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Learning from Australian Businesses: inspiring business books on the market

There are so many fascinating and inspiring stories that sit behind brand names and company banners. Today’s pick of Australian businesses offer us an insight into the world of fashion, food waste, landscaping and going out on your own. Each business took courage, determination and a leap of faith.

There’s a renegade in all of us, sometimes it’s just a matter of letting that voice be heard. Make yourself a cuppa and get ready to be inspired. 

A Repurposed Life by Ronni Kahn & Jessica Chapnik Kahn

Life throws us mysterious ingredients. If we are brave enough to put the recipe aside and experiment, it’s right there that things get interesting. As the owner of a successful events company, throwing away huge volumes of leftover food at the end of the day came with the territory. But when Ronni Kahn hit midlife, she found herself no longer able to turn a blind eye to her food waste problem. Hand delivering the untouched food to homeless shelters around Sydney became her renegade solution. Little did she know that fixing her small problem at work would lead her to unlock a hidden purpose at the very core of her inner life. Now founder and CEO of the food rescue organisation OzHarvest, Ronni leads hundreds of staff and thousands of volunteers with the goal to nourish Australia. She serves in an advisory capacity to government and is an instrumental leader in changing federal laws to improve social justice and environmental policies. A Repurposed Life is the story of how Ronni found her voice, her heart and her deepest calling. From her early years growing up under the brutal system of apartheid South Africa, to a socialist commune in Israel, Ronni finally settled in Australia to discover a profound new way of living. Shared with the humour, warmth and energy that have made her an internationally renowned keynote speaker, this heartfelt exploration of the choices that define us will speak to anyone seeking a more passionate expression of being alive.

Jim’s Book:The Surprising Story of Jim Penman Australia’s Backyard Millionaire by Catherine Moolenschot

We all know Jim’s. Maybe you just passed a Jim’s Mowing trailer on the road; or maybe there’s a Jim’s Cleaning van parked across the street each Tuesday morning; or maybe your best mate is laughing all the way to the bank after quitting the city and starting his new Jim’s Fencing franchise, but do you know the real story behind the Jim’s Group and its founder, Jim Penman? Brutally efficient, socially awkward, and a tireless perfectionist, Jim is as complex and fascinating as the Jim’s Group. This book is a warts-and-all look at his colourful life that delves deep into how he ignored conventional thinking to turn a few mowing rounds into a corporate juggernaut built on always putting the customer first. Jim’s unique approach revolutionised Australia’s business landscape, providing thousands of people the opportunity to create and grow their own businesses. Most Australians know very little about the man who created one of the nation’s most famous companies. For all of his success, Jim is remarkably unassuming and approachable. In this authorised biography, author Catherine Moolenschot sat down with Jim and over one hundred people who know him, from franchisees and franchisors, to family, friends, and adversaries, to get up close and personal with the surprising story of one of Australia’s biggest brands and the man who made it all happen. Jim’s Book tells the fascinating story of the man and the business that bears his name. Equal parts biography, history and philosophy, this book takes readers on a journey through one man’s remarkable life.

Kiwi: The Australian Brand that Brought a Shine to the World by Keith Dunstan

You probably have a tin of shoe polish tucked under the laundry sink bearing the little bird logo that has been in homes around the globe for over a century. Founded in Melbourne by William Ramsay in 1906, Kiwi is one of the most iconic and enduring international brands ever to have come out of Australia. One of Australia’s best-loved journalists, Keith Dunstan tells the remarkable story of the Ramsay family and how they created and nurtured the Kiwi brand. Always quick to seize a marketing opportunity, the Ramsays sent Kiwi to England with the Anzacs in World War I, putting a brilliant shine on belts, bridles and leggings as well as boots. Soon there was a Kiwi factory in London, and in time Kiwi ran 24 factories worldwide, selling more than 250 million cans of shoe polish annually.In his inimitable warm and chatty style, Dunstan follows the fortunes of the Ramsay family as they built the Kiwi brand over the decades: business decisions good and bad, grand houses, the latest cars, constant travel, and their marriages, quarrels and friendships. He also tracks the clever advertising strategies that kept Kiwi in the public mind, including the notorious sign that caused traffic accidents in Richmond in the 1960s. Richly illustrated in full colour, Kiwi is the fascinating inside story of one of Australia’s great families, as well as one of its great brands.

