Tag Archives: #Learning

What’s wrong with what we eat

In this fiery and funny talk, New York Times food writer Mark Bittman weighs in on what’s wrong with the way we eat now (too much meat, too few plants; too much fast food, too little home cooking), and why it’s putting the entire planet at risk.

The Best Books to help you become organised in 2020

It’s January, the traditional time of year where we all vouch to become a little more organised and mentally prepared than the year before. And because it’s 2020, the start of a brand spanking new decade, the desire to do so is even more heightened. You’re in luck, we have found some fabulous new titles on the market that all aim to get our diaries, lives and minds in order. To be fair, a few of these titles are a bit older than the last month (but their lessons are so en pointe that we just had to include them). Righto, get yourself comfy, pop the kettle on for a cup of tea because these books are about to really challenge you to make the best of 2020. 

Get Remarkably Organised by Lorraine Murphy

Lorraine Murphy is one of Australia’s leading entrepreneurs and founder of The Remarkables Group and in this books she asks some pretty straight-shooting questions: Is your life chaotic? Are you hungry for advice on how to live calmly, happily and productively? The cornerstone of success at work and at home is being organised and, with Lorraine’s help, you can achieve this by forming excellent habits in a way that’s easy and fun, not stressful. This book is an inspiring look at the organisational lessons Lorraine has learned during her entrepreneurship journey through study, trial and error; the strategies she has developed and the habits she religiously follows. As well as coaching you through specific challenges, you’ll discover 14 informative and approachable chapters with guidance on: The value of routine and habits, easy decluttering, tips for planning your week and managing your day, conquering distractions, the joy of hassle-free outsourcing, overcoming procrastination and even harmony at home. If you fancy giving this book a read this summer, be sure to check out Remarkability (I just finished that one and my copy now has yellow highlighter in each chapter as I devour her lessons). 

The Feel Good Guide by Matilda Green

When Matilda Green, bestselling author of The Lazy Girl’s Guide to Living a Beautiful Life, found herself facing some hard times, she knew she needed to do something to boost her happiness and her self-esteem. But what? So she set out on a journey of discovery, embracing gratitude, mindfulness and meditation techniques, and learning how to be kind to others and to herself. In The Feel Good Guide Matilda pulls together everything she has learnt and shares her own experiences, in the hope that it will help others too. This practical resource, full of helpful tips and real talk, comes complete with an action plan in every chapter to get your own journey kick-started. As Matilda says, this isn’t so much about changing who you are as it is about loving who you are. It’s about celebrating yourself, embracing and being proud of the person you have grown to be, and finding the right tools to help you remember just how awesome you really are.

Things No One Else Can Teach Us by Humble the Poet

The rapper, spoken word artist, poet, blogger, social media influencer, and international bestselling author of Unlearn delivers unorthodox lessons for shifting our perceptions and learning to create silver linings from our most difficult moments. Every one of us endures setbacks, disappointments, and failures that can incapacitate us. But we don’t have to let them. Instead, we can use these events as opportunities for growth. In Things No One Else Can Teach Us, Humble the Poet flips the conventional script for happiness and success, showing us how our most painful experiences can be our greatest teachers. Humble shares raw, honest stories from his own life – from his rocky start becoming a rapper, to nearly going broke, to being the victim of racial prejudice – to demonstrate how a change in mindset can radically alter our outlook. This shift in perspective, one that stops seeing the negative and starts seeing the lesson or positive spin, is what no one else can teach us. We must figure things out on our own, often through difficult and heartbreaking experiences. Humble inspires us to create these silver linings ourselves, preparing us to better handle any challenges that may arise. From a breakup to going broke to losing a loved one, our hardest moments can help us flourish, but only if we recognise and seize the opportunity. By doing so, we will become more self-aware, grateful, and empowered. Simple yet profound, Humble’s message is clear. While we can’t control the vagaries of life, we have the power to control how we react to them. Things No One Else Can Teach Us reminds us all that we have the power within us to transform the way we respond to everyday challenges and ultimately be our best selves.

488 Rules for Life by Kitty Flanagan

488 Rules for Life is Kitty Flanagan’s way of making the world a more pleasant place to live. Providing you with the antidote to every annoying little thing, these rules are not made to be broken. 488 Rules for Life is not a self-help book, because it’s not you who needs help, it’s other people. Whether they’re walking and texting, asphyxiating you on public transport with their noxious perfume cloud, or leaving one useless square of toilet paper on the roll, a lot of people just don’t know the rules. But thanks to Kitty Flanagan’s comprehensive guide to modern behaviour, our world will soon be a much better place. A place where people don’t ruin the fruit salad by putting banana in it … where your co-workers respect your olfactory system and don’t reheat their fish curry in the office microwave … where middle aged men don’t have ponytails … Other rules to live by include: Men must wear shorts over leggings. The gym is no place for people to discover whether or not you are circumcised. That’s a private discussion for another place and time. Team bonding activities should be optional. Some people love it when management decides that an afternoon of bowling or paint-balling or (god forbid) karaoke will help everyone work better as a team. Others would rather be dead. Don’t ever mention your ‘happy place’. To me, this sounds less like a pleasant, fun state of mind and more like some kind of utopian wank palace you’ve had built in the basement. 

