All posts by Karen Seligman

About Karen Seligman

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

Spring Food Inspiration

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

Together by Jamie Oliver

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

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

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

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

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

Vegetable Simple by Eric Ripert

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

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

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

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

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

The Booko Father’s Day Gift Guide

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

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

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

We Were Not Men by Campbell Mattinson

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

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

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

Halliday Wine Companion 2022 by James Halliday

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

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

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

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

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

Six Books that Help Us Create a Personal life Philosophy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vexed: Ethics Beyond Political Tribes by James Mumford

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Our Six Favourite Graphic Novels

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Our Six Favourite Fantasy Novels

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

Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett

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

The Last Wish: Introducing the Witcher by Andrzej Sapkowski

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

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

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

Carry On by Rainbow Rowell

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

Circe by Madeline Miller

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

A Brightness Long Ago by Guy Gavriel Kay

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

Top Cookbooks Hitting the Market this Winter

As the days get colder and shorter, there’s something very nurturing about cooking – creating hearty food that warms your hands and tummies; generating warmth and delicious smells throughout your home; or even recreating bright fresh flavours that remind you of the summer. If you do find yourself at home and keen to cook, find some fresh inspiration in this winter’s crop of new cookbooks :

The Pasta Man: the Art of Making Spectacular Pasta with 40 Recipes by Mateo Zielonka
Mateo Zielonka is an artist, and pasta is his medium – this chef has been delighting his more than 170,000 Instagram followers with hand-made pasta in a profusion of colours, shapes, and sizes. Besides the silky dough and flavourful fillings, he adds visual interest by colouring his pasta with stripes and spots (using natural ingredients). In The Pasta Man, his first book, Matteo offers beautifully-photographed, stepwise instructions on how to recreate his dishes.  Learn to master classic shapes such as pappardelle, ravioli and orecchiette, or try your hand at his whimsical coloured creations.

Ottolenghi Test Kitchen: Shelf Love by Yotam Ottolenghi
Shelf Love proves that necessity is the mother of invention – when the Ottolenghi Test Kitchen team turned the pandemic lockdown into a force for creativity. This tight-knit team of chefs, whose job is to dream up, experiment and develop food ideas for Ottolenghi restaurants and stores, kept their inventive spirit alive by experimenting with home cooking. The result is Shelf Love, which shows readers how to add some Ottolenghi flair – big flavours, veggie-forward, diverse influences – to your weeknight meals. With chapters on how to make the most of freezer and pantry staples, one-pot meals and tips on ingredient substitutions, Ottolenghi Test Kitchen: Shelf Love is a book you will want available to you all the time.

Crazy Sweet Creations by Ann Reardon
I first discovered Ann Reardon through my children (such is the way of social media).  She’s a YouTube superstar, with over 4.7 million subscribers for her baking channel, How to Cook That.  Ann Reardon combines her warm friendliness and professional understanding of food science to offer fun and informative videos about baking, desserts and debunking internet cooking hacks.  Crazy Sweet Creations showcases her most popular sweet treats – with step-by-step instructions for pastries, cupcakes, ice-cream and spectacular desserts.

Maggie’s Harvest by Maggie Beer
This reissue of Maggie’s Harvest brings a modern Australian classic to a new generation of cooks and readers. Maggie’s Harvest is a big, substantial book, divided into sections by seasons and ingredients. It is beautifully produced and packed with recipes, stories and reminiscences about a lifetime’s worth of enjoying and creating good food. Maggie Beer’s writing is evocative, with the same warm, enthusiastic tone as her TV persona, and reflecting her longtime championship of seasonal produce and the Barossa Valley food scene.

Pizza Czar: recipes and Know-how from a World-travelling Pizza Chef by Anthony Falco
Anthony Falco has the enviable job title of International Pizza Consultant – travelling the world, using his expertise and industry connections to help more restaurants develop their own distinctive and delicious pizzas. He’s been making, inventing (and eating!) pizzas for a long time, and can consistently turn out great specimens whether he’s in high-altitude Colombia or in subtropical India. Pizza Czar is Anthony Falco’s comprehensive guide to the techniques, tips and hacks of making world-class pizza.