Chapter One by Daniel Flynn

The world probably doesn’t need another book. However, Chapter One is more than a book. It’s an invitation. And it’s addressed to you. To inspire you to challenge everything, to remind you that you can turn ideas into reality and to present you the opportunity to be part of bold idea that could change the course of history. Chapter One is the story of three kids from Melbourne, Australia with zero experience in business who had an idea and the crazy belief that we all have the power to change stuff. It started with the World Water Crisis (and how to end it) but has developed into an award-winning consumer goods brand that empowers millions of people to fight poverty with every munch of muesli, sip of water or pump of hand wash. And that’s just the beginning. This is the story of epic proportions by Thankyou co-founder Daniel Flynn about Thankyou’s gut-wrenching decisions, wild mistakes and daring moves in business, marketing and social enterprise so far. You’ll laugh at their boldness, cry at their failings and be inspired by their determination. But more than that, you’ll understand that, no matter your walk of life, you too have the power to change stuff.

Butterfly on a Pin: A memoir of love, despair and reinvention by Alannah Hill

Unflinching, funny, shocking, inspiring and tender: this is a story like no other. Alannah Hill, one of Australia’s most successful fashion designers, created an international fashion brand that defied trends with ornamental, sophisticated elegance, beads, bows and vintage florals. But growing up in a milk bar in Tasmania, Alannah’s childhood was one of hardship, fear and abuse. At an early age she ran away from home with eight suitcases of costumes and a fierce determination to succeed, haunted by her mother’s refrain of ‘You’ll never amount to anything, you can’t sew, nobody likes you and you’re going to end up in a shallow grave, dear!’ At the height of her success, Alannah walked the razor’s edge between two identities; ‘the good’ Alannah and the `mongrel bastard’ Alannah. Who was the real Alannah Hill? Reprieve came in the form of a baby boy and the realisation that becoming a mother not only changes your life, but completely refurbishes it, forever. Yet ‘having it all’ turned out to be another illusion. In 2013 Alannah walked away from her eponymous brand, a departure that left her coming apart at the seams. She slowly came to understand the only way she could move forward was to go back. At the heart of it all was her mother, whose loveless marriage and disappointment in life had a powerful and long-lasting effect on her daughter. It was finally time to call a truce with the past. This extraordinary book is the fierce and intelligent account of how a freckle-faced teenage runaway metamorphosed into a trailblazer and true original.

Winging It: Stop Thinking, Start Doing: Why Action Beats Planning Every Time by Emma Isaacs

CEO and entrepreneur Emma Isaacs forgot to draw up her life plan, and she doesn’t have a list of five-year goals. She doesn’t believe in work/life balance – after all she has five children and heads up Business Chicks, Australia’s largest community for women. Like Sheryl Sandberg, who told us to ‘lean in’ to find success, Emma wants to show us that you can’t plan every detail and wait for the confidence to kick in before you begin; instead, take action now, do what feels right and figure the rest out as you go along. In other words, you’ve got to learn how to ‘wing it’ rather than wait. Drawing on her own life and the stories of the many men and women she has met and interviewed – from Sir Richard Branson to Bill Gates to Girlboss Sophia Amoruso – Emma tells us how to: * Turn a dream into a job * Turn a job into a business * Network like a champion * Protect your time for the things that matter * Get fired up not ground down by the kids/career juggle, and * Understand that sometimes failure is part of the brief. Emma shows us that often the only thing holding us back is ourselves; that you can follow your dreams; and that there’s no reason not to start doing so right now.

Enjoy!

