Book Recommendations – Indistractable; This is Going to Hurt; Pachinko; and The Girls

Here are a few good books I’ve read recently:

Indistractable by Nir Eyal – the Stanford lecturer writes about how we can better control our attention in an ever-increasingly distracting world. While it seems like he is making amends to some degree for helping us get Hooked on our devices in the first place, there are some interesting insights around the root causes of distraction and some useful tips for managing it. Here’s an overview and a few tips he covers in the book.

This is Going to Hurt by Adam Kay – diary entries of sleep-deprived, underpaid, and severely overworked junior doctor in an NHS hospital. Hilarious and shocking. A best-seller and winner of multiple awards.

Pachinko by Min Jin Lee – a saga about four generations of a poor Korean immigrant family fighting to control their destiny in 20th-century Japan, exiled from a home they never knew.

The Girls by Chloe Higgins – a memoir of family, grief and sexuality. A heartbreaking account of a family’s life after trauma.

The Memoir ‘Once More We Saw Stars’ by Jayson Greene

I listened to Jayson Greene on a podcast a while ago and noted to one day read his memoir, Once More We Saw Stars. With young children, it’s not the type of book I’d usually put on my reading list but there was something in the way he spoke about his experience that made me want to push past my discomfort and read it.

When the story begins, two-year-old Greta Greene is sitting with her grandmother on a park bench in Manhattan when a brick crumbled from a windowsill overhead, striking her. She’s rushed to hospital but dies shortly after, leading Greene and his wife Stacy into the unimaginable.

I found it unbearable at times but also felt a strange sense of commitment – if he could put such honesty and rawness out there, I had an obligation to read it. It’s a story about grief, loss, hope, healing, love, and the fragility of life.

As he tells The Guardian: “Trauma is a rip in your understanding of the universe… The idea that you can prepare for trauma is wrong. You can’t. Trauma is the unforeseen and the terrible. I think people are drawn to stories in which terrible things happen because in some ways they are one of the most proven mechanisms we have in making sense of the world and making sense of our emotions.”

Read a review of Once More We Saw Stars.

Buy it wherever you get good books.

‘Fleishman is in Trouble’ by Taffy Brodesser-Akner – A Book That Nails Modern Love and Marriage

Fleishman is in Trouble by Taffy Brodesser-Akner‘s is the hilarious, powerful and brilliantly observed book I’m recommending to all my friends.

Brodesser-Akner is a staff writer at The New York Times Magazine and this is her first novel (she’s well-known for her celebrity profiles).

It’s a satirical novel about marriage, divorce, and modern love. Maria Semple describes it best: “From its opening pages, Fleishman is in Trouble is shrewdly observed, brimming with wisdom and utterly of this moment. Not until its explosive final pages are you fully aware of its cunning ferocity. Taffy Brodesser-Akner’s debut is that rare and delicious treat: a page-turner with heft.”

Try and avoid reading too much detail about it as there will no doubt be spoilers.

Read a review of Fleishman is in Trouble and buy it where you get good books.

A Backlog of Books, Podcasts, TV, Movies, and Food

Well, the year is half over and I’ve set myself a new financial year resolution (though not related to finance) to keep on top of Very Good Things. Here are a few highlights since my last, long ago post in March:

BOOKS
Conversations with Friends
by Sally Rooney – her second book, Normal People, swept me away so I had to read her first book. I didn’t want it to end.
Becoming by Michelle Obama – this was a book club pick and wasn’t on my personal list to read but I loved it and became quite teary by the end to think who has taken their place in the White House.
Can’t wait to read Three Women by Lisa Taddeo, available in July in Australia.

PODCASTS
Clementine Ford on Wilosophy – she’s warm, open and intelligent and he really struggles with this interview but credit to him, he openly admits it.
Fresh Air with Terry Gross – the queen of interviews talks with Phoebe Waller-Bridge (13 May) and Christina Applegate (5 June).

TV
Chernobyl
– HBO’s five-part series is chilling.
The Letdown season 2 – the Barossa episode is hilarious.
Fleabag season 2 – just when I thought nothing could top the first season, along comes a second and it’s perfect. Waller-Bridge is also a writer on the brilliant Killing Eve.
Easy season 3 – I particularly loved the episodes about the couple who are navigating an open marriage.
I’m currently watching the second season of Big Little Lies and could possibly be enjoying it more than the first.

MOVIES
Free Solo – a documentary that will have you picking your jaw up off the floor.
Always Be My Maybe – after Chernobyl, light comedy was in order and this was funny, sweet and easy viewing. Worth watching just for Keanu.

FOOD
Everything on Fad Free Kitchen – a shameless plug for a site I do with my dietitian friend that’s all about quick and healthy food using versatile, everyday ingredients, but honestly, I rarely cook from anywhere else.
Kindred restaurant in Darlington – order the cabbage with pine nuts, currant, pecorino and buttermilk dressing to go with your pick of their excellent pastas.

