Tag Archives: #Fiction

 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.




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.

Top books released this month: June 2016

We’ve hunted high and low to find you a collection of the coolest, most ‘anticipated’ and highly regarded new releases for June.  This month our collection features vastly different tales but all of the stories are intricately set and beautifully told.  Here are our recommendations for new releases for June 2016:

https-::covers.booko.info:300:girlsThe Girls by Emma Cline

Cline’s novel is set in California and is loosely based on the Manson “family” and their crimes.  The protagonist in ‘The Girls’, Evie, just wants to be noticed: by her family, her friends.  anybody.  Then along comes Suzanne who is older and welcomes Evie into the fold.  The reviews of this book have been overwhelmingly positive.  Despite the topic being a challenging one to read, it’s beautifully written.  The overarching themes of wanting to belong to a group are universal.  The film rights were snapped up before ‘The Girls’ was released.  A hit.


 by Annie Proulx

Annie Proulx is universally acknowledged as ‘One of the greatest American writers’.  The 80 year old Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Shipping News and Brokeback Mountain, spent ten years writing ‘Barkskins’, an epic, dazzling, violent, magnificently dramatic novel about taming the wilderness and destroying the forest, set over three centuries and covering 700 pages. Barkskins is a masterpiece of intricately cut characters and dazzling settings.  We are with these characters over their life’s journey.  An amazing read.


https-::covers.booko.info:300:homegoingHomegoing by Yaa Gyasi

Gyasi’s debut novel traces the journeys of two branches of the same family tree. Two half sisters, Effia and Esi, unknown to each other, are born into two different tribal villages in 18th century Ghana. Effia will be married off to an English colonial, and will live in comfort from the proceeds of slavery.  Her sister, Esi, will be imprisoned in the Castle’s women’s dungeon, herself a slave.  Touted as one of the most highly anticipated debuts this year, Homegoing has been garnering rave reviews due to Gyasi’s ability to weave two very different stories together.  Sentimental as it is intellectual, this is another novel not to be missed.


https-::covers.booko.info:300:vinegarVinegar Girl by Anne Tyler

Pulitzer Prize winner Anne Tyler’s Vinegar Girl is a modern re-telling of Shakespeare’s ‘The Taming of the Shrew.‘  In what appears to be a current trend to re-tell Shakespeare’s works by acclaimed modern authors, this book has been released to mixed reviews.  

While it is easy reading, funny, quirky and well told, it lacks the depth of Tyler’s prior works.  The question could also be asked: why modernise a classic?

https-::covers.booko.info:300:meanThey May Not Mean to But They Do by Cathleen Schine

Joy Bergman is not slipping into old age with the quiet grace her children, Molly and Daniel, would prefer. She won’t take their advice, and she won’t take an antidepressant. Schine’s latest novel combines dark humour with incredibly insightful observations about life, love, death and relationships.  Clever, witty with deeply moving undertones, this is an easy read on the complexities of inter-generational relationships.


https-::covers.booko.info:300:vagabondEach Vagabond by Name by Margo Orlando Little

“It was an ordinary Fall until the gypsies came.”

Fast-paced, mysterious and heartfelt, Each Vagabond by Name takes place in a small, South-Western Pennsylvanian town.   Zachariah Ramsay, owner of the local bar finds himself drawn into the world of a group of travelling people after a hungry man turns up one day at his door.  When the group begin to rob townspeople’s homes, Ramsay is drawn into their world.

Another debut novel, Each Vagabond by Name features beautifully developed characters and a compelling plot.  Hard to put down!


For more 2016 releases, check out our Pinterest board 2016 New Releases.



