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.

Celebrating Australian Children’s Stories

Australians are spoilt for choice when it comes to children’s literature – Aussie authors have been punching above their weight for decades, creating iconic works, and winning literature awards from around the world.  From Ivan Southall, Libby Hathorn and Mem Fox; to Bob Graham, Shaun Tan, Sonya Hartnett, Philip Bunting and many more, Australian authors have been capturing funny, beautiful and distinctly Australian stories for and about our children.  Here are some latest ones worth celebrating, from both established and emerging authors:

My Shadow is Pink by Scott Stuart

This warm story about a father-and-son uses lively rhymes to introduce big topics to a young audience – being true to yourself, challenging stereotypes, and celebrating differences. Our main character is a young boy with a pink shadow – unlike the rest of his manly relatives, whose shadows are blue. His pink shadow loves ponies and sparkles and things “not for boys”, which worries the boy because he so wants to fit in. One fateful dressup day, everything changed… Scott Stuart wrote this story based on his experiences supporting his young son, who loves the character Elsa from Disney’s Frozen. He now actively promotes self-expression and challenges gender stereotypes as an author/illustrator and via Tiktok.

Hello Jimmy! by Anna Walker

Hello, Jimmy! works on so many different levels – it is a warm story about a father-and-son rediscovering their emotional connection to each other; it is a sensitive portrayal of a family going through separation, and is a good conversation starter about sadness, loneliness, navigating change, and diverse families; and Jimmy the parrot , being a cranky and irrepressible character, makes this a lively read-aloud. Once again, Anna Walker has taken familiar events from daily life, and used her distinctive style to create jewel-like moments brimming with drama and emotion.

Sing Me the Summer by Jane Godwin and Alison Lester

What a partnership!  Jane Godwin and Alison Lester are successful and beloved authors in their own right; in Sing Me the Summer they have combined their powers to produced a wonderful ode to the seasons.  The gentle rhymes and bright pictures celebrate the changing colours and fun activities of different seasons – picnicking on the beach, stomping through fallen leaves, bonfires on cold nights, and playing in lush springtime grass.  Also watch out for cameo appearances by beloved characters Noni the Pony, and My Dog Bigsy!

The Fire Wombat by Jackie French and Danny Snell

Jackie French knows a lot about wombats, as her bestselling Diary of a Wombat series can attest.  The story of Fire Wombat was inspired by a wombat she saw during the devastating 2020 bushfires.  In the hot dry countryside, the bush animals can see and sense the encroaching smoke and flames.  Led by a small wombat, they eventually find safety in the cool underground tunnels of a wombat burrow.  Fire Wombat has vivid imagery and is an ultimately hopeful story about resilience, courage and friendship.  It is also a great conversation starter about bushfires and their aftermath.

Our Home, Our Heartbeat by Adam Briggs, Kate Moon and Rachael Sarra

Our Home, Our Heartbeat celebrates Indigenous achievements across different eras, professions and communities.  Adam Briggs, better known as Briggs, is a rapper/comedian/writer/actor from the Yorta Yorta nation.  He wrote this story, based on his song “The Children Came Back”, to normalise Indigenous success, inspiring and informing all children of the contribution of Indigenous people to Australia.  Like many of great stories, this is one Briggs wished he had when he was growing up.  The vibrant illustrations show children doing the things they love, and convey a huge sense of fun and energy.

Bluey: The Creek by Bluey

Bluey is the little Aussie series turned worldwide phenomenon, for all the best reasons.  It has been praised for its relatable characters, realistic storylines, and for healthy depictions of emotions, gender identity and parenting behaviours – and last but not least, for being funny and adorable!  The Creek is inspired by an episode of the same name.  When Dad takes Bluey, Bingo and Mackenzie to the creek to play, they discover that it is a beautiful place with lots to discover and explore.  Enjoy the story for itself, or use it to inspire your little ones to enjoy and investigate nature.

Books that help you prepare great CVs and impressive interviews

New year, new job?  Have recent events encouraged you to (or made you) reassess and change your career plans? Or do you know someone who is starting out in the workforce? Team Booko knows that the job application process can be daunting, whether it’s your first time, or first time in a while. So we have gathered some resources to help you write that high-impact CV and nail that interview. Good luck!

Write a Brilliant CV by Lucinda Becker
Write a Brilliant CV is a great beginner’s guide to résumé writing, perfect for students and young people applying for their first jobs.  It offers focussed tips and  strategies that shows you how to write a persuasive CV, how to target your CV to particular roles and careers, and how best to showcase your skills and experience.  Write a Brilliant CV is part of the Super Quick Skills series of pocket-sized guides, which offers practical, positive advice on a range of core academic and life skills.

The Job-Ready Guide: How to Set Yourself Up for Career Success by Anastasia de Waal
Anastasia de Waal looks at the bigger-picture of job-readiness, with a guide that starts with researching different roles/employers, goes into CV and cover letter writing and interview skills, then moves onto further career development, including networking and developing professionalism.  This is a very practical guide, with interactive exercises to help you in your real life, and enlivened by insider advice from employers, and tips from professionals at different stages in their careers who reveal ‘what they wish they’d known’.  A must for anyone wanting to enter a professional career.

