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Summer Reading Suggestions

I’m a bit early aren’t I?

Let’s call it ‘Pre-Summer reading suggestions’ as I’m sure I’ll get one more article full of great Christmas holiday reading options in before the holiday season officially hits.

I’ve been doing quite a bit of travel of late and plane trips always equal reading. A good book or magazine is also one of my all-time favourite ways to unwind and the past month has been so damn busy that unwinding is a necessity (for both doing a great job at work and for my sanity in general!)

So let’s start with one I’m particularly proud of this month’s issue of MiNDFOOD magazine.

It’s white, red and gold presentation clearly marks it the December Christmas issue and the strikingly beautiful face of Annie Lennox smiles out at you. Per my article Inspiring News Stories, MiNDFOOD has fast become one of the highlight’s of my month. You know that you’re going to read well thought out, properly researched information that’s packaged in an entertaining, fascinating and fun read. Which was why, when Editor-in-chief Michael McHugh approached me to do a story on Annie Lennox, I immediately said yes.

Like many artists who have been in the industry for a long time, the fabulous Ms Lennox holds her privacy in high regard, and rightly so. She’s careful about what is put out about her, protecting her family and also the many charities that she supports. She’s also incredibly busy, juggling her music career, charity work and campaigning on everything from HIV/AIDS , government spending on warfare and the work of the United Nations. So let’s just say that Annie Lennox would not agree to do an interview that would result in an unsubstantial, tabloid piece.

I’d not worked with Michael before but after admiring MiNDFOOD’s consistently strong stories for so long, I knew that this was a journalist with integrity so after months of my own campaigning, we finally organised an interview for Michael in London. The resulting cover, cover insert and SIX page feature (woo hoo!), complete with stunning photos shot by Mike Owen certainly made all of the effort worth it. Not only can you read all about Annie Lennox and her new album “A Christmas Cornucopia”, there’s also features on curbing addictive behaviours, the medical experts embracing meditation, a global trend towards a generation of generosity, beautiful travel reviews, current party hair and makeup and, for all those Masterchef’s out there, flip the magazine over and you have a 50 page Christmas cookbook. (Cranberry and maple glazed leg of ham, Pork Loin filled with honey, five-spice and pecans, Apple, beetroot  and walnut salad or a Crepe stack with orange curd and fresh raspberries anyone?)

Do yourself a favour and pick up a copy today or even better, treat yourself or a loved one to a MiNDFOOD subscription.

Moving on to books, Promoter extraordinaire Michael Chugg’s autobiography ‘Hey You In The Black T-Shirt’ is riveting, can’t-put-down material. Co-written by Iain Shedden, the music writer for The Australian, it’s a tell all of the Australian touring industry from the mid 1960′s to today. There are plenty of juicy stories about some of your favourite (and not-so favourite) stars and bands and the teams of people (most with big personalities, egos and their own agendas) that work to support their music. Throw in, what can be, a very hedonistic environment and you couldn’t make some of this stuff up.

Chuggi has joked in many interviews that the legal fees he had to pay to even get this book published will outweigh the return. This, of course, leads you to wonder more about what stories he couldn’t put in…

An interesting, rambling, rockin read – a must for any rock music fans to see what really goes on behind the scenes.

The follow up to her debut novel – My Skin: a Memoir, Melbourne writer Kate Holden has written a follow up called ‘The Romantic’. While her first novel was her autobiography of the good, middle-class, University educated girl who somehow fell into prostitution to support her heroin addiction and then her climb (or crawl) out of that life, ‘The Romantic’ is “what Kate did next”.

‘In My Skin’ was very gritty. Written in the first person, the details Kate gave about her life of drugs and working, first as a streetwalker and then in brothels, were intense. Yet her writing was so lovely and, often, poetic that you’d occasionally forget that she was writing about such desperate times. Then when you did realise, it was the juxtaposition between these that was so beautifully moving.

Five years later, Kate publishes ‘The Romantic’. Basically “the sequel”, this story follows Kate as she travels to Italy. She’s off drugs and discovering the country that she always wanted to visit, albeit many years and sexual partners later than she’d anticipated.

Perhaps not so keen to throw herself headlong into remembering her past, Kate has written ‘The Romantic’ in the third person. This doesn’t change the level of intimacy though and it’s still a deeply moving read. Knowing that “Kate the character” is indeed “Kate the author” gives the reader a sense that, as Kate was writing this story, she was analysing what she did and why. In Italy, at the time that all of this was happening to her, she would have had an understanding of what she was going through. But it’s the allowance of time and reflection that’s given her the clarity now to describe precisely what was going on. How does a woman who has slept with hundreds of men for money then go on to find love? Or, ultimately, learn to love herself?

‘The Romantic’ is raw, innocent, dark, hopeful, sexy, exhausting and, as with all things Kate Holden, beautifully written.

I also finally got around to reading – ‘The Slap’ by Christos Tsiolkas. It won just about every book award there was to win last year so I was expecting big things.