Great books for Father’s Day

Father’s Day is fast approaching on the 19th June for our dads in the US and UK. It’s pretty much universally accepted that dads can be especially tricky to buy for.   If you haven’t bought a gift for dad yet, there is enough time to order online and have it shipped in time for Father’s Day (just check the shipping times when you click through to purchase).  Here are some gift ideas for all different sorts of dads:

https-::covers.booko.info:300:shoeShoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike by Phil Knight

In this candid memoir, Nike founder Phil Knight shares the story behind the evolution of one of the world’s most popular brands.  Graduating Business school, Knight had a vision of importing high-quality, low-cost running shoes from Japan.  Borrowing $50 from his father, he sold running shoes from his car boot in his first year of operation, way back in 1963.  With annual sales of $30 billion, Nike is now one of the most iconic brands developed.  A great read from an aspiring business leader.


https-::covers.booko.info:300:coolOne Man’s Everest: The Autobiography of Kenton Cool by Kenton Cool

Kenton Cool is the finest alpine climber of this generation. His accomplishments are staggering. He has summited Everest eleven times. He is the first person in history to climb the three Everest peaks, the so-called Triple Crown in one climb: a feat previously thought impossible. He was nominated for the prestigious piolet d’Or in 2004 for climbing a previously unclimbed route on Annapurna III. In 2012 he fulfilled the Olympic Games pledge of placing a 1924 gold medal on the Everest summit.  After an accident in 1996, he is still in pain yet he still climbs.  An unquestionably inspiring read.


https-::covers.booko.info:300:wilburGolden Lion by Wilbur Smith and Giles Kristian

Set off the East African Coast in 1670, this is a sweeping adventure full of action and mystery.  It takes Smith fans back to the start of the Courteney family saga. When the Bough of the boat is boarded, the crew of The Golden Bough must go hand to hand to defend their ship and their lives.




https-::covers.booko.info:300:madeMade by Dad: 67 Blueprints for Making Cool Stuff by Scott Bedford

This is a really cute idea: blueprint instructions for inventions and gadgets that will make even the least DIY-prone dad a hero in the eyes of his children.  Provides instructions for projects, including an earthquake coat hook, blazing volcano, and a bunk bed communicator.




https-::covers.booko.info:300:wilmslowFall of Man in Wilmslow by David Lagercrantz

June 8, 1954. Alan Turing, the visionary mathematician, is found dead at his home in sleepy Wilmslow, dispatched by a poisoned apple. Taking the case, Detective Constable Leonard Corell quickly learns Turing is a convicted homosexual. Confident it’s a suicide, he is nonetheless confounded by official secrecy over Turing’s war record. What is more, Turing’s sexuality appears to be causing alarm among the intelligence services – could he have been blackmailed by Soviet spies? Stumbling across evidence of Turing’s genius, and sensing an escape from a narrow life, Corell soon becomes captivated by Turing’s brilliant and revolutionary work, and begins to dig deeper. But in the paranoid, febrile atmosphere of the Cold War, loose cannons cannot be tolerated. As his innocent curiosity fast takes him far out of his depth, Corell realises he has much to learn about the dangers of forbidden knowledge.

https-::covers.booko.info:300:foodSomething to Food About: Inside the Minds of America’s Best Chefs by Questlove

Quest love is an American musician, DJ, music journalist, record producer, and actor.  If this wasn’t enough, he has written ‘Something to Food About’ – a book that explores the work of notable chefs such as Ludo Lefebvre (Trois Mec/The Taste), Dominique Crenn (Atelier Crenn), and Nathan Myhrvold (Modernist Cuisine).  The chefs share their different creative processes, how their philosophies have evolved, and how they work within the space of their restaurant–both physically and conceptually – to create experiences.

Famous authors who don’t reveal their true names

The use of pen names or pseudonyms is a time-honoured tradition in writing; many famous authors, including J.K. Rowling, Dr Seuss and Stephen King from last week’s blog post, have used one. Sometimes pseudonyms are used to obscure gender (such as for J.K. Rowling); sometimes it allows established writers to experiment with different genres; sometimes they are used simply to maintain privacy.  Here are some celebrated literary pseudonyms, past and present:

The Neapolitan Novels by Elena Ferrante
Book one: My Brilliant Friend

The true identity of Elena Ferrante, author of the Neapolitan Novels (My Brilliant Friend, The Story of a New Name, Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay, and The Story of the Lost Child), is the biggest literary mystery around. We know that she really is female and Italian, but Elena Ferrante is a pseudonym and she has never made a public appearance. The mystery adds enigmatic glamour to this saga about the intense friendship and rivalry between Elena and Lila, which spans 60 years through much personal and social turmoil.  The Neapolitan Novels have been widely praised for their complex and visceral depiction of female friendship and experiences.

