Tag Archives: #Selfhelp

How to be the best ‘you’, you can be.

I don’t know why but part of the process of starting a new year is determining how we can be fitter, smarter and happier individuals.  A new year seems to offer opportunities and potential that the previous 9 or 10 months didn’t.  Whether you are wanting to increase your confidence or work out which career best suits your strengths, here are our recommendations for some of the most popular self help guides on the market.

Create the Style You Crave on a Budget You Can Afford: The Sweet Spot Guide to Home Decor by Desha Peacock

If you are anything like me, you have spent time in friends’ homes and thought ‘how can I get my home to look like this?’

The starting point is, as Peacock explains, understanding and exploring your own unique sense of style.  Then the fun part comes with working out how to bring it to life with a mixture of vintage, modern and op shop finds according to your budget.  This book is a little different to most decorating books – it’s not filled with multi million dollar homes and budgets, but showcases the stories of everyday women with busy lives and limited budgets who have infused personal values, meaning, and style into making their home their own.


The Brain Fog Fix : Reclaim Your Focus, Memory and Joy in Just 3 Weeks by Mike Dow

Ever wander into a room and forget why you went in?  No?? Lucky you!

Perhaps it’s a symptom of our lives becoming busier, more stressful and less….fun but many of us are wandering around in a ‘brain fog’.  The good news?  It’s not an irreparable condition and this book contains steps to help you reclaim your focus, memory and joy in under a month.

Want to become more ‘present’ and be able to fully participate in your life?  This is the book for you.


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

This book has been one of our most ‘clicked’ titles on Booko for over a month now.  It’s the output of Ferriss having interviewed nearly 200 world-class performers to determine what makes them successful.

In it, Ferriss discusses the routines, habits and tactics that have made these people so successful and shows you how you can implement these into your life to achieve success.


Strengths finder 2.0 by Tim Rath

If you are one of those people who are working at a job they like but don’t feel like it’s their passion or ‘calling’, this book is a great resource.

An updated version of the StrengthsFinder program developed by Gallup experts, Rath’s book helps readers to discover their distinct talents and strengths and how they can be translated into personal and career successes.

Resources include a 2.0 assessment with features that include a personalized Strengths Insight Report, an Action-Planning Guide, and a web-based Strengths Community.

The Confidence Gap by Dr Russ Harris

Sometimes all that separates us from others that are successful in their fields is the self confidence to make the most of opportunities available to us.

This is a hands-on, self-help guide to gaining long-lasting confidence and overcoming fear using mindfulness-based therapy. The author explains how many of us are playing the ‘confidence game’ using the wrong rules, and guides the reader through clear, simple exercises designed to help you manage difficult emotions such as anxiety and build genuine confidence. 

Minimalism by Joshua Fields Millburn


The show I have been binge-watching on Netflix has been ‘The Minimalists’.  Essentially, two guys (best friends) turned their backs on highly lucrative careers, reduced their ‘stuff’ to bare requirements and focused on what’s important.

If you find you are living pay-check to pay-check and consumed by what stuff you are going to purchase next, ‘Minimalism’ is a great read and focuses on 5 key themes that make a meaningful life: health, relationships, passion, growth and contribution.  It contains actionable tasks to start creating more meaning and less ‘stuff’ in your life.

Books as a gateway to a simpler and more fulfilling life

The act of reading a book is a time-honoured way to connect us to the simpler things in life. It helps us make sense of the world in which we live. The age-old habit of sitting down in a quiet place, perhaps with a cup of tea or coffee, and opening the pages of a book is in itself conducive to relaxing, learning and, as a result, relieving stress.

But what about going one step further? How about reading books that inspire you to engage in mindfulness and the slow life? Books, ebooks and audio books teach, inspire and help us to find our way to a simpler, more fulfilling life.

One of the surest ways to relieve stress is to opt for a simpler, happier lifestyle; one closer to that led by our previous generations. All of these books help teach us to slow down, to practice stress-relieving activities, such as meditation, minimalism and mindfulness. In other words, to take time out to smell the roses!

