Tag Archives: #Topbooks

Looking at the Miles Franklin Literary Shortlist for 2020

With a new wave of restrictions in place to keep us all safe, it looks like we have a little more reading time on our hands so we have decided to dive into the world of literary awards and explore books we may have missed off our reading list. 

This week we are diving into the Miles Franklin Literary Shortlist for 2020 and wow, what a great list it is!

Just for a bit of context, the Miles Franklin Literary Award was established by author and feminist Stella Maria Sarah Miles Franklin, who is best known for her first novel My Brilliant Career. The Miles Franklin Awards were first presented in 1957, where the Award celebrates novels of the highest literary merit that tell stories about Australian life.

Let’s take a closer look…

The White Girl by Tony Birch

Odette Brown has lived her whole life on the fringes of a small country town. Raising her granddaughter Sissy on her own, Odette has managed to stay under the radar of the welfare authorities who are removing Aboriginal children from their communities. When the menacing Sergeant Lowe arrives in town, determined to fully enforce the law, any freedom that Odette and Sissy enjoy comes under grave threat. Odette must make an impossible choice to protect her family. 

In The White Girl, Tony Birch has created memorable characters whose capacity for love and courage are a timely reminder of the endurance of the human spirit. 

Islands by Peggy Frew

This is a spellbinding novel with a riveting and brilliant portrait of a family in crisis by the breathtakingly talented author of House of Sticks and Hope Farm.

There was a house on a hill in the city and it was full of us, our family, but then it began to empty. We fell out. We made a mess. We draped ourselves in blame and disappointment and lurched around, bumping into each other. Some of us wailed and shouted; some of us barely made a sound. None of us was listening, or paying attention. And in the middle of it all you, very quietly, were gone.

Helen and John are too preoccupied with making a mess of their marriage to notice the quiet ways in which their daughters are suffering. Junie grows up brittle and defensive, Anna difficult and rebellious.

When fifteen year old Anna fails to come home one night, her mother’s not too worried; Anna’s taken off before but always returned. Helen waits three days to report her disappearance.

But this time Anna doesn’t come back …

No One by John Hughes

In the ghost hours of a Monday morning a man feels a dull thud against the side of his car near the entrance to Redfern Station. He doesn’t stop immediately. By the time he returns to the scene, the road is empty, but there is a dent in the car, high up on the passenger door, and what looks like blood. Only a man could have made such a dent, he thinks. For some reason he looks up, though he knows no one is there. Has he hit someone, and if so, where is the victim? So begins a story that takes us to the heart of contemporary Australia’s festering relationship to its indigenous past. A story about guilt for acts which precede us, crimes we are not sure we have committed, crimes gone on so long they now seem criminal-less. Part crime novel, part road movie, part love story, No One takes its protagonist to the very heart of a nation where non-existence is the true existence, where crimes cannot be resolved and guilt cannot be redeemed, and no one knows what to do with ghosts that are real.

The Returns by Philip Salom

The Returns is a story about the eccentricities, failings and small triumphs that humans are capable of, a novel that pokes fun at literary and artistic pretensions, while celebrating the expansiveness of art, kindness and friendship. 

Elizabeth posts a ‘room for rent’ notice in Trevor’s bookshop and is caught off-guard when Trevor answers the ad himself. She expected a young student not a middle-aged bookseller whose marriage has fallen apart. But Trevor is attracted to Elizabeth’s house because of the empty shed in her backyard, the perfect space for him to revive the artistic career he abandoned years earlier. The face-blind, EH Holden-driving Elizabeth is a solitary and feisty book editor, and she accepts him, on probation…

In this poignant yet upbeat novel the past keeps returning in the most unexpected ways. Elizabeth is at the beck and call of her ageing mother, and the associated memories of her childhood in a Rajneesh community. Trevor’s Polish father disappeared when Trevor was fifteen, and his mother died not knowing whether he was dead or alive. The authorities have declared him dead, but is he?

Exploded View by Carrie Tiffany

Spare, poetic and intensely visual, Exploded View is the powerful new novel from the author of Everyman’s Rules for Scientific Living and Mateship with Birds. Carry Tiffany is one of Australia’s most celebrated writers and winner of the inaugural Stella Prize. 

Must a girl always be a part?

How can she become a whole?

In the late 1970s, in the forgotten outer suburbs, a girl has her hands in the engine of a Holden. A sinister new man has joined the family. He works as a mechanic and operates an unlicensed repair shop at the back of their block.

The family is under threat. The girl reads the Holden workshop manual for guidance. She resists the man with silence, then with sabotage. She fights him at the place where she believes his heart lives; in the engine of the car.

The Yield by Tara June Winch

The yield in English is the reaping, the things that man can take from the land. In the language of the Wiradjuri yield is the things you give to, the movement, the space between things: baayanha. Knowing that he will soon die, Albert ‘Poppy’ Gondiwindi takes pen to paper. His life has been spent on the banks of the Murrumby River at Prosperous House, on Massacre Plains. Albert is determined to pass on the language of his people and everything that was ever remembered. He finds the words on the wind. August Gondiwindi has been living on the other side of the world for ten years when she learns of her grandfather’s death. She returns home for his burial, wracked with grief and burdened with all she tried to leave behind. Her homecoming is bittersweet as she confronts the love of her kin and news that Prosperous is to be repossessed by a mining company. Determined to make amends she endeavours to save their land, a quest that leads her to the voice of her grandfather and into the past, the stories of her people, the secrets of the river. Profoundly moving and exquisitely written, Tara June Winch’s The Yield is the story of a people and a culture dispossessed. But it is as much a celebration of what was and what endures, and a powerful reclaiming of Indigenous language, storytelling and identity.

Enjoy!

The best self help books for those who are looking to shake up their career

We have all been staying safe at home for a number of months now and for a few people it’s been time spent thinking about their career, future jobs or even business ideas they have always wanted to explore. The world is starting to open up and it looks like we will be able to head back to the office shortly and to help our transition, Team Booko has been scouring the world for some books to help you on your journey. Luckily, there are a number of new titles hitting the market that can help with tough decisions around these ideas and (gulp!) we have found some that are pretty straight talking! 

