On writers and publishing

Most of us booklovers have probably dreamt of writing our own masterpieces someday.  That dream may be more achievable than you think – the internet has given us more opportunities to get our work noticed, both in terms of helping us connect with potential mentors, buddies and audiences, and also in terms of self-publishing (physical books, eBooks and online).  Here’s some inspiration, information and motivation to finally get started on “that book you have in you”.

Still Alice by Lisa Genova

Did you know that this acclaimed novel of a woman’s battling early-onset Alzheimer’s disease was originally self-published?  After receiving no interest from traditional publishers and literary agents, Lisa Genova chose to self-publish, then set about engaging with potential readers through social media.  Her persistence was rewarded with internet buzz and solid sales, and eventually led to an offer from a major publisher.  E.L. James’ 50 Shades trilogy is another famous and successful example of a book that was self-published before gaining attention from traditional publishers.

How to Make a Living with Your Writing by Joanna Penn

This is the manual for Living the Dream – how to support yourself as a full-time writer.  Joanna Penn is an author, speaker, marketer and publisher who has developed a growing business – and a six-figure income – out of her creative output.  In How to Make a Living with Your Writing, she uses her own experience to show how to make money from books, and also how to capitalise on your creativity in other ways, such as by blogging, public speaking, coaching and content marketing.  Also checkout her website, The Creative Penn  for a wealth of (free) tips and resources for aspiring writers.

The Kick-Ass Writer by Chuck Wendig

Chuck Wendig has built a successful writing career by embracing new formats and media – his works include a blog, eBooks, computer games, scripts, comics as well as novels.  He also writes great writing advice – his tone is sharp and in-your-face and aims to challenge and provoke.  The Kick-Ass Writer starts from the beginning – how to get started, how to build characters and dialogue and develop suspense – and onto how to deal with publishers and agents, and how to promote, connect and market yourself.  It also discusses crowd funding, self-publishing writer’s block and how to handle rejection.  A great resource for helping you become the Kick-Ass Writer you want to be.

Publishing: a Writer’s Memoir by Gail Godwin 

For an insider’s take on writers and their relationships with the publishing industry, you cannot go past Gail Godwin’s memoir.  Gail Godwin has been a writer for five decades, with over 20 published works.  Publishing: a Writer’s Memoir reflects on Gail as a writer: her hunger to be published, her craft, and what it means to be a modern author (there is a great anecdote about branding and self-promotion).  It also reflects on the changing nature of the publishing industry, from a more “gentlemanly”, literary enterprise to big business. Gail Godwin offers fascinating insights to anyone curious about the book industry.

 

From blogger / vlogger to author

Developing great blogs and vlogs (eg YouTube channels) are an increasingly common pathway to a book deal.  Blogs/vlogs are powerful tools that can help you hone your writing skills, develop/promote your brand and connect with potential readers.  Many popular authors – particularly in the humour / food & wellness / lifestyle / parenting categories – first became known through their blogs. Two of my favourite bloggers/vloggers-turned-authors include:

Advanced Style: Older and Wiser by Ari Seth Cohen

Advanced Style started as a blog celebrating stylish, older New Yorkers, and has turned into a worldwide movement.  The colourful portraits in Advanced Style urge us to be bold, take risks and dress how we like, whether we are 15 or 85.  I saw the eponymous documentary a few years’ ago, and not only was there great style on-screen, many of the audience were bold and stylish too.  Advanced Style is joyous and gloriously inspirational.

The Dumpling Sisters Cookbook by Amy and Julie Zhang

Amy and Julie Zhang are popular YouTubers whose Dumpling Sisters videos showcase modern takes on homestyle Chinese dishes. 

The sisters – born in China, raised in New Zealand and now living in the UK – love their food because it’s a reminder of their Chinese background and their childhood, and also because it’s a great way to connect with their friends.  Dishes such as oyster sauce beef and broccoli, and prawn and spinach wontons, are great whether for some quiet me-time or for fun and casual entertaining.

New authors to read in 2017

Did you know Spring (in the Northern hemisphere and Autumn in the Southern) is the season when major publishers unveil fiction debutantes to the world of book lovers?

From the gripping and hard hitting The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, to the lighthearted romantic story of The Hating Game by Sally Thorne we’ve read the reviews of books being released and here are our picks for what you’ll want to cozy up and read this year…

 

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, this is a powerful and gripping YA novel about one girl’s struggle for justice.

