We can’t get enough of this wonderful Ted Talk by Grace Lin, it’s such a great reminder that the books on the bookshelf can be both mirrors and windows for our children.
August usually brings new releases in thrillers, sports biographies and political/military history – typical “Father’s Day Gift” books. But what if your dad is not a typical Dad? This year, Team Booko has looked further, to see what other interesting titles we can find. So here’s our pick of quirky, challenging and absorbing reads for the thoughtful, intellectual and playful Not-Average-Dads out there.
Dads are the Original Hipsters by Brad Getty
Help your dad relive his youth with this collection of photos from the 60s, 70s and 80s, which comprehensively show that dads are the original hipsters. See these vintage dads grow big beards, ride fixies, listen to vinyl, wear tight jeans, thick-rimmed glasses, and drink home brew (craft beer!). The snarky captions lovingly make fun of modern hipsters (and dads). Dads are the Original Hipsters started life as a blog (a modern badge of quality – only the most successful blogs get book deals) and it screams “Father’s Day novelty gift” – in an ironic way, of course. Lots of fun for dads and kids of a certain age, and for new hipster dads too!
Reservoir Dad by Clint Greagan
Reservoir Dad is another successful blog-turned-book. Clint Greagan is a stay-at-home dad who has spent the last ten years tending to four young sons and a prize-winning blog. Reservoir Dad is a record of those ten years – the funny bits, the sentimental bits, the gross bits and the frustrating bits. Clint Greagan is funny, bawdy and candid as he writes about juggling parenting and relationship maintenance (with the lovely Reservoir Mum). He is insightful about his non-traditional role, and his masculine perspective on parenting is refreshing. Reservoir Dad won’t just resonate with stay-at-home-dads, but with anyone who has ever wrangled young kids; it offers comfort and solidarity to shell-shocked young parents too.
Reigning Men: Fashion in Menswear 1715 – 2015 by Sharon Sadako Takeda, Kaye Durland Spilker and M. Esguerra Clarissa
Blame Queen Victoria for making men’s fashion so bleak and boring – prior to her era, elegance in menswear often meant vibrant colours and intricate decorations. Luckily for men who love to express themselves through clothes, history is coming full circle, with colour and flair returning to men’s fashion. Reigning Men: Fashion in Menswear is the stunning coffee-table book accompanying its namesake exhibition at LACMA (Los Angeles County Museum of Art). Tracing 300 years of history, it celebrates works by iconic designers including Yves Saint Laurent, Calvin Klein, Vivienne Westwood and Saville Row tailors. Designs are analysed to show how historic dress continues to influence current fashions, and how menswear, like womenswear also use padding and shaping to express body ideals. Reigning Men offers fascinating history, splendid imagery as well as design inspiration.
Who Stole My Spear by Tim Samuels
What does being a man mean, in the age of man-buns and paleo diets? Societal expectations about “good masculinity” is changing rapidly, with efforts to destroy long-standing blokey attitudes that favour sexism and violence. Men as a gender is still advantaged, but on an individual level, many are struggling against expectations to be everything to everyone: career high-achiever, committed spouse, hands-on parent. Who Stole My Spear is Tim Samuels’ survey of what men and masculinity is all about in modern society, with discussions on corporate culture, monogamy, relationships and parenthood, religion, pornography and mental health. Its lightheartedness makes for easy reading yet does not detract from the confronting questions it poses.
Cooking for Geeks: Real Science, Great Cooks, and Good Food by Jeff Potter
Cooking for Geeks: Real Science, Great Cooks, and Good Food is not the usual grilling/barbecuing-themed cookbooks normally pitched at men; instead it aims to explain the science behind cooking and tasting. Understanding why particular techniques are used will turn cooking from black art to logical process – which helps beginner cooks achieve better and more consistent results. It also helps more experienced cooks learn how to cook beyond following recipes. And not only the explanations are good, the recipes sound delicious too – from simple dishes like pancakes to fancy ones such as duck confit. Written by a software engineer and published by O’Reilly Media (better known for computer-related texts), its geek pedigree is never in doubt, but Cooking for Geeks will also appeal to anyone who loves to understand the “why” of everything.
Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
Recently I saw Outlander referred to as “a good starting point for men to get into romance novels” and can’t resist sharing this suggestion.
It works because Outlander is not just a love story; as we follow the adventures of Claire Randall, a 20th-century nurse who unintentionally time-travels to 18th-century Scotland, her story encompasses fantasy, history, action (and war), political intrigue, and sex as well as burgeoning romance. Fans love it for its clever mix of genres, historical detail, excellent character development as well as Diana Gabaldon’s emotionally-affective writing. An acclaimed TV adaptation offers another way to engage with this beloved book series.
For more Father’s Day ideas (even the more traditional kind), check out our Pinterest board.
Growing up, books were how you made sense of the world. Some books stood the test of time and made a lasting impression, along with the ‘life lessons’ they conveyed. Here is a retro list of some of the books you enjoyed as a child and the lessons they taught us:
Madeleine by Ludwig Bemelmans
“In an old house in Paris that was covered with vines
Lived twelve little girls in two straight lines….”
The first few lines of Madeleine always seem to spring from your memory easily. The series of Madeleine books contain rich, intricate artwork and beautiful rhyming prose. In a world where precision and order was admired and encouraged, Madeleine was feisty, brave and always up for an adventure.
Life lesson: Be courageous
The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein
“Once there was a tree . . . and she loved a little boy.” The Giving Tree has been a popular childhood book for the last 50 years. 50 years! The boy and the giving tree have a relationship where they can communicate. At various stages throughout the boy’s life, they boy comes to the tree asking for something to solve a problem, which the tree gives, selflessly, until there is nothing left to give. The relationship between the tree and the boy has been described as modelling the parent-child relationship.
Life lesson: Give without keeping score
Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
This was our class novel in Grade 7 with one of my favourite teachers. It’s a firm favourite and had the class in floods of tears. Written in 1978 and now made into a film, it’s the story of 2 lonely children who are able to see the magic in each other that many cannot. 5th graders Jesse Aarons befriends a newcomer to the town, Leslie Burke. Both social outcasts, they create the mythical kingdom of Terabithia where they both can truly be themselves. When tragedy strikes, Jesse learns to overcome it.
Life lesson: Friendship conquers all
The Lorax by Dr Seuss
The Lorax was Dr Seuss’ personal favourite among all his books. It’s most commonly thought of as a modern fable: the threat of greed to nature. The idea for the Lorax came from the anger of the author (Ted Geisel). “In The Lorax I was out to attack what I think are evil things and let the chips fall where they might.” The Lorax has been lauded as a brilliant teaching aid when discussing environmental issues with children.
Life lesson: We must speak for the trees (and all other living things).
The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
The Secret Garden celebrated it’s 100th birthday in 2011. A beloved classic, The Secret Garden is about a young girl called Mary who loses her parents and is sent to live in her uncle’s gloomy mansion in England. Lonely and with no-one to play with, she learns of a secret garden on the grounds. A chance meeting introduces her to her cousin Colin who has an unidentified illness which prevents him from walking. Both the garden and Colin thrive from the new friendship.
Life lesson: The only way to have experiences is to leave your comfort zone.
Winnie the Pooh by A. A. Milne
Winnie the Pooh is yet another cult classic and essential part of any child’s library. The tales of Pooh and his friends are gently told and illustrated beautifully (I love this one due to the simple and elegant drawings by E.H. Shepherd). Each Pooh tale expresses a range of life lessons, most due, in part, to the bear’s positivity. The values of empathy, gratitude and creative problem-solving are featured in just about every tale, making these books easily digestible values-based stories for children.
