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.

Top Books for Summer Reading

Summer Holidays is my favourite time of the year, because it is when I can truly relax, sit down and catch up on reading!  In Australia, we are always spoilt for choice with our summer reading, because it coincides with the end-of-year publishing bonanza – when many great titles are launched in time for the festive gifting season. Here are some holiday-reading goodies to look forward to:

Twas the Nightshift Before Christmas by Adam Kay

Twas the Nightshift Before Christmas follows writer and comedian Adam Kay through six festive seasons on hospital wards, during his time as a junior doctor in the NHS.  Adam’s brilliant storytelling highlights the humour and heartbreak in the human dramas that occur daily in a busy city hospital – and his background as a doctor gives a particularly insightful perspective.  And it being the silly season, readers will learn more than they’ll ever need to know about the inappropriate uses of various orifices…. Twas the Nightshift Before Christmas is a very impressive sequel to This is Going to Hurt: Secret Diaries of a Junior Doctor,  which spent a whopping 52 weeks at No.1. 

Calypso by David Sedaris

Calypso is the latest of David Sedaris’ distinctive diary-essays – his tenth collection.  Need I say more? This time, the action revolves around Sea Section, David and his husband’s cottage on the North Carolina coast, where the Sedaris clan gathers for Thanksgivings and summer vacations.  Here, enforced communal living plus idiosyncratic relatives equals anecdotes that become family lore; but this time, the weird and funny stories are darker and bleaker, as they explore middle-age, mortality, and grief.  David Sedaris always impresses with how skilfully he evolves a story from seemingly meaningless minutiae into deeply personal and moving reflections. Read Calypso before he arrives in Australia for his speaking tour in early 2020.

Trick Mirror: Reflections on Self-Delusion by Jia Tolentino

Jia Tolentino is a staff writer for the New Yorker, who honed her craft on the internet; she often writes about how the rise of the internet has influenced and induced our collective anxieties.  For many readers, she is The Guide to how to live and survive in this hyper-connected, technology-facilitated culture.  Trick Mirror is her debut collection of nine interlinked essays, on identity, feminism, politics and the internet. Drawing on wide-ranging topics including her own coming of age, celebrity culture and the wedding industry, and armed with beautiful crystalline language, Jia Tolentino works her way towards explaining what she thinks and how she feels about life, the world, and herself.

Tall Tales and Wee Stories by Billy Connolly

Tall Tales and Wee Stories is a collection of Billy Connolly’s best and most popular work, including stories, comedy routines (such as Jojoba Shampoo and Incontinence Pants), and drawings.  In over 50 years of performing, he never prepared scripts, preferring to craft his tales live in front of an audience; now that he has retired from live standup comedy, Billy Connolly has finally written his stories down.  Whether he’s riffing on the mundanities of life, or talking about the bigger issues of sex, politics or religion, Billy Connolly always brings an endearing sense of the absurd to the most outrageous or profane topics – and thus gets away with saying anything he damn well pleases.

Dead at First Sight by Peter James

“You don’t know me, but I thought I knew you” – photos of a handsome motivational speaker have been used to scam unsuspecting women across multiple online dating sites.  The woman who discovered this con then apparently committed suicide.  Meanwhile, two retirees came away from the airport disappointed, after their online girlfriends failed to arrive from overseas.  Both men have sent their girlfriends large sums of money prior to the trip; neither women arrived because they did not exist.  These people are all victims of a global dating scam, whose masterminds won’t hesitate to murder anyone trying to expose them.  The race is on for Detective Superintendent Roy Grace to catch the scammers and stop the killings.  Inspired by recent news headlines, Dead at First Sight is both a fast-paced thriller and a cautionary tale.

Me by Elton John

Hot on the heels of the movie Rocketman comes Elton John’s first autobiography – the real stories in his own words. Elton’s life may have followed the classic rockstar trajectory – unhappy childhood, successes and excesses, culminating in redemption and inner peace – but its telling has been elevated by Elton’s exuberant, candid voice.  He’s not afraid to laugh at himself, and has fun admitting to his own bad behaviour, “I’m perfectly aware how ridiculous my life is, and perfectly aware what an arsehole I look like when I lose my temper over nothing”.  That Elton is his own best storyteller is the delightful surprise of this book.  Full of salacious, hilarious stories and crammed with famous names, Me by Elton John is the perfect holiday read.

