Tag Archives: #stories

The Best Books to Grow your General Knowledge

“General Knowledge” are the bits and pieces of information – some useful, some mundane, some weird and wonderful – that we pick up without intense study into specific topics.  Having general knowledge can help us win a quiz, win an argument, and become more entertaining (!?).  Satisfy your curiosity about the world around you, by dipping into these funny, surprising and informative books:

On This Day in History by Dan Snow

Dan Snow is one of Britain’s favourite historians, the creator of the hugely successful History Hit TV channel and podcast.  On This Day in History is his carefully chosen collection of 365 historical events – one for each day of the year.  Crisscrossing 3000 years of Western civilisation, Dan Snow describes events that range from important (D Day), to influential (the meeting of Lennon and McCartney), to obscure (the Anglo-Zanzibar war, the shortest war in history), and even strange (Napoleon escaping from rabbits).  He also raises the interesting question of what we choose to remember, and what we might have forgotten.

The Second Book of General Ignorance by John Lloyd and John Mitchinson

Named after the final round topic of the long-running quiz show QI (short for Quite Interesting), this second instalment of trivia focusses on General Ignorance, as in common mistakes and misunderstandings found in our “General Knowledge”.  Read this and you’ll realise that Napoleon wasn’t short, octopuses actually have six legs, and oranges often aren’t orange.  In revealing these curious misconceptions, Johns Lloyd and Mitchinson, respectively the series-creator and head researcher for QI, also try to show how these urban myths and mistaken assumptions arise.  With a foreword by Stephen Fry, the original host of QI.

The Big Ideas Box (Philosophy, Psychology, Sociology) by DK

This Big Ideas Box contains three titles from the Big Ideas Simply Explained series, covering Philosophy, Psychology and Sociology. True to DK’s form, this series uses innovative visual design to make information interesting and easier to understand.  A mix of high-impact graphics, succinct summaries and more detailed articles help to tease out these huge and complex areas of learning – covering 2500 years’ worth of philosophical thinking, the development of psychology since the Ancient Greeks, and of sociology since the Middle Ages.  These primers will invite teens and adults to think, discuss and seek out further reading.

Brilliant Maps: an Atlas for Curious Minds by Ian Wright

Brilliant Maps is not so much about geography, as a smart and imaginative way to use maps to explain interesting facts about people, countries, culture, and more.  (Ian Wright would argue that maps are the original infographic.)  The hundred maps in this book present information that range from the sobering (number of executions by state) to the curious (countries with no rivers) and whimsical (countries with no McDonald’s).  
Linked to the Brilliant Maps website, the facts presented here are thought-provoking, revelatory, and simply fun.

Answers to Questions You’ve Never Asked: Explaining the “What If” in Science, Geography and the Absurd by Joseph Pisenti

This book of fun facts and strange questions will be especially appealing to kids and teens. Joseph Pisenti, better known as RealLifeLore, is a popular YouTuber whose main channel contains video musings on the absurd side of history, geography, economics and science.  Answers to Questions You’ve Never Asked combines nonsensical humour and serious analysis to answer off-beat questions such as “Where can I move so that I will never be tempted by McDonalds again?”, and “If Plato came back to life what would he think of modern democracy?”.  A fantastic encouragement to stay curious about the world around us.

Interesting Stories for Curious People by Bill O’Neill

Bill O’Neill is a huge trivia buff who has written books of fun facts covering topics as diverse as World War I, American Presidents, and rock music.  Interesting Stories for Curious People is his trivia book about a bit of everything – a collection of entertaining and fascinating stories about history, science, pop culture and just about anything else you can think of.  Great for aspiring trivia champs!

Popular History Books of Our Time

This isn’t your usual history book list. In fact, some of the books aim to give us quite a different view of what we have learned previously. Which is why we really enjoy them. It’s easy to forget that history books aren’t just books brimming with facts of bygone eras, but rather we can consider them stories of events to be questioned, viewed from different angles and full of scandal and intrigue.

