Tag Archives: #Reading

Re-engaging with the classics

Literary classics have a bit of a PR problem – while they have stood the test of time because of their brilliant plotting, excellent writing and timeless messages, their longevity can also mean archaic language and a fusty image.  If you love the classics, but don’t know how to introduce them to your young readers, Booko can show you how.  Here are classic literature ideas for young readers – from babies all the way to young adults.

1001 Children’s Books You Must Read Before You Grow Up edited by Julia Eccleshare

Everyone loves a list, and this one is great fun to browse as well as a fantastic reference.   These 1001 titles have been chosen by Julia Eccleshare, a writer, reviewer and editor who has worked with children’s literature for almost 40 years.  It’s a good overview of the best children’s books from across the ages and around the world, including translated titles.  The books are grouped by reading age, and there are reviews of favourite books written by beloved authors including Margaret Atwood, Judy Blume and Philip Pullman.  Leave this book lying around and everyone will want a turn flicking through.  For those with teen readers, pair it with it’s grown-up cousin, 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die edited by Peter Boxall.

Little Miss Shelley: Frankenstein – an Anatomy Primer by Jennifer Adams

The super-cute BabyLit series enables discerning parents to introduce babies to their favourite literary characters! The sturdy board book format is perfect for little hands (and mouths); the artwork is stylish, colourful and fun; and each title matches a classic story to a related concept.  The latest titles include Frankenstein (about anatomy) and A Midsummer Night’s Dream (about fairies). There’s also Jane Eyre  (counting), Jungle Book  (animals) and many more.

 

The Oxford Treasury of Fairy Tales retold by Geraldine McCaughrean

The Oxford Treasury of Fairy Tales is a classic example of a book gift that can be enjoyed for years to come.  It is a bumper edition of twenty stories, ranging from Sleeping Beauty and Snow White, to The Dancing Princesses and Tamlin.   Pastel illustrations in jewel tones add a vibrant yet dreamy quality. These beloved stories have been retold in hypnotic, poetic language by the award-winning Geraldine McCaughrean – her style makes these stories seem ancient and fresh all at once.  If myths and legends are more your style, Geraldine McCaughrean has also done excellent retellings of Greek Myths and Roman Myths, with illustrations by Emma Chichester-Clark.

Kristy’s Great Idea by Ann M. Martin and Raina Telgemeier

Add a superstar comic artist to a beloved series and you get a modern classic ready to engage with new (and old) readers. Raina Telgemeier has amply demonstrated her ability to depict tween/teen relationships in bestselling graphic novels such as Smile and Sisters; The Baby-Sitters Club was a hugely-successful series, now celebrated for its girl-power message and its efforts in highlighting issues such as divorce, chronic illness and racism.  This full-colour graphic novel edition of Kristy’s Great Idea is gorgeous to look at, and introduces readers to how the series begins.  Books 1-4 are also available as a box set, while the original novels have also been republished.

 

Burning Maze (The Trials fo Apollo Book 3) by Rick Riordan

Burning Maze is the latest instalment in the Trials of Apollo series, where Apollo finds himself stranded in the body of a teenage New Yorker, as punishment for angering his father Zeus.   To return to Olympus, Apollo has to complete five impossible tasks – without access to his godly powers.  In Burning Maze, it’s two down, three to go.  Rick Riordan has won many fans with his action-packed adventures firmly rooted in Greek / Roman / Egyptian / Norse mythologies. Not only does he achieve the seamless blending of modern fantasy with ancient mythology, he has also updated the deities in witty ways.  For other modern updates for middle-grade readers, try Four Children and It by Jacqueline Wilson.

 

 

Hamlet by John Marsden

The challenge in making Classics appeal to teens is how to minimise the daunting reputation of the historical language while letting their gripping plots – full of love, grief, angst – shine.  The solution (particularly for Shakespeare’s works) lies in re-imagining these stories in vivid, modern prose.  While John Marsden’s terrific version of Hamlet stays close to the original, he views Hamlet as a teenager – young, vulnerable and relatable.  Other retellings give fresh perspectives through the eyes of a different / minor character – such as I am Juliet by Jackie French, Ophelia by Lisa Klein, or The Secret Diary of Lydia Bennet by Natasha Farrant.

