publication; because they write speculative works that are not time-specific; and because their writing has influenced countless authors.  Here are our pick of their works:

Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell

Big Brother.  Thought Police.  Newspeak.  Orwellian.  These now-common terms are testament to the strong and enduring impact that George Orwell, and particularly Nineteen Eighty-four, have on our views about politics and society.  This chilling story about Winston Smith, an ‘editor’ whose job is to rewrite history to conform to the government’s version of events, is an early masterpiece of dystopian fiction, a genre that remains popular through works such as The Hunger Games.  With major political events fast approaching in the US, Australia as well as the UK, the time is right to re-read this modern classic.

 

 

Why I Write by George Orwell

Besides politically-charged fiction, George Orwell is acclaimed for his essays, where he is analytical, autobiographical and persuasive all at once.  In Why I Write, Orwell argues that four main motives underlie writing – egotism, aesthetic enthusiasm, historical impulse and political purpose.  This discussion is insightful for all aspiring writers, as well as anyone who has a creative urge.  This slim volume also contains other celebrated essays including “Politics and the English Language” and “The Lion and the Unicorn”.  Reissued as part of the Penguin Great Ideas series.

 

 

Tolkien Box Set: The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

It took over 60 years for technology to catch up to Tolkien’s imagination – to be able to depict Middle Earth visually, and do it well.  Inspired by fairy tales, mediaeval languages, ancient mythologies and religion, Tolkien’s Middle Earth stories are epic in scale and feature quests, action, comedy, friendship.  These stories seem timeless and elemental, and are acclaimed as the originators of modern high fantasy.  This movie tie-in set contains both The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings, telling the complete story of the Hobbits’ adventures with the One Ring.  A beautiful edition for fans new and old.

A Secret Vice: Tolkien on Invented Languages by J.R.R. Tolkien, edited by Dimitra Fimi and Andrew Higgins

From Lord of the Rings to A Game of Thrones – an awe-inspiring feature of Tolkien’s stories is his world-building, where Middle Earth is so richly imagined that it comes with languages and mythology as well as geography and history.  His meticulous approach has influenced countless fantasy writers since.  Explore Tolkien’s creative methods in A Secret Vice, based on a lecture he gave on constructing languages, and the relationship between mythology and language.  The book also contains previously unpublished materials connected to the essay.

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe pocket edition by C.S. Lewis

C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien were friends and colleagues who shared an interest in mythology and fantasy writing. Lucky for us, their creatively fruitful friendship has led to both Tolkien’s Middle Earth stories and C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia.
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is jam-packed with elements that captivate children – an epic quest, resourceful child heroes, fantastic creatures, adventure, and good versus evil.  This edition offers a beautiful pocket-sized hardback of the most popular and best-known of the Narnia books.

The Illustrated Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis

Before the success of Narnia, C.S. Lewis was better known for his Christian writings (and in fact, The Chronicles of Narnia contains Christian themes).  One of his most accessible and entertaining religious works is The Screwtape Letters, which offers a sly and satirical look at human nature.  These letters, supposedly from a senior demon (Screwtape) to a junior and inexperienced one (Wormwood), offer advice on how to lead humans into temptation.  This illustrated edition also includes a sequel, Screwtape Proposes a Toast, which critiques trends in British education.

Biographies of remarkable authors

Part of celebrating our great writers is ‘lifting the hood’ and getting an understanding of why they write.  Understanding the ‘back story’ of our favourite authors enables us to understand their motivation and their inspiration, which in turn inspires us.  Here are our recommendations of biographies and autobiographies of some pretty remarkable authors.

https-::covers.booko.info:300:birdI know why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

An autobiography like no other, Maya Angelou wrote it in seven volumes, ‘Caged Bird’ being the first.  The book covers themes such as racism, discrimination, abuse and extreme poverty but also joy, hope, achievement and celebration.  In the first volume of her autobiography, Angelou takes the reader on a journey of her childhood with her grandmother in the American south of the 1930’s.  Here, she learns the power and prejudice of the white folks of the town.  Years later, Maya learns that love of herself, the kindness of others and the inspiration of great authors could help set her free.