SPQR by Mary Beard

Hailed by critics as animating and with a wonderful ability to bring the past to life in a way that makes your hair stand on end, SPQR spans nearly a thousand years of history. Mary Beard narrates and examines not just how we think of ancient Rome but challenges the comfortable historical perspectives that have existed for centuries. With its nuanced attention to class, democratic struggles, and the lives of entire groups of people omitted from the historical narrative for centuries, SPQR will to shape our view of Roman history for decades to come.

Headstrong by Rachel Swaby

Headstrong delivers a powerful and entertaining response to the question: Who are the role models for today’s female scientists? Covering Nobel Prize winners and major innovators, as well as lesser-known but hugely significant scientists who influence our every day, these engaging profiles span centuries of courageous thinkers and illustrate how each subject’s ideas developed, from their first moment of engagement with science through the research and discovery for which they’re best known. Finally, it gives these 52 lives the attention and respect they deserve with the aim to encourage and inspire a new generation of girls to put on their lab coats.

Sapiens by Dr. Yuval Noah Harari

Dr. Yuval Noah Harari makes serious non-fiction cool again.  

One hundred thousand years ago, at least six different species of humans inhabited Earth. Yet today there is only one: homo sapiens. What happened to the others? And what may happen to us? Most books about the history of humanity pursue either a historical or a biological approach, but Dr. Yuval Noah Harari breaks the mold with this highly original book that begins about 70,000 years ago with the appearance of modern cognition. From examining the role evolving humans have played in the global ecosystem to charting the rise of empires, Sapiens integrates history and science to reconsider accepted narratives, connect past developments with contemporary concerns, and examine specific events within the context of larger ideas. Dr. Harari also compels us to look ahead, because over the last few decades humans have begun to bend laws of natural selection that have governed life for the past four billion years. We are acquiring the ability to design not only the world around us, but also ourselves. Where is this leading us, and what do we want to become?

You can view Dr. Yuval Noah Harari’s other books here.

Guns, Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond

Drawing together ideas from history, geography, economics and anthropology, Guns, Germs and Steel offers compelling theories and surprising insights into the development of societies, it 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.

A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson

Bill Bryson describes himself as a reluctant traveller, but even when he stays safely at home he can’t contain his curiosity about the world around him. A Short History of Nearly Everything is his quest to understand everything that has happened from the Big Bang to the rise of civilisation, how we got from there, being nothing at all, to here, being us. Bill Bryson’s challenge is to take subjects that normally bore the pants off most of us, like geology, chemistry and particle physics, and see if there isn’t some way to render them comprehensible to people who have never thought they could be interested in science. The ultimate eye-opening journey through time and space, A Short History of Nearly Everything reveals the world in a way most of us have never seen it before.

You can see a list of Bill Bryson’s other books here.

The History of the Ancient World by Susan Wise Bauer

Susan Wise Bauer presents us with a lively and engaging narrative history showing the common threads in the cultures that gave birth to our own. This is the first volume in a series that tells the stories of all people, connecting historical events from Europe to the Middle East to the far coast of China, while still giving weight to the characteristics of each country. Susan Wise Bauer provides both sweeping scope and vivid attention to the individual lives that give flesh to abstract assertions about human history. Dozens of maps provide a clear geography of great events, while timelines give the reader an ongoing sense of the passage of years and cultural interconnection. This old-fashioned narrative history employs the methods of history from beneath” literature, epic traditions, private letters and accounts to connect kings and leaders with the lives of those they ruled. The result is an engrossing tapestry of human behaviour from which we may draw conclusions about the direction of world events and the causes behind them.

You can see more of Susan Wise Bauer’s work here.

Enjoy!

The hottest pre-orders to look forward to this year.

Here in Melbourne, we are all currently staying safe at home and our bookshelves are definitely getting a workout. So if you are nearing the end of your reading list, fear not, there are some amazing books on the horizon that we are so excited to read and you can pre-order now. 

Make yourself a cuppa and get ready to add these titles to your reading list. If you’re looking for even more titles check out our pre-order section here.