Life lesson: Cherish your friends
Philosophy considers Life’s Big Ideas – truth, reality, morals, ethics, existence of God. It is an important intellectual pursuit – but is often associated with dead white males, academic stuffiness and difficult abstraction. Luckily, many philosophers work hard at demystifying philosophy for the general public. These popular philosophy works contextualise philosophy within the modern world, showing their relevance to everyday issues and challenging our values. Some recent bestselling philosophy titles include:
The Course of Love by Alain de Botton
The instant success of Alain De Botton’s latest book confirms his status as philosopher du jour. Part-fiction, part-meditation and part-instruction, The Course of Love is about Rabih, a Beirut-born architect, and Kirsten, a Scottish surveyor. We follow their relationship for 14 years – through courtship, marriage, children, domesticity and infidelity. Popping the bubble of the “happily ever after”, Rabih and Kirsten’s story is interspersed with playful, sometimes snarky musings that analyse the reasons behind their actions, and wittily capture what love, sex and relationships mean today. Sure to resonate with anyone who has ever been in a romantic relationship, The Course of Love is the long-awaited sequel to Essays in Love (known as On Love in the US), which follows and analyses a love affair from its ecstatic beginning to its despairing end.
A Little History of Philosophy by Nigel Warburton
Nigel Warburton is an academic with a knack for clarifying complex ideas – a skill he uses, to great acclaim, for popularising philosophy. His first book, Philosophy: the Basics, is now a classic primer on the topic; he is also the creator of the successful Philosophy Bites podcasts. A Little History of Philosophy is a very readable overview of Western philosophical thought from Socrates to Singer. Each of its 40 short chapters uses a key philosophical question – How do I know what’s real? What does it mean to be free? – to introduce the work of a major philosopher. With a mix of explanation and anecdotes, A Little History of Philosophy is a witty, entertaining book suitable for both inquisitive youngsters and adults.
Thinking of Answers by A. C. Grayling
A.C. Grayling relishes in the role of public intellectual, because he believes that philosophy can help us think through questions that arise in everyday life. Thinking of Answers, a collection of recent writings for publications including The Times, New Statesman and New Scientist, exemplifies his approach. Each essay is a response to a question posed by readers and editors, such as “can money ever be an end in itself?”, and “is friendship the highest form of human relationship?”. These fascinating, tricky questions cover topics as diverse as beauty, sport, Darwinism and travelling. Not only do these responses offer a framework for dealing with life’s tough questions, they are an education in themselves – A.C. Grayling is extremely well-read, and his allusions to literature, history, science (and everything else!) will have you google-hopping from one reference to another.
The Most Good You Can Do: How Effective Altruism is Changing Ideas about Living Ethically by Peter Singer
Described by New Yorker magazine as “the most influential living philosopher”, Peter Singer has been influencing our moral and ethical thinking for over 40 years, through seminal works such as Animal Liberation. The Most Good You Can Do discusses effective altruism, a social movement that encourages followers to do the most good they can. This has two main components – maximising the time and money we can offer, and determining how to achieve the maximum benefit from these resources (such as by choosing the most effective charitable causes). Using a number of case studies, Peter Singer shows that effective altruism can bring greater meaning and fulfilment in our lives, while making a real difference in alleviating extreme poverty.
Reclaiming the Bible for a Non-Religious World by John Shelby Spong
John Shelby Spong is a retired bishop who has been both praised and condemned for his progressive, reformist views on Christianity. The title of this book captures his philosophy perfectly – he argues that current approaches to Christian faith, with its emphasis on a supernatural God and a preference for literal interpretations of the Bible, can no longer be reconciled with our current (scientific) understanding of the world. Instead Bishop Spong advocates a more analytical approach, common among bible scholars but often frowned upon in congregations. Reclaiming the Bible for a Non-Religious World is John Shelby Spong’s guide to the origin, context and meaning of the Bible, book-by-book from Genesis to Revelations. Its critical analysis and fresh insights help guide readers towards their own understanding and engagement with Christianity.
My Son’s Kindergarten class have incorporated the concepts from the book ‘Have you filled a bucket today?’ into their everyday vernacular. The book uses the metaphor of a bucket to explain how positive behaviours have an effect of ‘filling’ others’ as well as your own bucket. Negative behaviour has the opposite effect.
Books seem to be an easy way to teach values in a relatable way for children. In today’s blog we explore 6 popular books that teach positive behaviours in children:
Have you filled a bucket today? by Carol McCloud
This award-winning book is based around the metaphor that everyone has an invisible bucket that can be filled or dipped into by a person’s actions (or the actions of another towards this person). Having such an easily relatable concept as a ‘bucket’ helps children understand the impact of their actions and words on others.
