Thinking of Starting a Business? Our top 5 books to get you on your way

Starting your own business is an exciting time. But before you start, save yourself some time and money by being aware of what’s involved in running a business. Operating a small business is not just about working for yourself or working from home, it is also about having the necessary management skills, industry expertise, technical skills, finance, and of course a long-term vision to grow and succeed. Do yourself a favour and set some time aside to do a little research about business  – it’s key to turning your dreams into reality.

Here are our Top 5 books to help you get ahead of your competition.

The Power of Broke by Daymond John

Daymond John has been practicing the power of broke ever since he started selling his home-sewn t-shirts on the streets of Queens. With no funding and a $40 budget, Daymond had to come up with out-of-the box ways to promote his products. Luckily, desperation breeds innovation, and so he hatched an idea for a creative campaign that eventually launched the FUBU brand into a $6 billion dollar global phenomenon.  But it might not have happened if he hadn’t started out broke with nothing but a heart full of hope and a ferocious drive to succeed by any means possible.

In this book, this Shark Tank star shows that broke can actually be your greatest competitive advantage as an entrepreneur. Why?  Because starting a business from broke forces you to think more creatively. It forces you to use your resources more efficiently. It forces you to connect with your customers more authentically, and market your ideas more imaginatively. It forces you to be true to yourself, stay laser focused on your goals, and come up with those innovative solutions required to make a meaningful mark.

 

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson

In his wildly popular Internet blog, Manson doesn’t sugarcoat or equivocate. He tells it like it is a dose of raw, refreshing, honest truth that is sorely lacking today. The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F**k is his antidote to the coddling, let’s-all-feel-good mindset that has infected modern society and spoiled a generation, rewarding them with gold medals just for showing up. Manson makes the argument, backed both by academic research that improving our lives hinges not on our ability to turn lemons into lemonade, but on learning to stomach lemons better. Human beings are flawed and limited “not everybody can be extraordinary, there are winners and losers in society, and some of it is not fair or your fault.” Manson advises us to get to know our limitations and accept them. Once we embrace our fears, faults, and uncertainties, once we stop running and avoiding and start confronting painful truths, we can begin to find the courage, perseverance, honesty, responsibility, curiosity, and forgiveness we seek. There are only so many things we can give a f**k about so we need to figure out which ones really matter. The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F**k is a refreshing slap for a generation to help them lead contented, grounded lives.

 

The Founder’s Dilemmas by Noam Wasserman

Often downplayed in the excitement of starting up a new business venture is one of the most important decisions entrepreneurs will face: should they go it alone, or bring in cofounders, hires, and investors to help build the business? More than just financial rewards are at stake. Friendships and relationships can suffer. Bad decisions at the inception of a promising venture lay the foundations for its eventual ruin. The Founder’s Dilemmas is the first book to examine the early decisions by entrepreneurs that can make or break a startup and its team.

Drawing on a decade of research, Noam Wasserman reveals the common pitfalls founders face and how to avoid them. He looks at whether it is a good idea to cofound with friends or relatives, how and when to split the equity within the founding team, and how to recognize when a successful founder-CEO should exit or be fired. Wasserman explains how to anticipate, avoid, or recover from disastrous mistakes that can splinter a founding team, strip founders of control, and leave founders without a financial payoff for their hard work and innovative ideas. He highlights the need at each step to strike a careful balance between controlling the startup and attracting the best resources to grow it, and demonstrates why the easy short-term choice is often the most perilous in the long term.

 

 

The $100 Startup by Chris Guillebeau

As it turns out, you don’t have to be a trust-fund baby, on the hook for a business loan, or just plain old lucky to start your very own enterprise. Guillebeau gives rousing examples of somewhat accidental entrepreneurs making success out of strife, opportunity, and circumstances mostly by turning a passion or hobby into something that can be profitable. He doesn’t necessarily encourage every knitter to open a craft store, but he does promote creative thinking about how you can leverage a natural talent or long-loved activity into a business model.

 

 

 

 

 

Get Your Sh*t Together by Sarah Knight

From the author who brought you the bestselling book everyone is talking about, The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck: the no-fks-given, no-holds-barred guide to living your best life. Ever find yourself snowed under at the office or even just glued to the sofa when you really want to get out (for once), get to the gym (at last), and get started on that daunting dream project you’re always putting off? Then it’s time to get your sh*t together. In The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck, ‘anti-guru’ Sarah Knight introduced the joys of mental decluttering. Get Your Sh*t Together takes you one stop further – organising the f*cks you want and need to give to help you quit your day job and move abroad, balance work and fun – and save money while you’re at it – or simply get out of the door for happy hour, every day.

 

If you fancy a little more research before you take the plunge, check out more titles on our Pinterest board for Entrepreneurs.

 

Enjoy!

Need a hobby? Books that help us learn something new

It’s midway through the year, and Team Booko is checking out new hobbies to try, as we prepare for more indoor-time during the winter months.  But hobbies are not limited to the winter – and as summer holidays beckon to our Northern Hemisphere friends, perhaps you are looking for new pastimes as well?  To spare you the hard work, we’ve rounded up six hobbies that are fun, creative and rewarding (and even delicious!)

The Home Distilling and Infusing Handbook (Second edition) by Matt Teacher

The popularity of boutique beers and spirits – think craft gin, infused vodka and spiced rum – really encourages us to embrace variety and experimentation, as we discover tastes that we truly love. In The Home Distilling and Infusing Handbook, Matt Teacher shows us how easy it is to create uniquely flavoured spirits even without special equipment.  Try one of the included recipes, such as horseradish vodka or cucumber gin, or learn how to combine fruit, herbs and spices to impart flavours to alcoholic bases such as gin, vodka, bourbon and tequila.  And for the more adventurous, Matt Teacher also shows how to blend whiskeys and bourbons.

