Hugh Mackay, author of What Makes Us Tick?, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru Asks

Hugh Mackay

author of What Makes Us Tick?

Ten Terrifying Questions

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1. To begin with why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself – where were you born? Raised? Schooled?

Born in Sydney, classic nuclear family (two parents, two kids), grew up in the bushland of Castlecrag. Attended local public schools and Sydney Grammar School.

2. What did you want to be when you were twelve, eighteen and thirty? And why?

At 12, I had abandoned my childhood dream of becoming a bus driver, and had not a clue what I might do. At 18, I’d already been in the workforce for two years, and was heading uncertainly Continue reading

Daily Show and Jon Stewart Present: EARTH (The Book) – A Visitor’s Guide to the Human Race

The eagerly awaited new book from the Emmy-winning, Oscar-hosting, Daily Show-anchoring Jon Stewart–the man behind the megaseller America (The Book).

Where do we come from? Who created us? Why are we here? These questions have puzzled us since the dawn of time, but when it became apparent to Jon Stewart and the writers of The Daily Show that the world was about to end, they embarked on a massive mission to write a book that summed up the human race: What we looked like; what we accomplished; our achievements in society, government, religion, science and culture — all in a tome of approximately 256 pages with lots of color photos, graphs and charts.

They will take us on an intellectual journey through time – a quest back to the very moment of creation – that will maybe, just maybe help us figure out exactly how and why everything got so irretrievably f****ed up.

After two weeks of hard work, they had their book. EARTH (The Book) is the definitive guide to our species. With their trademark wit, irreverence, and intelligence, Stewart and his team will posthumously answer all of life’s most hard-hitting questions, completely unburdened by objectivity, journalistic integrity, or even accuracy.

From applications for genetic reconstitution by aliens to the meanings of anatomy, gender or nourishment, every aspect of life on this planet is reexplored, reexamined and made newly hilarious in this book.

The Romantic: Italian Nights and Days by Kate Holden, author of In My Skin

This is the spellbinding follow-up to Kate Holden’s memoir In My Skin, but it has a different story to tell. The Romantic describes Kate’s journey from Melbourne to Rome and Naples, from romance and sex to love, from loss to understanding—and back again.

This is a book about everything from sex with strangers to the heartbreaking realities of being in love. It’s about the pride of fierce independence and the crushing weight of loneliness. It’s about losing yourself in love and then finding yourself through your lover.

But most of all, The Romantic is the story of one woman’s pilgrimage to discover who she really is. And to learn to like what she finds.

From Kate’s website:

The Romantic: Italian Nights and Days is my second book and will be published in October this year. I’m thrilled and nervous about it coming out. It appears as a follow-up to In My Skin in the sense that it is another memoir, and delves further into the time I spent in Italy which was described briefly at the end of In My Skin. It turned out that there was another whole book to be written about that experience, and, though it’s quite different in many ways to the first, I am proud of this second book and hope it will be enjoyed by readers of my first, and new people as well.

It is the story of a young woman, recovering from some difficult and challenging times in Melbourne, who goes to Rome in search of four things: Rome, the Romantic poets, romance and herself. She finds all of these, but in ways she doesn’t expect, and a series of relationships that both give her a great deal, and take a lot. It’s a book which tries to get into the heart of a paradox: how do you become true to yourself when you are lost? How do you find yourself when you are trying to hide?

I hope it is a book that will move and intrigue readers, that female readers will be able to find themselves in, and men will take something from.

From an article by Jane Sullivan in The Sydney Morning Herald:

Acclaimed author and former heroin-addicted prostitute Kate Holden has written a different kind of sex memoir.

KATE Holden shifts uneasily on her bar stool. “It’s not a sex book,” she says of her new memoir, The Romantic.

“It just has lots of sexy bits.” No surprises there from the author of the acclaimed bestseller In My Skin, her true story of how a nice bookish University of Melbourne graduate descended into heroin addiction and prostitution in St Kilda.

In her new book she’s clean, off the game, heading to Rome on a pilgrimage in the company of her beloved Romantic poets and the works of Goethe and Casanova, keen to cross from selling sex to making love.

If you’re after raunch, you’ll find it. Look! Kate Does Threesomes! With two men, and again with a man and a woman! Kate dents a car bonnet with her bottom Doing It in the street! Kate Does Things with two dildos — one black, one pink!

She’s not abashed to write about sex: having already exposed her sexual life, she doesn’t have a problem with people discussing it. “But I don’t want to become ‘the sex girl’. I’m not better or worse at it than anyone else, but I’m fascinated by the way sex works as a phenomenon, I’m using it to interrogate relationships. More…

The new Culture novel. Surface Detail by Iain M. Banks

It begins in the realm of the Real, where matter still matters.

