Category Archives: Top Books

Our best picks and recommendations

Climate Change Crusaders, the voices challenging the way we treat our world 

Climate Change is not a new issue, nor is it going to fix itself without our education, action and attention. There are a number of individuals and groups that have been trying to get society’s attention to take action for years. Some have made an impact quickly and have roused us to protest, change our behaviour and expect more from each other. Today we’re sharing six books tackling this topic in very different ways, one shows how their family has been impacted, another teaches us how to discuss this important topic and others outline how the world will look should we choose to ignore it.

How to Talk About Climate Change in a Way That Makes a Difference by Rebecca Huntley

Why is it so hard to talk about climate change? While scientists double down on the shocking figures, we still find ourselves unable to discuss climate change meaningfully among friends and neighbours or even to grapple with it ourselves. The key to progress on climate change is in the psychology of human attitudes and our ability to change. Whether you’re already alarmed and engaged with the issue, concerned but disengaged, a passive skeptic or an active denier, understanding our emotional reactions to climate change – why it makes us anxious, fearful, angry or detached – is critical to coping on an individual level and convincing each other to act. This book is about understanding why people who aren’t like you feel the way they do and learning to talk to them effectively. What we need are thousands – millions – of everyday conversations about the climate to enlarge the ranks of the concerned, engage the disengaged and persuade the cautious of the need for action.

Losing Earth: The Decade We Almost Stopped Climate Change by Nathaniel Rich 

By 1979, we knew all that we know now about the science of climate change; what was happening, why it was happening, and how to stop it. Over the next ten years, we also had the very real opportunity to stop it. Obviously, we failed. Nathaniel Rich’s groundbreaking account of that failure and how tantalisingly close we came to signing binding treaties that would have saved us all before the fossil fuels industry and politicians committed to anti-scientific denialism, is already a journalistic blockbuster, a full issue of the New York Times Magazine that has earned favourable comparisons to Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring and John Hersey’s Hiroshima. In the book Losing Earth, Rich provides more of the context for what did, and didn’t, happen in the 1980s and, more important, is able to carry the story fully into the present day and wrestle with what those past failures mean for us today. It is not just an agonising revelation of historical missed opportunities, but a clear-eyed and eloquent assessment of how we got to now, and what we can and must do before it is truly too late.

Hot Air: The Inside Story of the Battle Against Climate Change Denial by Peter Stott 

Hot Air is the shocking inside story of the fight to halt climate change over the past twenty-five years by a world-renowned scientist, Peter Stott. Ours is the age of global warming. Rising sea levels, extreme weather, forest fires. Dire warnings are everywhere, so why has it taken so long for the crisis to be recognised? Here, for the first time, climate scientist Peter Stott reveals the bitter fight to get international recognition for what, among scientists, has been known for decades: human activity causes climate change. Hot Air is the urgent story of how the science was developed, how it has been repeatedly sabotaged and why humanity hasn’t a second to spare in the fight to halt climate change.

Climate: Powerful Voices, Inspiring Ideas by Christina Limpert

With climate change at the forefront of current discussion, Words of change in Climate offers a curated collection of thought-provoking quotes and passages from the writings and speeches of activists in the environmental community, with a focus on diverse and previously unheard voices.

Compiled by social scientist and researcher Christina Limpert, this collection of stirring words is intended to enlighten, to prompt change, to provide encouragement, and to deepen readers’ conviction. Celebrating activism, focusing on solutions, and avoiding apathy and pessimism, this book is call to action. The back matter includes a brief bio for each person quoted to provide context for their life and work.

Stand Up! Speak Up! A Story Inspired by the Climate Change Revolution by Andrew Joyner

From a #1 New York Times bestselling illustrator, and the creator of The Pink Hat, comes a timely picture book about a young girl’s mission to inspire others to help the planet. Celebrate young climate change activists in this charming story about an empowered girl who shows up, listens up, and ultimately, speaks up to inspire her community to take action against climate change. After attending a climate march, a young activist is motivated to make an effort and do her part to help the planet… by organising volunteers to work to make green changes in their community, from cleaning a lake, to planting trees, to making composting bins, to hosting a clothing swap and more! Here is an uplifting picture book that is an important reminder that no change is too small, and no person is too young, to make a difference. With simple text and lively illustrations, Andrew Joyner has given young children a timely story about activism, community, and hope.

In a few weeks we will be sharing more books on how to talk to children about climate change so be sure to check back again for more titles.