The Mine-O-Saur by Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen
Gosh, what a fantastic title for a book. There is a mine-o-saur that lives in our house that could surely benefit from this book. The mine-o-saur in this books grabs all the toys, blocks and snacks, shouting “Mine, mine, mine.” When will he learn the secret to making friends is sharing? The value ‘sharing is caring’ is explored in this colourful and beautifully illustrated book.
One Hen : How One Small Loan made a Big Difference by Katie Smith Milway
What I love about this book is how it teaches children about what life can be like for others, particularly in countries where affluence is not so prevalent. Based on a true story, tells of how a poor Ghanaian boy buys a chicken through a community loan program, which eventually helps lift him, his mother, and his community out of poverty.
The Empty Pot by Demi
The value taught in this book is honesty, which can be challenging to model when you’re trying to compete in a society that values winning above all else. Set in China, Ping is set a challenge by the Emperor to grow a flower from seeds that will never bear flowers. When Ping admits that he is the only child in China unable to grow a flower from the seeds distributed by the Emperor, he is rewarded for his honesty.
Sam Tells Stories by Thierry Robberecht
The best way to make new friends is to try and impress them, right? This is certainly the case for a lot of children (including mine). This book explores the process and how honesty is the best policy. Sam tries to win his new classmates over by telling a story that isn’t true. When he is confronted with the truth, he decides to set the record straight and learns the benefits of honesty in the process.
Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson
Is there anything more gruelling than the first day of school when you don’t know a soul? Maya tries to befriend Chloe who, in turn, makes fun of her shabby clothes and refuses to play with her. Their teacher takes a lesson on kindness and Chloe realises that her behaviour has been wrong. This book is beautifully written and illustrated. It also doesn’t end in the conventional way we are conditioned to expect books to. There isn’t a happy ending and Chloe learns that her opportunity to show kindness to Maya was lost.
Consider what words of advice, experiences or books you have read that have made a lasting impact on your life. The best thing about reading when you are going through a challenging time or even just a period of change, is that someone who has been there before can help, if only in a small way. Here are our recommendations of books that have changed our lives for the better, or tipped our perspective on its head for a moment in time.
The Invisible Gorilla and Other Ways our Intuitions Deceive Us by Christopher Chabris & Daniel Simons
The funny thing is, we feel like we have a reasonable understanding of how our mind works. The authors of ‘The Invisible Gorilla’ challenge this when they show just how our mind plays tricks on us and why people succumb to everyday illusions. The Invisible Gorilla shows how our intuition deceives us and how we can ‘train our brain’ to withstand it’s effects.
Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert
Why are lovers quicker to forgive their partners for infidelity than for leaving dirty dishes in the sink? Why does the line at the grocery store always slow down when we join it? In this book, Harvard psychologist Gilbert argues that our ability to remember past happiness is flawed. Added to this is that our ability to predict what will make us happy is not well developed. The net result is that our human minds are working against our own happiness. This book explores how we can best challenge ourselves to seek happiness.
Your Money or Your Life by Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robin
The premise of this book is that every day you go to work to trade the hours of your life for money. If you spend that money on things you don’t need, you are essentially trading your life for material possessions that don’t add value to your life. This is a classic financial self-help book that offers a nine-step program for how to live a more meaningful life, showing readers how to get out of debt, save money, reorder priorities, and convert problems into opportunities.
As a Man Thinketh by James Allen
“A person is limited only by the thoughts that he chooses.” A classic book that has helped thousands for over a century, “As a Man Thinketh” is based on the premise of ‘you are your thoughts’ and provides a guide on how to use your thoughts to the betterment of your life.
The Shallows by Nicholas Carr
This book explores the thinking that the internet, for all its instantaneous information, is making us stupid. We are losing the ability to think deeply due to the ease with which we can easily source the answers to just about any question we can think of. “The Net’s interactivity gives us powerful new tools for finding information, expressing ourselves, and conversing with others. It also turns us into lab rats constantly pressing levers to get tiny pellets of social or intellectual nourishment.”