A Good Time To Be A Girl by Helena Morrissey 

Years have passed since women were exhorted to ‘Lean In’. Over that time, the world has transformed beyond all expectations. But why should anyone ‘lean in’ to a patriarchal system that is out of date? Why not change it entirely for the good of us all? In A Good Time to be a Girl, Helena Morrissey sets out how we might achieve the next big breakthrough towards a truly inclusive modern society.

Drawing on her experience as a City CEO, mother of nine, and founder of the influential 30% Club which campaigns for gender-balanced UK company boards, her manifesto for new ways of working, living, loving and raising families is for everyone, not just women. Making a powerful case for diversity and difference in any workplace, she shows how, together, we can develop smarter thinking and broader definitions of success. Gender balance, in her view, is an essential driver of economic prosperity and part of the solution to the many problems we face today. Her approach is not aimed merely at training a few more women in working practices that have outlived their usefulness. Instead, this book sets out a way to reinvent the game, not at the expense of men but in ways that are right and relevant for a digital age. It is a powerful guide to success for us all.

Balance and Other B.S by Felicity Harley 

According to the 2018 Global Wellness Trends Report, feminist wellness is about ‘new powerful intersections between women’s empowerment, feminism and wellness’, and it’s one of the top 10 global health trends of last year. The irony is, while many women are more health conscious than ever, many of us haven’t even been to the dentist in the past 12 months, arguably the most basic of all health appointments. Words like overwhelmed, stressed, exhausted, always on, burnt-out, fed up, over it … Felicity Harley kept hearing these again and again from women married, single, with and without kids. Close girlfriends, mums at the school gate, single women in cafes, on social, many conversations are proving we’re all in this pressure cooker, feeling trapped, carrying a semi-trailer of mental stuff on our shoulders and riding the rollercoaster. We can’t find the emergency stop button. The result of all this overwhelm is a new wave of health problems, mental and physical. We have the studies flooding in that women are unhappier, more anxious, depressed, more likely to burn out than men. Perhaps it’s time we moved the conversation away from so-called ‘balance’ – balance is bull, burnout is real.

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Emotional Inflammation by Lise Van Susteren

If the news has you feeling anxious or outraged, you’re not alone. There is a name for this: emotional inflammation. With Emotional Inflammation, you’ll discover a breakthrough plan for dealing with this modern affliction. General and forensic psychiatrist Dr. Lise Van Susteren joins health journalist Stacey Colino to present a program called RESTORE, which will help you discover your “reactor type” for emotional inflammation and show you how to become more grounded and resilient in turbulent times. One of the main causes of emotional inflammation is our sense that the big issues, like climate change, gun violence, and political corruption, are beyond our control. With RESTORE, you’ll learn you have more power than you realise. With strategies for relieving stress, critical thinking, recovering inner composure, and reclaiming the gifts of nature, you’ll learn to transform your distress into steady calm and strength. As you move from a state of emotional whiplash into greater balance and harmony, you can redirect your energy, manage your feelings, and cultivate healthier habits. Ultimately, you’ll learn to become an “up-stander”, a force for improving the conditions that fuel your fears. With a relatable style and a heaping dose of hope, Emotional Inflammation is a timely antidote for a world in turmoil.

Me First by Kate Christie 

You are a clever, savvy, successful woman. You are also a working mum. Which means you have it all! Right? Wrong. Managing the juggle presents an ongoing and unique challenge for working mums, and it’s time to take control of your time. Written with humour and honesty, Me First offers personal insights, practical exercises, and time-management solutions for crazy busy, stressed out and guilt-ridden working mums. Me First teaches you how to take control of your time once and for all: liberate yourself from imposter syndrome, mother’s guilt and the other time-wasting mistakes we make, start prioritising yourself, cost out exactly what your poor time habits are costing you, learn simple, smart and sustainable solutions to find 30+ lost hours a month, set and smash audacious goals for how to best use your newfound time, and gain insights from successful women from around the world who know exactly how you feel. Me First is for every time-poor working mum who has had enough of the juggle. It’s time to start putting yourself first. It’s time to be a little less self-less.

Get Out Of Your Own Way by Dave Hollis 

When Rachel Hollis began writing the #1 New York Times bestseller Girl, Wash Your Face, her husband Dave bristled at her transparency about her self-deceptions. Then he had a revelation: women aren’t the only ones who believe lies. Both women and men buy into a host of lies that keep them from reaching their potential, often against a backdrop of ingrained ideas about how they should or shouldn’t act, how they should or shouldn’t reach for help, or how they show up for life. Dave knows this personally. He believed all the lies, too. He found himself stuck in a rut, unmotivated, unfulfilled, and a version of himself he didn’t like, all while being skeptical he could actually do anything about it. Then, he began to wake up. In his new book, he talks honestly about topics people aren’t normally honest about-his impulse to solve instead of listen, his struggle to accept help or admit he needs it, even his insecurities about being a parent. Unpacking the untruths he once believed, he reveals how those lies held him back and outlines the tools that helped him change his life. Offering encouragement, challenge, and a hundred moments to laugh at himself, Dave points the way for others to drop bogus ideas and finally start living the best versions of their lives too. 

Make A Living Living by Nina Karnikowski 

Make a Living Living is for anyone who has ever wished they could build a successful career doing something they love. Structured around the stories of inspiring individuals, from a vegan chocolatier to a nomadic photographer and a tiny-house builder, the book explains how they achieved their ideal existence, and the challenges they faced along the way. A set of practical exercises helps readers learn how to trust themselves, take risks and develop the skills needed to achieve their ideal life. It’s full of quotes to motivate you and bite size insightful chapters to inspire you to make a change. 

Enjoy and stay safe!

The Best Crime Books of 2020…so far.

It turns out there are a lot of people who like to be scared out of their wits! And many who like to figure out intricate stories. Crime and mystery books are two of the best selling genres in the world. The. Whole. World. So we’ve have decided to wade through the amazing number of new titles on the market and share our favourites with you. 