Our House is on Fire: Scenes of a Family and a Planet in Crisis by Malena Ernman, Greta Thunberg, Beata Ernman, Svante Thunberg

The profoundly moving story of how love, courage and determination brought Greta Thunberg’s family back from the brink. This is the story of a happy family whose life suddenly fell apart, never to be the same again. Of two devoted parents plunged into a waking nightmare as their eleven-year-old daughter Greta stopped speaking and eating, and her younger sister struggled to cope. They desperately searched for answers, and began to see how their children’s suffering reached far beyond medical diagnoses. This crisis was not theirs alone: they were burned-out people on a burned-out planet. And so they decided to act. Our House is on Fire shows how, amid forces that tried to silence them, one family found ways to strengthen, heal, and gain courage from the love they had for each other and for the living world. It is a parable of hope and determination in an emergency that affects us all.

You can read other titles by Greta Thunberg here.

Next week on the blog we’ll be sharing six books offering suggestions as to what changes we can do at home to aid the future of the planet. 

Enjoy!

The Newest Sporting Biographies

Some people make what they do look effortless and easy. That’s the beauty of being the best at what you do. In sport, athletes are often held on a pedestal and celebrated as if they are heroes. However, if they slip up in life they are very quickly, and ruthlessly, scrutinised.

But we really know that it is never as easy as it seems. To be the at the top of your game, in whichever field you choose, you need grit, determination and hours of hard work.  This week we are taking a look at 6 new biographies of some of these legends. What these biographies share is an insight into the world in which these sporting greats live, their families, friends, and reality behind their success. 

Roger Federer: The Biography by René Stauffer 

Rene Stauffer has been closely covering Roger Federer’s career for nearly 25 years. In this comprehensive biography, Stauffer talks at length to the man himself, his family, friends, coaches and rivals to paint an unrivalled picture of the greatest male tennis player of all time.

From his early life in Basel, Switzerland, where he first picked up a tennis racquet, to the heights of his 20th Grand Slam victory and all points in between, Stauffer reveals the secrets to Federer’s success, the hardships and doubts that he has faced and examines the legacy that Federer has created in the modern game.

Barty: Much More Than Tennis by Ron Reed and Chris McLeod

Of all the uplifting sports stories that have captured the imagination of Australia as a nation, few have been greeted with such spontaneous and unanimous acclaim as tennis champion Ashleigh Barty.
Her inspirational 2021 Wimbledon win delivered a celebration not seen since Cathy Freeman’s immortal Olympic triumph 21 years ago. This book covers her journey from knockabout kid from Queensland to world champion and explores her rare gift for the game, engaging personality, innate modesty and relentless determination to be the best.

Barty’s mantra is that being a good human being is far more important than being a good tennis player, and it has been widely hailed as a lesson for all. In other words, she now transcends sport. Her unfolding, unfinished narrative has come to resonate with overtones of national pride and inspiration, community morale, cultural issues ancient and modern, the importance of family and friends, the regard for humility and grace over rampant ambition, the escalating battle for gender equality, and perspectives on fame and fortune. In this new edition of the top seller, award-winning sports writer Ron Reed and journalist Chris McLeod pay tribute to the World No. 1 covering all her games and unforgettable moments. 

Tour de Force: by Mark Cavendish 

Just how did Mark Cavendish, the greatest sprint cyclist of all time, return from being seemingly dead and buried at 36 to become the Tour de France’s most successful ever stage winner?
Deep down, Mark Cavendish thought he was finished. After illness, setbacks and clinical depression, the once fastest man in the world had been written off by most. And at the age of 36, even he believed his explosive cycling career would fade out with a whimper. The Man  x man hadn’t won a single Grand Tour stage in Italy, Spain or France since 2016.

But then came his incredible resurrection at the 2021 Tour de France. Included on the Deceuninck Quick-Step team at the very last minute, only after Sam Bennett suffered an injury, Mark set about rewriting history. He claimed back the green jersey he first wore in 2011, and his four stage victories finally saw him matching Belgian legend Eddy Merckx’s all-time record of 34 Tour de France stage wins. Cycling greats are never content, and Cavendish’s dogged determination and inner strength had earned him the record that few believed he could ever achieve. This is his own intimate account of that race, right from the saddle of the miracle tour. 

Murray Walker: Incredible by Maurice Hamilton

His was the voice I heard every weekend growing up while my dad and brother watched Formula One with eager anticipation of a shiny red car winning.  Murray Walker was the voice of Formula One, matching the thrill of the track with his equally fast-paced and exhilarating commentary, delivering the euphoria of motor racing to millions.

Commentating on his first grand prix for the BBC at Silverstone in 1949, Murray’s broadcasting career spanned over fifty years. His natural warmth and infectious enthusiasm won great affection with audiences, whilst his passion and knowledge of motorsport allowed him to hone his instinctive presenting style into a craft.

