The Booktopia Buzz Evolves

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Booktopia is proud to present a special podcast edition of the January Buzz with Caroline Baum.

Click here to download and get the latest in book reviews and tips for the new year.

You can visit Caroline Baum’s Booktopia page here for other great recommendations, news and authors interviews.

To subscribe to the Buzz or any of our many other newsletters click here

REVIEW: Sugared Orange : Recipes and Stories from a Winter in Poland by Beata Zatorska

Click here for more details or to buy Sugared OrangesAnyone 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.

One thoughtful and sensitive aspect of Beata’s recipe gathering is the way she’s integrated recipes from Jewish culture alongside those from Catholic homes. So you’ll find ways to cook fish for Easter and special saints days favourites alongside dishes for Chanukah celebrations.

The result is simply gorgeous to look at and a source of great inspiration when it comes to rib sticking slow cooked comfort food. Beetroot soup with wild mushroom dumplings gets my vote. Author: Beata Zatorska There’s a modesty and frugality to the ingredients, with meat used sparingly as a garnish rather than the main event, and vegetables given prominence in a culture where growing your own and going to local markets is not a fashion, it’s a way of life.

And of course, the sweet tooth factor is not forgotten. The only way you are going to enjoy a white Christmas is if you substitute sugar for snow. Orange ice cream, typically eaten in minus freezing temperatures is a pretty and refreshing option that will adapt to our climate in one scoop.

Review by Caroline Baum

Also by Beata Zatorska…

Click here for more information...Rose Petal Jam

Recipes & Stories from a Summer in Poland

Beata Zatorska recently returned to her native Poland for the first time in more than 20 years. Her base was the small mountain village in which she was raised by her grandmother, a professional chef whose homespun herbal remedies – using fresh ingredients from her own garden and made according to recipes perfected over generations – inspired in Beata the desire to become a doctor. It was a dream she would fulfill with her family’s unstinting support, ultimately establishing a general practice in Sydney.

Accompanied by her husband Simon, Beata spent the summer exploring her home country, travelling tiny roads lined with wild rose bushes, finding castles and palaces in rolling meadows and untamed forests. Beata also rediscovered her grandmother’s delicious family recipes – an extraordinary almanac of traditional Polish dishes.

Rose Petal Jam brings together more than 50 of those recipes in one delightful collection. Recipes for Beetroot-shoot Soup, delicate Pierogi (Polish ravioli), Pork with Caraway and Onion and tasty sweet treats like Apple Pancakes and, of course, Rose Petal Jam reveal the subtlety and variety of Polish cuisine.

But it is much more than a simple cookbook: Beata’s memories of growing up in the Communist Poland of the 60s and 70s intertwine with the couple’s discovery of a modern, vibrant and optimistic Poland, a member country of the European Union. Traditional paintings and poems celebrating the best of this rich culture are scattered throughout. And hundreds of photographs taken by Simon on their travels reveal an unspoiled countryside to rival the better-known rural idylls of Tuscany and Provençe, as well as the impressive architectural heritage of centuries-old cities like Warsaw, Gdan and Kraków.

Rose Petal Jam is part-memoir, part-travel narrative, part-cookbook … and altogether a charming and engaging introduction to a relatively undiscovered world and its people, culture and traditions.

Click here for more details or to buy Sugared OrangesAbout the Author

Beata Zatorska was born in Jelenia Góra, Poland. She started her medical training in Wrocław but graduated from the University of Sydney, and now works as a family doctor in Australia. Rose Petal Jam was the story of her return to Poland after 20 years away.With photography by her film maker husband Simon Target, Beata recalled summers spent in a remote village in the foothills of the Karkonosze Mountains in the care of her beloved grandmother, and the recipes she learned to cook there. Translated into German and Polish, the book has won design and print awards in many countries.

Copies available here…

EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Richie Lovett, Author, former Pro-Surfer, and Cancer Survivor, talks to Caroline Baum

The Big Sea

by Richie Lovett & Sean Doherty

‘Richie is one of the most inspiring people I’ve ever met, and his story is testament to the healing power of the ocean.’ Kelly Slater

Richie Lovett might be the world s unluckiest surfer . . . or its luckiest. We re not quite sure which.

