Team Booktopia’s 2013 Favourites

The Booktopia team  nominates their favourite titles from a great year of books.

Caroline Baum’s Picks

the-signature-of-all-thingsTHE SIGNATURE OF ALL THINGS
Elizabeth Gilbert

From Caroline’s Book of the Year Review: I’ve said it more than once, and I will say it again, loudly. I ADORE this book. I don’t think it has found the readership it deserves because some people think ‘Oh, she wrote Eat Pray Love, I didn’t like that or want to read that kind of thing so I won’t buy this’ and others think ‘Oh, if it’s not like Eat Pray Love I won’t like it.’ Put your prejudices aside, people!

Treat yourself to the most intriguing, refreshing and original female character of the year…

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DRIVE BYdrive-by
Michael Duffy

From Caroline’s review: You only have to watch the news to see that it does not get more topical than Drive By.

This gritty, complex, multi-layered novel is based on the spate of shootings between rival drug gangs that have riddled the streets of south Sydney in the past couple of years.

Duffy, a seasoned regular observer of the courts, has created two memorable characters: Bec, a part-Aboriginal detective, who has a distinctive vocabulary that wrong-foots her colleagues: and Honest John, a keen Toyota mechanic and member of the Habib family who would really rather not have to think too hard about what his brothers have been up to and just wants to marry his Aussie girlfriend.

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SUGARED ORANGESsugared-orange
Beata Zatorska

From Caroline’s review: Anyone who loved Rose Petal Jam is going to adore this chilly sister volume about the winter foods of Poland. Sydney GP Beata Zatorska is back with more family and carefully chosen classic recipes from around her native country, lovingly collected on journeys through snow and ice.

It takes a lot of love to publish a book that puts so much effort into photography (magical snowscapes by Beata’s documentary maker husband Simon Target) and superb design, creating the effect of a cherished family album.

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I AM MALALAi-am-malala
Malala Yousafzai

From Caroline’s review: Why she didn’t get the Nobel Peace Prize is beyond me. Malala’s story, told in the same unwaveringly forthright voice we have become used to hearing her speak in at her many public appearances is a tribute not only to her personal convictions and courage but to those of her remarkable father.

It also offers an insight into what daily life under the threat of the Taliban really means and how petty their brutality can be. And still, despite the horror of it all, Malala expresses an acute homesickness for her beloved Swat Valley.

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mastering-the-art-of-soviet-cookingMASTERING THE ART OF SOVIET COOKING
Anya Von Bremzen

From Caroline’s review: You know how sometimes you feel a book is so special that it has been written with you and only you in mind?

Well, that’s how I felt about this book. Having known several Soviet citizens at very close quarters, I understand how central food and the lack of it is to the national psyche. And I once celebrated the fall of the Berlin wall with a themed New Year’s Eve dinner of which the centrepiece was a fiendishly difficult dish: Coulibiac, a traditional Russian fish pie with a yeast dough casing that took two days to make and which my friend and I baked in the shape of a hammer and sickle for extra effect. (It was spectacular, I have to say, but never to be repeated.)

So this book had me at hello, comrade.

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THE ROSIE PROJECT
Click here for more details or to buy The Rosie Project Graeme Simsion

From Caroline’s review: When rights to a debut novel are sold in more than thirty countries, you know a book is generating serious buzz. I am glad to say that this feel-good debut delivers what the hype promises.

It’s as light as perfectly baked scone, narrowly avoiding saccharine pitfalls, achieving just the right combo of airiness and substance for the perfect rom-com recipe.

Irresistibly charming, genuinely funny and cleverly plotted this is intelligent romance for grown ups whose arteries have not hardened with cynicism.

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burial-ritesBURIAL RITES
Hannah Kent

From Caroline’s review: This book stinks, in a good way. Of fish and blood and guts and unwashed bodies and earth and death.

In fact, it reeks of those things and more. This austere love letter to Iceland takes a true story of murder as its foundation. Based on records from the trial of the two women and one man convicted of killing and burning two men on a remote farm this is richly and darkly imagined in prose thick with atmospherics.

Kent is a precocious talent who understands how to animate research and transform it into compelling narrative.

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Andrew Cattanach’s Picks

the-narrow-road-to-the-deep-northTHE NARROW ROAD TO THE DEEP NORTH
Richard Flanagan

The book Richard Flanagan had to write. A deeply personal novel that made me drew me in and never let me go. Sure to earn a place as one of the finest Australian novels of our time.

