Category Archives: 2019

The best books to read when you need to switch off.

Switching off, digital detox, unplugging, taking time out…hiding. Whatever you call it, it’s okay. 

When life gets a little too much or we just need to take some time for ourselves we tend to reach for a book (or an e-reader…whatever works right?). But not just any book will do. While here at Team Booko we love reading business books, self help titles, autobiographies and all the Marie Kondo books, sometimes we just want to put our business brains away and be entertained. 

And because we know you love a recommendation, we have found the top six books that are sure to help you switch off and enjoy sitting on the beach (looking at you London) or curling up in front the fire (yep, that’s you Melbourne). 

So pop on your SPF or your woolly jumper and have a read. 

City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert

She’s back!!! the author of Eat Pray Love has given us another gem of a book. 

It is the summer of 1940. Nineteen-year-old Vivian Morris arrives in New York with her suitcase and sewing machine, exiled by her despairing parents. Although her quicksilver talents with a needle and commitment to mastering the perfect hair roll have been deemed insufficient for her to pass into her sophomore year of Vassar, she soon finds gainful employment as the self-appointed seamstress at the Lily Playhouse, her unconventional Aunt Peg’s charmingly disreputable Manhattan revue theatre. There, Vivian quickly becomes the toast of the showgirls, transforming the trash and tinsel only fit for the cheap seats into creations for goddesses. Exile in New York is no exile at all – here in this strange wartime city of girls, Vivian and her girlfriends mean to drink the heady highball of life itself to the last drop. And when the legendary English actress Edna Watson comes to the Lily to star in the company’s most ambitious show ever, Vivian is entranced by the magic that follows in her wake. But there are hard lessons to be learned, and bitterly regrettable mistakes to be made. Vivian learns that to live the life she wants, she must live many lives, ceaselessly and ingeniously making them new. ‘At some point in a woman’s life, she just gets tired of being ashamed all the time. After that, she is free to become whoever she truly is,’ she confides. And so Vivian sets forth her story, and that of the women around her women who have lived as they truly are, out of step with a century that could never quite keep up with them.

I Owe You One by Sophie Kinsella

Sophie Kinsella has a knack of making us snort with laugher, cry with a character and slunk with recognition of our own behaviour mirrored in her books. And she’s got another goodie for us to read. 

This is a story of love, empowerment and an IOU that changes everything . . .Fixie Farr can’t help herself. Straightening a crooked object, removing a barely-there stain, helping out a friend . . . she just has to put things right. It’s how she got her nickname, after all. So when a handsome stranger in a coffee shop asks her to watch his laptop for a moment, Fixie not only agrees, she ends up saving it from certain disaster. To thank her, the computer’s owner, Sebastian, scribbles her an IOU – but of course Fixie never intends to call in the favour. That is, until her teenage crush, Ryan, comes back into her life and needs her help – and Fixie turns to Seb. But things don’t go according to plan, and now Fixie owes Seb: big time. Soon the pair are caught up in a series of IOUs – from small favours to life-changing debts – and Fixie is torn between the past she’s used to and the future she deserves. Does she have the courage to fix things for herself and fight for the life, and love, she really wants? 

Maybe You Should Talk to Someone by Lori Gottlieb

Ever wonder what your therapist is really thinking? Now you can find out …

Meet Lori Gottlieb, an insightful and compassionate therapist whose clients present with all kinds of problems. There’s the struggling new parents; the older woman who feels she has nothing to live for; the self-destructive young alcoholic; and the terminally ill 35-year-old newlywed. And there’s John, a narcissistic television producer, who frankly just seems to be a bit of a jerk. Over the course of a year, they all make progress.

But Gottlieb is not just a therapist – she’s also a patient who’s on a journey of her own. Interspersed with the stories of her clients are her own therapy sessions, as Gottlieb goes in search of the hidden roots of a devastating and life-changing event.

Personal, revealing, funny, and wise, Maybe You Should Talk to Someone opens a rare window onto a world that is most often bound by secrecy, offering an illuminating tour of a profoundly private process.

Rest by Alex Soojung-Kim Pang

Technically this isn’t a light fiction book that makes our world disappear for a moment…but we couldn’t resist popping this one in. We all need to learn how to rest anyway. 

In our 24/7 global economy, rest feels like a luxury at best and a weakness at worst. We see work and rest as competitors – but what if they’re actually partners in a productive, balanced life? Blending rigorous scientific research with examples of writers, painters and thinkers – from Darwin to Stephen King – Silicon Valley futurist and business consultant Alex Soojung-Kim Pang exposes how we’ve underestimated the power of rest for our success. Though it’s as natural as breathing, it’s also a skill we can all learn to boost our creativity and productivity. Full of tips for upping our downtime, from sleep to hobbies to vacation, Rest is a new roadmap for finding renewed energy and inspiration, and getting more done.