Sixteen-year-old Starr lives in two worlds: the poor neighbourhood where she was born and raised and her posh high school in the suburbs. The uneasy balance between them is shattered when Starr is the only witness to the fatal shooting of her unarmed best friend, Khalil, by a police officer. Now what Starr says could destroy her community. It could also get her killed.

 

 

 

 

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

Meet Eleanor Oliphant: She struggles with appropriate social skills and tends to say exactly what she’s thinking. Nothing is missing in her carefully timetabled life of avoiding social interactions, where weekends are punctuated by frozen pizza, vodka, and phone chats with Mummy.

But everything changes when Eleanor meets Raymond, the bumbling and deeply unhygienic IT guy from her office. When she and Raymond together save Sammy, an elderly gentleman who has fallen on the sidewalk, the three become the kinds of friends who rescue one another from the lives of isolation they have each been living. And it is Raymond’s big heart that will ultimately help Eleanor find the way to repair her own profoundly damaged one.

Smart, warm, uplifting, Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine is the story of an out-of-the-ordinary heroine whose deadpan weirdness and unconscious wit make for an irresistible journey.

 

The Cows by Dawn O’Porter

This is the first grown-up novel from TV presenter, and founder of Help Refugees, Dawn O’Porter. Following on from the success of her Young Adult novels, Paper Aeroplanes and Goose, The Cows is an equally smart and insightful read. It’s about three women, female friendship and feminism.

Women don’t have to fall into a stereotype. Tara, Cam and Stella are strangers living their own lives as best they can though when society’s screaming you should live life one way, it can be hard to like what you see in the mirror. When an extraordinary event ties invisible bonds of friendship between them, one woman’s catastrophe becomes another’s inspiration, and a life lesson to all. Sometimes it’s ok not to follow the herd.

 

The Futures by Anna Pitoniak

In this fabulous debut novel about love and betrayal, a young couple moves to New York City in search of success only to learn that the lives they dream of may come with dangerous strings attached.

Julia and Evan fall in love as undergraduates at Yale. For Evan, a scholarship student from a rural Canadian town, Yale is a whole new world, and Julia, blonde, beautiful, and rich, fits perfectly into the future he’s envisioned for himself. After graduation, and on the eve of the great financial meltdown of 2008, they move together to New York City, where Evan lands a job at a hedge fund. But Julia, whose privileged upbringing grants her an easy but wholly unsatisfying job with a nonprofit, feels increasingly shut out of Evan’s secretive world.

 

 

The Hating Game by Sally Thorne

The Hating Game has been described as ‘A brilliant, biting, hilarious new voice that will take the romcom world by storm’. Reviews like that from New York Times bestselling authors is pretty much a super shiny gold star in our books. Hats off to Sally Thorne for her debut novel.

Lucy Hutton has always been certain that the nice girl can get the corner office. She prides herself on being loved by everyone at work – except for imposing, impeccably attired Joshua Templeman. Trapped in a shared office, they’ve become entrenched in an addictive game of one-upmanship. There’s the Staring Game, The Mirror Game, The HR Game. Lucy can’t let Joshua beat her at anything – especially when a huge promotion is on offer. If Lucy wins, she’ll be Joshua’s boss. If she loses, she’ll resign.

 

Happy Reading!

Illustrators and their works of art

“The picture is one small rectangle in which the artist can create an ordered universe”

Charley Harper

 

This month we are delving into the world behind books and will look at the different elements that exist to bring our favourite titles to life. This week, it’s illustrators and their amazing works of art.

Many of our favourite illustrators are found inside the covers of children’s books, and a few beautiful coffee table books too. Here are our favourites.

Charley Harper an Illustrated Life by Todd Oldham

Charley Harper was an American original. For over six decades he painted colourful and graphic illustrations of nature, animals, insects and people alike, from his home studio in Cincinnati, Ohio until he passed away in 2007 at the age of 84. Renowned New York based designer Todd Oldham rediscovered Charley’s work in 2001, and collaborated closely with him in the ensuing years; combing through his extensive archive to edit and design this stunning monograph. This coffee table tomb is a beautiful tribute to Charley Harper’s singular style, which he referred to as Minimal Realism.

 

Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak

Winning the Caldecott Medal for the Most Distinguished Picture Book of the Year, 1964 it is no surprise that this is one of the most well known and best loved children’s stories which is appreciated as much for its illustrations as its narrative. Sendak’s attention to detail is apparent in the millions of tiny ink lines he added to show the hairs on the Wild Things.

 

 

The Enormous Crocodile by Roald Dahl

The gorgeous images that feature in Roald Dahl’s The Enormous Crocodile are by the enormously talented Quentin Blake.