From Caroline’s review: When Richard Flanagan produces a new book, you know it will come freighted with Big Themes. As an essayist, Flanagan is political, provocative, passionate. As a novelist, he is capable of shape-shifting across genres, from high literary gothic to popular psychological thriller.

His latest novel is as eloquent and powerful an affirmation of his empathy and understanding of humanity as anything he’s ever written.

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TENTH OF DECEMBERtenth-of-december2
George Saunders

One of my favourite short story collections of recent times, mixing the absurd with the sweet, I can’t get enough of Saunders’ writing. Read it story by story, or in one big gulp, it won’t disappoint.

From the undisputed master of the short story, George Saunders, comes a dazzling and disturbing new collection. His most wryly hilarious work to date, Tenth of December illuminates human experience and explores figures lost in a labyrinth of troubling preoccupations.

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the-night-guestTHE NIGHT GUEST
Fiona McFarlane

A difficult, emotional read, but on reflection an incredible novel, a brave novel. A wonderful writer that pulls the reader’s strings with extraordinary ease.

From Caroline’s review: Writing a novel is like walking a highwire. So when a new artiste makes her debut, you expect a wobble or two. But not in this case. I don’t know where she’s been hiding up to now, but Fiona McFarlane is a bright new star in Australian fiction. She’s got all the assurance and the confidence of a seasoned performer. Here she enters the ring with a story about fear, trust, ageing and death; to borrow from another profession where skill is paramount, she handles her themes with a light deft touch, like an expert pastry chef blessed with cool fingers.

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DELICIOUS: LOVE TO COOKlove-to-cook
Valli Little

My favourite cookbook of 2013. Simple, fun, and gorgeous to look at. Whenever a friend checks out my cookbook collection, this is the book they talk about.

Sharing good food with family and friends is one of life’s great pleasures, but it’s easy to become stuck in the daily routine and lose your passion.

Love To Cook is designed to help you discover (or rediscover) the joy of spending time in the kitchen and at the table. Inside, you’ll find more than 140 recipes – themed by ingredient for easy reference – that will take you from quick weekday dinners with a clever twist to impressive ideas for entertaining.

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murder-in-mississippiMURDER IN MISSISSIPPI
John Safran

I just hope John Safran keeps writing, he’s a natural. I lost myself in this amazing story and the calm, confident writing of the first time true crime writer.

When filming his TV series Race Relations, John Safran spent an uneasy couple of days with one of Mississippi’s most notorious white supremacists. A year later, he heard that the man had been murdered – and what was more, the killer was black.

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AUTOBIOGRAPHYmorrissey
Morrissey

Everything I hoped for and more, Morrissey’s long awaited memoir is full of rich, flowery prose, the story of how a working-class kid from the North became an icon.

Steven Patrick Morrissey was born in Manchester on May 22nd 1959. Singer-songwriter and co-founder of the Smiths (1982-1987), Morrissey has been a solo artist for twenty-six years, during which time he has had three number 1 albums in England in three different decades.

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John Purcell’s Picks

a-meal-in-winterA MEAL IN WITNER
Hubert Mingarelli

The book I wish I had written.

From John’s review: A Meal in Winter is a novella. You can read it in a night. But it punches well above its weight.

I am told A Meal in Winter will be published as a gorgeous little hardcover but I read the proof, a very drab looking proof is was too, and for some reason, even before I read a page, I had the notion that this was a rediscovered work, much like the work of Irène Némirovsky.  To further compound my assumption, as I read, I was reminded of Primo Levi, of Beckett, of Camus… read more


MR. WIGGmr-wigg
Inga Simpson

This is the book I gave to friends to read. An unexpected delight. 

From John’s review: A novel that celebrates the small things in life by a fresh Australian voice.

It s the summer of 1971, not far from the stone-fruit capital of New South Wales, where Mr Wigg lives on what is left of his family farm. Mrs Wigg has been gone a few years now and he thinks about her every day. He misses his daughter, too, and wonders when he’ll see her again… read more


into-my-armsINTO MY ARMS
Kylie Ladd

Read this in a couple of sittings. Ladd’s sharp psychological insights bring a depth to her fast paced narrative. If you want a book for the beach which will give you a shock or three, Into My Arms is hard to beat.

When Skye meets Ben their attraction is instantaneous and intense. Neither of them has ever felt more in synch – or in love – with anyone in their lives. What happens next will tear them both apart.