Brace yourself, some of these psychological thrillers are really going to make their mark on your imagination. Consider yourself warned.

Heaven, My Home by Attica Locke

When the young son of an Aryan Brotherhood of Texas gang captain goes missing, Ranger Darren Matthews has no choice but to investigate the crime. Following the election of Donald Trump, a new wave of racial violence has swept the state. Dark, swampy and filled with skeletal trees, Caddo Lake is so large it crosses into Lousiana. This is deep country and the rule of law doesn’t mean much to the Brotherhood, beyond what it can do for them. A further complication is that Brotherhood is squatting on the land of a former Freedmen’s community, and one of the last descendants of these former slaves is actually a suspect in the possible murder of the missing boy. Instructed by his lieutenant to use the investigation to gather more evidence that might help to take down the Texas chapter of the Brotherhood, Darren is playing very dangerous game indeed.

The Better Sister by Alafair Burke

Keep your enemies close and your sister closer… 

For a while, it seemed like both Taylor sisters had found happiness. Chloe landed a publishing job in New York City; Nicky married Adam, and became a mother to their son, Ethan. But now, fourteen years later, it is Chloe who is married to Adam and raising Ethan. When Adam is murdered at the couple’s beach house, Chloe has no choice but to welcome her estranged sister back into her life and confront the truth behind family secrets they both tried to leave behind.

Your House Will Pay by Steph Cha

In 1991 Shawn, a young African-American teen, his sister Ava, and cousin Ray, set out across LA to a screening of New Jack City. But in the volatile atmosphere of that time, they never make it inside the cinema. Nearly three decades later, police brutality still afflicts the city, but Grace, a Korean-American twenty-something pharmacist living and working with her parents, has her own problems, as she tries to figure out why her older sister, Miriam, still refuses to speak with their mother. Across the county, Shawn is trying to ease Ray, fresh out of prison, back into everyday life, but both men are struggling, still haunted by the events of 1991 and their shared loss. When a shocking new crime strikes the city, the lives of Grace and Shawn – two people from different cultures and generations – collide in a way which could change them forever.

The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware

When she stumbles across the advert, she’s looking for something else completely. But it seems like too good an opportunity to miss- a live-in nanny position, with a staggeringly generous salary. And when Rowan arrives at Heatherbrae House, she is smitten by the luxurious ‘smart’ home fitted out with all modern conveniences, by the beautiful Scottish Highlands, and by this picture-perfect family. What she doesn’t know is that she’s stepping into a nightmare – one that will end with a child dead and her in a cell awaiting trial for murder. She knows she’s made mistakes. But, she maintains, she’s not guilty – at least not of murder. Which means someone else is. Full of spellbinding menace, The Turn of the Key is a gripping modern-day haunted house thriller from the Agatha Christie of our time.

She Lies in Wait by Gytha Lodge

On a scorching July night in 1983, a group of teenagers goes camping in the forest. When they wake in the morning the youngest of their group, Aurora Jackson, has disappeared. An exhaustive investigation is launched, but no trace of the teenager is ever found. Thirty years later, Aurora’s body is unearthed in a hideaway that only the six friends knew about, and Jonah Sheens is put in charge of solving the long-cold case. Back in 1983, as a young cop in their small town, he had known the teenagers, including Aurora, personally, even before taking part in the search. Now he’s determined to finally get to the truth of what happened that night. Sheens’s investigation brings the members of the camping party back to the forest, where they will be confronted once again with the events that left one of them dead and all of them profoundly changed forever. This searing, psychologically captivating novel marks the arrival of a dazzling new talent, and the start of a new series featuring Detective Chief Inspector Jonah Sheens.

I Know Who You Are by Alice Feeney

The highly anticipated new novel from the international bestselling author of Sometimes I Lie, Alice Feeney’s new novel is her most twisted and nerve-wracking thriller yet. Aimee Sinclair: the actress everyone thinks they know but can’t remember where from. But I know exactly who you are. I know what you’ve done. And I am watching you. When Aimee comes home and discovers her husband is missing, she doesn’t seem to know what to do or how to act. The police think she’s hiding something and they’re right, she is – but perhaps not what they thought. Aimee has a secret she’s never shared, and yet, she suspects that someone knows. As she struggles to keep her career and sanity intact, her past comes back to haunt her in ways more dangerous than she could have ever imagined.I Know Who You Are will leave your heart pounding and your pulse racing. This is on of the most twisted thrillers you’ll read all year.

Enjoy!

The Best Books to help you become organised in 2020

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

Get Remarkably Organised by Lorraine Murphy

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

The Feel Good Guide by Matilda Green

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

Things No One Else Can Teach Us by Humble the Poet

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

488 Rules for Life by Kitty Flanagan

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

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

F**k No! by Sarah Knight

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

Becoming – A Guided Journal by Michelle Obama

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

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

Enjoy!

Time to load your e-reader for the holidays

Summer has well and truly arrived here in Melbourne and with the festive season done and dusted it’s time to load your e-reader full of books to enjoy while spending your days on the beach, in a hammock or beside the pool. 

We rounded up the top selling books of the year in December (you can have a read of that blog post here ) and you can find the eBook versions of them on Booko, too, by clicking eBook in the drop down menu of your search. 

We are a household that uses both Kindles and Kobos to read books on the go. We have Kobos for our children as they allow them to read their library books in an electronic version (via the amazing libby app). We love this functionality as it allows them to bring their library books on holiday without the fear of ever losing one! 

Here are our top downloads for you to enjoy. Let us know what you’re spending your summer reading in the comments below. 

Good Girl, Bad Girl by Michael Robotham

Six years ago, Evie Cormac was discovered, filthy and half-starved, hiding in a secret room in the aftermath of a shocking crime. Now approaching adulthood, Evie is damaged, self-destructive and has never revealed her true identity.

