If You Liked The Handmaid’s Tale…

If You Liked the Handmaids Tale.. try reading...

If you enjoyed Season 1 of The Handmaid’s Tale, you may be interested in trying some of the following novels, tv series and films – many of which raise (still) relevant questions about personal agency, fertility and reproduction, and society (especially when it takes a dystopian turn).

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
Children of Men by P. D. James
Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula Le Guin
The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell
He, She and It by Marge Piercy
Parable of the Talents by Octavia Butler
The Testament of Jessie Lamb by Jane Rogers
The Gate to Women’s Country by Sherri S. Tepper
Into the Forest by Jean Hegland
The Awakening by Kate Chopin
The Natural Way of Things by Charlotte Wood
Exist West by Mohsin Hamid
The Road by Cormac McCarthy
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood
Humans created by Sam Vincent and Jonathan Brackley
Orphan Black created by John Fawcett and Graham Manson
Top of the Lake created by Jane Campion and Gerard Lee
Never Let Me Go directed by Mark Romanek
Children of Men directed by Alfonso Cuaron

Novels to try reading if you liked The Handmaids Tale

What is Bibliotherapy?

ways to read more

There can be an amazing solace in reading the right book at the right time, and bibliotherapy is both a formal and informal way to help readers find the stories or information they need during significant moments in their lives.

In a formal sense, bibliotherapy is a clinical practice that encourages healing through reading and reflection. Expressive therapies like bibliotherapy use the arts and value creative and imaginative processes as paths to healing. By carefully selecting reading materials that may help a client understand or solve an issue that they may be facing at a particular time, bibliotherapy practitioners offer options for personal reflection, assessment and growth.

In a more informal sense, bibliotherapy is what many of us do whenever we are feeling unsettled, sad, or confused. We reach for a read from our comfort shelf – the books that remind us who we are, and that reinforce our sense of self. New reading can also enrich our lives, providing us with much needed insight and inspiration.

Reading specialists like myself love nothing better than matching the right book with the right person at the right time. Not all readers are the same, and when helping someone work out what to read next, I like to understand the reader – what they like to read and why, and what they don’t like to read and why. I also like to understand if the reader is seeking a new perspective, revitalisation or a renewed sense of wonder, or comfort.

It’s also important to recognise that everyone’s reading choices are valid. There’s no point being snobby about what people read, and we all read for different reasons. I do like helping people read outside their comfort zones from time to time, however, and this is one of the fun challenges you face as a reading specialist or amateur bibliotherapist.

In an informal bibliotheraphy session, I might have a friendly conversation with you, and ask you some questions about your reading and where you are in your life. I may give you some instant recommendations on what to read next, and I may follow up with some suggestions by email after a bit of research or reflection. Because I’m not a psychologist or counsellor, I can’t help you with serious issues that may come up in our conversations, but I do have a great list of services staffed by professional and caring people that I can refer you to.

I’m an ‘expert reader’ at The Mudgee Readers’ Festival in August, in beautiful rural NSW. If you will be in Mudgee during the festival and are interested in having a one-on-one or small group conversation with me about reading, you can book in for a 15 minute bibliotherapy session on Saturday 12 August at Warbehr Design.  These sessions are free, but you must email info@mudgeereaders.com to book your 15 minute slot.

For the Full Festival Program, visit The Mudgee Readers’ Festival website.  The Festival runs from Thursday 10 August to Sunday 13 August, 2017.

Still on My To Read List for 2017

Still lots of books I didn’t get to, and I am ashamed to say some of them I have wanted to read since at least 2015!

Zero K by Don DeLillo
It’s sitting on my phone waiting to be read.  I should probably get myself a paperback.  An unread ebook is one way to immortality, I guess.

The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry
Victorian England, Naturalism.  I don’t know much about this book yet, but it popped up on lots of favourite lists at the end of 2016, and those two keywords are enough to pique my interest.

The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton
This seems like a logical next read after The Last Painting of Sara de Vos for anyone who wants more of the Dutch Golden Age.  I am hoping for Dorothy Dunnett meets A. S. Byatt.

The Girls by Emma Cline
Much anticipated in 2016, but didn’t really cross my radar or catch my interest at the time.  Now that I have read and loved Commonwealth, a dangerously edged tale of adolescence at the violent end of the 1960s sounds perfect.

A Place of Greater Safety by Hilary Mantel
To tie me over until The Mirror and the Light comes out, an epic French Revolution tale from a Booker Prize winner sounds wonderful.  Nobody makes historical figures quite so human or vulnerable as Hilary Mantel.

And the ones from last year that I didn’t make it to, but that are still high on my list…

The Wolf Border by Sarah Hall
A fictional account of the reintroduction of wild wolves in the UK? Wolves, English Gentry and Country Estates, Female Scientist Protagonist, Returning home to family ghosts? What’s still not to love? I don’t know why I haven’t got to this yet, but did make sure I set it for Book Clubs in 2017 (just to make sure I finally read it)

The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu
One of the most popular science fiction novels in China, and increasingly hyped now that it has been published and widely read in English.  I still hope that the Cultural Revolution background story for this novel will be the driver for some really serious political science fiction.

Best Reads of 2016: Not Actually 2016 Books

Three World War II novels, two modern classics, and one newish post civilisation novel (I can never get enough utopia/dystopia/post-apocalypse) rounded out my list of favourite not so new books read in 2016.