Here are a few titles to help you learn and practice methods of reducing stress in your life and reconnect with the simpler things in life.

https-::covers.booko.info:300:dalaiThe Art of Happiness: a Handbook for Living

His Holiness the Dalai Lama is possibly one of the most respected spiritual leaders on our planet. His gentle lifestyle guidance and teachings are directed, not just at practitioners of Buddhism, but the whole world. In The Art of Happiness, His Holiness — in collaboration with psychiatrist Howard Cutler — teaches us there is a path towards happiness. The key is being able to recognise what in our lives causes us to be happy and then, by cultivating the right mental practice, we can achieve a balanced, contented state of mind.

Through stories and meditations, he shows us how to beat daily insecurities, anxieties and stress, leading us gently towards what he describes as “the purpose of life”, that of true happiness.

https-::covers.booko.info:300:mindfulnessThe Miracle of Mindfulness

Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh’s classic guide to mindfulness is still considered one of the classics in its field, over thirty years after its original publication. Originally written as a letter to a fellow brother suffering under atrocities during the Vietnam War, Buddhist monk Thich uses stories and allegories to urge his brothers to continue on the mindfulness path.

The book has served as an instruction manual for the now widespread practice of meditation and has become recognised as a powerful guide to (in His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s words) “show us the connection between personal, inner peace and peace on earth”.

The Miracle of Mindfulness is full of thought exercises, allegories and wonderful examples of how to practice mindfulness in everyday living in commonplace acts such as washing up and drinking tea.

https-::covers.booko.info:300:chickensZen and the Art of Raising Chickens

Clea Danaan’s book Zen and the Art of Raising Chickens is a quirky, entertaining and informative book about how raising chickens in an urban or suburban environment can help get you back to the simpler things in life and reduce stress.

Written to make you smile as much as inform, the author nevertheless points to a few truths about chickens. Namely how their personalities, habits and idiosyncratic ways slow us down to their rhythms. Chapter titles such as “The Sound of One Wing Flapping” and “The Mind of the Chicken is Ungraspable” underline the way their “chickeny” characteristics can make us relax and laugh. Anecdotal evidence is (thankfully) abundantly documented by the author who also shows us the practical, healthy side of raising chickens in your own backyard.

Original and full of wit, yet containing a central truth about how keeping chickens can help ground us in a healthier, less stressful, more mindful lifestyle; Zen and the Art of Raising Chickens inspires and teaches as well as entertains.

https-::covers.booko.info:300:actionMindfulness in Action

Interested in learning more about simplicity and the power of meditation to change lives? Mindfulness in Action takes you to the very core of simplicity and awareness through meditation exercises and teachings. The author uses wisdom and insight to teach us to simply sit still and reconnect with the very concept of being human in our ever faster-paced world.

The book is edited by Carolyn Gimian, a longtime student and expert chronicler of Chogyam Trungpa’s teachings. This remarkable book offers something for everyone, whether a novice or experienced meditator.



https-::covers.booko.info:300:joyThe Joy of Less

The art of minimalism revolves around doing more with less. In this fascinating account, author Francine Jay points to the benefits of decluttering your home or workspace, in a way that brings us back to simpler, more satisfying living.

Not only does the author give tips on how to save money by ridding your space of excess material, she also demonstrates how living with less can be a path to greater happiness and simplicity.

Reading is the ultimate activity in enjoying “quiet moments” that centre our days and help to reduce the stress in our lives. In doing so you are joining the generations of people before you, from mystics, to learned scientists, to poets and professors, to just lovers of a good book, all who have used the written word to learn, relax and relieve stress.

Join them and find out how books can change you to appreciate a slower, more relaxed and fulfilling life.


Socially acceptable Self Help books

Self Help books are a growing trend. Similar to ‘hope in a jar’ sold at cosmetics counters, buying Self Help books seems like an easy road to becoming richer, thinner and more successful.  They have always been my guilty pleasure: not something I will take out and read on the train but definitely suitable holiday reading.  This collection of Self Help books is a little different.  They are cooler and have a bit of attitude.  They are less ‘new-agey’ and more authentic and un-apologetic.  Here are our recommendations for socially acceptable Self Help books:

https-::covers.booko.info:300:MAGICThe Life-Changing Magic of not giving a F**k by Sarah Knight

Deserving an award for best book title of the year goes to Sarah Knight for her clever take on Marie Kondo’s book ‘The Life Changing Magic of Tidying’.  Perfect for people who spend enormous amounts of time and energy worrying about things they need not, this book is an hysterical, practical two-step:  ‘Not Sorry’ method for mental decluttering that enables you to focus your time and energy on things that really matter.


