All posts by Karen Seligman

About Karen Seligman

Karen Seligman is a librarian working in public libraries. As a lifelong booklover, she loves having access to a library’s worth of books! As a librarian, an important (and fun) part of her work is about connecting people to new ideas and new books. Karen is a literary magpie who can't settle on a single favourite genre – she loves narrative nonfiction, historical fantasies and food writing.

Party Ideas to Welcome 2022

Start 2022 in an upbeat mood with delicious food and drink. Whether you are staying home or travelling, keeping things low-key or expecting a crowd, now is the time to take a break, mark the end of this eventful year, and make wishes for the next. And to help you relax, Team Booko has done the work for you, and gathered some great food and drink ideas for this holiday season:

Gin Made Me Do It: 60 Beautifully Botanical Cocktails by Jassy Davis

If you’re excited about the profusion of flavoured gins available, but don’t know where to start, Jassy Davis is here to help you. In Gin Made Me Do It, gin aficionado and cocktail maven Jassy Davis explains everything you need to know: how to choose the perfect blend, mix the ultimate martini, and deliver delicious cocktails for every occasion. Her recipes range from classics such as the Aviator and the Vesper, to more adventurous styles incorporating yuzu, to recipes for DIY gin infusions . Gin Made Me Do It showcases the versatile potential of gin – its refreshing herbaceousness isn’t just for summer refreshment, but can add depth and flavour to cocktails for any season and occasion.

Celebrate: Plant-Based Recipes for Every Occasion by Bettina Campolucci Bordi

Celebrate does what its title says – it offers a collection of delicious plant-based recipes for special occasions and entertaining. Each section offers a complete menu for an occasion such as Christmas, Halloween, birthdays, or picnics. Bettina Campolucci Bordi has focussed on making her recipes accessible and affordable, focussing on common, seasonal produce and not relying on exotic ingredients; she also shows us clever ways to maximise yield and minimise kitchen waste. Sugar-free, gluten-free, free-from and seasonal alternatives are provided for each recipe, so nobody is excluded. Whether you or your loved ones are vegan, vegetarian, flexitarian, or just want some inspiration for plant-based dishes, this will become your go-to guide!

Zero Proof: 90 Non-alcoholic Drinks for Mindful Drinking by Elva Ramirez

No-alcohol and low-alcohol drinks are a major trend right now, driven by a desire for healthier, more mindful drinking. In Zero Proof, Elva Ramirez, walks us through a range of non-alcoholic craft cocktails as imagined by top bars in London, New York, Paris, Mexico City and more. From refreshing botanicals to spicy herbals and velvety chocolate flavours, these lush and sophisticated recipes showcase the creativity of top bartenders, who strive to recreate the full sensations and elegant cocktail experience without the alcohol. Zero Proof offers plenty of inspiration, as well as a wealth of techniques, on how to take your zero-proof drinks to the next level.

Poppy Cooks: The Food You Need by Poppy O’Toole

Tiktok sensation Poppy O’Toole is the real deal – behind her entertaining cooking videos (100 million views and counting), cheerful personality and her infectious enthusiasm for potatoes (she calls herself the Potato Queen), lie some serious (Michelin-trained) chef skills. And now, in Poppy Cooks, she offers the full details on how to recreate her unfussy-but-totally-delicious dishes. Poppy Cooks is divided into twelve sections, each starting with a core skill/recipe – such as pasta sauce, roast chicken or salad dressing; she then shows how each core recipe can be used to create other types of dishes – the Staple, the Brunch, the Potato Hero and the Fancy AF recipes for entertaining. Perfect for novice cooks (especially teens and young adults) wanting to learn some great standby dishes, as well as the skills and confidence to adapt them to suit any and every occasion.

The Martini: Perfection in a Glass by Matt Hranek

Martinis are one of the best-known cocktails in the world – but there’s much more to them than that “shaken-not-stirred” mythology.  Man-about-town Matt Hranek (who has already written about another iconic drink, The Negroni), is here to share his enthusiasm and knowledge about everything martini-related, from its nineteenth-century-origins, to the low-down on ingredients (Matt Hranek favours the classic gin martini over vodka), methods, garnish, equipment, and glassware; and to where to get the best martinis around the world. There are also recipes for 35 different variations, from famous bars, famous drinkers, and the author’s own repertoire. The stylish photography matches the sophistication of this deliciously simple drink. The Martini makes a handy reference for your drinks collection, as well as an elegant gift for fans of the drink.

The Kitchen Studio: Culinary Creations by Artists by Phaidon Editors

Is The Kitchen Studio an art book or a cookbook? Maybe it’s both – with a bit of autobiography thrown in. The Kitchen Studio is the result of asking 70 acclaimed contemporary artists to contribute their most exquisite and meaningful culinary creations. Some have responded literally, with family recipes such as chickpea pancakes; others have done so professionally, showing the art they have been creating with food; while others have tackled the brief playfully and with political awareness, such as the “patriotic jelly” in red, white and blue, studded with toy soldiers. The Kitchen Studio is an unexpected, creative and fascinating fusion of food and art; incorporating a range of sketches, photographs, collages, paintings, and personal snaps, each contribution is intensely personal, offering glimpses of the artist’s history, influence as well as their artistic practice.