When Murray passed away in March 2021, tributes came flooding in from every corner of the sporting world. This book, compiled by Murray’s great friend and colleague Maurice Hamilton, celebrates the extraordinary life of this truly legendary man. With contributions from drivers and industry figures, and many friends from the world of motorsport and beyond, Incredible! combines fond memories, never-before-told stories and famous Murrayisms with reflections on the highlights of a life lived at full throttle. 

Be Water, My Friend: The Teachings of Bruce Lee by Shannon Lee

Bruce Lee’s daughter illuminates her father’s most powerful life philosophies, demonstrating how martial arts are a perfect metaphor for personal growth, and how we can practice those teachings every day.

Bruce Lee is a cultural icon, renowned the world over for his martial arts and film legacy. But Lee was also a deeply philosophical thinker, learning at an early age that martial arts are more than just an exercise in physical discipline, they are an apt metaphor for living a fully realised life.

Now, in Be Water, My Friend, Lee’s daughter Shannon shares the concepts at the core of his philosophies, showing how they can serve as tools of personal growth and self-actualisation. Each chapter brings a lesson from Bruce Lee’s teachings, expanding on the foundation of his iconic “be water” philosophy. Over the course of the book, we discover how being like water allows us to embody fluidity and naturalness in life, bringing us closer to our essential flowing nature and our ability to be powerful, self-expressed, and free.

Be Water, My Friend is an inspirational invitation to us all, a gentle call to action to consider our lives with new eyes. It is also a testament to how one man’s exploration and determination transcended time and place to ignite our imaginations and to inspire many around the world to transform their lives.

Unguarded by Scottie Pippen

This is an unflinching master class of a memoir from two-time Olympic gold medalist and NBA Hall of Famer Scottie Pippen. Scottie Pippen has been called one of the greatest NBA players for good reason. Simply put, without Pippen, there are no championship banners, let alone six, hanging from the United Center rafters. There’s no Last Dance documentary. There’s no Michael Jordan as we know him. The 1990s Chicago Bulls teams would not exist as we know them.

So how did the youngest of twelve go from growing up poor in the small town of Hamburg, Arkansas, enduring two family tragedies along the way, to become a revered NBA legend? How did the scrawny teen, overlooked by every major collegiate basketball program, go on to become the fifth overall pick in the 1987 NBA Draft? And, perhaps most compelling, how did Pippen set aside his ego (and his own limitless professional ceiling) in order for the Bulls to become the most dominant basketball dynasty of the last half century?

In Unguarded, the six-time champion and two-time Olympic gold medalist finally opens up to offer pointed and transparent takes on Michael Jordan, Phil Jackson, and Dennis Rodman, among others. Pippen details how he cringed at being labeled Jordan’s sidekick, and discusses how he could have (and should have) received more respect from the Bulls’ management and the media.

Pippen reveals never-before-told stories about some of the most famous games in league history, including the 1994 playoff game against the New York Knicks when he took himself out with 1.8 seconds to go. He discusses what it was like dealing with Jordan on a day-to-day basis, while serving as the facilitator for the offence and the anchor for the defence.

Pippen is finally giving millions of adoring basketball fans what they crave; an unvarnished, closely observed, and uncommonly modest look into his life and role within one of the greatest, most popular teams of all time.

Enjoy!

The Newest Arts and Entertainment Biographies

Inspiring people come into our lives at all different times, some are there from the beginning guiding us with their values, others are friends during our schooling years holding our hands through challenging times, and some are fleeting interactions where someone offers us words of wisdom when we needed it most.

It it with the memory of these amazing people that we are looking into the world of biographies this month. There are so many people who we can learn from, be inspired by and propelled forward by. This week we are exploring art and entertainment biographies. We have found six of our favourite stories but hold on tight because they are a mixture of amusement, heartache and devastatingly honest views of the world and each offers us a little nugget of inspiration to take away.

Only Wanna Be with You: The Inside Story of Hootie & the Blowfish by Tim Sommer

In 1985, Mark Bryan heard Darius Rucker singing in a dorm shower at the University of South Carolina and asked him to form a band. For the next eight years, Hootie & the Blowfish, completed by bassist Dean Felber and drummer Soni Sonefeld, played every frat house, roadhouse, and rock club in the mid-Atlantic and Southeast, becoming one of the biggest independent acts in the region. In Only Wanna Be with You, Tim Sommer, the ultimate insider who signed Hootie to Atlantic Records, pulls back the curtain on a band that defied record-industry odds to break into the mainstream by playing hacky sack music in the age of grunge. He chronicles the band’s indie days, their chart-topping success and near-cancelation of their major-label debut along with when the band inspired a plotline on the TV show Friends, also the lean years from the late 1990s through the early 2000s and one of the most remarkable comeback stories of the century. Featuring extensive new interviews with the band members, some of their most famous fans, and stories from the recording studio, tour bus, and golf course, this book is essential reading for Hootie lovers and music buffs.

