The pool at Como Shambhala Retreat at Castello Del Nero in Tuscany, Italy. Photography courtesy of Como Hotels.
For most Australians, wandering the gardens of a Tuscan estate or taking a seaplane to a pristine Maldivian atoll has been nothing more than a daydream for the past two years. The closure of international and state borders have quashed any travels plans, just when they were needed most. But with international flights on offer once again, the thought of a holiday is slowly becoming a reality. And with one in five Australians reporting high anxiety and stress during the never-ending lockdowns, a holiday with a serving of wellness seems like a logical decision for 2022.
Not surprisingly, the global wellness sector was already a thriving industry before the pandemic but it is now predicted to be worth nearly $1 trillion by the end of next year. It’s little wonder then that luxury hotels have keyed into the global climate and have embraced wellness as part of their offerings.
Beyond visions of sun salutations and transcendental meditation, these hotels are providing health and spa treatments that together aim to enhance energy, restore health, and reduce stress. Complemented by stunning settings and gourmet cuisine developed by accomplished on-site chefs, these escapes offer so much more than your usual five-star hotel stay.
Sequoia, South Australia
Australia’s newest six-star lodge is located in the Adelaide Hills, overlooking the Piccadilly Valley. A gateway to South Australia’s famous wine regions, Sequoia Lodge offers indulgence and connection to self. The day spa, which sits inside the National Trust-listed Gate Keeper’s Cottage, is run in partnership with Australian natural skincare brand Jurlique. (The spa is the only place outside of the nearby Jurlique farm where the Jurlique rose is planted.) The Gatekeeper’s Day Spa provides sensory rituals designed to nourish and hydrate through the use of hand-harvested organic ingredients. Against a backdrop of the surrounding Mount Lofty gardens, guests can choose from a range of facials, massages and more extended rituals. The signature spa treatment combines native lime caviar with nourishing botanicals and aromatic oils to revitalise. Add a charcuterie board with locally sourced cured meats, pickled vegetables, cheese and housemade sourdough bread, served with a glass of Sequoia pinot noir-chardonnay, to completely unwind. sequoialodge.com.au
Como Shambhala Retreat, Tuscany, Italy
Tucked away on a rambling 300-hectare Tuscan estate is a 12th-century castle, formerly home to some of the region’s aristocratic families. It is here that you’ll find Como Castello Del Nero. Surrounded by manicured gardens, olive groves and vineyards, the retreat oozes Italian charm. In contrast, the retreat’s recently unveiled wellness offering, Como Shambhala Retreat, makes for a truly cross-cultural experience. The ultra-modern, Asian-inspired Shambhala Retreat, which was conceptualised by Milan-based designer Paola Navone, is Como’s first holistic wellness centre in Europe. Shambhala features seven luxurious treatment rooms, a state-of-the-art gym, a relaxation area, and yoga and Pilates studios. The Como Shambhala Signature Ritual is a must-try — a full-body therapy that induces deep relaxation and calm using revitalising lavender and olive oil made on the estate. comohotels.com
Four Seasons Resort Maui, Hawaii
Set on six hectares of Hawaiian coastland, Four Seasons Resort Maui is synonymous with comfortable opulence and luxurious amenities. The resort’s world-famous wellness experience was recently showcased on HBO’s “The White Lotus” and has recently expanded its offering, introducing the Revitalised Health Optimization Program in collaboration with revolutionary longevity clinic Next|Health. The program is tailor-made to help each guest re-energise and de-stress, with reported benefits of increased energy, enhanced cognitive abilities and improved sleeping patterns. In a perfect infusion of Maui luxury and health-inspired therapies, guests have access to an array of offerings from the medical-grade program, including vitamin shots and a series of wellness IV drips designed to replenish, recharge and rehydrate. The IV treatments contain a blend of hydrating fluids, electrolytes and a multivitamin base to help provide relief from day-to-day stresses and target problem areas, such as gut health, detoxing, muscle building and recovery from jet lag. Physician-developed and mixed and administered by registered nurses, they can even be received poolside. fourseasons.com
Joali Being, Maldives
