Monthly Archives: March 2016

Books about Anzac Day

Gallipoli has inspired many films, documentaries and both fiction and non-fiction works. Reading about ‘The Great War’ can be a great way to increase our understanding and appreciation of the sacrifice that the men and women made.  Here’s our selection of titles to remember and educate: Day: Now and Then by Tom Frame

Peter Stanley, Jeffrey Grey, Carolyn Holbrook, Ken Inglis, Tom Frame and others explore the rise of Australia’s unofficial national day. Does Anzac Day honour those who died pursuing noble causes in war? Or is it part of a campaign to redeem the savagery associated with armed conflict? Do the rituals of 25 April console loved ones? Or reinforce security objectives and strategic priorities? Cove to Afghanistan by Glenn Wahlert

As the first Anzacs to land at Gallipoli on 25 April 1915 and among the last to serve in Afghanistan 100 years later, the men and women of the Australian Army’s 3rd Brigade have a long and proud history. Initially raised in 1903, the 3rd Brigade served as part of the Australian Imperial Force during World War I, suffering appalling losses at Gallipoli. Grandad Marches on ANZAC day by Catriona Hoy

This picture book for the very young is a simple, moving look at Anzac Day through the eyes of a little girl. She goes to the pre-dawn Anzac Day service with her father where they watch the girl’s Grandfather march in the parade. This beautifully illustrated book explains what happens on Anzac Day and its significance in terms a young child can understand. It is an excellent introduction to this highly venerated ceremony, and poignantly addresses the sentiments aroused by the memory of those who gave their lives for their country. Day to Remember by Jackie French

ANZAC Day is the day when we remember and honour ANZAC traditions down the ages, from the first faltering march of wounded veterans in 1916 to the ever-increasing numbers of their descendants who march today. of an ANZAC by John Charles Barrie

Memoirs of an Anzac tells of the horrors of war, but it is also lightened with the good humour that resulted from thousands of young Australian men being thrown together in dire circumstances. This is not a history textbook, nor is it a series of diary notes and letters — it is a gut-wrenching, heart-warming true story that will move you.

Follow our books about Anzac Day on our Pinterest board.

Celebrating Readers: Top Travel Books

What’s not to like about travel?  New sights, sounds, tastes, beautiful scenery, different cultures, tranquility or excitement (or both)… even if drop-everything-and-go travelling is not an option right now, it is still fun to indulge in some armchair travel and plan a dream trip.  Whether you like your travel glamorous or rugged, by car or in a plane, there’s a great read waiting here for you!

Destinations of a Lifetime: 225 of the World’s Most Amazing Places by National Geographic

Destinations of a Lifetime is a stunning coffee table book that inspires wonder and daydreams.  As befits a National Geographic publication, the photography is amazing – whether it is of a rugged landscape, or a rustic market stall.  These 225 Amazing Places have been chosen from around the world for their natural beauty, architecture and cultural history.  From wildlife reserves to mountain ranges to palaces and even train stations, they remind us that the world is a big and amazing place. Each profile also includes travel tips and how to visit places “like a local”.

Slim Aarons: La Dolce Vita by Slim Aarons

Slim Aarons built his career on photographing “attractive people doing attractive things in attractive places”.  La Dolce Vita is a collection of his society portraits – chronicling the lives of aristocrats and celebrities for over 50 years.  We see his subjects at home and at play all over Italy – in villas, vineyards, palazzos and on yachts.  The stunning scenery provides perfect backdrops for elegant displays of sumptuous wealth – Slim Aaron’s vision of La Dolce Vita is never crass, but nostalgic and effortlessly glamorous.

The Road to Little Dribbling by Bill Bryson

Twenty years after the journey immortalised in Notes from a Small Island, Bill Bryson travels around Britain again, to see what has changed – and, as he cheekily reveals, because his agent wants him to write a sequel.  Time has not diminished his love for his “Small Island”, but has enriched it with authority – he makes a passionate plea here, as a seasoned campaigner for preserving the landscape and heritage of rural England. Bill Bryson also enjoys showing his grumpier side as he derides the bad manners and crassness so evident nowadays.  The Road to Little Dribbling is another perfect blend of affable humour, naughty wit and eye for the ridiculous that Bill Bryson fans know and love.