How to Write an Impressive CV and Cover Letter: A Comprehensive Guide for Jobseekers by Tracey Whitmore
In a competitive job market, making a great first impressions is critical. Let Tracey Whitmore show you how to grab a prospective employer’s attention by crafting a compelling CV, cover letter and LinkedIn profile. How to Write an Impressive CV and Cover Letter is a practical and accessible guide that highlights the Dos and Don’ts, with specific advice for both new graduates and mid-career jobhunters. It includes useful “CV Makeover” examples where common mistakes are identified then corrected. For a more personal touch, there are also real-life examples of CVs and covering letters, as well as employers’ perspectives from a number of senior HR and industry professionals.

It’s Who You Know: How to Make Networking Work for You by Janine Garner
Janine Garner is an acclaimed entrepreneur and Fortune 500 mentor who has made networking her passion and expertise. It’s Who You Know is her guide on how to build or improve our networks so that it helps transforming our thinking, challenging our behaviours and push us to achieve more. Janine Garner’s approach is strategic, having identified 12 key roles that together will provide the strength, diversity and opportunities to help you achieve your personal and professional goals. She also offers advice on how to nurture relationships and make networking mutually beneficial. This latest edition is published as part of Wiley’s Be Your Best series, of bestselling personal development books by Australian authors.

So Good They Can’t Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love by Cal Newport
Not sure what career to pursue?  Worried you might have “missed your calling”?  Cal Newport – Computer Science Professor and successful author about work and study habits – turns conventional wisdom on its head to help us get more fulfilment out of work.  Cal argues that “follow your passion” is bad career advice  which can lead to anxiety and jobhopping; instead, he recommends we focus on acquiring “career capital”, such as mastery of job-specific skills and autonomy within our roles – which will help us grow our passion for our work over time.  Based on interviews with a variety of successful professionals, and established research on workplace motivation, So Good They Can’t Ignore You encourages us to radically rethink our career development strategy. 

Expert Resumes & LinkedIn Profiles for Managers and Executives by Wendy S. Enelow and Louise M. Kursmark
Expert Resumes & LinkedIn Profiles for Managers and Executives was written specifically to address the requirements for senior-level recruitment.   What’s more, this fourth edition includes extensive advice on how to build a compelling LinkedIn Profile – nowadays an essential tool for both recruiters and candidates.  Learn how to use LinkedIn to establish your personal brand, showcase your skills and experience, and offer a more comprehensive view of yourself than what resumes would allow. Wendy Enelow and Louise Kursmark each have over 30 years’ experience writing, teaching and speaking about resume writing, and this book can help all mid-career professionals (not just those in senior roles!) with tips on how best to write and present extensive career information for maximum impact.

Soak up the Bestsellers List this Summer

What does “holiday reading” mean to you? Does the slower pace of summer make you reach for light, breezy reads; or is this the time when you can finally commit to that big, substantial book? I do a bit of both – my Holiday Brain craves cheerful reads, but I always pack a variety just in case. I hope you can find YOUR perfect holiday read from this selection of recent bestsellers:

The Grand Tour by Olivia Wearne

When longtime friendly-neighbours Ruby and Angela set off for Adelaide in their campervan, little did they know what’s in store. These Grey Nomads became unwitting kidnappers when they discovered a little stowaway, and they also crossed paths with Angela’s estranged brother Bernard, a C-list celeb with his own troubles. Not only is The Grand Tour a quirky and very Aussie adventure, it is also a story about families – the ones you have and the ones you make. The laughter and heart just draws you in. The Grand Tour is Olivia Wearne’s debut novel, but she has a background in screenwriting and it shows – her descriptions are cinematic, the characters are well-developed, and the dialogue zings.

Dark Tides by Philippa Gregory

If you like holiday reads that sweep you off to a different time and place, then Dark Tides is for you. This atmospheric tale, set in London in the 1670s, is the sequel to Tidelands. We meet again with Alinor, a poor, hardworking woman who now owns a warehouse on the Thames riverbank. On Midsummer Eve, she receives two unexpected visitors, who set off a chain of events amidst the poverty of early Restoration London, the splendour of Venice as well as the wild frontiers of colonial America. Philippa Gregory is best known for her novels about Tudor royalty; her assured writing has translated equally well to this immersive series about a commoner family in a later era. 

All Adults Here by Emma Straub

All Adults Here is the ironic title of this gentle black comedy about an extended family from upstate New York – think Something’s Gotta Give crossed with The Royal Tenanbaums. The most grownup member of the Strick clan is probably 13-year-old granddaughter Cecelia – her parents, aunts and uncles, and even her grandmother still struggle with insecurity and adulting from time to time. Emma Straub writes affectionately about her cast of flawed characters, creates much humour from their interactions, and grounds their personal challenges in current issues including abortion, bullying, IVF, gender identity and sexual predators.

Because of You by Dawn French

On New Year’s Eve, as a new millenium arrives, two women are in the same hospital, giving birth. Only one of them will bring a baby home. Seventeen years later, the consequences of what happened that night slowly unravel, with surprising and poignant results. Five long years after her last novel, Dawn French has given birth to her latest hit, Because of You. This is a story about mothers and daughters, nature and nurture, mistakes and regret. Dawn French’s wit adds richness and lightness to an emotional and thought-provoking story; the rich characterisation and multiple points-of-view will draw you in and keep you hooked till the last page.

