‘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.

The Trauma Cleaner: One Woman’s Extraordinary Life in Death, Decay & Disaster

If you read only one book this year, make it The Trauma Cleaner.

“A poignant and powerful celebration of one remarkable woman’s unrelenting drive to make order from chaos,” it tells the story of Sandra Pankhurst, a trauma cleaner. But before she was a trauma cleaner, she was many things: a husband and father, drag queen, gender reassignment patient, sex worker, small businesswoman and trophy wife.

As a little boy, raised in violence and excluded from the family home, Sandra just wanted to belong. Now she believes her clients deserve no less.

Sarah Krasnostein spent four years researching and writing this award-winning, extraordinary biography. If you are not moved by this book, your heart is likely made of stone.

For those in Sydney, Sarah Krasnostein is speaking about The Trauma Cleaner at the Sydney Writers Festival on 5th May.

Read an extract.
Read a review.
Learn more about The Trauma Cleaner.

Book: When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

When Breath Becomes Air is a moving and sad yet inspiring memoir by a young neurosurgeon faced with a terminal cancer diagnosis who attempts to answer the question, ‘What makes a life worth living?

At the age of thirty-six, on the verge of completing a decade’s training as a neurosurgeon, Paul Kalanithi was diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer. One day he was a doctor treating the dying, the next he was a patient struggling to live.

When Breath Becomes Air chronicles Kalanithi’s transformation from a medical student asking what makes a virtuous and meaningful life into a neurosurgeon working in the core of human identity – the brain – and finally into a patient and a new father.

It’s an emotional investment and although it is about dying, for the most part, the indelible impression it leaves is that it is more about living.

Read a review of When Breath Becomes Air.

Buy the book.

The Discussion Around ‘Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation?’

I have a love/hate relationship with my smartphone so was compelled to read the article Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation? that has been widely read and debated this week.

Through her research, Jean M. Twenge found that: “More comfortable online than out partying, post-Millenials are safer, physically, than adolescents have ever been. But they’re on the brink of a mental-health crisis.”

She calls this new generation that has grown up with smartphones ‘iGen’ and there are some startling facts and figures about how they behave and feel.

“The portrait of iGen teens emerging from the data is one of a lonely, dislocated generation,” she says. “In the next decade, we may see more adults who know just the right emoji for a situation, but not the right facial expression.”

Whilst this article was interesting and somewhat shocking (though unsurprising if you’ve witnessed teens on smartphones), I found the response Yes, Smartphones Are Destroying a Generation, But Not of Kids by Alexandra Samuel more helpful and insightful.

She paints a less dire picture and asks us to “Consider another possible explanation for why our kids are increasingly disengaged. It’s because we’ve disengaged ourselves; we’re too busy looking down at our screens to look up at our kids.”

She suggests we stop paying attention to alarmist attacks on kids’ screen time and pay attention to our kids. Her research suggests the way forward is to: “Embrace our role as digital mentors: actively encouraging our kids to use technology, but offering ongoing support and guidance in how to use it appropriately.”

Sage advice, though it does feel as parents and/or adults, we’ve been sucked into the smartphone void as well and need to find ways to get it under control in our own lives first.

Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat – A New Cookbook by Samin Nosrat

Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat is a new cookbook by chef, writer and teacher, Samin Nosrat. Designed to be your compass in the kitchen, the cookbook demystifies the four elements of good cooking – salt, which enhances flavour; fat, which delivers flavour and generates texture; acid, which balances flavour; and heat, which ultimately determines the texture of food – and shows that if you can master these, anything you cook will be delicious.

I can cook but I’ve largely been a follow the recipe type person.  I have high hopes that this will be the book that transforms me into one of those people that say: “I’ve only got these three obscure ingredients at hand but I’m going to whip you up something sensational.”

Empathy Cards and Book

I love the idea behind this book There Is No Good Card For This: What to Say and Do When Life Is Scary, Awful and Unfair to People You Love. We’ve all been there and sadly the older you get, the more likely you’ll hear that crap stuff has happened to those you know and love. I doubt many of us can confidently say we’ve handled these moments with aplomb. One of the authors of the book also creates these brilliant empathy cards that are a sweet, honest and often much needed/appreciated way to tell someone you’re thinking of them and there for them when bad shit happens and you don’t quite know what to say. Like this ‘Infertility Judging‘ card or ‘Everything Happens‘ card. The creator, Emily McDowell, also has a range of cards you can send via Paperless Post to make it even easier.

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