The Smart Phone Photography Guide by Peter Cope

Smartphone cameras have transformed the way we record our lives – but do you know that, not only are they convenient, many also rival “proper” digital cameras in terms of quality and features? The Smart Phone Photography Guide aims to help users take, create, manipulate and share images and video taken with smartphones and tablets.  Packed with “Pro tips”, explanations and “Try this” exercises, Peter Cope will improve your photography skills in no time.  Make your memories even more beautiful by realising the full potential of your phone camera – whether they are small-but-precious moments, stunning holiday vistas or artistic compositions.

Sewing in a Straight Line by Brett Bara

Sewing in a Straight Line is the most morale-boosting and innovative sewing book ever!  Brett Bara has devised a whole range of projects – from accessories to homewares to chic skirts, tops and even dresses – that only require sewing in straight lines.  With the help of some stylish fabrics, anyone can achieve results that look way more impressive than the effort required.  I love this book because normally, clothes have complex construction and require at least intermediate skills to make; instead, Sewing in a Straight Line has shown us how even total beginners can quickly learn to make attractive pieces that they would be proud to wear or use.

Making Pottery You Can Use by Jacqui Atkin

There is something very satisfying about making objects you can use everyday – and Jacqui Atkin’s new book can help you do just that. Making Pottery You Can Use bring some super-useful advice to our rediscovered love of handmade ceramics.  Not only can we enjoy the tactile lushness of shaping wet clay, now we can also turn our creations into functional objects – pieces that stack well, with lids that fit and handles that stay on.  The combination of clear, beautiful photos and succinct but informative text makes Making Pottery You Can Use a valuable reference for beginners through to professional ceramicists.

Ferment for Good: Ancient Foods for the Modern Gut by Sharon Flynn

Our interest in fermented foods shows no signs of abating – not only do we enjoy the amazing flavours of foods such as kimchi, kefir, and sauerkraut, we also appreciate how they can improve our gut health; while others are also keen to perpetuate this ancient skill.  Sharon Flynn is a former English teacher whose interest in fermentation grew from a hobby into a successful business.  In Ferment for Good, she shares her deep knowledge through recipes, anecdotes and tips.  With recipes ranging from kombucha to pickles to miso to relishes, Ferment for Good is a friendly and informative overview for anyone who wants to try fermenting their own foods.

Ikeahackers.net: 25 Biggest and Best Projects by Jules Yap

When Jules Yap started the ikeahackers blog in 2006, she simply wanted to create a place to showcase IKEA Hacks – the repurposing or modifications of IKEA products.  Little did she know that it would grow into a thriving community of DIY enthusiasts who enjoy personalising their IKEA pieces, sharing their skills and ideas in the process.  Now the essence of Ikea Hacking has been revealed in a book.  Ikeahackers.net: 25 Biggest and Best Projects offers step-by-step instructions on how to transform common IKEA items into stylish, functional and unique objects.    Fancy embellished drawers, or a coffee table made from magazine holders? The options are only limited by your creativity and skill.  Pre-order for a July release.

Our Top 5 Books that will make you happier.

There’s something amazing about opening a book and leaving the real world behind. Reading can bring us to tears, make us stop and think, bring out our anger and make us snort out loud with laughter.

When times are difficult and you just want to escape, the magical world inside a book is always waiting for you. We’ve found 5 of our favourite books that can help you take care of yourself.

The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin

Gretchen Rubin had an epiphany one rainy afternoon in the unlikeliest of places: a city bus. “The days are long, but the years are short,” she realised. “Time is passing, and I’m not focusing enough on the things that really matter.” In that moment, she decided to dedicate a year to her happiness project.

In this lively and compelling account Rubin chronicles her adventures during the twelve months she spent test driving the wisdom of the ages, current scientific research, and lessons from popular culture about how to be happier. Among other things, she found that novelty and challenge are powerful sources of happiness that money can help buy happiness, and when spent wisely the outer order contributes to inner calm and that the very smallest of changes can make the biggest difference.

 

The Book of Joy by Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu

Nobel Peace Prize Laureates His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu have survived more than fifty years of exile and the soul-crushing violence of oppression. Despite their hardships they are two of the most joyful people on the planet. In this book, they look back on their long lives to answer a single burning question: how do we find joy in the face of life’s inevitable suffering? After spending a week together trading intimate stories, teasing each other continually, and sharing their spiritual practices these two global heroes had stared into the abyss and despair of our times and revealed how to live a life brimming with joy. This book offers us a rare opportunity to experience their astonishing and unprecedented week together, from the first embrace to the final goodbye.

 

I’m Judging You by Luvvie Ajayi

With over 500,000 readers a month at her enormously popular blog, AwesomelyLuvvie.com, Luvvie Ajayi has become a go-to source for smart takes on pop culture. I’m Judging You is her debut book of humorous essays that dissects our cultural obsessions and calls out bad behaviour in our increasingly digital, connected lives, from the cultural importance of the newest Shonda Rhimes television drama to serious discussions of race and media representation to what to do about your fool cousin sharing casket pictures from Grandma’s wake on Facebook. With a lighthearted, rapier wit and a unique perspective, I’m Judging You is the handbook the world needs, doling out the hard truths and a road map for bringing some “act right” into our lives, social media, and popular culture.