Top Picks for Reluctant Readers

The term ‘reluctant reader’ is a tricky one because there are a number of reasons why a child may pause before picking up a book…we think it’s super important to recognise why somebody is reluctant and the reasons range from low reading confidence to a lack of interest. Here are our top picks that are bound to pique interest from children who would rather do anything else than pick up a book.

 

Laugh Out Loud by James Patterson

James Patterson creates books kids love, and his latest book is all about a boy who decides to create books kids love by setting up his own book company. Jimmy is determined to follow his dream of a company run by kids for kids, despite the scepticism of parents, teachers and the bank. The story mixes real life and fantasy, and along the way slips lots of recommendations for other unputdownable children’s books. The pacey narrative, variety of scenes and events, and Jimmy’s straight-to-camera narrative keeps the pages turning nicely.

 

 

 

Little Red Reading Hood by Lucy Rowland

Whilst leaving footpaths should never be done, Straying from stories is all sorts of fun!

Little Red Reading Hood loves reading books and making up stories of her own. When she meets a cunning wolf while on her way to the library, he convinces her to stray from the path and read for a little while. But hasn’t she read this in a story before? Perhaps it’s time she came up with a new ending . . .

This is a contemporary and fun take on the classic fairy tale, Little Red Riding Hood. Created by incredible new picture book partnership, Lucy Rowland and Ben Mantle, Little Red Reading Hood will inspire children, and adults, about the magic of books and reading.

 

 

The Superhero Handbook by James Doyle

There’s no excuse for anyone who, having read this book from cover to cover and followed its instructions carefully, does not emerge a superhero. Contained within its pages is a complete superhero training course. Not only do you learn how to invent your superhero name, and how to choose a sidekick, but you can also have a go at some special superhero activities, such as making a mini jet-pack (you’ll need string, a straw, sticky tape and a balloon), or an electro-magnet. The superhero fun and games are very entertaining, as are the science bits, and it’s all delivered in a friendly, knowing and thoroughly engaging way. An unusual information activity book that cleverly mixes science learning with the allure of superhero-dom.

 

Planet Stan by Elaine Wickson

Space, family relationships, friendships are all cleverly and vividly described in this entertaining story. Stan is a nerdy but very likeable hero, who wants nothing more than to win a telescope in the science fair so that he can study space. The main obstacle to this and indeed all Stan’s hopes and wishes, is his little brother Fred, a dinosaur-obsessed five-year-old tornado of destruction and unpredictability. Super-orderly Stan resorts to a range of charts and measuring devices to fill us in on his life – pie-charts, ordinary charts, illustrated diagrams, Venn diagrams – and together with his lugubrious, sometimes agonised delivery, it makes for fast and very funny reading. Readers will be on Stan’s side from the start, and this will speak to anyone who has, is or knows a younger brother or sister.

 

Just Plain Weird by Kaye Umanksy

The Primms and the Weirds are two totally different families. The Primms are fish-eating, hedge-trimming, neighbourhood-watching, they are as strait-laced as they come, while the Weirds are just, weird! Mum is a stunt woman, Dad is an inventor, Gran is very, very small. Despite their differences, when the Weirds move in next door, Pinch Primm becomes friends with Ott Weird, and their adventures make wonderfully comic reading. There are three different stories, each is short, very funny and with a momentum that keeps the pages turning right until the end.

 

 

 

 

 

The World’s Worst Children by David Walliams

Are you ready to meet the World’s Worst Children? Five beastly boys and five gruesome girls! Like Sofia Sofa a TV super-fan so stuck to the sofa that she’s turning into one! or Dribbling Drew a boy whose drool gets him into trouble on a school trip! and not to forget Blubbering Bertha a girl who bawls and tells terrible tales!

David Walliams has created a collection of wickedly funny, deliciously mischievous tales, illustrated in glorious colour by the artistic genius Tony Ros.

 

Enjoy!

The best children’s books you might never have heard of

I love hearing about new or ‘new to me’ children’s books as it’s great to mix-up children’s reading options with some different choices. Sometimes I feel like I know some children’s books off by heart, I have read them so often (like the Mr McGee and some of the Julia Donaldson titles), but I love gifting books that are a bit more unusual. Special books span generations within families, long after the Kmart ‘trend of the moment’ has passed.

Chances are, you may well have heard of some of these titles as they have won a string of awards, but they’re definitely not some of the more well-known children’s books.

