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Staff Picks of 2018

Recommendations from the readers at Penguin Random House Australia.

It’s an enormous thrill to be able to read books before they hit the shelves. And, let’s face it, it’s why many of our staffers are in the publishing business to begin with. After a busy year of reading, we put the word out for the best books of 2018, and here are the top picks:
 

Five Years from Now by Paige Toon

'It’s not often that I sway from non-fiction reads, so I don’t know what initially drew me to pick this one up, but I’m glad I did.  The story is such an emotional tease! A constant rollercoaster of hope, happiness and contentment, followed by wall punch-able frustration! I was curled up in the foetal position balling my eyes out as I turned the last page, still not knowing to this day if they were tears of joy or devastation.' – Jodie, Business Development.

 

Stranger Things: Worlds Turned Upside Down by Gina McIntyre

'The work that has been put into this book is absolutely incredible. Much like the series itself, the style throughout the book feels nostalgic and genuinely feels like it’s from the 80s. The overall design is amazing – no detail has been missed, even down to the ‘FAIR’ fluoro sticker on the front cover. Not only is the design mind-blowingly good, the insights throughout the book from the Duffer brothers themselves, and the cast and crew of the show, fulfils all our cinefile curiosities. It grants us access to the behind-the-scenes, processes and influences of the upright and upside down, all the while providing the fun fine details of the Stranger Things world. The Stranger Things book is a must have for any book collection – a perfect representation of this important moment in pop culture, and downright ‘bitchin’.' – Jess, Young Readers Marketing & Publicity.

 

The Arsonist by Chloe Hooper

'The Arsonist is one of the most nuanced and compelling books I've ever read. It is a pacey true crime story, but it reflects on the bigger issues surrounding the crime of arson, and this particular arsonist, extremely thoughtfully. The opening of this book is one of the most moving pieces of non-fiction I've ever read, and is an unforgettable backdrop to the narrative that follows. The plot is addictive, but also provides an in-depth exploration of culpability. I’d recommend this book to anyone who wants to read truly insightful true crime, or anyone who has known the fear or impact of bushfire.' – Chris, Online & Digital Sales.

 

The Water Cure by Sophie Mackintosh

'The Water Cure manages to somehow be both timely and timeless. Its themes could not be more relevant right now, but like The Handmaid’s Tale, which I also read and loved this year, I can imagine it being just as evocative in thirty years’ time. It’s the novel which stayed with me the most this year.

It has all the elements of great dystopian fiction, and had me on the edge of my seat. It examined the complexity of relationships, desire, family dynamics and growing up with poignancy and sometimes shocking brutality. It also twists and turns and makes you think – about human nature and power dynamics, it’s immersive and full of beautiful symbolism. At its simplest it is an intriguing mystery you want to get to the bottom of, set in a time and place with more similarities to our own that we all may like to think.' – Kate, IT, Strategy and Projects.

 

Help Around the House by Morris Gleitzman

'Another classic Morris Gleitzman story! Ludo has just moved to Canberra with his dad, who has just been elected to Parliament. Ludo’s excited for the chance to join a new Scouts group, and use his skills to help people and continue the family tradition of doing good things for others. But he soon finds that life as a politician’s son means things are done differently, and is caught up in a world that he doesn’t understand. He soon realizes that those in power may be the ones that need his help most of all.

Ludo is a wonderfully sweet character, whose determination to be a good force in the world will shine as an example for all young readers.' – Eleanor, Rights.

 

The Pearl Thief by Fiona McIntosh

'If you’re looking to experience all kinds of emotions in one sitting, then this is the book to read. You’ll find yourself staying up at god-awful hours just to finish a chapter. Although it’s historical fiction, I felt like it was well researched and beautifully written.' – Jaymee, Digital Operations and Applications.

 

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones

'That An American Marriage was published so early in the year and it still sits at the top of my list for recommendations probably says more about what I think of it than any of my own ramblings can. The story of a young couple who were feeling their way through a fledgling marriage before a wrongful conviction tears them apart, An American Marriage is timely, touching, and powerful. It’s an impressively affecting novel that manages to be both social commentary and genuine entertainment without feeling the need to preach nor patronise.' – Ben, Production.