Walking the Camino: a Modern Pilgrimage to Santiago by Tony Kevin

Travel is usually about external stimulation such as new sights and sounds, but can also promote inward contemplation – particularly when walking alone on a long trek. Tony Kevin, an overweight, disaffected retired diplomat, does just that when he treks across Spain along the Camino – the ancient pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela. During his eight-week journey he experiences physical and mental exhaustion, picturesque  scenery, ancient tradition and spiritual nourishment.  Walking the Camino offers fascinating insights about why the Camino is still relevant and appealing – and in fact is experiencing a revival, travelled each year by hundreds of thousands of pilgrims from many different nations and creeds.

The Route 66 Encyclopaedia by Jim Hinckley

Route 66 is one of the world’s iconic travel routes, and Jim Hinckley has the wealth of knowledge to help guide us along it.  True to its name, The Route 66 Encyclopaedia is jam-packed with information, photographs and memorabilia about the history, landmarks, and personalities associated with this road. It is a guidebook, a cultural history as well as a tribute.  With alphabetically-arranged entries, Jim Hinckley has created the definitive reference for “the Main Street of America”.

Pretty Good Number One: An American Family Eats Tokyo by Matthew Amster-Burton

You may already know Matthew Amster-Burton and his daughter Iris from the book Hungry Monkey, a chronicle of Matthew’s attempt at turning little Iris into an adventurous eater.  A few years on, Iris is six – still an idiosyncratic eater – and Matthew takes his whole family to Tokyo for a month.  Based out of a tiny apartment, Matthew and his family immerse themselves in the daily life (and food) of this often impenetrable city.  Part guidebook and part diary, I find Pretty Good Number One both endearing and inspirational, because it shows that travelling with children can be delicious and fun.  Cool fact: one fan took Pretty Good Number One as his only guidebook on his Tokyo trip – and ate magnificently.

Holidays in Hell
and Holidays in Heck by P. J. O’Rourke









As the hard-living foreign correspondent for Rolling Stone magazine (who knew that they would have one!?), P. J. O’Rourke filed despatches from troublespots around the world, including Mexico, Lebanon and the Gaza Strip.  These thought-provoking and hilarious pieces, published as Holidays in Hell, mash politics and pop culture with black comedy.  Holidays in Hell became an instant classic and a game-changer for travel writing.Fast-forward to the present, and P.J. O’Rourke, retired “sh*thole specialist”, now travels for leisure like everyone else.  In Holidays in Heck, let P.J.’s caustic wit and gonzo ways show you the unexpected horrors and hidden dangers of travelling to nice places.

Check out our recommended travel reads on our Pinterest board.

The importance of tinkering

With an endless supply of TV shows and movies at our fingertips (hello Netflix, Stan, Apple TV, Presto and Foxtel),  time that children would normally spend playing, exploring and creating has been reduced to a whisper. The role of ‘tinkering’ by children is important in it’s ability to force our children to devise new and wonderful solutions to problems. Tinkering in our home tends to occur more readily when sticky tape or masking tape is left out. Numerous ‘traps’ are then set up using said sticky tape and different items of furniture.

The importance of tinkering has been acknowledged by an initiative called the ‘Makerspace movement’, which started in US libraries. The movement is part of an ongoing evaluation looking into what the role of the modern library should be in our society. Makerspaces are places where people can come together and create, explore, tinker, re-engineer and involve themselves in problem solving and discovery.

Here are our picks of books that inspire creativity and exploration in children:

 Inspiring making to make small things with Violet Mackerel by Anna Branford

Violet Mackerel loves to make things – especially small things. Let Violet show you how to make some of her favourite small things: small things to wear, small things to use and small things to give. Packed full of crafty ideas and lots of thinking outside the square! All of the fun and small things Violet shows you how to make can easily be made with things you have at home!


Inspiring cooking cook french: Les Enfants Cuisinent a la Francaise by Claudine Pepin

According to Jacques Pepin, “the moment for a child to be in the kitchen is from the moment they are born.” Kids Cook French, written by his daughter Claudine Pepin, is a fun, interactive cookbook for kids that introduces them to the art and joy of cooking. It gets them interested in making their own meals and better eating habits, while also teaching them the importance of culture.


Inspiring tinkering Kids learn by making stuff by Curt Gabrielson

In this book, you’ll learn tinkering techniques in key science areas, how to let kids learn science with hands-on tinkering, engaging techniques for science learning and step-by-step instructions for activities that don’t end with a single project, but that provide many paths for tinkering forward.


Inspiring exploration by Weldon Owen

Let science blow your mind with the Exploratorium! Take a good look around: The ho-hum spots you inhabit every day are actually secret laboratories full of fascinating and eye-popping wonder—from the instant you wake up to the time you nod off at night! Discover these awe-inspiring scientific playgrounds with Exploralab—the hands-on, action-packed activity guide from the world’s most beloved and fun-filled laboratory of all, the Exploratorium in San Francisco.