He’s been attacked by a shark, washed into the Indonesian jungle by a tsunami, before finally being diagnosed with cancer. Unlucky? Possibly. One thing we know for sure, Richie Lovett is a survivor; he’s still here today, and what hasn ‘t killed him has only made him stronger.

When doctors told him the cancer in his leg was buried so deep he’d never surf again, Richie one of the world’s best surfers begged to differ. After radical surgery to rebuild his leg, Rich set about the challenge of learning to surf all over again, discovering plenty about life, and himself, in the process.

The Big Sea is one of sport s most inspiring stories. But you don t have to be a surfer or a sportsperson to know what it feels like to confront challenges. This is vital reading for anyone who s had to face adversity or felt like they were about to be wiped out.

Engagingly honest, Richie Lovett shows us that attitude is everything.

Grab a copy of The Big Sea: One Man’s Inspirational Story here

Booktopia’s Editorial Director Caroline Baum Takes A Tour Through The House of Austen

baumI’d been warned not to expect much. There’s not a lot to see, people told me. Basically just a table. But that’s the point.

Jane Austen’s house at Chawton in Hampshire is a modest affair and it’s true that the rooms are few and their furnishings scant. No wonder British Heritage were desperate when American Idol winner Kelly Clarkson outbid Chawton at Sotheby’s for a gold ring of Jane’s set with a turquoise stone. Last month they raised the required sum to keep the simple band in Britain and it will go on display at the house from Feb 14, 2014, together with a topaz cross and a turquoise bracelet that also belonged to Jane. Hardly the crown jewels but to Janeites, these are priceless treasures.

Until then, there are really just two far more mundane objects to look at: a small circular table, set by a downstairs window, barely larger in circumference than a generous pizza , where Jane wrote every morning.

And upstairs, a patchwork quilt bed cover which she sewed with her sister Cassandra and their mother, the colourful hexagons of dress fabric framed by a cream print punctuated with black polka dots like so many full stops. It is the brightest thing in the house by far, a cheery accent of prettiness, countering the low ceilings and wooden floorboards. The original wallpaper in the rooms has not survived, making it impossible to guess what other colour surrounded them but there is a little bed in the garden devoted to plants used for dyeing, which the frugal Austens used to refresh their wardrobe.

Nothing else in the house is as eloquent of how simply they lived as the table and the quilt except perhaps the tented bed in the room the sisters shared. Even with just one bed the room is cramped and it’s hard to imagine how or where they would have placed the second one. Forget privacy. Imagine instead the pillow talk of the young women. Did Jane rehearse scenarios for her novel in bed at night with Cassandra? I like to think so.

As a pilgrimage site, Chawton is low key but there’s an honesty its meagre offerings. Jane would no doubt be much amused by the young women snapping selfies in specially provided dress up bonnets in the kitchen or the fact that the family’s donkey carriage is on display in the laundry. The simplicity and banality of what’s on show here only makes Jane’s writing all the more remarkable.

Forget the turquoise ring, the sparkling gems are her words.

Check out all things Austen at Booktopia here

Caroline Baum Interviews Donna Tartt

Booktopia’s Editorial Director Caroline Baum interviewed Donna Tartt for Fairfax papers over the weekend. Here’s a glimpse of the wonderful article, don’t forget to click below to see the whole thing.

Don’t expect to find Donna Tartt on Twitter or Facebook. The author who became a recluse following the hype about her 1992 debut, The Secret History, at the age of 28, remains as private and enigmatic as ever. It’s been a decade since she last gave interviews about her second novel, The Little Friend. Websites buzzed with rumours of subject matter and slipped deadlines but Tartt remained off the radar, earning inevitable comparisons to Salinger and Pynchon.

Although she has agreed to a few interviews to promote her new novel, The Goldfinch, Tartt does not enjoy the process any more than when she found herself in the spotlight for her stylish, slightly mannish wardrobe and cool friends (including Bret Easton Ellis, whom she briefly dated) as much as her poised and polished prose.

