Category Archives: Blog

How to support local businesses with Booko

While we are all staying safe at home and turning to online shopping we thought we would make it a little easier for you to support your local stores. We have compiled a list of booksellers with local warehousing in Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States. Please note that some stores (such as The Book Depository, Boomerang Books, The Nile and Amazon) dispatch their products from various warehouses, so make sure you check where the product is getting shipped from and what the delivery estimate is.

Remember to ensure your local region is set to the country you are shipping to (this is done by clicking on the flag in the top right hand corner of the booko website). Also, it is important to check that the book, DVD, LEGO set or game you are looking to purchase is ‘in stock’ before clicking to buy, this will ensure a swift delivery time.

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Here are some of the top selling books in Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Top Selling Books in Australia this month:

Grown Ups by Marian Keyes

They’re a glamorous family, the Caseys. Johnny Casey, his two brothers Ed and Liam, their beautiful, talented wives and all their kids spend a lot of time together – birthday parties, anniversary celebrations, weekends away. And they’re a happy family. Johnny’s wife, Jessie – who has the most money – insists on it. Under the surface, though, conditions are murkier. While some people clash, other people like each other far too much. Everything stays under control until Ed’s wife Cara, gets concussion and can’t keep her thoughts to herself. One careless remark at Johnny’s birthday party, with the entire family present, starts Cara spilling out all their secrets. In the subsequent unravelling, every one of the adults finds themselves wondering if it’s time, finally, to grow up.

The Mirror and The Light by Hilary Mantel

England, May 1536. Anne Boleyn is dead, decapitated in the space of a heartbeat by a hired French executioner. As her remains are bundled into oblivion, Thomas Cromwell breakfasts with the victors. The blacksmith’s son from Putney emerges from the spring’s bloodbath to continue his climb to power and wealth, while his formidable master, Henry VIII, settles to short-lived happiness with his third queen, before Jane dies giving birth to the male heir he most craves.Cromwell is a man with only his wits to rely on; he has no great family to back him, no private army. Despite rebellion at home, traitors plotting abroad and the threat of invasion testing Henry’s regime to breaking point, Cromwell’s robust imagination sees a new country in the mirror of the future. But can a nation, or a person, shed the past like a skin? Do the dead continually unbury themselves? What will you do, the Spanish ambassador asks Cromwell, when the king turns on you, as sooner or later he turns on everyone close to him? With The Mirror and the Light, Hilary Mantel brings to a triumphant close the trilogy she began with Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies. She traces the final years of Thomas Cromwell, the boy from nowhere who climbs to the heights of power, offering a defining portrait of predator and prey, of a ferocious contest between present and past, between royal will and a common man’s vision: of a modern nation making itself through conflict, passion and courage.

Top Selling Books in the United Kingdom this month:

Blue Moon by Lee Child

In the next highly anticipated installment of Lee Child’s acclaimed suspense series, Jack Reacher comes to the aid of an elderly couple . . . and confronts his most dangerous opponents yet. Once in a blue moon things turn out just right. This isn’t one of those times. Reacher is on a Greyhound bus, minding his own business, with no particular place to go, and all the time in the world to get there. Then he steps off the bus to help an old man who is obviously just a victim waiting to happen. But you know what they say about good deeds. Now Reacher wants to make it right. An elderly couple have made a few well-meaning mistakes, and now they owe big money to some very bad people. One brazen move leads to another, and suddenly Reacher finds himself a wanted man in the middle of a brutal turf war between rival Ukrainian and Albanian gangs. Reacher has to stay one step ahead of the loan sharks, the thugs, and the assassins. He teams up with a fed-up waitress who knows a little more than she’s letting on, and sets out to take down the powerful and make the greedy pay. It’s a long shot. The odds are against him. But Reacher believes in a certain kind of justice . . . the kind that comes along once in a blue moon.

The Dark Side by Danielle Steel

The Dark Side is a powerful and unsettling novel of loss, motherhood and the innocence of childhood from the world’s favourite storyteller, Danielle Steel. Zoe Morgan was just ten years old when her life changed forever. Her sister, Rose, died of a rare illness, her parents turned into people she didn’t know, and Zoe’s lonely childhood drove her to excel in her studies. As a graduate of Yale, Zoe takes a leave of absence from medical school to work in a shelter for abused children in New York, where she meets well-known child advocacy attorney, Austin Roberts. Austin is bowled over by her beauty, brains and talent. He is her first love and the man she marries. Austin and Zoe have a perfect life and, after the birth of their longed-for daughter Jaime, Zoe knows that the aching void she had lived through for twenty-four years is finally complete. But it is only then that the true impact of Rose’s death all those years ago affects their lives in a way that nobody could ever have imagined.

Top Selling Books in the United States this month:

Joy at Work by Marie Kondo

In Joy at Work, KonMari method pioneer Marie Kondo and organizational psychologist Scott Sonenshein will help you to refocus your mind on what’s important at work, and as their examples show, the results can be truly life-changing. With advice on how to improve the way you work, the book features advice on problem areas including fundamentals like how to organize your desk, finally get through your emails and find what sparks joy in an open plan office. Like how the key to successful tidying in the home is by tackling clutter in the correct order, Joy at Work adapts the inspirational KonMari Method for the workplace, taking you step-by-step through your professional environment so that you can identify the most joyful way to work for you. Once you’ve found order in your work life, you can feel empowered to find confidence, energy and motivation to create the career you want and move on from negative working practices.