I discovered The Mysteries of Harris Burdick by Chris van Allsburg as an adult, studying teaching and absolutely loved it. It’s a picture book containing a series of images by Harris Burdick, a man who mysteriously disappeared. This book is a great resource to start the story-writing process with small children. Many famous authors have written short stories prompted by the stunning black and white images. There is a sinister nature to some of the pictures so best to use with mid-Primary students and above.

When I remember some of the lessons we were taught as kids in schools, I loved collective nouns – in particular, ‘a murder of crows’. I heard about Jennifer Crossin’s beautiful book 101 Collective Nouns just the other day. It’s beautifully illustrated and each page features an image of a different collective noun. This book is lovely to give as a gift and perfect to read aloud with younger readers.

 

 

Love a book that starts a discussion? Try Ask me by Antje Damm. I love this book, the questions and images are thought provoking and it’s quite a precious book to share with children.  Each page features a question such as ‘Can you see animals in the sky?’ or ‘How do you know that you are growing?’. It’s thought provoking and I see it as a great resource to use with the thinkers and dreamers of the world. In a sea of wonderful fiction written for children, this is a great alternative.

If you are searching for engaging titles for Mid-Primary age boys I feel like your options are either a focus on toilet humour (bum jokes) or the Harry Potter series. Of course there are plenty of girls who enjoy these genres, too. I was delighted to discover the Mr Gum books by Andy Stanton recently and fell in love. Don’t get me wrong, these books do contain their fair share of toilet humour, too. But it’s more their rambling, conversational style and nonsensical plot lines that kids love. They’re silly and crazy in a Roald Dahl and Spike Milligan style, making them hugely popular and very readable.

The Sammy Keyes series by Wendelin Van Draanen were a recent discovery and feature a strong female protagonist who is an unofficial teenage detective, as well as dealing with the ups and downs of personal relationships.  A character with spunk and heart, the Sammy Keyes books are terrific for readers aged 10-16 as they show the main character struggling to fit in and manage complex feelings, as well as solve mysteries in her new home town.

 

 

If you know of some less well-known titles, we would love to hear from you at Booko!

Australia’s Top Books from the Past 5 Years

We love award seasons…especially when it’s celebrating Australian literature…and the 2018 season is about to start.

Each year the Australian Book Industry Awards (ABIAs) are held recognising excellence across the book industry, uniting authors, publishers and retailers in celebration of a collective passion for sharing stories and ideas. The awards showcase the extraordinary power of Australian stories to capture a worldwide audience and we thought we’d share the winners from the past five years.

Settle in and get ready to explore the amazing worlds of some great Australian authors…

 

2017 Winner

The Dry by Jane Harper

The Gold ABIA for Book of the Year and ABIA Fiction Book of the Year went to Jane Harper for her internationally acclaimed novel, The Dry and the film option rights have been snapped up by Reese Witherspoon’s Pacific Standard.

Amid the worst drought to ravage Australia in a century, it hasn’t rained in small country town Kiewarra for two years. Tensions in the community become unbearable when three members of the Hadler family are brutally murdered. Everyone thinks Luke Hadler, who committed suicide after slaughtering his wife and six-year-old son, is guilty. Policeman Aaron Falk returns to the town of his youth for the funeral of his childhood best friend, and is unwillingly drawn into the investigation. As questions mount and suspicion spreads through the town, Falk is forced to confront the community that rejected him twenty years earlier. Falk and Luke Hadler shared a secret, one which Luke’s death threatens to unearth. And as Falk probes deeper into the killings, secrets from his past and why he left home bubble to the surface as he questions the truth of his friend’s crime.

2016 Winners

Gold ABIA for Book of the Year

Reckoning: A Memoir by Magda Szubanski

Magda Szubanski’s childhood in a suburban migrant family was haunted by the demons of her father’s life in wartime Poland. At nineteen, fighting in the Warsaw resistance, he had been recruited to a secret counter-intelligence execution squad. His mission was to assassinate Polish traitors who were betraying Jewish citizens to the Nazis. The legacy of her father’s bravery left the young Magda with profound questions about her family story. As she grew up, the assassin’s daughter had to navigate her own frailties and fears, including a lifelong struggle with weight gain and an increasing awareness of her own sexuality. With courage and compassion Szubanski’s memoir asks the big questions about life, about the shadows we inherit and the gifts we pass on.

