Category Archives: Non-fiction

Book 35 – Love Your Sister

“Love Your Sister” by Connie Johnson and Samuel Johnson (2014)

Audio book narrated by Connie Johnson and Samuel Johnson

I don’t know anyone with breast cancer. I don’t have breast cancer. But I have breasts. And checking them is one of my husband’s favourite things to do.

I often browse audible, looking for something different, because the commute swallows books whole. Audible recently had a sale and Love Your Sister was one of the reduced books. Look, fine, I bought the book because Samuel is cute. Now I’ve said it. I also bought it because Love Your Sister was at Tulip Time in Bowral. And that made it feel like it was meant to be. Read the book because they’re just down the road. Didn’t he ride a unicycle all over the place or something? Probably a good listen.

I actually didn’t realise that Connie and Samuel narrated the book themselves until I started listening. I’ve blogged before about the power of a good narrator, and the extra layer of a first person story as an audio book. It makes it an even more enjoyable experience.

Well, if it is possible to say that listening to ‘a cancer book’ was enjoyable, then this is it. Love Your Sister isn’t a story about cancer, though. It’s a story about a beautifully peculiar, quirky family who have had their fair share of challenges and have always dealt with them exactly the way my family deals with everything… by pouring bucket loads of unconditional love around.

I loved this book about Connie’s journey and the process of making the year-long adventure of Samuel riding a unicycle around Australia a reality. Connie’s dream to raise some money for cancer research has resulted in a movement much bigger than she could have ever imagined. What an achievement!

I laughed. I cheered. I cried. And I checked my boobs. I highly recommend this book… and check your boobs.

To learn more about Love Your Sister, go to http://www.loveyoursister.org or check them out on Facebook and Instagram.

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Book 30 – What I Talk About When I Talk About Running

“What I talk about when I talk about running” by Haruki Murakami (2008)

Audio book narrated by Ray Porter

It seemed appropriate, in the week leading up to my first run all year, to listen to Murakami’s ponderings on running. The book was recommended to me (as so many are) by Damian, my running mentor, and so I was keen to receive some inspiration and motivation from the book.

My expectations were met, although the book was nothing like I expected it to be. When I started listening to it I hadn’t even made the connection that Murakami is an author. I have his book, 1Q84, sitting on my waiting-to-be-read shelf, but it wasn’t until the Foreword that I realised whose writing I was listening to.

Early on, Murakami wrote that he had no intention of writing a philosophical treatise. This book was a memoir, if anything, a pondering on what running meant to him. No one had asked him to write it and he didn’t know if anyone would read it, but he wanted to put down on paper what he loved about running, why he did it, what it had meant to him during his life.

I must say that it was a challenging book to listen to, as opposed to reading. Murakami is a well known Japanese author and he wrote quite a lot in this book about translating things into Japanese and how stilted his own use of English is. In that context, I did find it quite anachronistic to be listening to a really drawly, arrogant sounding American reading it to me. No offence, Mr Porter, you’re probably lovely, but your voice was annoying.

At the core of this book is Murakami’s insistence that runners are all different and only a runner knows what running means to them and a runner is never going to convince a non-runner to become a runner. So, there’s no point in me recommending this book to you if you’re not a runner. But I thoroughly enjoyed it. And it certainly got me in the right frame of mind for Sunday’s event. I think it’s fair to say that I think of running as one of the great achievements of my 40s. Like Murakami, I do my best thinking when I’m moving. He taught me, in this book, to stay focused on my own achievements, and compete against myself. This was advice I needed to hear. Read it if it’s your thing.

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Book 2 – Holidays

‘Holidays’ by William McInnes (2014)

Best Christmas ever is when the book you buy your mum, she buys you too, because that’s how awesome her taste is and how awesome your taste is.

If you’ve read my blog for the last 4 years (anyone? anyone?) then you are already completely up to date with my worshipping of William McInnes’ writing. His novels, his non-fiction texts, I love them all. ‘Cricket Kings’ is still my favourite, and ‘The Birdwatcher’ is still my second favourite, which seems to suggest that I like his fiction better than his non-fiction, but he hasn’t disappointed me so far, with 7 previous books under his belt.

‘Holidays’, as the title suggests, is a book about Australia’s relationship with holidays. It is a book of its time, exploring the kinds of holidays McInnes has experienced, quintessentially Australian holidays. There are lovely little vignettes about people that have come and gone in his life, and some especially endearing snippets involving McInnes’ children. It is a book that reminds us, as the blurb suggests, that ‘life is sweet because you’re on holidays’.

Yet again, towards the end of the book, McInnes made me cry. They were tears for him and tears for the beauty and wonder of simple moments. They were also tears of joy for the miracle that is a simple kindness on an ordinary day. I loved this book and I thoroughly recommend it.

