Tag Archives: #Learning

Top 5 Books on Self Help

Self-help books are a perfect example of why reading is an investment in yourself.  There’s an inspirational author ready to guide you, whether you want to improve your health, your happiness, your finances or your professional success.  The best ones offer a perfect balance between entertaining stories, intellectual challenge and emotional uplift.  Here are 5 that are guaranteed conversation starters in 2018:


The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning by Margareta Magnusson

The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning seems destined for pop-cultural attention – it’s a Scandinavian concept about living well (hygge 2.0?); it’s about decluttering (and shares similar philosophies with Marie “Spark Joy” Kondo); and it grabs our attention with its matter-of-factness about mortality. But more than that, it’s a really good idea! Margareta Magnusson introduces her readers to döstädning – sorting out your stuff before you die, rather than leaving the whole mess to your loved ones. Keep the items you care about, and give away or sell the others.  Such decluttering can reduce stress, and is a good opportunity for reminiscing and curating your legacy.  Margareta Magnusson’s gentle wit and wisdom makes this a surprisingly funny and thoroughly interesting book.

How to be Human: the Manual by Ruby Wax

A comedian, a neuroscientist and a monk meet up and talk…. this may sound like a joke, but instead is the basis of this manual on how our bodies, minds and brains interact to make us “human”.  Ruby Wax is a comedian whose struggle with depression motivated her to gain a Master’s Degree in mindfulness-based cognitive therapy.  In How to be Human, she has teamed up with a monk (an expert in our inner lives) and a neuroscientist (an expert on the brain) to explore the tough questions around how to find happiness in the modern world – evolution, thoughts, emotions, relationships, addictions, the future.  Ruby’s wit and anecdotes bring it all together into a funny, readable, insightful and uplifting read – you can also look forward to the stage show version in the works!

Make Your Bed: Small Things that can Change your Life … and maybe the World by William H. McRaven

Make Your Bed started off as a speech given by Admiral William McRaven at his alma mater, the University of Texas at Austin, where he reflected on some life lessons he learnt through basic Navy SEAL training. (Making your bed every morning was his first lesson.  Even such a small task can motivate you to complete more tasks, and, at the end of a rough day, a made bed will offer you some solace.) The speech went viral, with many people inspired by his down-to-earth, tough-but-kind approach, particularly within the context of his highly distinguished, 37-year naval career.  Make your Bed expands on the ideas in that speech to present ten life lessons in greater detail – these lessons will serve you well, whether you want to become a better person, succeed in business, or indeed change the world.

Barking Up The Wrong Tree: the Surprising Science Behind why Everything you Know about Success is (Mostly) Wrong by Eric Baker

Barking up the Wrong Tree is a distillation of the enormously entertaining and thought-provoking blog of the same name, by Eric Barker. Here Eric applies the Mythbusters treatment to some age-old advice about success, such as “nice guys finish last” and “winners never quit, and quitters never win”. He argues that these maxims were not based on research, and presents scientific data that disprove or qualify them. With quirky examples ranging from pirates to Albert Einstein to serial killers, Barking up the Wrong Tree encourages us to challenge conventional wisdom, and forge our own paths to awesome lives.

The Happiness Plan by Elise Bialylew

The Happiness Plan is a one-month mindfulness meditation program that aims to help us experience greater happiness, focus and emotional balance.  Its collection of exercises shows us how to incorporate mindfulness practice into our daily routine – even ten minutes’ worth each day can create positive changes in our physical and mental wellbeing.  Elise Bialylew is a meditation teacher and life coach with a background in medicine and psychiatry, and her understanding of the science behind mindfulness informs her approach. The Happiness Plan also aims to support readers beyond the book itself, by offering access to guided meditations available through Elise’s website.

Our favourite titles about starting school (for kids of all ages!)

Starting school is a big milestone, not just for children but their parents (well done to everyone for getting this far!) It promises many new and exciting things, but the uncertainty can be scary too.  Here’s where story books come to the rescue, and there’s a range of funny and adorable stories to help young children familiarise with what “Big School” will be like.  We haven’t forgotten older children either, with some very helpful guides to both students and parents on surviving High School.


My First Day at School by Meredith Costain

It’s the first day of school for Mrs Mellor’s Prep class.  We meet Zach, Amira, Ari and Zoe, who take turns telling us what happens.  There’s learning to be done, snacks to eat, playtime and lots of rules! Some of the children have nervous moments – what if I don’t make a friend? What if I can’t hang on before I reach the toilet? – that resolve themselves happily.  All too soon it’s time to go home! The different personalities and first-person narration will draw child readers into this happy, upbeat story.


Mum at School by Eric Veille and Pauline Martin

Mum at School turns a traditional “starting school” story upside-down and makes it hilarious.  The first day of school can be tough. It’s nice if your mum can stay – and, before you know it, she’s cutting and pasting and joining in.  Except that school is not that easy for Mum – she forgets to raise her hand and she doesn’t fit at the table. Perhaps… it’s more fun at school when mum’s not around?  Mum at School aims to zap any lingering doubts in the most reluctant of new students.  Eric Veille’s deadpan drawings add an extra layer of comedy to this story of unexpected chaos!


