Tag Archives: #Fiction

Be savvy – purchase your children’s school books through Booko

The end of one year and the start of another are expensive times: there’s Christmas at one end and back to school at the other, with sometimes just weeks in between.  With the cost of uniforms, school fees and school books to consider, it’s handy to know that with a bit of planning, you can make some great savings on your children’s schoolbooks and not have to leave the comfort of home!

We’ve selected a few titles from the recommended reading lists for a few different VCE subjects to give you a guide of just how varied some of our books are.  Whether they are E-Books, Reference books, Fiction or Non-Fiction, you should be able to pick up the majority of your children’ book list through Booko. Make sure you search using the book’s ISBN (if you know it) to ensure you’re looking at the edition specified on your list.

To get the best price on a title, set up a Booko alert so that you’ll be notified when the book falls under a certain price range.  Setting up Booko alerts is easy – just follow our simple guide and get started.  If you are concerned about the books arriving in time, it makes sense to pay attention to the delivery timeframes provided by each book store on the Booko website.  Happy shopping!

 

Cloud street by Tim Winton

“Cloudstreet” is the undisputed classic from one of Australia’s best loved storytellers and national treasures.

From separate catastrophes, two families flee to the city and find themselves sharing this great sighing structure called Cloudstreet and beginning their lives again from scratch.

The Pickles and the Lambs share their home for 20 years and over time observe, overhear and submerge themselves in each other’s joys, fears and secrets.

‘A generous watery epic…Winton is just one of the best.” -Independent.

The Lieutenant by Kate Grenville 

A stunning follow-up to her Commonwealth Writers’ Prize-winning book, “The Secret River,” Grenville’s “The Lieutenant” is a gripping story about friendship, self-discovery, and the power of language set along the unspoiled shores of 1788 New South Wales.

As a boy, Daniel Rooke was an outsider. Ridiculed in school and misunderstood by his parents, Daniel could only hope that he would one day find his place in life.

‘It glows with life: imaginative in its recreations, respectful of what cannot be imagined, and thoughtful in its interrogation of the past…Grenville’s most intellectually sophisticated novel to date.’ – The Age (Australia)

 

No Sugar by Jack Davis

This play, commissioned for the 1985 Perth Festival, is the spirited story of the Millimurra family’s stand against racist government ‘protection’ policies in 1930’s Australia.

In depression era Australia, up to 30% of the Labour Force were unemployed with Aboriginal workers worst hit.  The Nyungar family were sent to the Moore River Native Settlement from Northam in 1931 as part of a ‘forced evacuation’.

“No Sugar” portrays Davis’ political awareness, citing the reasons for the evacuation and also the characterisation of key political figures such as Mr Neville, Chief Protector of Aboriginies in Western Australia involved in the resettlement.

 

Maths Quest VCE Foundation Maths 

This pack is specifically designed for the VCE Foundation Mathematics course, which is a one year course. Generally undertaken in Year 11 but some schools do complete it in Year 10. The workbooks also cover the required content for VCAL schools. Instead of a textbook, Maths Quest Foundation Mathematics comprises eight individual booklets, covering a range of content areas and aspects of the syllabus: Maths Skills, Finance, Sport, The house and land package, Travelling, Car Safety, Water wise and A Musical Production.

Australian Pocket Oxford Dictionary (H/B) (7th Edition) 

First published in 1976, the “Australian Pocket Oxford Dictionary” has remained Australia’s best-selling dictionary. The seventh edition retains the popular features of previous editions and adds many new Australian and international words and meanings. All Australian words and meanings are labelled with an Aust. regional marker. The seventh edition of the “Australian Pocket Oxford Dictionary” is an indispensable guide to English as it is written and spoken in Australia.

The most popular audiobooks on the market

According to the Wall Street Journal, audiobooks are the fastest growing format in publishing.  We are all now conditioned to seek out entertainment when completing tasks that would normally be seen as downtime: waiting for an appointment or stuck in traffic are now opportunities to engage in the act of being read to, and and to be entertained along the way.  With each of us carrying round a pocket-sized piece of technology on which to store multiple books, this genre has really increased in popularity over the last few years.  Here are some of the most popular audiobooks on the market:

https-::covers.booko.info:300:gutGut: The Inside Story of our Body’s Most Underrated Organ by Giulia Enders

One of the most important organs we have, our stomach, are still largely understood by much of society.  A perfect book for audio purposes, ‘Gut’ is written with the average person in mind, it’s both informative and funny.  Viewed as a ‘health handbook’, Enders covers concepts such as nutrient absorption to recent ground-breaking research linking bowel bacteria to depression.  A scientist, Enders states that if we treat our gut well, it will treat us well in return.  She shows us how to do this in a way that’s easy to incorporate into our everyday lives.