A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket (aka Daniel Handler)
Book 1: The Bad Beginning

Lemony Snicket is not just a pseudonym, but a character in the darkly funny A Series of Unfortunate Events.  Author Daniel Handler writes as Lemony Snicket, a hapless writer who documents the misfortunes of the Baudelaire orphans – Violet, Klaus and Sunny – after their parents die in a house fire.  Throughout the 13-part series, the children try to foil their evil guardian Count Olaf – who wants to steal their inheritance – while unravelling the mystery surrounding their parents’ death.  The absurdist gothic grimness of these stories makes them popular with kids and adults alike, and reflect Daniel Handler’s love of Roald Dahl and Edward Gorey.

The Bride Stripped Bare by Anonymous (aka Nikki Gemmell)

Years before 50 Shades of Grey, there was The Bride Stripped Bare.  The Bride Stripped Bare was published anonymously, and purported to be a diary documenting the secret sex-life of a seemingly-contented young wife.   Praised for its subversive role-reversals and uncompromising portrayal of female sexuality, it became a publishing sensation, bringing respectability and literary kudos to erotic fiction.  The anonymous author was quickly outed as established-author Nikki Gemmell, who said anonymity during the writing process was liberating, enabling her to tell a much franker, more honest story.

Unfinished Portrait by Mary Westmacott (aka Agatha Christie)

Agatha Christie, Queen of Crime, also used a pseudonym to escape her established reputation.  Over a period of 30 years, she wrote six “psychological romances” under the name of Mary Westmacott.  These bitter-sweet stories explored love and relationships in all of their destructive, obsessive glory.  Unfinished Portrait is the story of Celia, a young writer in the midst of divorce and contemplating suicide.  She meets Larraby, a successful painter, who manages to dissuade her, and discovers her life story in the process.  Unfinished Portrait is semi-autobiographical and offers fascinating glimpses into the otherwise very private life of Agatha Christie.

They’re a Weird Mob by Nino Culotta (aka John O’Grady)

A somewhat-forgotten classic now reissued with a great cover.  Written and set in the ‘50s, They’re a Weird Mob documents the (mis)adventures of Nino Culotta, an Italian journalist recently arrived in Australia.  Nino is on assignment, to learn and describe the Australian lifestyle to readers back home.  Knowing only proper English (from textbooks), Nino is bewildered by Aussie slang and customs, resulting in many hilarious encounters.  They’re a Weird Mob has been hugely successful, with readers loving the way it pokes affectionate fun at Australian society.  It may not be politically correct by modern standards (Nino Culotta is really John O’Grady, who is Irish) but it perfectly captures the beginnings of multicultural Australia.

Author spotlight: the modern masters – Stephen King, J. K. Rowling, Dr Seuss, Hunter S. Thompson

Each generation has its own crop of captivating storytellers.  Here are some contemporary authors whose works, we believe, will still be enjoyed for generations to come:

Carrie by Stephen King

It’s hard to believe that Carrie, Stephen King’s first published novel, is over 40 years old.  Carrie is a bullied teenager, wanting to fit in, and ultimately using her telekinetic powers to take revenge on her tormentors.  Her ordeal has continued to resonate with readers, including some who have gone onto become horror writers themselves.  Carrie also broke literary new ground, both with its inventive structure – with the story told from multiple first- and third-person viewpoints – and its contemporary, naturalistic setting, unusual for the horror genre at the time.


