All posts by Karen Seligman

About Karen Seligman

Karen Seligman is a newly-qualified librarian working in a public library. As a book- and library-lover from way back, she finds nothing better than being surrounded by books and other library-lovers! Karen’s past lives as a law graduate, corporate warrior and research scientist continue to inform her wide-ranging tastes in reading material, with her favourite genres including historical fiction, fantasy, food writing and popular science.

The Best Books on Philanthropy

Philanthropy may be as small as giving away used toys, or as big as a multi-billion dollar donation. It’s about looking out for each other and supporting those in need. Perhaps you are looking for ways to give back to your community – because that’s the type of community you want to live in – but you’re not sure where to start. This week we’ve selected books that cover different aspects of philanthropy, from how-to guides, to inspirational manifestos to sociopolitical analyses – offering lots of ideas and food for thought.

Doing Good Better: Effective Altruism and a Radical New Way to Make a Difference by William MacAskill

Think of Doing Good Better as a guide on how to turbocharge philanthropy – it is an (entertaining and highly readable) primer on effective altruism, a philosophy focussed on maximising the good you can achieve.  Effective altruism uses a mix of ethics, logic, economics and data analysis to question the normally sentimental basis for doing good.  Using many surprising examples (eg de-worming can have a bigger impact on educational outcomes than donating books and stationery), William MacAskill argues that there can be more than 100-fold difference between doing good, and doing the most good possible.  Doing Good Better challenges our thinking, and suggests a new framework for making the biggest difference we can.

The Ask: for Business, for Philanthropy, for Everyday Living by Laura Fredericks JD

The Ask is, very simply, a guide on how to ask for that donation / promotion / anything you really want.  It is a tool that helps us develop the confidence and skills to overcome our fear of asking for things, particularly money. The Ask contains a simple framework backed by detailed instructions – how to plan, what to say, what not to say – that Laura Fredericks developed through years of experience as a lawyer and professional fundraiser – asking the right questions to get what she wanted.  So whether you are a parent fundraising for your school; or you work in the non-profit sector; or perhaps you want a promotion, or another personal goal – The Ask is the self-help book that will help you get what you want. 

Generation Impact: how Next Gen Donors are Revolutionizing Giving by Sharna Goldseker and Michael Moody

We are at the cusp of a new “golden age of giving”, where entrepreneurship has enabled massive wealth creation, much of which will be donated to charitable causes.  However, the philanthropy landscape is changing – not only are philanthropists getting younger – with entrepreneurs actively donating in their 30s and even 20s – they are also taking a more hands-on approach, donating their skills, time and influence, actively tracking the impact of their donations.  Generation Impact is a detailed survey of the state of this next-gen philanthropy and the opportunities it offers. A must-read for anyone interested in philanthropy, nonprofits, impact investing, and social change.

Giving: Purpose is the New Currency by Alexandre Mars

Alexandre Mars is a tech entrepreneur turned (nearly) full-time philanthropist.  In fact, he has taken it one step further, working to help normalise giving for both individuals and organisations. His challenge?  There are three main barriers to overcome – people don’t know where to give, don’t have time to research charities, and don’t trust their money is being spent well. His solution? He created the Epic Foundation, which emphasises transparency and performance analysis when choosing the causes it supports; it also offers an app for donors to track their impact in real time. Giving: Purpose is the New Currency is Alexandre Mars’s journey from venture capitalist to activist; it is his mission statement, and a call to arms for everyone to view giving as an encouraging and joyful practice.

Just Giving: why Philanthropy is Failing Democracy and how it can Do Better by Rob Reich

Rob Reich is a political scientist asking a thought-provoking question: is philanthropy a threat to democracy?  In Just Giving, Rob Reich investigates the ethical and political dimensions of philanthropy, and calls for reform to how it’s structured and incentivised.  Read it and see if you agree with his argument that philanthropy, especially by wealthy individuals or big organisations, is an exercise of power that can influence policy without accountability; or that in some (many?) cases, philanthropy actually worsens inequality.

The Givers: Wealth, Power, and Philanthropy in a New Gilded Age by David Callahan

The Givers shares some of the concerns raised in the previous book, Just Giving – that a growing group of ultra-rich philanthropists, fully confident in their (and their vast wealth’s) ability to solve problems, is effectively directing public policy by pouring millions into their pet causes.  What’s more, this is often done without the type of scrutiny or public consultations required of public officials.  David Callahan gives us an insider’s view of elite philanthropy – by people like Bill and Melinda Gates and Mark Zuckerberg – and how their more hands-on approach, coupled with clear social and political viewpoints, is changing the way philanthropy interacts with politics and public policy.  

Opening our eyes and hearts to refugees

Do you know that Refugee Week has been observed in Australia for over 30 years?

Refugee Week is celebrated annually in mid June, incorporating World Refugee Day on June 20.  This is a time when Australians can acknowledge the contributions that refugees and asylum seekers have made to our country, and also for us to learn about the challenges many refugees face as they re-establish themselves and their communities in a new land.

