Monthly Archives: November 2016

The Best Holiday Books for Christmas

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

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

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

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







The Life Adventures of Santa Claus by L Frank Baum

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


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

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


Letters from Father Christmas by JRR Tolkin

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


Holidays on Ice by David Sedaris

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



The Gift by Cecelia Ahem

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








Hercule Poirot’s Christmas by Agatha Christie

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




The Christmas Card by Dilly Court

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

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

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

Thanksgiving and Giving Thanks

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

The Thanksgiving Story by Alice Dalgliesh, illustrated by Helen Sewell

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

‘Twas the Night Before Thanksgiving by Dav Pilkey

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

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

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

The Thankful Book by Todd Parr

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

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

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

What’s on Your Festive Table this Year?

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

Jamie’s Christmas by Jamie Oliver

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

Celebrating Christmas by the Australian Women’s Weekly

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

Basics to Brilliance by Donna Hay

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

Appetites: a Cookbook by Anthony Bourdain with Laurie Woolever

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

The Cook’s Table by Stephanie Alexander

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

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

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

Books to help you win the Board Games This Christmas

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

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


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

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

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


Trivial Pursuit

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

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



Total Diplomacy: The Art of Winning RISK by Ehsan Honary

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

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



Collins Little Book of Scrabble Secrets by Collins Dictionaries

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





Element: Yoga for Beginners DVD

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








Bring on Family Board Game Fun Time!

Great Books of 2016 to Gift This Christmas

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

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

For the Postman…

Every Song Ever by Ben Ratliff

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



Party of One by Dave Holmes

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



For the Teacher…


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

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




Who Cooked Adam Smith’s Dinner? by Katrine Marcal

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


For the Hairdresser…


When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

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


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

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


For the work Kris Kringle…

Seinfeldia by Jennifer Kieshin Armstrong

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


Jamie Oliver’s Christmas Cookbook by Jamie Oliver

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


For the local donation…


Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by JK Rowling

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






Ruby Red Shoes Goes To London by Kate Knapp

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







…and a little something for you


The Art of Dinosaur Designs by Louise Olsen

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