This Is Going to Hurt by Adam Kay

this-is-going-to-hurt[2].jpeg

Delve deep into the fascinating world of the overworked, underpaid, struggling doctors that are the backbone of the UK's NHS.
From the totally grotesque to the outright funny and the emotionally touching, engross yourself in Adam's diary entries and be transported to a world much different than we realise.
Adam's way with words, and his explanations of medical terms in the footnotes, provide those with no medical knowledge a chance to transport themselves into the hospital room with the doctor himself.
A book that will make you thankful for all that our wonderful doctors, nurses and healthcare professionals accomplish daily. You wont want to put this down!

- Nik

The Department of Sensitive Crimes by Alexander McCall Smith

the-department-of-sensitive-crimes.jpeg

Ulf Varg is a detective. Smart, revered by his peers, and owner of a lip reading dog and a light grey Saab.
In the Department of Sensitive Crimes, McCall Smith, considers, through Ulf, the idea of bringing ‘…to the surface the things that are below the surface’.
For those unfamiliar with Scandinavian literature, and culture, McCall Smith paints a picture of a way of life that, while existing within the same system about which we whinge, is characterised by values of equality, horizontal social fabrics, and community. Its a place that seems like that of a by-gone era. Against this backdrop, and many philosophical musings, Ulf finds simple pleasures to content him in his post-divorce life. He listens carefully. He respects the values and concerns of others, even when it pains him. And finally, he carefully dissects the uncertainties and perplexities of the world around him, one sensitive crime at a time.

- Ben

Dan's Philosophy Picks - Walden and Civil Disobedience by Henry Thoreau

walden-and-civil-disobedience.jpeg


Because we like to keep things fresh here at O&F, our second pick in the philosophy recommendations series falls somewhat outside the confines of the traditional philosophical canon. It might even be asked whether, properly speaking, Thoreau's book should be considered philosophy at all. Let me try to quell these concerns - and thereby say something about what I take this book to be about - by firstly saying what I think it is not about. Walden is not about 'getting back to nature', nor should it be read as some kind of spiritually-infused ode to the purity of the natural world. Most importantly however, it is emphatically not a 'self-help' book. That is, it should not be read as some kind of guide to achieveing happiness, or even wisdom. Instead, Walden - as I understand it - is one person's passionate and almost pathalogically clear-eyed attempt at self-actualization. (Fancy word, Dan, but do you actually know what it means?) By this I just mean that this book constitutes one writer's attempt to understand himself and his relation to the world by looking closer at what was in front of him. Furthermore, since he was drawn to the simplicity and clarity of nature (woods, animals and - duh - ponds), that is where he found his philosophical inspiration and primary subject matter. (Not that the book doesn't also feature numerous insights about the social nature of human-kind.) As my O&F colleague Bella once helped me to see, 'self-help' books tell you how to find happiness through being 'normal'. That is, they function against the backdrop of standards and expectations that we are not often invited to question. Philosophy, on the other hand, begins with a spirit of refusal: refusal to accept the half-truths that satisfy a debased popular imagination. Thoreau felt - and lived - this refusal more deeply than most, and this perplexing, illuminating and frustrating book is the result.

Favourite quote:

There have been many stories told about the bottom, or rather no bottom, of this pond, which certainly had no foundation for themselves. It is remarkable how long men will believe in the bottomlessness of a pond without taking the trouble to sound it.”

- Dan

Eggshell Skull by Bri Lee

eggshell-skull.jpeg

This powerful memoir looks unflinchingly at how the Australian court system handles cases of sexual assault, laying bare its prejudices, limitations and failings.

What makes this book so compelling is the professional and personal insight brought to the subject by author Bri Lee: first as a law student and judge’s associate, and later as a complainant, pursuing legal action against the man who abused her as a child. We follow Lee's journey on both sides of the legal process, oscillating between disillusionment and empowerment, gripped by her eloquent and perceptive prose.