American Vampire by Stephen King and Scott Snyder

Stephen King may be best-known for horror novels, but he has excelled across a range of genres and storytelling formats.  American Vampire is Stephen King’s first foray into comics; it contains two interconnected stories introducing Skinner Sweet, a violent outlaw turned into the first American Vampire – a new breed immune to sunlight and with unusual strengths and weaknesses.  The first story, set in the 1920s, concerns aspiring actress Pearl, who was (uncharacteristically) saved by Skinner from death when he turned her into a vampire.  The second story, set in the Wild West in the 1880s, traces Skinner’s history.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them by J.K. Rowling

Excitement is already building about the big-screen adaptation of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, which will be released later this year.  With J.K. Rowling writing the screenplay herself, and the casting of Oscar-winner Eddie Redmayne in the lead role, Potterheads should be in for a treat.  Fantastic Beasts is first mentioned in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, as a textbook that Harry and his friends use at Hogwarts. It is supposedly written by Newt Scamander, a famous Magizoologist, and is a guide to the magical creatures found in the Harry Potter universe.  Sales of this book has raised millions for the charity Comic Relief.

The Cuckoo’s Calling by J.K. Rowling (as Robert Galbraith)

The Cuckoo’s Calling is a classic detective story featuring Cormoran Strike, a one-legged former military police turned private eye.  It is tautly-written, with deft social comedy and complex characterisation.  With glowing reviews from both professional reviewers and the reading public, it was described as a “stellar debut” by Robert Galbraith… but the biggest twist in this story is that the ’nobody’ Robert Galbraith is the pseudonym of a very famous ‘somebody’ – J.K. Rowling.  The Cuckoo’s Calling is the novel that dispels any remaining doubt about J.K. Rowling’s abilities as a masterful storyteller.

What Pet Should I Get? by Dr. Seuss

A new Dr Seuss book – rediscovered after his death – sounds almost too good to be true.    What’s more, it’s a classic Dr Seuss story starring the siblings from One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish!  What Pet Should I Get? follows brother-and-sister Jay and Kay as they go to a pet store to choose a pet.  A noon deadline makes their decision very difficult!  Why this almost completed manuscript was never submitted will remain a mystery; but careful detective work by the publishers suggests that this story may be the precursor to One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish.

Come Over to My House by Dr Seuss (as Theo LeSieg), illustrated by Richard Erdoes

This is a lesser-known Dr Seuss book but my personal favourite.  Theo LeSieg is the name used by Dr Seuss for stories he wrote that were illustrated by others. (LeSieg spelt backwards is Geisel, Dr Seuss’ real name).  Come Over to My House  shows its readers children from different countries around the world, in their national costumes and diverse traditional houses.  The colourful pictures and rhyming text make it a fun as well as educational story.  With cheerful and charming vintage illustrations, Come Over to My House is reminiscent of Miroslav Sasek’s wonderful This is… series (such as This is Paris).

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson

Hunter S. Thompson is the father of gonzo journalism – a subjective, personal style of reporting which engages readers through the author’s first-person commentaries as much as through the subject matter; and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
is his masterpiece.  This novel, based on actual roadtrips undertaken with his activist-attorney friend, is
notable for its extensive references to illicit drug use, and its critique of the counterculture movement.  Angry, intoxicated, politicised, anti-authoritarian, Hunter S. Thompson’s distinctive writing makes him a pop-cultural as well as literary sensation.

Kingdom of Fear by Hunter S. Thompson

The second-last book published in his lifetime, Kingdom of Fear is subtitled “Loathsome Secrets of a Star-crossed Child in the Final Days of the American Century”.  Part-memoir, part-satire and part-polemic, Kingdom of Fear shows that age has not diminished his anger nor wit.  In section after section, he argues for a need to distrust authority, especially in these Post-9/11 times, with governments granting ever more power to the police and military.  Still angry and radical, this is his clarion call to maintain the rage.


Spotlight on timeless authors – Orwell, Tolkien and C.S. Lewis

What makes an author’s works timeless? At Team Booko, some of our favourite authors include C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien and George Orwell.  We think they are timeless because their stories remain fresh and captivating decades after publication; because they write speculative works that are not time-specific; and because their writing has influenced countless authors.  Here are our pick of their works:

Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell

Big Brother.  Thought Police.  Newspeak.  Orwellian.  These now-common terms are testament to the strong and enduring impact that George Orwell, and particularly Nineteen Eighty-four, have on our views about politics and society.  This chilling story about Winston Smith, an ‘editor’ whose job is to rewrite history to conform to the government’s version of events, is an early masterpiece of dystopian fiction, a genre that remains popular through works such as The Hunger Games.  With major political events fast approaching in the US, Australia as well as the UK, the time is right to re-read this modern classic.