 

Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff by Richard Carlson PhD

It’s an oldie but a goodie. A book that shows you how to prevent the little things in life driving you crazy. In thoughtful and insightful language, author Richard Carlson reveals ways to calm down in the midst of your hurried, stress-filled life. Learn how to put things in perspective by making the small daily changes he suggests, including advice such as “Think of your problems as potential teachers” and “remember that when you die, your ‘in’ box won’t be empty”. You should also try to live in the present moment, let others have the glory at times, and lower your tolerance to stress. You can write down your most stubborn positions and see if you can soften them, learn to trust your intuitions, and live each day as if it might be your last.

 

Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes

We’ve showcased this book here but it’s so great we’re sharing it again. In this poignant, hilarious and deeply intimate call to arms, Hollywood’s most powerful woman, the mega-talented creator of Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal and executive producer of How to Get Away with Murder, reveals how saying YES changed her life and how it can change yours too.

 

 

 

 

 

Pop on over to our Pinterest page where we have a huge selection of self help titles.

Enjoy!

It’s not just a diet: top 5 books on clean living

Clean living is now widely considered a lifestyle approach that incorporates not only what we eat but how we live our lives, clean our homes and wash our face.  There have been numerous books published on how to eat cleanly but here are our top 5 books on how to extend the clean living ethos into your home.

Zero Waste Home: The Ultimate Guide to Simplifying Your Life by Bea Johnson

Bea Johnson transformed her family’s health, finances, and relationships for the better by reducing their waste to an astonishing half litre per year. It’s all down to the 5 Rs: Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Rot (and only in that order!). Zero Waste Home shows how these key principles can be applied to every area of your house from the kitchen to the kids’ room, and it’s packed with easy tips for all of us: from buying in bulk and clever meal planning to simply refusing unwanted freebies and using your plants as air fresheners. Johnson shows, by inspiring example, what green living looks like and offers a practical, step-by-step guide to diminishing your environmental footprint and improving your life.

 

Edible Garden Design by Jamie Durie

Practical and inspiring, Jamie Durie’s Edible Garden Design is a book for our times. As more and more of us recognise the environmental, financial and health benefits of growing our own food, all over the country flower beds are being transformed into vegie patches and empty windowsills into flourishing windowboxes. Here Jamie shows you how to create productive edible gardens that look great. He gives you the lowdown on the design function of each plant, and reveals how to incorporate edibles into even the smallest of outdoor spaces without sacrificing style. Whether you live in an apartment block, in a rental, home, by yourself or with a large family, this book will give you inspirational and delicious design ideas. Create your own edible utopia . . . no matter how big or small.

Simple Home: Calm Spaces for Comfortable Living by Sally Bailey

A beautifully illustrated guide to creating a home interior free from clutter and joy of keeping things simple. The simple home is calm and uncluttered, with each item carefully chosen. It’s in tune with the current desire to buy well-made, well-designed items that will grow old gracefully, and to create homes that are sustainable and stylish. This doesn’t mean a minimalist home – it’s about living in comfort in a carefully considered space. The Philosophy of the simple home explores Mark and Sally Bailey’s design ethos. Their colour scheme is inspired by nature to create a feeling of tranquillity. Materials are reclaimed or reused, and ethically sourced. Calm reigns in the simple home – a haven from the stresses of life. Above all, Bailey urge you to surround yourself solely with the objects that you really love and to enjoy the beautiful calm of an uncluttered home.

 

Simple Matters: Living with Less and Ending Up with More Erin Boyle

Pragmatic and philosophical, Simple Matters is a nod to the growing consensus that living simply and purposefully is more sustainable not only for the environment, but for our own happiness and well-being, too. Erin embraces the notion that “living small” is beneficial and accessible to us all, whether we’re renting a tiny apartment or purchasing a three story house. Filled with personal essays, projects, and helpful advice on how to be inventive and resourceful in a tight space, Simple Matters shows that living simply is about making do with less and ending up with more: more free time, more time with loved ones, more savings, and more things of beauty.

 

Hello Glow Natural Beauty Recipes for a Fresh New You by Stephanie Gerber

Forget paying big bucks at a spa, or slathering on overpriced “mystery cream” that contains who knows what. Make your own fresh, organic, and effective spa, skincare, hair maintenance, and cosmetics recipes at home with these beautiful, tried and tested tutorials, brought to you by the popular DIY beauty and wellness website helloglow.co. Stephanie Gerber, founder and editor of Hello Glow, believes the journey to well being can and should be simple and beautiful, natural and stylish. Which is why her site is the trusted destination for organic wellness, nutrition, and skincare ideas. From masks of all flavours and for all skin types, to soothing bath oils and invigorating scrubs, and from treats for your tresses to beauty boosting DIY cosmetics, Hello Glow has you covered.

Follow us on Pinterest to see some of our other top titles.

Enjoy!

Top 5 Audio Books to listen to when life is busy

Audiobooks are a wonderful  invention for the busy person. Reading actual printed text means sitting down and focusing purely on the words and while that’s our favourite way to consume books, sometimes between work, study, going to the gym, doing the laundry, cooking dinner and putting the children to bed it’s not that easy to find time to actually sit down with a book.

That’s where audiobooks come in. Here are our top 5 to listen to when you’re feeling like life is getting on top of you.

 

Option B by Adam Grant and Sheryl Sandberg

Resilience comes from deep within us and from support outside us. Even after the most devastating events, it is possible to grow by finding deeper meaning and gaining greater appreciation in our lives. Option B illuminates how to help others in crisis, develop compassion for ourselves, raise strong children, and create resilient families, communities, and workplaces. Many of these lessons can be applied to everyday struggles, allowing us to brave whatever lies ahead. Two weeks after losing her husband, Sheryl was preparing for a father-child activity. I want Dave, she cried. Her friend replied, Option A is not available, and then promised to help her make the most of Option B. We all live some form of Option B. This book will help us all make the most of it.

