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 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!

The Best Books for First Time Dads this Father’s Day

In the lead-up to Fathers Day, we are celebrating Dads of all ages and levels of experience.  If you know a First Time Dad, here’s how to help them celebrate their first Father’s Day – they need all the laughs, encouragement and sympathy they can get!

 

How to Dad: Volume 2 by Jordan Watson

Once upon a time, Jordan Watson made a spoof video teaching his mate How to Hold a Baby. That video went viral, and a new YouTube-and-Facebook star was born.  How to Dad now offers advice and solidarity in hundreds of “instructional” videos and two How to Dad books.  How to Dad is great because he’s so ordinary – experienced parents will recognise all his tips and tricks – and his deadpan goofiness will make you snort with laughter.  Lots of reassurance and inspiration for newbie dads who want to be hands-on but don’t know how.

The Lost Dads Home by Eric Veille and Pauline Martin

The creative team of Eric Veille and Pauline Martin also excel in deadpan humour.   Team Booko loves their take on Mums, and now they turn their attention to Dads.  When a little boy accidentally loses track of his dad, he heads to the Lost Dads Home to try to find him. Here he finds dads of all shapes and sizes – but will he find the right one?  The Lost Dads Home celebrates dads in all their weird and wonderful glory.

Stories for Boys Who Dare to be Different by Ben Brooks

You don’t have to be the biggest or strongest or smartest to be amazing. In Stories for Boys who Dare to be Different, Ben Brooks challenges gender stereotypes by profiling 100 boys and men who have made important contributions to society, despite not being “prince charming, dragon slayers or mischievous pranksters”.  The subjects came from many different countries and eras; some are famous, such as Roald Dahl, Barack Obama and John Lennon, while the lesser-known are no-less impressive for their selflessness, perseverance and sense of humanity. Stories for Boys who Dare to be Different is a powerful read-aloud for Dads to share with their children.

Family: New Vegetable Classics to Comfort and Nourish by Hetty McKinnon

Foodie Dads can show their culinary flair – and their love for their families – by cooking some delicious, family- friendly meals; and Hetty McKinnon’s latest book is here to offer some fresh inspiration.  Through her previous bestsellers Community and Neighbourhood, Hetty has become known for vegetable-based salads and meals that are hearty, flavourful and great for sharing; now she puts her own spin on a multicultural range of comfort foods. If you love foods that are simple but generous, and if you love the idea of creating family rituals, then Family is definitely a book for you.

A Life Less Stressed: the Five Pillars of Health and Wellness by Dr Ron Ehrlich

Now that you are responsible for a tiny, vulnerable human being, maintaining your health (both mental and physical) is more important than ever.  Dr Ron Ehrlich, a dentist and holistic health advocate, sets out to understand what stress means and how it impacts our health and wellbeing.  Based on his holistic outlook, Dr Ron argues that problems in one area will have repercussions over our entire body.  He shows how we can take control of our health by strengthening the “five pillars” of sleep, breathing, nutrition, movement, and thought – which will help us become more resilient, and able to be the best selves and parents we can be.

Illuminae (audiobook on CD) by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Parenting a newborn involves spending a lot of time holding the baby – and sitting around. Make the most of that downtime by listening to an audiobook.  Catch up on a recent release, such as the Illuminae trilogy by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff – it is a huge, magnificent and acclaimed space opera.  The audiobook version has appeared on many “Best Of” lists – with a cast of twenty narrators, this is more a performance than a simple read-aloud. Illuminae is also available for instant download from Audible. Volume 2, Gemina, is also available as an audiobook.  Alternatively, rediscover a classic, such as Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone as read by Stephen Fry.