 

ABIA Fiction Book of the Year

The Patterson Girls by Rachael Johns

How can four sisters build the futures they so desperately want, when the past is reaching out to claim them? When the Patterson daughters return home to Meadow Brook to be with their father after their mothers death, they bring with them a world of complication and trouble.The eldest sister, obstetrician Madeleine, would rather be anywhere but her hometown, violinist Abigail has fled from her stellar career, while teacher Lucinda is struggling to have the children she and her husband so desperately want. The black sheep of the family, Charlie, feels her life as a barista and exercise instructor doesn’t measure up to that of her gifted and successful sisters.Dealing with their bereft father who is determined to sell the family motel, their loves old and new and a series of troublesome decisions don’t make life any easier, but when they go through their mother’s possessions and uncover the shocking secret of an old family curse, they begin to question everything they thought they knew. A warm and wise novel about secrets revealed, finding your soulmate and the unique bond between sisters.

 

2015 Winners

Gold ABIA for Book of the Year

52 Storey Treehouse by Andy Griffiths and Terry Denton

Andy and Terry’s incredible, ever-expanding treehouse has 13 new storeys, including a watermelon-smashing level, a wave machine, a life-size snakes and ladders game (with real ladders and real snakes), a rocket-powered carrot-launcher, a Ninja Snail Training Academy and a high-tech detective agency with all the latest high-tech detective technology, which is lucky because they have a BIG mystery to solve – where is Mr Big Nose??? Well, what are you waiting for? Come on up.

 

 

 

 

 

ABIA Fiction Book of the Year

Lost & Found by Brooke Davis

At seven years old, Millie Bird realises that everything is dying around her. She wasn’t to know that after she had recorded twenty-seven assorted creatures in her Book of Dead Things her dad would be a Dead Thing, too. Agatha Pantha is eighty-two and has not left her house since her husband died. She sits behind her front window, hidden by the curtains and ivy, and shouts at passers-by, roaring her anger at complete strangers. Until the day Agatha spies a young girl across the street. Karl the Touch Typist is eighty-seven when his son kisses him on the cheek before leaving him at the nursing home. As he watches his son leave, Karl has a moment of clarity. He escapes the home and takes off in search of something different. Three lost people needing to be found. But they don’t know it yet. Millie, Agatha and Karl are about to break the rules and discover what living is all about.

 

2014 Winner

 

Gold ABIA for Book of the Year and ABIA Fiction Book of the Year

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

Don Tillman is getting married. He just doesn’t know who to yet. But he has designed the Wife Project, using a sixteen-page questionnaire to help him find the perfect partner. She will most definitely not be a barmaid, a smoker, a drinker, or a late-arriver. Rosie Jarman is all these things. She is also fiery and intelligent and beautiful. And on a quest of her own to find her biological father—a search that Don, a professor of genetics, might just be able to help her with. The Wife Project teaches Don some unexpected things. Why earlobe length is an inadequate predictor of sexual attraction. Why quick-dry clothes aren’t appropriate attire in New York. Why he’s never been on a second date. And why, despite your best scientific efforts, you don’t find love: love finds you.

 

2013 Winner

ABIA Fiction Book of the Year and ABIA Fiction Book of the Year

The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman

A boat washes up on the shore of a remote lighthouse keeper’s island. It holds a dead man – and a crying baby. The only two islanders, Tom and his wife Izzy, are about to make a devastating decision. They break the rules and follow their hearts. What happens next will break yours.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You can follow the 2018 award season here with all of the titles that are on the ABIA’s Longlist. 

Interested in seeing which books get the most popular vote on Booko each year?  Here are the most clicked books for 2017, 2016 and 2015. 

Enjoy!

The Best Novels on Pre Order for 2018

Summer is well and truly here and with the crazy festive season behind us it’s now time to sink into a fabulous new book…here are our top books to pre order.

Brave by Rose McGowan

“My life, as you will read, has taken me from one cult to another. BRAVE is the story of how I fought my way out of these cults and reclaimed my life. I want to help you do the same.” -Rose McGowan.

Rose McGowan was born in one cult and came of age in another, more visible cult: Hollywood.

In a strange world where she was continually on display, stardom soon became a personal nightmare of constant exposure and sexualization. Rose escaped into the world of her mind, something she had done as a child, and into high-profile relationships. Every detail of her personal life became public, and the realities of an inherently sexist industry emerged with every script, role, public appearance, and magazine cover. The Hollywood machine packaged her as a sexualized bombshell, hijacking her image and identity and marketing them for profit.