The Creepiest and Spookiest Books on the Market

Do you like your Halloween cute and funny, or dark and scary? While I definitely prefer cute and funny – I’m such a scaredy cat that I cannot handle horror – I do have a weakness for fist-clenching, frantic-feeling crime thrillers. Whether it’s fast-paced and action-packed, or stealthy slow-burning, you won’t want to stop reading a well-written thriller. Here are some recently published thrillers that will give you a delicious chill this Halloween week.

It Should Have Been Me by Susan Wilkins

Fans of TV crime dramas will love Susan Wilkins’ writing style, developed over decades as a scriptwriter. Jo Biden was only a child when her older sister Sarah was brutally murdered at university. Sarah’s boyfriend, Nathan, was convicted of the killing.  Now, with his impending release, a documentary film-maker – and uni friend of both Sarah and Nathan – is ready to prove Nathan’s innocence.  Revisiting the case is pitting Jo’s professional life (as a rising police detective) against her personal life, where family loyalties and emotions encourage her to question the evidence.  It Should Have Been Me offers many flawed but believable characters – including the likeable protagonist Jo – and top-notch character development. It is a fast-paced, action-packed thriller, perfect for fans of Clare Mackintosh and Susie Steiner

The Secret by K L Slater

K L Slater has many bestsellers under her belt, and The Secret shows her in their prime.  The Secret revolves around two sisters, Alice and Louise.  Louise is elegant and successful, living a seemingly-perfect life; whereas Alice is a wreck, anxious and reclusive.   Louise and Alice were estranged until Louise started leaving her son, 8 year-old Archie, in Alice’s care while she works. What Louise doesn’t know – and what Alice is trying to discover – is that Archie has a secret.  One that he won’t tell because it could destroy his family… The Secret uses flashbacks and multiple narrators to give us rich characterisation, revealing why the two sisters have turned out so differently. K L Slater has also created a nice balance between the tension and the intrigue, and the growing connection between Alice and Archie.  The Secret promises to be a new favourite of fans of Girl on the Train and Gone Girl!

Whisper Network by Chandler Baker

Sloane, Ardie, Grace and Rosalita are four women who work for Truviv, an athleisure company.  They’re all struggling with work-life balance and with countering casual and institutional sexism in their workplace – something that even relative wealth and privilege doesn’t shield them from.  When their boss, the predatory Ames, looks likely to become the next CEO, these women decide that enough is enough.  They fight back by adding Ames’ name to a viral, online “BAD Men list”, and by filing a sexual harassment lawsuit against Ames and Truviv.  What happens next is tense, viciously funny… and will surprise you.  Whisper Network is a thriller of the #MeToo era, weaving themes of gender politics, power balances and office culture through its mystery / legal thriller plot. Chandler Baker, herself a lawyer with a young family, has recreated a setting that is highly recognisable.  Whisper Network is a highly addictive read endorsed by the Reese Witherspoon Book Club.

A Nearly Normal Family by M T Edvardsson

How far would you go to protect your child? This is the question Adam (a pastor) and Ulrika (a criminal lawyer) must face when their 17 year-old daughter is charged with a brutal murder. While they instinctively stand by Stella, this crime and its aftermath batter them with parental guilt, protectiveness, moral dilemmas, and doubt. A Nearly Normal Family is told in three parts, narrated in turn by Adam, Stella and Ulrika.  These three strands – which don’t always match up – challenge us to question their reliability and biases.  This is both a domestic drama and a courtroom thriller, particularly affecting because Stella’s family seems so ordinary.  A Nearly Normal Family is the first of M. T. Edvardsson’s works to be translated into English, and it definitely upholds the excellent reputation of Scandinavian crime fiction.

An Anonymous Girl by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen

Jess is a young makeup artist struggling to make ends meet in New York City.  When she learns of a lucrative research study being done by a respected psychiatrist, she tricks her way into participating (the irony being that the study is about ethics and morality). As the study progresses, the supportive mentor/protege relationship between Jess and Dr Lydia Shields turns increasingly sinister, with directions to attempt increasingly personal, uncomfortable roleplaying tasks.  An Anonymous Girl is a novel of chilling suspense and obsession.  Readers quickly start sharing Jess’ sense of dread and desperation as she realises she is up against a master manipulator.  An Anonymous Girl is a worthy sophomore effort from the team behind the bestselling The Wife Between Us.