Finding Me: A Memoir by Viola Davis

In this book, you will meet a little girl named Viola who ran from her past until she made a life changing decision to stop running forever. This is Viola’s story, from a crumbling apartment in Central Falls, Rhode Island, to the stage in New York City, and beyond. This is the path she took to finding her purpose and her strength, but also to finding her voice in a world that didn’t always see her. 

In her words: As I wrote Finding Me, my eyes were open to the truth of how our stories are often not given close examination. They are bogarted, reinvented to fit into a crazy, competitive, judgmental world. So I wrote this for anyone who is searching for a way to understand and overcome a complicated past, let go of shame, and find acceptance. For anyone who needs reminding that a life worth living can only be born from radical honesty and the courage to shed facades and be…you. Finding Me is a deep reflection on my past and a promise for my future. My hope is that my story will inspire you to light up your own life with creative expression and rediscover who you were before the world put a label on you.

A Funny Life by Michael McIntyre

Laugh along with Michael McIntyre as he lifts the curtain on his life in his long-awaited new autobiography. Michael’s first book ended with his big break at the 2006 Royal Variety Performance. Waking up the next morning in the tiny rented flat he shared with his wife Kitty and their one-year-old son, he was beyond excited about the new glamorous world of show business. Unfortunately, he was also clueless . . . In A Funny Life, Michael honestly and hilariously shares the highs and the lows of his rise to the top and desperate attempts to stay there. It’s all here, from his disastrous panel show appearances to his hit TV shows, from mistakenly thinking he’d be a good chat show host and talent judge, to finding fame and fortune beyond his wildest dreams and becoming the biggest-selling comedian in the world. Along the way he opens his man drawer, narrowly avoids disaster when his trousers fall down in front of three policemen and learns the hard way why he should always listen to his wife. Michael has had a silly life, a stressful life, sometimes a moving and touching life, but always A Funny Life.

Spinning Plates by Sophie Ellis-Bextor

Sophie Ellis-Bextor’s kitchen discos became a source of much needed escapism, catharsis and sequinned joy for a swathe of the population during lockdown. From knackered mothers and fed up fathers, to cooped up partiers with nowhere to go, Sophie’s gloriously chaotic Friday kitchen performances have cheered and revived us. Now Sophie is bringing that same mixture of down to earth candour and optimistic sparkle to her first book. Part memoir, part musings, Sophie writes about the conjuring act of adulthood and motherhood and how her experience of working while raising her five sons has given her the inescapable lesson of how to navigate life in the face of failure and imperfection. 

Covering relationships, good enough parenting, the importance of delusion and dancing, Sophie writes about the things that take on greater importance as life becomes more complicated. From the non negotiables (solitude, music, glitter) to the unimportant (clean hair, deadlines, appropriate behaviour), this is a book about learning from our experiences and not being afraid to smash a few plates for the sake of what we actually need want and value. 

The Hockneys: Never Worry What the Neighbours Think by John Hockney

Technically this book isn’t a new release, but it’s a goodie. The Hockneys is a never before seen insight into the lives of one of the world’s most famous artists and his family by youngest brother John, from growing up in the Second World War in Bradford through to their diverse lives across three continents. Hardship, successes as well as close and complex relationships are poignantly illustrated by both famous and private pictures and paintings from David Hockney. With a rare and spirited look into the lives of an ordinary family with extraordinary stories, we begin to understand the creative freedom that led to their successful careers and the launchpad for an artist’s work that has inspired and continues to inspire generations across the world.

To the End of the World by Rupert Everett

Okay, so this isn’t totally new…but it is a new paperback version, and also a great read. Rupert Everett tells the story of how he set out to make a film of Oscar Wilde’s last days, and how that ten-year quest almost destroyed him. (And everyone else). Travelling across Europe for the film, he weaves in extraordinary tales from his past, remembering wild times, freak encounters and lost friends. 

There are celebrities, of course. But we also meet glamorous but doomed Aunt Peta, who introduces Rupert (aged three) to the joys of make-up. In ’90s Paris, his great friend Lychee burns bright, and is gone. While in ’70s London, a ‘weirdly tall, beyond size zero’ teenage Rupert is expelled from the Central School of Speech and Drama. Unflinchingly honest and hugely entertaining, To the End of the World offers a unique insight into the ‘snakes and ladders’ of filmmaking. It is also a soulful and thought-provoking autobiography from one of our best-loved and most talented actors and writers. 