This beautiful picture book was the first that Dahl and Blake collaborated on in the mid-70s. The duo went on to work together for many years, with Blake’s distinctive art helping to bring Dahl’s much loved characters to life.

 

 

 

 

The Great Paper Caper by Oliver Jeffers

Best-selling, multi-award-winning talent, Oliver Jeffers both wrote and illustrated this tale of mystery. Animals home are disappearing and trees are being cut down. Can the discarded paper airplanes littering the forest floor explain why?

This charming children’s picture book is full of Jeffers’ quirky illustrations. His childlike drawings are simple but brilliant, enabling children to identify with his characters as well as understanding the message in this moving story.

 

 

 

Animalia by Graeme Base

There’s no denying the talent of illustrator Graeme Base based on his drawings for this alphabet picture book. Each of the 26 letters is accompanied by an amazingly detailed illustration of a different animal.

The illustrations also feature other objects beginning with that letter for the reader to identify. And if that’s not enough, Base also included an image of himself as a child on every page. A year after it was released, Animalia won the title of Honour Book in the Council of Australia’s Children’s Book of the Year Award: Picture Book.

 

 

If you have a budding illustrator in your midst, there is a session being held at The Wheeler Centre in Melbourne on March 16. Click here for details.

Enjoy!

Reading resources that help foster the love of reading

Mad for books?  Have a number of different versions of the same book?  *Refuse* to watch a film adaptation of your favourite book because it will ruin it for you?  You, my friend, are book obsessed.  A bibliophile.  A book addict.

Booko features many resources and guides to help support both children and adults to improve their literacy.  But what about those people that don’t need support, they just need a *support* group?  We’ve uncovered some absolute gems of resources that can not only feed your addiction but also connect with other book lovers from all over the world.

Image from Instagram.com

 

Audiobooks

Audiobooks were once the realm of the older members of society who listened to the Classics from the comfort of their Jason recliners.  Now in the modern world of multi-tasking, we are listening to books while we drive from A to B, fold the washing, make dinner or walk the dog.  In a world where you’re expected to be well versed in the latest books, music and Ted  Talks, audiobooks are a great way to get across some of the new releases or favourite classics while you’re on the move.  We have compiled a great selection that you can choose from here.

Apps

As you can imagine, there are a huge number of apps that can enhance your reading experience.  We’ve explored some of the best ones for you:

This award-winning app is a bookmarking service which is owned by Pinterest.  Web pages can be marked to read later on another device such as an iPad for example.

A speed-reading app for iPhone, this service allows you to speed-read all your favourite articles, allowing you to read faster.

This app is a reader that allows you to read your Ebooks comfortably.  The use of visually pleasing font and ability to just display the text of the book you are reading without distraction, you can adjust the brightness of the screen to make the reading process more enjoyable.

iReadItNow is a great way to manage all the books you are reading or planning to read.  Its a great historical record of your reading life – what you read, how you read it and what resonated with you.

Book Clubs

Book Clubs are a great way to discuss your favourite books with like-minded book addicts. Depending on your schedule and your preferences, there are some great face-to-face and virtual Book Clubs you can join.  If you are a fan of a particular genre, it might make sense to join a book club that suits.

Some of the most popular options are the Goodreads Book Club (Emma Watson has her own Goodreads Feminist Book Club) or some great face-to-face options via your local city.

Experiences

If you’re keen to visit famous bookshops or literary places of interest, there are some great travel options for you to choose from.  The Lonely Planet features a range of literary walking tours around the world which explore the birthplaces of famous authors and significant places that are featured in books.

If beautifully quaint bookshops are more your thing, there is a travel agency that specialises in bookshop travel.  If you are interested in visiting bookshops in a more virtual sense, check out one of our recent blog posts.

Great start to literacy – 1000 Books Before School

Most people are aware that reading to children is beneficial; in fact, it is one of the best preparations for school.  When we read to children, we are exposing them to a rich vocabulary, helping them develop listening skills and attention spans, conveying information and fostering a love of reading.  These skills create a solid foundation for developing literacy.

Many libraries are now running “1000 Books Before School” programs (sometimes called “1000 Books Before Kindergarten”) to help encourage caregivers and children to keep reading and reap those literacy benefits.  The 1000 books goal is based on research – it is big enough to allow children to experience a variety of language, but still achievable – for children who start school at 5, it translates to about one book every 2 days. And for children who prefer to have the same book read over and over, each time counts as one book!

To make the process more fun, libraries and some websites offer record sheets to help families keep track of their reading.  Regular milestones (with small rewards) help build a sense of achievement until the big, final graduation.