The Neighbour by Fiona Cummins

The Neighbour is a psychological thriller about a neighbourhood devastated by a serial killer.  The neighbourhood seems quiet and ordinary – but its inhabitants all have secrets to hide… and one of them is the killer.  For newcomers the Lockwood family, and for investigating detective Wildeve Stanton, the race is on to reveal the psychopath from behind his/her harmless mask.  The Neighbour has taken this classic premise and spun it into story full of horror, menace and trepidation. Fiona Cummins has created a memorable killer, who narrates part of the story in a highly unsettling way.  She also induces a creeping sense of claustrophobia by confining most of the action to one single street.  The Neighbour is a dark story, full of twists and turns, that will keep you guessing right to the end.

Five Things Librarian School Taught Me About Raising Young Readers

I have been a bookworm since childhood, and when I started my own family, I really wanted my kids to develop the same love of reading as I did.  But I knew there’s no guarantee it would happen (kids really do have their own minds!), and I wasn’t always sure how to achieve this goal.  One unexpected source of inspiration came from my librarianship studies, which I undertook when my children were still quite young.  What I was learning about literacy, and library trends, really opened my mind about why and how we read. So here are some of the most important things that Librarian School taught me about how to encourage and support children to become happy, confident readers:

  • There are different types of literacies.  


Picture books, chapter books, graphic novels, non-fiction… they all challenge our comprehension in different ways.  Literacy is not just about being able to read big words and long books. Don’t despair if your child prefers pictures to words – they are still gaining useful interpretation skills.  Try reading a wordless picture book (such as Shaun Tan’s The Arrival), and you’ll see what I mean!

  • Every person their book.


In the library world, this is about offering a variety of materials to suit the diverse needs of library users.  I also like to think of it as an encouragement to the parents of reluctant readers – that one day, the Right Book will come along, grab their child’s interest and kickstart that lifelong love of reading.

  • Make reading fun.  


It’s all about fostering a lifelong love of reading – which supports all types of learning, helps to develop intellectual curiosity, as well as entertain and offer comfort throughout life.  It doesn’t have to be about reading stories from a page – chat about your favourite characters, make up alternative endings for stories, do quizzes and puzzles, or make yummy treats by following a recipe.

  • Use your child’s interests as the starting point.  


This ties in with the previous points – get your child’s attention by offering materials that match their interests.  This could be the novels of their favourite movies, comic books, car magazines, newspapers or even recipe books.  Just keep them reading! And if they won’t take on your book suggestions, or if they just want to read the same thing over and over – have a variety of reading materials on hand, and one day they might just discover it all by themselves.     

  • Embrace social media.  


Besides talking to your friendly librarians and booksellers, you can find many reading-related resources on social media.  Facebook, Goodreads, blogs and websites (including Booko’s own blog and Facebook feed!) offer everything from book suggestions and literacy activities, to moral support from like-minded parents, to opportunities to interact with your favourite authors.

Here’s a handy little booklist to help you foster the love of reading in your home.


Raising Readers: How to Nurture a Child’s Love of Books by Megan Daley

Some kids refuse to read, others won’t stop, not even at the dinner table! Either way, many parents question the best way to support their child’s literacy journey. When can you start reading to your child? How do you find that special book to inspire a reluctant reader? How can you tell if a book is age appropriate? What can you do to keep your tween reading into their adolescent years? Award-winning teacher librarian Megan Daley has the answers to all these questions and more. She unpacks her fifteen years of experience into this personable and accessible guide, enhanced with up-to-date research and first-hand accounts from well-known Australian children’s authors. It also contains practical tips, such as suggested reading lists and instructions on how to run book-themed activities. Raising Readers is a must have guide for parents and educators to help the children in their lives fall in love with books.