At once intensely personal and heartbreakingly universal, Eggshell Skull is a remarkable achievement. I couldn’t recommend it more.


- Bec

Down the Hume by Peter Polites

down-the-hume[1].jpeg

Mesmerised by his abusive boyfriend and addicted to the drugs he steals from the aged care home where he works, Bux is stuck in a rut.  

This gritty, queer, drug-addled noir isn't what you'd call a pleasant read, but it is a deeply satisfying exploration of Sydney's darker recesses. Down the Hume will appeal to fans of Raymond Chandler and Elmore Leonard, and pairs well with a knowledge of Sydney and its inhabitants.

This is an excellent debut from a promising young Western Sydney-based author.

- Jacob

Dan's Philosophy Picks - The Republic by Plato

republic-the.jpeg

A popular saying has it that the entire history of western philosophy is just a series of footnotes to Plato. As is often the case with a sweeping statement of this kind, scratch the obvious hyperbole on its surface and you will find more than a little truth beneath. Case in point: The Republic, in which Plato - via the musings of his teacher Socrates - offers not only a canonical text in political philosphy, but also some of the first sustained attempts at coming to grips with concepts as fundamental as, for example, the nature of human goodness (Ethics), the basis of our knowledge (Epistemology), and the fundamental nature of reality (Metaphysics). At this stage, however, rather than focusing on its content (which, let's face it, would be a bit boring, since so many have already said so much about it), we can instead focus on its method. For as much as the questions he asks, it is the manner in which Plato (via Socrates) seeks to answer them that make the Republic such an indespensible text even today. In the several thousand years since Plato wrote this book, philosophy as a disciplne has come under a great deal of pressure from outside forces - so much so that at times it has threatened to become merely a branch of either logic or the natural sciences. This outcome must be resisted. What Plato shows us - through the voice of Socrates - is that, at its most fruitful, the kind of conceptual analysis practiced by the philosopher need not be viewed as uncovering metaphysical definitions or 'conditions of warranted assertion', but instead as providing a particularly valuable form of self-knowledge. It is by coaxing these kinds of insights from us (insights about what counts as 'knowledge' or 'goodness' or 'justice') that the philosopher is able to bring home to us the fact that if there is to be a basis for such knowledge, we must find it in ourselves.
As the great 20th century American philosopher Stanley Cavell notes: "That this also renews and deepens and articulates our understanding tells us something about the mind, and provides the consolation of philosophers." 

- Dan (resident bookseller AND philosopher)

What I Like About Me by Jenna Guillaume

what-i-like-about-me[4].jpeg

What I Like About Me is an utterly charming YA novel from debut author Jenna Guillaume.

It follows the exploits of lovably awkward Maisie Martin as she holidays with her family on an Australian beach for the summer. Maisie is funny, smart, fat and beautiful. That's right. Fat AND beautiful. Her whole life, Maisie thought that the two terms were mutually exclusive, but over the course of this particular summer, she discovers that beauty comes in more shapes and sizes than she realised.

This book is heartwarming, body-affirming and uplifting. It reclaims the word 'fat' from body-shamers, and encourages readers to view their bodies with joy and self-love. It's also jam-packed with humour, romance and diversity. It's the ultimate holiday read, perfect for fans of Dumplin'‘ and Mean Girls alike.

- Bec

Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James

9780241315583.jpg

Black Leopard, Red Wolf is nothing like Game of Thrones. You might say that Black Leopard, Red Wolf is to Game of Thrones what Game of Thrones is to Harry Potter - but the truth is that it's operating in a different sphere. 

The first book in Marlon James' Dark Star trilogy does not allow for lazy reading. It is dense, delirious, expansive, and compelling, spinning African mythology into dark, violent, embodied writing.
If you've found popular fantasy lacking, in its writing or in its conventions, this may be the book you've been waiting for: assured, capacious, adult fantasy. I still don't quite know what to make of this book, and that, I think, is exciting.