 

 

https-::covers.booko.info:300:buryThe Life We Bury by Allen Eskens

Considered by some to be a literary thriller, this is the story of a student who begins the modest task of completing an English assignment.  His job is to interview a person and complete a brief biography.  Heading to the local nursing home, he meets Carl Iverson, a dying Vietnam veteran and convicted murderer.  Unable to reconcile the acts of heroism with his crimes, he decides to uncover the truth.  Delving into the fragments of the crime, will he discover the truth before it’s too late?   Similar in some parts to ‘Making a Murderer’, this book is rich in its portrayals of the characters and the events leading up to the crime.

https-::covers.booko.info:300:oveA Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

Ove is possibly the grumpiest man you might ever meet. Surrounded by ‘idiots’ as he calls them, he is the neighbour from hell who keeps a tight rein on the street, its inhabitants and their comings and goings.  When new ‘foreign’ neighbours move into the street and accidentally flatten his letterbox, this sets off an chain of events that result in unexpected friendships being made.  Quirky, full of comedy and incredibly heartwarming, ‘Ove’ has been a runaway hit and life-affirming modern fable.

 

https-::covers.booko.info:300:amyThe Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo by Amy Schumer

An uproarious collection of no-holds-barred personal essays by the Emmy Award-winning comedian reflects on her raucous childhood antics, her hard-won rise in the entertainment industry and her struggles to maintain the courage to approach the world in the refreshingly honest way that she does.  The beauty about listening to the book in audiobook format is having Schumer deliver her personal stories in her trademark funny and fantastically rude manner like no one else does.

https-covers-booko-info300teethBorn with Teeth: A Memoir by Kate Mulgrew

Known  for her mesmerising work in film, TV and the theatre, Kate Mulgrew turns her hand to writing in this unflinching memoir.  From her childhood, raised by unconventional Irish Catholics who knew “how to drink, how to dance, how to talk, and how to stir up the devil,” to studying with the legendary Stella Adler and the pain of giving up her daughter, ‘Born with Teeth’ is an exceptionally well-written autobiography from a master storyteller.

 

https-::covers.booko.info:300:stingSting (Unabridged) by Sandra Brown

Sandra Brown is a Number 1 bestselling New York Times and USA Today best-selling author.  Narrated by the Author, Brown jolts the listener from the start in this story of treachery, deception, secrets and lies.

Brown is a master of writing gripping, page-turning suspense novels and ‘Sting’ contains plot twists that will keep listeners on the edge of their seats.  Tantalisingly great listening.

 

For more of our audiobook picks, head to our Pinterest board!

The favourite books of famous authors

Ever wondered what popular authors consider their favourite reads?  Most authors read extensively: for inspiration as well as a simple love of prose.  We’ve collected the favourite books of some of our most popular authors and the results might surprise:

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, a favourite of J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter series.

https-::covers.booko.info:300:littlewomenThe story of the four March girls has thrilled readers for generations.  The struggle for girls and women to be true to themselves while following convention is a universal theme.    Set during the American Civil War, the novel features a loving family on the brink of poverty.

Part of the beauty of re-reading Little Women is its simplicity: there is no violence but there is a focus on simple living and the values of hard work and forgiveness.  This novel is said to have been a comfort to people post 9/11.   The strong character of Jo is said to be Alcott herself, and could also possibly have similar characteristics to Jo Rowling, herself in a dire financial situation when writing Harry Potter.  J.K. Rowling is the British author of the Harry Potter fantasy series of books, that have sold more than 400 million copies.

 


Flowers in the Attic
by Virginia Andrews, a favourite of Gillian Flynn, author of Gone Girl.

Flowers in the Attic is the first book in the Dollanganger Family series that captured the imagination of a generation of teenagers.  4 blonde children are locked in an attic and struggling to stay alive.  After the death of their father, their mother focuses solely on an inheritance to secure their future.   To appease their grandfather, the children must pretend to not exist.  These novels contained a range of disturbing themes that had them banned in some countries.  They were incredibly popular, nonetheless.