I am Too Absolutely Small for School by Lauren Child

A classic starting school story about the beloved Charlie and Lola.  Charlie has a little sister Lola, who is small and very funny.  Mum and Dad think Lola is big enough to go to school, but Lola is not so sure.  Lola doesn’t think she needs it – she can already count to ten, and she doesn’t need to read words because she already has all her books in her head!  So it’s up to Charlie (and Soren Lorensen, Lola’s invisible friend) to help Lola realise that school is fun, and help you learn lots of useful things, such as how to write letters to Santa.


The Things I Love about School by Trace Moroney

Trace Moroney’s books are great resources for helping young children learn about themselves and their feelings. Her The Things I Love series celebrates the different everyday experiences that form the basis of our children’s world.  The Things I Love about School tells children about the fun and enjoyable activities that they can look forward to, or know about already, like making friends and learning new things.  This is a very gentle, reassuring story with cute illustrations, aimed at helping children to develop healthy self-esteem and resilience.


The High School Survival Guide: Your Roadmap to Studying, Socialising and Succeeding by Jessica Holsman

Jessica Holsman is the star of popular YouTube Channel Study with Jess. Her videos of study tips, organisation skills and life hacks attract millions of views from around the world.  Teens know they need to study, but they haven’t always been taught how – and Jess is here to fill that gap.  Drawing from her own experiences, Jess has created detailed tips on how to beat stress and enjoy school by staying organised, studying smarter, and balancing study with socialising.  Jess has a direct, personal style that helps her connect with her teen audience, making The High School Survival Guide a useful handbook throughout the teen years.



Surviving Year 12: a Sanity Kit for Students and Their Parents by Dr Michael Carr-Gregg

Year 12 has become a high stakes, high-stress year, but it doesn’t have to be that way – the last year of school is also a time to make good memories, and to enjoy the independence and respect given to these senior students. Now psychologist and bestselling author Michael Carr-Gregg has created a valuable guide on how to stay well and motivated during this critical year.  There’s useful tips on maintaining physical and mental well-being, how to set goals and prepare for exams, how to deal with procrastination, and how to make time for extracurricular activities.  A special section aimed at parents will help them manage their own expectations, and learn the best ways to support their children’s goals.

The best books for those wanting to start their own business

Now that the New Year festivities are behind us, it’s the time of year when people are heading back to work with either a spring in their step or with growing anticipation to take the plunge and start their own thing.

It can be daunting to make the decision to work for yourself so we have scoured the world of books and have come up with a list of great titles (some are old time favourites and others new) that can help you follow your dreams.

Tribe of Mentors: Short Life Advice from the Best in the World by Tim Ferriss

When facing life’s questions, who do you turn to for advice? We all need mentors, particularly when the odds seem stacked against us. To find his own, bestselling author and podcast guru Tim Ferriss tracked down more than 100 eclectic experts to help him, and you, navigate life. Through short, action-packed profiles, he shares their secrets for success, happiness, meaning, and more. No matter the challenge or opportunity, something in these pages can help.

You will learn; the three books legendary investor Ray Dalio recommends most often, lessons and tips from elite athletes like Maria Sharapova, Kelly Slater, Tony Hawk and Dan Gable, how and why Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz says ‘no’ to most incoming requests, the meditation and mindfulness practices of David Lynch, Jimmy Fallon, Sharon Salzberg, Rick Rubin, Sarah Elizabeth Lewis and others, why TED curator Chris Anderson thinks ‘pursue your passion’ is terrible advice and why actor Ben Stiller likes to dunk his head in a bucket of ice in the morning.


Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell.

Why do some people achieve so much more than others? Can they lie so far out of the ordinary? In this provocative and inspiring book, Malcolm Gladwell looks at everyone from rock stars to professional athletes, software billionaires to scientific geniuses, to show that the story of success is far more surprising, and far more fascinating, than we could ever have imagined. He reveals that it’s as much about where we’re from and what we do, as who we are – and that no one, not even a genius, ever makes it alone. Outliers will change the way you think about your own life story, and about what makes us all unique.




The Lean Startup by Eric Ries.

This book comes with a lot of recommendations…and we mean a lot! ’If you are an entrepreneur, read this book. If you are thinking about becoming an entrepreneur, read this book. If you are just curious about entrepreneurship, read this book.’ Randy Komisar, founding director of TiVo. Most new businesses fail. But many of those failures are preventable. The Lean Startup is a new approach to business that’s being adopted around the world. It is changing the way companies are built and new products are launched. The Lean Startup is about learning what your customers really want. It’s about testing your vision continuously, adapting and adjusting before it’s too late. Now is the time to think Lean.



Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future by Peter Thiel and Blake Masters.