Opened earlier this year, sustainable luxury resort Joali Being is set to become the first dedicated wellbeing-immersive retreat on the Maldives. Located on the secluded island of Bodufushi in Raa Atoll, a 40-minute seaplane flight from Malé international airport, Joali Being offers an experience centred on four pillars of wellbeing: Mind; Skin; Microbiome; and Energy. Guests will be provided with a bespoke wellness program based on an in-depth appointment with a personal consultant on arrival. The retreat has employed an army of naturopaths, therapists, movement specialists and nutritionists to help guests achieve their wellness goals.With 39 treatment rooms, the Areka immersive wellbeing centre offers a host of scientific and alternative therapies, including a hydrotherapy hall, a hammam, an overwater meditation deck, a sound therapy hall and the Herbology Centre. The resort has been designed and built using biophilic design principles, a method of incorporating nature into architecture, for a truly immersive wellness experience. joalibeing.com
Aman New York, United States
The hectic nature of New York City might not scream “wellness”, but that hasn’t stopped the team behind Aman from bringing a new flagship retreat to Midtown. Designed by Jean-Michel Gathy, the retreat pays homage to the grand opulence of the iconic Crown Building in which it resides, alongside the Zen minimalism Aman is known for worldwide. With a focus on holistic wellness, the three-story centrepiece Aman Spa features seven treatment suites, including two unique banya and hammam spa houses, a dramatic 20-metre indoor swimming pool and relaxation terraces complete with daybeds and firepits. In addition, Aman has also released The Essentials by Aman, a retail collection designed, developed and manufactured in Italy, consisting of activewear, loungewear, knitwear, swimwear, resort wear and soft accessories. aman.com
The clean beauty industry is flourishing in Australia and our standards are high. Harvesting ingredients at their peak freshness is no longer just associated with food; increasingly, we’re seeking out skincare products that contain “farm-fresh” ingredients carefully extracted in-house to maximise the effects of the formulations.
Such is our demand for cleaner beauty that the use of “organic additives” in Australian beauty products is expected to drive the industry from A$8.09bn in 2019 to A$9.87bn in 2024. While there is no set definition or industry standard for “clean” beauty in Australia, Emily Fletcher of the Clean + Conscious Beauty Awards says there has been a “consumer awakening” as people educate themselves about the safety of ingredients in skincare products. “When I first started the Awards two years ago, greenwashing was rife, and we found a lot of entrants didn’t meet the incredibly high criteria we have to become a finalist,” says Fletcher. “And what I found was the brands themselves didn’t even realise that their products didn’t truly have a non-toxic ingredients list.”
But now, she says, both the brands and the Australian consumers are more discerning and unafraid to push for transparency from the products they use. This increase in knowledge and expectation has seen an impressive growth of brands entering the awards year on year. “We’ve expanded our Beauty & Body categories from just six categories to 43 categories in just two years,” she says, “and that’s because more consumers are seeking cleaner and more conscious beauty products, leading to our rapidly-growing true clean beauty industry here in Australia”.
And while many big-name brands have clean product ranges, there has been a surge of small-batch Australian skincare brands saying no to toxic ingredients as well. Here are five of the best.
Naturopath and nutritionist Anna Mitsios first came up with her clean beauty brand concept while working in a Sydney Fertility clinic. Disillusioned with the lack of clean skincare options available to women who were pregnant or trying to conceive, Mitsios decided to create her own line of products. “When it comes to our formulas, we have an ultra-pure stance,” says Mitsios. “Our products are blended with food-grade ingredients that are teeming with antioxidants and skin-transforming actions.”
With ingredients like Kakadu plum, avocado oil and snowflower seed oils and other botanical extracts and wildcrafted Australian natives, the products are, in Mitsios’ words, “so pure you could eat them”. The Edible Beauty range commits to being free from a long list of nasties, instead containing botanical extracts and Australian natives blended with food-grade ingredients.
Produced on Groote Eylandt Island in the Northern Territory, Bush Medijina is a collective governed by an all-female, Indigenous board. As co-founder and Warningakalina woman Serena Bara says, the idea for the business came when the group of local First Nation’s women banded together to use their knowledge of bush medicine to create employment opportunities for themselves and future generations. “We didn’t really think making bush medicine products would grow to be what the business is today,” says Bara, “but our communities are dealing with sickness, domestic violence, chronic disease and other social problems, and we’re strong women wanting to make a difference by ourselves, for ourselves and for our families”.