Flavour by Yotam Ottolenghi

Flavour-forward, vegetable-based recipes are at the heart of Yotam Ottolenghi’s food. In this stunning new cookbook Yotam and co-writer Ixta Belfrage break down the three factors that create flavour and offer innovative vegetable dishes that deliver brand-new ingredient combinations to excite and inspire. Ottolenghi Flavour combines simple recipes for weeknights, low-effort high-impact dishes, and standout meals for the relaxed cook. Packed with signature colourful photography, Flavour not only inspires us with what to cook, but how flavour is dialled up and why it works. With sure-fire hits, such as Aubergine Dumplings alla Parmigiana, Hasselback Beetroot with Lime Leaf Butter, Miso Butter Onions, Spicy Mushroom Lasagne and Romano Pepper Schnitzels, plus mouthwatering photographs of nearly every one of the more than 100 recipes, Ottolenghi Flavour is the impactful, next-level approach to vegetable cooking that Ottolenghi fans and vegetable lovers everywhere have been craving.

You can find Yotam Ottolenhi’s other books here.

Is This Anything by Jerry Sienfeld

The first book in twenty five years from Jerry Seinfeld features his best work across five decades in comedy. Since his first performance at the legendary New York nightclub “Catch a Rising Star” as a twenty-one-year-old student in autumn of 1975, Jerry Seinfeld has written his own material and saved everything. “Whenever I came up with a funny bit, whether it happened on a stage, in a conversation, or working it out on my preferred canvas, the big yellow legal pad, I kept it in one of those old-school accordion folders,” Seinfeld writes. “So I have everything I thought was worth saving from forty-five years of hacking away at this for all I was worth.” For this book, Jerry Seinfeld has selected his favourite material, organised decade by decade. In page after hilarious page, one brilliantly crafted observation after another, readers will witness the evolution of one of the great comedians of our time and gain new insights into the thrilling but unforgiving art of writing stand-up comedy.

Just like You by Nick Hornby

This warm, wise, highly entertaining twenty-first century love story is about what happens when the person who makes you happiest is someone you never expected.

Lucy used to handle her adult romantic life according to the script she’d been handed. She met a guy just like herself: same age, same background, same hopes and dreams; they got married and started a family. Too bad he made her miserable. Now, two decades later, she’s a nearly-divorced, forty-one-year-old schoolteacher with two school-aged sons, and there is no script anymore. So when she meets Joseph, she isn’t exactly looking for love-, she’s more in the market for a babysitter. Joseph is twenty-two, living at home with his mother, and working several jobs, including the butcher counter where he and Lucy meet. It’s not a match anyone one could have predicted. He’s of a different class, a different culture, and a different generation. But sometimes it turns out that the person who can make you happiest is the one you least expect, though it can take some manoeuvring to see it through.

Just Like You is a brilliantly observed, tender, but also brutally funny new novel that gets to the heart of what it means to fall surprisingly and headlong in love with the best possible person-, someone you didn’t see coming.

You can find Nick Hornby’s other books here.

All Our Shimmering Skies by Trent Dalton

The bestselling author of Boy Swallows Universe, Trent Dalton, returns with All Our Shimmering Skies which is a glorious novel destined to become another Australian classic. Darwin, 1942, and as Japanese bombs rain overhead, motherless Molly Hook, the gravedigger’s daughter, turns once again to the sky for guidance. She carries a stone heart inside a duffel bag next to the map that leads to Longcoat Bob, the deep country sorcerer who put a curse on her family. By her side are the most unlikely travelling companions: a razor-tongued actress named Greta and a fallen Japanese fighter pilot named Yukio. ‘Run, Molly, run,’ says the daytime sky. Run to the vine forests. Run to northern Australia’s wild and magical monsoon lands. Run to friendship. Run to love. Run. Because the graverobber’s coming, Molly, and the night-time sky is coming with him. So run, Molly, run. All Our Shimmering Skies is a story about gifts that fall from the sky, curses we dig from the earth and the secrets we bury inside ourselves. It is an odyssey of true love and grave danger; of the darkness and the light; of bones and blue skies. A buoyant, beautiful and magical novel abrim with warmth, wit and wonder, a love letter to Australia and the art of looking up.

