It’s a tough call as there are so many great books out there, but we really liked Where the Crawdads Sing, Educated and The Testaments…what about you? What is your #1 book of the year?
With Summer so close, now is the time to start gathering titles to read whilst holidaying in the sunshine. Which book is at the top of your ‘to read’ list?
What happens when a dream you’ve held since childhood doesn’t come true? As Lisa Bu adjusted to a new life in the United States, she turned to books to expand her mind and create a new path for herself. She shares her unique approach to reading in this lovely, personal talk about the magic of books.
There are so many books coming out later this year that we know will make a fab Christmas present. On the blog this Thursday we’ll share our favs with you…which book are you hoping to see under the tree this year?
We are still pinching ourselves that it is somehow October already! Wow the year has whizzed by. With the end of the year looming and Christmas (ahem) just around the corner we thought we would round up the best books that the Booko Team has read this year.
The team has a wide and mixed bunch of titles so find yourself somewhere comfy to sit and get ready to be inspired to sink yourself into some fabulous stories.
From the Founders:
Riina’s Pick: Exit West by Mohsin Hamid
I have been meaning to read Exit West by Mohsin Hamid ever since it was shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 2017, and finally managed to read it this year. Though the story takes place in an unnamed city, it bears much resemblance to the humanitarian crisis in Syria. I was firstly drawn to the book because of the refugee theme, but ended up finding much more than a refugee story: a thought-provoking story about belonging, prejudice, loyalty and love.
The story is of young lovers who are forced to leave the city of their birth due to escalating violence and civil war. They hear rumours of mysterious doorways that open up in random places and that take those who can pay the price to some far-flung place that is safer than the place they leave behind. The couple end up going through two more doorways in search of a place they can feel safe in. By inventing these “magic doorways” Hamid is removing the journey from the refugee story, instead focusing on the experiences of leaving and arriving, and how such events shape and change a person. This way the story is in some ways relatable to anyone who’s ever migrated for one reason or another.
As events unfold, Hamid pays homage to various humanitarian crises across history, showing the reader how easy it is for history to repeat itself; how close we are to losing our humanity. Fear, prejudice and “otherness” are never far below the surface.
Though the book was not a pleasant or easy read, it made it to one of my most favourite this year due to the thoughts it left me with for days after I had finished reading the story.
Dan’s Pick: Practical Object-Oriented Design by Sandi Metz
I first heard the name Sandi Metz at a programming conference I was attending in Sydney. My friend had bought a ticket and flown from Melbourne to see her speak. Sandi was the keynote and the subject was on persuasion. My friend, the Sandi fan, convinced me to watch a few of her programming videos and on the strength of those, I bought her latest book, ‘Practical Object-Oriented Design’.
It’s a dry sounding subject, but I was hooked immediately. Like me, Sandi is a Ruby programmer and like me, she builds systems in Ruby. The strength of the book is the way it introduces and discusses problems in designs of systems. Sandi identifies problems in design with straightforward examples. There were many moments during the book, when a problem was introduced that I immediately recognised and had struggled with. The main difference is that rather than move on to the next issue, Sandi reduces the problem to its kernel, then deftly brings a few tools or patterns to bear on the problem. It’s like watching a tangled cord be unknotted.
I’m not sure I’d have been so engrossed in this book had I not, quite literally, struggled with the exact problems presented. This book has improved me as a programmer and I would highly recommend it to any developer with a few years under their belt.
From our youngest reviewers:
Niko’s Pick: Brotherband by John Flanagan
A series I recommend is Brotherband. It is by John Flanagan, and exists in the same world as his international bestselling series “Ranger’s Apprentice,” which is about the Rangers of Araluen, and Will, the ranger Halt’s apprentice. Brotherband’s events happened shortly after Ranger’s Apprentice, where Gilan is actually a character in both of the series.
Brotherband is set in Skandia, a land of sea wolves and democracy (as in they vote for their leader, the Oberjarl, instead of having a royal bloodline, like Araluen). The main characters are a Brotherband called the Herons (named after the bird) and they are led by Hal. They fight bad guys and do missions for the Oberjarl, Erak.