What started as a personal joke is now a quintessential reference book with the power to change society. (Or, at least, make it a bit less irritating.) What people are (Kitty Flanagan is) saying about this book: ‘You’re welcome everyone.’ ‘Thank god for me.’ ‘I’d rather be sad and lonely, but right.’ ‘There’s not actually 488 rules in here but it sure feels like it’.

F**k No! by Sarah Knight

The latest no-fks-given guide from New York Times bestselling author of the international sensations The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F**K, Get Your S**T Together, You Do You, and Calm The F**K Down. How to stop saying yes when you can’t, you shouldn’t, or you just don’t want to With 2 million copies sold worldwide, Sarah Knight’s bestselling No F*cks Given Guides prove that she’s the Queen of No: no to a single extraneous f*ck given, to unwanted obligations, overcommitting, and overcomplicating her life. For Sarah, saying no is easy. For the rest of us, it’s stress-inducing, blood pressure-raising, teeth-grinding hard. But it doesn’t have to be. F**K No! is filled with tips, techniques, and practical strategies that will arm you with not only permission to decline, but plenty of ammunition for doing so. An encyclopaedia of examples, a cornucopia of comebacks, a plethora of polite replies: if you’re looking to say no (and without being selfish, unlikeable, or mired in missing out), you’ve come to the right place.

Becoming – A Guided Journal by Michelle Obama

What’s your journey of becoming? Based on Michelle Obama’s bestselling memoir, this gorgeous journal features an intimate and inspiring introduction by the former First Lady and thought-provoking questions and prompts to help you discover, and rediscover, your story. 

‘It’s not about being perfect. It’s not about where you get yourself in the end. There’s power in allowing yourself to be known and heard, in owning your unique story, in using your authentic voice. And there’s grace in being willing to know and hear others. This, for me, is how we become.’ – Michelle Obama

Enjoy!

Top selling professional development books for 2019

Continuing to develop your career can not only invigorate your passion for your chosen field but also help you get ahead if you are intending to climb the corporate ladder (or want to build your own ladder to climb). Sometimes to get ahead you need to extend and invest in yourself. Thankfully there are a plethora of books being released that all aim to help you extend yourself. 

Make yourself a cup of something tasty and get comfy, these titles are bound to inspire you to take the next steps for your career. 

The Third Door by Alex Banayan

The Third Door takes readers on an unprecedented adventure; from hacking Warren Buffett’s shareholders meeting to chasing Larry King through a grocery store to celebrating in a nightclub with Lady Gaga, as Alex Banayan travels from icon to icon, decoding their success. After remarkable one-on-one interviews with Bill Gates, Maya Angelou, Steve Wozniak, Jane Goodall, Larry King, Jessica Alba, Pitbull, Tim Ferriss, Quincy Jones, and many more, Alex discovered the one key they have in common – they all took the Third Door. Life, business, success is just like a nightclub. There are always three ways in. There’s the First Door – the main entrance, where ninety-nine percent of people wait in line, hoping to get in. The Second Door – the VIP entrance, where the billionaires and celebrities slip through. But what no one tells you is that there is always, always a the Third Door. It’s the entrance where you have to jump out of line, run down the alley, bang on the door a hundred times, climb over the dumpster, crack open the window, sneak through the kitchen – there’s always a way in. Whether it’s how Bill Gates sold his first piece of software or how Steven Spielberg became the youngest studio director in Hollywood history, they all took the Third Door.

Crushing It by Gary Vaynerchuk

In his 2009 international bestseller, Crush It!, Gary insisted that a vibrant personal brand was one of the primary paths to entrepreneurial success. In Crushing It!, Gary explains why that’s even more true today, offering his unique perspective on what has changed and what remains timeless. He also shares stories from other entrepreneurs who have grown wealthier-and not just financially – than they ever imagined possible by following Crush It! principles. The secret to their success (and Gary’s) has everything to do with their understanding of social media platforms and their willingness to do whatever it takes to make these tools work to their utmost potential. Crushing It! is a state-of-the-art guide to building your own path to professional and financial success, but it’s not about getting rich. It’s a blueprint for living life on your own terms.