Using traditional native Australian botanicals and the secrets of bush medicine, as taught to them by their mothers and grandmothers, they created a business that is now exporting internationally. Containing ingredients such as dumburumba (native sandalwood) and mamaburra (wild peach tree), the products are known for their soothing properties. Their award-winning Miracle Balm contains hand-picked merrika leaves (broad leaved wattle), blended with organic tea tree and coconut oils to create a soothing balm for dry or irritated skin, while the Bush Blossom Butter contains seasonal flowers mixed with sweet almond, lemongrass and sage essential oils. bushmedijina.com.au
Sharon McGlinchey had been told for years that creating her natural, petrochemical-free range was a bad idea. Then she was told her idea was “too niche” or “too hippie” to be successful. “The late 1990s was not an ideal time to launch,” says McGlinchey. “All the natural beauty products on offer could be found on one shelf in the health food store.”
Twenty years later, the award-winning brand has a cult following of high-profile clients, including Emma Watson, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley and Maggie Gyllenhaal. The key to her success, she says, is to offer quality holistic skincare and stay away from buzzwords. For example, McGlinchey refuses to use the term anti-ageing in her product descriptions. “I am, in fact, pro-ageing. I view growing older as a privilege and natural beauty as more than just swapping out toxic ingredients for safer alternatives. It’s a paradigm shift in the way we view skincare as self-care,” she explains.
Her Rose Plus formulation, a rich yet dewy moisturiser made from Bulgarian Damask Rose mixed with Jojoba and Rosehip oil, is one of the brand’s most beloved products. Another standout is the newly released Native Power Serum. The product has been a long time in development and is what McGlinchey describes as a “hero serum”, packed with antioxidants. Deeply hydrating but without residue, it contains vitamin C from the Kakadu Plum and natural fatty acids from the Quandong, otherwise known as the Desert Peach. mvskintherapy.com
Originally from Chicago, Jennifer Plahm first discovered small-batch skincare production and herbalism while living and working in the Rocky Mountains. Now settled in the Gold Coast hinterland, she has just launched her own farm-to-skin brand Avec Skin, with an aim to produce as clean beauty products as possible. “Clean beauty to me means being absolutely transparent with all your ingredients, how they were sourced when the plant was harvested, who grew it and what the environment was like,” she explains. “Fewer and better products – I don’t believe in selling a shelf full of products, just a few that actually work.”
Plahm works directly with small, organic, sustainable farmers from around Australia to harvest fresh ingredients. “Our suppliers use sustainable practices, and each ingredient is harvested at its peak freshness,” she explains. “Our farmers even press oils and grow herbs specifically for us.”
The Avec range’s hero product, the Bioactive Nutrient Serum, targets the skin’s surface to even the skin tone and encourage a glowing complexion. The serum is packed with 14 vitamin and mineral-rich botanicals, including jojoba, calendula, and rose otto oil. A percentage of all purchases is donated to Safe Steps, a support service for anyone in Victoria who’s experiencing family violence. avecskin.com
Dope Skin Co
Sydney-based couple Adam Alcott and Vanessa Ware originally launched their brand, Dope Skin Co. because they wanted clean skincare products for their own use. “We were parents to three kids under five and needed products to nourish and rejuvenate!” laughs Ware. After their family and friends started asking for the products, the couple began researching botanicals and super-food oils and discovered hemp, which is, as Ware puts it, “nature’s most perfectly balanced super-plant”. Consulting with cosmetic chemists, the couple saw the potential in combining the anti-inflammatory ingredients of hemp seed extract with other naturally nourishing ingredients like rosehip, Kakadu plum or pomegranate extract.
“Testing formulations is a love hate relationship, but testing various ingredients and formulations is a part of the fun, we want our products to be perfect and effective as possible to make sure our customers are left feeling good about themselves,” she explains.