Lucky’s by Andrew Pippos

Another strong literary debut rewarded by bestselling status. Lucky’s is a big, multigenerational family saga about the rise and fall of Lucky Mallios, a Greek-American who settled in postwar Australia, and his eponymous chain of cafes. Sharp, vivid vignettes tell a story that spans almost a century, across several continents; yet this vastness telescopes into a finely interwoven web, where each character’s actions affect others in unforeseen and pernicious ways. Informed by Andrew Pippos’ personal history, the post-war migrant experience, and the iconic Greek-Australian cafe scene, both play important roles in this immersive story.


The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman

Richard Osman joins a long list of successful comedians-turned-authors – but he stands out by debuting with a murder mystery. The Thursday Murder Club is a quartet of residents in an upmarket retirement village, who meet weekly to pore over unsolved crimes. This seems a fun but academic pastime – until the day a murder happens close to home. Richard Osman’s clever, deadpan personality, as seen in TV shows such as Taskmaster and QI, also shines through in his writing. He skilfully balances distinctive and recognisable characterisation with a pinch of Miss Marple, a smidge of the Ealing comedies, and balances everything with poignant asides on ageing and the end of life. No wonder that The Thursday Murder Club has become the fastest-selling adult crime debut ever in the UK.

Jamie Oliver, King of Christmas

It’s hard to believe that Jamie Oliver first burst onto our screens over 20 years ago. Young and exuberant, he was unlike anyone before him, and he made cooking cool and accessible. His championing of rustic, flavourful dishes, of relaxed cooking and dining, continues to influence our food habits today. At Booko HQ we love Jamie at Christmas time – his recipes help us entertain without stress, his books make welcomed gifts, and his YouTube channel (now also starring Buddy and River, his two youngest children) makes for fun, relaxing holiday viewing. Here are six of our favourite Jamie Oliver books to get you through Christmas and beyond:

Jamie Oliver’s Christmas Cookbook

Jamie’s Christmas Cookbook has been a Team Booko favourite for some years now. This is a complete how-to guide for festive entertaining, with planning tips, shopping lists, decorating ideas, and recipes for edible gifts; as well as lots of great recipes. The recipes are a nice balance between traditional and modern; Jamie excels in simplifying/re-interpreting classic dishes without sacrificing that traditional taste. There’s also an extensive collection of vegetarian/meat-free dishes, canapes, drinks, and ideas for leftovers, to cater for all guests and occasions.

7 Ways: Easy Ideas for Everyday of the Week

Jamie’s latest book is all about adding tasty variety to our dinners by changing up our staple foods. He takes 18 of the most common meal ingredients – think chicken breasts, beef mince, eggs, mushrooms, potatoes etc – and shows us seven different ways to cook each (one recipe for each day of the week!). Drawing many different cuisines, there are versions of popular takeaways, one-dish traybakes, as well as freezer-friendly ideas. The dishes are quick enough to cook for weeknight dinners, but also impressive enough for entertaining. 7 Ways is a great source of inspiration on how to make family meals interesting without them becoming too fussy/ expensive/ unfamiliar.

Veg : Easy & Delicious Meals for Everyone

Plant-based or meat-free eating is a huge trend right now – so many people are discovering that, not only is eating more plants healthy, it is also affordable and environmentally responsible. Jamie Oliver and his family have been eating more vegetarian meals for over 5 years, and in Veg, he shares his favourite veg-based recipes, as well as tips on how to make to most of any vegetables. There’s a good mix of dishes that are naturally meat-free (such as salads and curries ) and meat-less versions of popular favourites (including burgers, bakes and roasts). Each of these dishes spotlight how colourful and flavourful vegetables can be. Whether you want to try to do Meatless Mondays, are already committed to a plant-based diet, or simply want to increase your vegie intake, let Jamie Oliver be your trusty starting point.

Jamie Cooks Italy: from the Heart of the Italian Kitchen

My copy of Jamie Cooks Italy was gifted by my Italian mother-in-law – quite an endorsement, coming from a good cook who is a stickler for authenticity. This is Jamie’s second book dedicated to Italian food (the first is Jamie’s Italy). It is a tribute to the nonnas all over Italy – those frugal, hardworking women who take great care even with the simplest ingredients, and who express their love for their families through their cooking. Jamie spent two years travelling around Italy, cooking and learning these recipes from many nonnas. Not only is this a collection of heritage recipes at risk of dying out, it is a beautifully-documented social history showcasing these resilient women.

Cook With Jamie: my Guide to Making you a Better Cook

Ever wished you could cook like Jamie Oliver? Then you’d love Cook with Jamie, which is both a manual for fundamental kitchen skills, and a core collection of dishes that are accessible, yet will impress your family and friends. Jamie’s tutorials cover everything from what kitchen tools to own, what to stock in your pantry, to recognising cuts of meat and how to shop – advice that can save you money as well as make you a better cook. The recipes range from fairy cakes to whole baked cauliflower and Christmas turkey, and are dishes that you will want to cook again and again. Jamie is passionate about encouraging people to cook fresh food as part of a healthier lifestyle – this manual will show you how.