Willpower Doesn’t Work by Benjamin Hardy 

If you’re relying on willpower alone to help you lose weight, improve your relationships or achieve more at work, you’re doomed to fail. The environment around us is far too powerful, stimulating, addicting and stressful to overcome it through sheer determination. Willpower, grit, being positive – basically, all the tools you’ve been told are the keys to creating lasting change in your life – are insufficient in this high-paced, information-overloaded world we live in. The only way to stop just surviving and learn to truly thrive in today’s world is to proactively shape your environment. That’s the premise of Willpower Doesn’t Work, by organisational psychologist and Medium’s most-read self-help guru Benjamin Hardy. Building on copious existing research, as well as his own experience of growing up in a broken family afflicted by addiction and drug use, Hardy explains how people can change their lives on every level by making small, impactful changes in your environment. 

When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing by Daniel H. Pink

Daniel H. Pink, is the bestselling author of Drive and To Sell Is Human, and is aiming to unlock the scientific secrets to good timing to help you flourish at work, at school, and at home.

Everyone knows that timing is everything. But we don’t know much about timing itself. Our lives are a never-ending stream of “when” decisions: when to start a business, schedule a class, get serious about a person. Yet we make those decisions based on intuition and guesswork.

Timing, it’s often assumed, is an art. In When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing, Pink shows that timing is really a science.

Drawing on a rich trove of research from psychology, biology, and economics, Pink reveals how best to live, work, and succeed. How can we use the hidden patterns of the day to build the ideal schedule? Why do certain breaks dramatically improve student test scores? How can we turn a stumbling beginning into a fresh start? Why should we avoid going to the hospital in the afternoon? Why is singing in time with other people as good for you as exercise? And what is the ideal time to quit a job, switch careers, or get married? In When, Pink distills cutting-edge research and data on timing and synthesises them into a fascinating, readable narrative packed with irresistible stories and practical takeaways that give readers compelling insights into how we can live richer, more engaged lives.

The Alter Ego Effect by Todd Herman

There’s only one person in the way of you un-tapping your potential: You. There’s also one person who can move you out of the way so you can perform at your peak. That person is already inside you. You just need to unlock them. This other part of you is your Alter Ego. After twenty-one years of working with elite athletes, performers and leaders, Todd Herman has discovered how you can use your alter ego to achieve the seemingly impossible. It all clicked for Todd when he met Bo Jackson. When Herman met Bo Jackson, the professional athlete told him, “Bo Jackson never played a down of football in his entire life.” Bo explained that when he was young, he’d get into trouble because chaos caused by his anger issues. Then, he saw Friday the 13th and became fascinated by the cold, calculating nature of Jason Vorhees. In that moment, he resolved to stop being Bo Jackson, and start being Jason the moment he stepped on the field. In this transformative guide, Herman teaches you how to create and control an Alter Ego like Bo-and the thousands of other athletes, business leaders, entrepreneurs, and entertainers who have used this simple tool to change their lives. Herman also shares his own story: he knew that inside was a confident, self-assured, intelligent person who could help others get better results in their lives. When he started using superman’s classic trick-putting on a pair of glasses he learned to trigger the specific traits he needed to achieve his goals. The Alter Ego Effect is not about creating a false mask – it’s about finding the hero already inside you. It’s a proven way of overcoming the self-doubt, negativity, and insecurity that hold you back, and empowering you to ultimately become your best self.

Atomic Habits by James Clear

People think when you want to change your life, you need to think big. But world-renowned habits expert James Clear has discovered another way. He knows that real change comes from the compound effect of hundreds of small decisions – doing two push-ups a day, waking up five minutes early, or holding a single short phone call. He calls them atomic habits. In this ground-breaking book, Clears reveals exactly how these minuscule changes can grow into such life-altering outcomes. He uncovers a handful of simple life hacks (the forgotten art of Habit Stacking, the unexpected power of the Two Minute Rule, or the trick to entering the Goldilocks Zone), and delves into cutting-edge psychology and neuroscience to explain why they matter. Along the way, he tells inspiring stories of Olympic gold medalists, leading CEOs, and distinguished scientists who have used the science of tiny habits to stay productive, motivated, and happy. These small changes will have a revolutionary effect on your career, your relationships, and your life.

Enjoy!

Top Books for Back To School

It’s the start of a new school year for our readers in the UK and US. This can be an exciting but often uncertain time for children (not to the mention parents who are sending children off to school for the first time). We thought we’d share our top picks for back to school reading. These stories are perfect to read cuddled up with your child as they aim to warm your heart, put aside any anxieties and make you laugh as you prepare to start a year of packing school lunchboxes. 

The Pigeon Has To Go To School by Mo Willems

Mo Willems’ Pigeon is back in a hilarious story perfect for those about to start school or nursery. The Pigeon is about to get schooled. Do you think he should go? Why does the Pigeon have to go to school? He already knows everything! Well … almost everything. And what if he doesn’t like it? What if the teacher doesn’t like him? I mean, what if he learns too much!?!