Families living in Victoria can enrol in the program through the State Library of Victoria website or at your local library.

To get you started, here are some new and older favourites, perfect for sharing with your children.  6 down, 994 to go…

Dear Zoo by Rod Campbell

Sturdy board books are great for the youngest readers, who might show their enjoyment of books by chewing and throwing! In Dear Zoo, a child writes to the zoo to send them a pet.  It takes a bit of trial and error to find a pet that is just right!  Dear Zoo has been a favourite with both little and big kids for over 30 years.  Its combination of a funny story, cute animals, lift-the-flaps and call-and-response makes it an excellent choice for both reading aloud and reading on your own.

Tap the Magic Tree by Christie Matheson

Tap the Magic Tree is as much a toy as it is a picture book.  Each page invites the reader to tap, shake, jiggle, or pat the book, even to blow it a kiss!  Starting with a bare brown tree, we gradually see leaves sprout, buds blossom, apples grow, the leaves yellow and finally blow away with the changing of the seasons.  The simple drawings and sparse text combine into an absorbing story that is elegant and sweetly magical.

I Will Never Not Ever Eat a Tomato by Lauren Child

Charlie and Lola stories are laugh-out-loud funny, with vivid characters and situations that perfectly captures life with young children.  I Will Never Not Ever Eat a Tomato is the story that started it all, and is still one of the best.  Big brother Charlie – the sensible, long-suffering one – needs to give dinner to his funny little sister Lola.  But she is really fussy about her food! So Charlie plays a trick on Lola – what if he is not giving her mashed potato, but cloud fluff from the peak of Mount Fuji?

Mr Huff by Anna Walker

Bill woke up with a bad feeling about his day.  As more things go wrong, his huffy feelings coalesce into a big grey thing, who sighs and keeps following Bill around.  How can Bill make Mr Huff go away?  Mr Huff is a cute and poignant story, and perfect conversation-starter about how to deal with sad, gloomy feelings.  Anna Walker’s understated illustrations add surprising amounts of drama and emotion.  Well-deserved winner of last year’s CBCA Early Childhood Book of the Year Award.

The Usborne Big Book of the Body

Non-fiction (information) books can often engage children who don’t seem interested in stories.  Usborne is known as a publisher of beautifully-produced, interesting information books for children, and The Big Book of the Body is no exception.  The pages fold out into giant posters showing our main bodily functions, including bones and muscles, heart and blood, lungs, brain and our senses. A mix of short explanations and quirky facts make The Big Book of the Body entertaining as well as educational.

Billie’s Underwater Adventure by Sally Rippin and Alisa Coburn

As your child gets older, why not introduce them to great characters whose stories will keep them company through their school years? Billie’s Underwater Adventure is a picture book where Billie and her friend Jack use their imaginations to have marvellous adventures at Kinder.  Then there’s the Billie B Brown and Hey Jack series, which are slice-of-life stories aimed at beginner readers; and the Billie B Brown Mysteries is a collection of short chapter books that is perfect for those mystery- and excitement-loving middle graders.

Fostering adult literacy

Can you imagine not being able to help your child with their homework?  For many people in our society, reading their mail or filling out a form is a seemingly impossible task.

14% of adults (one in seven) in our community have low levels of literacy, according to the Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC) survey.  Many of the tasks you might take for granted like reading medicine labels, writing lists, interpreting maps, reading instruction manuals and other things that we encounter in our lives are a challenge.

If you know of a family member, friend or neighbour that could benefit from assistance, there’s a multitude of resources that can help improve their proficiency (as you might imagine).  Here are some of them:

Adult migrant English program

Eligible adult migrants and humanitarian entrants to Australia can access up to 510 hours of free English lessons.

Literacy Net

Part of the Australian Government Department of Education and Training, this site provides a range of adult literacy resources, training material and Professional Development resources for industry trainers/assessors.

National Literacy and Numeracy Week 

This occurs from 29 August – 4 September and celebrates the progress Australian schools are making in raising the literacy and numeracy levels of students.

Skills for Education and Employment 

This site provides language, literacy and numeracy training to help people improve their speaking, reading, writing or basic maths skills. The program aims to improve chances of getting and keeping a job, as well as making everyday life easier.

Bringing attention to literacy challenges is quite often met with shame and embarrassment.  What’s important to bear in mind is that people who acquire literacy skills later in life are adults; they think like adults and require resources and support tailored to them specifically.  We’ve sourced a range of resources suited to adults learning to read and write, here are some of them:

Yes We can Read by Libby Coleman

Gatehouse Books is a great source of literacy support books.  ‘Yes we can read’ is a fantastic ‘go-to’ book because it guides the coach through the entire program.  Suited towards any learners between the ages of 8 and 80, it’s a phonics-based program helping people develop reading for meaning.