I recommend this book to anyone who likes Vikings and battles and action and many other things I forgot to name. This book is good for anyone older than 8, but really, it’s good for all ages as long as you can read. It’s that good.
Elora’s Pick: Smile by Raina Telgemeier
I made a book report for a Book called Smile. I recommend this book for 6+! This book was written by Raina Telgemeier. She also wrote some books called Sisters, Ghosts, Drama and Guts. Those are all the books by her that I know of. I thought it was a good Graphic Novel. The good things about it are: it actually happened, it’s funny and all other emotions including the sad emotion 😭 Sad😢. Her so called annoying sister named Amara says “You’re gonna be a METAL-MOUTH” when she gets braces from tripping over and losing 2 fully grown teeth! The dentist was nice so he gave her fake teeth to make her look normal and she ends up with a good life.
From the Marketing Team:
Cheekily, Marie has two favourites and because they are so different from each other we thought we’d let that slide and let her review two.
If you like to sink your teeth into fascinating stories and learn practical tips at the same time, then this book is for you. A great friend recommended this to me and I loved it (and have since recommended it to a number of other people).
After a stint policing the rough streets of Kansas City, Missouri, Chris Voss joined the FBI, where his career as a hostage negotiator brought him face-to-face with a range of criminals, including bank robbers and terrorists. Reaching the pinnacle of his profession, he became the FBI’s lead international kidnapping negotiator. in his chatty style, Voss takes you inside the world of high-stakes negotiations and into his head, revealing the skills that helped him and his colleagues succeed where it mattered most: saving lives. In addition to the unbelievable stories, this is a practical guide of tactics and strategies that you can use to become more persuasive in both your professional and personal life.
Educated by Tara Westover
I still think about this book regularly after finishing it a few months ago, I think it is haunting me. With three little girls of my own and being brought up in a home where education was highly valued, I was intrigued when hearing about this story. I couldn’t imagine a world more different from my own and was so moved by the account of Tara’s life as she gets to the heart of what an education is and what it has to offer. I’m putting the blurb for the book below as I couldn’t describe it any better. However, prepare yourself because it is an exceptionally sad tale.
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.
There have been some amazing titles released this year. Which book has been your favourite?
Everyday it seems like a sports team is on the field, court, pitch or in the pool. The great thing about sport, other than the healthy living skills you gain from taking part, is that it it can teach you lessons that go way beyond the rules of a game.
We have had a hunt around for sporting books that have been released this year so you, too, can learn and gain insights from the wonderful world of sport.
Just a note of warning: reading this may make you want to pop your running shoes on or ride your bike through France… or get that horse you’ve always dreamed about.
Sevens Heaven by Ben Ryan
This is the inspirational story of how one man changed a nation, how that nation changed the man and how together they made sporting history. It is late summer 2013. Ben Ryan, a red-haired, 40-something, spectacle-wearing Englishman, is given 20 minutes to decide whether he wants to coach Fiji’s rugby sevens team, with the aim of taking them to the nation’s first-ever Olympic medal. He has never been to Fiji. There has been no discussion of contracts or salary. But he knows that no one plays rugby like the men from these isolated Pacific islands, just as no one plays football like the kids from the Brazilian favelas, or no one runs as fast as the boys and girls from Jamaica’s boondocks. He knows too that no other rugby nation has so little (no money and no resources) only basic equipment and a long, sad history of losing its most gifted players to richer, greedier nations. Ryan says yes. And with that simple word he sets in motion an extraordinary journey that will encompass witchdoctors and interfering prime ministers, sun-smeared dawns and devastating cyclones, intense friendships and bitter rows, phone taps and wild nationwide parties. It will end in Rio with a performance that not only wins Olympic gold but reaches fresh heights for rugby union and makes Ben and his 12 players living legends back home.