School’s First Day of School by Adam Rex and Christian Robinson

A New York Times bestselling author (The True Meaning of Smekday) and illustrator (Last Stop on Market Street) team bring you a fresh look at the first day of school, this time from the school’s perspective. It’s the first day of school at Frederick Douglass Elementary and everyone’s just a little bit nervous, especially the school itself. What will the children do once they come? Will they like the school? Will they be nice to him? The school has a rough start, but as the day goes on, he soon recovers when he sees that he’s not the only one going through first-day jitters.

Pirates Don’t Go to Kindergarten by Lisa Robinson

Yo, ho, ho! It’s a mutiny against kindergarten!

Pirate Emma is about to start kindergarten! But Emma’s not so sure she’s ready for a new captain and crew. Especially since Cap’n Chu, the roughest, toughest, awesomest preschool cap’n ever, is right down the hall. So Emma decides to head back to the preschool ship to see if she can stir up a mutiny against kindergarten! Is that what she really wants? Or does she just miss her beloved Cap’n Chu? Batten down the hatches, mateys, because the first day of school is going to be stormy!

We Don’t Eat Our Classmates by Ryan T. Higgins

It’s the first day of school for Penelope Rex, and she can’t wait to meet her classmates. But it’s hard to make human friends when they’re so darn delicious! That is, until Penelope gets a taste of her own medicine and finds she may not be at the top of the food chain after all. Readers will gobble up this hilarious new story from award-winning author-illustrator Ryan T. Higgins.

1 2 3 With The Notorious B.I.G by Jessica Chiha

Biggie, Biggie, Biggie One, Two, Three – Sometimes These Numbers Just Hypnotize Me!

1 2 3 with the Notorious B.I.G. is packed full of our most loved Hip Hop, Rap and RnB artists from then and now, with plenty of tongue in cheek references that even the bigs are sure to get a giggle from. This hip-hop inspired book is designed to pump up your child’s number game. Let Biggie Smalls, Jay-Z, Kanye, Nicki Minaj, Kelis and more, teach your little homie their 123s. Relive some of the greatest Rap, Hip Hop, and R&B musicians of our time, while teaching your children where it’s at. 1 2 3 with the Notorious B.I.G. is here to make learning dope, because education isn’t meant to be boring!

Inside My Heart by Jo Witek

This is a charming book where a young girl explores what different emotions feel like, such as happiness which makes her want to twirl, or sadness which feels as heavy as an elephant.

In My Heart explores emotions; happiness, sadness, bravery, anger, shyness and more. Unlike other feelings books that tend to oversimplify, In My Heart lyrically explains what an emotion feels like, physically, inside. For example: “When I get really angry, my heart feels like it’s going to explode! Don’t come near me! My heart is yelling, hot and loud. This is when my heart is mad.” Children will be empowered by this new vocabulary and able to practice articulating and identifying their own emotions.

Enjoy!

Our top audiobooks and podcasts for when you don’t have time to sit and read

Some days it doesn’t seem as though there are enough hours left for relaxing with a book. Which is why we love a good podcast or an audio book. They make commuting so much more entertaining or educational (depending on the genre you like). 

We have had a dig around the internet and have made a list of the top trending audiobooks and podcasts that we know you’ll really enjoy, in fact many are on high rotation for us. If you have any others that you recommend, be sure to either comment below or jump onto instagram or facebook and let us know.

The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris

The Tattooist of Auschwitz is based on the true story of Lale and Gita Sokolov, two Slovakian Jews who survived Auschwitz and eventually made their home in Australia. In that terrible place, Lale was given the job of tattooing the prisoners marked for survival – literally scratching numbers into his fellow victims’ arms in indelible ink to create what would become one of the most potent symbols of the Holocaust. Lale used the infinitesimal freedom of movement that this position awarded him to exchange jewels and money taken from murdered Jews for food to keep others alive. If he had been caught, he would have been killed; many owed him their survival. 

There have been many books about the Holocaust – and there will be many more. What makes this one so memorable is Lale Sokolov’s incredible zest for life. He understood exactly what was in store for him and his fellow prisoners, and he was determined to survive – not just to survive but to leave the camp with his dignity and integrity intact, to live his life to the full. Terrible though this story is, it is also a story of hope and of courage. It is also – almost unbelievably – a love story. Waiting in line to be tattooed, terrified and shaking, was a young girl. For Lale – a dandy, a jack-the-lad, a bit of a chancer – it was love at first sight, and he determined not only to survive himself but to ensure that Gita did, too. His story – their story – will make you weep, but you will also find it uplifting. It shows the very best of humanity in the very worst of circumstances. 

Like many survivors, Lale and Gita told few people their story after the war. They eventually made their way to Australia, where they raised a son and had a successful life. But when Gita died, Lale felt he could no longer carry the burden of their past alone. He chose to tell his story. 