The theme for this year’s Refugee Week is “A World of Stories” – reminding us that each refugee seeking safety has their own story of why they left home, and what they had to do to find safety. Readers who want to learn, and understand, the current conflicts and refugee situations will find these stories powerful and enlightening:

First Generation: 36 Trailblazing Immigrant and Refugees Who Make America Great by Sandra Neil Wallace and Rich Wallace

In the tradition of Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls comes this collection of mini biographies celebrating the achievements of some very special first-generation immigrants and former refugees.  From musician Yo-yo Ma to scientist Albert Einstein, from former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright to tennis champion Martina Navratilova, this collection of high achievers span different ethnicities, religions, and professions.  And despite the America-centric title, many of their contributions have impacted / benefitted the entire world.  First Generation also offers a powerful reminder on how a safe environment, personal freedoms and educational opportunities help people realise their potential.

The Refugees by Viet Thanh Nguyen

In Viet Thanh Nguyen’s mind, the experience of becoming a refugee – unwanted where they come from, unwanted where they go to – brands you forever.  He explores this idea in the eight short stories that comprise The Refugees.  These are not stories about escaping war, nor even about adapting to new cultures; they are simply stories of love, loss, memory and family – melancholy stories seen through the prism of the refugee experience.  Viet Thanh Nguyen is a respected academic who has become a literary star since winning the Pulitzer Prize (and several other awards) with his first novel, The Sympathizer.  The Refugees is his first collection of short stories. 

Stepping Stones: a Refugee Family’s Journey by Margriet Ruurs and Nizar Ali Badr

Canadian writer Margriet Ruurs was inspired by the art of Syrian artist Nizar Ali Badr to create this book – they didn’t know each other and had never met, but managed to collaborate despite the distance between their two countries, and the political turmoil in Syria.  Stepping Stones tells the story of Rama and her family, who live a happy, peaceful life in Syria until war comes.  As bombs fall ever closer to their village, Rama’s family flees with only a few belongings, travelling overland and across the seas until they find a safe, new home. Nizar Ali Badr’s distinctive illustrations are made by arranging multicoloured stones – into characters and scenes with surprising levels of emotion and humour.  Stepping Stones is an excellent way to introduce the topic of war and refugees to young readers.

Homes by Abu Bakr al Rabeeah with Winnie Yeung

Abu Bakr al Rabeeah was a young teen when he confided his dream to his English teacher: he wanted to tell his story of growing up in Iraq and Syria, and of his family’s journey to safety in Canada.  He noticed that his fellow Canadians knew little about the situation in the Middle East, and wanted to challenge those who wanted to define his family only by their experience as refugees.  Eight months later, Abu achieved his dream with the help of his teacher, Winnie Yeung.  Homes is a gripping first-person account of growing up in a war zone.  The horrors of war are interwoven with ordinary childhood pursuits in a way that shocks the reader – flying kites with cousins among bombed-out buildings; playing with shell casings in the street – yet Abu’s childhood is not without love, or fun.  

I Can Only Tell You What My Eyes See by Giles Duley

Giles Duley is a photojournalist who is best known for documenting the long-term impact of war.  Despite losing both legs and an arm during an explosion whilst on assignment, he has continued his work as a photographer, reporting the stories of refugees not to evoke pity, but to encourage empathy and to inspire change.  I Can Only Tell You What My Eyes See is a record of the refugee crisis in Europe during 2015/6.  Giles Duley travelled through Lebanon, Iraq, and Jordan, through the Balkans and to Greece and Germany, to retrace the journeys of people forced to flee their homes in the Middle East to seek safety in Europe.  Profits from the sale of this book will be donated to the United Nations High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR).

We are Displaced: My Journey and Stories from Refugee Girls Around the World by Malala Yousafzai

In We Are Displaced, Malala Yousafzai uses her considerable public profile to highlight the issue of displacement – people forced to flee their homes due to conflict, persecution or natural disaster.  This is a much more widespread problem than most people realise – happening all around the world, affecting more than 68 million people, mostly women and girls. Starting with Malala’s own experience of internal displacement within Pakistan while escaping from Taliban rule, we are introduced to eight other girls, from countries as diverse as Yemen, Syria, Guatemala and the Congo, and their stories of displacement and disruption (and often discrimination as well).  These accounts are powerfully personal, confronting, and ultimately hopeful, as these resilient girls rebuild their lives in new communities.

The Best Science Books of 2019 (so far)

I love Popular Science as a genre – having a science background myself, I am passionate about encouraging everyone to have a better understanding of science, and of becoming more aware of its place in everyday life.  I also love anything that shows off the quirky nerdy humour that I know many scientists and engineers have!  The best science books often combine in-depth research, stranger-than-fiction facts and a cracking narrative  – here’s the pick of the recent crop:

Humble Pi: a Comedy of Maths Errors by Matt Parker
Matt Parker is a mathematician and a comedian, and he uses both skillsets to great effect in Humble Pi, a book about the maths that is all around us – and what happens when you get it wrong. The stories range from trivial and quirky (such as posters where the cogs won’t turn) to potentially deadly (wobbling bridges and NASA disasters); and Matt manages to highlight the funny and entertaining side in all of them. Humble Pi subtly celebrates the importance of maths to science and engineering, without depressing readers about being “not good at maths”.

When the Dogs Don’t Bark: a Forensic Scientist’s Search for the Truth by Angela Gallop
Angela Gallop has had an extraordinary career as a forensic scientist. In over 40 years, she has worked on a string of high profile cases that made significant advances to forensics and criminal law.  When the Dogs Don’t Bark is her memoir of how science has helped to uncover the truth behind some shocking crimes.  While the sensational details showcase her amazingly analytical mind, Angela is also keen to educate her readers about the risks of relying on forensic evidence too heavily.  When the Dogs Don’t Bark will appeal to fans of True Crime and police procedurals, while its level of technical detail should engage science buffs. The Guardian newspaper also considers it an essential resource for aspiring crime writers!