When we speak by phone Tartt is in Manhattan, though she spends much of her time at her farm in Virginia, where she writes in the company of her Boston terrier, Punch. “Everything is improved by the presence of a dog,” she says.

It is 8am but Tartt announces cheerfully she has been up for hours and mentions it is Fashion Week in New York. Clearly her love affair with clothes has not abated. “Vintage is still my thing but it is much harder to find, though I just bought a Japanese embroidered coat at a flea market.”

Check out the rest of the article here.

The Goldfinch

by Donna Tartt

Donna Tartt, author of the phenomenal bestsellers The Secret History and The Little Friend, returns with a breathtaking new novel.

Aged thirteen, Theo Decker, son of a devoted mother and a reckless, largely absent father, survives an accident that otherwise tears his life apart. Alone and rudderless in New York, he is taken in by the family of a wealthy friend. He is tormented by an unbearable longing for his mother, and down the years clings to one thing that reminds him of her: a small, strangely captivating painting that ultimately draws him into the criminal underworld. As he grows up, Theo learns to glide between the drawing rooms of the rich and the dusty antiques store where he works. He is alienated and in love – and his talisman, the painting, places him at the centre of a narrowing, ever more dangerous circle.

The Goldfinch is a haunted odyssey through present-day America and a drama of enthralling power. Combining unforgettably vivid characters and thrilling suspense, it is a beautiful, addictive triumph – a sweeping story of loss and obsession, of survival and self-invention, of the deepest mysteries of love, identity and fate.

Click here to buy The Goldfinch from Booktopia,
Australia’s Local Bookstore

Susan Wyndham: On Losing a Parent

Click here for more details or to buy My Mother, My FatherAfter my 2008 book Life in His Hands, about the Sydney neurosurgeon Charlie Teo and his patient Aaron McMillan, a young pianist who had brain cancer, I declared that I would never write another book about illness and death. But then my mother died.

Mum faded away so slowly that I didn’t even admit to myself that she was dying. I was an only child and she had been divorced and on her own since I was a small child, so we’d had a close relationship.

I was alone with her when she died at home. Mum was 82 and you could say – in that dreadful cliché – ‘‘she’d had a good innings’’, so her death wasn’t a tragedy. You could even say it was a relatively peaceful death.

But for me it was a devastating shock. I wasn’t prepared for it at all. And in the months after she died I was wracked by all sorts of complicated thoughts and feelings.

Apart from the great absence she left, I was filled with guilt and regrets. I felt the pain of her suffering and played her death over and over in my mind. I felt I hadn’t shown her enough love and care. I had lost the person who had loved me most and longest, and with her went part of my identity and purpose. I became terribly aware of my own mortality and the brevity of life.

None of those feelings are unique to me but until you experience them you have no idea how they can bowl you over. The thing that saved me was talking to other people, hearing their stories and telling them mine. Hearing what other people went through and how they survived helped me to feel less alone and less crazy. And I realised that as a baby boomer I was surrounded by people in the same phase of life.Susan Wyndham

Towards the end of 2011 I was at a party and found myself talking to Jane Palfreyman, a publisher at Allen & Unwin whose father had also died that year. As we stood there tearily sympathising I asked, ‘‘Do you think there’s a book in this?’’ ‘‘Yes, I do,’’ she said.

So I commissioned the 13 other writers who are in My Mother, My Father. Some were people whose stories I partly knew, others were writers I admired and hoped would have something interesting to say. We could all see that we might help other people by sharing our individual stories about those great universal themes of life, death, families, love and all its complications.

Each story is beautiful and tough and moving – and sometimes funny – in its own way. I hope readers will find stories with particular meaning and resonance for them.

Thank you for sharing this with us Susan.

Click here for more details or to buy My Mother, My FatherMy Mother, My Father

edited by Susan Wyndham

Some of Australia’s best known writers share their wise and searingly honest experiences of losing a parent.

The loss of a parent is an experience that we all face without any training – relating to a parent through old age and illness; going through the actual death in different circumstances and whether we can help parents to have a good death; the emotional aftermath – shock, grief, relief, the effect on families; funerals, wills and other rituals; clearing out the house and keeping memories alive; recovery and carrying on with life; the longer-term changes in us and our relationship with our parents.