How to be a Champion by Sarah Millican

Part autobiography, part self help, part confession, part celebration of being a common-or-garden woman, part collection of synonyms for nunny, Sarah Millican’s debut book delves into her super normal life with daft stories, funny tales and proper advice on how to get past life’s blips – like being good at school but not good at friends, the excitement of IBS and how to blossom post divorce. If you’ve ever worn glasses at the age of six, worn an off-the-shoulder gown with no confidence, been contacted by an old school bully, lived in your childhood bedroom in your thirties, been gloriously dumped in a Frankie and Benny’s, cried so much you felt great, been for a romantic walk with a dog, worn leggings two days in a row even though they smelt of wee from a distance, then this is your book. If you haven’t done those things but wish you had, this is your book. If you just want to laugh on a train/sofa/toilet or under your desk at work, this is your book.

12 Rules for Life by Jordan B. Peterson

Jordan Peterson’s work as a clinical psychologist has reshaped the modern understanding of personality, and now he has become one of the world’s most popular public thinkers, with his lectures on topics ranging from the Bible to romantic relationships drawing tens of millions of viewers. In an era of polarising politics, echo chambers and trigger warnings, his startling message about the value of personal responsibility and the dangers of ideology has resonated around the world. In this book, well actually this is the audiobook version, he combines ancient wisdom with decades of experience to provide twelve profound and challenging principles for how to live a meaningful life, from setting your house in order before criticising others to comparing yourself to who you were yesterday, not someone else today. Gripping, thought-provoking and deeply rewarding, 12 Rules for Life offers an antidote to the chaos in our lives: eternal truths applied to our modern problems.

Our current fav podcasts…

How to Curate Your Life with Lizzie Evans

SMUG founder Lizzie Evans launches her podcast ‘How to Curate Your Life – Work Life Balance for the Creative Entrepreneur’. After 10 years working as a creative entrepreneur in the design world, Lizzie has learnt a thing or two about setting up and running a creative business and managing a portfolio career. She has found that, if you’re in it for the long game, staying inspired and taking care of yourself both physically and emotionally is crucial. Lizzie has of course met lots of inspiring people along the way trying to do the same. This podcast aims to celebrate the creativity and entrepreneurial endeavours of inspiring individuals and get down into the nitty gritty of how people ‘Curate Their Lives’ so that work and other elements of their lives that are important to them, can all feel prioritised, nourishing and ultimately a success. We really enjoy this podcast…so much so that we are currently one of its sponsors.

The High Low with Dolly Alderton and Pandora Sykes 

The High Low is a weekly news, pop-culture and current affairs podcast which launched in February 2017.

Inspired by Vanity Fair editor Tina Brown, (a guest on the podcast, in fact) who coined the term ‘high low journalism’ in the 80s to denote an amalgamation of water-cooler gossip and hard-hitting cultural happenings, The High Low covers both the trivial and the political, from errant chin hair to Trumpian politics. The founding mantra is that there is no shame in asking questions – but reading (a lot) can help inform you.

How To Fail with Elizabeth Day

How To Fail With Elizabeth Day is a podcast that celebrates the things that haven’t gone right. Every week, a new interviewee explores what their failures taught them about how to succeed better.

It is also a book. A book for anyone who has ever failed. Which means it’s a book for everyone. Part memoir, part manifesto, and including chapters on dating, work, sport, babies, families, anger and friendship, it is based on the simple premise that understanding why we fail ultimately makes us stronger. It’s a book about learning from our mistakes and about not being afraid. Uplifting, inspiring and rich in stories from Elizabeth’s own life, How to Fail reveals that failure is not what defines us; rather it is how we respond to it that shapes us as individuals. Because learning how to fail is actually learning how to succeed better. And everyone needs a bit of that.

Table Manners with Jessie Ware

Jessie Ware hosts a podcast about food, family, and the beautiful art of having a chat, direct from her very own dinner table. With a little bit of help from her chef extraordinaire mum Lennie, each week guests from the worlds of music, culture and politics drop by for a bite and a bit of a natter. Usually Jessie’s mum cooks up a storm and while the guest is wined and dined, they share amusing and inspiring moments about food in their lives. They have cooked and chatted to Yotam Ottolenghi, Nigella Lawson and Sandi Toksvig…their line up of guests never fails to entertain. 

Desert Island Discs with Kirsty Young

The format is simple, a guest is invited to choose eight discs, a book and a luxury to take with them as they’re castaway on a mythical desert island. During the interview they explain their choices and discuss key moments in their lives, people and events that have influenced and inspired them and brought them to where they are today.

Journalist and broadcaster Kirsty Young opened her tenure as presenter by interviewing the illustrator Quentin Blake on 1st October 2006. Among her guests have been musicians Morrissey, Sir Tom Jones, Alice Cooper, and Barry Manilow, politicians Nick Clegg, Alex Salmond and Alan Johnson, actors Sir Michael Caine, Kathy Burke and June Spencer.