Last Minute Christmas Ideas

Need to organise a last minute gift?  Perhaps you have missed the postal deadline, or your original gift is delayed in the post; or maybe you have an unexpected guest, or are out of ideas for someone hard-to-buy-for.  Luckily, the internet has given us more options to make like we’ve had it planned all along.  You can send specific eBooks, eAudiobooks, safely and almost instantaneously, with just a few clicks; to find the availability and best prices of eBooks and eAudiobooks, simply click on the “Audiobook” or “eBook” edition buttons below the book title when you are searching on Booko.  (See the screenshot below)

If you have found the perfect book, but know that it won’t get to your recipient in time, you can try the eGIFT option at Boomerang Books .  Their eGIFT certificate is a PDF which includes the details of the book(s) you have bought, plus you can add a personalised message. The eGift PDF will be emailed to you with your order confirmation – you can then print or forward this PDF to your recipient.  This is also a great way to give a pre-order book – your loved one will become one of the first to receive it when it is released!  To use this eGIFT service, search Booko as usual, click through to the Boomerang Books listing (taking note of Booko’s voucher code!):

add to cart at the Boomerang website, then select eGift during checkout:

Booko’s Guide to Gift Certificates
Booko has compiled a list of gift certificates offered by book retailers from around the world.  These are a great way to buy for someone overseas, or someone who is hard to buy for.  (And also great for young children, who might love the idea of choosing a book by themselves!)  If you are interested in supporting local / small businesses this Christmas, many of your favourite local / indie bookstores also offer electronic gift certificates – contact them for details.   Besides physical books / eBooks and eAudio, many bookstores will allow you to redeem other stock using their gift certificates.  To give you some inspiration (and to shout-out to some of Team Booko’s favourite local and independent bookstores), here are some unusual and lovely gift ideas that can be redeemed using gift vouchers:

Book Bundle subscriptions
The Little Bookroom is a Melbourne icon and probably one of the best specialist children’s bookstores in Australia.  They have a huge range catering to ages and stages from babies to YA; and they have super-knowledgeable staff who can offer suggestions, or even track down particular books or editions.  Besides a classic gift voucher, you can also purchase subscriptions to Book Bundles, which will send your recipient three hand-picked books every three months.  Six different age categories, from toddlers to teens, are available.

Limited Edition Art Prints
Alison Lester offers limited edition prints of her picture book art through her online store.  The prints come from a range of her popular books, including Magic Beach and Kissed by the Moon, and depicts childhood with great humour and insight.  Her store also offers signed copies of her books, t-shirts, and mugs as well children’s crockery sets.  All items from Alison’s store can be redeemed using her email gift card.

eBook Readers
eReaders offer us Booklovers new and convenient ways to read – even if we still love the feel of a physical book in our hands. They are compact and lightweight, have a huge amount of storage (most models can store thousands of titles), and can offer customisation including large font, dark mode and even Read Aloud, to help improve your reading experience.  And you can get download books instantly upon purchase. The Kobo family of eReaders are particularly popular amongst those who buy eReaders for young readers – the e-Ink screen is comfortable to read; they can display eBooks from a range of stores including Google, Booktopia, and Dymocks as well as Kobo’s own store; and you can also use Kobos to access free eBooks from participating public libraries. 

The Scariest Books on the Market

October seems a great time to dip into suspenseful or horror fiction – marrying our insatiable appetite for crime thrillers with an increasing enthusiasm for celebrating Halloween. Get your fill of spine-tingling chills with our selection of thrillers:

The Shadow House by Anna Downes

Anna Downes follows up her impressive debut with this hard-to-put-down domestic horror. Alex heads to rural NSW with her teenage son and her baby, to escape an abusive relationship back in the city. The ecovillage called Pine Ridge, with an idyllic location and welcoming residents, seems the perfect place for a fresh start. It doesn’t take long for Alex to realise that, in escaping her own shadowy past, she may have stumbled upon someone else’s – and this time, there may be nowhere to run. The Shadow House is a creepy, perplexing thriller that follows two mothers across dual timelines, as the past begins to repeat itself in sinister and increasingly bizarre ways.

The Last Thing He Told Me by Laura Dave

Becoming a bestseller is just the beginning for The Last Thing He Told Me – in less than six months, it has become a Reese Witherspoon Book Club pick, appeared on holiday reading lists by Vogue and CNN (and others), and is now being adapted for Apple TV Plus (with Julia Roberts as star and co-producer).  The Last Thing He Told Me is about Hannah, who’s left alone with an antagonistic stepdaughter when her newly wed husband Owen disappears.  Then an unexplained bag of cash, and the FBI turns up.  To find Owen, and unravel his true identity, Hannah and Bailey will have to team up and learn to trust each other.  Laura Dave has crafted a fast-paced domestic thriller that is also a beautifully-written relationship drama.

The Dark Remains by William McIlvanney and Ian Rankin

The Dark Remains is Ian Rankin’s labour of love  – he has completed a story started by the late William McIlvanney, whom he regards as his mentor.  This story is a prequel to McIlvanney’s Jack Laidlaw trilogy, widely regarded as the first “Tartan Noir” novels.  The Dark Remains is about Jack Laidlaw’s first case – back when he was younger, a misfit who didn’t make friends easily, but already gaining a reputation for having “a sixth sense for what’s happening on the streets.” Besides the central whodunit around a murdered lawyer, what will delight readers are the evocative descriptions – of autumn in Glasgow in 1972,  a city awash in rain, whisky, vice and blood; and of the stoic Laidlaw in his formative years.  Ian Rankin has continued McIlvanney’s writing style seamlessly in this atmospheric, witty and sharp mystery.