https-::covers.booko.info:300:bradburyThe Bradbury Chronicles: The Life of Ray Bradbury by Sam Weller

Accomplished journalist Sam Weller met Ray Bradbury while writing a cover story for the Chicago Tribune Magazine and spent hundreds of hours interviewing Bradbury, his editors, family members, and longtime friends. With unprecedented access to private archives, he uncovered never–before–published letters, documents, and photographs that help tell the story of this literary genius and his remarkable creative journey. The result is a richly textured, detailed biography that illuminates the origins and accomplishments of Bradbury’s fascinating mind.

https-::covers.booko.info:300:pimpPimp: The Story of My Life by Iceberg Slim

This is the story of Iceberg Slim’s life as he saw, felt, tasted, and smelled it. A trip through hell by the one man who lived to tell the tale. The dangers of jail, addiction, and death that are still all too familiar. By telling the story of one man’s struggles and triumphs in an underground world, Pimp shows us the game doesn’t change, it just has a different swagger.

 

 

https-::covers.booko.info:300:mythThe Brontë Myth by Lucasta Miller

I wasn’t aware of any myths surrounding the lives of Emily, Charlotte and Anne during their lifetimes but apparently there was such a fascination with them that myths (or lies) abounded!  Some examples included Charlotte being seen as a ‘sex-starved hysteric’, Emily being attracted to both sexes and there were those that denied her authorship of Wuthering Heights, attributing it to her brother Bramwell.  Sounds much like our fascination with the Hollywood stars of current day!  A great read for fans of the incredibly talented sisters.

 

https-::covers.booko.info:300:thunderboltThe Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid by Bill Bryson

In this hilarious memoir, Bryson travels back to explore the kid he once was and the weird and wonderful world of 1950s America. He modestly claims that this is a book about not very much: about being small and getting much larger slowly. But, for the rest of us, it is a laugh-out-loud book that will speak volumes – especially to anyone who has ever been young.

 

https-::covers.booko.info:300:aynMy Years with Ayn Rand by Nathaniel Branden

I wasn’t 100% sure about reading this book as anything written by an ex-lover doesn’t seem particularly….fair.  I’m not a huge fan of the kiss and tell.  I am, however, a big fan of Rand’s work (The Fountainhead in particular).  Branden is an American psychotherapist and this book charts their relationship but also details Rand’s philosophy of objectivism.  Definitely an interesting read for fans for Rand’s work and gives an interesting perspective into her private life.

 

Make sure you’re following us on Pinterest. More biographies can be found on our Pinterest board: https://au.pinterest.com/officialbooko/autobiographies-biographies/

 

The joy of re-reading the classics

Oh the joy of re-reading the classics!  When you don’t have to be critically evaluated on your thoughts (whether it be an assignment, exam or an essay), you can appreciate the richness of the prose in new and different ways.  Also, a more mature mind can pick up the minor references in the text that a student stressed out about exams can not.  Finding one book from each of these authors was a trial:  there were the drama plays, the books read in class and the movie adaptations.  Here are our recommendations for re-reading the classics in your own sweet time.

https-::covers.booko.info:300:GreatGreat Expectations by Charles Dickens

Enjoy the classic tale of adolescence, growth, and loyalty, all set in Victorian London. The cautionary tale of a young man raised high above his station by a mysterious benefactor has remarkable characters and a mysteriously compelling story.  The orphaned boy Pip snobbishly abandons his friends for London society and ‘great expectations’, and grows through misfortune and suffering to maturity.  This is one of Dickens’ most popular and best loved novels.

 

 

https-::covers.booko.info:300:KingKing Lear by William Shakespeare

Similarly themed, the story of King Lear beautifully illustrates the old saying ‘pride comes before a fall.’  I’ve always found this story the most heart-breaking of all of Shakespeare’s works.  King Lear decides to step down and divide his kingdom between his three daughters. When his youngest and favorite daughter refuses to compete and perform her love for him, he is enraged and disowns her. She remains loyal to him, however, though he slides into madness and his other children betray him.

