Review: NDF novels #3

Sam Frost

I tried so hard to like this book because I requested it for review. I was expecting it to have actionable points to improve my life. Instead, I got some serious navel-gazing by the author that didn’t encourage me to keep reading. I am a fan of ‘believing’ in yourself, but I’m also not a subscriber to the idea that if you ‘just believe’ you’ll find everything you need coming your way. Sam’s words around her anxiety and depression didn’t work for me, but might appeal to others. I’m always hesitant to recommend a book that suggests you can just think your way out of being anxious and depressed – sometimes medication is a must, and books like this one can occasionally actually make people think drugs are optional or the easy option. It wasn’t for me.

Hachette | 30 March 2022 | AU$32.99 | paperback

Mind Fuel
Bear Grylls

Who doesn’t like Bear Grylls? Known for his survival beyond the odds, Bear Grylls has plenty of tips to share of how to overcome fears and achieve feats! I’ve grouped this book with ‘Believe’ though, because once again it’s all about the power of the mind. I was hoping for a inspirational read of some of the science behind surviving crazy environments, and instead got a series of quotes from other people that Bear Grylls seems to think are important. I’m never fond of quote books at the best of times, and this one, with random quotes for a year, I just couldn’t get into. I tried reading from the beginning, reading one a day, jumping into the middle of the book – nope, no good. I’m not even really sure who to recommend this book to, because liking Bear Grylls didn’t make the book more accessible for me.

Hachette | 11 October 2022 | AU$34.99 | paperback

You Can Do It
How to find your voice and make a difference
Marcus Rashford & Carl Anka

This lime-green book is the final one in this set of three horrible self-help books that I couldn’t get into and enjoy (and thus left them sitting on my shelf for almost a year before calling it done). This book promises a nice mix of stories, hot-tips and advice to keep you on your footballing toes. For me though it ended up just being more ‘believe in yourself’ advice. I really wanted to like it! I felt sure that I’d enjoy it – I absolutely think that young people need more support to become themselves. The big print text and shoutouts didn’t work for me as I’d much prefer to read a bit more dense text. I think I’ll give it to my local teenage reader and see what she thinks of it. Ultimately though, I think it’s destined to leave my house.

Pan Macmillan | 26 July 2022 | AU$19.99 | paperback

Review: Kirstin Ferguson – Head and Heart (S)

Head and Heart: The Art of Modern Leadership
Kirstin Ferguson

“Leadership is simply a series of moments and every moment gives you the opportunity to leave a positive legacy for those you lead. In this ground-breaking book, award-winning leadership expert and business leader Kirstin Ferguson has written a much needed practical guide for every modern leader. Whether you are the head of one of the largest companies in the world, supervising a small team or guiding your family, it will be your ability to integrate your head and heart that will influence your success in leading others and navigating our complex world.”

This book is very slow. It spends a good chunk of the start of the book “rethinking leadership” in a modern way. Although I agree that some leaders do need to rethink how they lead, the people that have picked up this book would already agree with the title and modern leadership and do not need to be convinced.

The author’s writing of convincing the reader of modern leadership isn’t really convincing. It makes references to all people who can be leaders even in small ways or as parents. I don’t disagree with this, but I don’t think that it needs to be repeated throughout the book. Each of the eight trait chapters doesn’t explain anything tangible a leader could do to improve that area of themselves.

The examples provided have no depth. They are generic and basically say this person uses their head or heart, with no depth of exactly what they did and how they did it. I also did the test and did not find it helpful at all. It is hard enough to judge yourself but it’s particularly hard when the questions are direct and not in any context such as “Am I very aware of my limitations”. I also feel that the trait “perspective” should be a heart trait as it relates to empathy, but the author has it as a head trait.

Overall, don’t waste your time on this book. It should be titled “anyone can be a leader” as that’s the only point the author has and doesn’t get further than that.The test is like reading a horoscope. You can read whatever you want out of it. I finished it out of duty, but this is only one star from me.

Penguin | 31st January 2023 | AU$34.99 | paperback

Review: James Clear – Atomic Habits (S)

Atomic Habits
An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones
James Clear

“People think when you want to change your life, you need to think big. But world-renowned habits expert James Clear has discovered another way. He knows that real change comes from the compound effect of hundreds of small decisions โ€“ doing two push-ups a day, waking up five minutes early, or holding a single short phone call… These small changes will have a revolutionary effect on your career, your relationships, and your life.”