 

 

Start With Why by Simon Sinek

In studying the leaders who’ve had the greatest influence in the world, Simon Sinek discovered that they all think, act, and communicate in the exact same way and it’s the complete opposite of what everyone else does. Sinek calls this powerful idea The Golden Circle, and it provides a framework upon which organisations can be built, movements can be lead, and people can be inspired. It all starts with WHY. Any organisation can explain what it does; some can explain how they do it; but very few can clearly articulate why. Why is not money or profit as those are always results. Why does your organisation exist? Why does it do the things it does? Why do customers really buy from one company or another? Why are people loyal to some leaders, but not others? Starting with Why works in big business and small business, in the nonprofit world and in politics. Those who start with Why never manipulate, they inspire. And the people who follow them don’t do so because they have to, they follow because they want to. Drawing on a wide range of real life stories, Sinek weaves together a clear vision of what it truly takes to lead and inspire. This book is for anyone who wants to inspire others or who wants to find someone to inspire them.

 

Make your bed: little things that can change your life, then maybe the world by William McRaven

Making your bed is a simple act with powerful consequences. To rise in the morning and complete the first task of the day will give you motivation to do more and to accomplish more. The bed also represents you. Few things in your home are more personal. Making your bed is a reflection of your discipline, your pride and your personal habits. If you can’t get up in the morning and make your bed, what else are you incapable of doing? If you want to change the world, or just make yourself a little better, start off by making your bed.

 

 

 

Stop Saying You’re Fine by Mel Robbins

Many people are becoming increasingly  frustrated and bored with their lives. If you have  come to regard yourself as your own worst enemy, constantly daydream and wonder, is this all there is? If you have a tendency when asked how you’re doing to just say ‘Fine’, you may be one of them. If this sounds familiar, there’s clearly something missing from your life. This book will help you discover what it is, and how to win it back. Written by Mel Robbins, one of America’s top relationship experts, this hands-on guide not only shows you how to put your finger on the problem, it reveals what to do about it. Mel has spent her career teaching people how to push past their self-imposed limits to get what they truly desire. She has an in-depth understanding of the psychological and social factors that repeatedly hold you back, and more importantly, a unique set of tools for getting you where you want to be.

Check out Mel’s inspiring TEDx Talk.

 

Fail, Fail Again, Fail Better: Wise Advice for Leaning into the Unknown by Pema Chodron

When her granddaughter was accepted to Naropa University, the celebrated author Pema Chödrön promised that she’d speak at the commencement ceremony. Fail, Fail Again, Fail Better contains the wisdom shared on that day. “What do we do when life doesn’t go the way we hoped?” begins Pema “We say, ‘I’m a failure.” But what if failing wasn’t just “okay,” but the most direct way to becoming a more complete, loving, and fulfilled human being? Through the insights of her own teachers and life journey, Pema Chödrön offers us her heartfelt advice on how to face the unknown-in ourselves and in the world-and how our missteps can open our eyes to see new possibilities and purpose. For Pema’s millions of readers, prospective graduates, or anyone at a life crossroads, this gem of clarity and reassurance is sure to find a welcome place in many a kitchen, office, and backpack.

 

 

…and finally for those who are really just too busy to sit and read…

 

 

Astrophysics for People in a  Hurry by Neil deGrasse Tyson

What is the nature of space and time? How do we fit within the universe? How does the universe fit within us? Unfortunately, today, few of us have time to contemplate the cosmos. Tyson brings the universe down to Earth succinctly and clearly, with sparkling wit, in tasty chapters consumable anytime and anywhere in your busy day – while you wait for your morning coffee at the cafe, for the bus, the train, or a plane to arrive. Astrophysics for People in a Hurry will reveal just what you need to be fluent and ready for the next cosmic headlines: from the Big Bang to black holes, from quarks to quantum mechanics, and from the search for planets to the search for life in the universe.

Enjoy!

Top 5 Books that aim to lift you out of a rut

“Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counsellors, and the most patient of teachers.”

Charles William Eliot

Turning to books when we are in need of a lift is often what we do in order to pause and calm our racing minds. If you’re in a rut and are looking for a little inspiration or just a good laugh, check out these great titles.

Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson

A hysterical, ridiculous book about crippling depression and anxiety? That sounds like a terrible idea. And terrible ideas are what Jenny Lawson does best. As Jenny says: ‘You can’t experience pain without also experiencing the baffling and ridiculous moments of being fiercely, unapologetically, intensely and (above all) furiously happy.’ It’s a philosophy that has quite literally saved her life. Jenny’s first book, Let’s Pretend This Never Happened, was ostensibly about family, but deep down it was about celebrating your own weirdness. Furiously Happy is a book about mental illness, but under the surface it’s about embracing joy in fantastic and outrageous ways. And who doesn’t need a bit more of that?

 

 

10% Happier by Dan Harris

After having a nationally televised panic attack, Dan Harris knew he had to make some changes. A lifelong nonbeliever, he found himself on a bizarre adventure involving a disgraced pastor, a mysterious self-help guru, and a gaggle of brain scientists. Eventually, Harris realised that the source of his problems was the very thing he always thought was his greatest asset: the incessant, insatiable voice in his head, which had propelled him through the ranks of a hyper competitive business, but had also led him to make the profoundly stupid decisions that provoked his on-air freak-out. Eventually Harris stumbled upon an effective way to rein in that voice, something he always assumed to be either impossible or useless: meditation, a tool that research suggests can do everything from lower your blood pressure to essentially rewire your brain. 10% Happier takes readers on a ride from the outer reaches of neuroscience to the inner sanctum of network news to the bizarre fringes of America’s spiritual scene, and leaves them with a takeaway that could actually change their lives.