It begins with a murder.

And it will not end until the Culture has gone to war with death itself.

Lededje Y’breq is one of the Intagliated, her marked body bearing witness to a family shame, her life belonging to a man whose lust for power is without limit. Prepared to risk everything for her freedom, her release, when it comes, is at a price, and to put things right she will need the help of the Culture.

Benevolent, enlightened and almost infinitely resourceful though it may be, the Culture can only do so much for any individual. With the assistance of one of its most powerful – and arguably deranged – warships, Lededje finds herself heading into a combat zone not even sure which side the Culture is really on. A war – brutal, far-reaching – is already raging within the digital realms that store the souls of the dead, and it’s about to erupt into reality.

It started in the realm of the Real and that is where it will end. It will touch countless lives and affect entire civilizations, but at the centre of it all is a young woman whose need for revenge masks another motive altogether.

Iain [Menzies] Banks was born in Fife in 1954, and was educated at Stirling University, where he studied English Literature, Philosophy and Psychology.

Banks came to widespread and controversial public notice with the publication of his first novel, The Wasp Factory, in 1984.

His first science fiction novel, Consider Phlebas, was published in 1987. He has continued to write both mainstream fiction (as Iain Banks) and science fiction (as Iain M. Banks).

He is now acclaimed as one of the most powerful, innovative and exciting writers of his generation: The Guardian has called him “the standard by which the rest of SF is judged”. William Gibson, the New York Times-bestselling author of Spook Country describes Banks as a “phenomenon”.

Iain M. Banks lives in Fife, Scotland.

GUANTANAMO: My Journey by David Hicks

Random House to publish David Hicks’ memoirs

Random House Australia  announced today it would publish the personal memoir of former Australian Guantanamo Bay detainee, David Hicks, with the book, Guantanamo: My Journey, to go on sale Saturday 16 October.

Guantanamo: My Journey is the first published account by David Hicks of the years leading up to his incarceration in the infamous US military detention camp at Guantanamo Bay, his time as a detainee, and his search for a normal life following release from prison in late 2007.


Click here to place your order.

Written over the last two years, the book dispels myths about David Hicks’s life before Guantanamo and reveals insights into the interrogation techniques used by the Continue reading

Obama’s Wars by Bob Woodward

Bob Woodward’s first book on the administration of President Barack Obama, “Obama’s Wars,” will be published by Simon and Schuster on September 27.

After working behind the scenes for 18 months, Woodward has written the most intimate and sweeping portrait of Obama at work with his team. Drawing on internal memos, classified documents, meeting notes and hundreds of hours of interviews with most of the key players, including the president, Woodward reveals Obama’s critical decisions about the Afghanistan War, the secret war in Pakistan and the worldwide fight against terrorism.

Obama’s Wars offers an original, you-are-there account of Obama and his team in this time of turmoil and uncertainty.

Excerpts from the book will appear in The Washington Post beginning Monday, September 27. It is Woodward’s 16th book, all of which have been Continue reading

Reading Freedom by Jonathan Franzen (A review, of a kind by John Purcell)

I once read a book review written by Theodore Dreiser . The book he was reviewing was Of Human Bondage by W. Somerset Maugham. What I recall of that review, read many years ago, is that Dreiser had come clean, saying something like – it took Maugham 500 odd pages to convey all that is conveyed in the novel, and so much is, what hope have I of giving you an impression of such a novel in a short review? All I should say here is – read it. For it is only by others reading it that my review will be written.

When I sat down to write a review of Freedom by Jonathan Franzen I read through the notes I had taken while reading and found no recognisable pattern in them. If I were to write a review I would have to draw together these disparate reactions and manhandle them into one congenial whole. I found I couldn’t do this.

In the midst of my frustration, I remembered Dreiser’s approach. I was very tempted to follow his example to the letter, but I changed my mind. Readers today have umpteen million novels to chose from (and more every minute). In such bountiful times we all need help to decide what next to read. So, for what they’re worth, here are my notes. They are my thoughts whilst reading Freedom by Jonathan Franzen and, depending on your reading of them, they will either extinguish your desire to read the book, or increase your desire. I kinda a hope it’s the latter.

Update: A much cheaper edition of Freedom has been released – you can buy it here – if you want…

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Franzen opens Freedom with a teaser, he says, these ordinary people, Patti and Walter Berglund, living ordinary lives, are not what they seem. Then he draws a pen portrait of Walter and Patti as seen through the eyes of their neighbours. Yep, we readily agree, these are ordinary people. And yet lurking in the back of our minds is – he said all is not what it seems. And we turn the page. Continue reading

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