https-::covers.booko.info:300:ORIGINALSOriginals: How Non-Conformists Move the World by Adam Grant

What makes an innovator?  Adam Grant debunks some of the more common myths surrounding entrepreneurs in this book.  Some of these include success in one area does not necessarily mean success is guaranteed in another and that innovators are happy to throw away everything in pursuit of their dream.  Interestingly, Grant also links internet browser choice to success (good news for Chrome and Firefox fans).  A great read for unpicking the brain of the non-conformist.


https-::covers.booko.info:300:LIVELive the Best Story of your Life by Bob Litwin

Bob Litwin is a leading performance coach on Wall Street and former World Champion tennis player.  Litwin spent thousands of hours researching from the best minds in the field of human potential.  Believing that the mode of storytelling is incredibly strong, Litwin formats the book into 33 personalised coaching sessions, underpinned by powerful stories.  Want a new story?  Litwin shows you how to put your old stories in your past and discover the excitement and energy of your new story.


https-::covers.booko.info:300:BADASSYou are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life by Jen Sincero

A no-nonsense and practical approach to shifting the mental barriers that prevent success, ‘You are a Badass’ is full of humour, sage advice and inspiring stories.  Touted as the self-help book for people that aren’t huge fans of the genre, this book is a great tool for people to help regain perspective in their lives.  The principles in the book might be basic but its humour and personality make it all the more powerful.


https-::covers.booko.info:300:hBITThe Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do In Life And In Business by Charles Dugigg

Dugigg is an award-winning New York Times business reporter.  In ‘The Power of Habit’, Dugigg examines the scientific principles of how habits are created.  Then, he explains why they exist and how we can change them. Considering much of our lives are based on habits, the premise of the book is incredibly simple, but powerful. The keys to losing weight and performing at our upmost abilities are found in creating high-performing habits.



https-::covers.booko.info:300:yesYear of Yes: How to Dance it Out, Stand in the Sun and Be your Own Person by Shonda Rhimes

Rhimes is the hugely talented creator of ‘Grey’s Anatomy’, and ‘Scandal’, as well as the Executive Producer of ‘How to Get Away with Murder.’  In this book she chronicles how saying yes to everything for one year changed her life.  There have been mixed reviews of this book (some have felt it was self indulgent), however, we liked the stories about balancing work and personal life (Rhimes has three children and an exceptionally busy career).  How can your life benefit from opening yourself up to new experiences?


For more Self Help picks, check out our Pinterest board.

Understanding our minds, understanding ourselves

Have you ever wondered why we do things the way we do, or why other people behave differently?  Human and societal behaviour can be endlessly fascinating because we still don’t fully understand how the human brains work.  Luckily, there are now many popular titles that explain the latest scientific findings.   Enjoy these engaging (and useful!) books, that discuss a mix of psychology, sociology, neuroscience, and even offer some self-help tips.

The Tipping Point: How Little Things can Make a Big Difference by Malcolm Gladwell

The Tipping Point is about social epidemics – previously little-known items or actions that suddenly attract enormous, inexplicable attention.  Malcolm Gladwell suggests how even small events can develop into an epidemic if they reach a “tipping point” – a threshold for exponential propagation, a moment when everything can change at once.    The Tipping Point presents engaging explanations of the sociology and psychology behind social epidemics and tipping points, illustrated by examples including Sesame Street, “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon” game, and the fall in New York City’s crime rate.  Although The Tipping Point was first published in 2000, the use of virus and epidemic analogies make this book even more relevant now, in our social-media-dominated, hyper-connected society.

The Teenage Brain: a Neuroscientist’s Survival Guide to Raising Adolescents and Young Adults by Frances E. Jensen and Amy Ellis Nutt

Teenagers: they might look like adults, but they sure don’t behave like them.  Recent research points to neurological reasons – the teenage brain is not fully developed, and not the “adult brain with less miles on it” that it was previously assumed to be.  The last areas to become fully developed are those that control judgment, decision making, and empathy – explaining why teens seem such impulsive risk-takers.  Neurologist Frances E. Jensen and science writer Amy Ellis Nutt bring both scientific expertise and parenting experience to The Teenage Brain, a book that translates an understanding of brain development into parenting strategies.  This very readable book is worth including in everyone’s parenting toolkit.