How I Built This with Guy Raz

Guy Raz dives into the stories behind some of the world’s best known companies. How I Built This weaves a narrative journey about innovators, entrepreneurs and idealists and the movements they built. It’s one of the most inspiring and interesting podcasts and is on high rotation in our office. Interviewees include James Dyson, Ben Cohen And Jerry Greenfield (the masters behind Ben and Jerry’s), Joe Gebbia from Airbnb fame and Whitney Wolf from Bumble. 

Enjoy! 

Opening our eyes and hearts to refugees

Do you know that Refugee Week has been observed in Australia for over 30 years?

Refugee Week is celebrated annually in mid June, incorporating World Refugee Day on June 20.  This is a time when Australians can acknowledge the contributions that refugees and asylum seekers have made to our country, and also for us to learn about the challenges many refugees face as they re-establish themselves and their communities in a new land.

The theme for this year’s Refugee Week is “A World of Stories” – reminding us that each refugee seeking safety has their own story of why they left home, and what they had to do to find safety. Readers who want to learn, and understand, the current conflicts and refugee situations will find these stories powerful and enlightening:

First Generation: 36 Trailblazing Immigrant and Refugees Who Make America Great by Sandra Neil Wallace and Rich Wallace

In the tradition of Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls comes this collection of mini biographies celebrating the achievements of some very special first-generation immigrants and former refugees.  From musician Yo-yo Ma to scientist Albert Einstein, from former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright to tennis champion Martina Navratilova, this collection of high achievers span different ethnicities, religions, and professions.  And despite the America-centric title, many of their contributions have impacted / benefitted the entire world.  First Generation also offers a powerful reminder on how a safe environment, personal freedoms and educational opportunities help people realise their potential.

The Refugees by Viet Thanh Nguyen

In Viet Thanh Nguyen’s mind, the experience of becoming a refugee – unwanted where they come from, unwanted where they go to – brands you forever.  He explores this idea in the eight short stories that comprise The Refugees.  These are not stories about escaping war, nor even about adapting to new cultures; they are simply stories of love, loss, memory and family – melancholy stories seen through the prism of the refugee experience.  Viet Thanh Nguyen is a respected academic who has become a literary star since winning the Pulitzer Prize (and several other awards) with his first novel, The Sympathizer.  The Refugees is his first collection of short stories. 

Stepping Stones: a Refugee Family’s Journey by Margriet Ruurs and Nizar Ali Badr

Canadian writer Margriet Ruurs was inspired by the art of Syrian artist Nizar Ali Badr to create this book – they didn’t know each other and had never met, but managed to collaborate despite the distance between their two countries, and the political turmoil in Syria.  Stepping Stones tells the story of Rama and her family, who live a happy, peaceful life in Syria until war comes.  As bombs fall ever closer to their village, Rama’s family flees with only a few belongings, travelling overland and across the seas until they find a safe, new home. Nizar Ali Badr’s distinctive illustrations are made by arranging multicoloured stones – into characters and scenes with surprising levels of emotion and humour.  Stepping Stones is an excellent way to introduce the topic of war and refugees to young readers.

Homes by Abu Bakr al Rabeeah with Winnie Yeung

Abu Bakr al Rabeeah was a young teen when he confided his dream to his English teacher: he wanted to tell his story of growing up in Iraq and Syria, and of his family’s journey to safety in Canada.  He noticed that his fellow Canadians knew little about the situation in the Middle East, and wanted to challenge those who wanted to define his family only by their experience as refugees.  Eight months later, Abu achieved his dream with the help of his teacher, Winnie Yeung.  Homes is a gripping first-person account of growing up in a war zone.  The horrors of war are interwoven with ordinary childhood pursuits in a way that shocks the reader – flying kites with cousins among bombed-out buildings; playing with shell casings in the street – yet Abu’s childhood is not without love, or fun.  

I Can Only Tell You What My Eyes See by Giles Duley

Giles Duley is a photojournalist who is best known for documenting the long-term impact of war.  Despite losing both legs and an arm during an explosion whilst on assignment, he has continued his work as a photographer, reporting the stories of refugees not to evoke pity, but to encourage empathy and to inspire change.  I Can Only Tell You What My Eyes See is a record of the refugee crisis in Europe during 2015/6.  Giles Duley travelled through Lebanon, Iraq, and Jordan, through the Balkans and to Greece and Germany, to retrace the journeys of people forced to flee their homes in the Middle East to seek safety in Europe.  Profits from the sale of this book will be donated to the United Nations High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR).

We are Displaced: My Journey and Stories from Refugee Girls Around the World by Malala Yousafzai

In We Are Displaced, Malala Yousafzai uses her considerable public profile to highlight the issue of displacement – people forced to flee their homes due to conflict, persecution or natural disaster.  This is a much more widespread problem than most people realise – happening all around the world, affecting more than 68 million people, mostly women and girls. Starting with Malala’s own experience of internal displacement within Pakistan while escaping from Taliban rule, we are introduced to eight other girls, from countries as diverse as Yemen, Syria, Guatemala and the Congo, and their stories of displacement and disruption (and often discrimination as well).  These accounts are powerfully personal, confronting, and ultimately hopeful, as these resilient girls rebuild their lives in new communities.