Life After Life and A God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson
(Kinokuniya)

California by Edan Lepucki
(Readings)

Crooked Heart by Lissa Evans
(Public Library)

High-Rise by J. G. Ballard
(Public Library)

Ripley Under Ground by Patricia Highsmith
(Public Library)

Best Fiction from 2016

2016 was extremely busy.  There was a brand new library that opened in May, and it definitely felt like work took over most of my life for the better part of the year.  I also went back to university and spent a lot of time reading for study rather than pleasure. And I (finally) got my drivers licence and started driving to and from work most days, which put an even larger dent in my leisure reading.

Goodbye reading on the bus! (but I have tried to ensure I have more time for reading at home and love a good cafe date with a book when I have a day off work).  There was a lot of comfort reading this year, and I discovered some wonderful new novels – especially Ann Patchett.

Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld
(Publisher Advance Copy)
A pitch-perfect reboot of Pride and Prejudice, in which the plural ways we can find love and happiness in the 21st century are celebrated.  I wrote a review of Eligible in March.

Commonwealth by Ann Patchett
(Public Library)
An intensely compassionate portrait of the many ways casual neglect and difficult circumstances impact a generation of children in one blended family.

The Last Painting of Sara de Vos by Dominic Smith
(Public Library)
An engrossing novel that bridges the historical and contemporary genres, connecting a female artist in the Dutch Golden Age with a female art forger in New York and Sydney 400 years later.

Crosstalk by Connie Willis
(Publisher Advance Copy)
A highly original and entertaining look at connection fatigue in our modern world.  A romance novel disguised as science fiction or a science fiction novel disguised as chick lit?  I wrote a review of Crosstalk in October.

Good on Paper by Rachel Cantor
(Public Library)
A quirky literary mystery, with many messy layers of personal complexity and a gorgeously casual narrative vernacular.  I loved the New York setting and all the nerdy Dante detail.

Honorable Mention:
Children of Earth and Sky by Guy Gavriel Kay
(Book Depository)
Not quite in my top five favourites as far as new releases go, and far from my favourite Kay, but any new novel by Guy Gavriel Kay is cause for for celebration.

If You Liked Westworld…

If you liked Westworld, try reading...

If you liked Westworld, try reading or watching...

If you are loving Westworld for its setting that on the surface seems historical and nostalgic, but is full of high level surveillance and subtle tinkering…  If you are enjoying Westworld for its portrayal of the gamification of both history and human experience, for the days that repeat endlessly, and the recursive moments and events that shield or ultimately expose glitches in the system, ghosts in the machine…  or if you are drawn in to the series for its constant questioning of what it means to be human, and how we measure our own humanity… you might like to try some of the following television, films and novels which explore similar themes.

Deadwood created by David Milch
Jurassic Park directed by Steven Spielberg
Bladerunner directed by Ridley Scott
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep by Philip K Dick
Ex Machina directed by Alex Garland
Humans created by Sam Vincent and Jonathan Brackley
The Company Series by Kage Baker
Cabin in the Woods directed by Drew Goddard
The Truman Show directed by Peter Weir
The Peripheral by William Gibson
Reamde by Neal Stephenson
Edge of Tomorrow directed by Doug Liman
Firefly created by Joss Whedon

Book Review: Crosstalk by Connie Willis

Crosstalk by Connie Willis
(Publisher Advance Copy)

A great new geeky romantic novel by Connie Willis, Crosstalk will appeal to lovers of Jennifer Crusie, Rainbow Rowell and Graeme Simsion

Readers of Jennifer Crusie, Rainbow Rowell and Graeme Simsion will likely enjoy Crosstalk, the latest romantic novel from the queen of humorous and entertaining Science Fiction, Connie Willis.

Briddie Flannigan works for a mobile phone company working on a big new release to rival Apple’s latest offering.  Simultaneously, her boyfriend Trent pops a very millennial question, asking her to join him in undertaking a neurological procedure that will bring them closer by allowing them to directly feel one another’s emotions.  When things go slightly awry with the procedure, Briddie must reevaluate many aspects of both her life and modern life in general, guided by an unlikely support team: scruffy and quirky anti hero C.B. Schwartz, a colleague of hers at the mobile phone company; and her precocious 9-year old niece Maeve.

One thing that has always simultaneously delighted and perplexed me about Connie Willis is her ability to have her finger on the  social pulse, while often discounting or neglecting crucial technological developments.  The absence of a portable phone system in Willis’s 2050 Oxford in Doomsday Book and To Say Nothing of the Dog is infuriating at times, but I also recognise that the grim chaos and confusion of Doomsday Book, and the extreme farce of To Say Nothing of the Dog couldn’t have happened without the plot device that the lack of mobile telephony enables.  Willis makes up for this technological oversight in Crosstalk by embracing the mobile phone trope, and ramping up connectivity to an unbearable level.  I don’t want to provide too many spoilers, but it is very fair to say that this is definitely a novel about connection fatigue.

And in the modern world, what better connection is there than love?  I have always adored Willis’s romantic subplots, as she has intelligent, self-possessed heroines and a gorgeous line of attractive anti-heroes.  Her romantic heroes are never alpha males, are often slightly bumbling and scruffy or socially inept, but reveal themselves to be sensitive, intelligent and have the kind of hidden depths and social intelligence you only encounter upon getting to know someone a little better.  Crosstalk explores not only connection fatigue, but also romance fatigue in general. In many ways, this is a romance novel for readers who are sick of or suspicious of romance.

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