Inspiring art play Oops by Barney Saltzberg

This book demonstrates the many ways that torn, crinkled, and smudged bits of paper can be transformed into various shapes and images.


Inspiring gardening Step-by-step Cooking and Gardening Projects for Kids by Nancy McDougall

Suitable for budding gardeners and chefs, a guide to cooking and gardening presents a range of more than three hundred activities and simple recipes–from growing fruits and vegetables to cooking them for delicious results–all shown in clear, colour photographs.

Check out our collection of ‘non-boring’ school activity books on Pinterest.

This blog was inspired by an article called ‘Books on making, tinkering and creating’ by Megan Daley and published via

Celebrating the world of coffee table books

There’s something about having book candy sitting on your coffee table…or lining up in a stylish manner on a bookshelf.  I must admit, I am a bit of an interiors addict, and nothing pleases me more than merging my love of books and love of interiors. The children’s rooms have front facing shelves so we can enjoy the delightful (and have you noticed increasingly stylish?) book covers. Our lounge room is also home to books that are often rotated between the bookshelf and then curated subtly on the coffee table.

Real Living Magazine has recently been adding a selection of coffee table books to the pages of their magazine, and boy this month they are beautiful. So I thought as we are celebrating readers of all genres this month, I’d share their beautiful coffee table candy.


Book Cases: From Salvage to Storage by Aurelie Drouet

Bookshelves showcase our favourite books and most treasured objects. They are useful and practical but, far from reducing them to their simplest function, we love that they reflect our style and individuality, becoming design features in their own right and harmoniously fitting into our living spaces. They are also relatively easy to make and accessible to everyone. No need to be an experienced handyman to realise these original designs. This book presents 14 creations with step-by-step photos, plans, and technical tips. There’s also an injection of inspiration with the more ambitious bookcase projects by leading designers and architects.


Florentine: The True Cuisine of Florence by Emiko Davies

Florentine is a collection of delicious recipes and stunning photographs from Tuscany’s capital. Emiko Davies draws on her personal experience of traditional Florentine cuisine to share recipes that transport readers to the piazzas of Florence. From the morning ritual of la pasticceria (the pastry shop) and il forno (the bakery), the tantalizing fresh produce of il mercato (the market) and il macellaio (the butcher) through to the evening romance of la trattoria, it will take you on a unique stroll through the city’s streets to the heart of its culture.


Best Kitchen Basics by Mark Best

Best Kitchen Basics beats the revolutionary drum in the domestic kitchen – no longer are high-end techniques or recipes the sole domain of multi-award-winning restaurants like Best’s Sydney fine diner Marque and his bistros Pei Modern in Melbourne and Sydney. Here, Mark Best breaks it down, putting the individual elements of each recipe into the home cook’s hands and empowering them to think differently. It includes 100 original recipes built around 30 accessible ingredients – from eggplant to pumpkin to chocolate and eggs. Best Kitchen Basics ups the ante on the familiar. Best insists that it is not a question of luxurious ingredients, simply the knowledge and wherewithal to unlock the beauty of some of the most basic elements of cooking.


Supernormal by Andrew McConnell

This cookbook is based on the restaurant of the same name where Andrew, owner and head chef, takes home cooks into the kitchen of his hugely popular pan-Asian eatery. Across eight chapters, he shares something of the McConnell magic, as well as menus for fans who aspire to a Supernormal-worthy spread at home. The book is filled with photographs from Earl Carter, who offers a behind-the-scenes take on the restaurant and its characters, as well as scenes from Tokyo, a long-time source of inspiration for McConnell, and his Flinders Lane eating house.


Life Hacks by Annabel Staff

Have you ever burnt your fingers trying to light a hard to reach candle wick? Try lighting it with spaghetti. Just how do you separate the yolk from the white of an egg? You use a plastic bottle, of course. When your ice-lolly starts melting, how do you stop your hands getting sticky? By using a cupcake wrapper, naturally…This book contains over thirty solutions to everyday problems encountered in the home or out and about, with each life hack demonstrated in a full colour photograph for easy reference.