What valuable company is no one building? The next Bill Gates will not build an operating system. The next Larry Page or Sergey Brin won’t make a search engine. If you are copying these guys, you aren’t learning from them. It’s easier to copy a model than to make something new: doing what we already know how to do takes the world from 1 to n, adding more of something familiar. Every new creation goes from 0 to 1. This book is about how to get there. Peter Thiel has built multiple breakthrough companies, and Zero to One shows how. Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg both offer praise for this book with Zuckerberg commenting ‘When a risk taker writes a book, read it. In the case of Peter Thiel, read it twice. Or, to be safe, three times. This is a classic’.



The Working Woman’s Handbook by Phoebe Lovatt

I’ve been dipping in and out of this book since I bought it and it’s great. It’s the ultimate guide to job satisfaction, filled with practical advice on developing and driving a working life you love. Bursting with actionable tips, this book outlines an agenda for making and managing money, setting goals, and establishing success-oriented routines, with worksheets, exercises, and fool-proof “how-to” sections to help chart your course. From the lowdown on launching your own venture to a bullet-point checklist for an essential self-care regime, it will teach you to manage any dilemmas that crop up, and take the stress out of setting a budget. This no-nonsense manual comes packed with author Phoebe Lovatt’s personal insights from her own career as a successful freelance journalist, moderator, and founder of The WW Club, the leading digital resource and global community for working women worldwide. It also includes words of wisdom from various creatives and industry leaders, such as Teen Vogue editor Elaine Welteroth, WAH Nails founder Sharmadean Reid, The Gentlewoman’s Editor-in-Chief Penny Martin, and rising fashion designer Sandy Liang. Whether a first-time freelancer, budding businesswoman, or dedicated professional looking to enhance your prospects, The Working Woman’s Handbook is a go-to career and lifestyle guide for ambitious young women everywhere.



Purpose: Find your why and the how will look after itself by Lisa Messenger

I unwrapped this goodie on Christmas morning and it was read by the New Year…one of the joys of buying your own Christmas presents! Imagine if you could wake up every morning feeling energised, vibrant and excited for the work day ahead of you. If you could accept every challenge, hurdle and setback because you knew the end goal would be worth it. If you could walk your career path with courage, faith and determination. Because you know, without a doubt, that you’re going in the right direction. This is what happens when you find your PURPOSE. And that is exactly what I want for you. As the founder of Collective Hub, a multimedia platform that aims to help people unleash their full potential, Lisa Messenger has turned her passion into a profession – and now she’s on a mission to help millions of people across the world find a career with meaning. Her secret? Instead of settling for a play-it-safe career, she delved deep, thought big and disrupted an entire industry. And all because she discovered the magical feeling, the vital reason, the one powerful sentence that made her work-life worth living. Now, it’s your turn. In this soul-searching book Lisa discusses her own path to purpose, mixed with guidance and interviews from inspiring entrepreneurs and creatives who have followed their ‘why’ to a place of joy and fulfilment. Drawing on her own experiences and ground-breaking research that shows a sense of purpose makes us happier, healthier and even live longer, Lisa guides readers to find the illusive ‘why’ in their lives, so they can reinvigorate their ambition, unleash their inner rebel and make a real impact in the world.



How to forge connections with others

It can be pretty intimidating to try to find a way to bond with other people, whether it is connecting socially, making a great first impression, or simply wanting to build stronger connections for your career.

However, when you show that you genuinely care about the person you’re talking to, work on making people feel comfortable, or really listening to them, you’ll find that you are already halfway there.

Here’s a few titles that we’ve been flicking through recently that will help you forge connections with others…


The Social Skills Guidebook by Chris MacLeod

You think your social life could be better. You’ve felt shy as long as you can remember. Your conversations have more awkward moments than you’d like. Maybe you don’t need a ton of friends, but you’d like to have some people to hang out with on occasion. You want to make changes, but you don’t know where to start. Lots of people have been in your shoes, so you’re hardly a lost cause, and it’s never too late to turn things around. The Social Skills Guidebook gives you insights into your interpersonal struggles and behaviours, and offers hands on advice for developing and improving your people skills.



Frientimacy by Shasta Nelson

With the constant connectivity of today’s world, it s never been easier to meet people and make new friends but it’s never been harder to form meaningful friendships. In Frientimacy, award-winning speaker Shasta Nelson shows how anyone can form stronger, more meaningful friendships, marked by a level of trust she calls frientimacy. Shasta explores the most common complaints and conflicts facing female friendships today, and lays out strategies for overcoming these pitfalls to create deeper, supportive relationships that last for the long term. In Frientimacy, readers are taught to reject the impulse to pull away from friendships that aren’t instantly and constantly gratifying. With a warm, engaging, and inspiring voice, Nelson shows how friendships built on dedication and commitment can lead to enriched relationships, stronger and more meaningful ties, and an overall increase in mental health. Frientimacy is more than just a call for deeper connection between friends; it’s a blueprint for turning simple friendships into true bonds and for the meaningful and satisfying relationships that come with them.


How to Talk to Anyone by Leil Lowndes

What is that magic quality that makes some people instantly loved and respected? Everyone wants to be their friend (or, if single, their lover!) In business, they rise swiftly to the top of the corporate ladder. What is their “Midas touch?”. What it boils down to is a more skilful way of dealing with people. Lowndes has spent her career teaching people how to communicate for success and offers 92 easy and effective sure-fire success techniques – from first meeting all the way up to sophisticated techniques used by the big winners in life.