Forensic psychologist Cyrus Haven, a man haunted by his own past, is investigating the death of champion figure-skater Jodie Sheehan. When Cyrus is called upon to assess Evie, she threatens to disrupt the case and destroy his ordered life. Because Evie has a unique and dangerous gift – she knows when someone is lying. And nobody is telling the truth.

Cilka’s Journey by Heather Morris

Based on the heart-breaking true story of Cilka Klein, Cilka’s Journey is the sequel to the internationally No.1 bestselling phenomenon, The Tattooist of Auschwitz. In 1942 Cilka Klein is just sixteen years old when she is taken to Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration Camp. The Commandant at Birkenau, Schwarzhuber, notices her long beautiful hair, and forces her separation from the other women prisoners. Cilka learns quickly that power, even unwillingly given, equals survival.

After liberation, Cilka is charged as a collaborator by the Russians and sent to a desolate, brutal prison camp in Siberia known as Vorkuta, inside the Arctic Circle. Innocent, imprisoned once again, Cilka faces challenges both new and horribly familiar, each day a battle for survival. Cilka befriends a woman doctor, and learns to nurse the ill in the camp, struggling to care for them under unimaginable conditions. And when she tends to a man called Alexandr, Cilka finds that despite everything, there is room in her heart for love.

Cilka’s Journey is a powerful testament to the triumph of the human will. It will move you to tears, but it will also leave you astonished and uplifted by one woman’s fierce determination to survive, against all odds.

Dark Emu by Bruce Pascoe

Dark Emu puts forward an argument for a reconsideration of the hunter-gatherer tag for pre-colonial Aboriginal Australians. The evidence insists that Aboriginal people right across the continent were using domesticated plants, sowing, harvesting, irrigating, and storing; behaviours inconsistent with the hunter-gatherer tag. Gerritsen and Gammage in their latest books support this premise but Pascoe takes this further and challenges the hunter-gatherer tag as a convenient lie. Almost all the evidence in Dark Emu comes from the records and diaries of the Australian explorers, impeccable sources. Dark Emu is a must read for anyone who wants to understand what Australia once was, or what it might yet be if we heed the lessons of long and sophisticated human occupation.

The Strangers We Know by Pip Drysdale 

This is the eagerly awaited new thriller from the bestselling author of The Sunday Girl. Imagine seeing your loving husband on a dating app. Now imagine that’s the best thing to happen to you all week. When Charlie sees a man who is the spitting image of her husband Oliver on a dating app, her heart stops. Her first desperate instinct is to tell herself she must be mistaken, after all, she only caught a glimpse from a distance as her friends were laughingly swiping through the men on offer. But no matter how much she tries to push her fears aside, she can’t because she took that photo. On their honeymoon. She just can’t let it go. Suddenly other signs of betrayal begin to add up and so Charlie does the only thing she can think of to defend her position, she signs up to the app to catch Oliver in the act. But Charlie soon discovers that infidelity is the least of her problems. Nothing is as it seems and nobody is who she thinks they are. 

The Girl Who Lived Twice by David Lagercrantz

This is the next episode in David Lagercrantz’s acclaimed continuation of Stieg Larsson’s Dragon Tattoo series is a thrilling ride that scales the heights of Everest and plunges the depths of Russia’s criminal underworld. In a climax of shattering violence, Lisbeth Salander will face her nemesis.

Lisbeth Salander’s mentor and protector Holger Palmgren is dead, and she has been gone from Stockholm since his funeral. All summer, Mikael Blomkvist has been plagued by the fear that Salander’s enemies will come after her.

He should, perhaps, be more concerned for himself.

In the pocket of an unidentified homeless man, who died with the name of a Swedish government minister on his lips, the police find a list of telephone numbers. Among them, the contact for Millennium magazine and the investigative journalist Mikael Blomkvist. Following the scorched trail of her twin sister Camilla to Moscow, Salander nevertheless continues to watch over her old friend. Soon Blomkvist will need her help. But first, she has an old score to settle; and fresh outrage to avenge.

Agent Running in the Field by John le Carre 

Nat, a 47 year-old veteran of Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service, believes his years as an agent runner are over. He is back in London with his wife, the long-suffering Prue. But with the growing threat from Moscow Centre, the office has one more job for him. Nat is to take over The Haven, a defunct substation of London General with a rag-tag band of spies. The only bright light on the team is young Florence, who has her eye on Russia Department and a Ukrainian oligarch with a finger in the Russia pie.

Nat is not only a spy, he is a passionate badminton player. His regular Monday evening opponent is half his age: the introspective and solitary Ed. Ed hates Brexit, hates Trump and hates his job at some soulless media agency. And it is Ed, of all unlikely people, who will take Prue, Florence and Nat himself down the path of political anger that will ensnare them all. Agent Running in the Field is a chilling portrait of our time, now heartbreaking, now darkly humorous, told to us with unflagging tension by the greatest chronicler of our age.

Enjoy!

The Creepiest and Spookiest Books on the Market

Do you like your Halloween cute and funny, or dark and scary? While I definitely prefer cute and funny – I’m such a scaredy cat that I cannot handle horror – I do have a weakness for fist-clenching, frantic-feeling crime thrillers. Whether it’s fast-paced and action-packed, or stealthy slow-burning, you won’t want to stop reading a well-written thriller. Here are some recently published thrillers that will give you a delicious chill this Halloween week.

It Should Have Been Me by Susan Wilkins

Fans of TV crime dramas will love Susan Wilkins’ writing style, developed over decades as a scriptwriter. Jo Biden was only a child when her older sister Sarah was brutally murdered at university. Sarah’s boyfriend, Nathan, was convicted of the killing.  Now, with his impending release, a documentary film-maker – and uni friend of both Sarah and Nathan – is ready to prove Nathan’s innocence.  Revisiting the case is pitting Jo’s professional life (as a rising police detective) against her personal life, where family loyalties and emotions encourage her to question the evidence.  It Should Have Been Me offers many flawed but believable characters – including the likeable protagonist Jo – and top-notch character development. It is a fast-paced, action-packed thriller, perfect for fans of Clare Mackintosh and Susie Steiner

The Secret by K L Slater

K L Slater has many bestsellers under her belt, and The Secret shows her in their prime.  The Secret revolves around two sisters, Alice and Louise.  Louise is elegant and successful, living a seemingly-perfect life; whereas Alice is a wreck, anxious and reclusive.   Louise and Alice were estranged until Louise started leaving her son, 8 year-old Archie, in Alice’s care while she works. What Louise doesn’t know – and what Alice is trying to discover – is that Archie has a secret.  One that he won’t tell because it could destroy his family… The Secret uses flashbacks and multiple narrators to give us rich characterisation, revealing why the two sisters have turned out so differently. K L Slater has also created a nice balance between the tension and the intrigue, and the growing connection between Alice and Archie.  The Secret promises to be a new favourite of fans of Girl on the Train and Gone Girl!

