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Book picks: These bestsellers will keep you entertained in lockdown

reviews May 06, 2020

For when streaming doesn't quite cut it. Plus, shipping is free over $39.

Normal People by Sally Rooney

The TV series has just dropped on Stan and if you're wondering whether the original book version of Normal People is as compelling, the answer is yes. As the title suggests, the novel follows the lives of two pretty normal teenagers as they move from their hometown to Trinity College in Dublin. It explores their relationship as their lives intersect and diverge. Marianne is an intellectual and awkward teen – the type who becomes popular at university – while Connell, well-liked during high school, struggles to find his footing in the posh, cosmopolitan crowd of his classmates. The beauty of the book comes from Rooney's unerring ability to capture the psychology of the two main characters and her frank and precise prose.

Boy Swallows Universe by Trent Dalton

A coming-of-age tale about a boy with drug-dealing parents growing up in violence may sound like hard going, but Trent Dalton's Boy Swallows Universe is poetic, entertaining and at times downright funny. Set in Brisbane in the '80s, it's ultimately a story about friendship, family and love. Be warned though – there are a few grisly scenes that some may find confronting.

Simple by Yotam Ottolenghi

This one is a cookbook, but it'll keep you entertained in the kitchen. Or, you know, on the couch with a cup of tea as you flip through mouthwatering images of pomegranates scattered on cauliflower and dream about your next dinner party, whenever that may be. The recipes here have all the signatures of the famous Israel-English chef – bold flavours, a Mediterranean influence and vegetables as the centrepiece. Simple isn't just the name of the book either, it's a way of categorising the recipes. S is for recipes that take less than 30 minutes; I is for 10 ingredients or less; M stands for make ahead; P for recipes using pantry staples; L is for the lazy cook; and E for recipes easier than you think. (Take these categories with a grain of salt – they may only apply if you're a skilled and seasoned chef.)

Challenge Accepted! by Celeste Barber

A memoir by one of Australia's most-loved comedy stars was always going to be comedy gold and Challenge Accepted! delivers. It's easy to read and spit-out-your-coffee hilarious while being down-to-earth and honest. In it, Celeste Barber covers the birth of her son, diet culture, celebrity and feminism, among other topics, with humour and empathy.

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

Where the Crawdads Sing combines the beauty of the natural world and a coming-of-age story with elements of love and murder to create a story that's sat on The New York Times Fiction Best Sellers list for almost a year. Kya, abandoned by her family and town, grows up alone in the marsh. She develops a relationship with a boy from town but when he's found dead, she's blamed for it. What makes the book gripping is the atmosphere that surrounds every scene, as well as descriptions of Kya's affinity with the land.

A Bigger Picture by Malcolm Turnbull  

Since 2013, Australia has had five prime ministers in a rollercoaster of political backstabbing, spills and chaos. A Bigger Picture provides Malcolm Turnbull's take on the events that eventually led to his ousting. Starting from his childhood, it outlines his journey from Sydney to Oxford, from law to working for Kerry Packer to merchant banking until he finally settles on politics. There are critical character assessments of his enemies (Tony Abbott is 'crazy' and Scott Morrison is a 'Machiavellian plotter’ in case you're wondering) and private conversations with colleagues. There are also glimpses that are poignant if brief, of the boy who would become the head of a nation. A must-read for fans of the former Prime Minister or Australian politics in general.

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Catherine Mah

Catherine likes to run, eat and read but not simultaneously. If you can't find her doing these things, she's most likely sleeping.