Dope Skin Co source their product from an organic hemp farm in Victoria, all extractions done in-house to ensure the botanicals are as fresh, active and clean as possible. Their formulations are free from parabens, phthalates, silicones, and sulphates; however, they contain less than 1% preservative, which lengthens the shelf life. The Antioxidant Botanical Facial Serum is packed with plant-based antioxidants and Hyaluronic acid and is one of the company’s best sellers. Meanwhile, the Antioxidant Acai Clay Mask infuses green tea and aloe vera extracts with hemp and Vitamin E to improve skin elasticity. Since the launch, sales have grown more than 100% year on year, and the company is now gearing up to hit the US market. “We’ve just recently been stocked by Urban Outfitters in the US and Canada,” Ware explains, “so this feels like the perfect time to launch the brand there.” dopeskin.co
A sculptural piece from Western Australian florist Freak Haus. Photography by Adam Levi Brown.
Flowers have long served as vessels for communication. In moments of celebration, love and loss, we’ve found solace in brightly coloured blooms and their sculptural forms. Perhaps it’s for this reason that we’ve turned to them during the pandemic, drawing on their healing power to find new ways of connecting with our communities, our families and ourselves amid looming uncertainty.
Whether as acts of self-care or giving, we have woven love letters beneath delicate petals and stubborn stamens, fragile blooms offering gentle respite from the chaos of the outside world. We’ve tasked them with saying all the things we’re unable to; to let those we care about know we’re there for them, that we’re thinking of them, when we have neither the words nor the energy to do so any other way. In our bedrooms, our kitchens and our living rooms, thirsty stalks stand tall, lifelines breathing fresh life into jaded homes.
“Even in the darkest moments, people really do want to reach out and connect with their families and their friends,” says Rebecca Trevitt, the owner of Adelaide florist Ponder Posy. Whether through kaleidoscopic orchids or Sailor Moon-reminiscent bouquets, consider connecting through these six innovative floral artists from around Australia who bring a fresh approach to the traditional medium.
Laurel & Lace, ACT
As a child surrounded by ardent gardeners, Lauren Gordon had one big dream for when she grew up: to be a forest. “To this day, I’m still unsure if I just couldn’t pronounce ‘florist’ or if I wholeheartedly had high hopes of somehow becoming a large area of trees,” she says. Even though this aspiration may forever remain unattainable for the Canberra-based florist, her fascination with flowers and nature has helped her find the next best thing. “I get to spend my days surrounded by the beauty of growing things,” she says, “working with a forever changing medium, forever inspired by each unique branch or bloom.”
With a focus on weddings, events and corporate spaces, Gordon works across Canberra, the New South Wales Southern Highlands, the South Coast, Sydney and beyond. Featuring a style that she describes as “raw and organic, whimsical and romantic, textural and intriguing”, Gordon’s designs act as an extension of herself and her natural surroundings — a fanciful ode to the changing seasons. “Flowers and nature have always been a huge part of my life and, for me, always evoked feelings of connection, nostalgia,” she says. @laurelandlace
Born last year out of an experimental collaboration with a graffiti artist friend, Claire Mueller’s Sydney-based studio transforms phalaenopsis orchids into otherworldly forms. Appearing like ephemeral artworks, her hydro-dipped blooms are living sculptures, surreal and seemingly alien.
With a background in fashion design, Mueller is inspired by the everyday. “I feel like I always have a design eye out in the world,” she says. Taking ideas from interesting textures, surfaces and colour contrasts she encounters on her wanderings, Mueller finds pleasure in the hands-on element of her work and the “joy of being able to make, like, a little bit of magic with everyone”.
Mueller’s arrangements are unconventional in their appeal, and she characterises their strange charm as a kaleidoscopic window into a psychedelic new world. “At a time when there’s a lot going on in the world and a lot of heavy stuff that people have to process on a daily basis, it is really nice to have that element of escapism and something that is different and interesting and engaging and beautiful to look at,” she says. @acid.flwrs
Blossm Bby, Vic.
Melbourne-based floral artist India Robinson’s creations are easily identifiable, a mishmash of contrasting colours. Drawing inspiration from fashion, architecture, Sailor Moon, and her daydreams about travel, the self-described flower fairy’s arrangements are unbridled and uninhibited, subverting the rules of traditional floristry through a “pretty, wild mess of everything cute, fun, ethereal and dreamy mixed with a street sugary pop palette”.