Celebrating Australian Children’s Stories

Australians are spoilt for choice when it comes to children’s literature – Aussie authors have been punching above their weight for decades, creating iconic works, and winning literature awards from around the world.  From Ivan Southall, Libby Hathorn and Mem Fox; to Bob Graham, Shaun Tan, Sonya Hartnett, Philip Bunting and many more, Australian authors have been capturing funny, beautiful and distinctly Australian stories for and about our children.  Here are some latest ones worth celebrating, from both established and emerging authors:

My Shadow is Pink by Scott Stuart

This warm story about a father-and-son uses lively rhymes to introduce big topics to a young audience – being true to yourself, challenging stereotypes, and celebrating differences. Our main character is a young boy with a pink shadow – unlike the rest of his manly relatives, whose shadows are blue. His pink shadow loves ponies and sparkles and things “not for boys”, which worries the boy because he so wants to fit in. One fateful dressup day, everything changed… Scott Stuart wrote this story based on his experiences supporting his young son, who loves the character Elsa from Disney’s Frozen. He now actively promotes self-expression and challenges gender stereotypes as an author/illustrator and via Tiktok.

Hello Jimmy! by Anna Walker

Hello, Jimmy! works on so many different levels – it is a warm story about a father-and-son rediscovering their emotional connection to each other; it is a sensitive portrayal of a family going through separation, and is a good conversation starter about sadness, loneliness, navigating change, and diverse families; and Jimmy the parrot , being a cranky and irrepressible character, makes this a lively read-aloud. Once again, Anna Walker has taken familiar events from daily life, and used her distinctive style to create jewel-like moments brimming with drama and emotion.

Sing Me the Summer by Jane Godwin and Alison Lester

What a partnership!  Jane Godwin and Alison Lester are successful and beloved authors in their own right; in Sing Me the Summer they have combined their powers to produced a wonderful ode to the seasons.  The gentle rhymes and bright pictures celebrate the changing colours and fun activities of different seasons – picnicking on the beach, stomping through fallen leaves, bonfires on cold nights, and playing in lush springtime grass.  Also watch out for cameo appearances by beloved characters Noni the Pony, and My Dog Bigsy!

The Fire Wombat by Jackie French and Danny Snell

Jackie French knows a lot about wombats, as her bestselling Diary of a Wombat series can attest.  The story of Fire Wombat was inspired by a wombat she saw during the devastating 2020 bushfires.  In the hot dry countryside, the bush animals can see and sense the encroaching smoke and flames.  Led by a small wombat, they eventually find safety in the cool underground tunnels of a wombat burrow.  Fire Wombat has vivid imagery and is an ultimately hopeful story about resilience, courage and friendship.  It is also a great conversation starter about bushfires and their aftermath.

Our Home, Our Heartbeat by Adam Briggs, Kate Moon and Rachael Sarra

Our Home, Our Heartbeat celebrates Indigenous achievements across different eras, professions and communities.  Adam Briggs, better known as Briggs, is a rapper/comedian/writer/actor from the Yorta Yorta nation.  He wrote this story, based on his song “The Children Came Back”, to normalise Indigenous success, inspiring and informing all children of the contribution of Indigenous people to Australia.  Like many of great stories, this is one Briggs wished he had when he was growing up.  The vibrant illustrations show children doing the things they love, and convey a huge sense of fun and energy.

Bluey: The Creek by Bluey

Bluey is the little Aussie series turned worldwide phenomenon, for all the best reasons.  It has been praised for its relatable characters, realistic storylines, and for healthy depictions of emotions, gender identity and parenting behaviours – and last but not least, for being funny and adorable!  The Creek is inspired by an episode of the same name.  When Dad takes Bluey, Bingo and Mackenzie to the creek to play, they discover that it is a beautiful place with lots to discover and explore.  Enjoy the story for itself, or use it to inspire your little ones to enjoy and investigate nature.

Celebrating the latest Australian Non-Fiction titles

They say writing a diary is cathartic and not only serves as a method of practising your writing style but is also helpful to let go of thoughts that may be  holding you back. But would you ever be brave enough to publish it for the world to read? That’s just what these six amazing authors have done. 

Tales of people‘s lives, careers and families can be joyful, gut wrenching, horrifying and heartwarming. These Australian non-fiction titles encompass all of those. There’s something enticing about being invited to understand someone else’s life through their eyes, and once you have, you never quite think of them the same again. 