Hello Tokyo by Ebony Bizys

This book by Japanese-based Australian blogger/crafter/designer/zine publisher Ebony Bizys is a cute and quirky guide to living a handmade lifestyle, filled with projects and ideas inspired by Ebony’s life in Tokyo. Capturing the charm, humour and originality of her eclectic and highly successful blog, Hello Sandwich, this book features craft projects and inspirational styling ideas, and gives the reader a glimpse of Japanese culture. Hello Tokyo is the quintessential Hello Sandwich publication. It captures Ebony’s fascination with the myriad treasures of everyday existence, ranging from personalised crafts such as handmade stationery and clothing accessories, as well as decorative items and storage solutions for the home; to recording your daily life and travels with a camera, journal or even a blog; to hosting, theming and styling a fun party or picnic.


A huge thanks to Real Living Magazine for inspiring us with such a terrific selection of titles.

If you are looking for more brilliant coffee table books, we have a Pinterest board full of them too. Hop on over and follow us.

The delight of being read to

Sometimes there is nothing better than having a story read to you. There are times when I am transported right back to the cosiness of childhood when I have had a story read to me.

A few weeks ago I took our children along to a book signing by one of their favourite authors and the look on their faces when she read from her book was of pure delight. Her voice, tone and use of inflection bought the characters to life in a way that only an author who knew what was coming up next in the story could do. This author showed as much passion for the characters in the book as did my children and it was wonderful to watch.

However, having a story read to you is not just for children and sadly we can’t always be there in person to have the authors read to us (how good would that be!). But there are a range of audiobooks that are read by the authors themselves and what a treat to is to have conviction and passion directly from the author. Others are books ready by voices you love…they are not necessarily the author, but someone who is a great storyteller.

Here is a list of a few of our favourites:

Yes Please read by Amy Poehler

Amy Poehler is hosting a dinner party and you’re invited! Welcome to the audiobook edition of Amy Poehler’s Yes Please. The guest list is star-studded with vocal appearances from Carol Burnett, Seth Meyers, Michael Schur, Patrick Stewart, Kathleen Turner, and even Amy’s parents. Yes Please is the ultimate audiobook extravaganza. Hear Amy read a chapter live in front of a young and attractive Los Angeles audience. While listening to Yes Please, you’ll laugh, you’ll cry, and you’ll become convinced that your phone is trying to kill you. Don’t miss this collection of stories, thoughts, ideas, lists, and haikus from the mind of one of our most beloved entertainers. Offering Amy’s thoughts on everything from her “too safe” childhood outside of Boston to her early days in New York City, her ideas about Hollywood and “the biz,” the demon that looks back at all of us in the mirror, and her joy at being told she has a “face for wigs”. Yes Please is chock-full of words, and wisdom, to live by.

The Happiness Project : Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun read by Gretchen Rubin

Gretchen Rubin had an epiphany one rainy afternoon in the unlikeliest of places: a city bus. “The days are long, but the years are short,” she realised. “Time is passing, and I’m not focusing enough on the things that really matter.” In that moment, she decided to dedicate a year to her happiness project.

In this lively and compelling account, Rubin chronicles her adventures during the twelve months she spent test-driving the wisdom of the ages, current scientific research, and lessons from popular culture about how to be happier. Among other things, she found that novelty and challenge are powerful sources of happiness; that money can help buy happiness, when spent wisely; that outer order contributes to inner calm; and that the very smallest of changes can make the biggest difference.


Angela’s Ashes read by Frank McCourt

Angela’s Ashes was a true publishing phenomenon. The winner of the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Royal Society of Literature Award (amongst others), this lyrical and poignant memoir topped bestseller charts the world over for more than two years and has since become a much loved modern classic. A heartfelt account of poverty in Ireland and emigration to America, Angela’s Ashes combines a personal perspective on a little-known aspect of modern history with Frank McCourt’s spellbinding story-telling, creating an enduring masterpiece in the process.

I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings read by Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou’s autobiography is a testament to the talents and resilience of this extraordinary writer. Loving the world, she also knows its cruelty. As a black woman she has known discrimination and extreme poverty, but also hope, joy, achievement and celebration. In this first volume of her six books of autobiography, Maya Angelou beautifully evokes her childhood with her grandmother in the American south of the 1930s. She learns the power of the white folks at the other end of town and suffers the terrible trauma of rape by her mother’s lover. ‘I write about being a Black American woman, however, I am always talking about what it’s like to be a human being. This is how we are, what makes us laugh, and this is how we fall and how we somehow, amazingly, stand up again’ – Maya Angelou

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone read by Stephen Fry

Stephen Fry brings the Harry Potter books magically to life for the listening audience in the fantastic, unabridged audiobook editions. The first is Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. When a letter arrives for unhappy but ordinary Harry Potter, a decade-old secret is revealed to him that apparently he’s the last to know. His parents were wizards, killed by a Dark Lord’s curse when Harry was just a baby, and which he somehow survived. Leaving his unsympathetic aunt and uncle for Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, Harry stumbles upon a sinister mystery when he finds a three-headed dog guarding a room on the third floor. Then he hears of a missing stone with astonishing powers, which could be valuable, dangerous – or both. An incredible adventure is about to begin.