Flourish: a Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being by Martin Seligman

Martin Seligman is a psychologist and educator who is both respected by fellow researchers and popular with readers.  He is a pioneer of positive psychology, which focusses on improving mental health and thus preventing mental illness.  His work on resilience and happiness – including the bestselling Authentic Happiness – continues to spearhead societal interest in wellbeing.  In Flourish, his latest book, Martin Seligman zooms out from a focus on happiness, to look at the broader concept of wellbeing.  His extensive research points to five key elements to wellbeing – positive emotion, engagement, relationships, meaning and achievement – that allow both individuals and societies to flourish.

The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do, and How to Change by Charles Duhigg

Booko featured The Power of Habit earlier this year, in our blog entry on developing great habits.  However, The Power of Habit is not only a self-help book, it is also an engaging example of popular science, and of business literature. The Power of Habit explains how and why habits occur, based on research in psychology and neuroscience, and illustrated by a collection of interesting and often surprising case histories.  Award-winning journalist Charles Duhigg also explains how understanding habit formation can help both people and companies to change and improve unwanted behaviours, unlocking many potential benefits.

When to Rob a Bank: the Freakopedia by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner

Kudos to Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner, who have turned economics – a topic that may seem dry, the domain of politicians and bankers – into something witty and compulsively readable.  When to Rob a Bank is a “best-of” collection from the Freakonomics blog, published to mark the 10th anniversary of the original book. You will find economic analyses on diverse and quirky topics such as what people lie about, reintroducing conscription, and when to rob a bank (short answer: never, the ROI is terrible).  The pieces are shorter than the essays in the earlier books, so When to Rob a Bank makes a great introduction to the world of Freakonomics (if you are not already a fan).

Life Skills 101: The best books to teach you everything

Want to get fitter? Learn that language?  Learn how to do your tax yourself or even just think smarter?  One of the most interesting genres of books is the ‘Self Help’ category.  Agreed, it’s not as sexy as glossy coffee table books about architecture and fashion or as socially accepted as the latest James Patterson mystery.  But damn, are they useful?!?  If you are in a rut or just have New Year’s Resolutions that you want to nail, here are our recommended reads for the best books to teach you everything:

https-::covers.booko.info:300:taxTax for Australians for Dummies by Jimmy B Prince

If you want to tackle your tax with confidence, this is a great resource.  Designed to help you take advantage of the rebates related to investments, having children or business, ‘Tax for Australians For Dummies’ tells you everything you need to know to maximise your tax refund. Whether you’re an employee, investor, small business owner, retiree, or even student, this easy-to-follow guide answers all your tax questions. All changes to tax legislation are incorporated.


https-::covers.booko.info:300:20minutesThe First 20 Minutes by Gretchen Reynolds

Tired muscles?  Use chocolate milk!  Think it’s a good idea to stretch before a run?  Think again!  This New York Times Bestseller is an innovative guide to getting fit using cutting-edge science. Perfect for optimising your workout, this workout ‘bible’ is the perfect guide for making the most of your exercise regime.  Even better news is how even just 20 minutes of regular exercise can transform your health.



https-::covers.booko.info:300:lifeLove Yourself like your Life depends on it by Kamal Ravikant

The premise of this book is simple: love yourself and your life will love you back.  During a particularly dark time in his life involving a great deal of stress and depression, the author kept repeating to himself  “I love myself.”  The beauty of the book is its simplicity and that the single premise of loving yourself can unlock freedom and clarity of thought that can have hugely beneficial effects in our busy lives.  A great book for anyone feeling anxious or overwhelmed.


https-::covers.booko.info:300:thinkThink Like a Freak: How to Think Smarter than almost Everyone by Steven Levitt & Stephen Dubner

The Freakonomics books have come to stand for challenging conventional wisdom; using data rather than emotion to answer questions. Now Levitt and Dubner have turned what they’ve learned into a readable and practical toolkit for thinking smarter, harder, and different – thinking, that is, like a Freak. Think Like a Freak offers rules like ‘Put Your Moral Compass in Your Pocket,’ ‘The Upside of Quitting,’ ‘Just Because You’re Great at Something Doesn’t Mean You’re Good at Everything,’ and ‘If You Have No Talent, Follow Levitt’s Path to Success.’