The Lost Art of Listening by Michael Nichols

One person talks; the other listens. It’s so basic that we take it for granted. Unfortunately, most of us think of ourselves as better listeners than we actually are. Why do we so often fail to connect when speaking with family members, romantic partners, colleagues, or friends? How do emotional reactions get in the way of real communication? This thoughtful, witty, and empathic book has already helped over 100,000 readers break through conflicts and transform their personal and professional relationships. Experienced therapist Mike Nichols provides vivid examples, easy to learn techniques, and practical exercises for becoming a better listener and making yourself heard and understood, even in difficult situations.



Click: The Power of Instant Connections by Ori Brafman and Rom Brafman

In a book that combines psychology and sociology with an insightful understanding of human interactions, Ori and Rom Brafman have written a compelling narrative that helps us to understand the magic behind those moments when we form an incredible connection with other people, or which cause us to become fully engaged in whatever we are doing. Drawing from recent research in psychology and sociology Click takes us on a roller coaster journey of discovery into those moments in our lives when we are ‘in the zone’ when the rest of the world drops away and everything seems to fall into place.




Books to help you get your act together

Last week we offered some ideas on how to spring clean and declutter your belongings; this week we turn inward to look at how we can declutter our minds.  Do you ever feel exhausted just thinking about change?
It’s easy to procrastinate when we feel anxious about the amount of disruption and effort we’ll need to make lasting change. Decluttering our minds means letting go of these preconceived ideas and anxieties, which can then help us welcome in fresh thinking and opportunities.  These authors are here to guide you towards greater clarity, focus and calm:


Declutter Your Mind by S J Scott and Barrie Davenport

Do you feel overwhelmed easily? As if your mind is spinning from too many thoughts?  Do you find it hard to get motivated? Or feel there is too much negativity around you? If you answered YES to any of these then you may be experiencing mind clutter.  Mind clutter gives rise to anxiety, stress and frustrations – issues that can only be solved by changing mindsets and behaviours. S J Scott and Barrie Davenport show how to use mindfulness techniques to declutter our thoughts, obligations, relationships and surroundings.  Declutter Your Mind is concise and readable, packed with ideas and advice.



Unstuffed: Declutter your Home, Mind and Soul by Ruth Soukup

Unstuffed helps with spring-cleaning of both our physical and mental spaces. Following Ruth Soukup’s bestseller Living Well, Spending Less, Unstuffed continues to help us reduce those cravings for more of everything – possessions, relationships, responsibilities. She encourages us to think deeply, identify our most important values and prioritise accordingly, shedding unimportant stuff in the process. She also advises on how to deal with the guilt associated with letting go! For those interested in faith and spirituality, there is also a unique section on decluttering your spirit. Unstuffed comes with an app that offers further tips and support on this decluttering journey.


The Life-changing Magic of Not Giving a F**k by Sarah Knight

Sarah Knight penned this irreverent but heartfelt anti-self help guide when she realised her perfectionist “good girl” tendencies were the cause of her constant stress and anxiety. So she learned to give fewer f**ks – to feel OK about not being perfect, to say yes only to things she cared about. The result is letting go of everything except the things that actually matter.  With a decluttered mind and fresh focus, Sarah Knight then takes us to the next level in Get Your Sh!t Together, which shows how to “win at life” – start prioritising and doing the things you actually want to do, while still managing all the sh*t you have to do.


Let it Out: a Journey through Journaling by Katie Dalebout

Journaling can be as simple as jotting down a To-Do List, or as complex as expressing your innermost feelings.  In either case, it is a powerful way of relieving a load from your mind. Let it Out is both an inspirational story and a how-to guide to Journaling.  Katie Dalebout has been journaling since her teens, discovering that her writing can be a plan, a review, therapy as well as life coach.  She credits journaling in helping her to recover from an eating disorder.  After sharing her life story in the Introduction, Katie sets out a range of journaling topics / exercises to suit different moods and purposes.  Katie’s young age and experiences make this a great book to share with the teens / young adults in your life.


Mindset: the New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck

When Bill Gates writes a detailed (glowing) review of a book then you know it deserves attention.  Carol Dweck is a psychology professor who popularised the idea of fixed mindset versus growth mindset. A fixed mindset assumes ability is innate and thus success is largely predetermined; while a growth mindset believes that ability is the result of effort and persistence, and thus can be attained by anyone.  A growth mindset makes us more resilient and helps us maximise our potential.  I’ve included Mindset here as inspiration of what can be achieved when our minds are unburdened by anxieties, bad habits and negative self-talk, which tend to contribute to a fixed mindset.


Smiling Mind

S J Scott advocated mindfulness in Declutter your Mind, but, if you’re like me, you might prefer to learn mindfulness while listening – this is where Smiling Mind comes in.  Smiling Mind is a non-profit organisation aimed at making mindfulness techniques accessible to all ages.    They have two excellent free apps (one for smart phones and a web-based app for computers) co-developed with psychologists and health professionals.   These apps offer something for everyone – there are guided practices of different lengths, separately aimed at kids, teens as well as adults.  My local school uses Smiling Mind in the classroom and I know many parents who use it in their children’s bedtime routines. The Smiling Mind website also offers tips on how to use mindfulness meditation at schools or in the workplace.