The Best Book Gifts for Grandads

Father’s Day is fast approaching – time to think how best to show our appreciation for the wonderful dads out there.  And let’s not forget about Grandads – they are also an important part of the village that helps our kids thrive.  Here are some wonderful book gifts for Grandads, both to enjoy on their own, and with their grandkids!
Fatherhood: Stories about Being a Dad by William McInnes
Beloved actor and author William McInnes has become the quintessential Aussie raconteur – his laconic style, understated humour and gentle wit perfectly capture moments of Australian life, both past and present.  In Fatherhood, his latest book, William McInnes reflects on what it means to be a father, through memories of his own father, as well as recollections of times with his (now grown) children.  His stories – some happy, some sad, some momentous – will bring a rush of nostalgia and stir your own memories.  Perfect for Grandads who enjoy a good yarn, and who find grandfatherhood a time of reflection about love, values and the meaning of family.
Grandpa’s Space Adventure by Paul Newman and Tom Jellett
Literature is full of grandfathers who are kind, loving and fun…. this literary grandpa shows his grandson how to have fun in the nighttime – even when he is afraid of the dark!
Grandpa’s Space Adventure uses some awesome (awful?) jokes and tall tales to emphasise that darkness can be exciting and not scary.  It is great for sharing with younger children, helping to explore fear and how to overcome it (with some added space knowledge!)  For sharing with older grandkids, the very funny and exciting Grandpa’s Great Escape by David Walliams is always a reliable option.
Barefoot Investor for Families: the Only Kids’ Money Guide You’ll Ever Need by Scott Pape
A great way for grandparents to leave a lasting legacy is to help instil good financial habits in their grandchildren – and Barefoot Investor for Families can help you do just that.  It shows children aged 3-18 (and the adults caring for them) about how money works, and how to take control of your life by becoming financially responsible.  Following the winning formula set out in the original, bestselling Barefoot Investor, the advice is upbeat, simple, well-structured and practical.  For Grandads who want some advice for themselves, an updated version of the original Barefoot Investor is also out now.
Bletchley Park Brainteasers: over 100 Puzzles, Riddles and Enigmas Inspired by the Greatest Minds of World War II by Sinclair McKay
Treat your favourite Grandad to something related to his hobbies – especially if this hobby can become precious bonding time with the grandkids!  There is a special joy in sharing and passing on a favourite hobby to a younger generation.  This Bletchley Park Brainteasers book is perfect for the Granddad in my family, who enjoys doing brain-training puzzles with the grandkids – not only are there many puzzles, ciphers and riddles to pore over, there are also anecdotes about the work done at Bletchley Park, Britain’s code-breaking hub during WWII.  Brainteasers such as these were used to identify and recruit people with potential talents for code-breaking, and they became a critical part of the war effort.
Android Phones and Tablets for Dummies by Dan Gookin
For many older people who are nervous about technology, the birth of grandchildren – and the prospect of connecting with family and friends who live far away – provides incentive to go digital.  Android Phones and Tablets for Dummies aims to ease the fear and frustration of learning to use these high-tech gadgets!  This book covers all the basics, from making calls and text messages, to using the camera, getting online and accessing social media; it also helps to explain the mysteries of settings, configurations and widgets.  The For Dummies series have provided trusted, easy-to-understand instructions on technology learning for over 25 years.  Also available is iPhones for Seniors for Dummies.
Dear Grandad: a Journal of a Lifetime by From You to Me
Dear Grandad is a beautifully and quirky journal, specially designed to help Grandad capture the memories and anecdotes of his life.  On every spread there are carefully chosen questions that encourage Grandad to reflect on his , and his family’s lives – what were his parents like, how did he and Grandma meet, what was mum / dad like when they were kids?  The completed journal will be a treasured keepsake for future generations, and the stories and tidbits inside will become the stuff of family legend!    Journals for Dad, Mum and Grandma are also available.

Roald Dahl’s Wonderful World of Imagination

A feisty girl genius.  A wondrous chocolate factory.  A Big Friendly Giant who gets his words muddled.  Pheasants who are paralysed by ‘special’ raisins.  A leg of lamb that is used as a murder weapon – then cooked and served to the police investigators. These memorable characters (does a leg of lamb count as a character?) all come from the witty, wild (and sometimes wicked) imagination of Roald Dahl.  Roald Dahl remains one of our most beloved authors, because his wild ideas and clever wordplay create indelible images that delight and enthral. Join us in our tribute to Roald Dahl, with great titles by and about him, for fans of all ages:

 

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (Colour Edition) by Roald Dahl

For many people (me included), Charlie and the Chocolate Factory epitomises the appeal of Roald Dahl’s stories – a fairytale story of a poor boy made good; the gleeful comeuppance for all the bad / nasty characters; and the whimsical chocolate factory, filled with the most delicious delights imaginable. A child-like humour, sense of justice and of wonder permeate this story, made all the more real through the amazing movie adaptations by Gene Wilder and Tim Burton.  This full colour edition of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory will help you relive your own enjoyment of this story, as well as introduce new readers to Charlie and Mr Wonka’s technicolour world.

