We’ve been reading an array of great books in the Cream office lately. As these began stacking up on the desk, we noticed the spines pressed against one another started to resemble a rainbow. And since it’s Pride Week in Perth, given the fact most of these books are thick with queer content, we figured we’d review them all here. Happy Pride, and happy reading!
Reviews by Antonino Tati and Lisa Andrews
Try Hard: Tales from the Life of a Needy Overachiever
(Simon & Schuster Australia)
From missing out on the top prize in Australian Idol to selling out shows across the country with her in-yer-face one-woman show to becoming a champion of riot grrrrls the world over, Em Rusciano is one immense talent. She is singer/comedienne/politico/presenter/fabulous cabaret act all in one. Now she can add ‘author’ to her long list of achievements. Try Hard: Tales from the Life of a Needy Overachiever is a book packed with hilarious anecdotes from a girl who has spent the greater part of her life soaking up pop culture from the comfort of her couch. Recollections of forcing family members to enjoy her rock eisteddfod-like performances as a kid should see Gen-X-ers relating well, and her raucous stories of life on the road as an adult performer will make you wish you were a fly on the wall when she’s touring. As for her swift entry into the world of radio, the hell she endured during her time there and her heroic exit, it makes for one of the most awe-inspiring chapters you’ll read about a media personality in this country (and yes, we do mean genuine personality). There’s one story in here that sums up the gusto of Em Rusciano best: the time she auditioned as a kid for the lead part in a musical and kept giving her all during recital even while the piano player was having a mini stroke. Because that, my friends, is the sign of an artist who insists the show must go on. Of course she’s gotten more sensitive with age. But still funny and inspiring as ever.
A Mindfulness Guide for the Frazzled
If you think actors have a tough time escaping being typecast, consider the challenge poor comedians face. Ruby Wax is most famous for her marvellous wit, providing comic relief for fans worldwide through her co-scripting of sitcoms such as Absolutely Fabulous, Girls On Top, and her own string of talk shows. But away from the laughs, there is a serious side to Ruby, and she expresses this well in this nifty guide to mindfulness. Yes, it’s the buzzword you’ve been reading a lot about lately, with folks suggesting loop-the-loop theses on how to break away from all the information overload that surrounds us – only to add to it with their redundant waffling. Wax, on the other hand, sums up the issues nicely, providing a good starting point to settling an overworked mind, and providing tips on how to maintain positive plateau thinking. And of course there are a few jokes thrown in from the woman who delivers irony and sarcasm best, and we love that aspect, too.
Ariana Klepac & Pete Smith
How To Get Ahead In Business With Office Cat
(Smith Street Books)
If you’re a cat lover – particularly to the point of ‘mad cat lady’ – you’ll love this camp guide to better business, presented from the perspective of a moggie. At times, the puns in How To Get Ahead In Business With Office Cat might be packed in too tightly, like a can of sardines, but for the most part it makes for darn-right funny reading. Even if you detest cats, you’ll get joy from the jokes in this book which, more than praising modern business practises, pretty much takes the piss out of them. The purr-fect stocking stuffer.
It Gets Worse: A Collection Of Essays
Shane Dawson became an author almost by chance. Really, he was happy just speaking his mind via an online blog – telling of the typical growing pains of an everyday American kid. But when his online fan-base swelled into the tens of thousands, publishers figured it time to hand him a book deal. His first book, I Hate Myselfie – tragic pun aside – saw Gen-Y-ers reading it in droves. Fans practically felt they grew up with the guy. His latest collection of essays goes even deeper into the abyss that is adolescence and (now) young adulthood, with Dawson recounting everything from cult-like Christian after-school activities to coming to terms with his bisexuality. It’s like reading Augusten Burroughs but through an Instagram filter.
Nick Earls & Terry Whidborne
Word Hunters: Top Secret Files
(University of Queensland Press)
From award-winning author Nick Earls and illustrator Terry Whidborne comes a cute little book that ought to appeal to word lovers. In one reading session you’ll learn that the word ‘tennis’ stems from when the game was played using hands, not rackets, adopting the Latin word for ‘hold’ or ‘receive’, being ‘tenez’; that the word ‘guy’ was first used at around the year 600, earned a negative connotation when Guy Fawkes fell into disrepute in 1605, and went on to mean ‘fellow’ in 1847 (by the time Americans started using it); and that ‘callipygian’ and ‘fudgel’ were once commonly used words in the English language, respectively meaning ‘having attractively shaped buttocks’ and ‘creating the impression of doing work whilst actually doing nothing’. Fascinating stuff, even if a lot of it does boil down to trivial semantics. Buy it for your writer-aspiring buddy.
Four Meditations on Happiness
Self-help books can often read as being so wet, you start to feel the pages crumbling from moisture. A lot of what we read in this department is so darn obvious, we end up feeling angst towards authors like Rhonda Byrne whose ‘glass is half-full’ preaching should have been obvious to us from the get-go. Michael Hampe takes a different stance, dissecting four essays that examine plausible theories of happiness and sifting these down to a solution of semi-self-actualising bliss. Can one achieve a truly happy and perfect life? Well, no, because there are always going to be tough times throughout. But a guide like this does help you notice when the low times are taking over and helps you dig your way out of them.
What Your Dog Says About You
(Smith Street Books)
There’s a theory that dogs quickly take on the personality (and sometimes, spookily enough, aesthetics) of their owners. That, or owners subconsciously pick canines that resemble them. Liam Ryan puts these theories to the test by analysing various breeds of dog and how these match their owners’ personalities. Sure, some of the connotations are obvious, such as corgis oozing aristocratic pretension and English bulldogs being sidekicks to stoic folk, but then tar-brushing is really what this book is about. If you own a pooch and know lots of other people whose best friends walk on fours, you’ll get plenty of fun out of this beautifully-illustrated manual.
Taking Care of Yourself and Your Family
Mental health is a big issue. Always has been. And particularly in communities within the LGBTIQ umbrella. Being queer isn’t an easy thing at first, especially if you’ve been brought up in a conventional family. Some individuals go through small bouts of depression, while for others the lows are more serious, perhaps even leading to thoughts of suicide. And still others go through the nightmare of psychoses such as paranoia and schizophrenia. Taking Care of Yourself and Your Family takes the subject of mental illness seriously but offers soft suggestions to coping with illness and to bettering general wellbeing. Best of all, it’s free and available through the Beyond Blue initiative.
Prince: Purple Reign
(Orion Books / Hachette Australia)
In August, what was possibly the first postmortem biography on Prince was published by Hachette Australia. The book delves behind the purple curtain and goes to Narnia-type lengths to tell of Prince’s journey from colourful but traumatic childhood to his meteoric rise to superstardom, the impact he’s had on pop culture, and of course the unexpected death we all grieved over on April 21, 2016. The months may have plodded by (“It’s been 7 hours and 208 days since you took our love away”) but we’ve passed some of that time reminiscing what great music the man made. While Purple Reign could have been a rushed-out biography prone to error and simply keen on cashing in, instead it tells it like a genuine rags-to-riches-to-tragedy tale. The stuff, that is, of musical legend.
The Book of Love Symbols
This is one of the sweetest books you’ll find on the bittersweet subject of love. It looks at the four-letter word that still has philosophers and the rest of us in a tizz, millennia on from when the subject was first contemplated by our primitive predecessors. The Book of Love Symbols explores various worlds of lovers’ lore, looking first at chivalry and old-fashioned notions of romance, touching on fertility, and moving into deeper territory such as divination and the use of aphrodisiacs. A gorgeous little gift for Christmas, for Valentines, for any time of the year, really.