Red Card by Ken Bensinger
The story of FIFA’s fall from grace has it all: power, betrayal, revenge, sports stars, hustlers, corruption, sex and phenomenal quantities of money, all set against exotic locales stretching from Caribbean beaches to the formal staterooms of the Kremlin and the sun-blasted streets of Doha, Qatar. In Red Card, investigative journalist Ken Bensinger takes a journey to FIFA’s dark heart. He introduces the flamboyant villains of the piece – the FIFA kingpins who flaunted their wealth in private jets and New York’s grandest skyscrapers – and the dogged team of American FBI and IRS agents, headed by Attorney General Loretta Lynch, who finally brought them to book. Providing fresh insights on a scandal which has gripped the world, he shows how greed and arrogance brought down the most powerful institution in sporting history. A wild, gritty, gripping, and at times blackly comic story, Red Card combines world-class journalism with the pace of a thriller.
Keep an eye out too as Red Card is set to become a major film produced by Pearl Street Films (the production company owned by Matt Damon and Ben Affleck).
My World by Peter Sagan
From 2015 to 2017, Peter Sagan achieved the seemingly impossible: he won three road race World Championships in a row, ensuring his entry into the history books as one of the greatest riders of all time. But to look at Peter’s record in isolation is to tell only a fraction of his story, because Peter doesn’t just win: he entertains. Every moment in the saddle is an opportunity to express his personality, and nobody else has succeeded in making elite cycling look so much fun. From no-hands wheelies on the slopes of Mont Ventoux to press conference mischief with clamouring journalists, Peter exudes a passion for the sport and a loveable desire to bring smiles to the faces of his fans. So, for the very first time, you will have the opportunity to glimpse behind the scenes of Peter’s world. You will discover the gruelling training programmes necessary for success, and how Peter copes with the pressure of high expectation. You will feel that sense of elation when crossing the line ahead of the pack, and moments of desperation, like in 2017 when Peter realised he wouldn’t be allowed to challenge for his sixth Tour de France green jersey. But what better tonic than to ensure a third year in rainbow – an achievement which may never be repeated again.
Range by David Epstein
Range is the ground-breaking and exhilarating exploration into how to be successful in the 21st Century, from David Epstein the acclaimed author of The Sports Gene. What if everything you have been taught about how to succeed in life was wrong? From the ‘10,000 hours rule’ to the power of Tiger parenting, we have been taught that success in any field requires early specialisation and many hours of deliberate practice. And, worse, that if you dabble or delay, you’ll never catch up with those who got a head start. This is completely wrong. In this landmark book, David Epstein shows that the way to excel is by sampling widely, gaining a breadth of experiences, taking detours, experimenting relentlessly, juggling many interests – in other words, by developing range. Studying the world’s most successful athletes, artists, musicians, inventors, and scientists Epstein discovered that in most fields – especially those that are complex and unpredictable – generalists, not specialists, are primed to excel. They are also more creative, more agile, and able to make connections their more specialised peers can’t see. Range proves that by spreading your knowledge across multiple domains is the key to success rather than deepening their knowledge in a single area. Provocative, rigorous, and engrossing, Range explains how to maintain the benefits of breadth, diverse experience and interdisciplinary thinking in a world that increasingly demands, hyper-specialisation.
Life as I know It by Michelle Payne
Ahem, technically this books wasn’t released this year, nor last, but this book is definitely worth a read so we’ve popped it in.
Michelle Payne rode into history as the first female jockey to win the Melbourne Cup. She and her 100-to-1 local horse Prince of Penzance took the international racing world by surprise but hers was no overnight success story. Michelle was first put on a horse aged four. At five years old her dream was to ride in the Melbourne Cup and win it. By seven she was doing track work. All of the ten Payne children learned to ride racehorses but Michelle has stayed the distance. She has ridden the miles, done the dawn training, fallen badly and each time got back on the horse. So when she declared that anyone who said women couldn’t compete in the industry could ‘get stuffed’, the nation stood up and cheered.
Michelle has the audacity to believe she can succeed against all the odds. Her story is about hope triumphing over adversity, and how resilience and character made a winner.
The Culture Code by Daniel Coyle
Okay, one more cheeky book that wasn’t released this year, nor is it a sporting book, but it does cover the topic of excellence, so we thought this earned a spot alongside the great books above.
Where does great culture come from? How do you build and sustain it in your group, or strengthen a culture that needs fixing?