Like Neil Gaiman said: 'Black Leopard, Red Wolf is the kind of novel I never realised I was missing until I read it.'

- Jacob

The Arsonist by Chloe Hooper

9780670078189.jpg

Chloe Hooper is a brilliant author. Her ability to transport you to a precise place and space in time, is unparalleled. In 'The Arsonist', she paints an incredibly terrifying image. You are immediately surrounded by the 2009 Black Saturday bushfires, which left 173 people dead.

The stories from surviving residents and emergency service men and women are haunting. As she weaves a timeline of catastrophic events you are left feeling horrified, wounded and furious at the unimaginable loss endured by all those who were effected. However, Hooper has a true gift for objective writing. Through uncovering more about ‘the arson’ himself, it is easy to also find yourself feeling hurt and angered by his painful story.

A book I had to pause from to collect myself many times – as it can be terribly overwhelming, yet remains so important and such a fine piece of non-fiction work.

- Bella

Calypso by David Sedaris

calypso.jpeg

Calypso is raw, humorous and sometimes heartbreaking all at once. Sedaris invites us to observe his family - their idiosyncrasies, tragedies, and ever shifting connections with one another.
Like all families Sedaris’ family is not without drama and disagreement. His honesty is refreshing, as he allows a view into some deeply personal experiences (his sister’s suicide, his mother’s alcoholism, parent/sibling/partner conflicts, unbreakable family bonds).

However, the book is not all doom and gloom, in fact quite the contrary. His wit will have you laughing at things that will make you question your own sanity, and no tragedy will be outweighed by his ability to make you smile.

It is a wonderful read, and there is a truly hilarious chapter in which he becomes addicted to his FitBit - that alone, made the entire book worth reading.

- Bella

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers

the-long-way-to-a-small-angry-planet[1].jpeg

Space opera like you've never seen it before.
Becky Chamber's excellent debut novel represents a broader shift in the narrative priorities traditionally associated with science fiction. It revels in character rather than action (though there's a fair bit of that too), and develops an episodic slice-of-life quality in an thoughtful, well-drawn universe.

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet is a great place to start or develop your relationship with sci-fi, and it's the first in a series of three tangentially related novels.

This is one to read, savour, and throw to your friends.

- Jacob

Boy Swallows Universe by Trent Dalton

x293.jpg

Boys Swallows Universe takes you deep inside 1980’s Brisbane underworld.
Eli and August Bell are remarkable boys, with knowledge and courage well beyond their years. Dalton beautifully contrasts what is an incredibly difficult and violent upbringing with an overwhelming sense of loyalty and love for family and friends. Each character is wonderfully thought out, all with their own unique adversities to overcome.

A crime novel where the ‘bad guys’ are actually the good guys, and in the end, the good guys will always win.

This book is truly gripping, one I really didn’t want to end. My favourite book of 2018!

- Bella

Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata

9781846276835.jpg

This book is without a doubt, one of the quirkiest books I have read in a long time.

Keiko is a middle aged Japanese woman who is unmarried, has no children, and has worked at the same convenience store for the past 18 years. She tries hard to change her lifestyle to fit with the 'normal' Japanese woman, however fails repeatedly. The writing is full of dry humour and pushes boundaries of what is socially acceptable. Murata crafts the perfect novel for anyone who has ever felt like they just don't fit in.

The conclusion she reaches is that being happy and comfortable is far more important than being normal – a message I think everyone can do with being reminded of.

- Bella

Less by Andrew Sean Greer

9780349143590.jpg

A delightful and funny novel about a writer, Arthur Less, who decides to avoid his former lover’s wedding and his approaching 50th birthday by accepting previously-ignored invitations to attend a variety of literary events around the world - which Less would have us believe are for ‘less than’ authors (such as himself). The humour lies in the relatable and unique evocations involving self-deprecation and/or the fertile tragicomedy that is international travel. It is a rather simple story written in a refreshingly straightforward manner, with some startlingly exact descriptions, and for that reason seems like an unusual pick as a Pulitzer winner (which prize is referenced in the book, including a description of how it is pronounced). There is flashback, self-conscious references to ‘the narrator’ and short passages from a third party child observer of Less’ ridiculous escapades. All in all a happy making novel, really. 