Unravelling the climate change debate

11 years ago, Al Gore’s documentary An Inconvenient Truth burst into our consciousness, raising climate change awareness everywhere, promising to be the tipping point towards greater environmental protection.  Fast forward to today, and what seemed like a simple scientific observation has morphed into a bitter political dispute that stifles action.  As the issues surrounding climate change become more complex and emotive, how do we separate the facts from the manipulation?  These books can help you analyse, unravel and understand the complexities of climate change:

An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power by Al Gore

An Inconvenient Sequel is a timely update, released 11 years after the influential An Inconvenient Truth.  In these intervening years, a string of extreme weather events – Hurricane Sandy, heat waves, melting polar ice – have caused huge damage, while action has stalled as climate change becomes mired in political controversy.  Hot off the press, An Inconvenient Sequel focusses on possible solutions, particularly around the use of clean energy, and also reflects on the consequences of President Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Agreement.


Climate Change: What Everyone Needs to Know by Joseph Romm

If you want a concise, readable introduction to the issues and consequences of climate change, then this book is for you.  Writing in a Q&A style, Joseph Romm, a physicist and former US Energy Department official, explores key points including basic theory, projected impacts, politics and policies, and possible solutions.  A particularly powerful section explores how climate change will impact everyday decisions for ordinary people, including where to retire, what to study, how to invest, and necessary changes to our diet.



Eyes Wide Open: Going Behind the Environmental Headlines by Paul Fleischman

Eyes Wide Open aims to help teens critically assess the issues and arguments surrounding environmentalism.  Paul Fleischman draws on history, psychology, sociology and economics to explain the origins of key environmental issues including population, energy and climate.  He also tries to explain why different reactions to these issues exist.  A particularly useful feature is its guide on “How to Weigh Information”.  Eyes Wide Open is valuable for readers of any age who want to cut through emotive writing, and develop their own informed views.

Don’t Even Think About it: Why our Brains are Wired to Ignore Climate Change by George Marshall

Most people accept that climate change is real, yet do nothing to stop it.  Don’t Even Think About It suggests that this has an evolutionary origin – human brains are hard-wired to prioritise immediate dangers over future dangers; and they tend to interpret new knowledge through existing frameworks, increasing the likelihood of confirmation bias.  George Marshall interviewed psychologists, evangelicals, activists and conservative politicians in this entertaining yet thought-provoking study on the psychology behind the climate change debate.

On a Farther Shore: the Life and Legacy of Rachel Carson by William Souder

The effect of pesticides on wildlife may seem unrelated to climate change, but our current awareness of the environment is arguably influenced by Rachel Carson’s work. Her seminal book, Silent Spring, inspired the modern environmental movement, and influenced legislative changes and the founding of the EPA.  Rachel Carson was a skilled nature writer who combined lyrical prose with extensive research to make science understandable and compelling.  On a Farther Shore is an engrossing biography that places Rachel Carson’s life and work within the context of the politics and culture of the mid-20th Century.

New York 2140 by Kim Stanley Robinson

If you don’t normally read non-fiction, there is a growing list of novels to help you visualise the world post-climate change.  The latest novel from SciFi master Kim Stanley Robinson imagines life in New York in 2140 – a sort of “ Super Venice” partially-submerged due to climate change. New York 2140 creates a vivid world packed with details of economics, politics, and the minutiae of life; it is not grim, but offers a critique of capitalism’s role in climate change.

Getting your head around today’s political landscape

The last 12 months will go down in global political history as one of the most surreal.  The election of Donald Trump as U.S. President and Britain’s surprising decision to leave the European Union has sent shockwaves through the global economy.  It’s been said that Trump might be single handedly responsible for an increase in literacy rates as sales of political dystopian books have risen dramatically.  As is often the case, people are turning to books to help them make sense of the world.  Sales of the book ‘1984’ by George Orwell have increased by 9,500% amid the start of Trump’s Presidency and there has been a spike of interest in Margaret Atwood’s ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ in lieu of its TV screening.   Here are our recommendations on some of the more recent titles to help you navigate a challenging political climate:

Who Rules the World? by Noam Chomsky

‘As long as the general population is passive, apathetic, diverted to consumerism or hatred of the vulnerable, the powerful can do as they please and those who survive will be left to contemplate the outcome.’

As Chomsky discusses, in a post 9/11 world, US policy makers are focused on the pursuit of power at the expense of human rights, democracy and security.

Drawing on examples ranging from expanding drone assassination programs to the continued violence in Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Israel and Palestine, philosopher, political commentator and prolific activist Noam Chomsky offers unexpected and nuanced insights into the workings of imperial power in our increasingly chaotic planet.


The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

A dark, enduring vision of the future – now a major new TV series.