Although some might feel restricted by a lack of formal floristry training, Robinson uses this to her advantage, creating emotionally reactive arrangements that defy conventional ideas of what should and shouldn’t go together. “I’ve never felt any limitations or expectations to match flowers or colours,” she says. “I still remember being told pink and red don’t go together as a child and always living by these unwritten rules. When I was able to let that go, the world opened up.”
Discovered during a period of great difficulty following the loss of her Dutch oma, Robinson’s love of florals serves her meditatively. “They will always connect me to her,” she says. “They have had an extremely healing power in allowing me to connect to the beauty of nature while allowing me to connect to and express myself deeply in a way I’d never had the confidence to do.” @blossmbby
Honesty Flora, Vic.
When Melbourne creative Tegan Ruta speaks about flowers, her love for them is palpable. Openness and honesty underpin her entire ethos, from her approach to flora, to the sustainable way in which she operates her business. “We want to preserve the earth that’s growing our flowers as much as possible,” she says.
Named after the flowering plant Lunaria, commonly known as “Honesty”, Ruta’s floristry studio draws on her childhood experiences and memories of visiting local exhibitions with her mother. “I grew up going to Heide Museum” of Modern Art. “I’ve got very clear memories of going there when I was little and seeing the art and having picnics in the garden,” she says. “Art really does inform the way I approach flowers and colour palettes.”
Ruta has a background in graphic design and curates arrangements that offer beauty through thoughtfully selected colours and emotional connection. Whether it’s for a delivery, a wedding or a corporate event, Ruta uses flowers as a medium for celebration and as vessels for the unspoken. “What’s so beautiful is that flowers have a different meaning to everyone,” she says. “Someone will be like, ‘Daffodils remind me of this time’ or ‘Peonies remind me of this person’, or ‘I remember growing this when I was little.’ I think that’s quite amazing.” @honesty_flora
Eden Ranelli’s signature floral style is an extension of herself — as unique as it is unconventional. Ranelli applies a mixed-medium approach to her installations and it’s not unusual to find neon lights, milk crates and even disco balls featured alongside gothic anthuriums and sculptural nepenthes. Ranelli has a love of Japanese culture and she named her Perth-based business in honour of Hokusai’s iconic ukiyo-e woodblock print “The Great Wave off Kanagawa”. “I was reading how they described that wave and they described it as a ‘freak wave’,” she says. “For some reason the ‘freak’ stood out because they were saying this wave was obviously beautiful but also destructive. That’s kind of like my art — beautiful but a little bit reckless and weird.”
Considering Ranelli works with flowers, it’s strange that her creative process seems to avoid them. “I ask clients to send me five images that resonate with them and I tell them, ‘Don’t send me flower photos, give me a picture of a band you like, a house you walk by in the street, even a picture of your dog,’” she says. Ranelli’s unconventionality may deter some, but authenticity is at the core of her practice. “I’m trying to do things that are a little bit different because that’s who I am,” she says. “I’m not for everyone. I, my work and what I create is for those people who also see the weirdness in the installs or this artwork and the difference in them.” @freakhaus_
Ponder Posy, SA
Owner Rebecca Trevitt’s philosophy is to find beauty in the forlorn and overlooked: “gentle chaos, crooked stems and broken leaves that let the sun shine through”. Using flowers as a conduit between people, the Adelaide-based creative puts sustainability at the forefront of her practice, working solely with local growers and seasonal blooms to reshape expectations surrounding floristry. “I think we’re a bit spoiled in terms of being able to access everything that we want at all times,” she says. “I don’t feel connected to that.” Instead, Trevitt feels we should enjoy the flowers that grow locally.
With a creative process based on “trusting the seasons”, Trevitt takes pride in challenging her customers, questioning why they feel they need certain flowers, before working with them to find seasonal or dried alternatives. “I think over the years I’ve gotten braver at challenging some of those norms around floristry,” she says. “I get more confident the more regular clients that return. You get a clearer voice about why you want to stick to your principles about sustainability.” @ponder_posy
From the hallowed halls of Vogue to the runways of Alexander McQueen, these eight books will not only cure your fashion obsessions, they’re also all incredibly engaging reads. Starting with the grand dame of luxurious threads and finishing with a fallen star, this book list is a deep dive into the establishments, designers, rule-breakers and modern creators of fashion as we know it.