Hollywood expected Rose to be silent and cooperative and to stay the path. Instead, she rebelled and asserted her true identity and voice. Brave is her raw, honest, and poignant memoir.

 

The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin

If you knew the date of your death, how would you live your life?

It’s 1969 in New York City’s Lower East Side, and word has spread of the arrival of a mystical woman, a traveling psychic who claims to be able to tell anyone the day they will die. The Gold children, four adolescents on the cusp of self-awareness, sneak out to hear their fortunes.

The prophecies inform their next five decades. Golden-boy Simon escapes to the West Coast, searching for love in ’80s San Francisco; dreamy Klara becomes a Las Vegas magician, obsessed with blurring reality and fantasy; eldest son Daniel seeks security as an army doctor post-9/11; and bookish Varya throws herself into longevity research, where she tests the boundary between science and immortality.

This is a sweeping novel of remarkable ambition and depth, The Immortalists probes the line between destiny and choice, reality and illusion, this world and the next. It is a deeply moving testament to the power of story, the nature of belief, and the unrelenting pull of familial bonds.

 

Feel Free by Zadie Smith

No subject is too fringe or too mainstream for the unstoppable Zadie Smith. From social media to the environment, Tarantino to Jay-Z to Knausgaard, she has boundless curiosity and the boundless wit, insight and wisdom to match. In Feel Free, pop culture, high culture, social change and political debate all get the Zadie Smith treatment: dissected with razor-sharp intellect, set brilliantly against the context of the utterly contemporary, and considered with a deep humanity and compassion.

This electrifying new collection showcases its author as a true literary powerhouse, demonstrating once again her credentials as an essential voice of her generation.

 

 

The Elizas by Sara Shepard

New York Times bestselling author of Pretty Little Liars Sara Shepard makes her mark on adult fiction with this Hitchcockian double narrative composed of lies, false memories, and a protagonist who must uncover the truth for survival. When debut novelist Eliza Fontaine is found at the bottom of a hotel pool, her family at first assumes that it’s just another failed suicide attempt. But Eliza swears she was pushed, and her rescuer is the only witness. Desperate to find out who attacked her, Eliza takes it upon herself to investigate. But as the publication date for her novel draws closer, Eliza finds more questions than answers. Like why are her editor, agent, and family mixing up events from her novel with events from her life? Her novel is completely fictional, isn’t it? The deeper Eliza goes into her investigation while struggling with memory loss, the closer her life starts to resemble her novel, until the line between reality and fiction starts to blur and she can no longer tell where her protagonist’s life ends and hers begins.

 

This Will Be My Undoing by Morgan Jerkins

From one of the fiercest critics writing today, Morgan Jerkins’ highly-anticipated collection of linked essays interweaves her incisive commentary on pop culture, feminism, black history, misogyny, and racism with her own experiences to confront the very real challenges of being a black woman today.

Morgan Jerkins is only in her twenties, but she has already established herself as an insightful, brutally honest writer who isn’t afraid of tackling tough, controversial subjects. In This Will Be My Undoing, she takes on perhaps one of the most provocative contemporary topics: What does it mean to “be”, to live as, to exist as, a black woman today? This is a book about black women, but it’s necessary reading for everyone.

Doubly disenfranchised by race and gender, often deprived of a place within the mostly white mainstream feminist movement, black women are objectified, silenced, and marginalised with devastating consequences, in ways both obvious and subtle in the larger discussion about inequality. In This Will Be My Undoing, Jerkins becomes both narrator and subject to expose the social, cultural, and historical story of black female oppression that influences the black community as well as the white, male-dominated world at large.

 


Still Me
by Jojo Moyes

Lou Clark arrives in New York ready to start a new life, confident that she can embrace this new adventure and keep her relationship with Ambulance Sam alive across several thousand miles. She is hurled into the world of the super-rich, Leonard and his much younger second wife, Agnes, and a never-ending array of household staff and hangers-on. Lou is determined to get the most out of the experience and throws herself into her job and New York life within this privileged world.

Before she knows what’s happening, Lou is mixing in New York high society, where she meets Joshua Ryan, a man who brings with him a whisper of her past.

In Still Me, as Lou tries to keep the two sides of her world together, she finds herself carrying secrets – not all her own – that cause a catastrophic change in her circumstances. And when matters come to a head, she has to ask herself: Who is Louisa Clark? And how do you reconcile a heart that lives in two places?