 

The Council of Dads by Bruce Feiler

Bruce Feiler, bestselling author and award-winning journalist, was diagnosed with cancer in 2008. On learning this, he decided to approach six friends who could each provide advice and support to his young twin daughters through their lives should he die. This book is the inspiring story of what happened next. Mixing the highly personal diary of his treatment with the uplifting lessons of these men, Feiler’s account is a touching, funny, and ultimately deeply moving tale of parenthood, loss, and love, and will be a blueprint for how others can take his experience and use it to deepen their own relationships with friends and family.

 

 

Wanderlust: A Modern Yogi’s Guide to Discovering Your Best Self by Jeff Krasno

Like the wildly popular festivals that have taken the yoga world by storm, Wanderlust is a road map for the millions of people engaged in cultivating their best selves. Wanderlust helps readers navigate their personal path and find their own true north, curating principles that embody the brand and lifestyle, authentic yoga practices, provocative thinking, music, art, good food, eco-friendly activities, and more. Each chapter includes expert yoga instruction by renowned teachers; inspiring music playlists to motivate readers to practice; thought-provoking art; awesome recipes for delicious, healthy foods to sustain a yoga regimen; and fun, unexpected detours. This wide array of ideas and beautiful visuals is designed to be hyper-stimulating whether a reader follows the arc of the book from beginning to end or dips into chapters at random.

 

Rewire by Richard O’Connor

We humans tend to get in our own way time and time again, whether it comes to not speaking up for ourselves, going back to bad romantic partners, dieting for the umpteenth try, or acting on any of a range of bad habits we just can’t seem to shake. In Rewire, renowned psychotherapist Richard O’Connor, PhD, reveals exactly why our bad habits die so hard. We have two brains; one a thoughtful, conscious, deliberative self, and the other an automatic self that makes most of our decisions without our attention.

Bringing together many different fields in psychology and brain science, Dr. O’Connor gives you a road map to overcoming whatever self-destructive habits are plaguing you, with exercises throughout the book. We can rewire our brains to develop healthier circuitry, training the automatic self to make wiser decisions without having to think about it. Offering a valuable science-based new paradigm for rewiring our brains, Rewire is a refreshing guide to becoming a healthier, happier self.

 

If you fancy a few more titles, check out our self improvement board on Pinterest.

 

Enjoy!

Walk a mile in someone else’s shoes – Booko’s favourite biographies

Who needs fiction when you have biographies? Biographies can make you laugh or cry; they can offer comfort or inspiration – and sometimes all of these at once!  Whether the subjects are famous or ordinary, these stories offer insight into remarkable lives and extraordinary experiences.  Here is a selection of biographies to suit every taste:

Unmasked by Turia Pitt and Bryce Corbett

Turia Pitt was running an ultramarathon in outback Australia when she was caught in a bushfire. This accident seemed set to destroy her successful life as a mining engineer and a model – Turia barely survived her injuries, which included extensive, disfiguring burns.  With fierce determination, great courage, and the support of loving parents and a partner, Turia is not only on the road to recovery, but is achieving ever more impressive feats as a motivational speaker and endurance athlete.  Unmasked describes this new chapter in Turia’s life – how love and determination has helped her recover and thrive, and how we can all apply similar lessons in our own lives.

Lion: a Long Way Home (Young Readers Edition) by Saroo Brierley

Saroo Brierley’s remarkable story has wowed both readers and cinema-goers – in fact, Lion became one of the Highest Grossing Australian Films of All Time only a month after its release . Now children can experience the story all by themselves with this Young Readers’ edition.  Little Saroo was lost on a train in India when he was only five years old.  Far from home, with no money and no language, he had to avoid a lot of danger just to survive.  Eventually he found safety and a new life with adoptive parents in Australia.  While he loves his new parents, he never forgot his earlier life.  His search for his birth family is a fantastic, almost fairy-tale like story about hope, perseverance and technology.

More About Boy: Roald Dahl’s Tales from Childhood by Roald Dahl

Many readers love biographies because they are inspiring – stories like Unmasked and Lion describe triumphs over incredible challenges.  However, biographies can also be entertaining and fun.  More About Boy is an expanded edition of Boy, Roald Dahl’s celebrated autobiography of his childhood.   The drama and naughty humour in the original stories – including Quentin Blake’s illustrations – are still there, and have been enriched with archival material including photos, letters, and previously unpublished stories.  The result is not only very readable, but it also gives better insight into Roald Dahl as a writer.  For Roald Dahl fans of all ages!

Born on a Blue Day by Daniel Tammet

Born on a Blue Day is special because it is a first-hand account of autism.  Daniel Tammet is an autistic savant – while his ability in abstract thinking and social interactions are impaired, he has genius-level abilities in mathematics and languages.  Daniel’s combination of autistic behaviours and language expertise is particularly rare – it makes Born on a Blue Day an incredibly articulate, often lyrical, and very informative description of what it’s like to live with autism. Born on a Blue Day charts Daniel’s life from a withdrawn, often frustrating childhood to eventual success in adulthood, gaining financial independence with his own business, sustaining a long-term romantic relationship and achieving fame as a real-life “Rain Man”.

In Order to Live: a North Korean Girl’s Journey to Freedom by Yeonmi Park

North Korea is regularly in the media spotlight but little is known about this closed and secretive country.  For most of us, the only information we can get is through biographies.  Yeonmi Park joins a group of North Korean defectors who have used their life stories to publicise the plight of North Koreans.  As a child, Yeonmi lived a relatively wealthy life until her father was arrested for smuggling.  This fall from grace made the Park family’s lives increasingly dangerous and, once Yeonmi’s father was released from prison, the family attempted to escape to China.  Yeonmi and her mother endured rape and human trafficking in their long and perilous journey, having to trek across China into Mongolia, before missionaries could take them to safety in South Korea.