Enjoy!

Author Spotlight: Agatha Christie

Over 100 years after the publication of her first novel, Agatha Christie’s books are still being enjoyed, justifying her reputation as the “Queen of Crime”, with achievements that go well beyond the mystery genre. Her career spanned over 50 years, producing 66 novels, 14 short story collections, as well as a number of plays, non-fiction and literary fiction under the pseudonym of Mary Westmacott. Agatha Christie is one of the best-known writers in the English language, and remains the bestselling fiction writer of all time (only beaten by Shakespeare and the Bible), as well as the most-translated individual author. Her books have sold over two billion copies, and have influenced the development of detective mysteries, as well as wider popular culture.

Agatha Christie was born in 1890 into an English upper-middle-class family. She loved reading and writing as a child, and wrote her first poem at age 10, and her first short story at 18. However, her path to literary success was not always smooth – after a number of rejections, she finally became a published writer at age 30, and remained a successful author for the rest of her life (and beyond!).

Her stories are famous for their meticulous plots, complete with red herrings and plot twists – they have been likened to intricate puzzles that require readers to scrutinise every sentence for hidden clues. She is also admired for her economy of prose and shrewd observations of human nature. Agatha Christie regularly included details drawn from personal experience: from country house parties, to trips on the Orient Express; her travels to Egypt, Syria, and Iraq; and knowledge about archeology (gained through her time on archeological digs with her second husband), and drugs and poisons (from her work in hospital dispensaries during both World Wars). She has even set a Poirot novel, Dead Man’s Folly, at Greenway House, her holiday home in Devon.


For this week’s showcase, Team Booko has chosen six of Agatha Christie’s best-known as well as most important novels. Is your favourite amongst them?

The Mysterious Affair at Styles

The Mysterious Affair at Styles was Agatha Christie’s first published novel, and it introduced readers to Hercule Poirot, a Belgian police-officer-turned detective with a distinctive moustache. Poirot was inspired by the Belgian refugees Agatha Christie met during World War I; he went on to become her greatest partner in crime, appearing in 33 novels and over 50 short stories. After his last appearance, in Curtain, The New York Times published Poirot’s obituary – the only fictional character to have this honour. Thy Mysterious Affair at Styles is set in a country manor, Styles Court, whose wealthy owner has been murdered with poison. Hercule Poirot, living nearby, takes on the case upon the insistence of his friend, a houseguest at Styles. Besides introducing us to the brilliant, analytical Hercule Poirot, many elements of this story, including the isolated country house, the intricate plot with red herrings and twists, and the final reveal, have become iconic plot devices.

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd is considered by many as Agatha Christie’s masterpiece – including by the Crime Writers’ Association, whose 600+ members voted this book as its Best Ever Novel – “the finest example of the genre ever penned”. Roger Ackroyd is a man engaged to the wealthy Mrs Ferrars, a widow rumoured to have killed her first husband. Within a day of Mrs Ferrars’ unexpected suicide, Roger is found murdered in his own home; the suspects, who include Roger’s relatives, houseguests and servants, all have reasons for wanting him gone. It is up to Hercule Poirot, lured out of retirement, to identify the killer. The Murder of Roger Ackroyd contains probably the most controversial of Christie’s plot twists, and is often cited as a cornerstone of the mystery genre. Once the murderer is revealed, you will want to reread the book right away, looking for missed clues and savouring how Agatha Christie has mislead you.

The Murder at the Vicarage

Miss Jane Marple, an elderly, genteel spinster resident of St Mary Mead, gets her first full-length novel in The Murder at the Vicarage, having already appeared in a number of short stories. Inspired by Agatha Christie’s step-grandmother, Miss Marple is the yin to Hercule Poirot’s yang: instead of Poirot’s professional, methodical analysis, Miss Marple is an amateur sleuth who solves crimes using her intuition and her empathic understanding of human weakness. While investigating the alibis and motivations of various villagers connected to the murder of Colonel Protheroe, the local magistrate, we also get to know Miss Marple’s village, and a number of recurring characters including Miss Marple’s friends, and the local vicar. The 12 novels and 20 short stories about Miss Marple are the forerunners of today’s “cosy mysteries”, typically set in idyllic locations and featuring homely amateur sleuths such as elderly women or pet cats.