The book teaches you how to help with teaching individual phonic sounds, blending sounds, building words and sentences together and reading fluently.

 

 

Teach anyone to read by Lillie Pope

If you’re not trained as a teacher and not an expert in the field, teaching an adult to read might seem like an overwhelming ask.  Pope’s books is as ‘no-nonsense’ as she claims. The techniques described in Pop’s book have been used successfully for more than 50 years and by thousands of instructors, helping thousands of students to read.

 

 

 

 

Liz and Joe go on holiday by Jennie Cole

This book is part of a series that feature the Liz and Joe characters.  Aimed at new readers, it’s targeted at those learning English as a second language (ESOL),  In short story format, the books are illustrated with colour photos and in a comic books style format.  The objective of these titles is to gradually increase your vocabulary with regards to daily life.  Other titles in the series include Joe’s Surprise, Liz and Joe Have a Day out and Liz Gets a Gas Bill.

Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde: Level 3 by Robert Louis Stevenson

Pearson English Readers have a great reputation as a ‘go-to book’ when working with adults.  Like most readers they work in a graded system and they cover a range of titles, including Young Adult or Adult titles, making them suitable for adult literacy support.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Crow Girl Rises by Kate Cann

Crow Girl Rises is published by Barrington Stoke, a publishing company established by a mother-daughter team aimed at helping children and teens suffering with dyslexia.  Innovations such as dyslexia-friendly font, tinted paper and short, engaging achievable books from an amazing range of authors have helped them win a number of publishing awards.  This title is aimed at the Teen/Young Adult reader and deals with the teenage themes of love, parties and friendship (with a halloween theme).

 

 

10 ways to foster a love of reading for your child

Learning to read, or rather teaching someone else to learn to read can be a daunting task – do you start with phonetics, rhyming, sounds or learn the name of letters? Whatever way you choose, sharing the love of reading needs to be fun, relaxed and exciting. Our favourite book on the topic is The Read Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease, it’s been a wonderful resource for several of the Booko children. Here are our top 10 tips from the book:

  1. Begin reading to your children as soon as possible. The younger you start them, the easier, and better it is.
  2. Set aside at least one specific time each day for a story and make it part of your daily routine.
  3. Start with picture books that have only a few sentences on the page, then gradually move to books with more text and fewer pictures before building to chapter books.
  4. As you read, keep listeners involved by occasionally asking ‘what do you think is going to happen next?’
  5. If the chapters are long, or you don’t have enough time to finish one each day, find a suspenseful spot at which to stop. Leave your little audience hanging and they will be counting the minutes until the next reading.
  6. Allow your listeners a few minutes to settle down and adjust their feet and minds to the story. Mood is an important factor in listening, make sure you foster a receptive one.
  7. Use expression when reading. Change your tone, adjusting pace and lowering your voice in suspenseful parts makes it all very exciting.
  8. Slow down. The most common mistake is reading too fast. Reading quickly allows no time for mental pictures to be made and more expression to be used.
  9. Bring the author to life. Google the author to find out more about them. This lets them know that books are written by people and not machines.
  10. When children wish to read to you, it is better for the book to be too easy than too hard, just as a beginner’s bicycle is better to be too small than too big.

The Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease

Upon its first publication in 1982, millions of parents and educators have turned to Jim Trelease’s beloved classic for more than three decades to help countless children become avid readers through awakening their imaginations and improving their language skills. It has also been a staple in schools of education for new teachers. This updated edition of The Read-Aloud Handbook discusses the benefits, the rewards, and the importance of reading aloud to children of a new generation. Supported by delightful anecdotes as well as the latest research (including the good and bad news on digital learning). The Read-Aloud Handbook offers proven techniques and strategies for helping children discover the pleasures of reading and setting them on the road to becoming lifelong readers.

 

Here’s a few of our favourites to help you share the joy of reading aloud:

 

Creature abc by Andrew Zuckerman.

Alphabet books can be valuable for teaching kids the sounds that letters make — but only if they are fun to read! Creature abc is fun; it features amazing animal photographs and an entertaining format. On one page is a letter (e.g. “Aa”) and a photograph of an animal’s body part (e.g. an alligator’s hand). When I read this book, I make the letter’s sound, and my kids guess what animal they will see on the following page.