 

More about Boy: Tales from Roald Dahl’s Childhood by Roald Dahl

More About Boy is an expanded edition of Boy, Roald Dahl’s celebrated autobiography of his childhood.   All of the original stories and the Quentin Blake illustrations are still there, and have been richly illustrated with archival material including photos, letters, recipes and previously unpublished stories.  These rollicking stories of his childhood not only show Roald Dahl’s eye for the absurd, but also the events and themes that inspire his future stories.  For Roald Dahl fans of all ages!

 

Fantastic Mr Dahl by Michael Rosen and Quentin Blake

You get two brilliant writers for the price of one in Fantastic Mr Dahl. This authorised biography is written by the (also very funny) Michael Rosen, who is such a big fan of Roald Dahl that he set up a book prize in his honour (The Roald Dahl Funny Prize). Aimed at young readers, Fantastic Mr Dahl is a mix of biography, literary analysis and writing advice. It includes stories about Dahl’s work as a medical pioneer and real-life spy (where he made friends with Ian Fleming, the creator of James Bond), as well as Roald’s own tips to aspiring writers, and reflections on how and why Roald Dahl was able to imagine such amazing stories.

 

Tales of the Unexpected by Roald Dahl

Before Roald Dahl became famous for children’s books, he wrote mainly for an adult audience, with screenplays (such as the James Bond film “You Only Live Twice”) and short stories published in magazines including The New Yorker and Playboy.  Like his children’s writing, Roald Dahl’s short stories weave fantastical elements into everyday settings; however, the nasty, grotesque elements that get defeated in his children’s stories may emerge the victor in his adult ones.  Tales of the Unexpected is a collection of sixteen short stories, made famous by TV adaptation in the 80s.  Macabre, risqué and often with a gasp-inducing twist, these stories show another side of Dahl’s fantastical imagination.

 

Roald Dahl Scribble Book by Puffin Books

Young fans who are inspired by Roald Dahl’s stories to stretch their own imaginations will enjoy The Roald Dahl Scribble Book.  Readers are guided through a range of writing, drawing and other creative activities based on Dahl’s stories, such as “design your own chocolate factory” or “make your own dreams and put them into jars”.  Perfect for those “I’m bored!” moments on a rainy day, car trip or during the school holidays.

Celebrating public libraries

Many of us booklovers have fond memories of public libraries – whether it’s the treasure trove of books; the calm, quiet spaces where you can be (or find) yourself, or a friendly librarian who helped you discover a favourite author. I can safely say that my love of libraries has influenced my decision to become a librarian!  What’s more, modern libraries are better than ever – offering a huge range of classes and activities that aim to educate, inform, support or entertain you.  A day at a busy public library now goes something like this:

A group of Storytime regulars get ready for stories and rhymes as soon as the library opens. Other users focus on study, watch YouTube, or browse for jobs online, while the onsite cafe fills the air with delicious aromas.  An English Conversation group learns about road rules, while members of a social club greet each other at their weekly gathering.  In the afternoon, library staff lead workshops on computer skills and after school robotics, while others learn to crochet.  Finally, in the evening, a local author arrives to speak about their latest book.

Libraries are part of the same ecosystem as booksellers and writers – one which celebrates the written word, and promotes literacy and a love of reading. Modern libraries also celebrate creativity – not only can they provide how-to guides on many topics, they also offer classes and equipment for activities such as podcasting, video editing, 3D printing, electronics, art and crafts, and woodwork.  These classes also serve another important purpose – libraries as a place to meet like-minded people and become connected to the wider community.

Libraries around Australia will be celebrating Library and Information Week from 21-27 May. So whether you are  an active library member or a lapsed one, drop in to your nearest library to enjoy some special celebrations or just check out their current offerings! To inspire you, I can’t resist highlighting these very excellent library-themed books:


The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett



Her Majesty, chasing unruly corgis, chanced upon a Bookmobile parked outside the royal kitchens. Good manners dictated that she should borrow a book.  The rest is… alternative history.  This is a cheeky, charming gem of a story.


