Stolen Focus by Johann Hari (Bloomsbury, $25)
Do you wake up in the morning and reach for your phone? Unconsciously caress it as it sits on the arm of your sofa at night? Do you want to sever ties and rediscover hobbies and what human interaction feels like? Then you need Johann Hari’s ‘life-changing bestseller’ Stolen Focus. It’s written perfectly for the attention-challenged, it moves at a thrilling pace with astounding science behind every “cause” for the demise of our attention. From the tech designers who have changed our behaviour and trained our minds to crave frequent rewards (who won’t let their own children use the apps because they’re so aware of the havoc they cause on our brains), to the ethics of living in an age of surveillance capitalism and how Facebook loses money for every second we’re not scrolling. Plus, he talks about ADHD and the problems with the western world’s view of education and the structure of schooling. Hari detangles the web of deception that is the attention economy and Big Tech so we, the plebs, can understand what’s happening to us as individuals and as a society take back control. It sounds dark but it’s actually incredibly hopeful. I’ve since removed emails and Instagram from my phone, replaced the time I needlessly scrolled with a walk outside, and have seen a noticeable change in my attention. The bottomline is there needs to be a collective change so I’m going to need you to read this book and pass it on.
Flit the Fantail and the Matariki Map by Kat Quin (Scholastic, $22)
Flit the fantail sits on his branch at night and watches the moon wondering how he can capture it to light up his nest. He sets off at night to find it and bumps into his friend Keri the kiwi who offers to help. After trying to lift each other up to reach the moon they quickly huddle together and realise they’re lost. As this is a book for 2-6 year olds I’m hoping you don’t mind a spoiler: *spoiler alert* wise Ruru swoops in to show them the sparkling Matariki constellation and how they can use the stars to navigate their way home. It’s a truly beautiful story to read aloud with a toddler. Reading it with Ralph, my two year old son, is akin to having a warm blanket wrapped around my shoulders as, along with Flit, he counts the matariki stars “tahi, rua, toru…”. Kat Quin's writing echoes the movement of a fan tail as the sibilance and the combination of snappy and long sentences create a fluttery feel as you read. She’s a brilliant children’s author. You might recognise her from bestselling books such as Kuwi the Kiwi and the Kuwi & Friends Māori Picture Dictionary, all of which make perfect presents and this one is no exception. The Māori edition is also available, Ko Flit, te Tirairaka me te Mahere Matariki.
Surviving to Drive by Guenther Steiner (Penguin, $40)
Opening in 2021 at the Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi, the characterful Haas Formula One Team principle Guenther Steiner begins this chapter with a “thank fok that seasons is over” and “I don’t drink very much but this year I’ve been tempted to take it up professionally”. This is an entertaining read. If you’ve been keeping up with Drive to Survive on Netflix you will devour Surviving to Drive, a comedic and dramatic exposé of a full Formula 1 season from the perspective of a wonderful Italian. Buckle in. Steiner’s going to take you deep into his day-to-day on the racing calendar from the hiring and firing to the track days, the crashes, the wins and the losses. You grasp his frustrations and joys as if he’s standing right next to you. Travel with him to France at the Circuit Paul Ricard, where he decries that “Lady Luck didn’t just desert me so far this weekend. She shat in my sock drawer before she left,” through to Hungary, Japan, Brazil and beyond. His enviable career in motorsport, having worked in rallying before he knew how to be a mechanic to working his way up at Haas and owning ranches in Italy and America, will leave you feeling like an almighty underachiever. He is undeniably brilliant.
My Husband by Maud Ventura (Hutchinson Heinemann, $35, pub. 25th July)
This is the kind of French psychological thriller that will keep you glued to your chair. My Husband is fuelled by domestic unease with a haunting portrayal of how a wife’s infatuation with her husband, after 15 years of marriage, went too far. The wife is beautiful, a success in her own right with a career and two children. But she meticulously, obsessively plans every encounter with her husband from breakfast to when she undresses and gets into bed next to him at night. She sets up little tests throughout the day to see if their love is still strong, and makes it obvious to her children what a hindrance they are to her and her husband's love-life. However, if the encounter doesn’t go her way she writes about it in one of her colour coded journals and pairs it with a gruelling, ridiculing punishment. For fans of Gillian Flynn’s Girl on the Train, this novel ends in the most unpredictable and least expected way and is so brilliant it will take a few minutes to recover. My Husband, published 25th July, is as funny as it is twisted and the translation from French gives it a certain je ne sais quois - it’s sultry, suspenseful and seductive. It will certainly make you think twice before rolling over at night and not saying goodnight to your partner.