 

 

Where is the Green Sheep by Mem Fox

There are red sheep and blue sheep, wind sheep and wave sheep, scared sheep and brave sheep, but where is the green sheep? The search is on in this cozy, sheep-filled story from beloved author Mem Fox and popular Australian cartoonist Judy Horacek. Complete with sleepy rhymes and bright illustrations, this book is sure to delight children of all ages, from the very young to those just beginning to read. Mem has never owned a sheep, let alone a green one, but she does admit to having woolly thoughts from time to time. Judy loves drawing things, especially sheep. This is her first flock.

 

Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown

This gentle bedtime story, which has lulled generations of children to sleep, is the perfect first book to share at bedtime. In a great green room a little bunny is tucked up snugly and safely in bed and is getting ready to say goodnight to all the familiar things in his room, one by one. Margaret Wise Brown’s comforting, rhythmical text accompanied by the warmth of Clement Hurd’s classic mid-century illustrations make Goodnight Moon a timeless picture book, which is known and loved around the world.

 

I Am So Strong by Mario Ramos

This is a terrific read aloud – it’s a book with some yelling in it, with a handful of  familiar characters like a wolf and Red Riding Hood and three pigs, joined by a couple of dwarfs, and a baby dinosaur and his HUGE mother.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Most of all, have fun together!

How to Learn Anything – our top 5 skills to learn in 2017

If you’re anything like me you’ll find January is the time of year we announce to the world that “I’m going to learn a new skill”…and now that it’s February we really ought to make a start.

People have been learning new skills from books for years so it’s nothing new, but to be honest there are some things that are much easier to teach yourself via videos online rather than from a book – playing the guitar, learning to crochet, how to use your online accounting system…the list goes on. However there are a few fabulous skills that are best suited to learning through a book. Books allow you the time to take things in and patiently wait as you get distracted and start daydreaming out of the window (or is that just me?).

Here’s our 5 top skills you need to learn this year…and they are all from books. You’re very welcome.

1. Start making a difference in the world

Getting to Maybe by Frances Westley

Many of us have a deep desire to make the world around us a better place. But often our good intentions are undermined by the fear that we are so insignificant in the big scheme of things that nothing we can do will actually help feed the world’s hungry, fix the damage of a Hurricane Katrina or even get a healthy lunch program up and running in the local school. We tend to think that great social change is the province of heroes – an intimidating view of reality that keeps ordinary people on the couch. But extraordinary leaders such as Gandhi and even unlikely social activists such as Bob Geldof most often see themselves as harnessing the forces around them, rather than singlehandedly setting those forces in motion. The trick in any great social project is to stop looking at the discrete elements and start trying to understand the complex relationships between them. By studying fascinating real-life examples of social change this book teases out the rules of engagement between volunteers, leaders, organisations and circumstance and harvests the experiences of a wide range of people and organisations to lay out a brand new way of thinking about making change in communities, in business, and in the world.

2. Take control of your finances

The Barefoot Investor: The Only Money Guide You’ll Ever Need by Scott Pape

So I’ve just finished reading “The Barefoot Investor’ and I’ve been left feeling…a bit emotional really. One thing that you’ll find different between this book and any other finance book you have read is that getting on top of your finances gives you enormous freedom. Divorced? Made redundant? Want a change of career? Sort your finances by putting in place the ‘set and forget’ steps covered by Scott Pape and you’re halfway there. For many, this book has been life changing.

 

 

3. Get ahead in life

Tools of Titans: The Tactics, Routines, and Habits of Billionaires, Icons, and World-Class Performers by Timothy Ferriss

For the last two years, Ferriss interviewed nearly two hundred world-class performers for the podcast, The Tim Ferriss Show. The guests range from super celebs (Jamie Foxx, Arnold Schwarzenegger), athletes (icons of powerlifting, gymnastics, surfing) and legendary Special Operations commanders and black-market biochemists. This book contains the distilled tools, tactics, and ‘inside baseball’ you won’t find anywhere else. It also includes new tips from past guests, and life lessons from new guests. “What makes the show different is a relentless focus on actionable details. This is reflected in the questions. For example: What do these people do in the first sixty minutes of each morning? What do their workout routines look like, and why? What books have they gifted most to other people? What are the biggest wastes of time for novices in their field? What supplements do they take on a daily basis?

4. Learn how to Code
How to Code: A Step-By-Step Guide to Computer Coding by Max Wainewright

Become a master coder, with these step-by-step instructions and robot helpers too! How to Code teaches you all the basic concepts, including Loops, Variables, and Selection, and then develops your skills further until you can create your own website . . . and more! Learn how to use Logo, build games in Scratch, program projects in Python, experiment with HTML, and make interactive web pages with JavaScript.