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Book 33 – The Ultimate Guide to Trail Running…

“The Ultimate Guide to Trail Running: Everything You Need To Know About Equipment, Finding Trails, Nutrition, Hill Strategy, Racing, Avoiding Injury, Training, Weather, Safety and More” by Adam W Chase, Nancy Hobbs and Brian Metzler (2001)

Yes, that’s really the title. The only bit that was in the ‘and more’ of the title was how to organise and run a trail run. Everything you need to know about this book is in the title. Really.

An interesting read if you’re interested in trail running (which I am) but otherwise, can’t imagine you would read it…

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Book 22 – Humans of New York

“Humans of New York” (2013)

Last year I discovered the Humans of New York blog and started following Brandon Stanton’s page on Facebook. I asked hubby to buy me Stanton’s book last Christmas but as soon as a print run hit the shops and online suppliers it sold out, so it wasn’t to be. On and off since then I have asked whenever I was in a book shop but they had always ‘just sold the last copy’ or were ‘getting more in next week.’ I had actually given up and forgotten about trying to get the book when, last week, my gorgeous son presented a copy to me for my birthday. Thanks, Julian. xxx

Humans of New York, the blog, is an internet sensation, with millions of people following either by Tumblr, Facebook or Twitter. The premise is astonishingly simple. Stanton walks the streets of New York, stopping random strangers, asking them a few questions, and taking their photo. Every day, he posts a few of his favourite shots and writes a little piece about the photo’s subject. It is powerful stuff that shows us that every single person on Earth has an engaging story to tell.

The book “Humans of New York” represents 400 of Stanton’s most popular images and accompanying stories. It was a disappointingly quick read – I didn’t want it to end. I will probably read it again many times in the future, and I can see it as a highly effective teaching tool – I have already imagined about ten different units that it would work in across all years.

Right now, Stanton is on a world tour. Last week he posted images and stories from Iraq. This week it is Jordan. If you don’t already follow Humans of New York, I cannot recommend it highly enough. The current world tour has seen me in tears several times. It is an electrifying medium that may well be having a more profound effect on humanity than any media outlet, NGO or government ever could. And what is even more wonderful is that, with a few disappointing exceptions, the comments are a delight to read as well. Generally, I avoid internet comment sections like the plague, but it is really beautiful to read the positive, supportive, enlightened comments that usually accompany Stanton’s posts.

Humans of New York. Get on it, peeps.

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Book 20 – Quick Strength for Runners

“Quick Strength for Runners” by Jeff Horowitz (2013)

It’s been just over a year now, since hubby and I made the commitment to a healthier and fitter future, and running is now a regular part of my life. Taking up running at 47 (now 48) was a decision that I made carefully, and my approach has been a very slow and steady one. My great mate, Damian, who has been my fitness mentor throughout this new phase, read a review of this book and recommended it to me.

“Quick Strength for Runners” is an 8 week program that promises me “faster running, fewer injuries” if I complete two 30 minute strength workouts per week. The book starts by explaining in some detail how targeting and working out individual muscles in a gym is not the best approach for runners. Rather, the particular act of running requires strength in specific muscle groups because running is unique in the fact that it involves repeated forward movement, as opposed to most other activities, such as playing sport. In essence, the idea is to build strength by working the push muscles, pull muscles, bending and twisting muscles, and running muscles of the legs.

So, I’ve read the book and I’m ready to go. The exercises are all straightforward, and easily completed in the comfort of the lounge room. Starting tomorrow, there will be two new 30 minute workouts added to my weekly routine. And now that I’m a regular user of the Strava app, I should be able to monitor whether or not my speed picks up. That would be lovely, but avoiding injury is definitely my higher priority.

Now, time for a good novel on this wet and chilly weekend…

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Book 9 – The Incidental Muslim

“The Incidental Muslim” by Amal Awad (2014)

Last year I read a book called “Courting Samira” by Awad and found it a very powerful novel that explored the challenges of being a young Muslim woman in Australia. I wrote to Awad, told her I had blogged about the book, and arranged to buy 35 copies of it for my school. The result of this was more hits on my blog than I’d ever seen before, as Awad shared it on her book’s Facebook page, and a lovely exchange of emails between us.

As a result of all that excitement, Awad wrote to me a few weeks ago, asking for my mailing address. She had a new book published and wanted to send me a copy as a gift. I was extremely touched. The book, “The Incidental Muslim”, is a collection of columns and short essays written by Awad that have been published in various publications previously. This collection of musings, organised into sections such as: Career Woman; Body and the veil; Religion and identity; and The happiness delusion, explore Awad’s experiences, opinions and values. They make for interesting reading, and expand on the ideas of being Muslim in Australia.

At times, the chapters are a little repetitive, as the columns were written across long periods of time, but are now condensed. As an easy read, the hurdle was to not slip to skimming when it felt like we were covering the same ground more than once. Nevertheless, I found the book very interesting, and recommend it to anyone interested in the reality rather than the sensationalised ideas we too often read in the media.

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