Untwisted: the Story of My Life by Paul Jennings

Sometimes, rather than making you laugh or cry out in surprise, a story will instead leave you wondering about human fragility. In the telling of his own tale, children’s author and screenwriter Paul Jennings demonstrates how seemingly small events can combine into a compelling drama. As if assembling the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, he puts together fragments, memories and anecdotes to reveal the portrait of a complex and weathered soul. Untwisted is revealing, moving and very funny.

Truths from an Unreliable Witness: Finding laughter in the darkest of dark places by Fiona O’Loughlin

Fiona O’Loughlin was raised in the generation of children who were to be seen, but not heard, unless there were guests in the house. Then she’d watch everyone, telling stories, making each other laugh. This was where she discovered the rhythm of stories and the lubrication that alcohol lent the telling. Years later, as a mum of five, Fiona would become one of Australia’s most-loved comedians, performing gigs in New York, Montreal, Singapore, London, Toronto and Edinburgh. Fiona looked like she was living her dream but she was hiding a secret in open sight, using alcoholism as material for her comedy and using comedy as an excuse for her alcoholism.

Truths from an Unreliable Witness is a fiercely honest and wryly funny memoir of melancholy, love, marriage, the loss of love and marriage, homelessness, of hotel rooms strewn with empty mini-bar bottles of vodka, of waking from a two-week coma, of putrid drug dens and using a jungle to confront yourself. It is about hitting rock bottom and then realising you are only halfway down. Ultimately, it’s about hanging on to your last straw of sanity and finding laughter in the darkest of times. You may want to sit down for this.

The Prettiest Horse in the Glue Factory: A Memoir by Corey White

Corey White was a golden child. He knew this because his father would hit his mother and his sisters but not him. And his mother adored him so much she let him drop out of primary school. After losing his father to jail and his mother to heroin, though, he became a target for cruelty and dysfunction in foster homes. A scholarship to a prestigious boarding school lifted him out of foster care and awakened a love of learning and reading for him, but this was soon overwhelmed by a crushing depression and drug addiction. Through it all, he kept thinking, sometimes hoping, sometimes fearing, that he was destined for something bigger. Would he find salvation in the halls of a university, or a poetically grimy crack den, or through love? Or would the golden glow that had been in him since childhood ultimately fade, leaving only darkness and ruin? The Prettiest Horse in the Glue Factory is a memoir of trauma and survival that will break your heart and then show you how to rebuild it. It is a powerful, lyrical and darkly funny debut from one of Australia’s brightest young comedians.

The Tap-Dancing Knife Thrower: my life – without the boring bits by Paul Hogan

Paul Hogan first appeared on our screens in 1971 as a ‘tap dancing knife thrower’ on channel 9’s New Faces. The then father of four and Sydney Harbour Bridge rigger from Granville did it as a dare, but when the network’s switchboard lit up, he was invited back. So popular was he with viewers, Hogan became a regular on Mike Willesee’s A Current Affair. The rest, as they say, is history. In collaboration with his business partner and best friend John Cornell (who played his sidekick, Strop), he went on to become one of Australia’s favourite TV comedians. His hugely popular comedy shows and appearances in unforgettable and ground-breaking ads for cigarettes, beer and tourism, came to personify Australia and Australians here and overseas, helping to change the perception of who we are as people and as a nation. Then, in 1986, Crocodile Dundee, the movie he conceived, co-wrote and starred in, became an international smash, grossing more than a billion dollars in today’s money and earning its star an Oscar nomination. Despite the fact Hoges claimed to be ‘retired’, many more movies followed. But even as his star rose ever higher, he always expected someone to grab him by the arm and say, ‘What are you doing here? You’re just a bloody rigger!’ The Tap Dancing Knife Thrower is a funny and candid account of the astonishing life of ‘one lucky bastard’, as Hoges describes himself. Full of countless stories never previously shared and told in the comedian’s inimitable, funny and self-deprecating style, The Tap Dancing Knife Thrower is Paul Hogan’s story told his way – ‘without the boring bits’.