Edited by Sydney Morning Herald literary editor, journalist and writer Susan Wyndham, My Mother, My Father is a collection of stories from 14 remarkable Australian writers, sharing what it is to feel loss, and all the experiences and memories that create the image of our parents. Contributors include Helen Garner, David Marr, Tom Keneally, Gerard Windsor, Susan Duncan and Caroline Baum.

These stories are intimate, honest, moving, sometimes funny, never sentimental, and always well written.

About the Editor

Susan Wyndham is the literary editor of The Sydney Morning Herald. In her career as a journalist she has been editor of Good Weekend magazine, New York correspondent for The Australian and a deputy editor of the Herald. She is the author of Life In His Hands: The True Story of a Neurosurgeon and a Pianist, and has edited and contributed to several other books.

Click here to order a copy of My Mother, My Father from Booktopia,
Australia’s Local Bookshop

Caroline Baum Presents: Caro’s Holiday Reads

I’m going away for the whole month of October and will not be writing the Buzz for November, so you get a break from me. Instead, the Buzz will be in John Purcell’s capable hands.

So for the first time this year I get to choose the books  that are going with me on the basis of pleasure – or at least anticipated pleasure.

In case you are interested in what is coming with me here is the list…


by Jo Baker

I love Jo Baker’s clever idea of telling the story of Pride and Prejudice from the point of the view of the servants to the Bennett family.

If Elizabeth Bennet had the washing of her own petticoats, Sarah thought, she would be more careful not to trudge through muddy fields. It is wash-day for the housemaids at Longbourn House, and Sarah’s hands are chapped and bleeding. Domestic life below stairs, ruled tenderly and forcefully by Mrs Hill the housekeeper, is about to be disturbed by the arrival of…read more

The Examined Life

by Stephen Grosz

I’ve heard great things about this books from many different sources and yet it has not made a ripple here. Stephen Grosz is US psychoanalyst. In this book which someone said brought together the best of Chekhov and Oliver Sacks, he writes about the power of storytelling in every day life and  the importance of talking, listening and understanding. Reviews all promise absorbing  accounts of his own cases and plenty of wisdom.

We are all storytellers – we make stories to make sense of our lives. But it is not enough to tell tales. There must be someone to listen.

In his work as a practising psychoanalyst, Stephen Grosz has spent the last twenty-five years uncovering the hidden feelings behind our most baffling behaviour. The Examined Life distils over 50,000 hours of conversation into pure psychological insight, without the…read more

A Death in the Family

by Karl Ove Knausgaard

The first volume of Karl Ove Knausgaard’s six part autobiography My Struggle is, so far, no exercise in narcissism as you might fear. I am halfway through it, loving its honesty despite its density and already committed to reading volume two, A Man in Love.

In this utterly remarkable novel Karl Ove Knausgaard writes with painful honesty about his childhood and teenage years, his infatuation with rock music, his relationship with his loving yet almost invisible mother and his distant and unpredictable father, and his bewilderment and grief on his father’s death.

When Karl Ove becomes a father himself, he must balance the…read more


by Christos Tsiolkas

The long awaited and hugely anticipated new novel from Christos Tsiolkas is a nice fat book for the plane.  All I know is that it’s about a competitive swimmer and asks all the important questions about the meaning  of success and failure.

His whole life, Danny Kelly’s only wanted one thing: to win Olympic gold. Everything he’s ever done-every thought, every dream, every action-takes him closer to that moment of glory, of vindication, when the world will see him for what he is: the fastest, the strongest and the best. His life has been a preparation for that moment.

His parents struggle to send him to the most prestigious private school with the finest swimming program; Danny loathes it there and is…read more

The Flamethrowers

by Rachel Kushner

She’s the current It Girl of US  fiction. Having seen Rrachel Kushner read from and talk about this debut novel in NY earlier this year, I can see why.  She’s cool and smart and my husband who  has already read this compared her with Delillo, which is a big  call, I think the word he used on finishing it was’ dazzling’. She writes about the Italian Red Brigades, motorcycles (which she rides) and the art world. What’s not to like? I hear a rumour she’ll be visiting us next year so I want to be ready.