The Wisdom of Wolves: How Wolves can Teach Us to be More Human by Elli H. Radinger
Wolves get pretty bad press in many cultures, and Elli Radinger is out to show everyone that they are not as Big & Bad as we’ve previously heard.  Drawing on 25 years’ of observations, The Wisdom of Wolves describes the social structures and behaviours of wolf packs and shows how similar they are to human societies.  The stories of how the entire pack helps to care for their young and their elderly; how the grownups teach their young to play; and how key decisions are made by females and the elderly, are heartwarming and offer surprising insights into kinship and parenting.  


Why Can’t We Sleep? by Darian Leader
Sleep.  It is a human necessity that has become a luxury in our busy world – so much so that there is an ever-growing industry helping us get the quantity and quality of sleep we want/need.  Why Can’t We Sleep? is a timely examination of this hot topic – weaving together a history and critique of sleep research, with neuroscience, psychology, and the social, cultural and economic significance of sleep.  This is psychoanalyst Darian Leader’s complex, intelligent, yet highly readable story on how and why humans sleep.

Guns, Germs and Steel: the Fates of Human Societies by Jared Diamond
Guns, Germs and Steel is a hugely influential book that helped to establish Popular Science as a genre.  Jared Diamond examines why some civilisations are more successful than others, in terms of wealth and political power, despite no inherent advantage in genetics or intelligence.  He theorises that the tools of success are guns (superior weapons for military might); germs (Eurasian diseases weakening local populations, making them easier to conquer) and steel (advanced technology facilitating imperialism) – and that they all arose from environmental conditions that allowed early adoption of agriculture. Drawing together ideas from history, geography, economics and anthropology, Guns, Germs and Steel offers compelling theories and surprising insights into the development of societies.

Influenza: the Quest to Cure the Deadliest Disease in History by Dr Jeremy Brown
The deadliest disease in recorded history was the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918, which killed up to 100 million people worldwide.  A century later, scientists are still searching for a cure – and an understanding of why this strain disproportionately affects young, apparently-healthy people.  Dr Jeremy Brown uses the Spanish flu pandemic as the starting point of his history of our fight against this ubiquitous yet still deadly virus.  Readers are swept along by this tense mystery/thriller as we begin to understand the high stakes involved – the ‘flu’s ability to spread widely and mutate repeatedly still cause thousands of deaths each year, with widespread social, political and economic consequences, and yet there is still no “bullet-proof” cure or vaccine in sight.

Books to Help You Launch a Blog

For the past few weeks we have been looking at social media options that help support your side business.  Today we are focussing on the Granddaddy/mummy of them all – the blog.  Blogs allow us to share our thoughts and connect with other people on pretty much any topic.    Whether you want to start blogging for personal enjoyment, to support your professional goals or to develop a business idea,  here are titles that will inspire and help you get started. 

The One Hour Content Plan by Meera Kothand

This is a great tool for those of us who like a bit of structure and a “big picture” overview before we plunge into a project.  Meera Kothand is a digital marketing specialist, and this is her method for generating a year’s worth of blog post ideas in an hour or less. The secret is to set regular blogging goals, and to never forget the purpose of your blog.  The One Hour Content Plan contains downloadable worksheets and templates to help you work through Meera’s actionable ideas.  This mix of business / marketing and writing advice will help you craft a cohesive, authentic blog that will support your public/professional persona or business.

Likeable Social Media (Third Edition): How to Delight your Customers, Create an Irresistible Brand, and be Generally Amazing on all Social Networks that Matter by Dave Kerpen

You know a book must be good if it is onto its Third Edition in eight years. Likeable Social Media is not just about how to get more “Likes” on Facebook; instead it is about how to develop likeable business practices and likeable content that capture customer loyalty, build communities and strengthen reputations in the long run. This latest revision offers strategies about newer social media platforms such as Snapchat, and news and tactics on the latest tools and options.  The direct, conversational tone of the book is easy to read and feels like Dave Kerpen has become your personal mentor. 

The Essential Habits of 6-Figure Bloggers by Sally Miller

If you’ve ever dreamt of making a living as a blogger – or want to know how to make money from your blog – then you need this book.  In The Essential Habits of 6-Figure Bloggers, Sally Miller interviewed 17 top bloggers to learn the strategies, habits and mindsets that have helped them become successful.  These bloggers make six- or even seven-figure salaries from blogging – when most bloggers struggle to make a tiny fraction of that. The bloggers all took different paths to success, but showed that persistence and smart work habits are essential.  The tips and advice they shared are sensible and practical, and can help to improve the focus and quality of any blog.

Creative Confidence: Unleashing the Creative Potential Within Us All by Tom & David Kelley

Creative Confidence is not specifically about blogging, but is a guide on how we can use creative thinking to become more productive and successful in our lives.  Tom and David Kelley are brothers and co-founders of the award-winning design firm, IDEO – innovation and creativity is their life’s work.  They wrote Creative Confidence in order to inspire and help everyone realise their creative potential.  Using many interesting anecdotes, and ideas based on design / iterative thinking, the Kelleys show that greater creativity can be learnt – by trying new things without fear of failure, and by learning from our mistakes.