Why I Write by George Orwell

Besides politically-charged fiction, George Orwell is acclaimed for his essays, where he is analytical, autobiographical and persuasive all at once.  In Why I Write, Orwell argues that four main motives underlie writing – egotism, aesthetic enthusiasm, historical impulse and political purpose.  This discussion is insightful for all aspiring writers, as well as anyone who has a creative urge.  This slim volume also contains other celebrated essays including “Politics and the English Language” and “The Lion and the Unicorn”.  Reissued as part of the Penguin Great Ideas series.



Tolkien Box Set: The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

It took over 60 years for technology to catch up to Tolkien’s imagination – to be able to depict Middle Earth visually, and do it well.  Inspired by fairy tales, mediaeval languages, ancient mythologies and religion, Tolkien’s Middle Earth stories are epic in scale and feature quests, action, comedy, friendship.  These stories seem timeless and elemental, and are acclaimed as the originators of modern high fantasy.  This movie tie-in set contains both The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings, telling the complete story of the Hobbits’ adventures with the One Ring.  A beautiful edition for fans new and old.

A Secret Vice: Tolkien on Invented Languages by J.R.R. Tolkien, edited by Dimitra Fimi and Andrew Higgins

From Lord of the Rings to A Game of Thrones – an awe-inspiring feature of Tolkien’s stories is his world-building, where Middle Earth is so richly imagined that it comes with languages and mythology as well as geography and history.  His meticulous approach has influenced countless fantasy writers since.  Explore Tolkien’s creative methods in A Secret Vice, based on a lecture he gave on constructing languages, and the relationship between mythology and language.  The book also contains previously unpublished materials connected to the essay.

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe pocket edition by C.S. Lewis

C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien were friends and colleagues who shared an interest in mythology and fantasy writing. Lucky for us, their creatively fruitful friendship has led to both Tolkien’s Middle Earth stories and C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia.
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is jam-packed with elements that captivate children – an epic quest, resourceful child heroes, fantastic creatures, adventure, and good versus evil.  This edition offers a beautiful pocket-sized hardback of the most popular and best-known of the Narnia books.

The Illustrated Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis

Before the success of Narnia, C.S. Lewis was better known for his Christian writings (and in fact, The Chronicles of Narnia contains Christian themes).  One of his most accessible and entertaining religious works is The Screwtape Letters, which offers a sly and satirical look at human nature.  These letters, supposedly from a senior demon (Screwtape) to a junior and inexperienced one (Wormwood), offer advice on how to lead humans into temptation.  This illustrated edition also includes a sequel, Screwtape Proposes a Toast, which critiques trends in British education.

The joy of re-reading the classics

Oh the joy of re-reading the classics!  When you don’t have to be critically evaluated on your thoughts (whether it be an assignment, exam or an essay), you can appreciate the richness of the prose in new and different ways.  Also, a more mature mind can pick up the minor references in the text that a student stressed out about exams can not.  Finding one book from each of these authors was a trial:  there were the drama plays, the books read in class and the movie adaptations.  Here are our recommendations for re-reading the classics in your own sweet time.

https-::covers.booko.info:300:GreatGreat Expectations by Charles Dickens

Enjoy the classic tale of adolescence, growth, and loyalty, all set in Victorian London. The cautionary tale of a young man raised high above his station by a mysterious benefactor has remarkable characters and a mysteriously compelling story.  The orphaned boy Pip snobbishly abandons his friends for London society and ‘great expectations’, and grows through misfortune and suffering to maturity.  This is one of Dickens’ most popular and best loved novels.



https-::covers.booko.info:300:KingKing Lear by William Shakespeare

Similarly themed, the story of King Lear beautifully illustrates the old saying ‘pride comes before a fall.’  I’ve always found this story the most heart-breaking of all of Shakespeare’s works.  King Lear decides to step down and divide his kingdom between his three daughters. When his youngest and favorite daughter refuses to compete and perform her love for him, he is enraged and disowns her. She remains loyal to him, however, though he slides into madness and his other children betray him.