Fooled by Randomness: The Hidden Role of Chance in Life and in the Markets by Nassim Nicolas Taleb
From the author of international bestseller The Black Swan, Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s Fooled by Randomness is the bestselling account of the hidden role of chance in life and the markets.Everyone wants to succeed in life. But what causes some of us to be more successful than others? Is it really down to skill and strategy – or something altogether more unpredictable? This book is the word-of-mouth sensation that will change the way you think about business and the world.
What are your favourite children’s books? This is the sort of question that leads to passionate debate – because childhood favourites can leave such strong impressions on young, uncrowded minds; they may even inspire or shape the young reader’s identity. Here are five critically acclaimed and hugely popular books that may already be part of your Favourites List; they certainly deserve to be the catalysts that trigger a lifelong love of reading:
Matilda by Roald Dahl
It’s hard to single out just one Roald Dahl book, but as a booklover-turned-librarian, I have a soft spot for Matilda. Matilda is a story that celebrates intelligence and the transformative power of reading; there is sympathetic portrayal of libraries and librarians (the best ones are always welcoming and non-judgmental), and there is a good-versus-evil battle that makes you want to shout and cheer! The success of the recent musical adaptation has renewed awareness for this well-known and well-loved book. What better way to relive the show than to revisit the original book, in this theatre tie-in edition?
The Jolly Postman by Janet and Allan Ahlberg
The Jolly Postman has everything that will delight little children – rollicking rhymes, fairytale mashups, cute drawings, things to spot in the detailed illustrations, and little cards, letters and a mini-book to take out of dainty envelopes! On one busy day, this Jolly Postman rides his red bicycle delivering mail to villagers including Goldilocks, a Giant and the Big Bad Wolf. Can he avoid being eaten and get home in time for dinner? Books by the Ahlbergs feature regularly in “Best of” Lists, and The Jolly Postman is a classic example of their affectionate and whimsical style. There’s lots of laugh-out-loud humour for both adults and children too.
Mirror by Jeannie Baker
Mirror is a brilliant picture book for all ages, because it is not only beautifully crafted, but inspiring and thought-provoking as well. It has a creative dual-book format that shows the stories of two families – one in Australia, one in Morocco – unfolding simultaneously. The visually stunning spreads, in Jeannie Baker’s distinctive, meticulous collage, show that despite external differences such as landscape and clothing, the two families are essentially the same, in their need for connection and belonging. Winner of awards in both Australia and the UK for its technical excellence and humanitarian message, Mirror is worth revisiting now, when foreignness is creating much fear and doubt.
The Annotated Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster
The Phantom Tollbooth may be better known in the US than in the UK and Australia; but with fans including Maurice Sendak and Philip Pullman, think of it as the choice of Those in the Know. The Phantom Tollbooth is about Milo, a bored boy who goes on a fantastical quest after driving through a magical tollbooth. Norton Juster has huge fun with words in the Phantom Tollbooth, where much of the action is linked to wordplay (for example, Milo’s watchdog companion is half-dog, half-watch; to reach an island called Conclusions, they have to jump). This annotated edition celebrates the incredible richness in Norton Juster’s language, which references mathematics, philosophy, and science besides the extensive wordplay. The Phantom Tollbooth reminds us of the power of learning, and has been described as a modern-day Alice in Wonderland.
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J. K. Rowling
With over 450 million copies sold, the Harry Potter series is probably the most popular children’s books of all time. Although the original books and films concluded years ago, Potter mania shows no sign of waning – with a thriving fandom developing its own traditions including a Quidditch World Cup (which recently attracted 21 teams from countries worldwide). The story of the Boy Wizard has classic themes of friendship, adventure quest and personal growth that doubtless will continue to engage and resonate with readers. In anticipation of the soon-to-come Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, relive the original story with this beautiful full-colour illustrated edition of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.
There’s nothing like having a comfy, quiet space to enjoy reading a good book. In order to spark an interest and engagement in reading with our kids, the same idea applies. When it comes to teaching your child to read, finding a special reading space promotes quiet and calm and is particularly good for children who struggle to concentrate.
A reading nook doesn’t need to cost hundreds of dollars or follow the latest design trends, but we’ve looked into some of the recommendations from My Little Bookcase and Creatingalearningenvironment.com to firm up our ideas. Here are our tips on setting up a reading space for kids:
Light – Set up a space in a light-filled room. Use lamps when required to create a warm, ambient glow. There should be enough light to be able to read the books easily but also create a lovely atmosphere.