 

The Monk of Mokha by Dave Eggers

From the best-selling author of The Circle, the true story of a young Yemeni-American man, raised in San Francisco, who dreams of resurrecting the ancient art of Yemeni coffee but finds himself trapped in Sana’a by civil war and his riveting tale of escape. Mokhtar Alkhanshali grew up in San Francisco, one of seven siblings brought up by Yemeni immigrants in a tiny apartment. At age twenty-four, unable to pay for college, he works as a doorman, until a statue of an Arab raising a cup of coffee awakens something in him. He sets out to learn the rich history of coffee in Yemen and the complex art of tasting and identifying varietals. He travels to Yemen and visits countless farms, collecting samples, eager to bring improved cultivation methods to the countryside. And he is on the verge of success when civil war engulfs Yemen in 2015. The US Embassy closes, Saudi bombs began to rain down on the country, and Mokhtar is trapped in Yemen. Desperate to escape, he embarks on a passage that has him negotiating with duelling political factions and twice kidnapped at gunpoint. With no other options, he hires a skiff to take him, and his coffee samples, across the Red Sea.

A heart-pounding true story that weaves together the history of coffee, the ongoing Yemeni civil war, and the courageous journey of a young man, a Muslim and a US citizen, following the most American of dreams.

Enjoy!

Surviving summer with a great novel

With the chaos of Christmas over it is the perfect time to find a quiet spot on the beach and enjoy a great book. Here are some of our favourites that we highly recommend reading this summer.

We Are Never Meeting In Real Life by Samantha Irby

Sometimes you just have to laugh, even when life is a dumpster fire.

With We Are Never Meeting in Real Life., “bitches gotta eat” blogger and comedian Samantha Irby turns the serio-comic essay into an art form. Whether talking about how her difficult childhood has led to a problem in making “adult” budgets, explaining why she should be the new Bachelorette (she’s “35-ish, but could easily pass for 60-something”) detailing a disastrous pilgrimage-slash-romantic-vacation to Nashville to scatter her estranged father’s ashes, sharing awkward sexual encounters, or dispensing advice on how to navigate friendships with former drinking buddies who are now suburban mums (hang in there for the Costco loot) she’s as deft at poking fun at the ghosts of her past self as she is at capturing powerful emotional truths.

 

The Idiot by Elif Batuman

It is September 1995. Selin, a Turkish-American college freshman from New Jersey, is about to embark on her first year at Harvard University, where she is determined to decipher the mysteries of language and to become a writer. In between studying psycho­linguistics and the philosophy of language, teaching ESL to a Costa Rican plumber, and befriending her classmate Svetlana (a Serbian refugee from Connecticut), Selin falls in love with a Hungarian maths student in her Russian class. She spends the summer in the Hungarian countryside teaching English to village children, where sad and comic misunderstandings ensue. Full of the razor-sharp evocations of character and place that have long delighted readers of Batuman’s non-fiction.

 

The Rules Do Not Apply: A Memoir by Ariel Levy

When Ariel Levy left for a reporting trip to Mongolia in 2012, she was pregnant, married, financially secure, and successful on her own terms. A month later, none of that was true.

Levy picks you up and hurls you through the story of how she built an unconventional life and then watched it fall apart with astonishing speed. Like much of her generation, she was raised to resist traditional rules about work, about love, and about womanhood.

In this deeply human and deeply moving memoir, Levy chronicles the adventure and heartbreak of being, in her own words, “a woman who is free to do whatever she chooses.” Her story of resilience becomes an unforgettable portrait of the shifting forces in our culture, of what has changed, and of what is eternal.

 

All Grown Up by Jami Attenberg

Who is Andrea Bern? When her therapist asks the question, Andrea knows the right things to say: she’s a designer, a friend, a daughter, a sister. But it’s what she leaves unsaid – she’s alone, a drinker, a former artist, a shrieker in bed, captain of the sinking ship that is her flesh – that feels the most true. Everyone around her seems to have an entirely different idea of what it means to be an adult: her best friend, Indigo, is getting married; her brother – who miraculously seems unscathed by their shared tumultuous childhood – and sister-in-law are having a hoped-for baby; and her friend Matthew continues to wholly devote himself to making dark paintings at the cost of being flat broke. But when Andrea’s niece finally arrives, born with a heartbreaking ailment, the Bern family is forced to reexamine what really matters. Will this drive them together or tear them apart? Told in gut-wrenchingly honest, mordantly comic vignettes, All Grown Up is a breathtaking display of Jami Attenberg’s power as a storyteller, a whip-smart examination of one woman’s life, lived entirely on her own terms.