Into My Arms is a searing love story and a gripping family drama – a shocking, haunting novel in the tradition of Jodi Picoult and Caroline Overington.

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the-wild-girlTHE WILD GIRL
Kate Forsyth

One of those books which wrap themselves around you like a warm blanket on a cold night. Deserves to be read by anyone who re-reads their Austen once a year.

One of the great untold love stories – how the Grimm brothers discovered their famous fairy tales – filled with drama and passion, and taking place during the Napoleonic Wars.

The Wild Girl tells the story of Dortchen Wild. Growing up next door to the Grimm brothers in Hesse-Cassel, a small German kingdom, Dortchen told Wilhelm some of the most powerful and compelling stories in the famous fairytale collection.

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the-young-desire-itTHE YOUNG DESIRE IT
Kenneth Mackenzie

Relive the wonder of first love. No, really.

From John’s review: There is nothing so seductive and yet elusive as the memories of our first experiences in love. We can recall the actions – shared glances, a sweet paralysis, then the first touch, perhaps a chaste kiss – but this is not what we desire. We want to feel again the fear, the pleasure, the tremors and the foreign breath. But it is this that eludes us.

Unless we stumble across an artist who can recreate these feelings for us… read more


Also loved: Rules of Summer by Shaun Tan, The God Argument: The Case Against Religion and for Humanism by A. C. Grayling, Slow Reading in a Hurried Age by David Mikics


Shoshana Booth’s Picks

MY AUTOBIOGRAPHYalex-ferguson
Alex Ferguson

Great read and the perfect gift for any soccer fan. Ferguson’s sheer determination is gripping.

Sir Alex announced his retirement as manager of Manchester United after 27 years in the role. He has gone out in a blaze of glory, with United winning the Premier League for the 13th time, and he is widely considered to be the greatest manager in the history of British football.

Over the last quarter of a century there have been seismic changes at Manchester United. The only constant element has been the quality of the manager’s league-winning squad and United’s run of success, which included winning the Champions League for a second time in 2008. Sir Alex created a purposeful, but welcoming, and much envied culture at the club which has lasted the test of time.

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the-yellow-birdsTHE YELLOW BIRDS
Kevin Powers

This book really, really disturbed me. I had to remind myself to unclench my toes and keep breathing.

A soldier’s broken promise … a mother’s loss … an agonizing truth.

The Yellow Birds gives a powerful, emotional insight into the human cost of war – its impact on soldiers, their families, and most of all what it is like to return home, but never be able to leave the memories behind. Kevin Powers served two terms as a machine gunner with the US army in Iraq. On his return, he was asked one question more than any other: “What was it like over there?”

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QUESTIONS OF TRAVELquestions-of-travel
Michelle de Kretser

Such a moving novel, it reminded me of Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Namesake and Lloyd Jones’ Hand Me Down World. A pleasure to read.

A mesmerising literary novel, Questions of Travel charts two very different lives. Laura travels the world before returning to Sydney, where she works for a publisher of travel guides. Ravi dreams of being a tourist until he is driven from Sri Lanka by devastating events.

Around these two superbly drawn characters, a double narrative assembles an enthralling array of people, places and stories – from Theo, whose life plays out in the long shadow of the past, to Hana, an Ethiopian woman determined to reinvent herself in Australia.

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friday-brownFRIDAY BROWN
Vikki Wakefield

This book for is fans of Melina Marchetta and John Green. It has that same touch of surrealism and an unforgettable female voice.

Seventeen-year-old Friday Brown is on the run – running to escape memories of her mother and of the family curse. And of a grandfather who’d like her to stay. She’s lost, alone and afraid.

Silence, a street kid, finds Friday and she joins him in a gang led by beautiful, charismatic Arden. When Silence is involved in a crime, the gang escapes to a ghost town in the outback. In Murungal Creek, the town of never leaving, Friday must face the ghosts of her past.

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THE NEW CLASSICSthe-new-classics
Donna Hay

Delicious recipes in Donna Hay’s simple, clean style. Do not make the mistake of reading this while you are hungry.

For Isabella Beeton in 1861 it was Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management, for Stephanie Alexander in 1996 it was The Cook’s Companion and for Maggie Beer in 2007 it was Maggie’s Harvest. These books went onto become bestsellers, staples in every home; they were the one-stop recipe books that defined these authors’ work and became essential everyday reference books for their time.

Now in 2013, Australia’s leading cookbook author Donna Hay reveals her landmark book, The New Classics, a definitive collection of classic recipes for every modern cook.