In The Culture Code, Daniel Coyle goes inside some of the world’s most successful organisations—including the U.S. Navy’s SEAL Team Six, IDEO, and the San Antonio Spurs—and reveals what makes them tick. He demystifies the culture-building process by identifying three key skills that generate cohesion and cooperation, and explains how diverse groups learn to function with a single mind. Drawing on examples that range from Internet retailer Zappos to the comedy troupe Upright Citizens Brigade to a daring gang of jewel thieves, Coyle offers specific strategies that trigger learning, spark collaboration, build trust, and drive positive change. Coyle unearths helpful stories of failure that illustrate what not to do, troubleshoots common pitfalls, and shares advice about reforming a toxic culture. Combining leading-edge science, on-the-ground insights from world-class leaders, and practical ideas for action, The Culture Code offers a roadmap for creating an environment where innovation flourishes, problems get solved, and expectations are exceeded.
Culture is not something you are—it’s something you do. The Culture Code puts the power in your hands. No matter the size of your group or your goal, this book can teach you the principles of cultural chemistry that transform individuals into teams that can accomplish amazing things together.
Book clubs have come a long way with the digital age; no longer do you have to head to a cafe on a Winter’s night to chat through a book that you may have only *just* finished (or let’s be honest, sometimes only read the first, middle and last chapter of…we won’t judge, some books are just too hard to get through in 4 weeks!). The increasingly popularity of book clubs on the internet allow us to stay at home in our slippers curled up on a comfy chair and given the huge number of participants we may no longer be the only person who hasn’t finished the book.
All joking aside, we do love a good book recommendation and we know you do, too, so the Booko team has scoured the internet and found the best picks from some of the world’s most famous book clubs (with books that we know you’ll actually want to read).
Let’s start with the biggest book club of them all…Oprah’s. Anything recommended by this lady is sure to be a bestseller!
An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
Newlyweds Celestial and Roy are the embodiment of both the American Dream and the New South. He is a young executive, and she is an artist on the brink of an exciting career. But as they settle into the routine of their life together, they are ripped apart by circumstances neither could have imagined. Roy is arrested and sentenced to twelve years for a crime Celestial knows he didn’t commit. Though fiercely independent, Celestial finds herself bereft and unmoored, taking comfort in Andre, her childhood friend, and best man at their wedding. As Roy’s time in prison passes, she is unable to hold on to the love that has been her centre. After five years, Roy’s conviction is suddenly overturned, and he returns to Atlanta ready to resume their life together.
Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue
A compulsively readable debut novel about marriage, immigration, class, race, and the trapdoors in the American Dream. This is the unforgettable story of a young Cameroonian couple making a new life in New York just as the Great Recession upends the economy Jende Jonga, a Cameroonian immigrant living in Harlem, has come to the United States to provide a better life for himself, his wife, Neni, and their six-year-old son. In the fall of 2007, Jende can hardly believe his luck when he lands a job as a chauffeur for Clark Edwards, a senior executive at Lehman Brothers. Clark demands punctuality, discretion, and loyalty, and Jende is eager to please. Clark’s wife, Cindy, even offers Neni temporary work at the Edwardses’ summer home in the Hamptons. With these opportunities, Jende and Neni can at last gain a foothold in America and imagine a brighter future. However, the world of great power and privilege conceals troubling secrets, and soon Jende and Neni notice cracks in their employers’ facades. When the financial world is rocked by the collapse of Lehman Brothers, the Jongas are desperate to keep Jende’s job even as their marriage threatens to fall apart. As all four lives are dramatically upended, Jende and Neni are forced to make an impossible choice.
Emma Watson started a book club in 2015 with a firm focus on feminism. The books the club, known as The Shared Shelf, reviews and discusses books every two months. Here are their latest titles.
They are a mass migration of thousands, yet each one travels alone. Solito, Solita (Alone, Alone) is an urgent collection of oral histories that tells the story of young refugees fleeing countries in Central America and traveling for hundreds of miles to seek safety and protection in the United States.