D.V. by Diana Vreeland
No other book could start this list other than this unconventional memoir by the eccentric Diana Vreeland, who inspired the world as fashion editor of Harper’s Bazaar and editor-in-chief of Vogue. It’s a read that feels as if Vreeland herself is having an intimate conversation with you —engaging, direct and sprinkled with one-liners that linger in your mind long after you finish reading. (Da Capo Press)
Grace: A Memoir by Grace Coddington
“Grace” spans the quirky former American Vogue creative director-at-large’s childhood to the present; British Vogue to Wintour, Turlington to Madonna. Through her natural flair and wit, her sharp eye for talent and the personal moments with her beloved cats, we see that Coddington, pleasingly, is not who we might expect a fashion legend to be. (Random House)
The Chiffon Trenches, by André Leon Talley
Hearing about Talley’s considerable achievements in fashion, his time galavanting around Paris in his youth with Karl and Yves, and learning of the strings he pulled to help Galliano succeed is as fascinating as it sounds. The book lingers on those who have wronged Talley but it also holds us captive inside the enamouring world of high fashion. (HarperCollins)
The Vanity Fair Diaries: 1983-1992, by Tina Brown
Tina Brown turned Vanity Fair from a magazine in deficit into a multimillion dollar asset for Condé Nast. These are her diary entries throughout her successful reign. It details her critical thinking, sharp tongue and gutsy personality, which she brought to the table as the only woman on an all-male board. A must for lovers of journalism, fashion and New York City. (Orion)
Glossy: The Inside Story of Vogue, by Nina-Sophia Miralles
An enthralling biography about the publishing powerhouse Vogue and all its entities. From stories of how the magazine’s staff met deadlines as bombs fell from the sky during World War II to creating international editions of the magazine and the rise of its best-known editor, Anna Wintour, this book opens the doors to a sometimes secretive establishment and questions what made it an enduring success. (Hachette Australia)
Vivienne Westwood, by Vivienne Westwood and Ian Kelly
The definitive biography of the woman who transformed British fashion and single-handedly created almost every trend to come out of men’s fashion in the UK from the ’70s. Westwood combined history, fashion, culture, politics, music, art and experience, and turned it into something wearable. If we didn’t have Vivienne Westwood, would we really ever have had a punk scene? (Pan Macmillan)
Dior by Dior, by Christian Dior
This is an autobiography of the house of Christian Dior, not the eponymous founder’s personal life. Dior details how his garments are built, the models that walk the runways, how the fashion shows come together and the exclusive couturier stories. It’s a dive into the designer’s processes that have not only created decade-defining collections, but have also ensured the brand’s ongoing success. (Bloomsbury)
Alexander McQueen: The Life & The Legacy, by Judith Watt
From his beginnings as a tailor on Savile Row to his gigantic designs that changed the industry, McQueen will always be known as a visionary of fashion. The author notes that his designs are biographical, and so with the chronological telling of the book we see the physical symbolism of his life in fashion. If only the tome was thicker, to explore every one of his designs to the final stitch. (Harper Design)
Afternoon tea is a luxury of time and location, and as Henry James once famously stated, “There are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea.”
The sequestering of time aside, these five artisans from Australia and overseas create handmade ceramics that will elevate any afternoon tea with their warm feel and aesthetic.
Confetti Vessel by Home By Harlequin
This tactile, lightweight stone vessel handmade by Sydney-based designer and maker Lauren Eaton is made using a terrazzo technique, where chips of marble, quartz and other stone are poured into the binder to create the speckled appearance.
1616 / arita japan
Made in a traditional technique from a dense clay of crushed stone, 1616 / arita japan’s pieces are aesthetically fit for a special occasion but constructed for everyday use. They are manufactured out of an original pottery workshop in Arita, the town in which Korean porcelain masters arrived in 1616, introducing the craft to the Japanese for the first time.