A Song for Dark Times by Ian Rankin

When his daughter Samantha calls in the dead of night, John Rebus knows it’s not good news. Her husband has been missing for two days. Rebus fears the worst, and knows, from his lifetime in the police that his daughter will be the prime suspect. He wasn’t the best father, the job always came first, but now his daughter needs him more than ever. But is he going as a father or a detective? As he leaves at dawn to drive to the windswept coast, and a small town with big secrets, he wonders whether this might be the first time in his life where the truth is the one thing he doesn’t want to find…

You can find Ian Rankin’s other books here and the whole Inspector Rebus series here.

Honeybee by Craig Silver

‘Find out who you are, and live that life.’ Late in the night, fourteen-year-old Sam Watson steps onto a quiet overpass, climbs over the rail and looks down at the road far below. At the other end of the same bridge, an old man, Vic, smokes his last cigarette. The two see each other across the void. A fateful connection is made, and an unlikely friendship blooms. Slowly, we learn what led Sam and Vic to the bridge that night. Bonded by their suffering, each privately commits to the impossible task of saving the other. Honeybee is a heartbreaking, life-affirming novel that throws us headlong into a world of petty thefts, extortion plots, botched bank robberies, daring dog rescues and one spectacular drag show. At the heart of Honeybee is Sam: a solitary, resilient young person battling to navigate the world as their true self; ensnared by loyalty to a troubled mother, scarred by the volatility of a domineering stepfather, and confounded by the kindness of new alliances. Honeybee is a tender, profoundly moving novel, brimming with vivid characters and luminous words. It’s about two lives forever changed by a chance encounter — one offering hope, the other redemption. It’s about when to persevere, and when to be merciful, as Sam learns when to let go, and when to hold on.

Enjoy!

A mother and son’s photographic journey through dementia

Artist Tony Luciani was testing out a new camera when his 91-year-old mother, Elia, snuck into the background of his photos. In this touching ted talk, he shares the stories behind some of their favorite shots, capturing the joy and grief of caring for an aging parent.

The Newest YA Books Hitting the Shelves

The secret is out – YA (Young Adult fiction) is one of the most exciting and popular book categories at the moment.  Gone is the stigma of grownups reading ‘kids books’ –  readers of all ages are attracted to YA for its strong narratives, awareness of social causes, and championing of diversity and the authenticity of #ownvoices experience. With strong new releases every season, we’ll take a look at some recent hits:

Children of Virtue and Vengeance by Tomi Adeyemi

Children of Virtue and Vengenace is the highly-anticipated sequel to Children of Blood and Bone, one of the strongest YA debuts ever.  Having brought magic back to the kingdom of Orisha, the feisty heroine, Zelie Adebola, finds out that the unexpected consequences of her actions may derail her fight against oppression. This fantasy trilogy is set in West Africa, with inspiration from Harry Potter, West African mythology and the Black Lives Matter movement.  Tomi Adeyemi deftly uses her fictitious realm to explore issues of racism, oppression and slavery.  Children of Virtue and Vengeance is a solid second instalment, leading up to a huge finish in the third and final volume.

The Downstairs Girl by Stacey Lee

By day, seventeen-year-old Jo Kuan works as a lady’s maid for one of the wealthiest families in Atlanta. By night, she moonlights as Miss Sweetie, the author of a newspaper advice column. When her column becomes popular, she uses it to challenge society’s ideas about race and gender, and must step up to overcome the backlash that follows.  Stacey Lee is a Chinese-American writer whose stories reinterpret historical events from a Chinese-American perspective.  Downstairs Girl is a powerful novel about identity, betrayal and the meaning of family.