https-::covers.booko.info:300:philosophyPhilosophy for Life by Jules Evans

In his engaging new book, Jules Evans explains how philosophy quite literally saved his life and shows how we can make use of it everyday in our own. Co-founder of the London Philosophy Club, visiting research fellow at Queen Mary University, columnist for the School of Life and journalist and blogger, Jules imagines his dream school, with a rowdy faculty that includes 15 of the greatest and most colourful philosophers the world has ever known. Each of them teaches a technique we can use to transform ourselves and live better lives. These practical techniques are animated by the extraordinary stories of real people who are using them today; from soldiers and firemen, to gangsters and astronauts. This is philosophy for the street, for the workplace, for the battlefield, for love, for life.


https-::covers.booko.info:300:fluentFluent in 3 Months by Benny Lewis

Upon leaving College at 21, Benny only knew how to speak English and found learning languages challenging.  Through discovering a system to quickly master languages, it’s possible to have confident conversations in your new language in a matter of weeks.  Now fluent in 7 languages, Benny is a full-time globe-trotter who makes the mission of learning any language possible.


How to save money on your tax and get your finances in shape

Making the most of your personal finances is something you don’t need a degree for.  Some of the world’s best and brightest (and most successful) have never been to University.  Once you have a clear financial goal, it’s possible to greatly improve your financial situation with the help of a book that can give you practical, first-hand knowledge of how to make the most of your savings, investment strategy and making the most of tax time.  Here are our recommended reads on books to improve your financial literacy:

https-::covers.booko.info:300:tax101 Ways to Save Money on your Tax – Legally by Adrian Raftery

Raftery has featured on a range of media as this topic is of interest to anyone earning a wage.  Updated each year, Rafferty’s book is a guide to making the most of your money at tax time.  Known as Mr Taxman, Raftery is one of Australia’s leading Taxation experts and his guides provide tips and tricks that enable you to get the deductions you are entitled to.  Also included is information related to tax-effective investments, tax planning and tips on how to find a great accountant.


https-::covers.booko.info:300:babylonThe Richest man in Babylon by George C. Classon

Read by millions, this timeless book holds that the key to success lies in the secrets of the ancients. Based on the famous “Babylonian principles,” it’s been hailed as the greatest of all inspirational works on the subject of thrift and financial planning.  In a nutshell, the lessons in the book could be summarised as the following:

1. Save 10% of everything you earn
2. Be smart with your money
3. Invest the money you save.



https-::covers.booko.info:300:richThink and Grow Rich! by Napoleon Hill

In the early 1900s Napoleon Hill wanted to find out how successful people became…successful. After interviewing 500 of the most successful people of the time (such as Henry Ford,  Edison and Andrew Carnegie), he wrote ‘Think and Grow Rich!’.  One of the most influential books on self development, “Think and Grow Rich!” has sold 20 million copies.  This edition restores Napoleon Hill’s masterpiece to its original form and intent. While Hill hints at the secret to success in the book, it is not made explicit, nor are instructions provided on how to achieve success, which would increase the usability of the book.



Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert T. Kiyosaki

In this book, Kiyosaki compares the financial philosophies of the author’s two fathers: his biological father – the poor dad – and the father of his childhood best friend, Mike – the rich dad. Throughout the book the author compares both fathers, and how his real father, the poor and struggling but highly educated man, paled against his rich dad in terms of asset building and business acumen. The ‘Rich Dad Poor Dad’ series is incredibly popular but it’s philosophy isn’t readily available to everyone.  If you want to become financially free, you need passive sources of income that are greater than your living expenses.  These strategies are not always feasible and can require serious capital.  The parable-nature of the story, however, is entertaining and easy to follow.