Normal People by Sally Rooney

Connell and Marianne grow up in the same small town in rural Ireland. The similarities end there; they are from very different worlds. When they both earn places at Trinity College in Dublin, a connection that has grown between them lasts long into the following years. This is an exquisite love story about how a person can change another person’s life – a simple yet profound realisation that unfolds beautifully over the course of the novel. It tells us how difficult it is to talk about how we feel and it tells us – blazingly – about cycles of domination, legitimacy and privilege. Alternating menace with overwhelming tenderness, Sally Rooney’s second novel breathes fiction with new life. Check out Sally’s first novel Conversations with Friends here

Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata

Keiko has never really fitted in. At school and university people find her odd and her family worries she’ll never be normal. To appease them, Keiko takes a job at a newly opened convenience store. Here, she finds peace and purpose in the simple, daily tasks and routine interactions. She is, she comes to understand, happiest as a convenience store worker. But in Keiko’s social circle it just won’t do for an unmarried woman to spend all her time stacking shelves and re-ordering green tea. As pressure mounts on Keiko to find either a new job, or worse, a husband, she is forced to take desperate action. Convenience Store Woman is a best-seller in Japan, and the winner of the prestigious Akutagawa Prize. This is the English-language debut of a writer who has been hailed as the most exciting voice of her generation. 

Enjoy!

The Best Books on Philanthropy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Giving: Purpose is the New Currency by Alexandre Mars

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

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

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

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

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

The best books showcasing the stories behind music in 2019…so far.

Music has the ability to change a person’s mood in seconds, making a foot start tapping to a beat or evoking memories of days gone by. Everyone has a favourite song, but few know the stories behind them or what was going on in the artist’s life when they were written and recorded.

Today we are sharing some of the best new books on the market that uncover amazing stories behind the music we love. Brace yourself, it’s a fascinating ride. 

Daisy Jones and The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Everyone knows Daisy Jones & The Six, but nobody knows the reason behind their split at the absolute height of their popularity…until now.

Daisy is a girl coming of age in L.A. in the late sixties, sneaking into clubs on the Sunset Strip, sleeping with rock stars, and dreaming of singing at the Whisky a Go Go. The sex and drugs are thrilling, but it’s the rock ‘n’ roll she loves most. By the time she’s twenty, her voice is getting noticed, and she has the kind of heedless beauty that makes people do crazy things. Also getting noticed is The Six, a band led by the brooding Billy Dunne. On the eve of their first tour, his girlfriend Camila finds out she’s pregnant, and with the pressure of impending fatherhood and fame, Billy goes a little wild on the road. Daisy and Billy cross paths when a producer realises that the key to supercharged success is to put the two together. What happens next will become the stuff of legend.

The making of that legend is chronicled in this riveting and unforgettable novel, written as an oral history of one of the biggest bands of the seventies. Taylor Jenkins Reid is a talented writer who takes her work to a new level with Daisy Jones & The Six, brilliantly capturing a place and time in an utterly distinctive voice.

The Book of Daniel by Jeff Apter

When Silverchair shuddered to a halt in 2011, there was no swan song, no farewell tour, just a brief statement and then they were gone – after more than fifteen years of brilliant music, five hit albums, legions of fans, millions of record sales, scores of awards and the odd controversy. Three teenagers from Newcastle had taken the world by storm within the time it typically takes most bands to record their first single. Over their stratospheric career, Daniel Johns developed into a performer and songwriter with few peers in modern music. After the end of his marriage to Natalie Imbruglia and the break-up of his band, he became the focus of sordid headlines and whispers of wayward behaviour. People feared what might happen next. But at the same time a new Daniel Johns emerged. His debut solo album, Talk, appeared to rapturous reviews in 2015 and raced to the top of the Australian charts, and then 2018 saw the advent of DREAMS, his long-awaited collaboration with Luke Steele. This was a vastly different Daniel Johns to the grungy, guitar-blazing teen of the 1990s. His new sound and image were sophisticated, brilliant and sexy as hell. It was a remarkable creative makeover, perhaps the most ambitious ever undertaken by an Australian rockstar. Former rockstar. The Book of Daniel documents how the reclusive Johns also battled many personal demons, including life-threatening anorexia and crippling reactive arthritis.

Drawing on more than fifteen years of documenting the life and times of Daniel Johns, author Jeff Apter has brought his story to life, revealing the struggles and triumphs of one of Australia’s most distinctive and dazzling talents. The book also includes a collection of exclusive photographs of Johns by eminent rock photographer Tony Mott.

Unmasked by Andrew Loyd Webber

In Unmasked, internationally acclaimed composer Andrew Lloyd Webber looks back over more than five decades in the spotlight as he recounts his fascinating life and remarkable career. Webber goes back to his origins, illuminating his charming, offbeat family, including his bohemian mother and her pet monkey; his grandmother, who was a founding member of the Christian Communist Party; his zany aunt, who authored the first gay cookbook; and his richly talented younger brother Julian Lloyd Webber.