The Housemate by Sarah Bailey

An unsolved mystery from the start of her career comes back to haunt, and potentially harm, seasoned journalist Olive Groves.  Dubbed the Housemate Homicide, the case involved three housemates – one dead, one missing, and one accused of murder.  Nine years later, the missing housemate is found dead on a remote property, and Olive (Oli) once again works on the story.  Paired with young podcaster Cooper, Oli unearths facts and secrets about the case that poses danger for her new family and threaten to destroy her present happiness.  Set in Melbourne, The Housemate is a crime procedural that also offers insights into journalistic practices.  Sarah Bailey’s storytelling shows great assurance, with a satisfyingly tense and complex build up until the flurry of revelations at the novel’s climax.

False Witness by Karin Slaughter

Karin Slaughter’s latest book weaves a dark, compelling legal thriller with the complex relationship dramas around siblings and with parents.  Leigh Coulton has worked hard to build what looks like a normal life after a traumatic and neglected childhood.  However, someone who knows the secrets of her past is threatening to bring it all down.  Leigh’s lastest client as a defence attorney is Andrew Tenant, a rape suspect in a high-profile case.  Leigh quickly realises that she was chosen by Andrew because he recognises her – and knows secrets that she has been hiding for 23 years, about a brutal crime involving her and her estranged sister, Callie.  How will Leigh avoid Andrew’s threats without compromising her case, whilst not exposing the secrets that will destroy her hard-won happiness?  False Witness is a gripping read that doesn’t shy away from tough topics, and excels at portraying family love and loyalty. This standalone thriller is a treat for current fans, and a great entry point for readers new to Karin Slaughter’s books.

My Best Friend’s Murder by Polly Phillips

My Best Friend’s Murder is an addictive psychological thriller about a toxic, multilayered friendship between two women – a “frenemy” dynamic that will be recognisable, perhaps even relatable for readers. Bec and Izzy have been best friends their whole lives, having been together through the many ups and downs of their teen and adult years – nonetheless, a persistent dark undercurrent has finally overwhelmed their relationship.  The book opens with Bec discovering a critically injured Izzy at the bottom of some stairs; we then learn more about their relationship through a series of flashbacks and flashforwards.  The tension builds as we explore the whydunit rather than the whodunit.  In this award-winning debut, Polly Phillips has created a pair of unlovely-but-memorable characters, and  has written about the complicated nature of close friendships with insightful perception.

Spring Clean Your Mind – 6 of the best mindfulness books on the market

Spring cleaning is usually associated with physical spaces, but our mental spaces can benefit from cleaning and decluttering too.  If the new season has inspired you to aim for a fresh start, here are some books to help you declutter your mind, learn better habits, and strive for greater calm and happiness:

Outer Order Inner Calm: Declutter and Organize to Make More Room for Happiness by Gretchen Rubin

It’s so easy to accumulate clutter when we live in a consumerist culture – but clutter can impact our emotional wellbeing by leaving us feeling stressed, overwhelmed and out of control.  So it is no surprise that Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project and regular explorer of the topics of habits and happiness, looks at how to improve mental clarity and happiness by decluttering your home.  Outer Order Inner Calm is is full of advice on how to develop your own system to reduce and manage clutter; it also gives inspirational examples of how decluttering can reduce our sense of paralysis around the status quo, by creating headspace for considering new possibilities.

Stop Overthinking: 23 Techniques to Relieve Stress, Stop Negative Spirals, Declutter your Mind, and Focus on the Present by Nick Trenton

For many people, overthinking causes spiralling negative thoughts that affects both physical and mental health. It is exhausting, distracts you from what’s truly important, and can feel inescapable.  In Stop Overthinking, Nick Trenton offers 23 techniques that help us learn about our negative spiral triggers, identify and manage anxiety and stress attacks, declutter our minds as well as adopt relaxation techniques. Together these tools become a transformative strategy that ends vicious thought patterns by helping us control our thoughts, change our habits and ultimately rewire our brains.

Digital Minimalism in Everyday Life: Overcome Technology Addiction, Declutter Your Mind, and Reclaim Your Freedom by James W Williams and Amy White

Have you ever felt that devices and apps are taking over your life, or that you are wasting too much time, energy or focus on your smartphone?  Such problems seem more urgent than ever, but Digital Minimalism in Everyday Life is here to help.    James W Williams and Amy White offer useful discussions, tools and tips to help you regain control over your tech, using it in a more intentional, effective and ultimately enjoyable way.  There are chapters covering very timely issues including digital detox; digital addiction; decluttering your inbox/ desktop/ home screen; minimising the distraction of notifications; and excessive screentime for kids.

Kindfulness: Be a True Friend to Yourself with Mindful Self-Compassion by Padraig O’Morain

Kindfulness weaves together two self-care tools – mindfulness and self-compassion – into a powerful approach that can lower stress and anxiety, and improve your relationships with yourself and with others.  Kindfulness can be particularly helpful in managing perfectionism and self-criticism, and allows you to overcome procrastination and get on with your true goals. Kindfulness is a gentle, easy-to-read book with plenty of approachable exercises and affirmations to help you get into kindful thinking.