Heart of Flames by Nicki Pau Preto

If you love High Fantasy with mythical creatures then be sure to check out The Crown of Feathers saga.  Heart of Flames is the second instalment, continuing this story about siblings Val and Veronyka, who dream of joining the Phoenix Riders, a disbanded band of elite warriors who have empathic links to the phoenixes they ride.  Within the political machinations and tensions of an unstable world, Val, Veronyka and their friends discover their distinct identities, fall in love, and strive towards their goals.  Nicki Pau Preto does a great job of world-building, and of fleshing out her characters, by telling the story from multiple perspectives.

Watch Us Rise by Renee Watson and Ellen Hagan

Award-winning author Renee Watson teams up with poet Ellen Hagan to give us a stirring story about feminist activism and empowerment.  Jasmine and Chelsea are best friends attending a social justice-focussed high school in New York.  When they realise that sexism and racism are rife even in their progressive school, these strong-willed teens fight hard to make sure their voices – and those of other young women – can still be heard.  Watch Us Rise is a dynamic, complex story with a multidimensional, diverse cast.  The use of a dual narrative, and the inclusion of art, poetry and blogs to drive the story, add extra interest.

We Hunt the Flame by Hafsah Faizal

We Hunt The Flame is a new quest adventure set in a realm inspired by ancient Arabia. Zafira is a strong, skilled hunter tasked to bring back a magical artefact in order to save her world.  Disguised as a man for self-protection, Zafira is pursued by, but eventually forms an uneasy alliance with, the King’s Assassin.  Will they succeed on their perilous journey? We Hunt the Flame is a story of conquering fear and creating your own destiny; of morality and understanding.  Hafsah Faizal is a debut author who has drawn upon her Arabic and Muslim heritage to craft a rich fantasy world.  We Hunt the Flame is a read-alike for books by Tamora Pierce, and perfect for fans of the game Assassin’s Creed.

Of Curses and Kisses by Sandhya Menon

Sandhya Menon balances classic tropes of YA romance (an exclusive boarding school, young royals, and uber-rich “beautiful people”) with a dash of fantasy, and an earnest exploration of the issues of loneliness and parental expectations, to give a fresh take on the Beauty and the Beast story.  Indian princesses Jaya Rao and Isha have been shipped off to the exclusive St Rosetta’s academy to ride out a scandal surrounding younger sister Isha.  Jaya vows to take revenge on fellow student Grey Emerson, whose family has been feuding with the Raos for generations, and whom Jaya believes caused Isha’s scandal.  Both Jaya and Grey grow in self-awareness and independence during their funny and romantic enemies-to-lovers journey.

Celebrating amazing women through books this Mother’s Day

Whether you are a mum or not, the world of literature celebrates women from all backgrounds and all with different storylines. We have rounded up six stories that we think will amuse, inspire, resonate and enlighten this Mother’s Day. 

Pop on the kettle and make yourself a cuppa because we think you’ll want them all. 

200 Women by Ruth Hobday

Famous and unknown, celebrated and marginalised, rich and poor, black and white, leaders, victims, survivors, heroes, saints and sinners. Women who will educate and inspire us, teach us empathy, and bring positive change in a time when so many women and girls are still fighting for basic freedom and equality. Founded on original interviews and accompanying photographic portraits, this landmark book is the realisation of an epic global journey to find two hundred women with diverse backgrounds, and ask them what really matters to them. All two hundred women were photographed against the same background and asked the same five questions. Their answers reveal truth, wisdom, and inspiring stories of success and courage, love and pain, redemption and generosity. From well-known activists, artists and innovators to everyday women whose lives are no less exceptional, each woman shares her unique replies to questions that reveal a human being’s deepest motivation, happiness, sadness and hope. With responses that range from uplifting to heartbreaking, these women offer gifts of empowerment and strength, inviting us to bring positive change at a time when so many people are fighting for basic freedom and equality. It’s a book that confirms what we already know – there are no ordinary women.