Everyday Super Food

Everyday Super Food came about when Jamie Oliver turned 40, and felt the need to reassess his life habits. The result was a greater emphasis on nutrition, leading to improved health, better sleep and more energy. This approach has flowed into his work as well, where Jamie regularly works with nutritionists, and he also includes detailed dietary information with many recipes. Jamie has a very accessible approach to Super Food, which does not rely on boutique “superfood” ingredients, but rather 14 commonly-found “hero ingredients” that are healthy and nutrient-packed – think eggs, sweet potatoes, seaweed, and fresh fruit. The resultant recipes, including versions of popular dishes such as pasta carbonara and french toast, are family-friendly, full of bold flavours, and nutrient-rich yet without empty carbs or unnecessary sugar.

The book launches we are excited about

The months leading up to Christmas are, traditionally, the busiest time for book releases. This season, booklovers are more spoiled for choice than ever – many releases had been rescheduled from earlier this year to now.   With new books ranging from important to high-impact to crowd-pleasers to cult-classics, here are some book launches we are excited about:

Boy on Fire : The Young Nick Cave by Mark Mordue

Boy on Fire is the first instalment of the long-awaited, near-mythical biography of Nick Cave, written by author, poet and veteran rock journalist Mark Mordue.  Focussing on his earliest years, Boy on Fire is Nick Cave’s creation story – how his friends, family, the Victorian countryside (in particular the town of Wangaratta) and subsequent schooling in Melbourne, had influenced and shaped Nick Cave into the artist he would become.  Not only is Boy on Fire a biography about a fascinating person, it is also a lyrical and evocative history of a  bygone time and place.

Fight for Planet A by Craig Reucassel

Following the huge success of War on Waste, Craig Reucassel turns his comedy / satire talents to  the issue of carbon emissions, Fight for Planet A.  Fight for Planet A not only explores how we can reduce carbon emissions on an individual level, it is also a call to arms, encouraging Australians to initiate conversations about climate change, that can drive systemic change within our local and wider communities.  There’s no Planet B, so we’d better fight for Planet A! This book version provides a handy reference to ideas and strategies mentioned in the original TV series. 

A Promised Land by Barack Obama

A Promised Land – the first volume of Barack Obama’s two-part memoir about his presidency –  is probably the most significant new book of 2020.  Expectations are high – this long-awaited memoir follows the astonishing success of Michelle Obama’s Becoming, which has sold over 60 million copies to date.  Available in 25 languages,  A Promised Land starts with Barack Obama’s presidential campaign in 2008, ending upon the death of Osama bin Laden in 2011, and is an account of both public progress and personal growth.  Expect additional interest in this account, following the results of the recent US elections.

The Dressmaker’s Secret by Rosalie Ham

She’s back!  The Dressmaker’s Secret continues the story of Tilly Dunnage and the rest of the beloved cast of Rosalie Ham’s acclaimed The Dressmaker.
It is 1953 and Melbourne society is looking forward to a full social season celebrating the coronation.  Tilly Dunnage is toiling away in a second-rate Collins Street salon, lying low after exacting her revenge on her hometown of Dungatar. Her plan to evade the furious townsfolk of Dungatar was working well, until Tilly’s talents – and her name – started to feature in the fashion pages…  Reprising the mix of drama, high fashion and dark humour found in the original novel, The Dressmaker’s Secret looks to be another terrific holiday read.

Ready Player Two by Ernest Cline

Ernest Cline was so energised by the process of adapting his beloved novel, Ready Player One, into a movie, that he created a surprise sequel. Ready Player Two starts only days after the end of the original novel.  Our hero, Wade Watts, stumbles across a new and unexpected quest – a last Easter Egg from James, Halliday for his heir.  Not only will it make the OASIS more wondrous and addictive, but
Wade has to beat a dangerous new rival, who has murder on his mind.  Ready Player Two offers the same winning combination of fun action-packed adventure and pop-culture nostalgia that has delighted millions of fans.

The Office: the Untold Story of the Greatest Sitcom of the 2000s by Andy Greene

The Office was not just Ricky Gervais’ first step towards superstardom, it is also (in its American incarnation) an influential piece of pop culture. This award-winning show ran for nine seasons until 2013, and is still regularly screened. Its alumni, including Steve Carrell, Mindy Kaling and John Krasinski, have gone on to successful and varied careers as writers and performers. Andy Greene’s book is perfectly timed to celebrate the 15th anniversary of The Office’s premiere. This is an oral history based on a whopping 86 interviews with cast and crew, as well as archival material. The result takes fans behind-the-scenes, with celebrations of favourite episodes, as well as plenty of previously-unpublished anecdotes.

Be Inspired by Leadership Stories

The concept of leadership – and what qualities define a good leader – came to the fore this year as countries worldwide started to navigate through the turmoil associated with COVID.  Many of us have craved guidance on a personal level as well, as we tackled the disruptions we experienced.  So this week, as inspiration, we share stories about remarkable leaders who have tackled tremendous challenges with courage, tact and resilience.

Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela

Long Walk to Freedom was first published in 1994, only months after Nelson Mandela was elected President of South Africa in its first, democratic and post-apartheid election. Begun secretly during Mr Mandela’s long imprisonment, this autobiography was decades in the making. Despite knowing the worldwide reverence for his resilience, dignity and courage, the Nelson Mandela revealed here is surprisingly human – he is a naive and headstrong youth, a neglectful husband, a distracted father; a pragmatist who chooses tactics over principles. Yet it is indeed his famed resilience and positivity that enables him to survive, and even accomplish political objectives, during his 27 years at the notorious Robben Island prison.  Long Walk to Freedom is also available as a picture book suitable for younger readers aged 5 and up.

Interventions: a Life in War and Peace by Kofi Annan with Nader Mousavizadeh

For over 40 years, Kofi Annan was at the centre of international diplomacy, working for the United Nations on issues including health, refugees and peacekeeping, culminating in his appointment as the Secretary-General. Interventions: a Life in War and Peace shows us glimpses of the complex and difficult task of balancing the interests of 190+ UN member states.  Mr Annan writes eloquently yet candidly, not only about the successes (the Responsibility to Protect doctrine, and being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2001), but also UN’s failures (such as the Bosnian War and the Rwandan genocide), as well as highlighting the ongoing challenges due to a general slow retreat of world governments from the UN’s founding purpose.

A Promised Land by Barack Obama

The release of A Promised Land, the first volume of Barack Obama’s memoirs about his presidency, looks to be the biggest publishing event of 2020 – with an initial print run of over 3 million copies in 25 languages.  A Promised Land starts with Mr Obama’s presidential campaign in 2008, ending upon the death of Osama bin Laden in 2011, and “aims to provide an honest accounting of my presidency, the forces we grapple with as a nation, and how we can heal our divisions and make democracy work for everybody”.  It is an account of both public progress and personal growth.  Expect fascinating insights and assured writing – Barack Obama was already a successful author before becoming President.  

The Other Side of the Coin: the Queen, the Dresser and the Wardrobe by Angela Kelly

The Other Side of the Coin offers a rare and authoritative glimpse into the life of the Queen by a still-serving, senior member of staff.  Angela Kelly is the Personal Assistant and Senior Dresser for the Queen, and has personal royal approval to reveal these charming anecdotes and never-before-seen photographs. The Queen’s distinctive outfits – which are often imbued with meaning and used as a tool of diplomacy – are not only curated by Angela Kelly, but sometimes created by her as well.  Behind the focus on fashion, The Other Side of the Coin shows us the logistical demands of running the Royal Household, and glimpses of the Queen’s famed commitment to duty, hard work and service.   

In Extremis: The Life of War Correspondent Marie Colvin by Lindsey Hilsum

Intrepid, uncompromising, hard-drinking, a great raconteur –  Marie Colvin lived the life of a stereotypical war correspondent. She was much admired for her journalistic prowess, and also famous for her glamorous personal life – full of wild parties and unsuitable relationships.  Marie Colvin’s realisation that journalism can save lives motivated her to take ever greater risks in uncovering stories.  In 2012 she died in an explosion while reporting in Syria.  Lindsey Hilsum wrote In Extremis as a tribute to her friend and peer, drawing on unpublished diaries and interviews with friends, family and colleagues.  As a fellow war correspondent, Hilsum’s own knowledge of the world’s conflict zones adds great depth and enlightenment to the narrative.

Being Nixon: a Man Divided by Evan Thomas

Richard Nixon: villain or misunderstood?  Acclaimed biographer Evan Thomas balances sympathy with criticism as he tries to unravel the psyche of a complicated man.  Nixon was socially awkward, insecure, solitary, and self-conscious of his humble origins – not the ideal personality for a politician.  These behaviours created a tense internal balance – at their best, these insecurities gave him the drive to push past self-doubt, to dare to be brave, and get things done; at their worst, they fuelled petty vindictiveness, racist outbursts, and a wilful disregard of the law – leading to his spectacular downfall.  And despite its ignominious end, Evan Thomas reminds us that the Nixon presidency had many significant achievements, including détente with China and the Soviet Union, the creation of the EPA, and proposing major health-care reforms.

Booko Picks – Popular Science Books

We live in a golden age for Popular Science writing.  Gone are the days when books about topics such as astronomy, neuroscience, and maths (and engineering as well) were mostly written by experts for other experts – informative but daunting.  These days, popular science titles combine expert knowledge with great storytelling, so we can be informed and entertained at the same time.  Here are some of the delights currently on offer:

Humble Pi: a Comedy of Maths Errors by Matt Parker

“Stand-up Mathematician” Matt Parker uses his maths background to great effect, as the basis of very funny performances and books.  In Humble Pi, he uncovers the sorts of disasters that can happen when you get maths wrong.  The stories range from trivial and quirky (such as advertising images of interlocking gears that can’t possibly turn) to deadly and expensive (wobbling bridges, Y2K and aeroplane disasters).  The wide range of examples he uses underscore the message that maths can be found anywhere and everywhere, and that it may be more important to everyday life than many people realise.  

Calling Bullshit: the Art of Scepticism in a Data-driven World by Carl Bergstrom and Jevin West

How do you separate bullshit from the truth, when every side in an argument uses data to support their claims?  Calling Bullshit is a very timely book that looks at how to spot misused data, and how to refute it persuasively.  Based on the popular university course that the authors teach jointly, Calling Bullshit describes how data can be manipulated deliberately, or through false assumptions (such as confirmation bias or false equivalencies) or even due to carelessness or laziness.  Carl Bergstrom and Jevin West also describe tools that debunk bullshit constructively, because effective bullshit detection is essential for the healthy functioning of democracy and society.  This eye-opening and empowering book is essential for anyone sick of the proliferation of Fake News and Conspiracy Theories.