Lloyd Webber recalls the musicals he created as a child, his school days at Oxford, his artistic influences, including Tim Rice and David Niven, and how he made the decision to leave school to pursue the musical career that would make him a global superstar. Webber illuminates his creative process and takes us behind the scenes of his productions, sharing fascinating details about the shows and the rich cast of characters involved with making them hits.

Full of colourful characters and rich storytelling and illustrated with sixteen pages of colour photos, Unmasked at last reveals the true face of the extraordinary man beneath the storied legend.

Not Dead Yet by Phil Collins

Technically this book wasn’t released in the past year, but it’s been so popular we thought we’d include it for you. This is the roller coaster journey from Phil Collins’ beginnings as a child actor to his domination of the charts both as a solo artist and as part of Genesis. His success is astounding, his music has global reach and his story is legendary. Not Dead Yet is Phil Collins’ candid, witty, unvarnished story of the songs and shows, the hits and pans, his marriages and divorces, the ascents to the top of the charts and into the tabloid headlines. As one of only three musicians to sell over 100 million records both in a group and as a solo artist, Collins breathes rare air, but he has never lost his talent for crafting songs that touch listeners around the globe. This is the story of his epic career to one of the most successful songwriters of the pop music era. A drummer since almost before he could walk, Collins received on-the-job training in the seedy, thrilling bars and clubs of 1960s swinging London before finally landing the drum seat in Genesis. Later he would step into the spotlight on vocals after the departure of Peter Gabriel, and compose the songs that would rocket him to international solo fame with the release of Face Value and ‘In the Air Tonight’. Whether he’s recalling jamming with Eric Clapton and Robert Plant, pulling together a big band fronted by Tony Bennett, playing twice at Live Aid, or writing the Oscar-winning music for Disney’s smash-hit animated film Tarzan, Collins keeps it intimate and his storytelling gift never wavers.

Pink Floyd All The Songs by Jean-Michel Guesdon

Ahem…yep, this one wasn’t released in the past year either…but it’s Pink Floyd so how could we not include it? The newest addition to the best-selling All the Songs series details the unique recording history of Pink Floyd, one of the world’s most commercially successful and influential rock bands. Since 1965, Pink Floyd have been recording sonically experimental and philosophical music, selling more than 250 million records worldwide, including two of the best-selling albums of all time Dark Side of the Moon and The Wall. While much is known about this iconic group, few books provide a comprehensive history of their time in the studio. In Pink Floyd All the Songs, authors Margotin and Guesdon describe the origin of their nearly 200 released songs, details from the recording studio, what instruments were used, and behind-the-scenes stories of the tensions that helped drive the band. Organised chronologically by album, this massive, 544-page hardcover begins with their 1967 debut album The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, the only one recorded under founding member Syd Barrett’s leadership; through the loss of Barrett and the addition of David Gilmour; to Richard Wright leaving the band in 1979 but returning; to Roger Waters leaving in 1985 and the albums recorded since his departure, including their 2014 farewell album, The Endless River, which was downloaded 12 million times on Spotify the week it was released. Packed with more than 500 photos, All the Songs is also filled with stories fans treasure, such as Waters working with engineer Alan Parsons to employ revolutionary recording techniques for The Dark Side of the Moon at Abbey Road Studios in 1972 or producer Bob’s Ezrin’s contribution in refining Water’s original sprawling vision for The Wall.

Chopin’s Piano by Paul Kildea

In November 1838 Frederic Chopin, George Sand and her two children sailed to Majorca to escape the Parisian winter. They settled in an abandoned monastery at Valldemossa in the mountains above Palma, where Chopin finished what would eventually be recognised as one of the great and revolutionary works of musical Romanticism – his 24 Preludes. There was scarcely a decent piano on the island (these were still early days in the evolution of the modern instrument), so Chopin worked on a small pianino made by a local craftsman, which remained in their monastic cell for seventy years after he and Sand had left. This brilliant and unclassifiable book traces the history of Chopin’s 24 Preludes through the instruments on which they were played, the pianists who interpreted them and the traditions they came to represent. Yet it begins and ends with the Majorcan pianino, which during the Second World War assumed an astonishing cultural potency as it became, for the Nazis, a symbol of the man and music they were determined to appropriate as their own. The unexpected hero of the second part of the book is the great keyboard player and musical thinker Wanda Landowska, who rescued the pianino from Valldemossa in 1913, and who would later become one of the most influential musical figures of the twentieth century. Kildea shows how her story – a compelling account based for the first time on her private papers – resonates with Chopin’s, while simultaneously distilling part of the cultural and political history of Europe and the United States in the central decades of the century. Kildea’s beautifully interwoven narratives, part cultural history and part detective story, take us on an unexpected journey through musical Romanticism and allow us to reflect freshly on the changing meaning of music over time.

Enjoy!