The Millionaire Next Door: Surprising Secrets of America’s Wealthy by Thomas Stanley and William Danko

What sort of life does your average millionaire live?  How did they become wealthy?  How do they shop?  In most cases, the millionaires that are studied by Stanley and Danko are self employed, first generation millionaires who spend wisely and are committed to leading a frugal lifestyle.  This is a lot less glamorous than the imagined variety but offers readers some insights on what it takes to become financially free.



https-::covers.booko.info:300:wealthCreating Real Wealth by Mike Kemp

Mike Kemp is one of the financial advisors that the ‘Barefoot Investor’ Scott Pape calls on to analyse investments.  Author Michael Kemp encourages readers to first define their perception of wealth before they set out on their journey to achieve financial security. The vague goal of “becoming wealthy” is unachievable if the more you earn the more you spend. He warns against measuring financial goals and achievements against those of the Joneses’ or the stars of the screen and entertainment worlds. A well-researched and practical guide to planning your wealth.

How to jumpstart your journaling

Journaling is said by some to be the mindfulness trend of the year (2015 belonged to colouring-in for grown-ups).  It’s also widely referred to as the first place to start when you are thinking about moving forward with your writing.  Journals are great places to jot down those seemingly innocuous thoughts and musings that some people choose to take a step further and get published.  There are also a number of benefits associated with clearing your head and making sense of what can be an overwhelming world at times.  Here are our recommendations for books to guide you on your journaling process:

https-::covers.booko.info:300:storyYour Life as a Story by Tristane Rainer

Rainer is an expert in the autobiographical field.  In this book, she shares her techniques for finding the appropriate story structure for the different events in your life.  This book also touches on how to find important messages in the various events of your life and how to communicate these effectively in a narrative format.




https-::covers.booko.info:300:startStart where you are: A Journal for Self-Exploration by Meera Lee Patel

Start Where You Are is an interactive journal designed to help readers nurture their creativity, mindfulness, and self-motivation. It helps readers navigate the confusion and chaos of daily life with a simple reminder: that by taking the time to know ourselves and what those dreams are, we can appreciate the world around us and achieve our dreams.  Featuring vibrant hand-lettering and images, this is a beautiful keepsake for your writing.


https-::covers.booko.info:300:tidyingLife-Changing Magic: A Journal – Spark Joy Every day by Marie Kondo

This is a gratitude journal from Marie Kondo, the author of the ‘The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up’.  Kondo encourages readers to ask what sparked joy for them each day.  Instead of just feeling joy for objects, events, people and daily activities are reflected on and appreciated.  Included are inspirational quotes from ‘The Life Changing Magic of Tidying up’ and covering 3 years, this journal is perfect for those wanting to focus on appreciating each day.


https-::covers.booko.info:300:365365 Journal Writing Ideas by Rossi Fox

This is perfect for when you’re staring at a blank page and have no idea what to write.  The focus of the book is on guided journal writing.  It’s split into weeks (and days) but numbered so you can literally pick it up and start at any time.  There are daily writing prompts which encourage you to get into the habit of writing.  This book services as a place to remember your daily activities, appreciate where you are and gain a sense of purpose with regards to achieving your goals.  Included are short story writing ideas, light hearted questions and prompts to get your thinking cap on.


https-::covers.booko.info:300:journallingThe Ultimate Guide to Journaling by Hannah Braime

In The Ultimate Guide to Journaling, you’ll find the tips, inspiration, and prompts you need to start and maintain a journaling practice for DIY self-discovery. This clear and concise handbook shares everything you need to know to deepen your relationship with yourself using this powerful personal development tool. This book covers topics like how to journal, which tools to use, and how to make it a regular habit, as well as over 30 different journaling techniques and useful prompts.




So… you want to be a writer

I think just about everyone has flirted with this, haven’t they?  I still have a screenplay for a TV series floating around in my head.  I am POSITIVE it will be a huge hit, if only audiences weren’t so stuck on reality TV.  One of my friends went on so many dates in one year that I convinced her to write a book about it.  And on it goes…..