My Wife Said You May Want to Marry Me by Jason Rosenthal

On March 3, 2017, Amy Krouse Rosenthal penned an op-ed piece for the New York Times’ “Modern Love” column —”You May Want to Marry My Husband.” It appeared ten days before her death from ovarian cancer. A heartbreaking, wry, brutally honest, and creative play on a personal ad, in which a dying wife encouraged her husband to go on and find happiness after her demise. The column quickly went viral, reaching more than five million people worldwide.  In My Wife Said You May Want to Marry Me, Jason describes what came next: his commitment to respecting Amy’s wish, even as he struggled with her loss. Surveying his life before, with, and after Amy, Jason ruminates on love, the pain of watching a loved one suffer, and what it means to heal, how he and their three children, despite their profound sorrow, went on. Jason’s emotional journey offers insights on dying and death and the excruciating pain of losing a soulmate, and illuminates the lessons he learned.  As he reflects on Amy’s gift to him, a fresh start to fill his empty space with a new story, Jason describes how he continues to honour Amy’s life and her last wish, and how he seeks to appreciate every day and live in the moment while trying to help others coping with loss. My Wife Said You May Want to Marry Me is the poignant, unreserved, and inspiring story of a great love, the aftermath of a marriage ended too soon, and how a surviving partner eventually found a new perspective on life’s joys in the wake of tremendous loss.

Enjoy and stay safe!

Best Book Series for Children

There has never been a better time to get reading – reading can provide entertainment, knowledge and comfort, and is a perfect thing to do at home!  We know that many of you are having more time to kill, and are asking for suggestions of series books – something substantial that can hold your attention for longer.  So this week we are showcasing some of the most popular multi-volume children’s books, guaranteed to give kids hours of reading pleasure – even those who are usually reluctant to pick up a book!

Wings of Fire 1-5 Boxed set by Tui T Sutherland

This fantasy series, set in a world of dragons, has enormous word-of-mouth cred amongst upper-primary aged readers.  Five young dragonets strive to fulfil a prophecy that they will end an ancient war and finally bring peace to the dragon tribes of Pyrrhia.  What sets Wings of Fire apart is that its dragons are the main characters, with a rich and complex civilisation, whilst humans are considered “scavengers” and peripheral to the story. Tui T Sutherland’s impressive world-building has now grown beyond the 20+ books into a big and active fandom.  The first three books are now available in graphic novel format

Slime by David Walliams 

Slime is hot off the presses and sure to delight David Walliams’ many fans (as well as creating many more).  Inspired by the recent craze for slime, this story sees young Ned discover the origins of slime, and use it to wreak revenge on the horrible grownups who love nothing more than making children  miserable.  David Walliams is often compared to Roald Dahl and it is easy to see why – his stories are funny, with touches of the grotesque and the fantastical, all underlaid with a call for empathy.   David Walliams has published 18 children’s novels.  While these are mostly standalone, there are recurring characters to spot, such as Raj the newsagent.

WeirDo 1-9 Boxset by Anh Do

Weir Do is a thoughtful boy with a weird name and a weirder family.  The WeirDo books are slice-of-life stories that are packed with illustrations and laugh-out-loud funny – perfect for fans of Diary of a Wimpy Kid.  The latest is #14 – WeirDo: Vote WeirDo! where Weir’s chances of being elected class captain may be derailed by an EPIC HAIR DISASTER.  WeirDo is the first children’s series written by the multi-talented Anh Do, who has gone on to create other bestselling series including Hot Dog, Ninja Kid, Wolf Girl, as well as Mythix.

Kensy and Max 5: Freefall by Jacqueline Harvey

You may already know Jacqueline Harvey from her delightful Clementine Rose and Alice-Miranda series; now she is trying her hand at spy thrillers aimed at both boys and girls. Kensy and Max are twins whose lives are turned upside-down when they are whisked off to London and  discover their parents are missing.  The race is on to understand the strange things happening around them, and find their parents!  There’s mystery, spy craft, exotic locations and lots of chases.  Volume 5, Freefall, sees Kensy and Max as agents-in-training, struggling with ethical dilemmas while trying to capture a master criminal in New York.

Welcome to the Brilliant World of Tom Gates box set by Liz Pichon

This is a box set of the first 12 books in the Tom Gates series.  (We’re now up to Book 17.)  Tom Gates is a series of illustrated diary stories about an endearing but chaotic boy and his family.  The pages are heavily illustrated with distinctive doodles and funny little details, the tone is chatty, and the situations are funny and totally relatable.  What’s more, Tom Gates is a tried-and-true recommendation for reluctant readers and those who need extra reading support – perhaps Tom Gates books are so accessible because Liz Pichon is herself dyslexic, and she has written these stories to be just what she would have loved to read as a child.  The illustrated diary format might even inspire young fans to create their own Tom Gates-style stories!

The Last Kids on Earth by Max Brallier

The Last Kids on Earth is dystopian fiction with a twist! Unlike dystopian YA, which tends to be dark and grim, this tweens-and-early-teens series shows that a zombie apocalypse can be pretty funny.  13-year old Jack recruits four of his classmates to fight off a succession of monsters after a zombie outbreak hits his hometown.  They have to learn to work as a team to stay alive, and they are the world’s last chance against the evil overlord Rezzoch!  This Wimpy-Kid-meets-Walking-Dead series has zombies, monsters, wisecracks, and crazy gadgets – no wonder it’s a New York Times bestseller.  Now also an animated series on Netflix.