Chasing Smoke: Cooking over Fire around the Levant by Sarit Packer, Itamar Srulovich
Chasing Smoke, the fourth book by the award-winning team behind Honey & Co, is firmly focussed on grilling – the special deliciousness of flames and smoke on meat and seafood, fruit and vegetables, even bread and cheese. This collection of recipes, whether traditionally cooked at street stalls, at home or in restaurants, highlights and contrasts the flavours of different Middle Eastern countries including Egypt, Israel, Turkey and Greece. And keen cooks who don’t have grills need not despair – the recipes provide advice on how to recreate the dishes in an oven or on the stove.

Awesome YA Fiction – New and Coming Soon!

YA (Young Adult) fiction has been, and continues to be, arguably the most vibrant and interesting book category around. What makes it so special? YA tends to be plot-driven (and thus is a popular source of film adaptations); YA is socially aware, often exploring socio-political issues including racism, bigotry and authoritarianism; and YA is working hard at inclusion, in both authorship as well as the stories they tell. Newer YA often includes casts with diverse ethnicity, gender, sexuality and physical- and neuro-abilities. Here are some great examples of such fresh, diverse stories:

Lost in the Never Woods by Aiden Thomas
Five years ago, Wendy and her younger brothers disappeared in the woods near her home in rural Oregon; six months later, she was the only one to return, without any memory of what happened.  When children start disappearing again, Peter Pan (is he real, or just a figment of Wendy’s imagination?) appears, and recruits Wendy to help save the children. Lost in the Never Woods is a dark retelling of Peter Pan; not only is it an atmospheric mystery-adventure, it is also a heartbreaking depiction of grief, loss, and guilt.

Tiger Daughter by Rebecca Lim
It’s all in the little details: #ownvoices stories about Asian Australians always jolt me with a strong sense of recognition – an authenticity and depth of understanding borne of lived experience. So, too, does Tiger Daughter, the story of 14-year-old Wen and her friend Henry, both children of Chinese migrants trying to find a way out of difficult familial, cultural and societal expectations. Rebecca Lim has also used Wen and Henry’s stories to explore complex issues including racism, misogyny, financial and domestic abuse, and cultural diversity. A deeply moving and ultimately hopeful story.

The Gaps by Leanne Hall
Leanne Hall has drawn upon the “Mr Cruel” cases – a series of famously unsolved child abductions from her hometown – to create the moody setting of The Gaps.  The abduction of 16 year-old Yin shocks the whole of her all-girls’ school.  Two students caught in the swirl of unease are Chloe, a scholarship student who feels like an outsider, and Natalia, the queen-bee; they form an uneasy alliance as they witness the fear, rumours and grief that grows with each passing day.  The Gaps interweaves a haunting thriller with sharp observations about the relationships, vulnerabilities and strengths of teen girlhood.

The Court of Miracles by Kester Grant
It’s 1828, and in an alternative-Paris, there is famine and suffering after the French Revolution has failed. While the royals rule by day, it’s the criminals who rule by night – formed into guilds collectively called the Court of Miracles. Young Eponine (Nina) is a cat burglar who joins the Thieves’ Guild with the secret goal of rescuing her sister from slavery; as she rises up through the ranks, she desperately tries to keep her protégé, Cosette, safe while seeking to destroy the Miracle Court from within. With strong female characters, a vivid juxtaposition of the glittering and the seedy, and plenty of familiar names, The Court of Miracles is a dazzlingly inventive riff on Les Misérables.

Bruised by Tanya Boteju
The high-energy world of roller derby provides a colourful backdrop to the sometimes confronting story of Daya, an 18-year-old whose parents died in a car crash.  Daya enjoys the rough-and-tumble of roller derby – getting bruises helps her keep the hurt on the surface, so she doesn’t have to deal with the ache in her heart.  As she is further drawn into the sport, its diverse and inclusive community helps her understand herself, moving towards acceptance and emotional healing.  Bruised contains mature themes related to emotional trauma and self-harm and is recommended for ages 14+.

The Theft of Sunlight (The Dauntless Path: Book 2), by Intisar Khanani
The Theft of Sunlight introduces a smart and loyal heroine – Rae, who is disabled – in a tale full of political and magical intrigue.  When her best friend’s sister is snatched by child traffickers, Rae decides to fight back against this age-old practice.  She seizes an opportunity to visit the royal court, and there finds an ally in Princess Alyrra – thus continuing the story started in Thorn.  As Rae fights against corruption and danger, she learns to accept herself and overcome internalised shame.  The fast pace and immersive worldbuilding will leave you desperately awaiting the next (and final) book in the series!