Still Life: the Myths and Magic of Mindful Living by Rebecca Pacheco

Rebecca Pacheco is a yoga teacher and blogger who has been informing and entertaining her fans with her understanding of yoga traditions.  In Still Life, she explores the practice and the misconceptions around mindfulness and meditation.  Her tone is wise but tough – she explains that mindfulness is not a cure-all, nor is it always easy or full of positivity; yet the process can improve our lives.  Still Life offers readers practical tools for developing a consistent mindfulness practice, as well as funny and compassionate anecdotes about Rebecca’s own experiences with mindfulness.

The Practice of Not Thinking: a Guide to Mindful Living by Ryunosuke Koike

The Practice of Not Thinking, a bestseller from Japan, helps us live more mindfully by re-engaging with our senses.  Tune into the present by looking instead of merely seeing, listening instead of hearing, and feeling instead of touching; this acts as an alternative to (over)thinking, which tends to create negativity and anxiety.  Zen priest Ryunosuke Koike uses his understanding of Zen and Buddhism to develop practical tips on how to breathe, listen, speak, laugh, love and sleep in ways that help us improve calm and appreciate more.

Spring Food Inspiration

A new season brings new produce, and some much-appreciated variety into our regular menus. If the warmer days and brighter sunshine are inspiring a craving for lighter, fresher foods, check out these great new cookbooks for Spring meal ideas:

Together by Jamie Oliver

I can totally agree with Jamie Oliver when he says that he really missed sharing meals with friends and family during lockdown. And looking forward to doing so again, has been the inspiration for his latest book, Together. Together is all about dishes designed for sharing, whether that means 2 people or 12; recipes are arranged into themed menus – such as taco nights, boozy lunches or picnics in the park – and are simple (or can be prepped ahead) so that you can spend less time on cooking and more time with guests. Like Jamie’s other books, Together is a complete toolkit, with additional tips on table decorations, accomodating dietary requirements, and event planning.

Every. Night. of. the. Week. : Sanity Solutions for the Daily Dinner Grind by Lucy Tweed

Even the best cooks can feel dragged down by the need to cook dinner every night – in which case Every. Night. of. the. Week. will perk you up with tasty inspiration and laughter. From one cult Instagram account, ENOTW has evolved into a website, a homewares collab and now a book – all of which retain Lucy Tweed’s distinctive sassy personality, her focus on clean ingredients and supporting local businesses, and the use of clever shortcuts to achieve deliciousness. Whether it’s a day where you want to cook, or one where you just need to get food into tummies, ENOTW will offer you something that looks and tastes amazing.

Seasonal Kitchen: 70+ Delicious Recipes from Fast Ed by Ed Halmagyi

Seasonal Kitchen offers 70+ recipes that are personal favourites of “Fast Ed” Halmagyi. He also sees it as a celebration of his almost 20 years with Better Homes and Gardens – the show that has made him one of the best known and liked on TV. Fast Ed’s understanding of seasonality has been honed during filming, where he has travelled all over Australia to showcase the flavours and produce of our diverse regions. This collection of breakfasts, snacks, mains and sweets are simple yet tasty, and perfectly suited to the relaxed, celebrated Aussie lifestyle.

Vegetable Simple by Eric Ripert

Take a sneak peek at how a Michelin-starred chef cooks and eats at home, with Eric Ripert’s Vegetable Simple. The recipes, such as seared shiitake mushrooms, and romaine lettuce grilled with Caesar dressing, offer elegant, classic flavours and many are surprisingly simple, with as few as two ingredients. Eric Ripert explains that many of the dishes are inspired by his childhood in Provence, and that they can be served as main meals or side dishes. The recipes are aimed at home cooks, supplemented by professional tricks that help readers achieve superior results.

Bowls & Broths: Build a Bowlful of Flavour from Scratch, with Dumplings, Noodles and More by Pippa Middlehurst

Just reading the title of this book makes me feel hungry – there’s nothing more nourishing and satisfying than a big bowl of broth studded with tasty bites; broths are also incredibly versatile, with flavours that span from light and clean, to rich and spicy. Pippa Middlehurst (aka @Pippy Eats) shares her passion for East- and Southeast-Asian bowl foods by showing you how to build a flavourful bowl from the bottom up, using seasoning and sauce, crunchy bits and fresh herbs, aromatics and toppings, to maximise the power of ingredients, texture and flavour. There are chapters on dumplings, noodles, hotpots, rice and even sweets, and plenty of tips on preparing ahead, catering for groups and stocking your freezer.

Linda McCartney’s Family Kitchen by Linda McCartney, with Paul, Mary & Stella McCartney

The late Linda McCartney, celebrated photographer and animal rights activist, played an important part in bringing meatless cooking into the mainstream over 30 years ago. Now her family – husband Sir Paul McCartney and daughters Mary and Stella – celebrate her legacy by updating and reissuing her book, Linda McCartney’s Family Kitchen. The 90+ recipes are entirely plant-based and suitable for beginners. Interspersed are family photographs and stories that highlight Linda’s philosophy on animal rights and sustainability. With dishes ranging from classics such as American-style pancakes, chili con carne and lemon drizzle cake, to more recent favourites including pad Thai and pulled jackfruit burgers, Linda McCartney’s Kitchen is a great resource for anyone looking for meatless/ vegetarian/ vegan recipes.