Influencer: Building your Personal Brand in the Age of Social Media by Brittany Hennessy

If you’ve ever scrolled through your Instagram feed and thought, I wear clothes, eat avocado toast and like sunsets, why can’t someone pay me to live my best life? Then this book is for you – Influencer is a detailed guide on how to nurture your social media presence – including your blog and your personal brand – into valuable social influence.  With her experience from both sides of the industry – starting as a blogger, eventually entering senior marketing roles in influencer strategy for various companies – Brittany Hennessy is able to offer a range of tips and tricks  to help you.  She is also refreshingly honest about the flipside of the influencer lifestyle – the amount of hard work and attention-to-detail required to live that picture-perfect life.  Essential reading.

365 Blog Topic Ideas: For The Lifestyle Blogger Who Has Nothing to Write About by Dana Fox

Dana Fox fell in love with the creative potential of the internet as a teen, then went on to build a successful career as a graphic artist, web designer, and blogger.  She is now paying it forward, sharing tips and tutorials on how to start blogging, through her blog I Can Build a Blog, and this book, 365 Blog Topic Ideas.  On each page there is a basic topic, such as “7 things found on the net this week”.  These are great starting points that also prompt you to modify or expand to suit the tone and focus of your own blog.  There is also a section full of holiday and seasonal ideas.  365 Blog Topic Ideas is a great resource for getting started, injecting variety or helping you become unstuck in your blogging.

Booko Tutorial: how to Find the Best Prices for Uni Textbooks

At Booko HQ, we love to help you find the best deals for the books you want… that way you can buy even more books, right?  And not only can we help with the books you want to buy – the book-treats for yourself and your loved ones – but Booko can also help find discounts on the books you need – including textbooks for school and university, as well as specialist texts for professionals.

With just a few clicks or taps on your device, Booko can help you save up to hundreds of dollars.  Here are some examples:

Macroeconomics Australasian Edition (4th edition) by Olivier J. Blanchard and Jeffrey R. Sheen

Savings for new copy up to $50   Savings for used copy up to $100

Gray’s Anatomy for Students by Drake, Vogl and Mitchell

Savings for new copy  up to $150
Savings for used copy up to $150

Integrated Chinese Level 1 Part 1 Workbook (3rd edition) by Yuehua Liu et al

Savings for new copy up to $50
Savings for used copy up to $60

Now read on for some step-by-step instructions:

Booko’s standard search finds you the best prices for right now.  For even better deals, Booko offers a set-and-forget Alerts and a Lists feature. Booko Alerts regularly checks the prices for your chosen items and will email you as soon as the price falls below the current (or a specified) level. It’s a great way to monitor for sales.  To set an Alert, first search for the book you want – if possible, use the ISBN to confirm the correct edition.


This shows the search for a Psychology textbook.  The top listing on the Right is the current best price. To create an Alert, click the Add an Alert button below the Cover Image on the left side of the page.  Set your preferred price – and you can set separate prices for new and used books. Then enter your email and click Add.  Now all you need to do is wait for the Good News email! 

If you are logged into your Booko account, you can set an Alert faster, because you won’t need to enter your email each time.  A Booko account allows you to modify your alerts (delete or change target prices) more easily, as a list. 

A Booko account also allows you to set up Lists.  These help you sort and group the books you are watching for.  To add a book to a list, click the Add to List button below the Cover Image (next to the Add an Alert button). This adds the book to your Wishlist (the default list for each Booko account).  To create more lists, click on the My Lists tab on the Top Right of the page, then click the Manage Lists button.

The Manage Lists option has several nifty features – here you create new personalised lists (A), View/Edit or Delete existing lists, or Export list data in a spreadsheet-friendly format (B).  Booko will also tell you whether you can buy all your list items from a single store (C) – and do a price comparison as well.

Booko Alerts and Booko Lists can help you minimise the time and money you need for your back-to-uni essentials – so that you’ll have more time to relax before Semester starts!

How to Make a Difference in 2019

New year, new start. A new year encourages us to try new things in the hope of personal improvement.  Why not challenge yourself with goals that benefit both yourself and your environment or wider community? Even small changes can make a positive impact. Here are some ideas on how to make a difference in 2019.

Waste Not: Make a Big Difference by Throwing Away Less by Erin Rhoads

Modern society is full of stuff designed to be short-lived and then thrown away – from plastic packaging to coffee cups to clothes and even phones.  Many of us are trying to create less waste, but find the idea of being Zero-Waste too daunting (even though we are impressed at the same time).  Waste Not is a collection of tips and tricks that Erin Rhoads learnt during her own Zero-Waste journey, covering different aspects of life, including food, cleaning, beauty, entertaining and kids.  Many of the ideas are small and very approachable (such as BYO fabric shopping bag) and there are also creative DIY ideas for making your own cleaning products, gift wrapping and much more!

Scraps, Peels and Stems: Recipes and Tips for Rethinking Food Waste at Home by Jill Lightner and Shannon Douglas

Scraps, Peels and Stems is a recipe book with a difference – it minimises food waste by making the most of every part of an ingredient.  It shows you how to turn items such as beef bones, broccoli stalks, wilting greens and parmesan rinds into easy but impressive snacks and meals; there are also tips on planning your shopping to avoid overbuying; how to store food to keep it fresh for longer; and guides to composting and recycling.  Jill Lightner and Shannon Douglas show how you can make your kitchen sustainable with minimal effort – it’s kind to the environment and kind to your wallet too.