Gillian Flynn is an American Author, screenwriter and comic book writer.  Her three published books are thrillers: Sharp Objects, Dark Places and Gone Girl.

 

https-::covers.booko.info:300:sulaSula by Toni Morrison, a favourite of Lena Dunham, author of Not that Kind of Girl.

Sula and Nel are two young black girls: clever and poor. They grow up together, sharing their secrets, dreams and happiness. Then Sula breaks free from their small-town community in the uplands of Ohio to roam the cities of America. When she returns ten years later much has changed, including Nel, who now has a husband and three children. Another stunning novel from Toni Morrison, Sula is about the ‘cost’ of being a black woman in America.

Lena Dunham is an American Actress, Producer, Writer and Director.  Her essay collection ‘Not that Kind of Girl: A Young Woman Tells you What she has Learned’ was published in 2014.

 

https-::covers.booko.info:300:MiddlemarchMiddlemarch by George Eliot, a favourite of Zadie Smith, author of White Teeth

Middlemarch is one of those novels that turns up on the top 10 lists of many authors.  It’s a moving story of men and women longing to do the right thing, but making bad decisions. Among them is Dorothea Brooke, who wants to improve the world but finds her idealism crushed by her unhappy marriage to the aged scholar Casaubon.  Essentially a study of the upper and middle classes of 1830s England, Middlemarch features beautiful and dense prose and a plot that seems to advance on every page.

Zadie Smith is an English novelist, essayist and short story writer.  She is arguably best known for White Teeth, which was completed during her final year at Cambridge University.

 

https-::covers.booko.info:300:continentalContinental Drift by Russell Banks, a favourite of Jonathan Franzen, author of The Corrections

Continental Drift has been lauded as a modern classic by many.  Covering the Recession of the 1980’s, its about the human need to want more, whether that be by leaving small-town comfort and relative obscurity or by escaping from poverty.  Covering these two storylines, Banks’ ability to understand the raw human desire for ambition and recognition, that might potentially lead to tragedy.  Seduced by the American dream, two different characters uproot their lives to transform them forever.

Jonathan Franzen is an American novelist and essayist.  His 2001 novel ‘The Corrections’ was a 2001 Pulitzer Prize finalist.

 

https-::covers.booko.info:300:dallowayMrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf, a favourite of Vendela  Vida, author of The Diver’s Clothes Lie Empty

Mrs Dalloway routinely features in  ‘Top novels of all time’ lists.  It follows a day in the life of Clarissa Dalloway, a fictional lady of high society.  The novel is set in Post WW1 in England and Clarissa is preparing for a party. The novel travels backwards and forwards in time, as well as featuring the thoughts in the characters’  minds.  For these reasons, it was quite innovative at the time, as it disrupted the traditional narrative structure.  Some think this novel dull; others mesmerising.  I hate to think of what a novel would look like that was made up of my innermost thoughts….

Vida, an American author and journalist, has written 5 books.  ‘The Diver’s Clothes Lie Empty is her most recent novel.

Not your Average Father’s Day Book Suggestions

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.

Lessons learned from your favourite childhood books

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:

https-::covers.booko.info:300:MadMadeleine 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

https-::covers.booko.info:300:givingThe 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

https-::covers.booko.info:300:1terabithiaBridge 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

https-::covers.booko.info:300:loraxThe 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).

 

https-::covers.booko.info:300:secretThe 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.

https-::covers.booko.info:300:poohWinnie 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

Books that Teach your Children Values

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:
https-::covers.booko.info:300:bucketHave 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.

https-::covers.booko.info:300:mineThe 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.

 

https-::covers.booko.info:300:onehenOne 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.

 

 

https-::covers.booko.info:300:emptypotThe 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.

 

https-::covers.booko.info:300:samstoriesSam 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.

 

https-::covers.booko.info:300:kindnessEach 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.

Take 5: Favourite Children’s Books

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.

 

 The Best Young Adult (YA) Books

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).

What are the most popular E-Books of all time?

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.


https-::covers.booko.info:300:shades ebookFifty Shades of Grey, Fifty Shades Darker and Fifty Shades Freed by E. L. James

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.

https-::covers.booko.info:300:goneGone 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.

 

https-::covers.booko.info:300:manThe One Hundred Year Old Man who Climbed out of the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson

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.

https-::covers.booko.info:300:piLife 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.