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Christopher Cahill’s Picks

the-tournament-unsigned-copyTHE TOURNAMENT
Matthew Reilly

From John’s review:  Bestselling author Matthew Reilly is one of Australia’s most reliable writers.

Every couple of years he delivers his fans quality popular fiction and every couple of years he can be counted on to break Australian sales records. But till now, all of his successes, Ice Station, Seven Ancient Wonders, Temple, The Five Greatest Warriors, Scarecrow, to name just a few, have one thing in common, the breakneck speed of their narrative.

The Tournament is a departure for Reilly, gone is his trademark breakneck speed. Instead we find a narrative with gravitational pull. Enter The Tournament’s orbit and you cannot escape, you must read on to the final page… read more

To download a FREE prequel to The Tournament, click here


GURRUMUL: His Life and Musicgurrumul
Robert Hillman

“… you will surrender to the greatest voice this continent has ever recorded” – Bruce Elder, Sydney Morning Herald

On a November afternoon in 2010, Gurrumul sat in a studio in Sydney to be photographed for the cover of Rolling Stone. The studio was 3000 kilometres from where he was born on Elcho Island off the coast of East Arnhem Land.

A bare three years had passed since the release of Gurrumul, his critically acclaimed debut solo album. Those years of critical acclaim, all the years before them, and the illness that threatened to end it all, combine in one of the most inspiring music stories of our generation.

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lonely-planet-s-beautiful-worldLONELY PLANET BEAUTIFUL WORLD

40 years of passion and experience has been poured into Lonely Planet’s Beautiful World.

We witness fiery volcanic eruptions; wind-sculpted icebergs in the Antarctic; mind-blowing migrations of wildlife large and small; natural wonders from Belize’s Great Blue Hole to Yellowstone in Wyoming; also the imprint that humanity has made on the planet.

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SEASONAL KITCHENseasonal-kitchen
Serge Dansereau

The new cookbook from Serge Dansereau of Australia’s iconic Bathers’ Pavilion.

Seasonal Kitchen gives you 220 new recipes that celebrate Australian produce. In this eclectic collection of recipes, which draws its inspiration from the Mediterranean, as well as India and China, Serge continues to use his chef know-how to demonstrate how to turn modern-day classics from good dishes into great ones. Capitalising on his reputation as the ‘father of the fresh food movement’, Serge moves us through the year, listing in-season produce and offering us recipes that will show them at their best.

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Elizabeth Earl’s Picks

hyperbole-and-a-halfHYPERBOLE AND A HALF
Allie Brosh

Hyperbole and A Half is a blog written by a 20-something American girl called Allie Brosh. She tells fantastically funny, wise stories about the mishaps of her everyday life, with titles like ‘Why Dogs Don’t Understand Basic Concepts Like Moving’ and ‘The Go of Cake’. She accompanies these with naive drawings using Paint on her PC.

Brosh’s website receives millions of visitors a month and hundreds of thousands of per day.

Now her full-colour debut book chronicles the many “learning experiences” Brosh has endured as a result of her own character flaws. It includes stories about her rambunctious childhood; the highs and mostly lows of owning a mentally challenged dog; and a moving and darkly comic account of her struggles with depression.

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DOCTOR SLEEPdoctor-sleep-the-long-awaited-sequel-to-the-shining
Stephen King

An epic war between good and evil, a gory, glorious story that will thrill the millions of hyper-devoted readers of The Shining and wildly satisfy anyone new to the territory of this icon in the King canon.

King says he wanted to know what happened to Danny Torrance, the boy at the heart of The Shining, after his terrible experience in the Overlook Hotel. The instantly riveting Doctor Sleep picks up the story of the now middle-aged Dan, working at a hospice in rural New Hampshire, and the very special twelve-year old girl he must save from a tribe of murderous paranormals.

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the-bling-ringTHE BLING RING
Nancy Jo Sales

It’s 19 September 2010, and 21-year-old Rachel Lee has emerged from Los Angeles Superior Court, having just been sentenced to four years behind bars.

A few months earlier, she had been running the Bling Ring: a gang of rich, beautiful, wild-living Valley teens who idolised celebrity, designer labels and luxury brands. Who, in 2009, became the most audacious thieves in recent Hollywood history.

But what made these kids–all of whom already enjoyed designer clothes, money, cars and social status–gamble with their lives at such high stakes?