The Republic of Gilead offers Offred only one function: to breed. If she deviates, she will, like dissenters, be hanged at the wall or sent out to die slowly of radiation sickness. But even a repressive state cannot obliterate desire – neither Offred’s nor that of the two men on which her future hangs.

Brilliantly conceived and executed, this powerful vision of the future gives full rein to Margaret Atwood’s irony, wit and astute perception.


All Out War: The Full Story of Brexit by Tim Shipman

Based on unrivalled access to all the key politicians and their advisors – including Boris Johnson, Michael Gove, George Osborne, Nigel Farage and Dominic Cummings, the mastermind of Vote Leave – Shipman has written a political history that reads like a thriller, and offers a gripping, day-by-day account of what really happened behind-the-scenes in Downing Street, both Leave campaigns, the Labour Party, Ukip and Britain Stronger in Europe. Shipman gives his readers a ringside seat on how decisions were made, mistakes justified and betrayals perpetrated.


The Politics Book by DK

An innovative and accessible guide to government, law, and power. Learning about the vast concept of politics can be daunting, but The Politics Book makes it easier than ever by giving you all the big ideas, simply explained. Step-by-step summaries, graphics, and quotations help even the complete novice understand this fascinating subject. More than 100 groundbreaking ideas in the history of politics are helpfully broken down so that abstract topics, such as theoretical foundations and practical applications become real.

Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J. D. Vance

Touted as ‘The Political Book of the Year’, ‘Hillbilly Elegy’ articulates the despair facing blue collar America.

J. D. Vance tells the true story of what a social, regional, and class decline feels like when you were born with it hung around your neck.

A deeply moving memoir with its share of humour and vividly colourful figures, ‘Hillbilly Elegy’ is the story of how upward mobility really feels. And it is an urgent and troubling meditation on the loss of the American dream for a large segment of the country.


If You Can Keep It: The Forgotten Promise of American Liberty by Eric Metaxas 

In 1787, when the Constitution was drafted, a woman asked Ben Franklin what the founders had given the American people. ‘A republic’, he shot back, ‘..if you can keep it’.  ‘If You Can Keep It’ is a chilling reminder that America’s greatness cannot continue unless they can embrace their crucial role in living out what their founders entrusted to them. Metaxas explains that America is not a nation bounded by ethnic identity or geography, but rather by a radical and unprecedented idea, based on liberty and freedom for all.

On writers and publishing

Most of us booklovers have probably dreamt of writing our own masterpieces someday.  That dream may be more achievable than you think – the internet has given us more opportunities to get our work noticed, both in terms of helping us connect with potential mentors, buddies and audiences, and also in terms of self-publishing (physical books, eBooks and online).  Here’s some inspiration, information and motivation to finally get started on “that book you have in you”.

Still Alice by Lisa Genova

Did you know that this acclaimed novel of a woman’s battling early-onset Alzheimer’s disease was originally self-published?  After receiving no interest from traditional publishers and literary agents, Lisa Genova chose to self-publish, then set about engaging with potential readers through social media.  Her persistence was rewarded with internet buzz and solid sales, and eventually led to an offer from a major publisher.  E.L. James’ 50 Shades trilogy is another famous and successful example of a book that was self-published before gaining attention from traditional publishers.

How to Make a Living with Your Writing by Joanna Penn

This is the manual for Living the Dream – how to support yourself as a full-time writer.  Joanna Penn is an author, speaker, marketer and publisher who has developed a growing business – and a six-figure income – out of her creative output.  In How to Make a Living with Your Writing, she uses her own experience to show how to make money from books, and also how to capitalise on your creativity in other ways, such as by blogging, public speaking, coaching and content marketing.  Also checkout her website, The Creative Penn  for a wealth of (free) tips and resources for aspiring writers.

The Kick-Ass Writer by Chuck Wendig

Chuck Wendig has built a successful writing career by embracing new formats and media – his works include a blog, eBooks, computer games, scripts, comics as well as novels.  He also writes great writing advice – his tone is sharp and in-your-face and aims to challenge and provoke.  The Kick-Ass Writer starts from the beginning – how to get started, how to build characters and dialogue and develop suspense – and onto how to deal with publishers and agents, and how to promote, connect and market yourself.  It also discusses crowd funding, self-publishing writer’s block and how to handle rejection.  A great resource for helping you become the Kick-Ass Writer you want to be.

Publishing: a Writer’s Memoir by Gail Godwin 

For an insider’s take on writers and their relationships with the publishing industry, you cannot go past Gail Godwin’s memoir.  Gail Godwin has been a writer for five decades, with over 20 published works.  Publishing: a Writer’s Memoir reflects on Gail as a writer: her hunger to be published, her craft, and what it means to be a modern author (there is a great anecdote about branding and self-promotion).  It also reflects on the changing nature of the publishing industry, from a more “gentlemanly”, literary enterprise to big business. Gail Godwin offers fascinating insights to anyone curious about the book industry.