Dear Quentin: Letters of a Governor General by Quentin Bryce

Dear Quentin is not a biography per se but it does offer fascinating glimpses into the life of Dame Quentin Bryce and into the role of Australian Governor-General.  During her tenure (2008-2014), Quentin Bryce travelled extensively, both across Australia and internationally.  She also wrote prolifically – upwards of 50 letters a week, to people of eminence as well as ordinary citizens.  Dear Quentin is a collection of those letters, both written to and by her. The correspondence shows a warm, intelligent, articulate person meeting her demanding job with humour and dedication. Dear Quentin also celebrates the art of letter-writing, and the delight we feel when we receive one (even if we are too lazy to write them ourselves!) Royalties to this book will go towards research into child health.

There is a book for every sort of mum… not your usual Mother’s Day booklist

Mother’s Day only comes around once a year (most commonly on the second Sunday in May, but some countries celebrate mums at other times, such as Spring Equinox or International Women’s Day) so when it does you have to make it count. After all, our mums do so much for us and this is the one day each year that’s all about them. So on May 14th this year, why not treat your mum to to something she can enjoy and expand her horizons with.

For the Mum Who Loves a Little Mystery…

The Mystery Writers of America Cookbook: Wickedly Good Meals and Desserts to Die For by Kate White

This unconventional cookbook features breakfasts, appetisers, desserts, cocktails and other fabulous goodies from a number of mystery authors and their characters. The book also offers multiple sidebars that link the food to the fiction— like poisons people used to plant in their gardens, and an explainer about how “red herring” went from the plate to the page.

 

 

 

For the Mum Who Sees Everything…

 

Capture the Moment by Sarah Wilkerson

This book is both beautiful to page through and a thorough instruction manual for budding photographers. More than 100 contributors from Clickin Moms, the largest female-photographer social network, have included photographs and advice for capturing basic, understated moments in everyday life and beautiful ways to chronicle family in photos. She’ll be inspired to pick up her camera and finally use it without having to attend an actual photography class.

 

 

 

For the Mum who’s had enough of trinkets and dusting…

 

The Art of Discarding: How to get rid of clutter and find joy by Nagisa Tatsumi

Before there was The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo, there was this book that inspired it all. Published for the first time in English, Nagisa Tatsumi gives easy advice on how to get rid of things that are just cluttering your life, instead of adding value to it. Additionally, she gives guidelines on how to acquire less stuff in the first place, so what she calls “accumulation syndrome” doesn’t return. Tatsumi believes that by changing our attitudes about our possessions we can rid ourselves of all the stuff we don’t actually need, opening the door to find joy in a clutter-free life.

 

 

 

 

For the Mum who loves a story…

 

 

Stop Here, This Is the Place by Susan Conley and Winky Lewis

This book is a string of memories between two women. Every day for a year, Lewis sent Conley a photograph of her children, and Conley responded with a story that spoke to the photo. What resulted is a collection of moments and stories that chronicle a child’s growth and a mother’s love for her family.

 

 

 

Happy Family by Tracey Barone

Abandoned and then adopted when she was just a baby, Cheri finds herself 40 years old, in a bad place with her own parents and her job, and trying to have a baby of her own. But she is no stranger to dysfunction or reinventing herself when she needs to. A story of imperfect characters, who, despite constant surprises, pull through the difficult times in life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For the Mum who could rule the world…and often does…

 

We Were Feminists Once by Andi Zeisler

Mums with an interest in politics will enjoy this history of the Feminist movement that follows the term from when it was once regarded as a dirty word to the present day, where it is plastered on T-shirts and adopted as a brand by celebrities. Throughout the book, Zeisler argues that, although the phrase (and its ideas) have been popularized in the mainstream, the acceptance of the phrase doesn’t mean women are any closer to becoming equal. Touching on movies, advertising, fashion and more, Zeisler explores how the “feminist” world around us has done little to push for real change.

 

 

 

 

First Women by Kate Andersen Brower

This anthology looks at powerful First Ladies who were often underestimated women who are intelligent, thick-skinned, and as important to their country as their husbands. From Jackie Kennedy to Betty Ford to Michelle Obama, this book reviews their achievements and struggles, and paints a powerful picture of female political leadership.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Secret History of Wonder Women by Jill Lepore

Wonder Woman was created in 1941, on the brink of World War II, and is the most popular female superhero of all time. Aside from Superman and Batman, she has lasted the longest and commanded the most vast and wildly passionate following. Like every other superhero, Wonder Woman has a secret identity. Unlike others, she also has a secret history. In Jill Lepore’s riveting work of historical detection, Wonder Woman’s story provides the missing link in the history of the struggle for women’s rights, a chain of events that begins with the women’s suffrage campaigns of the early 1900s and ends with the troubled place of feminism a century later.

 

Enjoy!

 

Painfully funny; Comedians making us uncomfortable with their books.

“Humour is a rubber sword, it allows you to make a point without drawing blood.”

-Mary Hirsch

A good stand-up comedian has the ability to draw out and emphasise humorous elements of everyday mundane occurrences and circumstances that most of us don’t even notice. But it is a brave comedian that takes us on a journey to the punch line while wandering through rather uncomfortable territory ridiculing the darker elements in society in order to help generate discussion.

Brave comics play an important function in society as they hold up a mirror and force us to confront realities that we would often prefer to ignore. Beneath their humour lies a rich layer of social commentary about race relations, stereotypes and our behaviour. It offers a unique lens through which we can see the world around us, changing our perspective and sharing a truth that you often don’t  find elsewhere, and it can be a very valuable thing.