The year is 1977 and Reno – so called because of the place of her birth – has come to New York intent on turning her fascination with motorcycles and speed into art. Her arrival coincides with an explosion of activity in the art world – artists have colonised a deserted and industrial SoHo, are squatting in the…read more

This is the Story of a Happy Marriage

by Ann Patchett

I’m looking forward to this memoir of life as a daughter, wife, friend and writer, especially since Elizabeth Gilbert tells me the two have corresponded for nearly a decade. Patchett’s colourful experience includes training for the LAPD and starting her own bookshop in Nashville. If her previous books are anything to go by, this will be a book full of sharp observation and emotional intelligence.

This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage is an irresistible blend of literature and memoir revealing the big experiences and little moments that shaped Ann Patchett as a daughter, wife, friend and writer. Here, Ann Patchett shares entertaining and moving stories about her tumultuous childhood, her painful early…read more

Have a great time while I am gone and see you back at the Buzz for December!

Caroline Baum is Booktopia’s Editorial Director.

She has worked as founding editor of Good Reading magazine, features editor for Vogue, presenter of ABC TV’s popular bookshow, Between the Lines, and Foxtel’s Talking Books, and as an executive producer with ABC Radio National.

You can follow her on twitter at @mscarobaum

Men should read more women – says Booktopia’s John Purcell in this weekend’s Spectrum

Bernard BlackYesterday Booktopia’s John Purcell was featured in Spectrum, the nationwide arts lift out in Fairfax papers.

Did you know he was once the spitting image of Bernard Black? Have a gander below, and click on the link underneath to see the full article.

The road from literary snobbery to author of erotic fiction was a covert one for the creator of Emma Benson, Linda Morris writes.

For part of the 10 years he owned a second-hand bookshop in Mosman, John Purcell was scornful of his customers’ tastes in fiction. Purcell spent more time reading and writing his own opus than selling books, inevitably to the detriment of his bottom line.

When a customer walked in, he would try to dissuade them from buying the latest John Grisham or James Patterson thriller, substituting some worthier classic: a Dostoevsky, a Hardy or an E.M. Forster. Even Charles Dickens was once too popular for Purcell’s highbrow tastes.

Dirty secret: John Purcell wrote his first erotic story to impress a girl. Photo: Danielle Smith

Who would have thought this literary snob would one day reveal himself as the standard bearer of erotic fiction, that rather friendless genre of commercial women’s fiction? Purcell recently outed himself to The Australian Women’s Weekly as Natasha Walker, the reclusive author of The Secret Lives of Emma, an erotic fiction trilogy that followed Fifty Shades of Grey into the mainstream in the past year.

The Secret Lives of Emma series has sold more than 50,000 copies and last year made Purcell one of the best-selling debut authors in Australia. As head of marketing for Australian online bookstore Booktopia, Purcell has tracked a further kick in sales since his unmasking.

Don’t miss the full article at:

Click here to buy The Secret Lives of Emma trilogy

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Caroline Baum’s Highlights from the August Booktopia BUZZ

There’s nothing tame about this bunch. This month is all about extremes. Extremes of desire, of  behaviour, of crisis situations, of people tested to the limits of desire, survival, transgression and boundaries crossed. Find out how far you’d be prepared to go. Live dangerously. Pick up a book.

N.B. Caroline Baum and former Buzz editor, Toni Whitmont, will be chairing sessions at a Sydney Jewish Writer’s Festival event on 1st Sept 2013. Participating authors include Laurent Binet, Professor Bryan Gaensler, Andrea Goldsmith, John M Green, Kooshyar Karimi, Hugh Mackay, Nikki Stern, Boaz Bismuth, Michael Bar-Zohar…

Click here to view the full version of the Booktopia BUZZ

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Join experts from Booktopia at The 2013 Sydney Writer’s Festival

Looking for things to see at The Sydney Writer’s Festival?

Come along and hear some experts from Booktopia chat about the wonderful world of books…

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