My Tidda, My Sister: Stories of Strength and Resilience from Australia’s First Women by Marlee Silva & Rachael Sarra

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture and society has existed on this continent for millennia. It is a culture that manifests as the ultimate example of resilience, strength and beauty. It is also a culture that has consistently been led by its women. My Tidda, My Sister shares the experiences of many Indigenous women and girls, brought together by author and host of the Tiddas 4 Tiddas podcast Marlee Silva. The voices of First Nation women that Marlee weaves through the book provide a rebuttal to the idea that ‘you cannot be what you cannot see’. For non-Indigenous women, it demonstrates the diversity of what success can look like and offers insight into the lives of their Indigenous sisters and peers. Featuring colourful artwork by Goreng Goreng artist Rachael Sarra, this book is a celebration of the Indigenous female experience through truth-telling. Some stories are heart-warming, others shine a light on the terrible realities for many Australian Indigenous women, both in the past and today. But what they all share is the ability to inspire and empower, creating a sisterhood that all Australian women can be part of.

Waleed Aly (I Know This to be True) On Sincerity, Compassion & Integrity by Geoff Blackwell & Waleed Aly


Created in collaboration with the Nelson Mandela Foundation, I Know This to Be True is an uplifting new series inspired by his legacy. Extraordinary figures from diverse backgrounds answer the same questions, sharing their compelling stories, guiding ideals, and insightful wisdom. The result is a collection brimming with messages of leadership, courage, compassion, and hope. These books offer encouragement and guidance to future leaders, and anyone hoping to make a positive impact on the world. 

Waleed Aly is an Australian broadcaster, journalist, academic and musician. As co-host of The Project, a daily primetime television news and current affairs programme, he is one Australia’s leading commentators on national and international issues. Reflecting on his childhood, career and values, he discusses the importance of taking risks, standing by your beliefs and above all, being honest. Self-deprecating and empathetic, his words offer hope and guidance to anyone struggling to find their way and all who champion equality.

Enjoy!

Celebrating the Australian Book Industry – the best fiction titles of 2020

The Australian Book Industry Awards Longlist has just been announced and it is a fabulous round up of what this country has to offer the literary world. It is with this in mind that we thought we would spend March celebrating and showcasing the Australian book industry. This week we are focusing on our favourite new fiction titles and in coming weeks we’ll explore non-fiction, beloved children’s books and inspiring Australian business stories. 

Make yourself a cup of tea and settle in, you’ll be making a list of your next-read books for Autumn. 

Hollowpox: The Hunt for Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend

Something wicked is taking hold of Nevermoor. In Morrigan Crow’s third Wundrous adventure (the first two books are Nevermoor and Wundersmith), she faces her most dangerous challenge yet. Morrigan Crow and her friends have survived their first year as proud scholars of the elite Wundrous Society, helped bring down the nefarious Ghastly Market, and proven themselves loyal to Unit 919. Now Morrigan faces a new, exciting challenge: to master the mysterious Wretched Arts of the Accomplished Wundersmith, and control the power that threatens to consume her. Meanwhile, a strange and frightening illness has taken hold of Nevermoor, turning infected Wunimals into mindless, vicious Unnimals on the hunt. As victims of the Hollowpox multiply, panic spreads. There are whispers, growing louder every day, that this catastrophe can only be the work of the Wundersmith, Ezra Squall. But inside the walls of Wunsoc, everyone knows there is a new Wundersmith – one who’s much closer to home. With Nevermoor in a state of fear and the truth about Morrigan threatening to get out, the city she loves becomes the most perilous place in the world. Morrigan must try to find a cure for the Hollowpox, but it will put her – and everyone in Nevermoor – in more danger than she could have imagined.