The Melbourne International Comedy Festival is currently in full swing so we’d like to share our favourite comics from all over the world who help us confront our own social bias.

 

Friendly Fire by Wil Anderson

In this book, Australian comedian Wil Anderson explores a diverse range of topics- from childhood obesity to Valentine’s Day, trackie pants to terrorism, aging to four-wheel-drive etiquette, and exercise regimes to VB beer ads- putting his own unique spin on it all. Nothing is sacred as Anderson shifts from topic to topic, stating his views on each and raising some intriguing questions (for example, why is it that you can always come up with the perfect comeback for an insult about thirty seconds too late?). But he also looks at some more serious issues, like the pitiful amount of money that pensioners receive every fortnight and Australia’s binge drinking culture.

Many fascinating points are covered in this funny and often satirical novel. You can hear more of Wil Anderson in his Wilosophy podcasts, as he interviews such interesting characters as Tim Minchin, Jane Caro, Nazeem Hussain, Charlie Pickering and Dr Karl Kruszelnicki.

 

 

Storm by Tim Minchin

A storm is brewing in the confines of a London dinner party. Small talk quickly descends into a verbal and intellectual battle between science and belief, as comedian Tim goes head to head with the mysterious fifth guest at the table – a hippy named Storm. With stunning original artwork, Tim’s sublime ranty beat-poem weaves through the world we live in, where alternative medicine is given credence and public funding, psychics have primetime TV exposure and people are happy with mystery rather than answers. While Storm herself may not be converted, audiences from London to Sydney have been won over by Tim’s lyrical wonders and the timely message of the piece in a society where science is attacked as the enemy of belief. STORM is the illustrated book born from the acclaimed internet sensation – the animation that has become an anthem for critical thinking worldwide, attracting over three million views. Now fully reimagined, STORM is a masterpiece that sparkles with beauty, wit, reason and rationality.

 

 

The Happiest Refugee by Anh Do

The plight of refugees is in the spotlight once more, making this a great time to revisit this heart-warming book.  The Happiest Refugee is comedian Anh Do’s memoir, which begins with his family’s escape from war-torn Vietnam.  During their journey in a leaky fishing boat, Anh and his family nearly die from disease, starvation, dehydration and pirate attacks.   Even when they are rescued and resettled in Australia, there is no simple Happy Ever After: Anh and his family face many hardships while they rebuild their lives.  Fortunately, hard work, determination, a loving family and a sense of humour help them to overcome many difficulties and pave the way to success.

The Happiest Refugee has won many awards, and was so popular that it became a live show that toured Australia.  What makes it so special is Anh’s irrepressible optimism – he can find the silver lining in even the darkest cloud. Anh Do has written a children’s version of his book, named The Little Refugee, which tells the same story in a more age-appropriate manner.

 

Thinking About It Only Makes It Worse by David Mitchell

Why is every film or tv programme a sequel or a remake? Why are people so f***ing hung up about swearing? Why do the asterisks in that sentence make it ok? Why do so many people want to stop other people doing things, and how can they be stopped from stopping them? These and many other questions trouble David Mitchell. Join him on a tour of the absurdities of modern life – from Ryanair to Richard III, Downton Abbey to phone etiquette. Funny, provocative and shot through with refreshing amounts of common sense, Thinking About It Only Makes It Worse celebrates and commiserates on the state of things in our not entirely glorious modern world.

 

 

 

I Am America (and so can you!) by Stephen Colbert

Stephen Colbert was The Daily Show’s longest-running and most memorable correspondent. His right-wing, super-patriotic persona, his insight and general rightness led to The Colbert Report, a half-hour TV platform for his views on the issues of the day and, more importantly, why everyone else’s views are just plain wrong. I Am America (And So Can You!) features Stephen’s most deeply held knee-jerk beliefs on everything from The Family to Race and Immigration and provides the ultimate satirical guide to the glorious marvel that is American Life. He bravely takes on the forces aligned to destroy America – whether they be terrorists, environmentalists, or brand-name breakfast cereals – and tackles difficult issues like religion, sexuality, and nature (‘I’ve never trusted the sea. What’s it hiding under there?’) With hilarious illustrations and charts (‘Sports to Ignore’) and a complete transcript of Colbert’s infamous speech at the 2006 White House Correspondents’ Dinner, this is a brilliantly funny book as well as a very clever commentary on America today.

 

 

Sick in the Head by Judd Apatow

Before becoming one of the most successful filmmakers in Hollywood, Judd Apatow was the original comedy nerd. Thirty years later, Apatow is still that same comedy nerd—and he’s still interviewing funny people about why they do what they do.

Sick in the Head gathers Apatow’s most memorable and revealing conversations into one hilarious, wide-ranging, and incredibly candid collection that spans not only his career but his entire adult life. Here are the comedy legends who inspired and shaped him, from Mel Brooks to Steve Martin. Here are the contemporaries he grew up with in Hollywood, from Spike Jonze to Sarah Silverman. And here, finally, are the brightest stars in comedy today, many of whom Apatow has been fortunate to work with, from Seth Rogen to Amy Schumer. And along the way, something kind of magical happens: What started as a lifetime’s worth of conversations about comedy becomes something else entirely. It becomes an exploration of creativity, ambition, neediness, generosity, spirituality, and the joy that comes from making people laugh.

 

 

…and a little something extra…

Australian Comedians Boxset DVD

Three of Australia’s greatest and most beloved comedians performing at the peak of their powers.