Post-Holiday Wrap-Up of Books, TV, Movies, Podcasts and Other Very Good Things

It’s February so there’s no denying the holidays are well and truly over. If you need a little distraction in your day, here are the best books, TV, movies, podcasts and other stuff I got stuck into over summer:

BOOKS
Normal People by Sally Rooney has been dubbed ‘a future classic’
Tin Man by Sarah Winman is about love, loss and loneliness
The Museum of Modern Love by Heather Rose asks beguiling questions about the nature of art, life and love
Putney by Sofka Zinovieff is confronting, timely and beautifully written
Yuval Noah Harari has a knack for making sense of complex issues in 21 Lessons for the 21st Century
My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante is not new but swept me away. Now an HBO show

TV
The Cry on ABC iView has tension to the max
Sex Education on Netflix will have you in stitches
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel on Amazon Prime is sweet and easy watching
Abducted in Plain Sight on Netflix is wild an almost unbelievable

MOVIES
The Wife on iTunes really should get Glenn Close her first Oscar
Private Life on Netflix is a raw and honest look at infertility struggles
First Man is the best kind of blockbuster
What We Did on Our Holiday on Netflix is seriously funny and the kids steal the show

PODCASTS
Believed covers how Larry Nassar got away with so much for so long. Beyond shocking.
The Daily is a news podcast powered by New York Times journalism. Stand out episodes are 16, 19 November and 4, 5, 10, 11 December

OTHER STUFF
I can’t shut up about how spectacular Lord Howe Island is
Peanut Butter Oat bars are simple, healthy and make the best snack
I loved reading this recent travel article on my hometown of Newcastle – get there now

‘Any Ordinary Day’ by Leigh Sales – A Book About Blindsides, Resilience and What Happens After the Worst Day of Your Life

We’ve all heard a tragic news story and subsequently wondered what the chances are it could happen to us, and what our life would then look like. After a personal brush with death, journalist Leigh Sales was driven to find answers about how vulnerable each of us is to a life-changing event.

Her new book, Any Ordinary Day, explores what happens when ordinary people, on an ordinary day, experience catastrophic events. She speaks with those who’ve faced the unimaginable – from terrorism, to natural disaster, to simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time – and in a warm and candid manner, asks questions that most of wonder but would be too afraid to ask.

As someone that’s led a pretty sweet existence so far, with no real trauma or grief to deal with, I’ve often pondered when my run of good luck will be up and how I’d cope if something catastrophic was forced upon me, so I found the research in this book about how the human brain processes fear and grief strangely comforting.

Far from being a depressing read, it’s an honest and beautifully written commentary on humanity and resilience. It’s also a much-needed resource for how to be helpful to others who are dealing with grief or trauma.

Read an extract of Any Ordinary Day

Buy as a book, EBook or audio

The Book ‘Factfulness – Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About The World And Why Things Are Better Than You Think’

I’ve been wondering why I’ve been in such a good mood recently. Is it that spring is here? Is it that my children seem to have mellowed a bit? Or is it that I finished the book ‘Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About The World – And Why Things Are Better Than You Think’ a few weeks ago and as the title implies, I’ve been wrong about the world and things are better than I think?

Here’s what it’s about:

“When asked simple questions about global trends – why the world’s population is increasing; how many young women go to school; how many of us live in poverty – we systematically get the answers wrong. So wrong that a chimpanzee choosing answers at random will consistently outguess journalists, Nobel laureates, and investment bankers.

Professor of International Health and a man who can make data sing, Hans Rosling, together with his two long-time collaborators Anna and Ola, offers a radical new explanation of why this happens and reveals the ten instincts that distort our perspective.

It turns out that the world, for all its imperfections, is in a much better state than we might think. But when we worry about everything all the time instead of embracing a worldview based on facts, we can lose our ability to focus on the things that threaten us most.”

Read an edited excerpt of Factfulness.

 

Book: The Woman Who Fooled The World – Belle Gibson’s Cancer Con

Belle Gibson convinced the world she had healed herself from terminal brain cancer with a healthy diet. She built a global business upon her claims. There was just one problem: she didn’t have cancer.

This has to go down as one of the world’s greatest scams and the book, meticulously researched by Beau Donnelly and Nick Toscano, takes you through a moment by moment account of how it all unravelled for Belle Gibson.

Even if you read the news stories and watched the cringe-worthy interview with Gibson, I guarantee you will blown away by how she duped everyone, including Apple and Penguin Random House. She was a spectacular liar and it makes for an enthralling read.

Very Good Things for a Rainy Long Weekend

How is it almost the middle of the year already? Here are my recent top picks for TV, books, podcasts and food. Very Good Things to get you through a rainy long weekend.

Watch
Killing Eve – when Phoebe Waller-Bridge is one of the writers, you have to watch it. View trailer, watch on ABC iView.
The Defiant Ones – history is made when two unexpected music moguls come together. A four-part documentary series about Jimmy Iovine and Dr. Dre. Watch it on Netflix.
Sour Grapes – a fascinating documentary about fine wine fraud on a grand scale. Watch it on Netflix.
Atlanta season 2 – that ‘Teddy Perkins’ episode. Whoa. Watch it on SBS On Demand.

Read
Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie – an urgent, fiercely compelling story of loyalties torn apart when love and politics collide.
I Am, I Am, I Am by Maggie O’Farrell – an astonishing memoir of the near-death experiences that have punctuated and defined O’Farrell’s life.
The Woman in the Window by A. J. Finn – a page-turning thriller, the movie is already in development. Great holiday read.
Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng – traces the intertwined fates of a picture-perfect family and the enigmatic mother and daughter who upend their lives.

Listen (I’ve been in a bit of a podcast slump recently but my friend just gave me a bunch to get over it so stay tuned):
Revisionist History Season 3 – Burden of Proof (episode 2).
This American Life – #339 act one (Break-up) and Five Women.

Eat Out
Two restaurants I’ve revisited recently after years and they are still excellent, particularly if you’re after a cosy winter vibe – Alpha (Greek) in Sydney CBD with a stunning bar upstairs and Sagra (Italian) in Darlinghurst for perfect pasta.

Eat In
Curried Fish Pie from River Cottage.
Jill Dupleix’s Salmon in a Light Fragrant Broth. I like to up the spinach and chilli for a green hot hit.

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