 

https-::covers.booko.info:300:EmmaEmma by Jane Austen

Emma Woodhouse, handsome, clever, rich – and fiercely independent – is perfectly content with her life and sees no need for either love or marriage. Nothing, however, delights her more than interfering in the romantic lives of others. But when she ignores the advice of her good friend Mr Knightley and attempts to arrange a suitable match for the pretty, naïve Harriet Smith, her well-laid plans soon unravel and have consequences that she never expected.

 

https-::covers.booko.info:300:HuckThe Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

Huck is a young, naive white boy fleeing from his drunken, dangerous Pa; and Jim is a runaway slave longing to be reunited with his family. Flung together by circumstance, they journey down the Mississippi together on a log raft, each in search of his own definition of freedom. Their daring adventures along the way provide both entertainment and a satirical look at the moral values of the Deep South of the 1800s.

 

 

https-::covers.booko.info:300:Daisy2The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway

Set in the Gulf Stream off the toast of Havana, Hemingway’s magnificent fable is the story of an old man, a young boy and a giant fish. In a perfectly crafted story, which won for Hemingway the Nobel Prize for Literature, is a unique and timeless vision of the beauty and grief of man’s challenge to the elements in which he lives.

 

 

https-::covers.booko.info:300:ErnestThe Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde

‘Earnest’ is a witty and buoyant comedy of manners that has delighted millions in countless productions since its first performance in London’s St. James’ Theatre in 1895. Oscar Wilde’s brilliant play makes fun of the English upper classes with light-hearted satire and dazzling humour. It is 1890’s England and two young gentlemen are being somewhat limited with the truth. To inject some excitement into their lives, Mr Worthing invents a brother, Earnest, as an excuse to leave his dull country life behind him to pursue the object of his desire, the ravishing Gwendolyn.

So… you want to be a writer

I think just about everyone has flirted with this, haven’t they?  I still have a screenplay for a TV series floating around in my head.  I am POSITIVE it will be a huge hit, if only audiences weren’t so stuck on reality TV.  One of my friends went on so many dates in one year that I convinced her to write a book about it.  And on it goes…..

If you have some great ideas for writing, whether it’s writing a blog, a novel or a TV series like me, there is a book to help inspire you and guide you.  Some of my favourites in this list include hearing advice from some of the masters themselves.  We need to start with a book that appeared on my bookshelf when I was about 10 (odd gift for a child) but it was pretty useful during creative writing classes:

https-::covers.booko.info:300:ElementThe Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr and E.B. White

This book is an essential part of your ‘books on writing’ collection.  It contains the basics: grammar, writing in your active voice and omitting superfluous words.  This book’s unique tone, wit and charm have conveyed the principles of English style to millions of readers. Use the fourth edition of “the little book” to make a big impact with your writing.

 

 

https-::covers.booko.info:300:StephenOn Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King

Part of what makes this book so entertaining is hearing about King’s own rags-to-riches story.  Find out what books and films influenced the young writer, his first idea for a story and the true life tale that inspired Carrie. King gives an excellent masterclass on writing – how to use the tools of the trade from building characters to pace and plotting as well as practical advice on presentation.

 

 

https-::covers.booko.info:300:WritingThe Writing Life by Annie Dillard

Largely accepted to be one of the best books about writing, The Writing Life is brutal in its honesty about the difficulty of the writing process.  Dillard encourages you to carve up your most ‘perfect paragraphs’ if they don’t do their job, which is to communicate the entirety of the idea.  “This writing that you do, that so thrills you, that so rocks and exhilarates you, as if you were dancing next to the band, is barely audible to anyone else.”

 

 

https-::covers.booko.info:300:MotherMother Tongue: English and how it got that way by Bill Bryson

It’s crucial for any writer to understand their own language.  Bryson steers us through why island, freight, and colonel are spelled in such unphonetic ways, why four has a u in it but forty doesn’t, plus bizarre and enlightening facts about some of the patriarchs of this peculiar language.