If you have some great ideas for writing, whether it’s writing a blog, a novel or a TV series like me, there is a book to help inspire you and guide you.  Some of my favourites in this list include hearing advice from some of the masters themselves.  We need to start with a book that appeared on my bookshelf when I was about 10 (odd gift for a child) but it was pretty useful during creative writing classes:

https-::covers.booko.info:300:ElementThe Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr and E.B. White

This book is an essential part of your ‘books on writing’ collection.  It contains the basics: grammar, writing in your active voice and omitting superfluous words.  This book’s unique tone, wit and charm have conveyed the principles of English style to millions of readers. Use the fourth edition of “the little book” to make a big impact with your writing.



https-::covers.booko.info:300:StephenOn Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King

Part of what makes this book so entertaining is hearing about King’s own rags-to-riches story.  Find out what books and films influenced the young writer, his first idea for a story and the true life tale that inspired Carrie. King gives an excellent masterclass on writing – how to use the tools of the trade from building characters to pace and plotting as well as practical advice on presentation.



https-::covers.booko.info:300:WritingThe Writing Life by Annie Dillard

Largely accepted to be one of the best books about writing, The Writing Life is brutal in its honesty about the difficulty of the writing process.  Dillard encourages you to carve up your most ‘perfect paragraphs’ if they don’t do their job, which is to communicate the entirety of the idea.  “This writing that you do, that so thrills you, that so rocks and exhilarates you, as if you were dancing next to the band, is barely audible to anyone else.”



https-::covers.booko.info:300:MotherMother Tongue: English and how it got that way by Bill Bryson

It’s crucial for any writer to understand their own language.  Bryson steers us through why island, freight, and colonel are spelled in such unphonetic ways, why four has a u in it but forty doesn’t, plus bizarre and enlightening facts about some of the patriarchs of this peculiar language.




https-::covers.booko.info:300:zenZen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury

While there are plenty of books that talk to the challenges of writing, Bradbury’s enthusiasm for writing is infectious.  That’s what makes this book such enjoyable reading.  In a series of essays, Bradbury discusses his career and his compulsion to write. Nine essays discuss the joy of writing, the writing process, inspiration, creativity, and the circumstances surrounding the writing of several of his works.  “Think of Shakespeare and Melville and you think of thunder, lightning, wind.  They all knew the joy of creating in large or small forms, on unlimited or restricted canvasses. These are the children of the gods. They knew fun in their work. No matter if creation came hard here or there along the way, or what illnesses and tragedies touched their most private lives. … If you are writing without zest, without gusto, without love, without fun, you are only half a writer.”  Brilliant.


https-::covers.booko.info:300:HazelThe Writing Experiment by Hazel Smith

Finding inspiration to write creatively can be one of the most challenging aspects of the writing process.  Experienced writing teacher Hazel Smith demystifies the process of creative writing, providing exercises and examples to show how it can be systematically learnt.




More tips for aspiring writers can be found on our Pinterest board, Tips for Writers!

So you want to be a great speaker

How do you feel about public speaking? Do you think of it as a dreaded chore, something that you wish you were naturally talented in? (Yes on both counts for me.)  In fact, such feelings are not uncommon – survey results even suggest that some people fear public speaking more than they fear death.  But it doesn’t have to be this way – help is out there.  Here are some books that help us develop our public speaking skills, through inspiration, instruction, and humour.

Speeches that Changed the World with foreword by Simon Sebag Montefiore

Elizabeth I, Mahatma Gandhi, Adolf Hitler, Barack Obama… these people are powerful leaders not just through their actions, but also through their speeches – whose eloquence can persuade and initiate change.  Speeches that Changed the World is a collection of over 50 momentous speeches throughout world history.  This edition includes recent entries such as Kevin Rudd’s apology to the Stolen Generations, and Barack Obama’s election victory speech. Comes with a DVD showing footage of these great speeches – pure inspiration.

Talk Like TED: the 9 Public Speaking Secrets of the World’s Top Minds by Carmine Gallo

Last month Team Booko showcased the entertaining and thought-provoking world of TED Talks – presentations that have introduced a new style of public speaking and audience engagement, becoming the new gold standard for these skills.  In Talk Like TED, Carmine Gallo has identified 9 techniques common to the most popular TED Talks, through analysing speeches, interviewing speakers, as well as research into psychology, neuroscience and communication.  Use strategies such as storytelling, favouring pictures over text, and delivering jaw-dropping moments to boost your communication skills to TED-standards.

How to Get Your Point across in 30 Seconds or Less by Milo O. Frank

Have you heard of the “elevator pitch”? It’s a short, succinct speech that sets out your key message and persuades your audience to buy in – all within the duration of an elevator ride.  Elevator pitches are first articulated for business ideas but are also relevant to political and charitable causes, even personal arguments.  How to Get your Point Across in 30 Seconds shares this focus in “getting to the point”.  Milo O. Frank sets out strategies towards high-impact, captivating, efficient communication.    A classic text that is still relevant today.