From blogger / vlogger to author

Developing great blogs and vlogs (eg YouTube channels) are an increasingly common pathway to a book deal.  Blogs/vlogs are powerful tools that can help you hone your writing skills, develop/promote your brand and connect with potential readers.  Many popular authors – particularly in the humour / food & wellness / lifestyle / parenting categories – first became known through their blogs. Two of my favourite bloggers/vloggers-turned-authors include:

Advanced Style: Older and Wiser by Ari Seth Cohen

Advanced Style started as a blog celebrating stylish, older New Yorkers, and has turned into a worldwide movement.  The colourful portraits in Advanced Style urge us to be bold, take risks and dress how we like, whether we are 15 or 85.  I saw the eponymous documentary a few years’ ago, and not only was there great style on-screen, many of the audience were bold and stylish too.  Advanced Style is joyous and gloriously inspirational.

The Dumpling Sisters Cookbook by Amy and Julie Zhang

Amy and Julie Zhang are popular YouTubers whose Dumpling Sisters videos showcase modern takes on homestyle Chinese dishes. 

The sisters – born in China, raised in New Zealand and now living in the UK – love their food because it’s a reminder of their Chinese background and their childhood, and also because it’s a great way to connect with their friends.  Dishes such as oyster sauce beef and broccoli, and prawn and spinach wontons, are great whether for some quiet me-time or for fun and casual entertaining.

10 ways to foster a love of reading for your child

Learning to read, or rather teaching someone else to learn to read can be a daunting task – do you start with phonetics, rhyming, sounds or learn the name of letters? Whatever way you choose, sharing the love of reading needs to be fun, relaxed and exciting. Our favourite book on the topic is The Read Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease, it’s been a wonderful resource for several of the Booko children. Here are our top 10 tips from the book:

  1. Begin reading to your children as soon as possible. The younger you start them, the easier, and better it is.
  2. Set aside at least one specific time each day for a story and make it part of your daily routine.
  3. Start with picture books that have only a few sentences on the page, then gradually move to books with more text and fewer pictures before building to chapter books.
  4. As you read, keep listeners involved by occasionally asking ‘what do you think is going to happen next?’
  5. If the chapters are long, or you don’t have enough time to finish one each day, find a suspenseful spot at which to stop. Leave your little audience hanging and they will be counting the minutes until the next reading.
  6. Allow your listeners a few minutes to settle down and adjust their feet and minds to the story. Mood is an important factor in listening, make sure you foster a receptive one.
  7. Use expression when reading. Change your tone, adjusting pace and lowering your voice in suspenseful parts makes it all very exciting.
  8. Slow down. The most common mistake is reading too fast. Reading quickly allows no time for mental pictures to be made and more expression to be used.
  9. Bring the author to life. Google the author to find out more about them. This lets them know that books are written by people and not machines.
  10. When children wish to read to you, it is better for the book to be too easy than too hard, just as a beginner’s bicycle is better to be too small than too big.

The Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease

Upon its first publication in 1982, millions of parents and educators have turned to Jim Trelease’s beloved classic for more than three decades to help countless children become avid readers through awakening their imaginations and improving their language skills. It has also been a staple in schools of education for new teachers. This updated edition of The Read-Aloud Handbook discusses the benefits, the rewards, and the importance of reading aloud to children of a new generation. Supported by delightful anecdotes as well as the latest research (including the good and bad news on digital learning). The Read-Aloud Handbook offers proven techniques and strategies for helping children discover the pleasures of reading and setting them on the road to becoming lifelong readers.


Here’s a few of our favourites to help you share the joy of reading aloud:


Creature abc by Andrew Zuckerman.

Alphabet books can be valuable for teaching kids the sounds that letters make — but only if they are fun to read! Creature abc is fun; it features amazing animal photographs and an entertaining format. On one page is a letter (e.g. “Aa”) and a photograph of an animal’s body part (e.g. an alligator’s hand). When I read this book, I make the letter’s sound, and my kids guess what animal they will see on the following page.



Where is the Green Sheep by Mem Fox

There are red sheep and blue sheep, wind sheep and wave sheep, scared sheep and brave sheep, but where is the green sheep? The search is on in this cozy, sheep-filled story from beloved author Mem Fox and popular Australian cartoonist Judy Horacek. Complete with sleepy rhymes and bright illustrations, this book is sure to delight children of all ages, from the very young to those just beginning to read. Mem has never owned a sheep, let alone a green one, but she does admit to having woolly thoughts from time to time. Judy loves drawing things, especially sheep. This is her first flock.


Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown

This gentle bedtime story, which has lulled generations of children to sleep, is the perfect first book to share at bedtime. In a great green room a little bunny is tucked up snugly and safely in bed and is getting ready to say goodnight to all the familiar things in his room, one by one. Margaret Wise Brown’s comforting, rhythmical text accompanied by the warmth of Clement Hurd’s classic mid-century illustrations make Goodnight Moon a timeless picture book, which is known and loved around the world.


I Am So Strong by Mario Ramos

This is a terrific read aloud – it’s a book with some yelling in it, with a handful of  familiar characters like a wolf and Red Riding Hood and three pigs, joined by a couple of dwarfs, and a baby dinosaur and his HUGE mother.








Most of all, have fun together!