The Grandest Bookshop in the World by Amelia Mellor

Pearl and Vally Cole live in a bookshop. And not just any bookshop. In 1893, Cole’s Book Arcade in Melbourne is the grandest bookshop in the world, brimming with every curiosity imaginable. Each day brings fresh delights for the siblings: voice-changing sweets, talking parrots, a new story written just for them by their eccentric father. When Pearl and Vally learn that Pa has risked the Arcade – and himself – in a shocking deal with the mysterious Obscurosmith, the siblings hatch a plan. Soon they are swept into a dangerous game with impossibly high stakes: defeat seven challenges by the stroke of midnight and both the Arcade and their father will be restored. But if they fail Pearl and Vally won’t just lose Pa – they’ll forget that he and the Arcade ever existed.

The Survivors by Jane Harper

This is the compelling new novel from Jane Harper, the New York Times bestselling author of The Dry. Kieran Elliott’s life changed forever on the day a reckless mistake led to devastating consequences. The guilt that still haunts him resurfaces during a visit with his young family to the small coastal community he once called home. Kieran’s parents are struggling in a town where fortunes are forged by the sea. Between them all is his absent brother, Finn. When a body is discovered on the beach, long-held secrets threaten to emerge. A sunken wreck, a missing girl, and questions that have never washed away.

The Morbids by Ewa Ramsey

Caitlin is convinced she’s going to die. Two years ago she was a normal twenty-something with a blossoming career and a plan to go travelling with her best friend, until a fatal car accident left her with a deep, unshakeable understanding that she’s only alive by mistake. She deals with these thoughts by throwing herself into work, self-medicating with alcohol, and attending a support group for people with death-related anxiety, informally known as The Morbids. But when her best friend announces she’s getting married in Bali, and she meets a handsome doctor named Tom, Caitlin must overcome her fear of death and learn to start living again.

Honeybee by Craig Silvey

‘Find out who you are, and live that life.’ Late in the night, fourteen-year-old Sam Watson steps onto a quiet overpass, climbs over the rail and looks down at the road far below. At the other end of the same bridge, an old man, Vic, smokes his last cigarette. The two see each other across the void. A fateful connection is made, and an unlikely friendship blooms. Slowly, we learn what led Sam and Vic to the bridge that night. Bonded by their suffering, each privately commits to the impossible task of saving the other. Honeybee is a heartbreaking, life-affirming novel that throws us headlong into a world of petty thefts, extortion plots, botched bank robberies, daring dog rescues and one spectacular drag show. At the heart of Honeybee is Sam: a solitary, resilient young person battling to navigate the world as their true self; ensnared by loyalty to a troubled mother, scarred by the volatility of a domineering stepfather, and confounded by the kindness of new alliances. Honeybee is a tender, profoundly moving novel, brimming with vivid characters and luminous words. It’s about two lives forever changed by a chance encounter — one offering hope, the other redemption. It’s about when to persevere, and when to be merciful, as Sam learns when to let go, and when to hold on.

All Our Shimmering Skies by Trent Dalton

The bestselling author of Boy Swallows Universe, Trent Dalton, returns with All Our Shimmering Skies which is a glorious novel destined to become another Australian classic. Darwin, 1942, and as Japanese bombs rain overhead, motherless Molly Hook, the gravedigger’s daughter, turns once again to the sky for guidance. She carries a stone heart inside a duffel bag next to the map that leads to Longcoat Bob, the deep country sorcerer who put a curse on her family. By her side are the most unlikely travelling companions: a razor-tongued actress named Greta and a fallen Japanese fighter pilot named Yukio. ‘Run, Molly, run,’ says the daytime sky. Run to the vine forests. Run to northern Australia’s wild and magical monsoon lands. Run to friendship. Run to love. Run. Because the graverobber’s coming, Molly, and the night-time sky is coming with him. So run, Molly, run. All Our Shimmering Skies is a story about gifts that fall from the sky, curses we dig from the earth and the secrets we bury inside ourselves. It is an odyssey of true love and grave danger; of the darkness and the light; of bones and blue skies. A buoyant, beautiful and magical novel abrim with warmth, wit and wonder, a love letter to Australia and the art of looking up.

Enjoy!

Celebrating the Australian Book Industry with Booko: A Repurposed Life

A Repurposed Life is an inspiring story of a woman with a big heart who dared to make a difference. It’s the story of Ronni Kahn and OzHarvest.