This book really dives into all the insights of habits and leaves pretty much nothing out. It gives an in depth understanding of how habits are formed and how to start new habits. My only downside was that it had a lot of tips to create new habits but not a lot on changing old ones.

It has a summary page after every chapter – which has at least twice as many on the creating a good habit side then it does breaking an old. The chapter summaries are great to refer back to and the examples throughout explain each concept thoroughly. I would have perhaps liked to see the same example for each step to get more of an idea of how they stack together but otherwise the variety of examples were good.

I loved the advanced tactics section at the end which both summarizes and adds to the book, rather than just the 4 laws and then a conclusion. Overall I would recommend it to someone wanting to change their life by starting a new habit. As this book says it doesn’t need to be a massive change, but an atomic small habit. This is the only book on ‘habits’ you should read. 4 stars from me.

Review: Wendy Mitchell – What I Wish People Knew About Dementia

What I Wish People Knew About Dementia
Wendy Mitchell

“When Wendy Mitchell was diagnosed with young-onset dementia at the age of fifty-eight, her brain was overwhelmed with images of the last stages of the disease – those familiar tropes, shortcuts and clichรฉs that we are fed by the media, or even our own health professionals. Wise, practical and life affirming, What I Wish People Knew About Dementia combines anecdotes, research and Wendy Mitchell’s own brilliant wit and wisdom to tell readers exactly what she wishes they knew about dementia.”

I’d recommend this book to basically everyone, regardless of whether they have a family history of dementia or whether they’ve barely heard of the condition. It’s compassionate and sensible, and filled with ways to help people understand dementia rather than just judging someone by it.

I need to get my hands on Wendy’s first book. You certainly don’t need to have read that one to understand this one, but Wendy’s accessible writing and friendly (and matter-the-fact) tone makes me want to read more of her work. I hope that she continues to write while she is still able. I’m also now following her blog.

My wife and I joke that I have to get dementia first – because I’m the person that hates telling stories more than once. Also, I’d love to be able to read all my books again for the first time. However, the way that Wendy illuminates the REAL advantages and disadvantages of living with dementia lets me think differently. Most people no doubt have a stereotyped image of what a ‘person with dementia’ looks like or acts like, but the reality is that it can be very different for every person – and that progression of the disease is variable too.

I wish I had had this book 10 years ago when my grandmother developed dementia. I found myself often confused and scared because I didn’t know what to expect. Although we laughed about the fact she put a wheat heat bag into the microwave for 90 minutes instead of 90 seconds, it was actually kind of terrifying to know that the house easily could have burnt down.

This was an excellent non-fiction book that I had to read in stages to get the most out of it. It will get pride of place in my new non-fiction bookshelf, and it’ll be a book I recommend to anyone and everyone who shows a passing interest in

Bloomsbury | 1 February 2022 | AU$26.99 | paperback

Review: Sarah Liu – The World We See (S)

The World We See
Leadership Lessons From Australia’s Iconic Change Makers
Sarah Liu

“The World We See is not just a compilation of leadership insights from 30 iconic Australian leaders, but a collective declaration that we will create a world where gender parity is not a dream, but a reality. In this book, female and male leaders share their life lessons and vision for a better tomorrow where every single one of us, regardless of gender, can rise up to get us one step closer to the world we envision.”

Suzi picked this book up from the library, so the following review is hers. I was after a book that wasn’t theory based for a change, and had more real life examples and stories to learn from. he title misled me, sadly. “Leadership lessons from Australia’s iconic change makers” – from this, I really expected actual lessons, stories and examples. However, what I received was 2-3 pages from each leader of wishy washy, meant to be inspiring and motivating, crap. This was the type of motivating crap that says “lighten up” or “the measure of success must be yours” or “failure isn’t falling down, it’s remaining where you’ve fallen”. This was paired with a quote on a coloured background page in between each leader’s lesson. If I wanted motivational sentences, I’d read ‘The Secret’!

To top it off, the whole book is also about gender inequality, and is aimed to be motivating to women in the workforce. I don’t have a problem with this being mentioned, but it felt like every leader had to say something empowering to women in their 3 page lesson, which was a waste and not necessary. This also included males saying they are open to women in the workforce – I bloody well hope so! I personally don’t feel that women need anymore empowering or motivating than men, and if they do they aren’t going to get it from this book. Everyone is equal, end of discussion. Gender diversity doesn’t need to be made into a big deal. Maybe it’s just my industry, but I work with more women than men, including women in high level roles, so I don’t see it as an issue.