Lagom: the Swedish Art of Balanced Living by Linnea Dunne

Lagom is the Swedish concept of moderation – not too little, not too much, but just enough. Linnea Dunne suggests that lagom can deliver sustainable happiness, because it’s a philosophy that promotes balance and shared experiences while minimising waste and extravagance. Lagom: the Swedish Art of Balanced Living is a compact guide on how to introduce lagom into different aspects of our lives.  Many lagom activities, such as pot-luck dinners, choosing functionality over fashion, or upcycling, are low-cost or sustainable practices that also encourage mindfulness and living in the present.

The Reducetarian Solution: how the Surprisingly Simple Act of Reducing the Amount of Meat in your Diet can Transform your Health and the Planet by Brian Kateman

Plant-based foods and veganism are hot topics right now, with ideas such as Meatless Mondays and reducetarian / flexitarian eating (people who are committed to eating less meat, without becoming fully vegetarian or vegan) gaining traction.  The Reducetarian Solution is a good introduction to this topic, with 70 short essays describing the wide-ranging consequences of eating meat – on health, environment, ethics, even finance.  There are also recipes for meat-free meals and tips on how to sub-out meat from your current diet.  The Reducetarian Solution offers positive yet non-judgmental inspiration for everyone interested in this lifestyle.

And finally – two super-topical bestsellers that are very much about mindful consumption:

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

Team Booko have recommended The Barefoot Investor several times now – but its powerful message is worth repeating.  Scott Pape does not promise to help his readers become millionaires, but he does show us simple and achievable ways to develop good money habits and work towards financial independence. Whether you are 8 or 80, trying to shake off debts or saving for a goal, you can learn something from The Barefoot Investor. No wonder this has been Booko’s most popular book for two years running.

The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up, by Marie Kondo

The recent Netflix series Tidying Up with Marie Kondo has brought a whole new audience to Marie Kondo’s bestselling books.   Shopping may be fun, but you can end up with too many possessions that weigh you down both physically and mentally. Simplify your life with the KonMari method of decluttering – systematically reviewing items and only keeping those that “spark joy”. You’ll feel great about yourself, gain new appreciation for the things you choose to keep, and kick that impulse buying habit as well.

Movies to get you through the holiday period

Watching TV or movies is an important December holiday ritual for many people; and practical too, when you are too lethargic  during a food coma, or if harsh weather discourages you from venturing outdoors. We have great suggestions for your viewing pleasure, whether you prefer classic Christmas movies, or DVD box sets for binge watching, or inspiration for new year’s resolutions!

Movies to celebrate Christmas

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Region 1, US & Canada)

The Harry Potter films may not be everyone’s idea of a Christmas movie, but they are terrific at evoking the beauty of wintry Christmases.  The most Christmassy of them all is Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire – which contains the Yule Ball scene, with its spectacular snowing-indoors setting, gorgeous costumes, and the romance and tragi-comedy of teenage hormones – what’s not to love?  With a classic quest, friendship, comedy, mystery, pathos and impressive visual effects, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is great fun for kids and adults alike. Region 2 DVD (Europe) is here and Blu-Ray here.

Life of Brian (Region 2, Europe)

Life of Brian is the perfect Christmas film for those with a more wicked / cynical sense of humour, or those who scoff at more sentimental, shiny visions of Christmas.  This deeply-irreverent story about Brian of Nazareth, born next door to Jesus on the same day – is a terrific satire that lampoons religion, politics, gender relations and just about everything (and everyone) else. Enjoy Life of Brian as an impressive display of Monty Python’s comedic skills, or even for its notoriety (it was considered blasphemous, and was banned in many countries).  One of my favourite Christmas movies. Blu-ray available here.

Box sets for Binge Watching

Outlander Complete Seasons 1, 2 & 3 (Region 4, Australia & NZ)

Based on the novels by Diana Gabaldon, Outlander is a bit of a hidden gem – highly regarded but somewhat under-publicised. Despite this, the show (and the novels) have amassed a big and active fanbase, whose passion matches that shown onscreen.  In Outlander we see Claire, a nurse in World War 2, accidentally travelling back to 1743 Scotland, where she meets Jamie, a Highlander embroiled in the Jacobite risings.  Claire and Jamie’s tender love story, against a background of history, political intrigue, adventure and stunning Scottish scenery makes for gripping drama. This DVD set collects all of Seasons 1-3, while Season 4 is under production and there are four other books in the series to be dramatised. A Region 2 version (Europe) and a Blu-ray are also available.

The Handmaid’s Tale Season 1&2 Box Set (Region 4, Australia & NZ)

The award-winning The Handmaid’s Tale offers a combination of powerful performance, beautiful cinematography and topical subject matter.  It is one of today’s most talked-about dramas – the dystopic world it envisions resonates eerily with the current political climate, and its striking visual style has entered popular culture and become part of the vocabulary of protest.  Season One is an admired adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s original novel, while Season 2 extends beyond the original story to explore the origins of Gilead, and the complex relationships between key characters.  This new-release box set covers all episodes to date.  A Region 2 version (Europe) is also available.