 

 

 

5. Master makeup wizardry

Amazinger Face by Zoe Foster-Blake

Sometimes a lady just needs to know the most flattering lipstick for her skin tone, or how to correctly use sunscreen, or a very quick hairstyle to conceal her unwashed hair. And there’s no reason she shouldn’t know which foundation or mascara is best for her, either. All the answers are here, in this top-to-toe beauty extravaganza. Former Cosmopolitan and Harper’s BAZAAR beauty director, and the founder of Go-To skin care, Zoë Foster (Blake) suggests makeup colours and brands for every occasion, useful, practical skin care routines and products for every age, and step-by-step instructions for winged eyeliner, arresting red lips, foolproof tanning, simple up-dos, sexy second-day hair, and much, much more.

 

And if that wasn’t enough (or if you’re already deciding to renege on the resolution) take a leaf out of Barbara Arrowsmith-Young’s amazing personal story of retraining her brain.

The Woman Who Changed Her Brain: Revised Edition by Barbara Arrowsmith-Young

Barbara Arrowsmith-Young was born with severe learning disabilities that caused teachers to label her slow, stubborn — or worse. As a child, she read and wrote everything backward, struggled to process concepts in language, continually got lost, and was physically uncoordinated. She could make no sense of an analogue clock. But by relying on her formidable memory and iron will, she made her way to graduate school, where she chanced upon research that inspired her to invent cognitive exercises to “fix” her own brain.

The capability of nerve cells to change is known as neuroplasticity, and Arrowsmith-Young has been putting it into practice for decades. With great inventiveness, after combining two lines of research, Barbara developed unusual cognitive calisthenics that radically increased the functioning of her weakened brain areas to normal and, in some areas, even above normal levels.

 

Happy Learning!

Changing your world: how to make a difference in 2017

If you’re anything like me, your New Year’s resolutions are already in tatters. The standards of losing weight, doing more exercise and improving one’s diet have all been compromised by the Christmas/New Year festivities and holidays.

And the others? Well maybe next year.

However don’t despair. One resolution that everyone can still achieve is the determination to make a difference this year : to make 2017 the year you put back into your community and world, engage with people and help those worthy causes in your world and local community.

How best to go about this though? Where to start with your new altruistic approach?

Here are a few books that will help inspire you and make this year one where you make an important change in your world.

Change from within

Learn meditation. Charity begins at home is the saying and improving oneself is the first step to making a difference with others. So, why not learn meditation?

This ancient skill is proving more and more relevant (and useful) these days in the battle with the stress of modern day living. Learning to meditate is an important tool to be able to relax and focus and therefore learning how to be able to put back into our community.

Not only will learning to meditate allow you to relax, it will also help improve physical and mental health and boost creativity. Eric Harrison’s excellent book “Teach Yourself to Meditate” is an entry-level place to learn the art of meditation at your own pace with over 20 easy exercises for daily practice.

 

Change your community

Manage time better. One of the key factors in not being able to help out in your local community is time. You probably have work and family commitments and balancing this alone is a struggle in our time-poor society before you can consider volunteering for organisations.

However Katherine Noyes Campbell and Susan J. Ellis aptly-titled “The (Help) I-Don’t-Have-Enough-Time Guide to Volunteer Management”, will help you organise your time to build a volunteer management team and conquer those community activism goals that you’ve been aiming to do for some time.

The book is a must for the bookshelf of anyone who is looking to juggle work and family with volunteer pursuits. It contains a wealth of strategies and solutions that will help you become a more effective volunteer manager.

 

Social entrepreneurship. Whether you are changing the world or your local community, one effective way is to be a social entrepreneur.

David Bornstein’s How to Change the World: Social Entrepreneurs and the Power of New Ideas is both a guide and a source of inspiration for those looking at entering this sector. He shows that social entrepreneurs are people with amazing ideas that act to transform their societies.

Using the examples of a number of people who have changed their communities through ideas, the author shows the benefit that these people can make in their society. What better way to be inspired to change your own world than to read of the deeds of others?

 

Make the impossible happen. Sometimes trying to make a positive change in the world can seem overwhelming. There are so many needs in the community that choosing just one is difficult, if not impossible. It is common to be overwhelmed by our apparent insignificance in being able to act as a catalyst for change.

Not so, according to the groundbreaking book “Getting to Maybe: How the World is Changed” by Frances Westley, Brenda Zimmermann and Michael Patton. The book shows the real driving force behind positive change is being able to harness the various forces that surround us rather than taking on all the tasks by yourself.