The best books exploring Art in 2019…(so far).

Art can be an intimidating and mind boggling form of expression as an artist attempts to take us on a journey and share their view of society with us. While some people can stand in front of a painting on the wall and stare in wonder and awe, others crumple their brow in complete confusion. 

Today we are sharing some of the best new titles on the market that attempt to uncover the secrets of the art world.  So settle in, make yourself a cup of tea, and prepare to broaden your understanding of the mysterious world of art.

Civilization: The Way We Live Now by William A. Ewing, Holly Roussell

We hurtle together into the future at ever-increasing speed – or so it seems to the collective psyche. Every day and every hour, human civilisation expands, evolves and mutates. While we frequently lapse into celebrating the individual at the expense of the group, in science and art, at work and at play, at home and in transit, we increasingly live the collective life. Civilization shows how contemporary photography, notably art photography, is fascinated by, and attempts to decode and communicate, the way we live today. This landmark publication is accompanied by an internationally touring exhibition produced by the Foundation for the Exhibition of Photography – a global cultural event for a global subject. Civilization is presented through eight thematic chapters, each led by breathtaking imagery and accompanied by essays, quotes, commentaries and captions to provide a deeper understanding of its theme. Visually epic and ambitiously popular in approach, it will reach out beyond the boundaries of the photography world to connect with audiences worldwide.

Chromatopia: An Illustrated History of Colour by David Coles

Did you know that the Egyptians created the first synthetic colour; or that the noblest purple comes from a predatory sea snail? Throughout history, artist pigments have been made from deadly metals, poisonous minerals, urine, cow dung, and even crushed insects. From grinding down beetles and burning animal bones to alchemy and serendipity, Chromatopia reveals the origin stories of over 50 of history’s most extraordinary pigments. Spanning the ancient world to modern leaps in technology, this is a book for the artist, the history buff, the science lover and the design fanatic.

Frida Kahlo: Making Her Self Up by Claire Wilcox, Circe Henestrosa

In 1954, following her death, Frida Kahlo’s possessions were locked away in the Casa Azul in Mexico City, her lifelong home. Half a century later, her collection of clothing, jewellery, cosmetics and other personal items was rediscovered. Frida Kahlo: Making Her Self Up offers a fresh perspective on the life story of this extraordinary artist, whose charisma and entirely individual way of dressing made her one of the most photographed women of her time. Specially-commissioned photographs show her distinctive Mexican outfits alongside her self-portraits, an unprecedented pairing that is enriched by iconic images taken in her lifetime.

Tate: Colour A Visual History by Alexandra Loske

Prepare to unravel the rainbow with this amazing colour history and discover the story of colour through the significant scientific discoveries and key artist’s works over 400 years. From Isaac Newton’s investigations through to Olafur Eliasson’s experiential creations, this stunning book documents the fascinating story of colour with an extraordinary collection of original colour material that includes charts, wheels, artists’ palettes, swatches and schemes.

“In 1704, the scientist Isaac Newton published OPTICKS, the result of many years of researching light and colour. By splitting white light, Newton identified the visible range of colours, or the rainbow spectrum. In OPTICKS, he built a colour system around his findings, and he visualised this system in a circular shape, making it one of the first printed colour wheels. The influence of Newton and his followers, combined with the invention of many new pigments as well as watercolours in moist cake form, had made painting with colour an exciting occupation not just for serious artists but also for a much wider audience. The colour revolution had begun.”

Mirka & Georges: A Culinary Affair by Lesley Harding, Kendrah Morgan

They entertained Mick Jagger. They have connections to Albert Einstein and Ned Kelly. Their local admirers are a who’s who of artists, writers, film makers, politicians and celebrities. The impact of Mirka and Georges Mora on Australian food culture and the art scene has been remarkable. Arriving from Paris in 1951, these bon vivants brought colour and flavour to local society and the culinary landscape. Their apartment in Melbourne’s centre became a hub for the bohemian set, and their cafes and restaurants brimmed with food, sex and art. Mirka’s distinctive paintings and drawings were a vital part of this heady mix. Launched in the year of Mirka’s 90th birthday, Mirka & Georges- A Culinary Affair gloriously illustrates the Moras’ extraordinary story. With classic French recipes from the couple’s eateries and home kitchen, photographs from family albums and from inside Mirka’s studio, as well as Mirka’s vibrant artworks, the inimitable personalities of these epicurean pioneers leap out of these pages.