Whisper Network by Chandler Baker

Sloane, Ardie, Grace and Rosalita are four women who work for Truviv, an athleisure company.  They’re all struggling with work-life balance and with countering casual and institutional sexism in their workplace – something that even relative wealth and privilege doesn’t shield them from.  When their boss, the predatory Ames, looks likely to become the next CEO, these women decide that enough is enough.  They fight back by adding Ames’ name to a viral, online “BAD Men list”, and by filing a sexual harassment lawsuit against Ames and Truviv.  What happens next is tense, viciously funny… and will surprise you.  Whisper Network is a thriller of the #MeToo era, weaving themes of gender politics, power balances and office culture through its mystery / legal thriller plot. Chandler Baker, herself a lawyer with a young family, has recreated a setting that is highly recognisable.  Whisper Network is a highly addictive read endorsed by the Reese Witherspoon Book Club.

A Nearly Normal Family by M T Edvardsson

How far would you go to protect your child? This is the question Adam (a pastor) and Ulrika (a criminal lawyer) must face when their 17 year-old daughter is charged with a brutal murder. While they instinctively stand by Stella, this crime and its aftermath batter them with parental guilt, protectiveness, moral dilemmas, and doubt. A Nearly Normal Family is told in three parts, narrated in turn by Adam, Stella and Ulrika.  These three strands – which don’t always match up – challenge us to question their reliability and biases.  This is both a domestic drama and a courtroom thriller, particularly affecting because Stella’s family seems so ordinary.  A Nearly Normal Family is the first of M. T. Edvardsson’s works to be translated into English, and it definitely upholds the excellent reputation of Scandinavian crime fiction.

An Anonymous Girl by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen

Jess is a young makeup artist struggling to make ends meet in New York City.  When she learns of a lucrative research study being done by a respected psychiatrist, she tricks her way into participating (the irony being that the study is about ethics and morality). As the study progresses, the supportive mentor/protege relationship between Jess and Dr Lydia Shields turns increasingly sinister, with directions to attempt increasingly personal, uncomfortable roleplaying tasks.  An Anonymous Girl is a novel of chilling suspense and obsession.  Readers quickly start sharing Jess’ sense of dread and desperation as she realises she is up against a master manipulator.  An Anonymous Girl is a worthy sophomore effort from the team behind the bestselling The Wife Between Us.

The Neighbour by Fiona Cummins

The Neighbour is a psychological thriller about a neighbourhood devastated by a serial killer.  The neighbourhood seems quiet and ordinary – but its inhabitants all have secrets to hide… and one of them is the killer.  For newcomers the Lockwood family, and for investigating detective Wildeve Stanton, the race is on to reveal the psychopath from behind his/her harmless mask.  The Neighbour has taken this classic premise and spun it into story full of horror, menace and trepidation. Fiona Cummins has created a memorable killer, who narrates part of the story in a highly unsettling way.  She also induces a creeping sense of claustrophobia by confining most of the action to one single street.  The Neighbour is a dark story, full of twists and turns, that will keep you guessing right to the end.

The Best Books of 2019 picked by Team Booko

We are still pinching ourselves that it is somehow October already! Wow the year has whizzed by. With the end of the year looming and Christmas (ahem) just around the corner we thought we would round up the best books that the Booko Team has read this year. 

The team has a wide and mixed bunch of titles so find yourself somewhere comfy to sit and get ready to be inspired to sink yourself into some fabulous stories. 

From the Founders:

Riina’s Pick: Exit West by Mohsin Hamid

I have been meaning to read Exit West by Mohsin Hamid ever since it was shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 2017, and finally managed to read it this year. Though the story takes place in an unnamed city, it bears much resemblance to the humanitarian crisis in Syria. I was firstly drawn to the book because of the refugee theme, but ended up finding much more than a refugee story: a thought-provoking story about belonging, prejudice, loyalty and love.

The story is of young lovers who are forced to leave the city of their birth due to escalating violence and civil war. They hear rumours of mysterious doorways that open up in random places and that take those who can pay the price to some far-flung place that is safer than the place they leave behind. The couple end up going through two more doorways in search of a place they can feel safe in. By inventing these “magic doorways” Hamid is removing the journey from the refugee story, instead focusing on the experiences of leaving and arriving, and how such events shape and change a person. This way the story is in some ways relatable to anyone who’s ever migrated for one reason or another.

As events unfold, Hamid pays homage to various humanitarian crises across history, showing the reader how easy it is for history to repeat itself; how close we are to losing our humanity. Fear, prejudice and “otherness” are never far below the surface.

Though the book was not a pleasant or easy read, it made it to one of my most favourite this year due to the thoughts it left me with for days after I had finished reading the story.

Dan’s Pick: Practical Object-Oriented Design by Sandi Metz

I first heard the name Sandi Metz at a programming conference I was attending in Sydney.  My friend had bought a ticket and flown from Melbourne to see her speak.  Sandi was the keynote and the subject was on persuasion.  My friend, the Sandi fan, convinced me to watch a few of her programming videos and on the strength of those, I bought her latest book, ‘Practical Object-Oriented Design

It’s a dry sounding subject, but I was hooked immediately. Like me, Sandi is a Ruby programmer and like me, she builds systems in Ruby. The strength of the book is the way it introduces and discusses problems in designs of systems.  Sandi identifies problems in design with straightforward examples.   There were many moments during the book, when a problem was introduced that I immediately recognised and had struggled with.  The main difference is that rather than move on to the next issue, Sandi reduces the problem to its kernel, then deftly brings a few tools or patterns to bear on the problem.  It’s like watching a tangled cord be unknotted.  