A Short History of Nearly Everything read by Bill Bryson

A Short History of Nearly Everything is Bill Bryson’s quest to find out everything that has happened from the Big Bang to the rise of civilisation – how we got from there, being nothing at all, to here, being us. His challenge is to take subjects that normally bore the pants off most of us, and see if there isn’t some way to render them comprehensible to people who have never thought they could be interested in science. It’s not so much about what we know, as about how we know what we know. How do we know what is in the centre of the Earth, or what a black hole is, or where the continents were 600 million years ago? How did anyone ever figure these things out? On his travels through time and space, Bill Bryson takes us with him on the ultimate eye-opening journey, and reveals the world in a way most of us have never seen it before.

One more thing. Have you heard of Story Box Library?

The Story Box Library is something we have recently stumbled across. It is an online subscription based ‘reading room’ where the wonderful world of Australian Children’s Literature is on permanent exhibit and read by a diverse range of local storytellers – think Nick Cave, Missy Higgins, Dany Katz and Claire Bowditch. The stories are a little bit cheeky, a little bit charming and a whole lot of fun.

Top Poetry and Short Story Collections

Poetry and short stories are perfect examples of “Less is More”.  (And also, in many instances, “shorter is harder”). These short pieces can encapsulate a moment or a world as well as longer formats; and their shorter form means you can dip in-and-out of a collection easily – perfect for today’s busy lifestyles.  Here are some suggested volumes to get you started:

Sentenced to Life by Clive James

Since a terminal diagnosis “with the lot” in 2010 (leukaemia, emphysema and kidney failure), Clive James has been focusing his energy on what he loves, but probably hasn’t done enough of – writing poetry.  The result has been an outpouring of beautifully crafted work.  Sentenced to Life is a collection of 37 poems, including the poignant Japanese Maple, which has gone viral since publication. The poems are elegiac and rueful but never morbid, with regular glimpses of Clive James’ familiar wit.  And while Clive may feel embarrassed about still being alive (his condition having improved due to experimental therapies), his readers (and literature too) are certainly benefitting from his extended farewell. Few Days in the Country: and other Stories by Elizabeth Harrower

Last week’s Stella Prize shortlisting of A Few Days in the Country caps off a remarkable backstory for Elizabeth Harrower and her work.  Elizabeth Harrower is a rediscovered literary star who, having written a number of acclaimed novels and short stories, stopped writing abruptly in the early 1970s.  Forty years later, her works have been resurrected by Text Publishing.  A Few Days in the Country is the first compilation of Elizabeth Harrower’s short stories; some had been published previously, while others have lain in the author’s archive until now.  Although the stories are set in an earlier era, they are powerful explorations of loneliness, emotional abuse and depression; their themes of class, gender and power remain fresh and relevant today.

Airmail: Taking Women of Letters to the World curated by Michaela McGuire and Marieke Hardy Women of Letters anthologies are not really short stories, but I have included them here because they are short, entertaining and beautifully evocative.  Women of Letters started as Australian literary events where wise and wonderful women – “dames of stage, screen and page” – share letters they have written to set topics.  These letters are witty, poignant, vulnerable, and offer fascinating glimpses into the people behind their public personas.  Airmail takes this concept further through an international focus, with correspondents from Indonesia, Ireland, the UK and the US.  Read the heartfelt and hilarious contributions of letters from an impressive lineup including Rookie magazine founder Tavi Gevinson, musician Moby, and author Monica McInerney.

The Complete Short Stories (Volumes Oneand Two) by Roald Dahl Dahl is best known for his children’s fiction but his adult fiction – especially his short stories – are also incredible.  For adult audiences, Roald Dahl’s wicked sense of humour takes on an unsettling and often sexy edge; he became famous for sinister, gasp-inducing twists.  These two volumes present 55 short stories, written between 1944-1988, in chronological order.  Volume One Roald Dahl’s earliest stories, inspired by his wartime exploits as a fighter pilot; we also see the development of his sinister, black humour in classic stories such as Lamb to the Slaughter.  Volume Two contains stories written between 1954-1988, showing Roald Dahl’s mastery of the savage twist, and includes eight stories not available in any other printed edition.