Infinite Powers: the Story of Calculus, the Language of the Universe by Steven Strogatz

In Infinite Powers, Steven Strogatz takes on the challenge of making calculus accessible and entertaining.  He explains the history and development of calculus (which originated in ancient Greece, and involved many big-name mathematicians including Archimedes, Newton, and Descartes); he also highlights how, as a tool to understand constant change, it underlies most modern technologies including radio, television, GPS navigation, and MRI imaging; and it informs fields as varied as meteorology, economics, and medicine. You don’t need to know any calculus to enjoy Infinite Powers; but as someone who understood the How but not the Why of calculus, this book gave me valuable context to help me appreciate the history, value and meaning of what I was doing.

Letters from an Astrophysicist by Neil DeGrasse Tyson

Not your usual science book, but Letters from an Astrophysicist is all the more profound because of it. This is a selection of letters to Neil DeGrasse Tyson, since he came into the public eye over two decades ago.  Topics cover anything and everything, from taxes to aliens to God; the questions are from friends and strangers alike – some ask for advice, some point out mistakes and some proclaim opposing beliefs. His replies are wise and funny, candid but uncompromising.  Even in the face of “hate mail”, he stands his ground and defends the importance of science.  Letters from an Astrophysicist is not just a glimpse into one brilliant mind, but also a reflection of how space has inspired curiosity, learning and passion in many of us.

Why We Sleep: the New Science of Sleep and Dreams by Matthew Walker

Why We Sleep received a positive review from none other than Bill Gates – no mean feat, considering he’s a prolific and discerning reader whose recommendations attract a lot of attention. Why We Sleep aims to create cultural change by highlighting the significant health, social and economic value of sleep.  Using statistics, anecdotes, and well-researched studies, Matthew Walker, an expert sleep scientist, explains how neglecting sleep can reduce creativity, decision-making and memory, and can even damage heart-, brain- and mental-health. Luckily, he also offers us helpful tips on how to change bad sleep habits and improve sleep hygiene.  And don’t worry if you end up reading this book slowly, because you have become inspired to take naps; the author will be delighted, rather than offended by such a change.

We have No Idea: a Guide to the Unknown Universe by Jorge Cham and Daniel Whiteson

Engineer-turned-cartoonist Jorge Cham has partnered with particle physicist Daniel Whiteson to create this lighthearted look at the biggest unsolved questions about the universe.  From the Big Bang to time travel to extraterrestrial life to dark matter, Jorge and Daniel describe what we don’t know (as well as the bits we do know), and why it’s really exciting to keep exploring at the edge of these unknowns.  You’ll also meet hamsters, evil twins, Doctor Who, Pi charts, pop culture, and Lego philosophy in these entertaining yet deep explanations for some of the most complex concepts in astrophysics.

The Best Books to Grow your General Knowledge

“General Knowledge” are the bits and pieces of information – some useful, some mundane, some weird and wonderful – that we pick up without intense study into specific topics.  Having general knowledge can help us win a quiz, win an argument, and become more entertaining (!?).  Satisfy your curiosity about the world around you, by dipping into these funny, surprising and informative books:

On This Day in History by Dan Snow

Dan Snow is one of Britain’s favourite historians, the creator of the hugely successful History Hit TV channel and podcast.  On This Day in History is his carefully chosen collection of 365 historical events – one for each day of the year.  Crisscrossing 3000 years of Western civilisation, Dan Snow describes events that range from important (D Day), to influential (the meeting of Lennon and McCartney), to obscure (the Anglo-Zanzibar war, the shortest war in history), and even strange (Napoleon escaping from rabbits).  He also raises the interesting question of what we choose to remember, and what we might have forgotten.

The Second Book of General Ignorance by John Lloyd and John Mitchinson

Named after the final round topic of the long-running quiz show QI (short for Quite Interesting), this second instalment of trivia focusses on General Ignorance, as in common mistakes and misunderstandings found in our “General Knowledge”.  Read this and you’ll realise that Napoleon wasn’t short, octopuses actually have six legs, and oranges often aren’t orange.  In revealing these curious misconceptions, Johns Lloyd and Mitchinson, respectively the series-creator and head researcher for QI, also try to show how these urban myths and mistaken assumptions arise.  With a foreword by Stephen Fry, the original host of QI.

The Big Ideas Box (Philosophy, Psychology, Sociology) by DK

This Big Ideas Box contains three titles from the Big Ideas Simply Explained series, covering Philosophy, Psychology and Sociology. True to DK’s form, this series uses innovative visual design to make information interesting and easier to understand.  A mix of high-impact graphics, succinct summaries and more detailed articles help to tease out these huge and complex areas of learning – covering 2500 years’ worth of philosophical thinking, the development of psychology since the Ancient Greeks, and of sociology since the Middle Ages.  These primers will invite teens and adults to think, discuss and seek out further reading.