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PAPER TO PETALpaper-to-petal
Rebecca Thuss, Patrick Farrell

An inspiring book featuring 75 unique and captivating paper flowers.

Filled with beautiful photography, this book will feature simple accessible ideas, over-the-top aspirational ideas, and everything in between. The book begins with a lush gallery of images of the flowers, including a flower inspired by a Dr. Seuss book, an oversized holiday wreath, beautiful floral table decorations, and easy-to-make flowers for embellishing gift packages.

The gallery will be followed by a techniques section and thorough step-by-step instructions for all flowers and projects with accompanying templates.

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world-war-zWORLD WAR Z: AN ORAL HISTORY OF THE ZOMBIE WAR
Max Brooks

It began with rumours from China about another pandemic. Then the cases started to multiply and what had looked like the stirrings of a criminal underclass, even the beginnings of a revolution, soon revealed itself to be much, much worse.

Faced with a future of mindless, man-eating horror, humanity was forced to accept the logic of world government and face events that tested our sanity and our sense of reality. Based on extensive interviews with survivors and key players in the 10-year fight-back against the horde, World War Z brings the very finest traditions of American journalism to bear on what is surely the most incredible story in the history of civilisation.

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Hayley Shephard’s Picks

THE CUCKOO’S CALLINGthe-cuckoo-s-calling
Robert Galbraith (a.k.a J.K. Rowling)

From Hayley’s review: From the outset I want to say I’m a HUGE J.K. Rowling fan, but I’ve never really been a fan of crime fiction, and as I started reading The Cuckoo’s Calling, I wondered if Rowling would win me over. With the words over-flowing I asked myself whether I would be able to keep track or even remember the many characters who could possibly be attached to the apparent suicide of one model named Lula Landry.

But as I kept reading I found myself more interested in the story and more eager to follow Detective Cormoran Strike in his quest to find the killer, which at first even he is sceptical exists.

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my-dad-still-thinks-he-s-funnyMY DAD STILL THINK HE’S FUNNY
Katrina Germein

Sequel to the side-splitting, bestselling My Dad Thinks He’s Funny.

My dad says, ‘I’ve told you fifty million times, don’t exaggerate.’

Dad is back by popular demand with more hilarious material. And yes, my dad STILL thinks he’s funny.

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NODDY CLASSIC COLLECTIONnoddy-classic-collection
Enid Blyton

This classic collection of Enid Blyton’s Noddy stories features the much loved original artwork. The books in this collection are perfect for young readers or young children who love story time – and are stored safely in the stunning flip-top box!

Packed in a very special flip-top slipcase, this Noddy collection is a perfect gift.

Enid Blyton’s master storytelling and the adorable artwork have made the Noddy series an enduring children’s classic.

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shakeSHAKE
Carli Davidson

Original, amusing, and brilliantly documented, Shake is a heartwarming collection of sixty-one beguiling dogs caught in the most candid of moments: mid-shake. This glorious, graphic volume will stop you dead in your tracks as you are presented with images of man’s best friend caught in contortion: hair wild, eyes darting, ears and jowls flopping every which way.

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THE HUNTERthe-hunter
Monica McCarty

The war for Scotlands freedom continues as King Robert the Bruce battles on. At his command is an elite army of trained warriors, soldiers dedicated to their king, their country and to the remarkable women they love.

Prized for his unbeatable tracking skills, Ewen “Hunter” Lamont accepts a dangerous assignment: locate a missing undercover courier. By this is no ordinary target. Ewen has met his prey before as Sister Genna, a fiery, forbidden woman forever etched in his memory after one stolen, sinful kiss.

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Lonely Planet joins our Booktoberfest celebration – you could win a luggage set valued at $530!

Would you love to have a brand new set of luggage just in time for the holidays?

To help us celebrate Booktoberfest our friends at Lonely Planet are giving you the chance to win a Crumpler Luggage Set valued at $530!

Order any of the books in the Lonely Planet Booktoberfest Showcase to go into the draw to win this sensational prize.

Click here to enter the Lonely Planet showcase

Lonely Planet Booktoberfest Highlight

Lonely Planet’s Beautiful World

40 years of passion and experience has been poured into Lonely Planet’s Beautiful World.

Witness fiery volcanic eruptions, wind-sculpted icebergs in the Antarctic and mind-blowing migrations of wildlife large and small.

Natural wonders from Belize’s Great Blue Hole to Yellowstone in Wyoming.