Highly recommended.

- Eve


Educated by Tara Westover

lace-weaver-9781925596335_lg.jpg

Educated:

The account of a girl building herself in spite of the shackles of dogma and abuse. Raised in a doomsday Mormonist household, in the plains of Idaho and its mountains, Tara paints a painful picture of education.

These are haunting images of a girl confronting the sins of a tyrannical, fundamentalist Father, and delusional, pithless Mother. From these memoirs, it seems true that the act of learning – accruing knowledge – can be a form of escapism. But self-education – using knowledge to construct oneself – can be a means of escape: from real tyranny in our family and in ourselves.

Westover’s story is inspiring because it tells of the power to confront uncertainty and emancipate oneself from those that claim certainty, especially when it is our loved ones.
As she puts it, her life was being “narrated for me by others”.

“Lock up your libraries if you like; but there is no gate, no lock, no bolt that you can set upon the freedom of my mind.”

- Virginia Woolfe

Adam

Cedar Valley by Holly Throsby

9781760630560.jpg

Holly Throsby’s ‘Cedar Valley’ is fantastic. 
Benny Miller knows very little about her mother. With her recent passing Benny moves to Cedar Valley in an attempt to uncover more of the woman’s mysterious and intriguing life. On the day she arrives in town, an unknown man dies in the Main Street. An investigation begins, and the town work together to find missing pieces to solve the puzzle.  

The mystery of Benny’s mother and the unidentified man run parallel throughout the novel. Through many twists and turns Throsby weaves these two stories together, eventually coming to an excellent and unexpected ending. 

- Bella

Take Nothing With You by Patrick Gale

9781472205346 (1).jpg

Alternating between the past and present this novel begins with an older, successful Eustace falling in love with a younger man and beginning cancer treatment. The parallel narrative tells of Eustace’s childhood, the complexities of growing up and new experiences; and his introduction to Carla Gold who is to become his cello teacher.

This beautiful coming of age story is brimming with warmth, humour, music and love, a journey of discovery and self acceptance. Patrick Gale is a genuine and elegant writer. This novel was an absolute pleasure to read.

Kate

A Ladder to the Sky by John Boyne

9780857523501.jpg

Maurice Swift is highly ambitious in his quest to become a successful and great writer, and in doing so manipulates his way into becoming an unforgettable character in John Boyne’s compulsive novel.

This is a dark tale of seduction, literary theft and suspense from a literary gem. With effortless prose shifting across decades and characters, this wonderful story is underpinned with humour making a clever and impressive read.

Kate

First Person by Richard Flanagan

Richard-Flanagan-First-Person-cover.jpg

In these times of Trump's ‘fake news’, this is an eerily relevant and sobering story of how self-deception can so easily lead to the deception of others.

Flanagan weaves his fascinating story against the backdrop of the life of a writer, his family life and struggles, friendships and the powerful and controlling influence of a con man who moves all the goal posts. 

- John


What's Your Type? by Merve Emre

x293.jpg

Merve Emre explores the curious story between mother and daughter duo Katherine Briggs and Isabel Briggs-Myers who became captivated by the work of Carl Jung and created the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) in an attempt to make Jung’s type theory accessible to the general public.

Apart from being an intriguing biography of the duo, Emre outlines the history of the indicator and it’s appeal to those in recruitment, education and in the online dating industry. Emre also challenges the nature and validity of the indicator and delves into the broader world and popularity of personailty testing. An absorbing and sharp read, particularly fascinating if you are interested in the growth of the self development industry.

Reviewed by Kate