The Booko Father’s Day Gift Guide

Father’s Day is fast approaching – and, for those of us who cannot celebrate with our father-figures in person, what better way to show our appreciation than through a well-chosen book? Easy to buy and send for the giver, and hours of enjoyment for the receiver! Here are some Booko favourites for Father’s Day gifting:

Blessed: The Breakout Year of Rampaging Roy Slaven by John Doyle

It seems entirely appropriate that the launch of Rampaging Roy Slaven’s memoirs coincides with this year’s Olympic Games – after all, Roy and his partner HG Nelson are two of Australia’s best Olympics commentators. Blessed is the coming-of-age story of this Australian icon, raconteur, and athlete of “unsurpassable sporting feats” – a record of Roy’s “breakout” year as a 15 year-old in Lithgow, rural NSW in 1967. Blessed is a tender and insightful depiction of a community on the cusp of great change -it handles some difficult issues with a light but respectful touch. With additional tantalising hints of the life of John Doyle, the fictional Roy’s creator, this intriguing fictional memoir is a must-read.

We Were Not Men by Campbell Mattinson

Looking for a big, emotional story after finishing Boy Swallows Universe or Bridge of Clay? We Were Not Men may just do the trick (praised by Trent Dalton himself as “gut-punching” and “soul-restoring” ). We Were Not Men is a powerful, moving and ultimately uplifting story of twin brothers, Jon and Eden, and their grandmother Bobbie. Thrown together as the remnants of a family fractured by a shocking accident, we see the effort and bravery it takes to heal from unspeakable tragedy, and we also see the ebb and flow of the twins’ bond as they grow up, compete against each other, leave each other behind and catch up with each other again. Campbell Mattinson’s debut novel has been 30 years in the making – and is absolutely worth the wait.

Take One Fish: the New School of Scale-to-Tail Cooking and Eating by Josh Niland

Josh Niland is so respected that his masterclasses pack out concert halls. He is particularly known for “Scale-to-Tail” eating and cooking, adapting this sustainable and respectful approach from meat cookery. Take One Fish offers recipes for 15 global species of fish – from cheap and accessible sardines and herrings, to luxe coral trout and groper. These recipes utilise as much as 90% of each fish (nearly double of regular recipes) through innovative cutting and cooking techniques. Look out for his surprising and perfect recipes of fish versions of classic dishes, including Peking coral trout, swordfish schnitzel and John Dory liver terrine – terrific inspiration, especially for Foodies and pescatarians!

Halliday Wine Companion 2022 by James Halliday

Every year, the wine industry awaits the latest edition of the Halliday Wine Companion as eagerly as wine lovers. This bestseller is widely recognised as the go-to guide to Australian wine, with comprehensive reviews by a trusted team of critics. There’s information on wine ratings, alcohol content, best by drinking, regions, winery reviews and varietals, and it also highlights the best of the year’s output with its prestigious awards for wines, winemakers as well as for wineries. Halliday Wine Companion has all you need to know about wine buying and collecting, plus it makes a great guidebook for wine tourism!

Tales From The Perilous Realm by J. R. R. Tolkien

For father-figures who love fantasy, here is a beautifully-illustrated volume that collects Tolkien’s five novellas for the first time. Tales From the Perilous Realm contains Farmer Giles of Ham, Roverandom, The Tale of Tom Bombadil, Leaf by Niggle, and Smith of Wootton Major – these are Tolkien’s take on fairy tales, and they are as full of magic, adventure and charm as his longer works. Their shorter lengths also make them great read-alouds! The delicate and detailed illustrations are by Alan Lee, who has a deep connection to Tolkien’s worlds through previously illustrating editions of The Lord of the Rings, and The Hobbit, as well as working on concept art for both film series.

How We Became Human: and Why We Need to Change by Tim Dean

Philosopher and journalist Tim Dean tries to make sense of our current social flashpoints – including racism, sexism, religious conflict and partisan politics – in his first book, How We Became Human. Tim suggests that, over thousands of years, humans have developed morality, and associated “moral emotions” (such as empathy, guilt and outrage), to differentiate between friend and foe. These are powerful tools that have helped humans co-exist in ever-larger, more productive societies. However, our morals have fallen out of step with our increasingly diverse world; so we will need to separate what’s natural from what’s right, in order to reframe morality for the modern world. How to Be Human is a compelling read for those who love to ponder life’s big questions.

Six Books that Help Us Create a Personal life Philosophy

Do you have any rules, beliefs or principles that you live by? Many of us do – even if we don’t realise, or can’t articulate them yet. These rules or principles are components of a personal philosophy that can contribute to our wellbeing by giving us clarity and direction in our daily lives. If you are interested in discovering your personal life philosophy, or explore how it can benefit your life, here are a few tools to get you started:

How to Live a Good Life: a Guide to Choosing your Personal Philosophy edited by Massimo Pigliucci, Skye C. Cleary and Daniel Kaufman
If you were inspired by last week’s blog post about using philosophy to solve life problems, then How to Live a Good Life will offer further guidance. This essay collection introduces fifteen schools of thought – from ancient Eastern and Western philosophies, to religious traditions, to modern philosophies – and what it is like to live according to those philosophies. Each contributor offers lively, personal accounts of what it means to live an examined life in the twenty-first century. How to Live a Good Life offers a clear, accessible guide, backed by deep academic expertise, for anyone considering their life-choices and looking for options for change.