The images in this book will take you to places far and wide, the kinds of places that you might never visit but that you can perhaps put on that “If ” list we all have tucked away.

These places are surprising, remarkable, remote, familiar … dive in and marvel over the undeniable fact; it is a beautiful world.

Click here to buy Lonely Planet’s Beautiful World from Booktopia,
Australia’s Local Bookstore

That’s Not an Atlas, THIS is an Atlas : Earth Platinum – The World’s Largest Atlas

“Earth Platinum, the world’s largest atlas will start delivering from 20th February 2012. Earth Platinum is a comprehensive world atlas, featuring a world map for each of the thematic topics, Europe map, Canada map, USA map, Australia map, India map and more. The creator, Gordon Cheers, believes Earth Platinum will present the best national geographic map for every country in the world contained in a world atlas. The physical map of the world and political map of world are the largest ever published in a book. In these changing times, comprehensive maps are even more important than ever.

Opening to an incredible 6 ft x 9 ft (1.8 m x 2.75 m), Earth Platinum—a limited edition—has 128 pages and weighs 120 kg and is bound by hand. The foreword is authored by Head of Maps for the British Library; and the pages within present state-of-the-art cartography, geography, and oceanography, overseen by the world’s finest in their discipline. If Earth Platinum becomes the last big atlas, it will represent the best available of the world’s latest technology, cartography, and photography. It also offers a window into the world in which we live today, both politically and geographically.

In May 1660 the last grand atlas was produced: the Klencke Atlas. Only a single copy was produced by John Klencke, as a gift for Charles II of England. This masterpiece is preserved today in the Map Room at the British Library. Millennium House proudly continues that tradition with Earth Platinum.

This is a great video on how one of the photos in Earth Platinum was selected to be included in the book. To view the video click here.

Click on any of the following links below to read some interesting articles and blogs about Earth Platinum:

Rainforest ExpeditionsNewswave (from the Ukraine)SJ PostWalyouHIX (from Israel)  - TZOOM (in Russian)  Facebook’s Earth Platinum Review –  LuxaticBookcollecting101.com –  Wired.com2luxury2.com -

World Must Be CrazyGadget Wiki

How much is Earth Platinum? Click here to find out…

Joy McKean, author of I’ve Been There (and Back Again), answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Joy McKean

author of I’ve Been There (and Back Again): Slim Dusty and Joy McKean’s Lifetime of Travel, Stories and Songs

Ten Terrifying Questions

————————————

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

I was born in Singleton in the Hunter Valley of NSW and lived the first three years of my life on my grandparents’ farm in Doyles Creek. My dad was a country schoolteacher so we moved after that about every two years. We lived at various country districts in the Hunter, the Southern Highlands, Sydney and also the Tweed Valley before returning to Sydney in the mid 1940’s. Dad taught me to read and write; I had correspondence lessons when hospitalised with polio, and then from about fourth class was taught again by my father. Thence to Murwillumbah High School, and then again to Parramatta High School, my father’s old school.

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

At twelve and eighteen I aimed my sights at becoming a school teacher. My father, uncle and aunt were teachers as were my grandfather and his brothers, and my great-grandfather before them. When my ambition was floored by the fact that I was polio affected in one leg, I turned to music. With my sister I performed onstage, recorded my own songs with her, and ran a half hour weekly radio programme on Radio 2KY, Sydney. By thirty, I was married and touring Australia; aiming to write and record country music and make a big success of my husband’s career and mine.

3. What strongly held belief did you have at eighteen that you do not have now?

I believed that the world was my oyster and that I could overcome any obstacle because I knew all there was to know; these days I know that although I’ve learned a lot I still know little and I knew even less at eighteen.

4. What were three big events – in the family circle or on the world stage or in your reading life, for example – you can now say, had a great effect on you and influenced you in your career path?

My writing was originally aimed at songs and I began doing that when I was eleven or twelve. This was probably because there was music in our home; my mother played piano and piano accordion. Both of my parents played Hawaiian steel guitars, and owned a gramophone. They bought early country and ballad records and I learned the songs from them. I could vamp on both piano and steel guitar to accompany my singing, and then my yodelling. So writing my own songs seemed a natural progression.

5. Considering the innumerable electronic media avenues open to you – blogs, online newspapers, TV, radio, etc – why have you chosen to write a book – aren’t they obsolete?