Enclose a space – Children love the idea of a ‘cubby’ or a secret space just for them. It’s also nice to enclose a space within a larger room, so their reading nook is easy to identify. Different ways to do this are to set up a tent over a few floor cushions. Other ideas are to take the doors off a cupboard and deck out the shelves with books, adding seating into the bottom. We love this version by Playtivities.com
Make it cosy – By adding floor cushions, soft toys and throw rugs, the reading nook will become a favourite place to ‘chill out’ and relax after a day at daycare or school. Adding comfy elements will also allow the child to ‘make it their own’.
Add some books – Make sure that books are at your child’s eye level. Find different ways of storing the books, such as in baskets and bins. Mix up the books so that a selection of their book collection are sitting in the reading nook. A great idea is to ask your child to select which books are brought into the reading nook at a time and when they should be swapped for new ones. This promotes ownership of the space. Other ways to store books is to create a reading bench, such as that featured in Creatingalearningenvironment.com. A simple idea of turning a bookshelf on it’s side, adding a padded top and filling it with books creates a beautiful and cost effective DIY reading bench. We love this!
So that’s it! A reading nook doesn’t need to be over-engineered, it just needs a few basic elements to become part of your child’s learning journey.
Young Adult (YA) fiction is the most exciting book category right now, with booming sales leading to a proliferation of genres and topics. The YA fan-base is also broadening, with a significant and growing proportion of adult readers (who are loud and proud, and fast destroying any stigma about preferring YA over “grown up” books. With strong narratives, intense feelings and the poignancy of coming-of-age, what’s not to love? Here are some of the best YA, past and present:
The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
The Outsiders is iconic YA, being one of the first stories written by, for and about teenagers. (The Catcher in the Rye may be better known, but was written as adult fiction.) The Outsiders follows the conflict between the Socs and the Greasers, rival teen groups distinguished by their socioeconomic status. Its gritty realism and depictions of violence and delinquency revolutionised the genre by creating a demand for authentic, un-moralistic stories, although it continues to be controversial to this day. The Outsiders is also one of the best YA books turned into movies, with director Francis Ford Coppola, and a cast of emerging superstars including Matt Dillon, Tom Cruise, Rob Lowe and Patrick Swayze.
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
Another YA bestseller with an acclaimed movie adaptation is John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars. Named as Time Magazine’s #1 fiction book in 2012, The Fault in Our Stars cemented John Green’s reputation as a top YA author. The Fault in Our Stars is about Gus and Hazel, teens who meet and fall in love through a cancer patients’ support group. John Green has achieved a skilful balance of tragedy, comedy, romance and sentimentality, and the cancer setting makes this classic doomed-romance fresh and bold. The Fault in Our Stars is moving and romantic without being saccharine; Gus, Hazel and their friends, worldly-wise beyond their years, are witty and irreverent without sounding annoying. A contender for best YA of all time, The Fault in Our Stars can make grown men (and women) laugh and cry – sometimes all at once.
Tomorrow When the War Began by John Marsden
The recent popularity of dystopian YA might make you think it’s a new trend – but not so! A generation before The Hunger Games readers were gripped by Tomorrow, When the War Began. This 7-novel series starts with Ellie and her friends going bush camping. When they return several days later, their town is eerily quiet – their families captured by foreign military in a “peaceful invasion”. Ellie and her friends must use all their wits and strength to adapt, survive and to fight against the invaders. Classic coming-of-age themes are given urgency by the war scenario. A live-action film and a new 6-part TV drama offer to bring new fans to this hugely beloved and acclaimed series.
My Sister Rosa by Justine Larbalestier
My Sister Rosa is shaping up to be one of the best YA in 2016. It is a deeply unsettling story about 17-year-old Che and his younger sister Rosa. Che realises that, behind her charming facade, Rosa is a psychopath – manipulative and devoid of empathy. Their parents are oblivious to Rosa’s true nature, so Che becomes her self-appointed minder – monitoring her behaviour and preventing her from hurting others. Following the success of Liar and Razorhurst, Justine Larbalestier shows her prowess in psychological thrillers once more. My Sister Rosa is a tense and absorbing read, supported by brilliant characterisation.