The authors use an array of examples from around the world that demonstrate this new, exciting way of moving positive change in our communities and the world.

 

Podcasting. Finally, have you considered taking your message to make a difference to potentially the world? Podcasting has increased in popularity in leaps and bounds as more folk look to download programs that can be accessed “on the go”: on mp3 files while on trains, buses, in the car or just walking or jogging.

Now you can bring positive change to the world through the power of the Internet. Choose the issue that you want to highlight: homelessness, organic food, equal rights, inequality and set up a website and podcast to deliver news items, content and podcasts to interested people.

Paul Colligan’s “How to Podcast 2016: 4 Simple Steps to Broadcast your Message to the Entire Connected Planet” is a must have ebook or book if you are thinking of reaching people in this way to change their lives. The easy-to-understand four step guide will get you on your way to connect your unique ideas to the world.

The author outlines the steps needed to deliver a quality podcast to the world without the need for expensive equipment or an extensive knowledge of computers. Perfect for the amateur looking to make a positive change.

Caring is … Sharing great books and games

How do you extend that summertime feeling to the rest of the year? For me, summer holidays mean more time to enjoy the company of family and friends – eating, chatting and playing together. Such quality time may seem impossible within the busyness of your normal routine, but is definitely worth scheduling. Start with an activity that can involve your whole family – such as cooking, making things, playing games or reading – here are some resources to get you started. And if you are a fan of board games, don’t forget that Booko can help you find the best prices for games as well as books!

Qwirkle Cubes

The latest version of this award-winning game comes as a set of colourful cubes. Make rows or columns of cubes by matching either the colour or shape on their faces. The cubic shape of the pieces add an extra level of game play – you can try to change the shapes you have by rolling the cubes. The basic rules are easy to learn for even young players, while some tactical thinking will ensure you achieve high scores. For 2-4 players, ages 6+

Sleeping Queens card game by Gamewright

Sleeping Queens has become a family favourite after we travelled with it this summer. It is a compact card game with a fairytale / Alice in Wonderland flavour (and this special 10th Anniversary edition comes in a beautiful carry tin). The Pancake Queen, the Rose Queen and their ten queenly friends have fallen into a magical sleep and need to be woken up. A King can wake a Queen but watch out for Knights that might steal her away! Winning is based on a little skill, some maths and some luck. Sleeping Queens also shines through its gorgeous and funny art. For 2-5 players, ages 8+

Parlour Games for Modern Families by Myfanwy Jones and Spiri Tsintziras

Parlour Games for Modern Families shows how to play silly and raucous games with big crowds and small, and with few or no props at all. Unusual games such as Farkle and Blind Potatoes join old favourites including Chatterboxes, Murder in the Dark and Dictionary. There are chapters for word games, drawing games, card games and mystery games. Suitable for ages 4-104, these games will help to lighten up rainy days, family gatherings, even dinner parties and work functions.

 

 

Banish Boredom: Activities to Do with Kids that you will Actually Enjoy by Rebecca Green

We’ve all been there – that resigned feeling of doing an activity “for the kids” rather than “with the kids”. Banish Boredom promises to change all that, with suggestions on activities that are stimulating and fun for both adults and kids. From art to science experiments to excursions, Rebecca Green offers a variety of ideas as well as useful tips on how to plan, manage and extend activities. Banish Boredom is a great parenting resource for any time of year.

 
The World of David Walliams CD Story Collection by David Walliams

 

Listening to audiobooks turns reading into a social activity, especially useful on those long holiday car trips. Comedian-turned-superstar-author David Walliams is the creator of bestsellers including Mr Stink and Awful Auntie. Many reviewers see him as a successor to Roald Dahl, skilfully mixing over-the-top humour with poignant reflections on friendship and loneliness. David Walliams voices his audiobooks himself – but listen out for cameos by famous guests such as Matt Lucas. For immediate gratification, choose the 14-CD 5-story set ; or pre-order the Bumper-tastic 27-CD, 8-story edition , out in late January.

 

Cooking with Coco: Family Recipes to Cook Together by Anna Del Conte

Cooking is a great activity to do with children – not only will there be a delicious outcome, you will also be nurturing some healthy habits and useful life skills. Cooking with Coco is a collection of recipes Anna Del Conte has cooked with her children and grandchildren (Coco, now in her teens, has become a confident and creative cook). The collection features classic dishes including baked polenta, beef rolls, basic biscuits and pear cake – sophisticated food that will appeal to both adults and children, without resorting to novelty shapes or lollies.