English teachers at high school encouraged my essay writing, and by the end of high school my sister and I were singing and performing semi-professionally. So my writing was channelled into song writing and continued so for years. When my husband Slim Dusty was asked to write his autobiography and was offered a ‘ghost’ writer, we recalled the amount of work we did on a previous project and I decided that it would be less work to do it myself. So that is when I branched out from writing songs, to writing stories or telling stories of our life on the road and onstage. I had been asked many times to consider doing a book of song lyrics presented as poems with photos to illustrate the poems. From there the idea expanded to the stories and people behind the songs. And no, I don’t think books are, or will become, obsolete.

6. Please tell us about your latest book…

I’ve Been There… And Back Again is a coffee table book of song lyrics presented as poems, together with beautiful photographs from friend and colleague John Elliott. I have told the stories behind each of these songs by telling how the song was written and why, what was happening in our lives at the time, and anecdotes about the people and places we were travelling in at the time. I included lots of historical photos from our own family collection… some taken by my father, others by Slim and myself. Most of these have never been seen before. The book tells about a way of life that no longer exists here. There is also a limited edition of the book; gold edged pages, leather cover, autographed photo and a CD of the soundtracks of the songs included in the book.

(BBGuru: publisher’s description -

A stunning, full-colour hardback filled with the songs and stories of Slim Dusty and his wife and fellow singer and songwriter, Joy McKean.

The perfect gift book for Slim Dusty s legions of fans, whose numbers are still strong even years after his death.

Joy McKean wrote many of her husband Slim Dusty s most well-loved songs, such as Lights on the Hill and When the Rain Tumbles Down in July . She is a natural writer and now she turns her talent to telling us the stories behind 25 of their most popular songs. Through the lyrics and stories she gives us an intimate insight into her life on the road with Slim. This couple were famous around Australia for their performances and for their love of the outback and its people. Slim and Joy were awarded a total of 37 Golden Guitars between them, and Joy is respected by other performers both in and out of the country music scene, such as Troy Cassar Daley and Paul Kelly.

This beautiful, fully illustrated hardback will comprise of a selection of 25 lyrics, Joy s stories and reminisces about each song, photographs from the family collection and outstanding shots by acclaimed photographer John Elliott, who has been photographing Slim and Joy, their band and family for decades.)

Click here to order a copy of I’ve Been There (and Back Again) from Booktopia, Australia’s No.1 Online Book Shop

7. If your work could change one thing in this world – what would it be?

If my book could change the tendency to believe that everywhere else in the world needs to be admired and copied more than the values based on our own natural character and lifestyle, then I would be happy.

8. Whom do you most admire and why?

I can’t answer that question; there are too many great people out there and their greatness awes me.

9. Many people set themselves very ambitious goals. What are yours?

I want to write another book some day, and maybe some more songs. But the first ambition to fulfil is to see the opening of the completed Slim Dusty Centre and Museum in Kempsey in the Macleay Valley of NSW.

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

Actually, I don’t give advice as I don’t believe I’m qualified to do that. I am not a disciplined writer of either words or songs. That is why I avoid participating in songwriting workshops and such. All I might say perhaps is to write with meaning… not just for the sake of stringing together some nice sounding words or lines. Try to say something!

Joy, thank you for playing.

Bugatti Veyron: A Quest for Perfection by Martin Roach (watch the trailer, too)

The Story of the Greatest Car in the World

In 2005, Bugatti launched a car that has single-handedly redefined the notion of a ‘supercar’. It was called the Veyron, was reputed to cost £5 million to build and yet only £1m to buy. It quickly became the most talked about and indeed coveted car of all time. Written with the full co-operation of Bugatti.

The Bugatti Veyron’s statistics are mind-boggling: 0-60mph in 2.5 seconds; a top speed of 267 mph; tyres that cost £20,000 a set and an engine with ten radiators and four turbos; a launch control system and even windscreen wipers that create sizeable downforce … all delivered complete with a high-end stereo system, luxurious leather seats and air-conditioning. It was a feat of engineering grandiosity that, in automotive terms, rivals the achievements of the great 19th Century industrialists.

In A Quest for Perfection, no. 1 bestselling author Martin Roach sets out to track down the mythical beast that is a Bugatti Veyron – and ultimately attempts to drive one. He traces the genesis of this remarkable machine through Bugatti’s long and glorious early days and then through its more turbulent modern era. Travelling to the top secret Bugatti Research & Development workshop in Germany, touring the factory and chateau in France where these stunning cars are hand-built, visiting racing drivers, meeting super-rich owners and celebrities, and pondering this mechanical whirlwind with world-leading car designers, the book is a page-turning study of a modern masterpiece.