The Newest YA Books Hitting the Shelves

The secret is out – YA (Young Adult fiction) is one of the most exciting and popular book categories at the moment.  Gone is the stigma of grownups reading ‘kids books’ –  readers of all ages are attracted to YA for its strong narratives, awareness of social causes, and championing of diversity and the authenticity of #ownvoices experience. With strong new releases every season, we’ll take a look at some recent hits:

Children of Virtue and Vengeance by Tomi Adeyemi

Children of Virtue and Vengenace is the highly-anticipated sequel to Children of Blood and Bone, one of the strongest YA debuts ever.  Having brought magic back to the kingdom of Orisha, the feisty heroine, Zelie Adebola, finds out that the unexpected consequences of her actions may derail her fight against oppression. This fantasy trilogy is set in West Africa, with inspiration from Harry Potter, West African mythology and the Black Lives Matter movement.  Tomi Adeyemi deftly uses her fictitious realm to explore issues of racism, oppression and slavery.  Children of Virtue and Vengeance is a solid second instalment, leading up to a huge finish in the third and final volume.

The Downstairs Girl by Stacey Lee

By day, seventeen-year-old Jo Kuan works as a lady’s maid for one of the wealthiest families in Atlanta. By night, she moonlights as Miss Sweetie, the author of a newspaper advice column. When her column becomes popular, she uses it to challenge society’s ideas about race and gender, and must step up to overcome the backlash that follows.  Stacey Lee is a Chinese-American writer whose stories reinterpret historical events from a Chinese-American perspective.  Downstairs Girl is a powerful novel about identity, betrayal and the meaning of family.

Heart of Flames by Nicki Pau Preto

If you love High Fantasy with mythical creatures then be sure to check out The Crown of Feathers saga.  Heart of Flames is the second instalment, continuing this story about siblings Val and Veronyka, who dream of joining the Phoenix Riders, a disbanded band of elite warriors who have empathic links to the phoenixes they ride.  Within the political machinations and tensions of an unstable world, Val, Veronyka and their friends discover their distinct identities, fall in love, and strive towards their goals.  Nicki Pau Preto does a great job of world-building, and of fleshing out her characters, by telling the story from multiple perspectives.

Watch Us Rise by Renee Watson and Ellen Hagan

Award-winning author Renee Watson teams up with poet Ellen Hagan to give us a stirring story about feminist activism and empowerment.  Jasmine and Chelsea are best friends attending a social justice-focussed high school in New York.  When they realise that sexism and racism are rife even in their progressive school, these strong-willed teens fight hard to make sure their voices – and those of other young women – can still be heard.  Watch Us Rise is a dynamic, complex story with a multidimensional, diverse cast.  The use of a dual narrative, and the inclusion of art, poetry and blogs to drive the story, add extra interest.

We Hunt the Flame by Hafsah Faizal

We Hunt The Flame is a new quest adventure set in a realm inspired by ancient Arabia. Zafira is a strong, skilled hunter tasked to bring back a magical artefact in order to save her world.  Disguised as a man for self-protection, Zafira is pursued by, but eventually forms an uneasy alliance with, the King’s Assassin.  Will they succeed on their perilous journey? We Hunt the Flame is a story of conquering fear and creating your own destiny; of morality and understanding.  Hafsah Faizal is a debut author who has drawn upon her Arabic and Muslim heritage to craft a rich fantasy world.  We Hunt the Flame is a read-alike for books by Tamora Pierce, and perfect for fans of the game Assassin’s Creed.

Of Curses and Kisses by Sandhya Menon

Sandhya Menon balances classic tropes of YA romance (an exclusive boarding school, young royals, and uber-rich “beautiful people”) with a dash of fantasy, and an earnest exploration of the issues of loneliness and parental expectations, to give a fresh take on the Beauty and the Beast story.  Indian princesses Jaya Rao and Isha have been shipped off to the exclusive St Rosetta’s academy to ride out a scandal surrounding younger sister Isha.  Jaya vows to take revenge on fellow student Grey Emerson, whose family has been feuding with the Raos for generations, and whom Jaya believes caused Isha’s scandal.  Both Jaya and Grey grow in self-awareness and independence during their funny and romantic enemies-to-lovers journey.

Books to Help you Live Sustainably at Home

What does sustainability mean to you?  Most people are aware that sustainability is important, but may struggle to decide how to incorporate sustainable practices into their lives.  This week Team Booko has brought together lots of ideas on how to get started.  Many of these ideas only require small changes – such as ditching plastic straws, or walking instead of driving short distances.  Others are fun and creative, encouraging us to try making / cooking / upcycling.  These books also show that sustainability are interlinked with mindfulness and decluttering – meaning that it is not only good for our environment, but good for our health and our wallets too!

A Life Less Throwaway: the Lost Art of Buying for Life by Tara Button

Tara Button was a work-hard, spend-hard advertising executive when she realised that her shopping habits – meant to make her happy – was having the opposite effect.  So she started to fight back against the current culture of planned obsolescence – the idea that products should have a limited (ie short) lifespan – and instead, started a movement that celebrates products that are made to last.  A Life Less Throwaway explains the concept of “mindful curation”, with plenty of tips and strategies to help us only buy things that fit the purpose, that we love and that can last a lifetime.

