Dear readers,

Welcome to Booklore, our weekly collection of books worth reading; films and television shows worth watching; art worth feasting your eyes on; and podcasts and albums worth your ear time.

Sian, bookseller at Harry Hartog Bondi, is reading “Dear Leader,” by Jang Jin-Sung; and swooning over a young Michael Cera with Arrested Development.

From piano prodigy to national poet and North Korean psychological warfare officer to South Korean counter-espionage agent, Jang Jin-Sung’s autobiography is as heart-stopping as it is life-changing. Finally unveiling the fears, desires, worries, and sacrifices of a people that the West never sees, he explores the lives of the wealthy and the worshipful, the powerful and the poor in North Korea. Taking us with him on his defector’s journey from high-ranking patriot to one of the nations Most Wanted traitors, Jin-Sung recounts experiences of frozen hells, runs from Chinese repatriation traps, and an official target on his back that threatens to send him to the North Korean gulag, yet none so heart-breaking as his discoveries of the horrors that face North-Korean female defectors especially. This book is my favourite for a reason: it provides a rare perspective of North Korea that does not jump straight to demonising the whole hermit state. Instead, Jin-Sung lovingly imbues soul and sorrow into the forgotten people he once called his own. 


Four adult siblings squabbling over who will inherit their father’s construction company, a son who is love with his cousin, a never-nude son-in-law experiencing a mid-life crisis with a SMILE, a brilliantly narcissistic grandmother who pays her children to bid on her at charity balls, and the patriarch businessman grandfather who escaped to Mexico after accidentally building houses in Iraq for Saddam Hussein. What more do you need?


Megan, manager of Harry Hartog Narellan, is revisiting “Percy Jackson and the Lightening Thief” series by Rick Riordain; watching “Another Period” (“Keeping Up with the Kardashians meets Downton Abbey in the Comedy Central original.”); and catching up on history lessons with the “Stuff You Missed in History Class” podcast.

This recommendation might be an obvious one, but it’s one I always come back to. Percy Jackson is a relatable hero, someone who questions why everything is happening to him. He’s a demigod so, of course, his life gets crazier than any of ours, but it’s the small interactions he has with his friends and family that make him so loveable. He has a quirky sense of humour, is out of his depth in every situation, but he fakes it till he makes it through to the next scary creature he encounters. I relate to this so much, as I’m sure most people would: sometimes you just need to make it to the next scary day and the next and someday you will look back on your life and find out you’re the hero of the story.
 

 


Rosie, bookseller at Harry Hartog Warringah, is on the edge of her seat with “A Thousand Pieces of You,” by Claudia Gray; on another planet with the Netflix series “Lost in Space” (“a very cool version of the Swiss Family Robinson except set in space.”); and living slowly with “The Slow Home” podcast.

If you are after a book that will keep you on the edge of your seat, look no further. This entire series is full of twists and turns that you won't see coming. Marguerite's parents are ground breaking physicists who have invented a device, called the Firebird, which allows people to travel through the multiverse to alternate dimensions. After her father goes missing, Marguerite finds herself on an inter-dimensional mission to chase the man she think killed her father, jumping through universes to find herself inhabiting different versions of herself. Marguerite finds her fate intertwines with the same two men in every dimension - her parents’ research assistants in her own world, and thus comes to wonder if her destiny is inescapable. One of the most fast-paced series I have read in a long time, truly binge-worthy!

 


Ben, bookseller at Harry Hartog Warringah, is being punched in the gut by Max Porter’s stunning debut, “Grief is the Thing with Feathers.”

All good novellas have to pack a punch, but this particular one hit me straight in the guts and I am still recovering from it a month after reading. Part prose, part poetry, part essay, Porter plays ingeniously with the form and features of storytelling to impart an insightful commentary on death and the process of grieving. Intense emotion is weaved across the 100 pages encapsulating the aftermath of a family whose mother/wife has suddenly died. The mythological enigma of 'crow', a manifestation of grief and all that comes with it, comes to stay with the family 'until they no longer need him'. Read it and thank me later, you won't be left with dry eyes. I would also recommend pairing it with Ted Hughes' 'Crow' to fully grasp the depth of the intertextual references.

 


Bibi, bookseller at Harry Hartog Warringah, is in love with Kit de Waal’s novel “My Name is Leon.”

I fell in love with this thought provoking novel from the very first page.  The story is told through the eyes of the keenly observant Leon, an eight year old boy who ends up in the British foster care system in the early 1980s.  Leon's mum, Carol, has just had a baby and it is quickly evident that she is not capable of caring for herself, let alone her two sons. The brothers have different and absent fathers.  Carol and baby Jake are white.  Leon is mixed race. The level of insight and authenticity as Leon navigates the foster care world is simply extraordinary. Themes of racial injustice, of carefulness and carelessness, the deep pain of loss, the search for love and belonging permeate this story.  It is so well crafted that you can't help but care.  I couldn't put it down.

 


Lizzy, bookseller at Harry Hartog Woden, is reading “The Wolf,” by Leo Carew.

"The Wolf" is a vibrant and descriptive historical fantasy that seems to draw inspiration from many facets of European history, including Arthurian and Norse legends as well as Greek mythology. This tale depicts the sudden elevation of a young man named Roper to the position of Black Lord of the Anakim after the sudden death of his father in the war against the Sutherners. However, as soon as the young Lord rises to his position it becomes clear that he faces a powerful enemy from within his own country, as well as a devious and ambitious Sutherner who seeks to win power and favour by taking the North as his own. What follows is an extraordinarily detailed and imaginative exploration of politics, power and principles as the characters overcome war and civil strife. This novel will have you questioning just how much you would risk and how many principles you would compromise to save the country you love. 

 


Amy, bookseller at Harry Hartog Green Hills, is reading “Women,” by Chloe Caldwell.

Have you ever read a book and experienced such an emotional journey that you forgot reality existed, then looked up and realised the world is still turning and the clock is still ticking? That’s what happened to me when I read “Women” by Chloe Caldwell. This novella can easily be read in one sitting, not just for its length, but also because of its eloquent yet brutally honest voice. Reading “Women” is as addictive as the tumultuous love affair between the two main characters. It feels kind of like scrolling through Instagram for too many hours and wondering where the day went. The narrator, a straight woman, moves to the city and falls in love with Finn – an older, experienced lesbian with a long-term girlfriend. Both characters constantly test the boundaries of their toxic, illicit and secret relationship.Millennial American writer Chloe Caldwell is best known for her non-fiction essay collections (“Legs Get Led Astray” and "I’ll Tell You In Person”), and “Women” is her first attempt at writing fiction. “” is pretty experimental, but so easy to read. It’s written in short chapters, bursts of memory, and there are very few characters, plus a main character with no name. You really don’t notice these things, because you’re so consumed by the story itself.

I would recommend Women to anyone looking for a realistic portrayal of 21st century relationships, and who loves TV shows like Girls, Love and Skins.