Interviews with revered motoring names will personalise the book including conversations with figures such as David Coulthard, Dr Kerry Spackman (leading motorsport neuroscientist), Liam Howlett of The Prodigy (supercar fanatic) and a host of other expert eye-witnesses to this unique car’s many achievements.

Bugatti Veyron: A Quest for Perfection will discover and unravel the enigma that is this remarkable car. Part-history, part-personal obsession, part-travelogue, part-humorous quest, altogether a book that will appeal to both fans of cars, and serious petrol-heads, Top Gear viewers as well as anyone who has ever raised an eyebrow as a shiny piece of metal on four wheels drives past in the street. For the first time, Bugatti has allowed access to the Veyron’s Chief Engineer, designers, test drivers, archivists, the Bugatti factory, photographers and the President of Bugatti himself.

The Briny Café by Susan Duncan: Review by Toni Whitmont

I am the first to admit that I was a late comer to the Susan Duncan phenomenon. I had plenty of recommendations for Salvation Creek from happy customers, but I didn’t actually get around to reading any of her books until I interviewed her on the publication of A Life on Pittwater, the wonderful visual memoir of the community on the islands off the northern most tip of Sydney.

There is a clip of that interview here.

A couple of weeks ago we were able to source a supply of her two memoirs plus A Life on Pittwater in a pack, and we sold nearly 100 of them in a about 10 days, such is the measure of enthusiasm amongst the reading public for her story.

And so to The Briny Café, Susan’s very first novel.

What works so well about this book is that it is based on a fictitious water-accessed community already so familiar to us from Salvation Creek. More importantly it plays to that deep yearning for both community, and connection, that so many people experience.

The main character is Ettie Brookbank, a woman in her 50s who is central to everyone’s lives in sleepy Cook’s Basin, only accessible by boat. The community is held together by The Briny Café, a sagging, decrepit, weatherboard construct that is in danger of collapsing down into its moorings.

The Briny Café is a book where nothing much happens – and I say that as a good thing. The focus is on the characters, the vignettes of interaction, the integration of new comer, the allowances for small eccentricities, the cementing of some relationships, the fracturing of others. Yes, there is a villain of the piece, and yes, he is pretty nasty, but the book is essentially about ordinary people doing ordinary things in a most extraordinary location – and finding their place.

Don’t misunderstand me. The Briny Café shines. It is the simplicity of the tale, the familiarity of the characters that makes it work so wonderfully. Susan avoids cliché while offering something that we all really want – to feel good about life, to feel good about other people, and to get some respite from the stuff of everyday madness.

The Briny Café is warm, engaging, nourishing and refreshing. Settling down to read it is rather like settling down to a good cup of tea and one of Ettie’s famous raspberry muffins.

The Briny Café is a September release and is available to pre-order here. Meanwhile, go here to read Susan Duncan’s answers to our Ten Terrifying Questions.

Design Sponge at Home by Grace Bonney

The latest must-have book in the DIY/interior/crafty stakes is Design* Sponge at Home by Grace Bonney. This book is attracting a huge amount of interest and it won’t even be published until September. Meanwhile, pre-orders are going ballistic all over the world, and I mean all. Here in Australia, this gorgeous and creative how-to primer with everything from fabric to paint is already shaping up to be the giftbook for crafters and clever would-be interior designers for Christmas.

Available now from Booktopia, Australia’s No.1 Online Book Shop -
order your copy here

So who is Grace Bonney? Well, take Kelly Doust (she of Crafty Minx book and shop fame), add an American accent, upscale by 20 to reflect the relative difference in our populations and say g’day to Grace. I am not just being flippant. Grace creates terrific pieces from frou-frous to furniture, she has an immensely popular blog and now she has put together the kind of book that she (and us) has always wanted to read. Believe me. If you are strongly visual, I defy you to look at this and to not want to get out your measuring tape and colour swatches. Meanwhile, on this side of the equator, the creative world is abuzz with anticipation.

I’d be looking for a room makeover in the Christmas stocking this year if I was you.

From the publisher:

Grace Bonney’s daily website Design*Sponge – dubbed Martha Stewart Living for Millennials – by The New York Times  has 60,000 daily readers who love the site for its home tours and makeovers, DIY projects, recipes, videos, and podcasts. Bonney created the site in Continue reading

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