Murder on the Orient Express

One of the best-known and most-popular “locked room” mysteries, Murder on the Orient Express is also memorable because it contains a surprising ending that completely subverts the conventions it has just helped to consolidate. A luxurious train, travelling across Europe through the night, becomes stuck in a snowstorm; there is a cosmopolitan, international set of passengers aboard. One of them, a wealthy, dubious American businessman, is murdered in his cabin, which is locked from the inside. Isolated and with a killer in their midst, Hercule Poirot will need all his “little grey cells” to solve this mystery. Inspired by Agatha Christie’s own experience travelling on the Orient Express in the 1930s, the glamorous period setting has made Murder on the Orient Express a media favourite, with adaptations for radio, TV, stageplay as well as for film.

Death on the Nile

You may have seen images of the currently-showing film adaptation, full of Art Deco elegance; this most exotic of Agatha Christie’s stories, set in 1930s Egypt aboard a luxury steamer, certainly lends itself to stunning visuals. Death on the Nile starts with Hercule Poirot enjoying a well-deserved holiday on a cruise down the Nile. Alas, intrigue and murder seems to follow him wherever he goes. Not one, but three murders happen onboard – to beautiful heiress Linnet, who was being harassed by a fellow passenger; Linnet’s maid Louise; and romance novelist Salome Otterbourne. All of the suspects have secrets to hide, and only Monsieur Poirot’s talents can untangle the connections between the characters and reveal the killer. Agatha Christie visited Egypt many times throughout her life, first as a young tourist, and later whilst accompanying her archeologist husband on annual archeological digs throughout the Middle East. Besides Death on the Nile, her personal experiences living and travelling in the area informed several other stories, including Murder in Mesopotamia and They Came to Baghdad.

And Then There Were None

And Then There Were None is a chilling novel more akin to psychological horror than a “typical” Agatha Christie story: in fact, she has methodically subverted all of her trademarks here. The mystery is set up by having ten people at a house party on a small, isolated island; they were played a strange recording, which accuses each person of a crime; thereafter, these ten people begin to die one by one, echoing a sinister nursery rhyme. However, there is no detective involved, no interviews of suspects, no careful search for clues, and no suspects gathered together in the last chapter to be confronted with the solution; what keeps readers on edge is guessing who’s next to die, and how. This clever novel, the bestselling crime novel of all time, was voted “The World’s Favourite Christie” in an online poll marking Agatha Christie’s 125th birthday in 2015.

Author Spotlight: Jodi Picoult

Jodi Picoult is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of twenty-eight novels which have been translated into thirty-four languages in thirty-five countries. Jodi has a penetrating insight into the hearts and minds of real people and writes these insights in page-turning detail. 

Born and raised on Long Island in America, Jodi thought her uneventful childhood would not help her as a writer, in fact it was the opposite. The core of a family and the tangle of relationships is something that is central to all of her stories. Jodi studied creative writing at Princeton and published two stories while studying and then went on to further her study with a Master’s of Education at Harvard. 

Jodi is the recipient of many awards, including the New England Bookseller Award for Fiction, the Alex Awards from the YALSA, a lifetime achievement award for mainstream fiction from the Romance Writers of America, and the NH Literary Award for Outstanding Literary Merit. Her stories have also been made into movies and television series. 

Here are six of our favourite Picoult stories (you can buy all of Jodi’s books here)

My Sister’s Keeper 

Anna is not sick, but she might as well be. By age thirteen, she has undergone countless surgeries, transfusions and shots so that her older sister, Kate, can somehow fight the leukaemia that has plagued her since childhood. Anna was conceived as a bone marrow match for Kate, a life and a role that she has never questioned until now. Like most teenagers, Anna is beginning to question who she truly is. But unlike most teenagers, she has always been defined in terms of her sister – and so Anna makes a decision that for most would be unthinkable, a decision that will tear her family apart and have perhaps fatal consequences for the sister she loves.

Told from multiple points of view, My Sister’s Keeper examines what it means to be a good parent, a good sister, a good person. Is it morally correct to do whatever it takes to save a child’s life, even if that means infringing upon the rights of another? Should you follow your own heart, or let others lead you? What happens when emotion catches up to scientific advances?

Nineteen Minutes

Set in a small town in the wake of a horrific school shooting, Nineteen Minutes features the return of two beloved Picoult characters – Jordan McAfee, the lawyer from The Pact and Salem Falls, who once again finds himself representing a boy who desperately needs someone on his side; and Patrick Ducharme, the intrepid detective introduced in Perfect Match, whose best witness is the daughter of the superior court judge assigned to the case. As the story unfolds, layer after layer is peeled back to reveal some hard-hitting questions about the nature of justice, the balance of power and what it means to be different. Nineteen Minutes is a riveting, thought-provoking tale with a jaw-dropping finale.