Dave Hughes – Pointless
Hughesy’s first love and real passion is stand-up, so much that he threw in his breakfast radio show and gave up the host chair on The Project to set off on an epic stand-up tour. The shows sold out everywhere from Melbourne to Sydney, Darwin to Tamworth and Cairns to Kalgoorlie before heading off to London, Edinburgh and Los Angeles.  The result is Hughesy’s funnies show yet, captured here at a secret, exclusive show at Sydney’s iconic Comedy Store.

Wil Anderson – Wiluminati
Wiluminati was performed for 11 months in 4 different countries including a standing ovation at the prestigious Just For Laughs Festival in Montreal.  Almost twenty years of leaning on a mic stand has brought Wil to this point – a home town show on one of the world’s most prestigious stages.

Adam Hills – Happyism Live
Recorded at London’s famous Hammersmith Apollo, the host of ‘Spicks and Specks’ and ‘Adam Hills Tonight’ delivers a first class evening of comedy, anecdotes and audience participation all delivered in his refreshingly unique, laid back style. Accompanied by BSL Sign Interpreter Catherine King, Adam recounts jaw-dropping tales of meeting the Dalai Lama (and to his surprise making him laugh!) as well as his excitement at meeting The Muppets. Happyism is not only the title, but also his newly formed cult religion and is guaranteed to leave you with a more positive outlook on life.

Enjoy!

Books that challenge the status quo – addressing your confirmation bias

Confirmation bias: the tendency to interpret new evidence as confirmation of one’s existing beliefs or theories

Confirmation bias has been around for a long time and is a topic that is currently prevalent in social media with increasing importance for everyone to become aware of and address. If affects us in many facets of our lives, from the books we buy to how we search online. It’s pretty simple to summarise but somewhat harder to change – we want to be right about how we see the world, so we seek out information which confirms our beliefs and avoid contradictory evidence and opinions.

We’ve rounded up a few of our favourite titles that challenge how we think. Brace yourself, you’ll be somewhat pensive at the end of this reading marathon!

Mistakes were made (but not by me) by Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson

Why do people dodge responsibility when things fall apart? Why the parade of public figures unable to own up when they make mistakes? Why the endless marital quarrels over who is right? Why can we see hypocrisy in others but not in ourselves? Are we all liars? Or do we really believe the stories we tell? Renowned social psychologists Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson take a compelling look into how the brain is wired for self-justification. When we make mistakes, we must calm the cognitive dissonance that jars our feelings of self-worth. And so we create fictions that absolve us of responsibility, restoring our belief that we are smart, moral, and right – a belief that often keeps us on a course that is dumb, immoral, and wrong. A fascinating explanation of self-deception – how it works, the harm it can cause, and how we can overcome it.

The Grand Design by Stephen Hawking

When and how did the universe begin? Why are we here? What is the nature of reality? Is the apparent ‘grand design’ of our universe evidence for a benevolent creator who set things in motion? Or does science offer another explanation? In The Grand Design, the most recent scientific thinking about the mysteries of the universe is presented, in language marked by both brilliance and simplicity. The Grand Design explains the latest thoughts about model-dependent realism (the idea that there is no one version of reality), and about the multiverse concept of reality in which there are many universes. There are new ideas about the top-down theory of cosmology (the idea that there is no one history of the universe, but that every possible history exists). A succinct, startling and lavishly illustrated guide to discoveries that are altering our understanding and threatening some of our most cherished belief systems, The Grand Design is a book that will inform – and provoke – like no other.

Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

The renowned psychologist and winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics, takes us on a groundbreaking tour of the mind and explains the two systems that drive the way we think. System 1 is fast, intuitive, and emotional; System 2 is slower, more deliberative, and more logical. The impact of overconfidence on corporate strategies, the difficulties of predicting what will make us happy in the future, the profound effect of cognitive biases on everything from playing the stock market to planning our next vacation. Each of these can be understood only by knowing how the two systems shape our judgments and decisions. Kahneman reveals where we can and cannot trust our intuitions and how we can tap into the benefits of slow thinking, offering practical and enlightening insights into how choices are made in both our business and our personal lives and how we can use different techniques to guard against the mental glitches that often get us into trouble.

This Will Make You Smarter by John Brockton

John Brockman has brought together the most influential thinkers of our age to offer their choice of the ideas, strategies and arguments that will help all of us understand our world, and its future. Every year he sets them a question, in 2013 that question was: What Scientific Concept Would Improve Everybody’s Cognitive Toolkit? Their answers are collected in this book and explore philosophy, psychology, economics, and other disciplines – and all share one aim: to provide the most reliable ways of gaining knowledge about anything, whether it be human behaviour, corporate behaviour, the fate of the planet, or the future of the universe.

 

 

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig

Acclaimed as one of the most exciting books in history, this modern epic became an instant bestseller upon publication in 1974, transforming a generation and continuing to inspire millions. A narration of a summer motorcycle trip undertaken by a father and his son, the book becomes a personal and philosophical odyssey into fundamental questions of how to live. Resonant with the confusions of existence, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance is a touching and transcendent book of life.

 

 

 

 

Outliers by Malcom Gladwell

Malcolm Gadwell is one of my favourite authors. I have read and reread two of his other books The Tipping Point and Blink and have recommended them to many others. In Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell takes us on an intellectual journey through the world of “outliers” – the best and the brightest, the most famous and the most successful. He asks the question: what makes high-achievers different?

His answer is that we pay too much attention to what successful people are like, and too little attention to where they are from: that is, their culture, their family, their generation, and the idiosyncratic experiences of their upbringing. Along the way he explains the secrets of software billionaires, what it takes to be a great soccer player, and what made the Beatles the greatest rock band.

Enjoy!