Listen: Librarian Nicole Yule's four winter holiday reading recommendations
Looking for a book to enjoy over the winter break? Librarian Nicole Yule has some tips on what to snuggle up with, with most of these suggestions readily available to borrow from your local library.
Fiction for adults
The Night Letters by Denise Leith
Nicole said this book was released at the end of 2020 and tells the story of Dr Sofia Raso, an Australian doctor living in Kabul, Afghanistan. As both a foreigner and a woman she has built up a strong base of support by following two simple rules: keep a low profile; and keep out of local affairs. She is admired for her abilities as a doctor and her compassion for the Afghani people. However, as the book progresses, Sofia starts hearing about the kidnapping of young boys from one of the slums where she works. She is unwilling to stay quiet nor ignore what is happening and attempts to find out who is behind the kidnappings and put a stop to it, even though that involves upsetting some very powerful people. Around the same time some threatening night letters believed to be from the Taliban start appearing on doors in the square where Sofia lives, causing angst and confusion among the residents as it becomes clear that more than one of them is harbouring a secret.
Nicole said like many books these days this one is told from multiple perspectives of both Sofia and various other residents of the square where she lives. Leith keeps you enthralled as more of the history and secrets of the various residents is revealed and you want to find out who is sending these night letters. It also provides a fictionalised insight into the lives of the Afghani people, both before and after the Taliban and also before and after the intervention of Allied forces following September 11. Although addressing some dark issues it is ultimately is a story of hope of those living in a city with a history of conflict and terror.
Non-fiction for adults
The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry: How to Stay Emotionally Healthy and Spiritually Alive in the Chaos of the Modern World by John Mark Comer
Nicole shares that she was attracted to this book because of all the self-help books that are out there these days helping us to be better organised, minimise our possessions, live more simply, be more mindful. John Mark Comer has taken those ideas and put them into a Christian worldview and connected them to the spiritual disciplines of silence and solitude, sabbath, simplicity and slowing. Silence and solitude is like meditation or mindfulness exercises. He defines it as “intentional time in the quiet to be alone with God, and our own soul.” Sabbath is obviously a 24-hour period where we stop and rest in God. Simplicity is the same as minimalism, so removing the excess in our lives, but he states, “It’s intentionally living with less, to make space for more of what we most value before God”. And slowing is deliberately choosing to place ourselves in positions where we simply have to wait.
Nicole said that unlike other books she has read before, what she liked about this one is in addition to the easy reading style of the book, which made it simple for her to get hooked in to what he was writing about, it also has free online videos and a workshop booklet which gives you practical exercises, four on each topic which you can put into practice each week. Nicole said that it was nice to read about concepts she had considered before in a new way by considering how they connected to the teachings of Jesus.
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For young adults
Tweet Cute by Emma Lord
For those wanting a sweet teen romance this is the one for you. Emma Lord has taken the elements of Romeo and Juliet and put it into a modern-day context with a great twist. The two main characters are Pepper and Jack. Pepper is the classic overachiever: she’s swim team captain, doing well in her studies, and all-around perfectionist. She’s moved to New York with her mum after her parents’ divorce because her mum’s burger restaurant has turned into a massive fast-food chain called Big League Burger. Pepper, in addition to all her schoolwork, is also responsible for the company’s Twitter account.
Jack is the class clown and on the school dive team, so is forced to work with Pepper is organising the swim and dive teams’ schedules for using the pool. He’s living in the shadow of his overachieving identical twin while also helping out with his family’s deli. When Big League Burger appear to have stolen his grandma’s iconic grilled cheese recipe, he’ll do whatever it takes to take them down, including taking over the family deli’s Twitter account. Before they know it Pepper and Jack are in the midst of a viral Twitter war. Little do they know, while they’re publicly duking it out with memes and retweets, they’re also falling for each other in real life.
Nicole said this book is what good teen romance novels should be: sweet, funny but also realistic regarding the pressures on teens these days when it comes to high school, applying for university and thinking about their future.
Worse Things by Sally Murphy
This one has been shortlisted for the Children’s Book Council of Australia awards this year. Worse Things follows the lives of three main characters: Blake, an AFL player who suffers a devastating injury; Jolene, a hockey player who hates the game and Amed, a soccer-loving, non-English speaking orphan who feels like an outsider since arriving in Australia after being raised in a refugee camp.
Unlike a lot of novels, it is told in free verse, so poetry but it doesn’t rhyme, which means the story is quite quick to read. It gives such insight into the three characters and what they are experiencing through the short lines and stanzas in the novel. It is interspersed with dictionary definitions which sum up what the characters are feeling at that stage such as “Broken” when Blake breaks his arm, “Watch” when Amed is observing what is going on around him but can’t contribute, and “Belong” as all three characters struggle to know who they are and how they connect to those around them.
Hear more about these books from Nicole Yule in the player above.