Library Wars: Love and War by Kiiro Yumi and Hiro Arikawa

In a future Japan, libraries raise their own armies to literally fight against government censorship.  A fast-paced manga filled with action, political intrigue, friendship and romance.



The Library: a World History by James W. P. Campbell

From Baroque magnificence to Zen-like minimalism, libraries have often been built to impress.  This catalogue of spectacular libraries, from the ancient to the modern-day, will fuel your travel dreams.


The Bad-ass Librarians of Timbuktu by Joshua Hammer


When Timbuktu fell to the Al-Qaeda in 2012, thousands of priceless manuscripts were at risk of destruction.  It was these bad-ass librarians who, with bravery and ingenuity, smuggled them out to safety.

Re-engaging with the classics

Literary classics have a bit of a PR problem – while they have stood the test of time because of their brilliant plotting, excellent writing and timeless messages, their longevity can also mean archaic language and a fusty image.  If you love the classics, but don’t know how to introduce them to your young readers, Booko can show you how.  Here are classic literature ideas for young readers – from babies all the way to young adults.

1001 Children’s Books You Must Read Before You Grow Up edited by Julia Eccleshare

Everyone loves a list, and this one is great fun to browse as well as a fantastic reference.   These 1001 titles have been chosen by Julia Eccleshare, a writer, reviewer and editor who has worked with children’s literature for almost 40 years.  It’s a good overview of the best children’s books from across the ages and around the world, including translated titles.  The books are grouped by reading age, and there are reviews of favourite books written by beloved authors including Margaret Atwood, Judy Blume and Philip Pullman.  Leave this book lying around and everyone will want a turn flicking through.  For those with teen readers, pair it with it’s grown-up cousin, 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die edited by Peter Boxall.

Little Miss Shelley: Frankenstein – an Anatomy Primer by Jennifer Adams

The super-cute BabyLit series enables discerning parents to introduce babies to their favourite literary characters! The sturdy board book format is perfect for little hands (and mouths); the artwork is stylish, colourful and fun; and each title matches a classic story to a related concept.  The latest titles include Frankenstein (about anatomy) and A Midsummer Night’s Dream (about fairies). There’s also Jane Eyre  (counting), Jungle Book  (animals) and many more.

 

The Oxford Treasury of Fairy Tales retold by Geraldine McCaughrean

The Oxford Treasury of Fairy Tales is a classic example of a book gift that can be enjoyed for years to come.  It is a bumper edition of twenty stories, ranging from Sleeping Beauty and Snow White, to The Dancing Princesses and Tamlin.   Pastel illustrations in jewel tones add a vibrant yet dreamy quality. These beloved stories have been retold in hypnotic, poetic language by the award-winning Geraldine McCaughrean – her style makes these stories seem ancient and fresh all at once.  If myths and legends are more your style, Geraldine McCaughrean has also done excellent retellings of Greek Myths and Roman Myths, with illustrations by Emma Chichester-Clark.

Kristy’s Great Idea by Ann M. Martin and Raina Telgemeier

Add a superstar comic artist to a beloved series and you get a modern classic ready to engage with new (and old) readers. Raina Telgemeier has amply demonstrated her ability to depict tween/teen relationships in bestselling graphic novels such as Smile and Sisters; The Baby-Sitters Club was a hugely-successful series, now celebrated for its girl-power message and its efforts in highlighting issues such as divorce, chronic illness and racism.  This full-colour graphic novel edition of Kristy’s Great Idea is gorgeous to look at, and introduces readers to how the series begins.  Books 1-4 are also available as a box set, while the original novels have also been republished.

 

Burning Maze (The Trials fo Apollo Book 3) by Rick Riordan

Burning Maze is the latest instalment in the Trials of Apollo series, where Apollo finds himself stranded in the body of a teenage New Yorker, as punishment for angering his father Zeus.   To return to Olympus, Apollo has to complete five impossible tasks – without access to his godly powers.  In Burning Maze, it’s two down, three to go.  Rick Riordan has won many fans with his action-packed adventures firmly rooted in Greek / Roman / Egyptian / Norse mythologies. Not only does he achieve the seamless blending of modern fantasy with ancient mythology, he has also updated the deities in witty ways.  For other modern updates for middle-grade readers, try Four Children and It by Jacqueline Wilson.