I’m not sure I’d have been so engrossed in this book had I not, quite literally, struggled with the exact problems presented.  This book has improved me as a programmer and I would highly recommend it to any developer with a few years under their belt. 

From our youngest reviewers:

Niko’s Pick: Brotherband by John Flanagan

A series I recommend is Brotherband. It is by John Flanagan, and exists in the same world as his international bestselling series “Ranger’s Apprentice,” which is about the Rangers of Araluen, and Will, the ranger Halt’s apprentice. Brotherband’s events happened shortly after Ranger’s Apprentice, where Gilan is actually a character in both of the series.

Brotherband is set in Skandia, a land of sea wolves and democracy (as in they vote for their leader, the Oberjarl, instead of having a royal bloodline, like Araluen). The main characters are a Brotherband called the Herons (named after the bird) and they are led by Hal. They fight bad guys and do missions for the Oberjarl, Erak.

I recommend this book to anyone who likes Vikings and battles and action and many other things I forgot to name. This book is good for anyone older than 8, but really, it’s good for all ages as long as you can read. It’s that good.

Elora’s Pick: Smile by Raina Telgemeier

I made a book report for a Book called Smile. I recommend this book for 6+! This book was written by Raina Telgemeier. She also wrote some books called Sisters, Ghosts, Drama and Guts. Those are all the books by her that I know of. I thought it was a good Graphic Novel. The good things about it are: it actually happened, it’s funny and all other emotions including the sad emotion 😭 Sad😢. Her so called annoying sister named Amara says “You’re gonna be a METAL-MOUTH” when she gets braces from tripping over and losing 2 fully grown teeth! The dentist was nice so he gave her fake teeth to make her look normal and she ends up with a good life.

From the Marketing Team:

Cheekily, Marie has two favourites and because they are so different from each other we thought we’d let that slide and let her review two. 

Never Split the Difference: Negotiating As If Your Life Depended On It by Chris Voss

If you like to sink your teeth into fascinating stories and learn practical tips at the same time, then this book is for you. A great friend recommended this to me and I loved it (and have since recommended it to a number of other people).

After a stint policing the rough streets of Kansas City, Missouri, Chris Voss joined the FBI, where his career as a hostage negotiator brought him face-to-face with a range of criminals, including bank robbers and terrorists. Reaching the pinnacle of his profession, he became the FBI’s lead international kidnapping negotiator. in his chatty style, Voss takes you inside the world of high-stakes negotiations and into his head, revealing the skills that helped him and his colleagues succeed where it mattered most: saving lives. In addition to the unbelievable stories, this is a practical guide of tactics and strategies that you can use to become more persuasive in both your professional and personal life.

Educated by Tara Westover

I still think about this book regularly after finishing it a few months ago, I think it is haunting me. With three little girls of my own and being brought up in a home where education was highly valued, I was intrigued when hearing about this story. I couldn’t imagine a world more different from my own and was so moved by the account of Tara’s life as she gets to the heart of what an education is and what it has to offer. I’m putting the blurb for the book below as I couldn’t describe it any better. However, prepare yourself because it is an exceptionally sad tale. 

Tara Westover grew up preparing for the End of Days, watching for the sun to darken, for the moon to drip as if with blood. She spent her summers bottling peaches and her winters rotating emergency supplies, hoping that when the World of Men failed, her family would continue on, unaffected. She hadn’t been registered for a birth certificate. She had no school records because she’d never set foot in a classroom, and no medical records because her father didn’t believe in doctors or hospitals. According to the state and federal government, she didn’t exist. As she grew older, her father became more radical, and her brother, more violent. At sixteen Tara decided to educate herself. Her struggle for knowledge would take her far from her Idaho mountains, over oceans and across continents, to Harvard and to Cambridge. Only then would she wonder if she’d travelled too far. If there was still a way home. Educated is an account of the struggle for self-invention. It is a tale of fierce family loyalty, and of the grief that comes with the severing of the closest of ties.

Enjoy!

The best books from famous book clubs around the world

Book clubs have come a long way with the digital age; no longer do you have to head to a cafe on a Winter’s night to chat through a book that you may have only *just* finished (or let’s be honest, sometimes only read the first, middle and last chapter of…we won’t judge, some books are just too hard to get through in 4 weeks!). The increasingly popularity of book clubs on the internet allow us to stay at home in our slippers curled up on a comfy chair and given the huge number of participants we may no longer be the only person who hasn’t finished the book. 

All joking aside, we do love a good book recommendation and we know you do, too, so the Booko team has scoured the internet and found the best picks from some of the world’s most famous book clubs (with books that we know you’ll actually want to read). 

Let’s start with the biggest book club of them all…Oprah’s. Anything recommended by this lady is sure to be a bestseller!

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones

Newlyweds Celestial and Roy are the embodiment of both the American Dream and the New South. He is a young executive, and she is an artist on the brink of an exciting career. But as they settle into the routine of their life together, they are ripped apart by circumstances neither could have imagined. Roy is arrested and sentenced to twelve years for a crime Celestial knows he didn’t commit. Though fiercely independent, Celestial finds herself bereft and unmoored, taking comfort in Andre, her childhood friend, and best man at their wedding. As Roy’s time in prison passes, she is unable to hold on to the love that has been her centre. After five years, Roy’s conviction is suddenly overturned, and he returns to Atlanta ready to resume their life together.

Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue

A compulsively readable debut novel about marriage, immigration, class, race, and the trapdoors in the American Dream. This is the unforgettable story of a young Cameroonian couple making a new life in New York just as the Great Recession upends the economy Jende Jonga, a Cameroonian immigrant living in Harlem, has come to the United States to provide a better life for himself, his wife, Neni, and their six-year-old son. In the fall of 2007, Jende can hardly believe his luck when he lands a job as a chauffeur for Clark Edwards, a senior executive at Lehman Brothers. Clark demands punctuality, discretion, and loyalty, and Jende is eager to please. Clark’s wife, Cindy, even offers Neni temporary work at the Edwardses’ summer home in the Hamptons. With these opportunities, Jende and Neni can at last gain a foothold in America and imagine a brighter future. However, the world of great power and privilege conceals troubling secrets, and soon Jende and Neni notice cracks in their employers’ facades. When the financial world is rocked by the collapse of Lehman Brothers, the Jongas are desperate to keep Jende’s job even as their marriage threatens to fall apart. As all four lives are dramatically upended, Jende and Neni are forced to make an impossible choice. 

Emma Watson started a book club in 2015 with a firm focus on feminism. The books the club, known as The Shared Shelf, reviews and discusses books every two months. Here are their latest titles. 

Solito, Solita by Steven Mayers

They are a mass migration of thousands, yet each one travels alone. Solito, Solita (Alone, Alone) is an urgent collection of oral histories that tells the story of young refugees fleeing countries in Central America and traveling for hundreds of miles to seek safety and protection in the United States.

Fifteen narrators describe why they fled their homes, what happened on their dangerous journeys through Mexico, how they crossed the borders, and for some, their ongoing struggles to survive in the United States. In an era of fear, xenophobia, and outright lies, these stories amplify the compelling voices of migrant youth. What can they teach us about abuse and abandonment, bravery and resilience, hypocrisy and hope? They bring us into their hearts and onto streets filled with the lure of freedom and fraught with violence. From fending off kidnappers with knives and being locked in freezing holding cells to tearful reunions with parents, Solito, Solita’s narrators bring to light the experiences of young people struggling for a better life across the border.

This collection includes the story of Adrián, from Guatemala City, whose mother was shot to death before his eyes. He refused to join a gang, rode across Mexico atop cargo trains, crossed the US border as a minor, and was handcuffed and thrown into ICE detention on his eighteenth birthday. We hear the story of Rosa, a Salvadoran mother fighting to save her life as well as her daughter’s after death squads threatened her family. Together they trekked through the jungles on the border between Guatemala and Mexico, where masked men assaulted them. We also meet Gabriel, who after surviving sexual abuse starting at the age of eight fled to the United States, and through study, legal support and work, is now attending UC Berkeley.

Butterfly by Yusra Mardini

Yusra Mardini fled her native Syria to the Turkish coast in 2015 and boarded a small dinghy full of refugees bound for Greece. When the small and overcrowded boat’s engine cut out, it began to sink. Yusra, her sister and two others took to the water, pushing the boat for three and a half hours in open water until they eventually landed on Lesbos, saving the lives of the passengers aboard. Butterfly is the story of that remarkable woman, whose journey started in a war-torn suburb of Damascus and took her through Europe to Berlin and from there to the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. Yusra Mardini is an athlete, one of People magazine’s twenty-five women changing the world, a UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador and one of Time Magazine’s thirty most influential teens of 2016.

Our favourite Southern gal Reece Witherspoon also has a hugely popular book club called Hello Sunshine. We love following along with what Reece is reading and just know you’ll enjoy her latest picks.

Whisper Network by Chandler Baker

Sloane, Ardie, Grace, and Rosalita have worked at Truviv, Inc. for years. The sudden death of Truviv’s CEO means their boss, Ames, will likely take over the entire company. Each of the women has a different relationship with Ames, who has always been surrounded by whispers about how he treats women. Those whispers have been ignored, swept under the rug, hidden away by those in charge. But the world has changed, and the women are watching this promotion differently. This time, when they find out Ames is making an inappropriate move on a colleague, they aren’t willing to let it go. This time, they’ve decided enough is enough. Sloane and her colleagues’ decision to take a stand sets in motion a catastrophic shift in the office. Lies will be uncovered. Secrets will be exposed. And not everyone will survive. Explosive, timely, resonant and relatable. If you love Liane Moriarty’s Big Little Lies or Celeste Ng’s Little Fires Everywhere, you will love Whisper Network.

The Cactus by Sarah Haywood

Legal battles, lapses of logic and the joys and fears of motherhood are explored in this astute, funny and moving novel of a woman learning how to let go. People aren’t sure what to make of Susan Green. Family and colleagues find her prickly and hard to understand, but Susan makes perfect sense to herself, and that’s all she needs. At 45, she thinks her life is perfect, as long as she avoids her feckless brother, Edward, a safe distance away in Birmingham. She has a London flat which is ideal for one; a job that suits her passion for logic; and a personal arrangement providing cultural and other, more intimate, benefits. Yet suddenly faced with the loss of her mother and, implausibly, with the possibility of becoming a mother herself, Susan’s greatest fear is being realised: she is losing control. When she discovers that her mother’s will inexplicably favours her brother, Susan sets out to prove that Edward and his equally feckless friend Rob somehow coerced this dubious outcome. But when problems closer to home become increasingly hard to ignore, she finds help in the most unlikely of places. This sparkling debut is a breath of fresh air with real heart and a powerful emotional punch. In Susan we find a character as exasperating and delightful as The Rosie Project’s Don Tillman.

Enjoy!

Opening our eyes and hearts to refugees

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

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

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

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

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

The Refugees by Viet Thanh Nguyen

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

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

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

Homes by Abu Bakr al Rabeeah with Winnie Yeung

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

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

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

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

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

The best self help books that can help you decide what’s important

Self help books are one of the most popular genres in the world. There are thousands and thousands of titles to choose from and it can get a little over whelming. Some titles focus on discovering who you are, uncovering your strengths, and passions. Others take a different approach and teach us to take on qualities we aspire to. Sometimes a book comes along and really speaks to us, challenging our mindset and making us think about what’s really important. These are our favourite ones.

We’ve had a hunt around the internet and have found some of the best that we think will help you decide what’s really important to you. 