https-::covers.booko.info:300:EmmaEmma by Jane Austen

Emma Woodhouse, handsome, clever, rich – and fiercely independent – is perfectly content with her life and sees no need for either love or marriage. Nothing, however, delights her more than interfering in the romantic lives of others. But when she ignores the advice of her good friend Mr Knightley and attempts to arrange a suitable match for the pretty, naïve Harriet Smith, her well-laid plans soon unravel and have consequences that she never expected.


https-::covers.booko.info:300:HuckThe Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

Huck is a young, naive white boy fleeing from his drunken, dangerous Pa; and Jim is a runaway slave longing to be reunited with his family. Flung together by circumstance, they journey down the Mississippi together on a log raft, each in search of his own definition of freedom. Their daring adventures along the way provide both entertainment and a satirical look at the moral values of the Deep South of the 1800s.



https-::covers.booko.info:300:Daisy2The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway

Set in the Gulf Stream off the toast of Havana, Hemingway’s magnificent fable is the story of an old man, a young boy and a giant fish. In a perfectly crafted story, which won for Hemingway the Nobel Prize for Literature, is a unique and timeless vision of the beauty and grief of man’s challenge to the elements in which he lives.



https-::covers.booko.info:300:ErnestThe Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde

‘Earnest’ is a witty and buoyant comedy of manners that has delighted millions in countless productions since its first performance in London’s St. James’ Theatre in 1895. Oscar Wilde’s brilliant play makes fun of the English upper classes with light-hearted satire and dazzling humour. It is 1890’s England and two young gentlemen are being somewhat limited with the truth. To inject some excitement into their lives, Mr Worthing invents a brother, Earnest, as an excuse to leave his dull country life behind him to pursue the object of his desire, the ravishing Gwendolyn.

Books about Anzac Day

Gallipoli has inspired many films, documentaries and both fiction and non-fiction works. Reading about ‘The Great War’ can be a great way to increase our understanding and appreciation of the sacrifice that the men and women made.  Here’s our selection of titles to remember and educate:

https-::covers.booko.info:300:AnzacANZAC Day: Now and Then by Tom Frame

Peter Stanley, Jeffrey Grey, Carolyn Holbrook, Ken Inglis, Tom Frame and others explore the rise of Australia’s unofficial national day. Does Anzac Day honour those who died pursuing noble causes in war? Or is it part of a campaign to redeem the savagery associated with armed conflict? Do the rituals of 25 April console loved ones? Or reinforce security objectives and strategic priorities?


https-::covers.booko.info:300:afghanistanANZAC Cove to Afghanistan by Glenn Wahlert

As the first Anzacs to land at Gallipoli on 25 April 1915 and among the last to serve in Afghanistan 100 years later, the men and women of the Australian Army’s 3rd Brigade have a long and proud history. Initially raised in 1903, the 3rd Brigade served as part of the Australian Imperial Force during World War I, suffering appalling losses at Gallipoli.


https-::covers.booko.info:300:grandadMy Grandad Marches on ANZAC day by Catriona Hoy

This picture book for the very young is a simple, moving look at Anzac Day through the eyes of a little girl. She goes to the pre-dawn Anzac Day service with her father where they watch the girl’s Grandfather march in the parade. This beautifully illustrated book explains what happens on Anzac Day and its significance in terms a young child can understand. It is an excellent introduction to this highly venerated ceremony, and poignantly addresses the sentiments aroused by the memory of those who gave their lives for their country.

https-::covers.booko.info:300:RememberA Day to Remember by Jackie French

ANZAC Day is the day when we remember and honour ANZAC traditions down the ages, from the first faltering march of wounded veterans in 1916 to the ever-increasing numbers of their descendants who march today.

https-::covers.booko.info:300:MemoirsMemoirs of an ANZAC by John Charles Barrie

Memoirs of an Anzac tells of the horrors of war, but it is also lightened with the good humour that resulted from thousands of young Australian men being thrown together in dire circumstances. This is not a history textbook, nor is it a series of diary notes and letters — it is a gut-wrenching, heart-warming true story that will move you.

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