Brilliant Maps: an Atlas for Curious Minds by Ian Wright

Brilliant Maps is not so much about geography, as a smart and imaginative way to use maps to explain interesting facts about people, countries, culture, and more.  (Ian Wright would argue that maps are the original infographic.)  The hundred maps in this book present information that range from the sobering (number of executions by state) to the curious (countries with no rivers) and whimsical (countries with no McDonald’s).  
Linked to the Brilliant Maps website, the facts presented here are thought-provoking, revelatory, and simply fun.

Answers to Questions You’ve Never Asked: Explaining the “What If” in Science, Geography and the Absurd by Joseph Pisenti

This book of fun facts and strange questions will be especially appealing to kids and teens. Joseph Pisenti, better known as RealLifeLore, is a popular YouTuber whose main channel contains video musings on the absurd side of history, geography, economics and science.  Answers to Questions You’ve Never Asked combines nonsensical humour and serious analysis to answer off-beat questions such as “Where can I move so that I will never be tempted by McDonalds again?”, and “If Plato came back to life what would he think of modern democracy?”.  A fantastic encouragement to stay curious about the world around us.

Interesting Stories for Curious People by Bill O’Neill

Bill O’Neill is a huge trivia buff who has written books of fun facts covering topics as diverse as World War I, American Presidents, and rock music.  Interesting Stories for Curious People is his trivia book about a bit of everything – a collection of entertaining and fascinating stories about history, science, pop culture and just about anything else you can think of.  Great for aspiring trivia champs!

Perfect for Father’s Day – the Top Selling Books Around the World

Father’s Day in Australia – which, unlike in many other countries, is celebrated in September – is made for book-loving fathers.  It comes at the start of an annual publishing peak, when a slew of enticing titles are released in the lead-up to the holiday season. Try gifting some of these goodies to make Father’s Day extra happy for the father or grandfather in your life:

Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man by Mary L. Trump


Mary Trump’s book about her uncle Donald is THE highest profile new book at the moment.  It is so damning that President Trump has tried – and failed – to block publication of the book in a lawsuit.  Too Much and Never Enough is full of gasp-worthy stories that reveal the meanness, greed, and emotional dysfunction displayed by the entire Trump Clan.  Ever the clinical psychologist, Mary Trump also turns her professional eye on her uncle, identifying signs of sociopathy and narcissistic personality disorder.  Too Much and Never Enough is deeply cringeworthy, yet strangely compelling – fathers who like to be on top of the latest happenings will find it hard to resist its sensationalist delights.

Roughy by Jarryd Roughead


This one is for all of the Dads who are sports fans…and those who enjoy a great autobiography. Cancer doesn’t discriminate. When things were at their worst for Jarryd Roughead, his four premierships, two All-Australian gongs and a Coleman Medal counted for nothing. Being that rare footballer who was as loved by opposition fans as his own was no help either. As he spent his days vomiting or curled up with the cat, and his nights in a pool of sweat, fully clothed yet freezing, rolling out of bed every couple of hours to dunk his feet in cold water to douse the feeling that they were on fire, all that mattered was that he didn’t stop believing. Belief is one of those intangibles that puts great athletes above the pack. But this was no game. Roughy is the story of a footballer who lived the dream, the country boy who not only became an AFL star, but was a key player in a Hawthorn team that will be remembered as one of the greats of any era. When in 2015 a spot on his bottom lip was diagnosed as melanoma, we could relate to him all the more. When it returned as spots on his lungs the next year, the gravity we routinely attach to football’s wins and losses seemed ridiculous. In Roughy, you’ll discover the resilience that got him through horrendous immunotherapy and helped him to not only play AFL again, but as Hawthorn captain.

The World’s Worst Parents by David Walliams


A gift of David Walliams’ latest book is an invitation to share it with your favourite young people. After exposing the naughty and terrible deeds of children and then teachers, now misbehaving parents are coming under David Walliams’ microscope. The World’s Worst Parents are ten tales that tell of the world’s most spectacularly silly mums and deliriously daft dads.  Fizzing with fun, with all the hallmarks of David’s flamboyant imagination and surreal humour combined with his genius for character, these hilarious stories are guaranteed to bring on the giggles. Another superb partnership between David Walliams and illustrator Tony Ross, whose art complements the stories perfectly.

The Order by Daniel Silva


Under Daniel Silva’s masterly plotting, Israeli operative and art restorer Gabriel Allon has been through a lot.  In The Order, the 20th book about Gabriel, he is tasked with the secret investigation of the death of his old friend, Pope Paul VII. To unravel this mystery, Gabriel must find the link between the Pope’s death, a missing letter written by the Pope to Gabriel, right-wing extremism, and a rumoured lost Gospel.  With its mix of art, religion, current affairs and exotic locations, The Order might just be the new Da Vinci Code.  Perfect for Fathers who love suspenseful thrillers.  


White Fragility: Why it’s so Hard for White People to Talk about Racism by Robin Di Angelo

For fathers who like to understand the big issues – White Fragility is one of the most in-demand books during the current debate on institutional racism.  Robin DiAngelo is a sociologist who works in diversity training; here, she initiates uncomfortable discussions about how white people are complicit in society’s institutional racism – intentionally or otherwise. She coined the term “white fragility” to describe the disbelieving defensiveness that white people exhibit when they are challenged about race, and particularly when they feel implicated in white supremacy – with profound implications particularly for people who consider themselves liberal or progressive. Provocative and challenging, White Fragility is a must-read for anyone trying to understand racism and race relations. 