What do you really, really want? by Kevin Stebbings

What matters most to you? What keeps you from living a life of joy and purpose? In this unique narrative of life changing conversations, Kevin Stebbings offers an authentic framework for overcoming the distractions of life to rediscover what you really, really want.

He draws on the proven ideas and practices from the world of coaching to create a highly original and insightful book that will teach you how to discover your purpose, pursue your dreams, and achieve your goals.

You are invited into the story of two individuals who seek the help of a coach to find answers to life’s challenges. Their stories illuminate a path that you can follow to answer these questions: How do I overcome my tendency to procrastinate? What does it take to learn to say ‘no’ graciously and with confidence? How can I move beyond my fear of failure and start pursuing my dreams? What can I do to be more focused and less distracted? Stebbings uses coaching conversations to show us how to put our insights into practice so that we can live with passion and hope. What Do You Really, Really Want? is a compelling story with a powerful, yet simple message to empower you to live a life that is aligned with what matters most.

Start with Why by Simon Sinek

Technically this book was written to help businesses and brands but in reality the messages in this book are applicable to more than that. After watching Sinek’s Ted Talk (you can view it here) we believe that asking and finding your ‘why’ can really help you hone in on what is important. 

There’s a naturally occurring pattern shared by the people and organisations that achieve the greatest long-term success. From Martin Luther King Jr. to Steve Jobs, from the pioneers of aviation to the founders of Southwest Airlines, the most inspiring leaders think, act, and communicate the exact same way-and it’s the complete opposite of everyone else. The common thread, according to Simon Sinek, is that they all start with why. This simple question has the power to inspire others to achieve extraordinary things. Any organisation can explain what it does; some can explain how; but very few can clearly articulate why. Why do we offer these particular products or services? Why do our customers choose us? Why do our employees stay (or leave)? Once you have those answers, teams get stronger, the mission clicks into place, and the path ahead becomes much clearer. Starting with why is the key to everything from putting a man on the moon to launching the iPod. Drawing on a wide range of fascinating examples, Sinek shows readers how to apply why to their culture, hiring decisions, product development, sales, marketing, and many other challenges. Some naturally think this way, but Sinek proves that anyone can learn how. 

Simon’s also written another book, Find Your Why, which you can find here

You are a badass by Jen Sinecero

You Are A Badass is the self-help book for people who desperately want to improve their lives but don’t want to get busted doing it. In this refreshingly entertaining how-to guide, bestselling author and world-traveling success coach, Jen Sincero, serves up 27 bite-sized chapters full of hilariously inspiring stories, sage advice, easy exercises, and the occasional swear word, helping you to identify and change the self-sabotaging beliefs and behaviours that stop you from getting what you want, creating a life you totally love, and make some damn money already (the kind you’ve never made before). By the end of the book, you’ll understand why you are how you are, how to love what you can’t change, how to change what you don’t love, and how to use The Force to kick some serious ass. It’s a great read.

Daring Greatly by Brené Brown

Every time we are introduced to someone new, try to be creative, or start a difficult conversation, we take a risk. We feel uncertain and exposed. We feel vulnerable. Most of us try to fight those feelings – we strive to appear perfect. In a powerful new vision Dr. Brené Brown challenges everything we think we know about vulnerability, and dispels the widely accepted myth that it’s a weakness. She argues that, in truth, vulnerability is strength and when we shut ourselves off from vulnerability – from revealing our true selves – we distance ourselves from the experiences that bring purpose and meaning to our lives. Daring Greatly is the culmination of 12 years of groundbreaking social research, across every area of our lives including home, relationships, work, and parenting. It is an invitation to be courageous; to show up and let ourselves be seen, even when there are no guarantees. This is vulnerability. This is daring greatly.

Brené Brown has one of the most watched Ted Talks (you can view it here) and her Netflix special was launched earlier this year (you can view the trailer here)

I thought It Was Just Me by Brené Brown

While we are diving into the inspiring world that Brené Brown opens us up to, we have another one of her books for you to read. 

The quest for perfection is exhausting and unrelenting. We spend too much precious time and energy managing perception and creating carefully edited versions of ourselves to show to the world. As hard as we try, we can’t seem to turn off the tapes that fill our heads with messages like, ‘Never good enough!’ and ‘What will people think?’ Why? What fuels this unattainable need to look like we always have it all together? At first glance we might think it’s because we admire perfection, but that’s not the case. We are actually the most attracted to people we consider to be authentic and down-to-earth. We love people who are ‘real’ – we’re drawn to those who both embrace their imperfections and radiate self-acceptance. There is a constant barrage of social expectations that teach us that being imperfect is synonymous with being inadequate. Everywhere we turn, there are messages that tell us who, what and how we’re supposed to be. So, we learn to hide our struggles and protect ourselves from shame, judgment, criticism and blame by seeking safety in pretending and perfection. Based on seven years of ground-breaking research and hundreds of interviews, I Thought It Was Just Me shines a long-overdue light on an important truth: Our imperfections are what connect us to each other and to our humanity. Our vulnerabilities are not weaknesses; they are powerful reminders to keep our hearts and minds open to the reality that we’re all in this together.

Girl, Stop Apologising by Rachel Hollis

I believe we can change the world. But first, we’ve got to stop living in fear of being judged for who we are.”

Rachel Hollis has seen it too often: women not living into their full potential. They feel a tugging on their hearts for something more, but they’re afraid of embarrassment, of falling short of perfection, of not being enough. In Girl, Stop Apologising, #1 New York Times bestselling author and founder of a multimillion-dollar media company, Rachel Hollis sounds a wake-up call. She knows that many women have been taught to define themselves in light of other people-whether as wife, mother, daughter, or employee-instead of learning how to own who they are and what they want. With a challenge to women everywhere to stop talking themselves out of their dreams, Hollis identifies the excuses to let go of, the behaviours to adopt, and the skills to acquire on the path to growth, confidence, and believing in yourself. Rachel’s written another inspiring book that we love, it’s called Girl, Wash Your Face and you can find it here.

Enjoy!