 

https-::covers.booko.info:300:dragonThe 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.

What are the best books of all time?

If you’re going to write a blog about the best books of all time, you’re not going to satisfy everyone, right?  It’s also pretty important to separate out your personal favourites and get some perspective on how to calculate the ‘importance’ or significance of a book to a group of people.  The other considerations are, of course, how the perceived importance of a book might change over time – many books and other creative outputs have become of increased significance after their creator has passed away.  There are other things to bear in mind: Fiction/Non-Fiction?  So finding the best books of all time is a bit of a challenge.

Based on all of this, I decided that I needed a bit of help in order to put this list together.  A quick online search helped me discover a clever site called thegreatestbooks.org.  This site feeds in 107 ‘Best of’ book lists from a range of trusted sources.  Then, an algorithm (smacks of legitimacy!) is used to calculate a list based on how many lists a book might appear on.  In the interests of fairness, I’ve decided to feature the top 3 books from both the Fiction and Non-Fiction categories.

So here it is…the most popular fiction book of all time is….

In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust.  

Was that on your list?  Nope, me neither.  The significance of this book is both its length (it is a novel in seven volumes) and also its theme of involuntary memory.  Involuntary memory is a subcomponent of your memory which means that everyday activities or ‘cues’ can evoke recollections of the past without actively trying to.  The novel has had a significant impact on 20th Century literature with many writers seeking to emulate it.  Edmund White said “[Proust] has supplied for the first time in literature an equivalent in the full scale for the new theory of modern physics.”

The second most popular fiction book is:

https-::covers.booko.info:300:UlyssesUlysses by James Joyce

Now, I’m not going to claim to have read this book but I did start it like so many other people.  I did lug it around my Uni campus trying to look intelligent from time to time.  Finish it?  No, no I did not.  Ulysses was written between 1914 to 1921 and has survived  legal action and bitter controversy. An undisputed modernist classic, its verbal inventiveness and wide-ranging allusions confirm its standing as a monument to the human condition. Ulysses is the Latinised name of Odysseus, the hero of Homer’s poem ‘Odyssey’.  The novel establishes a series of parallels between the poem and the novel.  Its stream of consciousness technique, careful structuring and experimental prose make this book a testament to the Modernist movement.

https-::covers.booko.info:300:donDon Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes

Don Quixote is a Spanish novel by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra. It is considered to be one of the most influential novels of the Spanish Golden Age.  It features Mr Alonso Quixano, a member of the Spanish nobility.  Alonso reads so many romance novels that he loses his sanity and sets out to revive chivalry and right wrongs, bringing justice to the world.  Using the name Don Quixote de la Mancha, he recruits a farmer as his squire.  The beauty of this novel is its use of humour and literary techniques of realism, metatheatre and intertextuality.  Again, this work is hugely influential and is referenced in the works of ‘The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn’ by Mark Twain and Alexandre Dumas’ ‘The Three Musketeers’, amongst others.

The most popular Non-Fiction book is:

Essays by Michel de Montaigne

In 1572 Montaigne retired to his estates in order to devote himself to leisure, reading and reflection. There he wrote his constantly expanding ‘essays’, inspired by the ideas he found in books from his library and his own experience. He discusses subjects as diverse as war-horses and cannibals, poetry and politics, sex and religion, love and friendship, ecstasy and experience. Above all, Montaigne studied himself to find his own inner nature and that of humanity.

 

https-::covers.booko.info:300:confessionsConfessions by St. Augustine

The son of a pagan father and a Christian mother, Saint Augustine spent his early years torn between conflicting faiths and world views. His Confessions , written when he was in his forties, recount how, slowly and painfully, he came to turn away from his youthful ideas and licentious lifestyle, to become instead a stanch advocate of Christianity and one of its most influential thinkers.

 

 

https-::covers.booko.info:300:dreams

The Interpretation of Dreams by Sigmund Freud

References to ‘The Interpretation of Dreams’ abound in modern life.  Written in 1899 by psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud, the book was first published in an edition of 600 copies which did not sell out for 8 years.  Later gaining in popularity, seven more editions were published in Freud’s lifetime.  The premise of the book is Freud’s theory of the unconscious with respect to dream interpretation.  In it, he discusses what would later become the Oedipus complex.  Freud said of this work, “Insight such as this falls to one’s lot but once in a lifetime.”

 

To see what other books made the list, visit thegreatestbooks.org.