Buy Yourself the F*cking Lilies: and Other Rituals to Fix Your Life, from Someone Who’s Been There by Tara Schuster
This hilarious and relatable memoir has gone straight onto my To Read list.  Tara Schuster is a successful playwright and entertainment industry executive; but beneath that high-flyer veneer, she was a self-medicating mess trying to deal with depression, anxiety, and shame borne of parental neglect. Buy Yourself the F*cking Lilies tells the story of Tara’s path to re-parenting herself and becoming a “ninja of self-love.”  She shares how she learnt to establish simple, daily rituals that helped to bring her mind, body, and relationships back to good health.  This is the book Tara wished someone had given her – and so she wrote it, hoping it will help other people feel less lonely in their experience.  A terrific guide to self-care for these times.

Be Bold: Manifest your Dream Life by Alexis Fernandez
Alexis Fernandez loves to understand how the mind works – so much so, that this Pilates instructor and personal trainer returned to uni to study neuroscience. She has been weaving her knowledge about body and mind into a successful podcast (Do You F*cking Mind?) and now her first book – Be Bold: Manifest your Dream Life. Alexis suggests that our brains are often conditioned to be more avoidant and protective than is necessary; and by realising how much control we have over our thoughts and our emotions, we can learn (and unlearn) how to unlock the best version of ourselves. Full of tough love, practical advice and ‘mindset hacks’, Be Bold: Manifest your Dream Life can help us set healthy boundaries, move on from regrets, and overcome feelings of self-pity.

The Success Experiment: FlexMami’s Formula to Knowing what you Really Want and How to Get It by Lillian Ahenkan
DJ / Podcaster / Entrepreneur / “Professional Opinion-Haver” and now Bestselling Author: Lilian Ahenkan, aka FlexMami, is an Australian social-media star with a global following. She thinks of her current success as an experiment; having transformed herself from “a uni dropout with poor time-management skills” to highly sought-after media personality, within the space of a few years, while retaining her unapologetically fierce and funny self. The hypothesis at the heart of The Success Experiment is that anyone can create a unique formula for their own personal success. You don’t have to be exceptional – you just need to learn the algorithm. FlexMami will help you discover yourself – what you want, what you value, where you want to be, and why; and turn these into goals based on what actually fulfils you, instead of what feels easy or achievable.

Emotional Intelligence: a Simple and Actionable Guide to Increasing Performance, Engagement and Ownership by Amy Jacobson
This is a great primer about the What, Why and Hows of Emotional Intelligence, written by an expert on emotional intelligence and human behaviour. As organisations around the world put greater focus on the mindset and wellbeing of staff, they are also placing greater value on Emotional Intelligence as an essential attribute of high performance. Amy Jacobson, an experienced EI specialist, shares a range of tools and tips to help us identify and manage our personal emotions and the emotions of those around us, using the five key concepts of self-awareness, self-regulation, empathy, social skills and motivation. This guide is a practical, easy-to-use resource that offers powerful tools and actionable steps to create successful outcomes not just at work, but in personal and social situations as well.

Belonging: the Ancient Code of Togetherness by Owen Eastwood
Owen Eastwood is a performance coach who has worked with some of the most prestigious teams in the world, including national soccer and cricket teams, Royal Ballet School, the British Olympic Team, as well as the Command group at NATO. In Belonging: the Ancient Code of Togetherness, he explains how he helps teams to succeed by drawing upon the idea of Whakapapa from his own Maori heritage. Whakapapa is a powerful spiritual belief about belonging and identity that helps people connect and find a shared purpose. Belonging is not just about sports psychology; Owen Eastwood’s unique approach, which also weaves in insights from evolutionary science, personal development and philosophy, can unlock high performance in many different group contexts.

Clever Thinkers : Six books exploring how philosophy helps us solve life problems

Philosophy may be more associated with Dead White Men, but many contemporary philosophers examine how the structure of philosophical inquiry, and the cumulative wisdom of millenia of thinkers, can apply to the modern world. The books we’ve chosen this week look at how philosophy can help us clarify and tease out the complexities of everyday life problems – from how to achieve happiness, to the ethics of assisted dying, and even to the etiquette of dating.

Lives of the Stoics: the Art of Living from Zeno to Marcus Aurelius by Ryan Holiday and Stephen Hanselman

Lives of the Stoics is an eye-opening mix of history, philosophy and self-help. Holiday and Hanselman (creators of the popular Daily Stoic website and podcast) show us that there is more to Stoicism than its current association with unemotional endurance. Through the mini-biographies of the most notable Stoics – from Zeno, the founder of this school of philosophy, to the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius, the authors show the different ways these practitioners lived by their philosophy; and through these examples, help readers learn how stoicism can teach us about happiness, success, resilience and virtue.

The Socrates Express: in Search of Life Lessons from Dead Philosophers by Eric Weiner

Socrates is not the only philosopher whose teachings help guide Eric Weiner out of his mid-life crisis – through a series of figurative and literal journeys around the world, we meet 14 philosophers, a diverse group including Marcus Aurelius, de Beauvoir, Gandhi and Sei Shonagon, a 10th-century Japanese courtesan commonly regarded as the World’s first novelist. These thinkers help Eric Weiner figure out what he considers a meaningful life. The Socrates Express invites us to join in a process of self-examination, and to consider how philosophy can teach us how to think, how to live, and how to die.