The Read-Aloud Family by Sarah Mackenzie

Connecting deeply with our kids can be difficult in our busy, technology-driven lives. Reading aloud offers us a chance to be fully present with our children. It also increases our kids’ academic success, inspires compassion, and fortifies them with the inner strength they need to face life’s challenges. As Sarah Mackenzie has found with her own six children, reading aloud long after kids are able to read to themselves can deepen relationships in a powerful way. Founder of the immensely popular Read-Aloud Revival podcast, Sarah knows first-hand how reading can change a child’s life. In The Read-Aloud Family, she offers the inspiration and age-appropriate book lists you need to start a read-aloud movement in your own home. From a toddler’s wonder to a teenager’s resistance, Sarah details practical strategies to make reading aloud a meaningful family ritual. Reading aloud not only has the power to change a family, it has the power to change the world.

Bookworm: a Memoir of Childhood Reading by Lucy Mangan

The Cat in the Hat? Barbar? The Very Hungry Caterpillar? Whoever it was for you, it’s very hard to forget the intensity of your first encounter with a book. As a bespectacled child, Lucy Mangan devoured stories: from early picture books to Swallows and Amazons, Enid Blyton to Little Women, trashy teen romances to those first ‘grown-up’ novels. In Bookworm, she revisits this early enthusiasm; celebrating the enduring classics, and disinterring some forgotten treasures. A love letter to the joys of childhood reading, full of enthusiasm and wit, Bookworm tells the stories of our best-loved books, their extraordinary creators, and the thousand subtle ways they shape our lives. It also comes packed with brilliant recommendations to inspire the next generation of bookworms and set them on their way. This impassioned book will bring the unforgettable characters of our collective childhoods back to life – prompting endless re-readings, rediscoveries, and, inevitably, fierce debate. It will also act as an invaluable guide to anyone looking to build a children’s library and wondering where to start, or where to go next.

Just Jaime by Terri Libenson

Another spot-on story of middle school drama and friendship from Terri Libenson, national bestselling author of Invisible Emmie and Positively Izzy.

Friends. Frenemies. Middle school…

The last day of seventh grade has Jaime and Maya wondering who their real friends are. Jaime knows something is off with her friend group. They’ve started to exclude her and make fun of the way she dresses and the things she likes. At least she can count on her BFF, Maya, to have her back . . . right? Maya feels more and more annoyed with Jaime, who seems babyish compared to the other girls in their popular group. It’s like she has nothing in common with Jai anymore. Are their days as BFFs numbered . . . ?

The Arrival by Shaun Tan

Haunting, original and told entirely through exquisitely imagined black, white and sepia pictures, The Arrival is the story of one man’s encounter with life in a strange new world. It’s a timeless, universal story that will resonate with anyone, anywhere who has struggled to start again in a place that is different to the one they have always known. Much loved around the world. The Arrival has also won numerous awards including the CBCA Book of the Year and ‘Best Album’ at the Augouleme Festival in France.

Science You Can Eat: Putting What We Eat Under the Microscope by Stefan Gates

Discover the seriously impressive science that goes on every time you cook or eat. This children’s book explores the science of food by asking questions you’re hungry to know the answers to, and putting them to the test through fun experiments. Science You Can Eat will transform your kitchen into a lab through fun food experiments. Cooking is chemistry, and the fun science experiments – such as tricking your taste buds, making slime taste delicious, and investigating some of the strangest flavours around will prove it. This exciting kid’s book tackles all the tasty science questions you have about food, plus plenty more that you hadn’t thought of! Once you understand science, you understand food, so find out why popcorn go “pop” as you test it out for yourself, explore how taste is affected by smell, then discover whether eating insects is the future of food. Examining interesting ingredients and exciting eating, as well as peeking into the future of food, Science You Can Eat helps you understand what’s happening with our food and why. Each page is guaranteed to leave you hungry for more.

First-hand Tips from Top Leaders We Want to Learn From

Why do we love to read the memoirs of business leaders? The best ones are often a mix of relatable life stories, of the drama of persistent struggles, and of the excitement of eventual success.  This month we have been offering ideas around starting your own business – so for those of you on that career / business journey, here are some great stories about business leaders that offer a great balance of entertainment, education and inspiration.