Umm…: a Complete Guide to Public Speaking by James O’Loghlin

Many guides to public speaking focus on business/professional themes, but what about social speeches that aim to amuse and delight?  Umm… a Complete Guide to Public Speaking offers friendly and practical advice that would work for a wedding or a retirement, as well as for a job interview.  It argues that public speakers are not born, but made – and offers strategies in how to achieve a great speech, from researching, to using your voice effectively, to overcoming nerves.  James O’Loghlin has distilled his experiences as a successful lawyer, comedian, radio- and TV-presenter, and public-speaking coach into this approachable handbook.  

The Australian Schoolkids’ Guide to Debating and Public Speaking by Claire Duffy

Kids often start off with a natural confidence in public speaking, so it’s a good idea to support that confidence with real skills, before they learn to fear it.  It might even turn that dreadful argumentativeness into something positive!  Claire Duffy’s book is a clear and accessible guide on what debating and public speaking is, and how to do it.  In addition to tips on delivery and managing nerves, she also explains and guides readers on how to create a logical structure and show critical reasoning.  Claire Duffy has used her experience coaching award-winning debaters, both as a teacher and a parent, to create this great resource for kids, teachers and parents.  

Author spotlight: Stephen R. Covey and how to adopt great habits

Stephen R. Covey may not be a household name but his book certainly is – The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.  This influential work has sold over 25 million copies in 40 languages, and, 25 years on, is still popular and respected.  During this time, Stephen R. Covey has met and shared his insights with over 50 Heads of State, including Bill Clinton, Nelson Mandela and Michail Gorbachev.  The idea of “7 Habits” has even inspired parodies and entered the vernacular.

The 7 habits that Stephen R. Covey highlights are traits that he believes will improve a person’s behaviour and character ethics – and form the basis of their personal and professional success.  They include:

  • Be proactive
  • Begin with the end in mind
  • Put first things first
  • Think “win-win”
  • Seek first to understand, then to be understood
  • Synergise
  • Sharpen the saw (i.e. undergo frequent self-renewal)

What makes Stephen R. Covey’s ideas fresh and challenging is that they bridge management strategies and self help – he argues that the success of organisations depends on the behaviour of individual workers.  Interestingly, this concept is not new – he acknowledges that he draws inspiration from historical “success literature” that emphasises how personal character, ethics and self-discipline have contributed to personal success.

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People has inspired many books that offer to help us understand and make great habits.  These include:

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens by Sean Covey

Sean Covey is Stephen R. Covey’s son, and he has adapted the messages in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People to better target a teen audience.  The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens is popular in its own right, has been praised by psychologists and also been incorporated into school curricula.





The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg

Charles Duhigg, a journalist for The New York Times, explores the psychology and neuroscience behind how and why habits are created; he also illustrates his findings with entertaining case studies showing how companies have unlocked incredible success by changing people’s habits – by luck or design.  The Power of Habit is not a self-help book per se but its insights help us better understand how we can fine-tune or change our habits.




Rewire: Change your Brain to Break Bad Habits, Overcome Addictions, Conquer Self-Destructive Behaviour by Richard O’Connor

Do you know you have bad habits, but still can’t break them?  Then Rewire is here to help you.  Richard O’Connor uses psychotherapy techniques to design exercises aimed at permanently disrupting destructive behaviour, including procrastination, internet addiction, overeating, and risk-taking.  The key, he suggests, is to recognise that these habits are autopilot behaviours that can only be erased with deliberate and patient coaching.




Making Habits, Breaking Habits: Why we do Things, Why we don’t, and How to Make Any Change Stick by Jeremy Dean

Making Habits, Breaking Habits is both an explanation of the science behind habits, and a guide to changing them.  Jeremy Dean has ploughed through vast amounts of academic psychology research and distilled it into a scholarly yet approachable summary of what we know about human habit formation.  A timely section pays particular attention to online habits such as Facebook addiction.  Jeremy Dean also surveys current techniques for making and breaking habits, before deriving his own strategies.  An appealing aspect of his work is that he does not just focus on physical habits (such as smoking or exercise), but also on changing habits that affect creativity and happiness.