DVDs for calm

The Ghan: Australia’s Greatest Train Journey (Region 4, Australia & NZ)

The Ghan: Australia’s Greatest Train Journey is a 3-hour documentary, where front-mounted cameras show this iconic train’s journey from Adelaide to Darwin, as well as archival footage that explains the railway’s construction.  (A 17-hour unedited version was also broadcast on national television)  The Ghan is Australia’s first contribution to Slow TV, a concept most prominent in Norway, where extended broadcasts of real-time train journeys, knitting and wood-stacking are popular.
With no dialogue or plot, but stunning scenery, The Ghan’s journey is immersive, hypnotic and relaxing.

Walk with Me (Region 1, US & Canada)

A documentary about quietness, mindfulness and contemplation sounds like a welcome antidote to the hectic excesses of the holiday season.   Walk with Me shares glimpses in the life and teachings of Thich Nhat Hanh, a Vietnamese Zen Buddhist monk, and Plum Village, the monastic community he founded in south-west France. Thich Nhat Hanh is instrumental in introducing mindfulness to the West; this film shows how he, and his disciples, live mindfully in the present.  The meditative quality of Walk with Me is further enhanced by Benedict Cumberbatch, who intersperses his narration with sonorous passages from Thich Nhat Hanh’s writings.  A Region 2 DVD (Europe) is also available.

The Best Last-Minute Gifts (including Great Vouchers!)

Two weeks till Christmas and still shopping for gifts?  Thanks to online shopping, you can access retailers from around the world, who can get your gift to your loved one in-time, even if they’re overseas.  Booko can help you compare stock availability and delivery times across a range of retailers – and don’t forget that express shipping may also be available. Just head to the Booko website, make sure the country flag at the top right hand corner is displaying your required destination (click on the flag to display and change options), then search for the item you want.  Booko will display prices and availability in the results table.

More details about buying for overseas deliveries are in our handy guide here.

 

Booko can help you find the best prices and fastest shipping for books, DVDs, games and even jigsaw puzzles ! Here are some more last-minute gift ideas:



Slow Down and Grow Something : the Urban Grower’s Recipe for the Good Life by Byron Smith and Tess Robinson

Gift this to your loved one, and you may be helping them check off several life goals at the same time.  Both gardening and cooking are great for our wellbeing – encouraging us to slow down, get outdoors and live in the moment.  Slow Down and Grow Something combines the horticultural skills of Byron Smith and cooking skills of Tess Robinson to offer us lots of tips on how to create your own food oases – whether you have a big backyard or just a few pots in an apartment.  Then make the most of your harvest with delicious recipes that you can enjoy on your own, or share with your friends (another boost for our mental health!).

Guinness World Records 2019

The Guinness World Records makes a classic gift – this is a perennial favourite for school-aged children!  Kids just love quirky and amazing facts (and reading them will quietly broadening their knowledge of the world).  It is also a thoughtful choice for reluctant readers – kids who find it difficult to enjoy “chapter books” or novels may enjoy the short, easy-to-dip-into format, the non-fiction focus and the colourful, lavishly illustrated pages.

Azul board game

The eye-catching Azul board game is the well-deserved winner of this year’s Game of the Year (Spiel des Jahres) award, and has been described by game reviewers as an “Instant Classic”.  Azul’s beautiful visual design is inspired by the intricate patterns on azulejos, Moorish decorative ceramic tiles from Spain and Portugal.  Azul is an abstract strategy-based game that is governed by simple rules, yet delivers surprisingly complex game play.  This family-friendly game is suitable for 2-4 players, aged 8+.

Sushi Go!

Sushi Go is a popular card game that is easy to learn and fast-playing, great for kids on their own, or multi-age groups such as family gatherings.  Make the most points by collecting different types of sushi and desserts!  The cards are colourful, with cute sushi characters, and come in a sturdy metal tin that is perfect for taking along on holidays.  For 2-5 players, aged 8+.

The Elements by Theodore Gray 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle

Theodore Gray’s The Elements is a coffee-table book that combines the best of science and art – it is a tour through the chemical elements of the periodic table, in a stylish format, lavishly illustrated with photographs of objects associated with each element.  This million-copy bestseller has inspired two sequels (Molecules and Reactions), apps, jigsaw puzzles and even quilts!  This 1000-piece jigsaw puzzle shows the full periodic table as displayed in the book.  The finished item measures approximately 92cm x 41cm.

Gift Vouchers / Cards / Certificates

Gift vouchers/cards/certificates can be a real life-saver when you have no time to shop – vouchers are emailed immediately upon purchase, either to you for printing, or directly to the recipient. So all you need is a few minutes to click through and complete the purchase!  Delight children with the ability to “go shopping” for exactly what they want; or introduce a loved one to the huge range on offer in an online bookstore.  Booko has a list of bookstore gift voucher options here.

The Best Travel Books for 2018

We’re rushing headlong towards the end of the year, and here in Australia the weather is warming up beautifully – two things that make me think of holidays and travelling! For me, the prospect of resuming travelling (after an extended break) is filling me with anticipation – there are still so many places I want to visit!  Whether you are a seasoned traveller, or one new to the game, there’s some excellent travel writing to inspire, entertain and inform you. Here are some of our favourites from this year:

Journeys of a Lifetime, Second Edition: 500 of the World’s Greatest Trips by National Geographic

Here’s all your travel inspo in one hit – the second edition of Journeys of a Lifetime, completely revised to mark its 10th anniversary.  From iconic places to hidden gems, these destinations and routes represent the 500 favourite journeys of the travel writers at National Geographic.  Covering every continent and mode of transport, Journeys of a Lifetime is particularly strong on adventurous trips – whether it’s cruising in Antarctica, trekking up Kilimanjaro or mountain biking in Transylvania.  There are also thematic sections, with ideas for urban walks, food pilgrimages, hot new museums and more.  Packed with maps, planning advice and amazing photography, this gorgeous book will provide inspiration and information for years to come.