Overall, what I got out of this book was nothing. It was a waste of my time. I felt that the leaders included could have used their few pages better to tell an actual story with a leadership lesson in it. Not fluff with coloured backgrounded quoted pages that can be found on the internet. I didn’t finish reading it. It might be non-fiction and I don’t have to rate it, but it’s hardly worth a single star.

Review: Anita Vandyke – A Zero Waste Family in Thirty Days

A Zero Waste Family in Thirty Days
Anita Vandyke

“As parents we are constantly juggling the needs of children, work, chores and money. This book is not designed to add to the guilt that we already feel. Itโ€™s about showing how, by applying zero waste and minimalist principles, being an eco-parent doesnโ€™t have to be difficult, and that by making small changes as a family we can make a big difference to our world for our children and future generations.”

This nugget of a book takes each element of family life and breaks it down into how you can change the way you think about waste. It is basically essential that you have children to be thought of as a ‘family’ here. I think this book is best aimed at families with young(er) children, although it does have some hints about waste for teenagers. I think that if you actually sat down and tried to turn into a zero waste family in only 30 days, you’re going to feel overwhelmed by it all, despite Anita’s book being “gentle”.

It’s hard not to be intimidated by Anita’s qualifications – she’s literally a rocket scientist (read: engineer) and medical doctor (read: GP). It’s enlightening then that someone so smart could struggle with waste too, and that might be the thing that gets some people into thinking about waste. I think that being zero waste is very hard to do in the current climate, particularly if you are someone who relies on life-saving medications (like me!). We should all be aiming for minimal waste, and this book is going to give some suggestions that might be new to all but the hardest hard-core zero wasters out there.

I’ve been marking Masters of Public Health essays on the impact of climate change on health. They’re all fascinating and thought-provoking so maybe I wasn’t reading this book in the right context. I mainly skimmed this book because I’d like to hope that I do many of these things already.

Are you feeling inspired to take on your waste? Or maybe you need a little more encouragement – you might look for a personal story in Our House is on Fire or more practical suggestions in Quitting Plastic. I also received What a Waste (DK) almost a year ago, but I can’t seem to find the review I did…

Anyway, plenty of quality reading out there, and if you’re hesitant to buy a real paper book (I just can’t give them up, personally), A Zero Waste Family is available in an ebook copy. I also did a bit of research into what the FSC logo next to the ISBN means – “the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) logo… [assures] that… it is made with, or contains, forest-based materials from FSC-certified forests or reclaimed sources.” The four largest UK book publishers, Hachette, Penguin Random House, HarperCollins and Pan Macmillan all hold FSC Chain of Custody certification.

This book is being released just in time for Christmas, and at $19.99 it’s going to fit right into a Kris-Kringle or Secret Santa present draw. I probably wouldn’t just hand it to any family member – they might think you are judging their waste habits. But if there’s someone who has expressed interest in the past (or even just takes a KeepCup with them for coffee), this could be a great gift to give.

Penguin Random House | 1st December 2020 | AU$19.99 | paperback

Review: Anna Blackie – How to Adult

How to Adult
Anna Blackie

“This is the ultimate guide to all of the things a fully functioning adult should know to survive in the big scary world. Packed with sage advice from a real-life hopeless millennial, this book will keep you from starvation, make folding fitted sheets a reality, and teach you to look like a real professional adult when youโ€™re actually just an incompetent trash human. Adulting goals AF.”

It’s really sad that some people need this book to function. Google has (almost) all the answers after all. This is a very accessible book, but I would hope that most people are past the level of knowledge offered here. If you’re not sure how to boil an egg or something, wouldn’t you just google it?

I’m not sure that this book is going to help you ‘not [be] a trash human’. I’m pretty sure you can be a horrible person and also still master the basics of becoming an adult.

The most entertaining part of this book is the chapter headings eg. “Budgeting: Because lottery tickets are not a financial plan”! Yes, this is true, and some people might need this.ย If anything, I think the most important part of this novel is about money. It’s hard to find a reputable source out there about money, and I don’t think nearly enough teaching about money is done in schools / by parents. If you only read one chapter, let it be that one.