Simple Acts to Save our Planet: 500 Ways to Make a Difference by Michelle Neff

If you want to live in a more sustainable and environmentally responsible way, but don’t know where to start, then this book is for you.  Michelle Neff has created a bumper book of “Simple Acts of Kindess” for our planet. Many of the ideas look at how to reduce waste, bolster animal and insect populations and lower energy consumption.  These Simple Acts show us that even the tiniest change to our lifestyle – such as BYO coffee cups and shopping bags, and buying items with minimal packaging – can have a lasting positive impact on the environment. What’s more, many of these ideas – such as eating less processed food, and using meat and veg scraps to make stock – can also benefit our own health.

Upcycle: Turn Everyday Objects into Home Decor by Sonia Lucano

Upcycle is a fun, contemporary project book that shows you how to turn some everyday items into home furnishings.   Sonia Lucarno has chosen starting materials that are available cheaply or for free, such as old dishes, glass jars, bedsheets and wooden pallets.  Learn how to turn cotton sheets into a tote bag, wooden pallet into a coffee table, or glass jars into terrariums.  There are detailed instructions including lists of materials.  Start salvaging these bits and pieces from the waste stream and turn them into chic, functional pieces for your home.

Perfect Imperfect: the Beauty of Accident, Age & Patina by Karen McCartney, Sharyn Cairns and Glen Proebstel

Perfect Imperfect is a sumptuous coffee table book with a subtle environmental message – by celebrating the beauty of age and imperfection (some may call it “character”), it encourages us to purchase thoughtfully rather than frequently, to value curation rather than consumption.  Perfect Imperfect puts a modern spin on the age-old Japanese aesthetic of wabi-sabi, bringing together contemporary design with well-worn objects.  The stunning interiors feature a mix of comfort, design and thoughtful beauty, and are selected from homes, hotels, shops and studios around the world.

Low Tox Life: a Handbook for a Healthy You and a Happy Planet by Alexx Stuart

Alexx Stuart has distilled the learnings from her own quest for a Low Tox Life into a guide to help you live with better health and less stress.  Alexx Stuart was fighting chronic inflammation when she realised that our hyper-industrialised society was contributing to her ill-health.  She started to pay closer attention to product labels, and reducing the use of synthetic fragrances, disposable plastics and processed foods, and has seen a dramatic improvement in her physical and mental health.  Organised into four intuitive sections of Body, Home Food and Mind, Low Tox Life is a guide that encourages us to make more informed choices about the food we eat, and the things we surround ourselves with – and highlights that better choices can benefit both ourselves and our environment.

100 Things to Recycle and Make by Fiona Hayes

It’s never too young to help children understand the importance of sustainability, and what better way to do it than through a fun activity such as crafting.  Fiona Hayes, author of the popular Crafty Makes series, has chosen 100 of her favourite projects for crafting with recycled materials.  Ideas range from the decorative to the practical, including toys, stationery, decorations and storage.  The projects are helpfully arranged by the main starting material, eg cardboard tubes, egg cartons, paper plates and materials from nature, and include step-by-step instructions.  100 Things to Recycle and Make is a great sourcebook for anyone who spends time with children!

Festive Food… part two.

And just like that, it is Christmas next week! Friends and family are starting to arrive from out of town, presents are being wrapped and popped under the tree and the sun is starting to settle in for a long and hot Summer here in Melbourne. 

Whether your family cooks up a big roast dinner with all of the trimmings, or grills seafood on the bbq or even prefers a lighter approach with salads, we have found some great cookbooks with mains and desserts that will wow your guests this festive season. 

This week we’re focussing on the main meal and sweet treats for afterwards, if you were looking for inspiration for starters and tasty beverages, then be sure to check out this blog post here

Prepare to be inspired. 

The Whole Fish by Josh Niland

We all want to eat more fish, but who wants to bother spending the time, effort and money cooking that same old salmon fillet on repeat when you could be trying something new and utterly delicious? In The Whole Fish Cookbook, Sydneys groundbreaking seafood chef Josh Niland reveals a completely new way to think about all aspects of fish cookery. From sourcing and butchering to dry ageing and curing, it challenges everything we thought we knew about the subject and invites readers to see fish for what it really is – an amazing, complex source of protein that can, and should, be treated with exactly the same nose-to-tail reverence as meat. Featuring more than 60 recipes for dozens of fish species ranging from Cod Liver Pate on Toast, Fish Cassoulet to Roast Fish Bone Marrow.

Scandi Bites by Trine Hahnemann

This is the perfect little gift for Scandi fans who want to bring some Nordic charm into their kitchen. With over 60 sweet and savoury recipes for all sorts of snacks, treats, fingerfood, bakes and pastries, it will provide plenty of inspiration for every occasion throughout the year. Doyenne of Danish baking, Trine Hahnemann, shares all her favourite treats in this cute cookbook so that you can make your own delicious cardamom buns, almond cookies, honey bombs, coconut macaroons and smoked salmon open sandwiches, among many others.