 

 

Hamlet by John Marsden

The challenge in making Classics appeal to teens is how to minimise the daunting reputation of the historical language while letting their gripping plots – full of love, grief, angst – shine.  The solution (particularly for Shakespeare’s works) lies in re-imagining these stories in vivid, modern prose.  While John Marsden’s terrific version of Hamlet stays close to the original, he views Hamlet as a teenager – young, vulnerable and relatable.  Other retellings give fresh perspectives through the eyes of a different / minor character – such as I am Juliet by Jackie French, Ophelia by Lisa Klein, or The Secret Diary of Lydia Bennet by Natasha Farrant.

I have a great idea for a book… what do I do next?

You have lots of great ideas that you want to turn into a book – that’s wonderful! Now the hard work starts.  Much needs to happen before an idea becomes a full-grown manuscript.  The first step is to hone your writing skills, through advice from other writers and from your potential readers too. Here are some ideas on where to get that support:

On Writing: a Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King

Part-memoir and part-masterclass, On Writing dispels any doubt that a wealth of knowledge and writing skills underpins Stephen King’s prolific output. He starts with a mini-autobiography, discussing his childhood, and the experiences and influences that helped him to become the author he is; this morphs into a section of advice to budding writers, drawn from questions he had been asked (and some he wished he had).  The final section of the book is a raw and compelling description of his recovery from his near-fatal car accident in 1999.  In serious pain and frustrated with his incapacity, it’s no exaggeration to say that the act of writing helped him to survive that difficult time.

20 Master Plots and How to Build Them by Ronald B. Tobias

This is a fascinating piece of literary analysis as well as a useful writer’s resource. Ronald B. Tobias shows how most powerful, engaging stories fall within 20 timeless and universal “Master Plots” – such as Quest, Adventure, Forbidden Love, and Transformation. Each chapter of this book examines one Master Plot, analysing and explaining how it works, illustrating with literary and cinematic examples, and concluding with checklists that keep writers on-track. Ronald B. Tobias also shows how to adapt and develop these themes to suit your characters, making your fiction more cohesive and convincing.

Why We Write About Ourselves: Twenty Memoirists on why they Expose Themselves (and Others) in the Name of Literature edited by Meredith Maran

Autobiography is the ultimate “writing about what we know”, but laying bare our lives and those of our circles is fraught with social and emotional risks. Here, 20 memoirists including Cheryl Strayed (Wild) and Ayelet Waldman (Bad Mother), tell us why and how they do it.  Many of this diverse and talented group talk about a compulsion to write, hoping that their stories will resonate with and help someone else.  Others dispense advice on how to handle the (both positive and negative) reactions to their work. Part bibliography, part personal reflection and part writer’s manual, Why We Write About Ourselves is inspiring and highly readable.

The Magic Words: Writing Great Books for Children and Young Adults by Cheryl Klein

Cheryl Klein is an experienced editor at Scholastic Books, and this is her comprehensive guide to crafting great middle-grade and young adult fiction.  Her advice ranges from writing and editing to pitching your idea, navigating the publication process and choosing an agent. A range of writing exercises will challenge you to analyse, critique and revise your work.  The Magic Words offers a nice balance between encouragement with pragmatism, and the wealth of insider tips will help you refine your masterpiece into a compelling, publishable form.

Once Upon a Slime: 45 Fun Ways to Get Writing… Fast! by Andy Griffiths and Terry Denton

Once Upon a Slime encourages kids to have fun creating stories and playing with words.  Drawing upon the skills of the hugely successful Andy Griffiths and Terry Denton, this book can be enjoyed on many different levels – as an activity book, as a series of writing exercises, as Andy Griffiths’ story on how he became a writer, and also as a sneak peek at the creative processes of this mighty duo.  Once Upon a Slime is simply fun to read, full of examples from Andy and Terry’s books. It speaks directly to kids and young people but is also useful for teachers and caregivers – make this your go-to guide for encouraging young people to start writing.