 

 

 

https-::covers.booko.info:300:zenZen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury

While there are plenty of books that talk to the challenges of writing, Bradbury’s enthusiasm for writing is infectious.  That’s what makes this book such enjoyable reading.  In a series of essays, Bradbury discusses his career and his compulsion to write. Nine essays discuss the joy of writing, the writing process, inspiration, creativity, and the circumstances surrounding the writing of several of his works.  “Think of Shakespeare and Melville and you think of thunder, lightning, wind.  They all knew the joy of creating in large or small forms, on unlimited or restricted canvasses. These are the children of the gods. They knew fun in their work. No matter if creation came hard here or there along the way, or what illnesses and tragedies touched their most private lives. … If you are writing without zest, without gusto, without love, without fun, you are only half a writer.”  Brilliant.

 

https-::covers.booko.info:300:HazelThe Writing Experiment by Hazel Smith

Finding inspiration to write creatively can be one of the most challenging aspects of the writing process.  Experienced writing teacher Hazel Smith demystifies the process of creative writing, providing exercises and examples to show how it can be systematically learnt.

 

 

 

More tips for aspiring writers can be found on our Pinterest board, Tips for Writers!

So you want to be a great speaker

How do you feel about public speaking? Do you think of it as a dreaded chore, something that you wish you were naturally talented in? (Yes on both counts for me.)  In fact, such feelings are not uncommon – survey results even suggest that some people fear public speaking more than they fear death.  But it doesn’t have to be this way – help is out there.  Here are some books that help us develop our public speaking skills, through inspiration, instruction, and humour.

Speeches that Changed the World with foreword by Simon Sebag Montefiore

Elizabeth I, Mahatma Gandhi, Adolf Hitler, Barack Obama… these people are powerful leaders not just through their actions, but also through their speeches – whose eloquence can persuade and initiate change.  Speeches that Changed the World is a collection of over 50 momentous speeches throughout world history.  This edition includes recent entries such as Kevin Rudd’s apology to the Stolen Generations, and Barack Obama’s election victory speech. Comes with a DVD showing footage of these great speeches – pure inspiration.

Talk Like TED: the 9 Public Speaking Secrets of the World’s Top Minds by Carmine Gallo

Last month Team Booko showcased the entertaining and thought-provoking world of TED Talks – presentations that have introduced a new style of public speaking and audience engagement, becoming the new gold standard for these skills.  In Talk Like TED, Carmine Gallo has identified 9 techniques common to the most popular TED Talks, through analysing speeches, interviewing speakers, as well as research into psychology, neuroscience and communication.  Use strategies such as storytelling, favouring pictures over text, and delivering jaw-dropping moments to boost your communication skills to TED-standards.

How to Get Your Point across in 30 Seconds or Less by Milo O. Frank

Have you heard of the “elevator pitch”? It’s a short, succinct speech that sets out your key message and persuades your audience to buy in – all within the duration of an elevator ride.  Elevator pitches are first articulated for business ideas but are also relevant to political and charitable causes, even personal arguments.  How to Get your Point Across in 30 Seconds shares this focus in “getting to the point”.  Milo O. Frank sets out strategies towards high-impact, captivating, efficient communication.    A classic text that is still relevant today.

Umm…: a Complete Guide to Public Speaking by James O’Loghlin

Many guides to public speaking focus on business/professional themes, but what about social speeches that aim to amuse and delight?  Umm… a Complete Guide to Public Speaking offers friendly and practical advice that would work for a wedding or a retirement, as well as for a job interview.  It argues that public speakers are not born, but made – and offers strategies in how to achieve a great speech, from researching, to using your voice effectively, to overcoming nerves.  James O’Loghlin has distilled his experiences as a successful lawyer, comedian, radio- and TV-presenter, and public-speaking coach into this approachable handbook.  

The Australian Schoolkids’ Guide to Debating and Public Speaking by Claire Duffy

Kids often start off with a natural confidence in public speaking, so it’s a good idea to support that confidence with real skills, before they learn to fear it.  It might even turn that dreadful argumentativeness into something positive!  Claire Duffy’s book is a clear and accessible guide on what debating and public speaking is, and how to do it.  In addition to tips on delivery and managing nerves, she also explains and guides readers on how to create a logical structure and show critical reasoning.  Claire Duffy has used her experience coaching award-winning debaters, both as a teacher and a parent, to create this great resource for kids, teachers and parents.