Pana Chocolate, The Recipes by Pana Barbounis

Cacao Crunch, Cardamom Dream, Spiced Chocolate Chai, Butterscotch Apple Crumble! Pana Chocolate, The Recipes is the book vegans and health-conscious sweet tooths have been waiting for. It includes 60 beautiful recipes that cover the spectrum: from fillings for your own raw chocolate creations; to fancy but achievable plated desserts using raw chocolate; to traditional desserts that you can make raw; to raw desserts for kids’ parties (think chocolate crackles and honey joys) to breakfast (chia pudding, granola, buckwheat porridge!) The recipes are all raw, organic, vegan, free from dairy, gluten, soy and refined sugar.

Chefs Host Christmas Too by Darren Purchese

Hot on the heels of his highly successful Chefs Eat Toasties Too, Darren Purchese is sharing his take on Christmas with us in his 2nd book in the Chefs…Too series. With Chefs Host Christmas Too there’s no need to be stressed about Christmas – at least not when it comes to hosting and feasting. It’s time to play with Christmas – and we don’t mean having a starring role in a pageant, but being the star of your own show. The approach here is fresh, fun, lighthearted and accessible, with an enticing and cleverly put-together line up of Christmas greats, and new twists on how to prepare them. Chefs Host Christmas Too includes everything you need to keep the throng fed and entertained during this festive time, including family favourites, all the chef tips and tricks, and new takes on some classic fare.

Mary Berry Cooks Up A Feast by DK

Mary Berry makes cooking for gatherings of family and friends easier with over 160 recipes that work well for both small and large numbers of guests. Discover how she cooks for her family and friends during the Christmas party season, and for other occasions and celebrations throughout the year. Her timeless guidance and expert tips will help you cater smoothly and successfully on a small scale for dinners and lunches around a table, or on a larger scale for drinks parties, buffets and teatime. Adapting quantities is made easy. Each recipe provides two sets of ingredients for serving either 6 or 12 guests, plus there is new, detailed advice on how to scale up recipes for any number. Discover tips for preparing in advance and simple shortcuts and cook up a feast the stress-free way.

Just Desserts By Charlotte Red 

You’d butter believe this is the only baking book you’ll need this Christmas! Instagram sensation Charlotte Ree is famous for her simple and delicious sweets … and her love of puns. Her easy, user-friendly creations are designed to taste amazing, rather than just look pretty (though pretty they most certainly are!). Just Desserts showcases 30 of Charlotte’s most popular and delicious cake, biscuit, slice and dessert recipes in one outrageously gorgeous little package. Featuring essentials, such as chocolate brownies, shortbread caramel slice and chocolate-chip cookies through to show stoppers, such as layered berry pavlova and chocolate ganache & blackberry bundt, Just Desserts is the ideal gift for the baker and sweet-lover in your life – even if that’s you!

Enjoy! 

The Best Books of 2019

Wowsers, 2019 has flown by… it feels like it was just yesterday that we were ringing in the New Year! 2019 has been a year full of fabulous books and we have thoroughly enjoyed immersing ourselves into stories of mystery, coming of age, crime, drama and heart ache, alongside challenging ourselves with self help, crafting, professional development, memoirs and decluttering titles.

We have rounded up some of the year’s best sellers but we’d love to hear what you’ve enjoyed reading too. Jump over to our social media channels (facebook, instagram and pinterest) and join in the conversation. Also, keep an eye out for our newsletter where we will be sharing our top tips for clever online shopping, exclusive discount codes with your favourite online stores, free printables and even interviews with some of our favourite authors. Make sure you login to your Booko account and hit subscribe. 

So, pop the kettle on, make yourself a cup of tea and get ready to make a list of your next bedtime reads. 

The Testaments by Margaret Atwood

This was the 2019 Booker Prize Winner and hands down one of the most anticipated books of the year after the Handmaid’s Tale’s huge popularity on television. When the van door slammed on Offred’s future at the end of The Handmaid’s Tale, readers had no way of telling what lay ahead for her – freedom, prison or death. With The Testaments, the wait is over. Margaret Atwood’s sequel picks up the story 15 years after Offred stepped into the unknown, with the explosive testaments of three female narrators from Gilead.

Educated by Tara Westover

Tara Westover grew up preparing for the End of Days, watching for the sun to darken, for the moon to drip as if with blood. She spent her summers bottling peaches and her winters rotating emergency supplies, hoping that when the World of Men failed, her family would continue on, unaffected. She hadn’t been registered for a birth certificate. She had no school records because she’d never set foot in a classroom, and no medical records because her father didn’t believe in doctors or hospitals. According to the state and federal government, she didn’t exist. As she grew older, her father became more radical, and her brother, more violent. At sixteen Tara decided to educate herself. Her struggle for knowledge would take her far from her Idaho mountains, over oceans and across continents, to Harvard and to Cambridge. Only then would she wonder if she’d travelled too far. If there was still a way home. Educated is an account of the struggle for self-invention. It is a tale of fierce family loyalty, and of the grief that comes with the severing of the closest of ties. With the acute insight that distinguishes all great writers, from her singular experience Westover has crafted a universal coming-of-age story that gets to the heart of what an education is and what it offers- the perspective to see one’s life through new eyes, and the will to change it.