Fifteen narrators describe why they fled their homes, what happened on their dangerous journeys through Mexico, how they crossed the borders, and for some, their ongoing struggles to survive in the United States. In an era of fear, xenophobia, and outright lies, these stories amplify the compelling voices of migrant youth. What can they teach us about abuse and abandonment, bravery and resilience, hypocrisy and hope? They bring us into their hearts and onto streets filled with the lure of freedom and fraught with violence. From fending off kidnappers with knives and being locked in freezing holding cells to tearful reunions with parents, Solito, Solita’s narrators bring to light the experiences of young people struggling for a better life across the border.
This collection includes the story of Adrián, from Guatemala City, whose mother was shot to death before his eyes. He refused to join a gang, rode across Mexico atop cargo trains, crossed the US border as a minor, and was handcuffed and thrown into ICE detention on his eighteenth birthday. We hear the story of Rosa, a Salvadoran mother fighting to save her life as well as her daughter’s after death squads threatened her family. Together they trekked through the jungles on the border between Guatemala and Mexico, where masked men assaulted them. We also meet Gabriel, who after surviving sexual abuse starting at the age of eight fled to the United States, and through study, legal support and work, is now attending UC Berkeley.
Butterfly by Yusra Mardini
Yusra Mardini fled her native Syria to the Turkish coast in 2015 and boarded a small dinghy full of refugees bound for Greece. When the small and overcrowded boat’s engine cut out, it began to sink. Yusra, her sister and two others took to the water, pushing the boat for three and a half hours in open water until they eventually landed on Lesbos, saving the lives of the passengers aboard. Butterfly is the story of that remarkable woman, whose journey started in a war-torn suburb of Damascus and took her through Europe to Berlin and from there to the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. Yusra Mardini is an athlete, one of People magazine’s twenty-five women changing the world, a UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador and one of Time Magazine’s thirty most influential teens of 2016.
Our favourite Southern gal Reece Witherspoon also has a hugely popular book club called Hello Sunshine. We love following along with what Reece is reading and just know you’ll enjoy her latest picks.
Whisper Network by Chandler Baker
Sloane, Ardie, Grace, and Rosalita have worked at Truviv, Inc. for years. The sudden death of Truviv’s CEO means their boss, Ames, will likely take over the entire company. Each of the women has a different relationship with Ames, who has always been surrounded by whispers about how he treats women. Those whispers have been ignored, swept under the rug, hidden away by those in charge. But the world has changed, and the women are watching this promotion differently. This time, when they find out Ames is making an inappropriate move on a colleague, they aren’t willing to let it go. This time, they’ve decided enough is enough. Sloane and her colleagues’ decision to take a stand sets in motion a catastrophic shift in the office. Lies will be uncovered. Secrets will be exposed. And not everyone will survive. Explosive, timely, resonant and relatable. If you love Liane Moriarty’s Big Little Lies or Celeste Ng’s Little Fires Everywhere, you will love Whisper Network.
The Cactus by Sarah Haywood
Legal battles, lapses of logic and the joys and fears of motherhood are explored in this astute, funny and moving novel of a woman learning how to let go. People aren’t sure what to make of Susan Green. Family and colleagues find her prickly and hard to understand, but Susan makes perfect sense to herself, and that’s all she needs. At 45, she thinks her life is perfect, as long as she avoids her feckless brother, Edward, a safe distance away in Birmingham. She has a London flat which is ideal for one; a job that suits her passion for logic; and a personal arrangement providing cultural and other, more intimate, benefits. Yet suddenly faced with the loss of her mother and, implausibly, with the possibility of becoming a mother herself, Susan’s greatest fear is being realised: she is losing control. When she discovers that her mother’s will inexplicably favours her brother, Susan sets out to prove that Edward and his equally feckless friend Rob somehow coerced this dubious outcome. But when problems closer to home become increasingly hard to ignore, she finds help in the most unlikely of places. This sparkling debut is a breath of fresh air with real heart and a powerful emotional punch. In Susan we find a character as exasperating and delightful as The Rosie Project’s Don Tillman.
Osher Gunsberg is one of Australia’s most loved celebrities. He opens up in a powerful, dark, funny and heartwrenching memoir about life, love and living with mental illness. Available to preorder now.