A mixture of porcelain and clay, Hasami Porcelain pieces have a soft, comfortable texture with a slightly matte, organic finish. Hasami Porcelain is designed by Takuhiro Shinomoto of Tortoise in Venice, California, but made in the historic Japanese town of Hasami where the porcelain craft dates back some 400 years. MrKitly.com.au
Inspired by landscapes and topographical views, Adelaide-based ceramicist and artist Debbie Pryor uses hand-building techniques to make unique clay pieces. The Abstract Plates come in a range of earthy colour combinations and are made in extremely limited numbers.
This Marrakesh-based ceramic and textile brand was founded by Belgian sun-chaser Laurence Leenaert. Leenaert’s playful, bright and abstract LRNCE designs translate into unique objects, handmade by local artisans she’s worked with since the brand’s inception in 2013.
Reading is to the mind, so said 17th century English essayist, poet and playwright Joseph Addison, what exercise is to the body. It’s a common refrain about the importance of reading for human brain function repeated in essence by everyone from Lisa Simpson to Tyrion Lannister. But in our frenetically-paced, digital world, reading just seems hard, and it only gets harder the less you do it. We’re living in a culture of skim reading, or worse, headline reading, at a time when the world is facing problems that require our collective minds to be at their sharpest, their most critical and their most open.
“Beyond its effects on brain functioning, reading can also increase our capacity to manage problems we encounter,” says Dr James Collett, psychologist and RMIT lecturer. “When we read, we are challenged to think from different perspectives and to assimilate new information, which means we must consider it in the context of information that we already know and do our best to resolve conflicts and contradictions.”
In a divided world increasingly dominated by misinformation, disinformation, and “alternative facts”, reading offers knowledge, know-how and, most importantly, the capacity to understand. These six, new release non-fictions reads, which span from the analytical and thoroughly researched to the intimate and the personal, are a place to start.
With the Falling of the Dust, by Stan Grant
Journalist Stan Grant wields years of experience in observing and chronicling life across the globe to bring us this important, courageous book that deals with a world on the precipice of crisis. With the Falling of the Dust explores what is driving our world to catastrophe – from threats to democracy, the rise of authoritarianism and resurgent white supremacy, to the global pandemic and looming economic failure. It’s a book that fears the worst but hopes – and searches – for the best. (Harper Collins)
White Feminism: From the Suffragettes to Influencers and Who They Leave Behind, by Koa Beck
For white women, the electoral data from the most recent US election is damning, and the message from African-American and Indigenous women, activists, artists, writers and educators around the globe is clear: white women need to do more work to achieve an equitable society. Koa Beck’s debut book, it follows, couldn’t come at a more crucial moment. The former Vogue.com.au executive editor and Jezebel editor-in-chief traces the history of feminism and dissects pop-culture, sending out a strong call to action for white feminists to dismantle their own supremacy. (Simon & Schuster)
How to Avoid a Climate Disaster: The Solutions We Have and the Breakthroughs We Need, by Bill Gates
This book is an urgent, authoritative, accessible roadmap for how the world can get to zero greenhouse gas emissions in time to avoid a climate catastrophe. Gates draws on a decade spent studying the causes and effects of climate change, as well as the knowledge of experts in the fields of physics, chemistry, biology, engineering, political science and finance. (Penguin)
My Year of Living Vulnerably, by Rick Morton
Part self-help book, part treatise on love and forgiveness, this book from acclaimed journalist and author Rick Morton shares lessons learned during a twelve-month journey to ‘rediscover love’ after being diagnosed with Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Laced with Morton’s trademark attention to nuance, compassion and unashamed honesty, My Year of Living Vulnerably is a fresh and timely reminder of the importance of love to our lives. (Harper Collins).
Aftershocks,by Nadia Owusu
This deeply intimate memoir examines the fault lines of trauma through the life experiences and cultural history of author Nadia Owusu, who grapples with the ripple effect – both personal and generational – of loss, grief and family secrets. It’s a brave piece of writing that inspires vulnerability at a time when finding capacity to tell our own stories might be more transformative than ever. (Simon & Schuster)
Let Me Tell You What I Mean, by Joan Didion
This collection brings together, for the first time, twelve pieces from the iconic and influential Joan Didion, originally published between 1968 and 2000. Topics span the news, politics, personal anecdotes and Didion’s own self-doubt, bringing clarity and colour to our current world in the way only exacting and prescient writing like hers can. (Harper Collins)