The Pact

In this contemporary tale of love and friendship, Jodi Picoult brings to life a familiar world, and in a single terrifying moment awakens every parent’s worst fear: we think we know our children – but do we ever really know them at all? For eighteen years the Hartes and the Golds have lived next door to each other – they’ve grown so close it seems they have always been a part of each other’s lives. Parents and children alike have been best friends, so it’s no surprise that in high school Chris and Emily’s friendship blossoms into something more. They’ve been soul mates since they were born. So when midnight calls from the hospital come in, no one is ready for the appalling truth: Emily is dead at seventeen from a gunshot wound to the head. There’s a single unspent bullet in the gun that Chris took from his father’s cabinet – a bullet that Chris tells police he intended for himself. But a local detective has doubts about the suicide pact that Chris has described.

The Pact paints an indelible portrait of families in anguish, culminating in an astonishingly suspenseful courtroom drama as Chris finds himself on trial for murder.

The Storyteller

For seventy years, Josef Weber has been hiding in plain sight. He is a pillar of his local community. He is also a murderer. When Josef decides to confess, it is to Sage Singer, a young woman who trusts him as her friend. What she hears shatters everything she thought she knew and believed. As Sage uncovers the truth from the darkest horrors of war, she must follow a twisting trail between terror and mercy, betrayal and forgiveness, love – and revenge.

Keeping Faith

At her controversial and compelling best, Jodi Picoult explores the moment when boundaries break down, and when the only step left to take is a leap of faith. As Mariah White struggles with depression her seven-year-old daughter Faith seeks solace in a new friend – a friend who may or may not be imaginary. Faith talks to her ‘Guard’ constantly and begins to recite passages from the Bible-a book she’s never read. After a succession of visits to psychiatrists, all of whom conclude Faith is not hallucinating, the unimaginable starts to seem possible: perhaps Faith may actually be seeing God. When Faith’s cachet is enhanced by reported miracle healings and alleged stigmata, she is touted as a prophet. Amidst the gathering storm of controversy, most disruptive of all is the arrival of two men: one a renowned television atheist who plans to debunk Faith’s claims and help boost his flagging ratings, and the other her divorced father whose fear for his daughter’s safety leads him to battle for custody. As Mariah finds herself fighting to keep her daughter, she has to push past her own insecurities and stand up for herself and her competence as a parent. Keeping Faith explores a family plagued by the media, the medical profession, and organised religion in a world where everyone has an opinion but no one knows the truth.

The Book of Two Ways

Dawn thinks she knows everything there is to know about dying. As a death doula she helps her clients fix what is left undone so they can peacefully make the final transition. But when her plane plummets from the sky and she thinks she is experiencing the last moments of her life, she is shocked to find that she isn’t thinking of her husband or teenage daughter – but of a road she strayed from 15 years earlier, when she turned her back on her PhD studies. Against all odds, Dawn survives, and the airline gives her a free ticket to wherever she needs to get to. in alternating chapters, we see possible choices: Land – returning to her husband, a quantum physicist who studies the possibilities of parallel universes, she is faced with a test to her marriage and a daughter who is struggling with self-image issues. And Water: returning to her studies and the archaeological site she worked on 15 years earlier, where the man she abandoned is about to make the discovery of a lifetime. But time may not be as straightforward as we think. As Dawn explores her possible futures, she is finding out what a well-lived life means, what we leave behind of ourselves when we leave the earth, and who she might have been…

Enjoy!

Author Spotlight: Stephen King

Stephen King is best known as The King of Horror, but his range is much wider than many realise.  In a career spanning 55 years so far, he has published almost 100 titles, including non-fiction, short stories, comics, novellas as well as full-length novels.  His stories blend realistic as well as supernatural elements, and range from horror, to sci-fi, fantasy, crime thrillers and even Westerns.
Besides being popular with readers (with sales of over 350 million copies), Stephen King is also a Hollywood favourite.  Many of his stories have been adapted into movies, tv series or miniseries – sometimes twice, even three times (Carrie and It).  Many of these adaptations – including Carrie, The Shawshank Redemption, The Shining, and Misery – have become iconic in their own right. Stephen King has had a huge impact on both literature and popular culture; so much so that he was awarded the National Medal of the Arts, the highest honour in the arts in America, in 2014.  
What makes Stephen King so successful?  He excels at drawing readers in with seemingly ordinary, relatable situations, and then discomfiting and shocking us by taking the stories into unexpected, chilling directions.  He is famous for creating memorable, complex characters – revealing him as a great observer of human nature.  As a writer, Stephen King is persistent – he sets himself a 2000-word target every day, and doesn’t stop writing until he reaches it; and even serious injuries don’t stop him from writing – he resumed work within a month of a serious car accident in 1999, despite experiencing pain that limited his ability to sit for extended periods.  He is also an adventurous writer, demonstrated not only by the wide range of genres he has written in, by his cross-overs into comics, but also by his early adoption of online publishing.
Our pick of Stephen King books are much-loved stories that also make a great starting point for new readers:

The Shining

The Shining was Stephen King’s first outright bestseller and confirmed his status as the preeminent writer of the genre. It draws heavily upon Stephen King’s own experiences – the setting and plot are based on his family’s stay at The Stanley Hotel in Colorado (they were the only guests in the large, atmospheric building); and the main character’s struggle with alcoholism mirrors Stephen King’s addiction at the time. The Shining tells the story of Jack Torrance, who takes his wife and son to the Overlook Hotel when he accepts the role of seasonal caretaker. The hotel is haunted by evil spirits that gradually erode Jack’s sanity and make him murderous; it is up to young Danny Torrance – who has psychic abilities called the “shining” – to overcome the danger. Stanley Kubrick’s celebrated movie adaptation created some iconic images – a manically grinning Jack Nicholson, creepy twins in a long hallway – that cemented both book and film into pop culture; famously, Stephen King disliked the film and has criticised it repeatedly. Bolstered by fan interest, The Shining is now accompanied by a sequel, Doctor Sleep, featuring Danny Torrance as an adult.

Pet Sematary

Pet Sematary is the book that Stephen King thinks is his “most frightening”; he felt it was so wrong, so dark, that he put it in a drawer and thought he would never publish it.  Luckily, he eventually changed his mind.  The Pet Sematary in question is in a small town in Maine, located in the woods behind the new home of Louis Creed and his young family.  Louis learns, from his kindly elderly neighbour, that behind the Pet Semetary lies a “real cemetery” built on an ancient burial ground, a powerful place that can bring creatures back to life.  Then tragedy strikes Louis’ family and he decides to make use of this supernatural power… Pet Semetary powerfully interweaves supernatural horror elements with the psychological horror created when human nature strays into sinister immorality.

The Green Mile

The Green Mile made me realise that Stephen King doesn’t write just horror – this story is more akin to Southern Gothic and magical realism than traditional horror.  The Green Mile is presented as the memoirs of Paul Edgecombe, who worked as a prison supervisor in the American South during the 1930s. The rich storytelling draws vivid portraits of the different inmates, and in particular of John Coffey, a tall and imposing but mild-mannered Black man who was on Death Row for raping and murdering two young white girls. Gradually, Paul notices that John has unusual, perhaps supernatural abilities with empathy and healing, and starts to question whether he truly committed the horrific crimes he was convicted of.  Originally released as a serial novel in six parts, The Green Mile is now available collected into one volume.

Misery

The premise of Misery – a famous writer, injured in a car accident, who is then rescued (but in reality held hostage) by a crazed fan – invites readers to speculate whether it draws from Stephen King’s own experiences.  Misery is the main character in Paul Sheldon’s popular novel series, and Annie Wilkes, Paul’s “biggest fan”, is not happy that Misery has been killed off.  Once she has him trapped, Annie wants Paul to write stories the way she wants them – and Paul has to escape to save his own life, before the insane Annie goes too far.  Misery is an incredibly tense and quietly horrifying story.  The movie of the same name – with a compelling performance by Kathy Bates as Annie – is a cultural icon in its own right.

It

It is an important novel in many ways: its powerful use of the “evil clown” trope (probably the best-known example in the modern era); being the first Stephen King novel set in the fictional town of Derry (a location repeatedly used in his other stories); its sheer heft (over 1000 pages); and the way it combines favourite Stephen King themes of childhood trauma, the power of memory, and human cruelty, with classic horror motifs such as monsters, zombies and the idyllic-yet-sinister small town – “peak Stephen King”, if you will. It is an ancient, shapeshifting monster that preys upon children and feasts on their worst fears. It appears to humans as Pennywise the Clown, and holds power over the small Maine town of Derry. The task falls upon a group of seven young outcasts to confront It and stop the killings. The monsters, gory scenes, and child victims make It one of Stephen King’s scariest stories. 

The Stand

Now may be a good time to read The Stand – what was published in 1978 as a dark, post-apocalyptic fantasy, seems uncomfortably prescient during the current pandemic.  The story starts in a world ravaged by an extremely contagious and lethal strain of influenza, developed as a biological weapon and accidentally released. The resulting pandemic kills most of the world’s population and pushes civilisation into near-collapse.  The survivors begin to experience prophetic dreams about the old and saintly Mother Abigail, and about Randall Flagg, the personification of evil, and start to align themselves with one or the other.  The stage is now set for an ultimate showdown between Good and Evil.  The Stand has an epic, multi-layered story and is inspired by Lord of the Rings and the Book of Revelations.