How to be an Anti Racist by Ibram X Kendi


Like White Fragility, How to be an Anti-Racist is an unsettling, but important, read that helps us navigate the complex debates around racism.  This memoir by Ibram X. Kendi charts his own journey from internalised anti-black racism, to anti-white racism, and finally, antiracism. He proposes a provocatively simple binary – an idea, action or policy is either racist – that is, contributing to a history that regards and treats different races as inherently unequal – or it is antiracist, because it is trying to dismantle that history.  There is nothing in-between – especially not the popular self-declaration of “not racist”. Kendi methodically examines racism through numerous lenses, such as power, biology, ethnicity, body, culture and gender, as well as offer guidance on how to dismantle racism.  How to be an Anti-racist is an honest and compelling memoir as well as a powerful textbook for change.

Goodreads Choice Awards Winners

Do you use Goodreads?  Goodreads is popular book recommendations and cataloguing website. It’s a great place to find book reviews and recommendations, and you can also use it to keep track of books you have read, owned, or want to read.
Goodreads also runs the annual Goodreads Choice Awards, one of the biggest popularly-voted book prizes around.  There are 20 different categories, and winners are chosen in November each year.  For your reading inspiration, here’s a selection of the winners from last year:

The Testaments by Margaret Atwood (Winner for Fiction)

Margaret Atwood was inspired to write this sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale when its TV adaptation resonated so strongly with audiences around the world. The Testaments is set 15 years after the events in Handmaid’s Tale, and is ostensibly the story of how Aunt Lydia – the highest ranking female oppressor in Gilead – joined the Establishment. In doing so, Margaret Atwood has created a tense and riveting novel that challenges us to question the truth and value of testimony. Besides the Goodreads Choice Award for Fiction, The Testaments was also a joint-winner of last year’s Booker Prize.

The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides (Winner for Mystery and thriller)

The Silent Patient of the title is Alicia, a famous painter married to Gabriel, an in-demand fashion photographer.  Alicia adores Gabriel, and their lives seem perfect, until the day she shoots him and then stops speaking.  Six years later, Theo Faber, a criminal psychotherapist, seeks out Alicia because he is fascinated by Alicia’s crime.  He is determined to make her talk, and thus unravel the mystery surrounding her case.  Alex Michaelides has cleverly built a modern psychological thriller around the ancient Greek tragedy of Alcestis, and his own extensive knowledge of psychotherapy.  In tight, uncluttered prose, he slowly peels back the layers of Alicia’s past, skilfully building tension until the novel’s shocking denouement.

Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo (Winner for Fantasy)

Leigh Bardugo, beloved YA author of the Grishaverse, has extended her range with Ninth House, her first adult fiction book. She brings her immersive world-building into an urban fantasy setting, creating an alternate-Yale that marries the mystique of normal-life social privilege and traditions, with mysterious secret societies that practise powerful magic.  Ninth House skilfully weaves together many elements, including noir, criminal procedural thriller, fish-out-of-water otherness, and personal growth, into a grungy, sinister and alluring story. Compulsively readable.

Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston (Winner for Romance, and best Debut Novel)

Casey McQuiston won both the Best Debut and Best Romance awards for her funny, upbeat romantic comedy, Red White & Royal Blue. Set in an alternate reality, it applies the classic enemies-to-lovers trope to a secret romance between the Prince of Wales and the First Son of the United States.  Full of pop cultural references and a sweet optimism, its popularity exploded by word-of-mouth. Red White & Royal Blue is a great example of queer rom-coms that is adding fresh, diverse fun to the Romance genre.  You can catch Casey McQuiston at this year’s Melbourne Writers Festival Online, later in August.

Dear Girls: Intimate Tales, Untold Secrets and Advice for Living Your Best Life by Ali Wong (Winner for Humour)

Dear Girls is structured as a set of letters to Ali Wong’s daughters, but is definitely not for kids!  Her writing is a direct extension of her raunchy, uncompromising comedy shows, and if you’re already familiar with her work, you’ll be hearing this book in her voice.  Ali Wong uses her sharp, self-deprecating humour to tell wide-ranging, intimate stories about her life, from her sexual experimentation, failed gigs, drug experiences, her heartbreaking miscarriage and the impact of her father’s death.  Dear Girls is also surprisingly inspirational – time and again, Ali Wong turns failure and vulnerability into personal strength and motivation for betterment.

Girl, Stop Apologizing: a Shame-free Plan for Embracing and Achieving your Goals by Rachel Hollis (Winner for Non-fiction)

There’s something about Rachel Hollis’ pithy, down-to-earth, just-between-us-girls voice that is both quote-worthy and has the urgency of a siren.  She is inspirational yet totally relatable – a successful working mom of four who tells it like it is, is full of positivity and isn’t afraid to be vulnerable or to admit failure. Girl, Stop Apologizing is her clarion call to women to stop apologising for their desires, hopes, and dreams, and instead to go after them with passion and confidence. She argues that women are brought up to prioritise the needs of other people, and provide useful strategies to help change this mindset and start prioritising and investing in ourselves.