The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris

This beautiful, illuminating tale of hope and courage is based on interviews that were conducted with Holocaust survivor and Auschwitz-Birkenau tattooist Ludwig (Lale) Sokolov—an unforgettable love story in the midst of atrocity. In April 1942, Lale Sokolov, a Slovakian Jew, is forcibly transported to the concentration camps at Auschwitz-Birkenau. When his captors discover that he speaks several languages, he is put to work as a Tätowierer (the German word for tattooist), tasked with permanently marking his fellow prisoners. Imprisoned for over two and a half years, Lale witnesses horrific atrocities and barbarism, but also incredible acts of bravery and compassion. Risking his own life, he uses his privileged position to exchange jewels and money from murdered Jews for food to keep his fellow prisoners alive. One day in July 1942, Lale, prisoner 32407, comforts a trembling young woman waiting in line to have the number 34902 tattooed onto her arm. Her name is Gita, and in that first encounter, Lale vows to somehow survive the camp and marry her.

A vivid, harrowing, and ultimately hopeful re-creation of Lale Sokolov’s experiences as the man who tattooed the arms of thousands of prisoners with what would become one of the most potent symbols of the Holocaust, The Tattooist of Auschwitz is also a testament to the endurance of love and humanity under the darkest possible conditions.

Becoming by Michelle Obama

*Technically* this book is a 2018 release but it was late in the year when released and by the time we got our hands on a copy it was January so we’re including it in this year’s roundup.

In a life filled with meaning and accomplishment, Michelle Obama has emerged as one of the most iconic and compelling women of our era. As First Lady of the United States of America-the first African-American to serve in that role-she helped create the most welcoming and inclusive White House in history, while also establishing herself as a powerful advocate for women and girls in the U.S. and around the world, dramatically changing the ways that families pursue healthier and more active lives, and standing with her husband as he led America through some of its most harrowing moments. Along the way, she showed us a few dance moves, crushed Carpool Karaoke, and raised two down-to-earth daughters under an unforgiving media glare. In her memoir, a work of deep reflection and mesmerizing storytelling, Michelle Obama invites readers into her world, chronicling the experiences that have shaped her-from her childhood on the South Side of Chicago to her years as an executive balancing the demands of motherhood and work, to her time spent at the world’s most famous address. With unerring honesty and lively wit, she describes her triumphs and her disappointments, both public and private, telling her full story as she has lived it-in her own words and on her own terms. Warm, wise, and revelatory, Becoming is the deeply personal reckoning of a woman of soul and substance who has steadily defied expectations-and whose story inspires us to do the same.

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

For years, rumours of the “Marsh Girl” have haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet town on the North Carolina coast. So in late 1969, when handsome Chase Andrews is found dead, the locals immediately suspect Kya Clark, the so-called Marsh Girl. But Kya is not what they say. Sensitive and intelligent, she has survived for years alone in the marsh that she calls home, finding friends in the gulls and lessons in the sand. Then the time comes when she yearns to be touched and loved. When two young men from town become intrigued by her wild beauty, Kya opens herself to a new life–until the unthinkable happens. Perfect for fans of Barbara Kingsolver and Karen Russell, Where the Crawdads Sing is at once an exquisite ode to the natural world, a heartbreaking coming-of-age story, and a surprising tale of possible murder. Owens reminds us that we are forever shaped by the children we once were, and that we are all subject to the beautiful and violent secrets that nature keeps.

Girl, Stop Apologising by Rachel Hollis

Rachel Hollis has seen it too often: women being afraid of their own goals. They’re afraid of embarrassment, of falling short of perfection, of not being enough. But the biggest fear of all is of being judged for having ambition at all.

Having been taught to define themselves in light of other people, whether as wife, mother, daughter, friend, or team member, many women have forgotten who they are and what they were meant to be. In Girl, Stop Apologising, entrepreneur and online personality (TheChicSite.com) Rachel Hollis encourages women to own their hopes, desires, and goals and reminds them they don’t need permission to want more. With a call to women everywhere to stop talking themselves out of their dreams, Hollis identifies the excuses to let go of, the behaviours to adopt, and the skills to acquire on the path to growth, confidence, and the biggest possible version of their lives.

Enjoy!

Monday Inspo

Everyone needs a little reminder now and again to take care of themselves. The end of the year is closing in and while festive seasons can be fun, they can also take a lot out of us. Make sure you take some time to do something that recharges you, chatting with a friend, sitting with a good book, enjoying a cup of tea, or taking a quick stroll. It doesn’t need to take long, but the impact will last a while.Later this week we will be looking back on the best books of 2019.

Top Books for Summer Reading

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

Twas the Nightshift Before Christmas by Adam Kay

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

Calypso by David Sedaris

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

Trick Mirror: Reflections on Self-Delusion by Jia Tolentino

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

Tall Tales and Wee Stories by Billy Connolly

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

Dead at First Sight by Peter James

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

Me by Elton John

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

Festive Food…part one

With roughly a little over six weeks to go, the festive season is nearly here. In fact, invitations to parties, BBQs and drinks have already begun. If you happen to be hosting friends and family this year it can often be daunting. Luckily there are a ton of entertaining options; you can keep it casual with a BBQ where everyone brings a dish to share, go all out with a formal sit down dinner or opt for nibbles and ramp up the drinks instead. Tasting tables have been growing in popularity too, these are the ultimate grazing tables for the platter lovers and super easy to pull together.

We have had a little poke around the internet and found six inspiring books that are bound to give you ideas for nibbles and tasty beverages for your guests. 