 

Happiness: The Crooked Little Road To Semi-Ever After by Heather Harpham

Happiness begins with a charming courtship between hopelessly attracted opposites: Heather, a world-roaming California girl, and Brian, an intellectual, homebody writer, kind and slyly funny, but loath to leave his Upper West Side studio. Their magical interlude ends, full stop, when Heather becomes pregnant. Brian is sure he loves her, only he doesn’t want kids. Heather returns to California to deliver their daughter alone, buoyed by family and friends. Mere hours after Gracie’s arrival, Heather’s bliss is interrupted when a nurse wakes her, “Get dressed, your baby is in trouble.”

This is not how Heather had imagined new motherhood – alone, heartsick, an unexpectedly solo caretaker of a baby who smelled “like sliced apples and salted pretzels” but might be perilously ill. Brian reappears as Gracie’s condition grows dire and together Heather and Brian have to decide what they are willing to risk to ensure their girl sees adulthood.

 

Conversations With Friends by Sally Rooney

Frances is a cool-headed and darkly observant young woman, vaguely pursuing a career in writing while studying in Dublin. Her best friend and comrade-in-arms is the beautiful and endlessly self-possessed Bobbi. At a local poetry performance one night, Frances and Bobbi catch the eye of Melissa, a well-known photographer, and as the girls are then gradually drawn into Melissa’s world, Frances is reluctantly impressed by the older woman’s sophisticated home and tall, handsome husband, Nick. However amusing and ironic Frances and Nick’s flirtation seems at first, it gives way to a strange intimacy, and Frances’s friendship with Bobbi begins to fracture. As Frances tries to keep her life in check, her relationships increasingly resist her control: with Nick, with her difficult and unhappy father, and finally, terribly, with Bobbi.

Desperate to reconcile her inner life to the desires and vulnerabilities of her body, Frances’s intellectual certainties begin to yield to something new: a painful and disorienting way of living from moment to moment. Written with gem-like precision and marked by a sly sense of humour, Conversations with Friends is wonderfully alive to the pleasures and dangers of youth, and the messy edges of female friendship.

Enjoy!

Books to get you thinking this Christmas

As we hurtle towards December, a few things brighten our days – anticipation for Christmas (the food! The long holiday! The time to read!) and also the wave after wave of new release books, ready for gifting or to add to our own wish lists. Team Booko’s currently in a cerebral mood, so here are our top picks for books that inspire and challenge us to think:

Garden of the Lost and Abandoned: the Extraordinary Story of One Ordinary Woman and the Children She Saves by Jessica Yu

This biography of Ugandan journalist Gladys Kalibbala shows human nature at its most selfless and inspiring. Gladys writes a newspaper column in Kampala called “Lost and Abandoned”, where she profiles homeless children in the hope of reuniting them with their families. Her conviction about giving these children a chance to thrive leads her to set up a farm for them to stay in.  Garden of the Lost and Abandoned offers an absorbing portrait of a charismatic, determined and energetic woman.  Jessica Yu’s background as an award-winning filmmaker shows in her use of vivid dialogue, local colour and a dramatic narrative with plenty of highs and lows.

Illegal by Eoin Colfer, Andrew Donkin and Giovanni Rigano

Comics / graphic novels are not just about superheroes, and Illegal highlights how it can be a powerful tool for discussing complex issues.  Twelve-year-old Ebo is all alone – his sister and brother have both disappeared, escaping their African homeland for the safety of Europe. Hoping to reunite with his sister, Ebo also sets out on this long and perilous journey, crossing the Sahara Desert before sailing across the treacherous sea. Throughout his ordeal, Ebo never loses hope of reaching his sister, or of finding a place where he can grow up in peace and safety. Illegal is a gripping story and an excellent way to help children understand the refugee crisis. For ages 9 and up.

Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action by Simon Sinek

Start with Why is the basis of the third most-watched TED Talk ever (34 million views and counting).  The name “Start with Why” refers to a common trait in the most successful leaders and organisations – they are very clear about why they do what they do.  Focussing on the Why – rather than the How or the What – engages people’s emotions and motivates them to act.  When the Why (i.e. mission) of a company is unclear, it leads to poor decision-making that loses sight of longer-term success.  Simon Sinek is an anthropologist who has turned his analytical gaze towards what makes leadership and management effective.  The simple yet powerful messages in Start with Why inspire us to find our Whys and act upon them.

Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant

This follow-up of sorts to the bestselling Lean In  is one nobody would have wanted, or expected Sheryl Sandberg to write – it’s the story of how she clawed her way back from profound grief following the recent, unexpected and public death of her husband. Feeling lost and disoriented, Sheryl Sandberg turned to Adam Grant, a friend and psychologist, whose professional insights became her framework for how to survive through, and overcome, this bleak time.  Option B is part memoir, part social science and part self-help manual; Sheryl Sandberg’s openness, honesty and her fighting spirit make it both a very moving and a very helpful book.

Sleeping Beauties by Stephen and Owen King

The latest Stephen King novel sees him collaborating with his son Owen (also a published author).  Their take on Sleeping Beauty imagines a viral pandemic that makes women fall asleep and grow cocoons around themselves; disturb the cocoons, and the women awake as vicious zombies. In their dream-state, women enter a better, happier alternative-world; meanwhile, the loss of an entire sex creates chaos in the real world.  Is Sleeping Beauties straight horror, a twisted fairytale, or a fable? Fans of The Handmaid’s Tale may spot its dystopian themes. Read into this what you will.

Hiddensee: a Tale of the Once and Future Nutcracker by Gregory Maguire

Having put his unique spin on childhood favourites (including Mirror, Mirror and the fabulous Wicked, Gregory Maguire turns his eye to the quintessential Christmas story – The Nutcracker. Hiddensee tells the life story of Drosselmeier, the elderly toymaker who made the nutcracker given to his goddaughter Klara. Drosselmeier was a foundling who, despite a miserable upbringing, retained his innocence and his ability to love and care. Hiddensee is another showcase for Gregory Maguire’s gift for giving emotional depth and a rich, surprising backstory to characters that we thought we knew well.  Pre-order now ahead of its release on October 31.

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.

The Books that are the Playlist of my Life

Sometimes, the books you read, and the authors you love, are like staging posts, reflecting particular stages and events in your life; you grow from the experience and move on.  Sometimes, what you crave is a life partner – someone whose books engage and resonate with you year after year, come what may.  While most authors excel at writing in a specific genre or for a particular age group, there are many who write more broadly and are potential “life partners”.  Here are three popular authors who write across genres and age groups… do you have more you can recommend?

Roald Dahl

Roald Dahl is best known for his children’s stories – including his acclaimed and very entertaining autobiography Boy – but his adult fiction is also incredible.  He is a master of the short story, able to evoke a vivid scenario, then throw in a gasp-inducing twist, all within a handful of pages.  Where Roald Dahl’s twisted humour makes his children’s stories fantastical, it turns his adult stories hyper-real, emphasising the sinister, nasty side of human nature.  A celebrated example is The Champion of the World, a short story about pheasant poaching contained in his compilation Kiss Kiss; its twistedness was then transformed into Danny the Champion of the World, an altogether more whimsical story about the father-son bond and beating the establishment (and pheasant poaching!).

Kaz Cooke

Kaz Cooke is a fearless, frank and funny feminist – the sort of person you wish were your cool best friend, or fun auntie. Kaz works as a cartoonist, journalist, and agony aunt – and she has used these skills to create a range of advice books for women and children. From pregnancy (Up the Duff) to puberty (Girl Stuff) and women’s health (Women’s Stuff), Kaz has pretty much every life stage covered. What I love about these books is their excellent balance between irreverence and information – they are funny and easy to read, yet meticulously researched. Kaz also champions a body-positive message that helps readers block out the BS and learn to love and trust themselves and be more confident.

Meg Cabot

Meg Cabot is best known for The Princess Diaries, which amply showcases her chatty style and deft balancing of comedy, romance and sweet earnestness. Through a series of fifteen books, we see Mia come of age, from a gawky teenager to a confident princess, developing her own personality while honouring duty, and juggling the demands of family, friendship and romance.  Meg Cabot has extended this series up into Chick Lit territory with Royal Wedding, where an adult Mia prepares to get married (but not before lots of drama!); and also down into junior fiction, with the spin-off Notebooks of a Middle School Princess.  Not content with one hugely successful series, Meg Cabot has also written in other genres, including series of paranormal romance, and murder mysteries.