Voyage of the Sable Venus and Other Poems by Robin Coste Lewis

Voyage of the Sable Venus and Other Poems won the National Book Award for poetry – an outstanding achievement for a debut work.  The title poem is an extensive work made up almost entirely of titles and descriptions of artworks showing the black female figure; it explores how black female bodies have been depicted in 40,000 years’ worth of Western art, and what that means for notions of race and cultural identity.  Other poems are intimate and autobiographical, on topics as diverse as travel, family, death, history and sexuality.   In her National Book Award citation, Robin Coste Lewis was praised for the “aesthetic and psychological complexity of her work, [which] is underscored by its clarity”.

A year of reading the world

I first stumbled on Ann Morgan’s book ‘Reading the World’ upon recommendation from a friend. When you’re grounded by the humbling mundanity of work and family, living vicariously through someone fulfilling their own huge personal goals has its own rich voyeuristic quality.’s goal was to read her way through 196 of the world’s independent countries. No small feat.   This goal was inspired by the lack of diversity in Morgan’s own bookshelf and also by the 2012 London Olympics. Morgan says that the world came to London and she went out to meet the world.

Some of the challenges she encountered included getting access to translated works: just 4.5 per cent of poetry, fiction and drama works published in the UK every year are translations. There are also many countries that have a small amount of texts translated into English. Some countries (such as Nauru and Tuvala) didn’t have very much written down at all. Other countries have cultures of almost exclusively oral storytelling. There are also countries that won’t permit books being leaked out to Western folk.

Essentially like most ambitious goals,  it wasn’t an easy task – but it was an incredibly fulfilling one (and all achieved in a year). Morgan’s Ted Talk is also compelling viewing if you are questioning how widely you are actually reading.  Part of the charm of this book is her engagement with her online community and the role people from around the globe played in helping her achieve her quest.


P.S. If you want an easy way of getting your hands on the books Ann read, go and check out our Pinterest board with links to almost all the books on her list:

Celebrating Readers: TED Talks and their Books

Have you discovered TED Talks yet?  TED started as a small technology conference, and has grown into a global network of events showcasing “ideas worth spreading”.  TED events attract speakers ranging from artists and scientists to rockstars and political leaders – and whether they are leaders in their field, or rising stars, TED presenters are always charismatic and entertaining.  TED Talks have become synonymous with riveting presentations that are intelligent and thought-provoking.

Besides enjoying TED Talks as video content, you can also enjoy them in book form.  Here are a selection of important, interesting and funny books and TED Talks:

Quiet: the Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain

If, like me, you feel that introversion is undervalued in our society, you might be pleased to discover this book.  In Quiet: the Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking, Susan Cain argues that the development of an “extrovert ideal” in Western culture has resulted in the undervaluing of introverts, leading to “a colossal waste of talent, energy and happiness”.  She explores the different behaviours of introverts and extroverts, demonstrates that introversion is both common and normal, and argues that introvert traits should not be considered inferior.  Part social commentary, part manifesto and part self-help manual, Quiet has been hugely successful and has influenced changes in education and employment, such as hiring / admissions policies, and office / classroom design. 

Susan Cain’s TED Talk, called The power of introverts, has been viewed over 13 million times, ranking it within the Top 20 TED Talks ever.  

Follow Your Gut: the Enormous Impact of Tiny Microbes by Rob Knight, with Brendan Buhler

Follow Your Gut: the Enormous Impact of Tiny Microbes describes what we currently know about how microbes affect human biology.  This is cutting-edge science – researchers have only just realised that these microscopic lifeforms, both inside and on our bodies, are important to how human bodies function; and they have already discovered potential links between microbes and health issues including mood, sleep patterns, obesity and allergies.  This work has enormous potential impact on how we understand and manage health issues.  Follow Your Gut expands upon Rob Knight’s TED Talk, How microbes make us who we are, which can be viewed here.

Beyond Measure: the Big Impact of Small Changes by Margaret Heffernan

Beyond Measure: the Big Impact of Small Changes is about organisational culture – hard to quantify and change, and crucial to the success or failure of any group. Margaret Heffernan argues that, while culture makes a big difference, it is built from small actions, habits and choices – small acts that can arise from anywhere within (and sometimes outside of) the organisation.  She challenges her readers to opt for a collegiate mentality built around helpfulness, rather than a hierarchy where star performers are offered the most power.  Beyond Measure is based on Margaret Heffernan’s talk entitled Why it’s time to forget the pecking order at work, one of three talks she has presented at various TED events.