Lonely Planet’s Ultimate Eatlist : the 500 Best Dishes to Eat on the Planet, Ranked by Lonely Planet

Ultimate Eatlist is another “500 Best” book that will be a great reference as well as inspiration.  For many people (myself included), trying different cuisines is a favourite part of travelling, so the team at Lonely Planet has scoured the world for the most delicious, iconic and memorable eating experiences.  From Laksa in Kuala Lumpur, BBQ in Texas to oysters in Tasmania, Ultimate Eatlist will show you what to eat, where to eat it, the history and culture behind each food, and why the experience will be special.  Don’t read this book when you’re hungry!

Rooms with a View: the Secret Life of Grand Hotels by Adrian Mourby

The names of famous hotels – such as the Dorchester (London), Raffles (Singapore), and The Plaza (New York) – instantly evoke images of history, glamour, money, celebrities. These are also potent ingredients for gossip!  Hotel historian and travel addict Adrian Mourby has collected wonderfully entertaining tales about 50 of these grand hotels around the world.  Read about how the details of India’s independence were drafted in the ballroom of the Imperial Hotel in Delhi; or about the time Salvador Dali asked room service at Hotel Le Meurice in Paris to send him a flock of sheep. The Great, the Good and the Eccentric, including Winston Churchill, Ernest Hemingway and Elizabeth Taylor – all made appearances, and some times, history – in these grand establishments.

Pasta, Pane, Vino: Deep Travels Through Italy’s Food Culture by Matt Goulding

Pasta, Pane, Vino is the latest book by Roads & Kingdoms, a crew that applies foreign correspondence-style journalism to food, music and travel (thereby elevating it to a new and impressive level).  Matt Goulding travels across Italy and shows how food staples – pasta, bread, cheese, wine – remain anchored in tradition, whilst allowing new generations of artisans the scope to innovate for the future.  Matt’s exploration of food is also the starting point for deep-dives into Italian history, politics and culture.  Each chapter is like a short documentary that is both intense and intimate. Pasta, Pane, Vino will hit the spot If you like your writing insightful and intellectual.

The Kings of the Yukon: an Alaskan River Journey by Adam Weymouth

Adam Weymouth spent four months canoeing along the Yukon River, tracing the life cycle of the legendary king salmon.  From the spawning grounds of McNeil Lake in the Canadian interior, he travels over 3,000 km to the Bering Sea – and each year, thousands of salmon make this same journey in reverse, against the current and uphill, back to their birthplace to spawn and then die.  Along the way, he meets various locals, whose lives are entwined with the fate of the salmon.  The Kings of the Yukon is a quiet, poetic book befitting a journey through such a remote, rugged area.  The slow pace of canoeing allows Adam Weymouth plenty of time for reflection on ecology, sustainability, and the tension between conservation and cultural traditions.

A Year Off: a Story about Travelling the World and How to Make it Happen for You by Alexandra and David Brown

“Don’t Dream it, Do it!” is the message by Alexandra and David Brown – if you have ever dreamt of taking a year off to travel the world, then this is the book for you.  A few months into their relationship, Alexandra and David decided to take a year off from work and travel together. Visiting 20 countries in 12 months is a big challenge for a new couple, and this book details the highs and the lows, the glorious moments and the sheer exhaustion.  Alexandra and David also show how to plan and budget for such a trip, the conversations you need to have with your boss, how to manage the mundane stuff whilst on the road.  Combining guidebook, travel essays and memoir, A Year Off will inspire you to finally take the plunge with that dream trip.

The Kindness of Strangers: Travel Stories that Make your Heart Grow edited by Fearghal O’Nuallain

Travelling is exciting because it takes us to new and distant places; however, in such unfamiliar places, without our usual support network, we become vulnerable.   The Kindness of Strangers explores what it means to be vulnerable and to be helped by someone we’ve never met, someone who could have walked past, but chose not to.  Contributors share personal stories of the kindnesses they have received from adventures around the world, from a warm and cheering bowl of soup, to a rescue from a dire situation.  The Kindness of Strangers is not just a travel book, but one that reminds its readers that much good can arise from even the smallest of kind gestures. In doing so, it encourages readers to empathise and be kind too.  All royalties go towards supporting Oxfam in their work with refugees – the most vulnerable travellers of them all.

The Atlas Obscura Explorers Guide for the World’s Most Adventurous Kid by Dylan Thuras

The team behind the bestselling Atlas Obscura has returned with a book, designed to inspire wanderlust in a younger generation!  The Atlas Obscura Explorer’s Guide for the World’s Most Adventurous Kid is packed with fascinating and unusual information about 47 different countries spread across every continent.  Besides distant and exotic places – such as the Crystal Caves in Mexico and Blood Falls in Antarctica – it also encourages young readers to explore and reveal the hidden wonders of their own environments.  Designed to appeal to 8-12 year olds (the age when curious facts and amazing records really capture their imaginations), this is a beautifully-produced book that will be perfect for gifting.