I’d buy this as a tongue in cheek book for someone who is really well put together, or unironically for someone really derpy in my life. Maybe as an 18th birthday gift? There’s nothing like this book, but I’m not sure that it was really a gap that needed to be filled in this way, at least.

Allen & Unwin | 7th January 2020 | AU$24.99 | hardcover

Review: Rachel Carlton Abrams – bodywise

Rachel Carlton Abrams

Do you suffer from Chronic Body Depletion? If you suffer from unexplained tiredness, or are just feeling generally lackluster then bodywise could help you get the right help – if you are a woman.

I should have really enjoyed this book, but I sadly didn’t. What I mainly felt was a sense of envy that the case studies within the book had contact with such a fantastic, holistic MD. I am very grateful for the medical facilities in Australia, and I understand the importance of funneling resources, but the system sometimes makes it difficult to reach the professional you need.

As always, I enjoyed the case study and story aspects of this non-fiction work. The rest of the book was ok, again, I just found it difficult to associate it with my own life. I feel like saying the line ‘but who has time for that?’ but isn’t that the point? If you take anything away from this novel, it is to be aware of your body and what YOUR body needs.

I left this book behind while I was overseas in a household of alternative lifestyle friends. I think the next reader will pull useful things from it.

Pan Macmillan | 1st January 2018 | AU$29.99 | paperback

Review: Brooke McAlary – SLOW

Brooke McAlary

When Brooke realised there wasn’t enough time in the day she didn’t start staying up later! Instead she chose to cut down on the number of things she did in her life. That start with saying ‘no’ and progressed to having the time to appreciate the important things in her life.

I’ve spent the last 4.5 years (let’s be honest, probably my whole life) being completely stressed out by completing my PhD (you may now call me Dr. Rose). Now I have a summer ahead of me that seems pretty empty at this point. I think I’ll be practicing Slow living without trying. It’s sort of regressing to an old style of living, which I have always supported. If you enjoy making your own bread, take the moment to do so, and enjoy the process. Be mindful the whole time.

I’m a bit more of a minimalist and an environmentalist (Zero Waster) than your average person (also a FI:RE dabbler). That honestly means that I couldn’t finish reading this book. But! I have written down some major takeways from this. The one that resonated the most with me is knowing how to say ‘no’. I admit I’m not very good at it, because my high-school principal’s motto was ‘Make the most of your opportunities’, as so far that’s stood me in good stead. But it leads to my plate being overfull, and stressing myself out.

This book calls for introflection, but in a more palatable manner than How to be Bored and How to Think. It could be a suitable Christmas present unless a person has already expressed an interest in cutting down. You have to be ready for the book’s message, because it’s a little more hardcore, and yet easier to manage, than Mindfulness.

Allen & Unwin | 5th September 2017 | AU $32.99 | hardback

Review: How to Think & How to be Bored

How to books:ย How to Think by Rick Norwoodย andย How to Be Bored by Eva Hoffman

How to Think

I started reading this book many times, but despite it being a tiny little volume I couldn’t get into it. I wanted to read it in little chunks to properly apply what the author had to offer, but I could never return to it.

Now that I am Bullet Journalling (or attempting to), perhaps I could use some of the exercises or write them down somewhere for future use. I actually have time to promote thinking now! And some down time for my brain to want to feel like thinking about things other than science.


How to be Bored

The author of The Secret has written this tiny little novel for ‘The School of Life’. I’m sorry, but thinking about The Secret made me not want to even approach this book. I’m all about positive thinking, but without making the appropriate concrete steps towards you goals, you can’t just expect them to fall in your lap. For example, if you envisage yourself getting a pay rise, but don’t actually ask for it at your annual review, it’s highly unlikely you are going to get one! Or hoping to win the lottery when you didn’t buy a ticket.


I think I also struggled with these books because I’d like to think that I can think and that I know how to be bored. I’d like to spend more time away from my phone and laptop, and I think that’s possible now that I don’t have to be writing all the time! After I finish catching up on the 13 or so reviews that need to be written, maybe I’ll be able to go back to guilt-free reading.

Maybe I will give these as Christmas presents this year and hope that someone else likes them! Or maybe they too will pass them on. These would make good Kris Kringle gifts, rather than the all too common candles/hand cream/useless gadget that are usually on offer. Non-fiction reading doesn’t force me to give stars to things, so I’m just not going to try.