How to Learn Anything – our top 5 skills to learn in 2017

If you’re anything like me you’ll find January is the time of year we announce to the world that “I’m going to learn a new skill”…and now that it’s February we really ought to make a start.

People have been learning new skills from books for years so it’s nothing new, but to be honest there are some things that are much easier to teach yourself via videos online rather than from a book – playing the guitar, learning to crochet, how to use your online accounting system…the list goes on. However there are a few fabulous skills that are best suited to learning through a book. Books allow you the time to take things in and patiently wait as you get distracted and start daydreaming out of the window (or is that just me?).

Here’s our 5 top skills you need to learn this year…and they are all from books. You’re very welcome.

1. Start making a difference in the world

Getting to Maybe by Frances Westley

Many of us have a deep desire to make the world around us a better place. But often our good intentions are undermined by the fear that we are so insignificant in the big scheme of things that nothing we can do will actually help feed the world’s hungry, fix the damage of a Hurricane Katrina or even get a healthy lunch program up and running in the local school. We tend to think that great social change is the province of heroes – an intimidating view of reality that keeps ordinary people on the couch. But extraordinary leaders such as Gandhi and even unlikely social activists such as Bob Geldof most often see themselves as harnessing the forces around them, rather than singlehandedly setting those forces in motion. The trick in any great social project is to stop looking at the discrete elements and start trying to understand the complex relationships between them. By studying fascinating real-life examples of social change this book teases out the rules of engagement between volunteers, leaders, organisations and circumstance and harvests the experiences of a wide range of people and organisations to lay out a brand new way of thinking about making change in communities, in business, and in the world.

2. Take control of your finances

The Barefoot Investor: The Only Money Guide You’ll Ever Need by Scott Pape

So I’ve just finished reading “The Barefoot Investor’ and I’ve been left feeling…a bit emotional really. One thing that you’ll find different between this book and any other finance book you have read is that getting on top of your finances gives you enormous freedom. Divorced? Made redundant? Want a change of career? Sort your finances by putting in place the ‘set and forget’ steps covered by Scott Pape and you’re halfway there. For many, this book has been life changing.



3. Get ahead in life

Tools of Titans: The Tactics, Routines, and Habits of Billionaires, Icons, and World-Class Performers by Timothy Ferriss

For the last two years, Ferriss interviewed nearly two hundred world-class performers for the podcast, The Tim Ferriss Show. The guests range from super celebs (Jamie Foxx, Arnold Schwarzenegger), athletes (icons of powerlifting, gymnastics, surfing) and legendary Special Operations commanders and black-market biochemists. This book contains the distilled tools, tactics, and ‘inside baseball’ you won’t find anywhere else. It also includes new tips from past guests, and life lessons from new guests. “What makes the show different is a relentless focus on actionable details. This is reflected in the questions. For example: What do these people do in the first sixty minutes of each morning? What do their workout routines look like, and why? What books have they gifted most to other people? What are the biggest wastes of time for novices in their field? What supplements do they take on a daily basis?

4. Learn how to Code
How to Code: A Step-By-Step Guide to Computer Coding by Max Wainewright

Become a master coder, with these step-by-step instructions and robot helpers too! How to Code teaches you all the basic concepts, including Loops, Variables, and Selection, and then develops your skills further until you can create your own website . . . and more! Learn how to use Logo, build games in Scratch, program projects in Python, experiment with HTML, and make interactive web pages with JavaScript.




5. Master makeup wizardry

Amazinger Face by Zoe Foster-Blake

Sometimes a lady just needs to know the most flattering lipstick for her skin tone, or how to correctly use sunscreen, or a very quick hairstyle to conceal her unwashed hair. And there’s no reason she shouldn’t know which foundation or mascara is best for her, either. All the answers are here, in this top-to-toe beauty extravaganza. Former Cosmopolitan and Harper’s BAZAAR beauty director, and the founder of Go-To skin care, Zoë Foster (Blake) suggests makeup colours and brands for every occasion, useful, practical skin care routines and products for every age, and step-by-step instructions for winged eyeliner, arresting red lips, foolproof tanning, simple up-dos, sexy second-day hair, and much, much more.


And if that wasn’t enough (or if you’re already deciding to renege on the resolution) take a leaf out of Barbara Arrowsmith-Young’s amazing personal story of retraining her brain.

The Woman Who Changed Her Brain: Revised Edition by Barbara Arrowsmith-Young

Barbara Arrowsmith-Young was born with severe learning disabilities that caused teachers to label her slow, stubborn — or worse. As a child, she read and wrote everything backward, struggled to process concepts in language, continually got lost, and was physically uncoordinated. She could make no sense of an analogue clock. But by relying on her formidable memory and iron will, she made her way to graduate school, where she chanced upon research that inspired her to invent cognitive exercises to “fix” her own brain.

The capability of nerve cells to change is known as neuroplasticity, and Arrowsmith-Young has been putting it into practice for decades. With great inventiveness, after combining two lines of research, Barbara developed unusual cognitive calisthenics that radically increased the functioning of her weakened brain areas to normal and, in some areas, even above normal levels.


Happy Learning!