Vexed: Ethics Beyond Political Tribes by James Mumford

In Vexed, James Mumford analyses the ethics of six issues – assisted dying, social welfare, sexual liberation, gun control, transhumanism and the rights of former felons. In doing so, he exposes the surprising contradictions within the “package deal” political beliefs of both sides of politics (particularly in the US) – for example, rationales for being pro-gun and pro-life/anti-abortion are inherently contradictory, even though both are associated with the political Right. Vexed is a provocative book that challenges readers to strive for ethical consistency by forming specific opinions on individual issues, rather than buying into political identities as a whole.

The Kindness Revolution: How we can Restore Hope, Rebuild Trust and Inspire Optimism by Hugh Mackay

Veteran social psychologist Hugh Mackay has observed how the last two years have challenged Australians’ livelihoods and resilience – and encourages the idea of “radical kindness” as a way to process and heal from these difficulties. Mackay reminds us that our capacity for kindness – compassion, tolerance, respect, sensitivity – to strangers is at the very heart of our humanity; and by choosing kindness over cynicism and indifference, we will contribute to a powerful, grassroots effort towards creating the country we want and need.

When you Kant Figure it Out, Ask a Philosopher by Marie Robert

This book takes agony-aunt advice to the next level. While Kant, Nietzsche or Heidegger may never have impulse-bought at IKEA, nor got dumped via text message, their powers of clear thinking can still help us in present-day situations. Marie Robert matches twelve modern dilemmas – digital detox, death of loved ones, hangovers, dating – to the teachings of some of our greatest philosophers. When You Kant Figure It Out, Ask a Philosopher is witty and fun, and makes Western philosophy accessible for modern audiences.

In Search of Wisdom: a Monk, a Philosopher, and a Psychiatrist on What Matters Most by Matthieu Ricard, Christophe Andre and Alexandre Jollien

A monk, a philosopher and a psychiatrist walk into a cabin in the woods and start chatting… what follows is not the punchline of a joke, but rather an intimate, enlightening discussion on the essence of being human. The three authors became close friends after discovering and admiring each other’s writings; here they draw upon their learnings in positive psychology, mindfulness, Buddhism and spirituality to explore topics such as compassion, gratitude, listening without judgment, living according to one’s ideals, and responsibly exercising freedom of thought, speech, and action.

Our Six Favourite Graphic Novels

Graphic Novels are long-form stories told mainly through drawings. They are now recognised as an important medium for storytelling, both for fiction and non-fiction, for adults as well as for children. Parents and educators are also discovering their benefits in encouraging reading and developing literacy. You can find graphic novels in a huge range of art styles and subject matter – and the diversity is growing daily! Dive into this format through these recent bestsellers:

Smile by Raina Telgemeier
It all starts here – reading Raina Telgemeier is practically a rite of passage for tweens and early teens. Whether it’s her own stories, or her adaptation of the iconic Babysitter Club series, readers just can’t get enough of her observant and empathic stories of the drama and tensions of growing up. Smile is her memoir, starting in her Sixth Grade, when she had a string of dental procedures – including braces – after a painful accident. Add in fickle friends, first crushes, and finding her own identity, and you get a heartfelt rite-of-passage story reminiscent of Judy Blume.

The Sad Ghost Club by by Lize Meddings
The Sad Ghost Club is centred around mental health, and is a great conversation-starter with tweens, while still providing a rich, reflective experience for teens and adults. It is about SG (Sad Ghost), who struggles with anxiety about school and feelings of loneliness. SG agonises over whether to go to a party, feeling nervous about not fitting in. After an awkward start to the party, SG meets Socks, and together they form the Sad Ghost Club, a secret society for the anxious and alone, a club for people who think they don’t belong. The Sad Ghost Club is a sweet, quietly optimistic story with a fresh and on-point analogy for depression, and presenting totally relatable situations.

Heartstopper series by Alice Oseman
Alice Oseman is both an accomplished novelist and artist – their popular Heartstopper series focuses on Nick and Charlie, characters from their first novel Solitaire. This adorable LGBT+ webcomic is now available in book form! Heartstopper volume 1 sees the beginning of Nick and Charlie’s blossoming romance, from their meeting in their newly-organised “vertical classroom”, to their first kiss. Heartstopper is upbeat, but does not shy away from depicting the difficulties of being queer teens, and is lauded for being relatable and a realistic portrayal of contemporary teenage life.

Future Girl by Asphyxia
The first thing you will notice about Future Girl is that it is a beautiful object – textured cover, heavy paper, packed with colourful art. This art/prose hybrid is not strictly a graphic novel, but deserves attention for its striking format and subject matter. Future Girl is set in a dystopian, near-future Melbourne whose heroine, Piper, is based on the author’s own experience. Piper is a deaf girl who relies on hearing aids and speech for communication. When an environmental catastrophe strikes, she defies the authorities by learning to grow her own food – through which she is introduced to sign language, and a Deaf community who does not view its differences as deficits. Future Girl is an an enthralling and heartfelt coming-of-age story from Deaf artist/writer/activist Asphyxia.