Pattern Design by Elizabeth Wilhide

Throughout history, patterns have come in countless permutations of motif, colour-way and scale. Yet what all have in common is the regularity of repetition, that insistent rhythm that animates a flat surface with a sense of movement and vitality and gives it depth. Evident in the arrangement of petals on a flower head, the branching growth of stems and vines, the spirals of a seashell – pattern is inherent in the natural world that surrounds us. Powerful and transformative, pattern has an irrepressible joie de vivre. With more than 1,500 illustrations of patterns from all ages and cultures, Pattern Design is a visual feast. This comprehensive compendium is arranged thematically according to type, with chapters on Flora, Fauna, Pictorial, Geometric and Abstract designs. These broad categories are supplemented by in-depth features highlighting the work of key designers from the rich history of pattern-making – such as William Morris, Sonia Delaunay, Charles and Ray Eames, Lucienne Day and Orla Kiely – along with sections detailing the characteristic motifs of key period styles from Baroque to Art Deco.

Enjoy!

The Best Science Books of 2019 (so far)

I love Popular Science as a genre – having a science background myself, I am passionate about encouraging everyone to have a better understanding of science, and of becoming more aware of its place in everyday life.  I also love anything that shows off the quirky nerdy humour that I know many scientists and engineers have!  The best science books often combine in-depth research, stranger-than-fiction facts and a cracking narrative  – here’s the pick of the recent crop:

Humble Pi: a Comedy of Maths Errors by Matt Parker
Matt Parker is a mathematician and a comedian, and he uses both skillsets to great effect in Humble Pi, a book about the maths that is all around us – and what happens when you get it wrong. The stories range from trivial and quirky (such as posters where the cogs won’t turn) to potentially deadly (wobbling bridges and NASA disasters); and Matt manages to highlight the funny and entertaining side in all of them. Humble Pi subtly celebrates the importance of maths to science and engineering, without depressing readers about being “not good at maths”.

When the Dogs Don’t Bark: a Forensic Scientist’s Search for the Truth by Angela Gallop
Angela Gallop has had an extraordinary career as a forensic scientist. In over 40 years, she has worked on a string of high profile cases that made significant advances to forensics and criminal law.  When the Dogs Don’t Bark is her memoir of how science has helped to uncover the truth behind some shocking crimes.  While the sensational details showcase her amazingly analytical mind, Angela is also keen to educate her readers about the risks of relying on forensic evidence too heavily.  When the Dogs Don’t Bark will appeal to fans of True Crime and police procedurals, while its level of technical detail should engage science buffs. The Guardian newspaper also considers it an essential resource for aspiring crime writers!

The Wisdom of Wolves: How Wolves can Teach Us to be More Human by Elli H. Radinger
Wolves get pretty bad press in many cultures, and Elli Radinger is out to show everyone that they are not as Big & Bad as we’ve previously heard.  Drawing on 25 years’ of observations, The Wisdom of Wolves describes the social structures and behaviours of wolf packs and shows how similar they are to human societies.  The stories of how the entire pack helps to care for their young and their elderly; how the grownups teach their young to play; and how key decisions are made by females and the elderly, are heartwarming and offer surprising insights into kinship and parenting.  


Why Can’t We Sleep? by Darian Leader
Sleep.  It is a human necessity that has become a luxury in our busy world – so much so that there is an ever-growing industry helping us get the quantity and quality of sleep we want/need.  Why Can’t We Sleep? is a timely examination of this hot topic – weaving together a history and critique of sleep research, with neuroscience, psychology, and the social, cultural and economic significance of sleep.  This is psychoanalyst Darian Leader’s complex, intelligent, yet highly readable story on how and why humans sleep.

Guns, Germs and Steel: the Fates of Human Societies by Jared Diamond
Guns, Germs and Steel is a hugely influential book that helped to establish Popular Science as a genre.  Jared Diamond examines why some civilisations are more successful than others, in terms of wealth and political power, despite no inherent advantage in genetics or intelligence.  He theorises that the tools of success are guns (superior weapons for military might); germs (Eurasian diseases weakening local populations, making them easier to conquer) and steel (advanced technology facilitating imperialism) – and that they all arose from environmental conditions that allowed early adoption of agriculture. Drawing together ideas from history, geography, economics and anthropology, Guns, Germs and Steel offers compelling theories and surprising insights into the development of societies.

Influenza: the Quest to Cure the Deadliest Disease in History by Dr Jeremy Brown
The deadliest disease in recorded history was the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918, which killed up to 100 million people worldwide.  A century later, scientists are still searching for a cure – and an understanding of why this strain disproportionately affects young, apparently-healthy people.  Dr Jeremy Brown uses the Spanish flu pandemic as the starting point of his history of our fight against this ubiquitous yet still deadly virus.  Readers are swept along by this tense mystery/thriller as we begin to understand the high stakes involved – the ‘flu’s ability to spread widely and mutate repeatedly still cause thousands of deaths each year, with widespread social, political and economic consequences, and yet there is still no “bullet-proof” cure or vaccine in sight.