To Reach the Clouds by Philippe Petit

Philippe Petit became world-famous for his unauthorised high-wire walk between the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center.  To Reach the Clouds is his recollection of why and how he achieved this feat.  Through Philippe Petit’s writing we see glimpses of his dedication and obsessiveness;  we also see his unwavering belief in the power of inspiration and creativity.  To Reach the Clouds is dramatic, fascinating, and ultimately uplifting.  It has inspired both a documentary (Man on Wire), and a feature film (The Walk).  Philippe Petit’s TED Talk, The journey across the high wire is available here.

Bonk: the Curious Coupling of Science and Sex by Mary Roach

I love Mary Roach’s first book Stiff: the Curious Lives of Human Cadavers, so am thrilled that Bonk forms the basis of a top TED Talk.  Bonk traces the history of scientific research into sex.  It shows how our fascination with sex has long inspired – as far back as the ancient Greeks – academic interest in how and why it all works; and that this juxtaposition of serious study with a seemingly frivolous subject often results in “mildly outrageous, terrifically courageous, seemingly efficacious displays of creative problem-solving”.  Mary Roach’s chatty style, and her skilful balance of the scholarly and the quirky makes for compulsive, hilarious reading.

Mary Roach’s TED Talk, 10 things you didn’t know about orgasm, is in the Top 10 most watched TED Talks ever, with over 18 million views.

How to encourage your child to read more

This month we are celebrating readers of all genres and as we had such a great response to our post last year on encouraging children to read we thought we would share it again for you.

Most people would agree that reading is a good thing, and that it is critical to language and literacy development.  But not everyone is a natural bookworm – so here are some tips on how to help your child develop a love of reading.

Tip 1: Reading should be fun

Your first goal is to convince your child that reading is a pleasurable activity that they will want to do again and again.  Focus on making reading a fun experience.

Tip 2: Target their interests

Choose books that reflect your child’s interests – whether it be trucks/ princesses/ food/ shoes.  There are books on just about every topic – the right one can get the reader hooked on reading for life.

Tip 3: Create a reading-friendly lifestyle

Create a comfortable space for reading – it can be a couch, or beanbag, or cushions, or in bed – and stock up on a variety of books or other reading materials, such as magazines or newspapers.

Incorporate reading into your weekly routine, for example by visiting your local library regularly, or by setting aside some “reading time” at bedtime or on weekends.

Tip 4: Model good reading habits

Let your child see you read.  Show that you enjoy reading, want to do it regularly, and that you feel confident about reading.  You can also explain why you love reading, such as “reading helps me make sense of things”, or “reading makes me laugh”.

If you want to improve your own confidence in reading, there are community resources to support you.  Contact your local library or adult education organisation to see how they can help.

Tip 5: Try different formats

Reading isn’t just about novels.  Some children prefer non-fiction (information books), particularly illustrated titles.  Don’t forget that newspapers, magazines, even recipes and instruction manuals, can offer good reading opportunities – whatever interests the child.

If your child prefers pictures to words, then why not try picture books or graphic novels? There are many sophisticated picture books aimed at older readers (such as The Arrival by Shaun Tan)  , and the graphic novel format has been used on a range of topics including literary classics (for example Nikki Greenberg’s adaptation of Hamlet) .  Children who like to listen to stories can try to read and listen at the same time – play an audiobook and encourage them to follow the story on a printed copy.

Tip 6: Make it a family activity

Some children may find reading more appealing if it is done as a family activity.  It could be reading aloud to each other; or reading silently side by side; or listening to an audiobook together during a car trip.  It can even be watching a film adaptation together (and discussing how it differs from the original book).  Be creative, and choose something that all of you can enjoy.

Tip 7: Talk to the experts

Teachers, school librarians, local librarians and children’s booksellers all have professional knowledge and experience in engaging reluctant readers.  Talk to them and ask for useful strategies and/or book recommendations.   Beloved author Paul Jennings, who is also a teacher and speech pathologist, has written a guide called “The Reading Bug and how to help your child catch it”.

Final tip: Relax


Remember Tip 1: Reading should be fun?  Encouraging children to read should not be stressful for parents either.
Don’t worry if they don’t read everyday – this is understandable, especially at the beginning.  Be gentle but persistent with your encouragement.
Don’t worry if they don’t choose “good” literature, or if they only read about a single topic or character; sooner or later they will branch out.
Don’t worry if they choose something that is too hard or too easy; gently offer a more appropriate alternative, but also respect their choice.
Finally, try not to feel disappointed if your child shows no interest in reading your own childhood favourites.  Encourage them to read widely, and one day they may give your favourite books another chance!