Diary of A Crap Housewife by Jessica Rowe

The #craphousewife movement calls to unite all mothers who, like Jess, sometimes feel they are not perfect. Being a crap housewife is a badge Jess wears with pride, and it’s a title she invites other women to embrace. For Jess, the idea of crap is the real-life messes, hiccups, disasters and bad meals that many of us dish up and deal with every day. This mum is tired of the photos of perfectly packed school lunches, posts about gourmet family dinners eaten together over the table, and tales of neat, tidy and obedient children with smoothly brushed hair. Why not cut the crap, take the pressure off and admit to the moments, days, weeks and months when the wheels do fall off? This is a fabulous, funny, down-to-earth book, The Diary of a Crap Housewife, as Jess writes honestly about her cooking, mothering, career, botox, family and many other #craphousewife interests.

In Pieces by Sally Field

Sally Field is one of the most celebrated, beloved and enduring actors of our time, and now she tells her story for the first time in this intimate and haunting literary memoir. In her own words, she writes about a challenging and lonely childhood, the craft that helped her find her voice, and a powerful emotional legacy that shaped her journey as a daughter and a mother. Sally Field has an infectious charm that has captivated audiences for more than five decades, beginning with her first television role at the age of 17. From Gidget’s sweet-faced girl next door’ to the dazzling complexity of Sybil to the Academy Award-winning ferocity and depth of her role in Norma Rae and Mary Todd Lincoln, Field has stunned audiences time and time again with her artistic range and emotional acuity. Yet there is one character who always remained hidden: the shy and anxious little girl within. With raw honesty and the fresh, pitch-perfect prose of a natural-born writer, and with all the humility and authenticity her fans have come to expect, Field brings readers behind the scenes for not only the highs and lows of her star-studded early career in Hollywood, but deep into the truth of her lifelong relationships including, most importantly, her complicated love for her own mother. Powerful and unforgettable, In Pieces is an inspiring and important account of life as a woman in the second half of the twentieth century.

Rolling with the Punchlines by Urzla Carlson

Updated with new chapters and written with her trademark deadpan humour, Urzila’s memoir is full of ripping yarns about both the big and the little things in life (you can click through to her original book here). Urzila’s accidental beginning in stand-up has led to an incredibly successful career in comedy, with regular gigs on Channel 10’s Have you Been Paying Attention? in Australia and 7 Days in New Zealand, as well as sell-out shows across both countries, appearances at international festivals and a Netflix special. But life hasn’t always been a bundle of laughs. Urzila talks candidly about her childhood within a happy family – apart from her abusive dad – and about growing up in South Africa. She shares crazy but true tales about her travels, her move down under, coming out, getting married and having children, and cracking Australia.

My Thoughts Exactly by Lily Allen

We were trying to write about this book but came to the conclusion that  there was no better way we could write about Lily Allen’s story. We think the blurb she has written herself is perfect.  

So, this is me. Lily Allen. I am a woman. I am a mother. I was a wife. I drink. I have taken drugs. I have loved and been let down. I am a success and a failure. I am a songwriter. I am a singer. I am all these things and more. When women share their stories, loudly and clearly and honestly, things begin to change – for the better. This is my story.

Say Hello by Carly Findlay

Say Hello is a forthright, honest and rousingly triumphant memoir from a woman who has to live with a highly visible different appearance due to a rare skin condition. Say hello to Carly. ‘In fairytales, the characters who look different are often cast as the villain or monsters. It’s only when they shed their unconventional skin that they are seen as “good” or less frightening. There are very few stories where the character that looks different is the hero of the story … I’ve been the hero of my story – telling it on my own terms, proud about my facial difference and disability, not wanting a cure for my rare, severe and sometimes confronting skin condition, and knowing that I am beautiful even though I don’t have beauty privilege.’ This honest, outspoken and thought-provoking memoir by award-winning writer and appearance activist Carly Findlay will challenge all your assumptions and beliefs about what it is like to have a visibly different appearance. Carly lives with a rare skin condition, Ichthyosis, and what she faces every day, and what she has to live with, will have you cheering for her and her courage and irrepressible spirit. This is both a moving memoir and a proud manifesto on disability and appearance diversity issues.

Enjoy!