They Call Us Enemy by George Takei and Justin Eisinger
The graphic novel format has been used as an eloquent tool for exploring, and inviting understanding of, social causes. They Call Us Enemy is one such award-winning example – it describes how a young George Takei – now beloved Star Trek actor and activist – and his family were incarcerated in a World War 2 camp for Japanese Americans. Their personal experiences fighting for safety and survival are juxtaposed upon descriptions of the social-political controversy surrounding this unjust practice. They Call Us Enemy is an emotional story that will resonate across many age groups, and offers powerful reflections upon the current issues of hate speech, institutional racism and racial profiling.

The Mental Load: a Feminist Comic by Emma
Not everyone can coin a powerful term that sparks a global discussion – French comic artist Emma did just that, when she drew an essay about women’s “Mental Load”, the invisible labour and unpaid organising that we do for others, an issue that disproportionately impacts women.  This piece now headlines this collection of graphic essays on everyday feminist issues – sexism in the workplace, objectification, motherhood, women’s health. The topics and examples are instantly recognisable. Follow up with its recently-released companion volume, The Emotional Load.

Our Six Favourite Fantasy Novels

For some readers, fantasy means pure escapism – getting away from the stresses, constraints and issues of the everyday.  For others, the opposite can apply – fantastical settings allow us to examine and explore everyday issues with extra clarity.  Immerse yourself in the intricate and richly diverse genre of fantasy, and let your imagination soar – here are a few recent favourites to get you started.

Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett

Get two fantasy greats for the price of one with Good Omens, which is having a revival thanks to a celebrated TV adaptation (quality assured by Neil Gaiman’s role as showrunner).  Good Omens is a story about the Apocalypse – which happens to be coming sooner than what Aziraphale (an angel) and Crowley (a demon) would like.  Aziraphale and Crowley have been representing their respective sides on Earth for 6000 years, and have come to enjoy each other’s company (and their lives on Earth).  Unhappy with the thought of their cozy lives being upended, Crawley and Aziraphale team up to avert the Apocalypse.  Good Omens is a mix of urban fantasy, absurdist humour and political/workplace satire that is as gleeful and relevant today as ever.

The Last Wish: Introducing the Witcher by Andrzej Sapkowski

You may have met Geralt of Rivia through the Netflix series or through the popular video games – both have been lovingly created from the writings of Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski. Discover why Witcher fans are so passionate about this world, with this short story collection that introduces the Continent, its witchers (superhuman monster hunters), monsters, epic sword fights, and magic. Once you know the background, head to The Blood of Elves, the first full-length novel of the series, which is about Geralt and Princess Ciri, whose fates are bound together.

The End of the World is Bigger than Love by Davina Bell

The End of the World is Bigger than Love came out last year, where its dreamy, post-apocalypse setting resonated eerily with the silence of lockdown.  Identical twin sisters, Summer and Winter, live alone on an island, trying to survive the aftermath of a monumental environmental disaster. Soon we discover these twin narrators to be unreliable – how, then, do we interpret what’s happening? Reviews (and the string of awards and nominations) have been universally positive. The End of the World is Better than Love is category-defying and unforgettable – it is complex, ambiguous, sometimes confusing, and always rich in language and emotions – a book that invites repeat reading.

Carry On by Rainbow Rowell

So. Much. Fun.  Carry On started as a spin-off of Rainbow Rowell’s previous success, Fangirl, but this funny, exuberant and romantic story has gained a life of its own, growing into an action-packed trilogy. Carry On is about Simon Snow, a teen wizard at a magical boarding school, who is known to be the Chosen One, but still struggling to learn to control and understand his powers. Sounds familiar?  While Rainbow Rowell states that Carry On is informed by a number of “Chosen One” stories, it has invited passionate debates  about its relationship to the Harry Potter universe.  I am really looking forward to the third and final book, Any Way the Wind Blows, due for release next month.

Circe by Madeline Miller

Madeline Miller, author of Circe and Song of Achilles, has actively contributed to our current interest in the Greek classics.  (Also check out recent retellings by Stephen Fry , Pat Barker and Natalie Haynes.) Circe is a witch-goddess from Greek Mythology, best known to readers through Homer’s Odyssey, where she encounters Odysseus during his long voyage.  Here she narrates her life, reinterpreting a number of myths from her perspective.  Madeline Miller has fleshed out Circe satisfyingly – with a heart, an independent mind and a sharp tongue.  This feminist retelling reclaims Circe from her traditional portrayal as a wicked witch, and reimagines her as a woman doing her best to overcome the odds.

A Brightness Long Ago by Guy Gavriel Kay

Guy Gavriel Kay is a hidden gem of an author.  In 30+ years of writing, he has spun tales that are intriguing, immersive and often gutwrenching, creating fantasy worlds based on the histories of ancient China, Arthurian legends, the Byzantine Empire,  the Moors, and Mediaeval Europe.  A Brightness Long Ago is an epic story of war, destiny, ambition and love, set in a world inspired by Renaissance Italy.  Through the reminiscences of Danio, an old and powerful man who rose above his humble origins, we see how chance encounters, and the seemingly unimportant lives and actions of ordinary people, can nonetheless impact upon major historical events.  The intricate weaving and interconnectedness of the large cast is pure Guy Gavriel Kay; it also offers a poetic meditation on fate, choice and the power of memory.