Celebrating Autobiographies & Biographies

Most people who read books tend to have a particular genre of book that they prefer. Some read science fiction, others poetry, mysteries, self help or personal growth. While some readers focus exclusively in their area of career focus.

In our household, it is biographies and autobiographies specifically that are king. Reading a great biography (or autobiography) can be as exciting as your favourite thriller, provide more valuable and useful lessons than most self-help best sellers and offer more professional development wisdom than you can apply.

Delving into the lives and learnings of others offers a number of benefits and insights. There’s our top five reasons for choosing this genre.

  • They let you see the world in new ways.

Rather than being completely focused on your professional discipline, looking at the way you and your colleagues always look at things, reading about someone from a different era, a different background or a totally different set of life experiences will give you new perspective.

  • They allow you to stand on the ‘shoulders of giants’.

Sir Isaac Newton wrote “If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” and that is exactly what reading biographies can do for you. They can allow you to see further because of what these people have achieved.

  • They offer you a mentor.

If you have read about the life of Abraham Lincoln, Gandhi, Churchill or anyone else you select, you have had a glimpse into their mind and now have the advantage or “knowing” them. These people can become your mentors at a distance, if you allow yourself the chance to think about what advice they might give you, or what they might do in a the situation or choice you are facing.

  • They promote self discovery.

A good self help or professional development book will outline specific steps, tools, techniques and approaches to try. These can be valuable and successful shortcuts to help you make improvements and get results in most any area of your life. A biography, on the other hand, won’t be as direct. You will discover ideas and approaches on your own through the stories and experiences of others. This discovery learning process is often far more satisfying, and most always more lasting, than reading a list of steps.

  • They remind you that history often repeats itself.

Reading about the real experiences of others gives context for the decisions and consequences that we all will face. History (recent or distant) often repeats itself because those who are making history were, and are, human beings.

Here’s a few of our favourites to entice you to share this wonderful genre.

I am Malala by Malala Yousafzai

In 2009 Malala Yousafzai began writing a blog on BBC Urdu about life in the Swat Valley as the Taliban gained control, at times banning girls from attending school. When her identity was discovered, Malala began to appear in both Pakistani and international media, advocating the freedom to pursue education for all. In October 2012, gunmen boarded Malala’s school bus and shot her in the face, a bullet passing through her head and into her shoulder. Remarkably, Malala survived the shooting.At a very young age, Malala Yousafzai has become a worldwide symbol of courage and hope. Her shooting has sparked a wave of solidarity across Pakistan, not to mention globally, for the right to education, freedom from terror and female emancipation.


Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela

Long Walk To Freedom recreates the drama of the experiences that helped shape Nelson Mandela’s destiny. From his imprisonment on Robben Island, to his remarkable journey to freedom and inauguration as President, this work describes his frustrations and strength of heart.








Losing my Virginity by Sir Richard Branson

“Oh, screw it, let’s do it.” That’s the philosophy that has allowed Richard Branson, in slightly more than twenty-five years, to spawn so many successful ventures. From the airline business (Virgin Atlantic Airways), to music (Virgin Records and V2), to cola (Virgin Cola), to retail (Virgin Megastores), and nearly a hundred others, ranging from financial services to bridal wear, Branson has a track record second to none. Losing My Virginity is the unusual, frequently outrageous autobiography of one of the great business geniuses of our time. When Richard Branson started his first business, he and his friends decided that “since we’re complete virgins at business, let’s call it just that: Virgin.” Since then, Branson has written his own “rules” for success, creating a group of companies with a global presence, but no central headquarters, no management hierarchy, and minimal bureaucracy.


Start Something That Matters by Blake Mycoskie

Blake Mycoskie is the founder of TOMS Shoes and a contestant on The Amazing Race. Mycoskie uses his experience with TOMS, as well as interviews with leaders of non-profits and corporations, to convey valuable lessons about entrepreneurship, transparency of leadership, and living by one’s values. This book displays the transformation from a businessperson to an advocate, in an account that outlines his philosophy about working in ways that both fulfils material desires and have philanthropic and social benefits.




Steve Jobs: The Exclusive Biography by Walter Isaacson

From bestselling author Walter Isaacson comes the landmark biography of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs. In Steve Jobs: The Exclusive Biography, Isaacson provides an extraordinary account of Jobs’ professional and personal life. Drawn from three years of exclusive and unprecedented interviews Isaacson has conducted with Jobs as well as extensive interviews with Jobs’ family members, key colleagues from Apple and its competitors. Steve Jobs: The Exclusive Biography is the definitive portrait of the greatest innovator of his generation.