 

The Football Solution by George Megalogenis

'I enjoyed The Football Solution because as a Richmond supporter, I was able to relate to George’s long-suffering frustrations with our team (before the historic 2017 premiership win).

In doing so, he raised the themes of leadership, authenticity and a collective vision (pertinent to Richmond’s sudden rise to the ultimate success) which clearly illustrate the failings of our current political institutions.' – George, Commercial & Finance.

 

Go Go and the Silver Shoes by Jane Godwin and Anna Walker

'This joyous picture book is bursting with heart, determination… and shoes. The beloved story shines brighter with each read and it’s definitely my favourite book of 2018 – especially with the glitter shoes on the cover.

Even though Go Go loses one of her absolutely-most-favourite sparkly silver shoes one day, she decides the best thing to do is to wear the remaining left shoe anyway. She doesn’t care that her shoes don’t match. And when a new girl arrives at school, a discovery of shared passions brings together two new friends and two shoes.' – Jess, Young Readers Publishing.

 

The Line Becomes a River by Francisco Cantu

'This story of the politics, violence and inhumanity of the system that manages the hotly-debated border between USA and Mexico was extremely moving. By inserting himself into this system as a Border Agent, the author was able to witness and articulate the complex issues and motivations of people on all sides of the debate and shines a light on many of the nameless/faceless ‘deported’ and their families by telling his and their stories.

His reflections highlight the often cruel, militarized response to what is essentially a humanitarian crisis. He offers no solutions but with great empathy raises awareness of the often-dehumanized issue of migration and displacement – an issue that is equally relevant in Australia and many other parts of the world.' – Ashleigh, Product.

 

Ottolenghi SIMPLE by Yotam Ottolenghi

'My favourite book from 2018 is a cookbook. No surprises there as my favourite thing in the world is food. In amongst the shelves full of cookbooks that I have collected over the years, this is my absolute ‘go to’ now. In fact, I am eating one of the dishes from this book as I’m writing this note, and it’s delicious. It’s as the name says – simple. And that’s should be what home-cooked food is about, no over complications or fancy presentations – no one is paying you for that. This book presents great dishes, which can be combined into a complete meal with notes on making ahead and using some ingredients optionally. I’m excited to cook my next creation from Ottolenghi SIMPLE very soon.' – Meri, Human Resources.

 

From the Corner of the Oval Office by Beck Dorey-Stein.

'I loved this book! It was a fun, easy read and I was hooked from the beginning. It was quite surreal reading this memoir that depicted the life of a stenographer who stumbled across a job on Craigslist, which landed her in the White House travelling the world alongside the President of the United States – being Barack Obama at the time. Whilst it was more focused on Beck navigating her way through friendships, boyfriends and politics, it still shared glimpses of what life was like travelling on Air Force One and accompanying the President on his many campaigns – which was fascinating. Definitely recommend.' – Sian, Commercial & Finance.

 

Made in Scotland by Billy Connolly

'Both entertaining and insightful, Made in Scotland is my favourite read of 2018. Connolly takes you on a journey starting with his working-class childhood in Glasgow all the way through to him becoming one of the world’s best-known comedians. Connolly also shares his thoughts on Brexit and what it’s like living with Parkinson’s, all while he reflects proudly on what it means to be Scottish. Overall a well-written, honest and enjoyable read and one that you won’t put down till the very end.' – John, IT, Strategy & Projects.

 

One Day in December by Josie Silver

'Christmas and a good love story – there is just something about this combination that is perfect. Now I’m not turning my back on the classics (hello Love Actually, the Holiday and anything Jojo Moyes), but this year One Day in December has my full attention.

Josie Silver certainly has that rom-com recipe down to perfection; delightful characters, messy love triangles and unlikely twists of fate. Laurie, Jack and Sarah are witty and charming, and had me smiling, albeit sometimes through tears, the whole way through.' – Caitlin, Publicity.

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