 

Using Social Media to Develop your Writing Career

The rise of social media has changed the publishing landscape profoundly.  It has enabled authors to engage with potential readers even before publication; it has helped authors to connect and form supportive communities; and it has created new pathways to publication, either by self-publishing, or by attracting publishers through your profile as a blogger / social media influencer. Here are two writer- and writing-specific communities worth your attention:

Tablo (tablo.io) is a self-publishing platform that also helps writers engage with their readers – and for readers to discover new books and/or writers in their favourite genres. Writers can upload works-in-progress to seek feedback.  Publishers also have a presence on Tablo, and there are communities offering advice to aspiring writers.

Wattpad (wattpad.com) is a reading app with social networking features that helps writers interact with readers and promote their work.  Wattpad has become a huge repository of user-generated stories, some of which have been adapted into successful TV series and movies.  Wattpad also hosts writing contests and has helped secure book deals for their most popular contributors.

Top 5 Books on Self Help

Self-help books are a perfect example of why reading is an investment in yourself.  There’s an inspirational author ready to guide you, whether you want to improve your health, your happiness, your finances or your professional success.  The best ones offer a perfect balance between entertaining stories, intellectual challenge and emotional uplift.  Here are 5 that are guaranteed conversation starters in 2018:

 

The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning by Margareta Magnusson

The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning seems destined for pop-cultural attention – it’s a Scandinavian concept about living well (hygge 2.0?); it’s about decluttering (and shares similar philosophies with Marie “Spark Joy” Kondo); and it grabs our attention with its matter-of-factness about mortality. But more than that, it’s a really good idea! Margareta Magnusson introduces her readers to döstädning – sorting out your stuff before you die, rather than leaving the whole mess to your loved ones. Keep the items you care about, and give away or sell the others.  Such decluttering can reduce stress, and is a good opportunity for reminiscing and curating your legacy.  Margareta Magnusson’s gentle wit and wisdom makes this a surprisingly funny and thoroughly interesting book.

How to be Human: the Manual by Ruby Wax

A comedian, a neuroscientist and a monk meet up and talk…. this may sound like a joke, but instead is the basis of this manual on how our bodies, minds and brains interact to make us “human”.  Ruby Wax is a comedian whose struggle with depression motivated her to gain a Master’s Degree in mindfulness-based cognitive therapy.  In How to be Human, she has teamed up with a monk (an expert in our inner lives) and a neuroscientist (an expert on the brain) to explore the tough questions around how to find happiness in the modern world – evolution, thoughts, emotions, relationships, addictions, the future.  Ruby’s wit and anecdotes bring it all together into a funny, readable, insightful and uplifting read – you can also look forward to the stage show version in the works!

Make Your Bed: Small Things that can Change your Life … and maybe the World by William H. McRaven

Make Your Bed started off as a speech given by Admiral William McRaven at his alma mater, the University of Texas at Austin, where he reflected on some life lessons he learnt through basic Navy SEAL training. (Making your bed every morning was his first lesson.  Even such a small task can motivate you to complete more tasks, and, at the end of a rough day, a made bed will offer you some solace.) The speech went viral, with many people inspired by his down-to-earth, tough-but-kind approach, particularly within the context of his highly distinguished, 37-year naval career.  Make your Bed expands on the ideas in that speech to present ten life lessons in greater detail – these lessons will serve you well, whether you want to become a better person, succeed in business, or indeed change the world.

Barking Up The Wrong Tree: the Surprising Science Behind why Everything you Know about Success is (Mostly) Wrong by Eric Baker

Barking up the Wrong Tree is a distillation of the enormously entertaining and thought-provoking blog of the same name, by Eric Barker. Here Eric applies the Mythbusters treatment to some age-old advice about success, such as “nice guys finish last” and “winners never quit, and quitters never win”. He argues that these maxims were not based on research, and presents scientific data that disprove or qualify them. With quirky examples ranging from pirates to Albert Einstein to serial killers, Barking up the Wrong Tree encourages us to challenge conventional wisdom, and forge our own paths to awesome lives.