Pull up a chair, and prepare to get into the festive spirit with these great titles… oh and they make great gifts for those who like to host too… just saying!

Platters and Boards by Shelly Westerhausen

Santa’s little helpers bought me this book last Christmas and I love it. This book has been described as a visual cornucopia of a cookbook with a guide to entertaining with effortless style. Celebrated author and food blogger Shelly Westerhausen shares the secrets to creating casually chic spreads anyone can make and everyone will enjoy (and envy). Organised by time of day, 40 contemporary arrangements are presented with gorgeous photography, easy-to-prepare recipes, suggested meat and drink pairings, and notes on preparation and presentation. Helpful advice includes tips on portioning, picking surfaces and vessels, pairing complementary textures and flavours, plus a handy chart featuring board suggestions for a variety of occasions (from holiday parties to baby showers). Platters and Boards is an inspiring housewarming or hostess gift and resource for throwing unforgettable get-togethers.

Tapas by Ryland, Peters & Small

Bring an authentic taste of Spain to your table with this collection of more than 60 mouth-watering recipes for small plates to share. Traditionally served as a bar snack with a glass of sherry or a cold beer, tapas has become a firm favourite thanks to its wide variety and versatility. Whether you are serving a starter before a meal, enjoying some small bites with drinks, or going all out and filling the table with multiple dishes to feast on, there is no bad time to indulge in these flavour-filled dishes. This book includes all the classics from the perennially popular Patatas Bravas and Spanish Omelette to Chorizo in Red Wine and Peppers Stuffed with Salt Cod. Many of these dishes can be made in advance for ease, so you too can enjoy time with your friends – Buen Provecho!

Vegetarian Party Food by Jessica Oldfield

Vegetarian Party Food is a thoughtful collection of vegetarian and vegan bites perfect for any get-together. Mix and match the recipes to create the ultimate spread for gatherings and dinner parties. The book is divided into condiments, dips, vegetarian, and vegan chapters – including everything from easy no-cook bites like Turmeric and Lime Hummus and Peach Salsa and Cheese Crostini to more complex ones like Indian Cauliflower Bhajis and Hasselback Baby Beetroots with Feta. Put together the ultimate party spread and impress guests with Baked Black Sesame Camembert or Mini Vegetarian Gyros. With quick and easy make-ahead recipes you can have on hand for impromptu gatherings and versatile condiments you can make it batches and use for various dishes, this collection will help you become best host you can be.

Flour and Stone by Nadine Ingram

Flour and Stone is a petite bakery in inner-city Sydney with a large and devoted following for its pannacotta lamingtons, flaky croissants, chewy cookies, dreamy cakes and delectable pastries of every kind. Nadine Ingram and her dedicated team bake with finesse and love to bring pleasure to the city. In this book Nadine shares her signature recipes, all carefully explained and rigorously tested for the home kitchen. Family, in every sense, is at the heart of Flour and Stone – this recipe collection is given in the hope that you will nurture your own loved ones with the timeless, comforting art of baking. These are the treats you’ll want to eat for the rest of your life.

Last Call by Brad Thomas Parsons

From the James Beard Award-winning author of Amaro and Bitters comes this poignant, funny, and often elegiac exploration of the question, What is the last thing you’d want to drink before you die?, with bartender profiles, portraits, and cocktail recipes. Everyone knows the parlour game question asked of every chef and food personality in countless interviews – What is the last meal you’d want to eat before you die? But what does it look like when you pose the question to bartenders? In Last Call, James Beard Award-winning author Brad Thomas Parsons gathers the intriguing responses from a diverse range of bartenders around the country, including Guido Martelli at the Palizzi Social Club in Philadelphia (he chooses an extra-dry Martini), Joseph Stinchcomb at Saint Leo in Oxford, Mississippi (he picks the Last Word, a pre-Prohibition-era cocktail that’s now a cult favourite), and Natasha David at Nitecap in New York City (she would be sipping an extra-salty Margarita). The resulting interviews and essays reveal a personal portrait of some of the country’s top bartenders and their favourite drinks, while dozens of cocktail recipes and stunning photography make this a keepsake for barflies and cocktail enthusiasts of all stripes.

Wine for Normal People by Elizabeth Schneider

This is a fun but respectful (and very comprehensive) guide to everything you ever wanted to know about wine from the creator and host of the popular podcast Wine for Normal People, described by Imbibe magazine as “a wine podcast for the people.”

Millions of listeners have tuned in to learn a not-snobby wine vocabulary, how and where to buy wine, how to read a wine label, how to smell, swirl, and taste wine, and so much more! Rich with charts, maps, and lists-and the author’s deep knowledge and unpretentious delivery-this vividly illustrated, down-to-earth handbook is a must-have resource for millennials starting to buy, boomers who suddenly have the time and money to hone their appreciation, and anyone seeking a relatable introduction to the world of wine.

Enjoy!

The Best Books to Read on a Staycation

Sometimes it’s nice to have a break from routine. But instead of packing a suitcase and rushing for flights and eating plane food, it’s refreshing to have a staycation, holiday in your local city and at night read a book in the comfort of your own home. 

We have pulled together a list of the top selling books that the Northern Hemisphere have been enjoying over their summer to share with anyone who fancies a holiday at home…before the frantic festive season begins. 

So slap on some sunscreen (here’s looking at you Melbourne) and pull up a sun lounger as we have six fabulous books to transport you out of your routine.