Herding Tigers: Be the Leader that Creative People Need by Todd Henry


Todd Henry compares managing creatives to herding tigers – these brilliant, driven people are powerful beings who cannot be corralled but must be carefully, individually, and strategically led.  Creatives are usually valued for their individuality, originality, unconventional thinking – traits that may seem ‘difficult’ in more conventional teams.Herding Tigers shows that, by carefully balancing three key conditions – stability, challenge and freedom – managers can create a work environment that allows creatives to flourish, both individually and as a team.  While Herding Tigers is aimed at managers of creative teams – and is particularly useful for creatives-turned-managers – it offers thoughtful advice for anyone needing to manage a variety of personalities and working styles.

#Girlboss by Sophia Amoruso 


Sophia Amoruso’s journey, from school dropout and shoplifter to successful entrepreneur, is so resonant that it has inspired a cultural movement and a Netflix show.  Being a #girlboss is about being in charge of your own life, and this memoir / business guide offers ideas on how to achieve this regardless of your talents and interests.  Luck and timing does play a part in Sophia’s success, but kudos to her for not shying away from the hard stuff – she clearly emphasises the importance of personal responsibility, vision, grit and patience.  #Girlboss is a fun, sassy read, with pithy advice grounded in good sense.  Great for young women looking for moral support as they enter the grownup world of work and business.  And if you are ready to put Sophia’s ideas into practice, there’s The Girlboss Workbook, packed with exercises, lists, ideas, and scribble room, to help you turn dreams into goals and plans.

Everything I Know about Love by Dolly Alderton

 
Once you’ve read this, you will want to share it with all your girlfriends and all the younger women you know.  Everything I Know About Love is the story of Dolly Alderton’s life as a twenty-something – hilarious, moving, and  unapologetically messy; and not just about romantic love, but about grief and the life-saving power of friendship too.  Dolly writes with an honesty that makes it super-relatable, yet better – because the clarity of her prose expresses everything better than you or I ever could. This new edition of Everything I Know About Love, published this year, contains a new chapter capturing Dolly’s thoughts on turning 30.

The Big Life: Embrace the Mess, Work your Side Hustle, Find a Monumental Relationship, and Become the Badass Babe You Were Meant to Be by Ann Shoket


Who wouldn’t want to be a Badass Babe?  Ann Shoket has written The Big Life for millenial women, but her book offers value to smart and ambitious women of any age.  Being the former editor-in-chief of Seventeen magazine, Ann Shoket has spent years understanding what matters to Millenials; she understands that the definition of success is changing, and is more likely to be about having passion for your work, and control over your career direction, rather than about high status or income.  Ann also offers valuable insights into the thoughts and attitudes of Gen X / Baby Boomer bosses, helping Millenials manage upwards, and dispel negative assumptions about their working style.  Packed with actionable, personal advice from Ann and her group of Badass Babes – a networking community of high-profile, successful young women, The Big Life is like having your own big sister cheer squad.

The Glitter Plan: How We Started Juicy Couture for $200 and Turned it into a Global Brand by Pamela Skaist-Levy and Gela Nash-Taylor


The Glitter Plan shares some similarities with #Girlboss – both offer a mix of memoir and business advice, sharing the stories of resourceful and determined women who grew small ideas into successful fashion brands.  Being the origin story of Juicy Couture, The Glitter Plan is also full of fun and glamour, celebrating its status as a celebrity favourite. Pamela and Gela’s friendship adds an interesting dimension to their success story – they work closely, as true equals, and their respect and regard for each other underpins their business decisions.  A good balance of entertaining biography and practical business tips, The Glitter Plan is a must-read for anyone dreaming of starting their own fashion label.

Radical Candor: How to Get What you Want by Saying What you Mean by Kim Scott


Criticism is hard to both give and take – culturally we associate it with aggression and humiliation, even if it’s well-meaning.  However, this is something a good leader and boss must learn to do – appropriate criticism can be essential  to achieving good results and maintaining a cohesive team.  Radical Candour is a framework for creating a safe and respectful environment to encourage constructive criticism.  Kim Scott, a former executive at Google and at Apple, first experienced Radical Candour when she was given some harsh-but-enlightening feedback by her then-boss, Sheryl Sandberg.  The key is for leaders to “Care Personally” – show that the criticism is to help the other person grow and improve – and “Challenge Directly” – be specific, focussing on behaviours rather than personality traits. More than just a guide on how to critique, Radical Candour helps to create a frank and positive culture that allows entire teams to thrive.

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.