What I didn’t expect was how uncomfortable it would make me. But not in a ‘put-the-book-down-I’m-not-going-there’ kind of way, more of a ‘hey-step-out-of-you-own-circle-for-a-minute’ way because apart from maybe one of the characters, I  don’t personally know anyone who is like the characters in this book.

That wouldn’t usually matter – hell, I’ve read Harry Potter and I don’t know too many wizards but ‘The Slap’ is apparently going on in my backyard.

It’s based in Australia, not long after 9/11, and it gives an insight into a multicultural suburbia that, if you’re to believe what you read, is commonplace today.

At a family and friends barbecue one afternoon, a man slaps a child. But the child is not his own. The fall out from this single action, whether you believe the man was in the right or the wrong, is utterly captivating. Told through the eyes of eight of those at the barbecue, each of their very different upbringings and beliefs makes for compelling reading.

I couldn’t put this book down. It made me angry, smug, confused, disgusted and sad. Are people really like this or is this just a part of Australia according to author Christos Tsiolkas? Either way, it’s incredibly clever writing that has filled me with intrigue, curious of the many types of people in the world of which I know so little of.

And because I’m obsessed with Emily Barr at the moment, I’ve just read two more of her novels.

I went back to where it all began with her very first novel ‘Backpack’ Call me morbid but I really enjoy reading about a character that’s battling drug and alcohol addictions. Not so fun when they completely succumb to them of course and the Pollyanna in me always wants them to rise above it and go on to become useful, participating members of society. But because it’s fiction, the shenanigans that they get up to on the way to doing this are often hilarious and Emily Barr brings some gravitas to it all by giving her characters genuine reasons for why they’ be in that situation. Finding out why and who helps them or detracts them along this journey is what makes it such a pleasurable read.

In this book, Tansy runs away from all of her problems by going backpacking around South-East Asia. Little does she know that her problems are following her, just waiting for her to confront them.

Then one very exhausted Saturday morning, when I really should have been working on my own novel, I lay in bed until 12pm and devoured the whole of ‘Cuban Heels’. It was quite disturbing towards the end, surprising me like Emily’s books always do. (Why I’m still surprised that there are twists and turns after having read so many of them is a testament to her smart writing).

Set between the shores of Brighton and the tropical heat of Cuba, it’s a tale of an English couple, struggling with a new baby and a lonely, troubled yet likeable girl called Maggie. The three of them end up travelling to Cuba which will prove to be an awakening to them all and never in the way you’d anticipate.

And finally, a magazine that always seems to enter my life just at the right moment…

After a week of particularly bad eating and drinking, I was wandering around the newsagents, having a woe-is-me-I-fat-and-bloated-and-I-never-be-able-to-wear-anything-but-floaty-dresses-for-the-rest-of-my-life kind of day, when suddenly, beyond the Women’s Health and Shape magazines, I noticed Oxygen magazine. I’ve bought several of these in the past and although not for the faint hearted (it’s an “official” women’s body-building publication), it always inspires.

So I bought it, waddled home and read it in bed that night.

A few articles in particular spoke to me. One was on “Emotional power”. It discussed that by recognising your emotional state, and then altering it according to how productive that state is, you can dramatically change your productivity and performance. Not to mention make you a happier, more positive person to be around. It’s something I’ve learnt before but it’s funny how an article like this can be just the reminder you need.

Another was written by Fitness professional Sue Heintze, titled ’8 Ways to Motivate Yourself to Take Action’ Again, all things I already knew but reading them again reiterated, confirmed and accented! Great tips to apply in any aspect of life, like;

* Break your goals into small, attainable steps

* Know your limits

*Take away your distractions

* Look for ways to succeed, rather than reasons to fail

And my favourite;

* When you don’t feel like doing it – do it anyway!

And finally, a brilliant article on the perils of dieting that anyone should read before they consider trying to lose weight or tone up. Nutritionist, Counsellor and public speaker Joanne Prior writes on how dieting makes you fat. But more than that, even planning to go on a diet makes you fat. Instead, it’s all about choosing to sustain your body to be lean, well and healthy and looking at a more holistic picture of how you want to look, feel and be in your life.

Next morning was game on – off to the gym, plenty of water, loads of vegetables, lean protein and some wholegrains. I was off and racing and haven’t looked back.  I’ve had an excellent week and, despite being busy at work, am feeling calm and in control, healthy, fit and, best of all, have the energy to take life on again. Touch wood it lasts – it’ll be interesting to see how this goes over the upcoming Christmas period!

I hope that these suggestions help you to choose some reading over the Summer – either to while away some hours in the park or at the beach, while sipping an ice-cold cocktail in the backyard (inner-city dwellers, that would be our balcony, or an open window, or just on the couch) or even to simply smile politely over on Christmas day, giving you something to grip onto as you ignore your Great-Aunt asking “when are you going to start a family? You’re not that young anymore you know…”

Happy Reading!

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