Summer of ’69 by Elin Hilderbrand

Welcome to the most tumultuous summer of the twentieth century. Every year the Levin children have looked forward to spending the summer at their grandmother’s historic island home, but this year it’s not to be. Blair, the oldest sister, is marooned in Boston, pregnant with twins and unable to travel. Middle sister Kirby is caught up in the thrilling vortex of civil rights protests with her friend Mary Jo Kopechne. And Tiger, the only son, has just been deployed to Vietnam. Thirteen-year-old Jessie, the youngest of them all, suddenly feels like an only child, marooned in the house with her out-of-touch grandmother who is hiding secrets of her own. As the summer heats up, Teddy Kennedy sinks a car in Chappaquiddick, man walks on the moon, and Jessie experiences some sinking and flying herself, as she grows into her own body and mind. 

Honestly, We Meant Well by Grant Grinder

Family vacations always come with baggage.

The Wright family is in ruins. Sue Ellen Wright has what she thinks is a close-to-perfect life. A terrific career as a Classics professor, a loving husband, and a son who is just about to safely leave the nest. But then disaster strikes. She learns that her husband is cheating, and that her son has made a complete mess of his life. So, when the opportunity to take her family to a Greek island for a month presents itself, she jumps at the chance. This sunlit Aegean paradise, with its mountains and beaches is, after all, where she first fell in love with both a man and with an ancient culture. Perhaps Sue Ellen’s past will provide the key to her and her family’s salvation.

With his signature style of biting wit, hilarious characters, and deep emotion, Grant Ginder’s Honestly, We Meant Well is a funny, brilliant novel proving that with family, drama always comes with comedy.

City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert

This book is everywhere. Wherever we turn, be it online or instore, or on a tram we spot someone reading this book. If the fame of Eat, Pray, Love is anything to go by, we think this book is definitely worth another look at.

 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.

The Unlikely Adventures of the Shergill Sisters by Balli Kaur Jaswal

Full of warmth and laugh-out-loud funny, the new novel from the author of Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows. British-born Punjabi sisters Rajni, Jezmeen and Shirina have never been close – so when their dying mother instructs them to go on a pilgrimage across India to carry out her final rites, the sisters are forced together as they haven’t been for years. Rajni is an archetypal eldest child – bossy, knows best, always right – but her perfect son dropped a devastating bombshell before she left and now she’s floundering. Middle sister Jezmeen was always a loudmouth, translating her need for attention into life as a struggling actress. But her career is on the skids after an incident went viral and now she’s desperate to find her voice again. Shirina has always been the perfect sister, who confounded expectations by having the most traditional arranged marriage of them all and moving to the other side of the world. But her perfect marriage isn’t what it seems and time is running out to make the right choice. Each sister has her own reasons for agreeing to this ludicrous trip, and as the miles rack up, the secrets of the past and present are sure to spill out. 

We Came Here to Forget by Andrea Dunlop

Katie Cleary has always known exactly what she wants: to be the best skier in the world. As a teenager, she leaves her home to live and train full time with her two best friends, all-American brothers Luke and Blair, whose wealthy father has hired the best coaches money can buy. Together, they are the USA’s best shot at bringing home Olympic gold.

But as the upward trajectory of Katie’s elite skiing career nears its zenith, a terrifying truth about her sister becomes impossible to ignore—one that will lay ruin not only to Katie’s career but to her family and her relationship with Luke and Blair.

With her life shattered and nothing left to lose, Katie flees the snowy mountainsides of home for Buenos Aires. There, she reinvents herself as Liz Sullivan, and meets a colourful group of ex-pats and the alluring, charismatic Gianluca Fortunado, a tango teacher with secrets of his own. This beautiful city, with its dark history and wild promise, seems like the perfect refuge, but can she really outrun her demons?

In alternating chapters, Katie grows up, falls in love, and races down the highest peaks on the planet—while Liz is reborn, falls into lust, and sinks into the underground tango scene at the bottom of the world. From the moneyed ski chalets of the American West to the dimly lit milongas of Argentina, We Came Here to Forget explores what it means to dream, to desire, to achieve, and what’s left behind after it all disappears.

The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren

Olive is always unlucky: in her career, in love, in . . . well, everything. Her identical twin sister Amy, on the other hand, is probably the luckiest person in the world. Her meet-cute with her fiancé is something out of a romantic comedy (ugh) and she’s managed to finance her entire wedding by winning a series of online contests (double ugh). Worst of all, she’s forcing Olive to spend the day with her sworn enemy, Ethan, who just happens to be the best man. Olive just has to get through twenty-four hours of wedding hell before she can return to her comfortable, unlucky life. But when the entire wedding party – except for Olive and Ethan – gets food poisoning, there’s an all-expenses-paid honeymoon in Hawaii up for grabs. Putting their mutual hatred aside for the sake of a free vacation, Olive and Ethan head for paradise, determined to avoid each other at all costs. But when Olive runs into her future boss, the little white lie she tells him becomes a whole lot bigger. She and Ethan now have to pretend to be loving newlyweds. But the weird thing is that she doesn’t mind playing pretend. In fact, she feels kind of . . . lucky. The Unhoneymooners is a heartwarming and hilarious romance perfect for anyone who has ever felt unlucky in love.

Enjoy!