Bestselling Nonfiction of 2018 (so far)

September marks the start of a big season of book launches, and we at Team Booko can’t be more excited.  In recent years I have found myself drawn more and more to nonfiction, excited by the range on offer – not only are there instructional books ready to help you pick up new skills, there are also gorgeous pictorial works to inspire dreams; and many real-life stories that are fascinating, dramatic and uplifting.  Here are some of our favourite nonfiction titles for this year (so far), including a few new releases that are destined to be bestsellers.
Together: Our Community Cookbook by The Hubb Community Kitchen (with foreword by HRH The Duchess of Sussex)
Combine the star power of the newlywed Duchess of Sussex (aka Meghan Markle), a worthy cause (supporting a community kitchen founded by survivors of the Grenfell Tower fire), and a life-affirming message (celebrating the nurturing qualities of cooking and eating together), and you get an instant bestseller.  Together: Our Community Cookbook shares over 50 delicious recipes from around the world, of homestyle dishes that helped this group of women, and their families, retain a sense of normality and home, after the devastating Grenfell Tower fire.  Profits from this book will help The Hubb Community Kitchen reach out to more vulnerable people through the cooking and sharing of food.
Iris Apfel: Accidental Icon by Iris Apfel
Even if you don’t recognise Iris Apfel by name, you will probably recognise her round glasses, bold jewellery and colourful outfits.  Her distinctive, joyous style has made her a fashion icon late in life – she describes herself as a “geriatric starlet” – as well as an inspiration to anyone who wants to live a bold, quirky and uncompromising life.  At age 97, Iris is a designer / model / writer / actor and busier than ever.  Iris Apfel: Accidental Icon is a collection of musings about her life, her work (as an interior designer for the White House who has worked for nine different Presidents), and her attitudes to style and ageing.  Totally fun and uplifting.
Lonely Planet Epic Hikes of the World
Dont dream it, do it! Lonely Planet gives you inspiration for your next trip, in this collection of Epic Hikes of the World.  With details of 50 incredible routes in 30 countries, plus a further 150 suggestions, Lonely Planet will have you covered, wherever your preferred destination.  There are first-hand travelogues as well as trip-planning details and advice.  And don’t worry if you are new to hiking, or just more of a city explorer – The profiled walks range from day-trips and urban trails to month-long hikes and expeditions.  Epic Hikes of the World is a companion to the bestselling Epic Bike Rides of the World and Epic Drives of the World.
21 Lessons for the 21st Century by Yuval Noah Harari
The Guardian newspaper credits Yuval Noah Harari with making serious non-fiction cool again.  In his earlier books, the surprise bestsellers Sapiens and Homo Deus, he explained the history of humanity and the rise of civilisation in terms of evolutionary psychology.  Now Yuval Noah Harari looks at the present.  21 Lessons for the 21st Century is a collection of essays about the big issues – AI and automation, Fake News and populism, religion, climate change – and how we can manage their impact on our lives.  His talent at combining unexpected ideas into dazzling observations makes this a thought-provoking yet accessible read that helps us make sense of these uncertain times.
Mirka and Georges: a Culinary Affair by Lesley Harding and Kendrah Morgan
Published just after her recent death, Mirka and Georges is a lavishly illustrated book that celebrates the lives of Mirka and Georges Mora – their art, their food, and the huge impact they have had on the cultural life of Australia.  Arriving in Melbourne in the early 1950s, Mirka and Georges quickly became the centre of the bohemian scene, injecting a sense of vibrancy and European sophistication into a formerly staid, conservative city. Mirka and Georges: a Culinary Affair tells their fabulous story through a lovingly-reproduced collection of recipes, anecdotes, photographs and artworks.
Ottolenghi Simple by Yotam Ottolenghi
I love Yotam Ottolenghi’s recipes – the bold flavour combinations, the respect for vegetables, the Mediterranean and Asian influences – but have to admit that they can be quite daunting, with their long lists of ingredients and “cheffy” techniques.  Ottolenghi Simple aims to dispel that reputation by offering 130 new recipes that are more home-style and achievable. Each of the recipes are either “short on time (under 30 minutes)”, “10 ingredients or less”, “make ahead”, “pantry”, “lazy” or “easier than you think” (or a combination of these). A great introduction to Ottolenghi’s amazing food.
Boys will be Boys: an Exploration of Power, Patriarchy and the Toxic Bonds of Mateship by Clementine Ford
Clementine Ford’s first book Fight Like a Girl was both influential and controversial, exploding like a hand grenade lobbed into our collective consciousness.  In Boys Will Be Boys, she turns her focus onto boys and men and toxic masculinity.  As the mother of an infant son, Clementine asks, “how do we raise boys so that they support and respect women and give them equal space in the world?”.  She argues that the patriarchy and its toxic beliefs are as harmful to boys and men as it is to girls and women, and proposes actions to effect real change.
Erebus: the Story of a Ship by Michael Palin
For almost 170 years, HMS Erebus was at the centre of a famous mystery – it was abandoned in 1846 during the failed Franklin expedition to find the Northwest Passage, and both the expedition party and their ships then disappeared. Despite dozens of search parties, the wreckage was not found until 2014. The disappearance was but the final chapter in the history of this ship – Erebus was an important part of the exploration of both polar regions.  The wry wit of Michael Palin, globetrotter extraordinaire, perfectly captures the mystery, drama, and historical significance of this remarkable story.  Erebus is already high on my gifting list for upcoming birthdays and for Christmas!