Carry On by Rainbow Rowell
Carry On is the latest hit by Rainbow Rowell, whose popularity and critical acclaim have been snowballing since her YA debut in Eleanor & Park. Carry On is about Simon Snow, a magical Chosen One in his final year of wizarding school, as he comes to terms with his destiny, juggles relationships, solves mysteries and fights evil. It is a story-within-a-story, with Simon and his friends first appearing as the book-obsession of the titular Fangirl of Rainbow Rowell’s previous novel. Carry On is one of the best YA of 2015, richly-layered with magic, ghosts, vampires, friendships, romance, humour and teen angst; it is also a loving tribute to fandom and the Harry Potter universe (which shares similarities with Simon Snow’s world).
The E-Book is a publishing phenomenon that continues to increase in popularity. Each month 3 million E-Books are downloaded. The versatility of the E-book is that you can download hundreds of books to one device (E-Reader or Kindle) and have the books in your hands in a matter of minutes. Writing and selling E-books is now one of the fastest growing businesses enterprises globally: the concept appeals to society’s expectation of instant gratification.
Looking at Amazon’s best-selling Kindle books of all time, there is a certain colour that dominates (I’m going all punny here) the list and it’s ahem…grey. E.L. James’ series has taken out the first, second and fourth spots on the list. I guess it makes sense reading these books on the kindle, much less conspicuous than taking a paperback on the train. Not to make light of James’ success, the author has obviously hit (there it goes again) a chord with a huge amount of readers, but for the purposes of ease, I’ll group these books together. The other E-Books making their way onto the list are modern classics.
James’ series is hugely controversial and seems to attract criticism from a vast range of social groups: literary enthusiasts and writers despise the fact that it’s poorly written, feminists hate the weak lead female character, B&D fanatics criticise the way the sex is depicted and domestic abuse advocates protest the stalking, threats and manipulation in the books. Despite all this, the series has outsold any other and has inspired a similarly panned movie. Suggested theories for why the books have been incredibly popular are that due to the way the female character, Ana Steele, is written almost as a blank slate, readers can project their own personalities onto her. Regardless, this series is the first pornographic novel (soft or otherwise) to make it into mainstream bookshelves with such a following.
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary. Presents are being wrapped and reservations are being made when Nick’s clever and beautiful wife disappears. Husband-of-the-Year Nick isn’t doing himself any favours with cringe-worthy daydreams about the slope and shape of his wife’s head, but passages from Amy’s diary reveal the alpha-girl perfectionist could have put anyone dangerously on edge . An action-packed thriller with a fantastic twist at the end.
Commencing with the one hundred year old birthday of Allan Karlsson, he is facing a huge party that he didn’t want anyway. Deciding to have no part in it, he decides to climb out of his window. Thus begins a huge adventure involving criminals, murders, a suitcase of cash and police. As the story unfolds, we learn about Allan’s earlier life which involved him helping to make the atom bomb, befriend American Presidents, Russian and Chinese Leaders and participate in many key events of 20th Century history. A warm, feel-good read.
Life of Pi by Yann Martel
After the tragic sinking of a cargo ship, one solitary lifeboat remains bobbing on the wild, blue Pacific. The only survivors from the wreck are a sixteen-year-old boy named Pi, a hyena, a zebra with a broken leg, a female orang-utan – and a 450-pound Royal Bengal tiger. Since it was first published in 2002, Life of Pi has entered mainstream consciousness and remains one of the most extraordinary works of fiction in recent years.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
Forty years ago, Harriet Vanger disappeared from a family gathering on the island owned and inhabited by the powerful Vanger clan. Her body was never found, yet her uncle is convinced it was murder – and that the killer is a member of his own tightly knit but dysfunctional family. He employs disgraced financial journalist Mikael Blomkvist and the tattooed, truculent computer hacker Lisbeth Salander to investigate. Published posthumously and going on to become an International Best Seller, this novel is evocative, incredibly well written and contains some great insights into the criminal mind.