Top Activity Books for Children

Like many parents, I am always looking for fresh ideas for my boredom-busting toolkit – interesting and meaningful activities, preferably requiring minimal supervision. I’ve really needed them during the current school holidays, and they’ll be helpful as we spend more time indoors during the cooler months. Anything to stave off moans about Being Bored, or battles about too much screentime! These terrific activity books fit the bill – they offer lots of open-ended ideas that encourage kids to play, think, reflect and create.

Usborne Design Activity Book by Alice James, Tom Mumbray and Petra Baan

Usborne has been publishing excellent children’s activity books for years – you may remember books about spycraft / origami / cooking from your own childhood. This Design Activity Book is another great example, and should offer plenty of fun and inspiration to kids who love art and visual design. Project ideas range from the more traditional, such as hand lettering, and designing logos and book covers, to more complex ones such as developing a board game, developing a website, and applying branding to a collection of items. Each idea is supported by lots of prompts and useful tips that draw upon the different steps of the design process. For ages 8+.

Chill Out: My Mindfulness Activity Book by Josephine Dellow

This activity book is not only fun and inspirational, but being based on mindfulness, can also help to support young people’s wellbeing in the longer term. Chill Out offers a good range of activities, puzzles, games and crafts, created with and for 5 – 8-year-olds; each activity encourages children to focus in on a task, settle the mind, and help to create a peaceful moment in their day. Chill Out is published by Ups!de Down Books, an independent publisher specialising in positive, age-appropriate and accessible titles around mental health and wellbeing. For ages 5-8.

Ninja Life Hacks Journal for Kids by Mary Nhin

This journal is a companion volume to the Ninja Life Hacks series, which are bite-sized, colourful books that aim to help children develop life skills. It covers topics such as managing emotions, developing resilience and learning respectful interactions.  The Ninja Life Hacks Journal turns these messages into goal-setting exercises that nurture a growth mindset: how to look past failures and learn from mistakes, practise positive self-talk and ultimately, develop grit and resilience.  Not only is it a useful workbook, it can become a great keepsake.  For ages 3-11.

101 Things for Kids to do Screen-Free by Dawn Isaac

Are you constantly trying to limit your kids’ screen time? Screen time is a big issue in so many families – especially during holidays –  so Dawn Isaac’s new book caught my eye right away. Dawn’s previous books on Outdoor activities and Rainy Day activities are both terrific resources, and this is no exception. The 101 Things described in this book range from the creative (no-sew sock creatures), to the silly (hands-free eating challenge) to the impressive (backyard mini golf).  There are crafts, recipes, outdoor challenges, games, and projects; most require few or commonly-found materials; some can be done on your own, while others are great for groups.  For ages 4-11.

The Joy Journal for Magical Everyday Play by Laura Brand

Laura Brand may not be well-known outside the UK – yet – but her great ideas around engaging with nature, creative crafting and the importance of play, deserve a wide audience. The Joy Journal offers fifty simple, engaging and open-ended play ideas that will appeal to a range of ages, including toddlers under supervision. Most of the projects are no-cost or low-cost, and use common household items, or scavenged natural materials such as flowers, leaves and twigs. Laura champions messy play, but offers helpful tips and “messiness ratings” for parents who may be more hesitant. The beautiful photograps and friendly chatty text means the book is a pleasure for the parent-reader as well! For ages 2+.

Rosie Revere’s Big Project Book for Bold Engineers by Andrea Beaty

Rosie Revere, Engineer is a firm favourite with both kids and adults, for its fun introduction to the engineering process, and its stereotype-busting story.  Now you can further nurture the inventiveness of your budding engineer with a Rosie Revere project book. With full-colour illustrations, Rosie Revere encourages readers to design and prototype solutions to everyday problems using commonplace items, and to learn from, rather than be discouraged by, failures and flops. The 40+ featured projects include designing a better bicycle, build a simple catapult, construct a solar oven, and more.  For ages 5+.

Celebrating Australian Children’s Stories

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

My Shadow is Pink by Scott Stuart

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

Hello Jimmy! by Anna Walker

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

Sing Me the Summer by Jane Godwin and Alison Lester

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

The Fire Wombat by Jackie French and Danny Snell

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

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

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

Bluey: The Creek by Bluey

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