The Happiness Plan by Elise Bialylew

The Happiness Plan is a one-month mindfulness meditation program that aims to help us experience greater happiness, focus and emotional balance.  Its collection of exercises shows us how to incorporate mindfulness practice into our daily routine – even ten minutes’ worth each day can create positive changes in our physical and mental wellbeing.  Elise Bialylew is a meditation teacher and life coach with a background in medicine and psychiatry, and her understanding of the science behind mindfulness informs her approach. The Happiness Plan also aims to support readers beyond the book itself, by offering access to guided meditations available through Elise’s website.

Our favourite titles about starting school (for kids of all ages!)

Starting school is a big milestone, not just for children but their parents (well done to everyone for getting this far!) It promises many new and exciting things, but the uncertainty can be scary too.  Here’s where story books come to the rescue, and there’s a range of funny and adorable stories to help young children familiarise with what “Big School” will be like.  We haven’t forgotten older children either, with some very helpful guides to both students and parents on surviving High School.

 

My First Day at School by Meredith Costain

It’s the first day of school for Mrs Mellor’s Prep class.  We meet Zach, Amira, Ari and Zoe, who take turns telling us what happens.  There’s learning to be done, snacks to eat, playtime and lots of rules! Some of the children have nervous moments – what if I don’t make a friend? What if I can’t hang on before I reach the toilet? – that resolve themselves happily.  All too soon it’s time to go home! The different personalities and first-person narration will draw child readers into this happy, upbeat story.

 

Mum at School by Eric Veille and Pauline Martin

Mum at School turns a traditional “starting school” story upside-down and makes it hilarious.  The first day of school can be tough. It’s nice if your mum can stay – and, before you know it, she’s cutting and pasting and joining in.  Except that school is not that easy for Mum – she forgets to raise her hand and she doesn’t fit at the table. Perhaps… it’s more fun at school when mum’s not around?  Mum at School aims to zap any lingering doubts in the most reluctant of new students.  Eric Veille’s deadpan drawings add an extra layer of comedy to this story of unexpected chaos!

 

I am Too Absolutely Small for School by Lauren Child

A classic starting school story about the beloved Charlie and Lola.  Charlie has a little sister Lola, who is small and very funny.  Mum and Dad think Lola is big enough to go to school, but Lola is not so sure.  Lola doesn’t think she needs it – she can already count to ten, and she doesn’t need to read words because she already has all her books in her head!  So it’s up to Charlie (and Soren Lorensen, Lola’s invisible friend) to help Lola realise that school is fun, and help you learn lots of useful things, such as how to write letters to Santa.

 

The Things I Love about School by Trace Moroney

Trace Moroney’s books are great resources for helping young children learn about themselves and their feelings. Her The Things I Love series celebrates the different everyday experiences that form the basis of our children’s world.  The Things I Love about School tells children about the fun and enjoyable activities that they can look forward to, or know about already, like making friends and learning new things.  This is a very gentle, reassuring story with cute illustrations, aimed at helping children to develop healthy self-esteem and resilience.

 

The High School Survival Guide: Your Roadmap to Studying, Socialising and Succeeding by Jessica Holsman

Jessica Holsman is the star of popular YouTube Channel Study with Jess. Her videos of study tips, organisation skills and life hacks attract millions of views from around the world.  Teens know they need to study, but they haven’t always been taught how – and Jess is here to fill that gap.  Drawing from her own experiences, Jess has created detailed tips on how to beat stress and enjoy school by staying organised, studying smarter, and balancing study with socialising.  Jess has a direct, personal style that helps her connect with her teen audience, making The High School Survival Guide a useful handbook throughout the teen years.

 

 

Surviving Year 12: a Sanity Kit for Students and Their Parents by Dr Michael Carr-Gregg

Year 12 has become a high stakes, high-stress year, but it doesn’t have to be that way – the last year of school is also a time to make good memories, and to enjoy the independence and respect given to these senior students. Now psychologist and bestselling author Michael Carr-Gregg has created a valuable guide on how to stay well and motivated during this critical year.  There’s useful tips on maintaining physical and mental well-being, how to set goals and prepare for exams, how to deal with procrastination, and how to make time for extracurricular activities.  A special section aimed at parents will help them manage their own expectations, and learn the best ways to support their children’s goals.