By Natalie Joyce, Cassie Waters and Halimah Haque
Big Panda and Tiny Dragon by James Norbury
Inspired by his voluntary work with Samaritans, James Norbury’s Big Panda and Tiny Dragon follows two friends, a panda and dragon, through the seasons of the year, navigating their way through life and its many joys and obstacles.
The character of Big Panda brings a sense of calmness, appreciating the finest things in life and how they contribute to the bigger picture. Tiny Dragon compliments his companion; with his curious nature, he uses Panda as his mentor to try and make sense of complex and daunting situations. The two friends frequently find themselves lost, but on their journey, encounter beautiful sights, learn valuable lessons and discover that, most importantly, light will always return even in the darkest of times.
This book is not the first of its kind, and is similar to the number one bestselling The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and The Horse by Charlie Mackesy, in the way that it addresses mindfulness, mental health, kindness and friendship with its beautiful illustrations, making it highly reflective.
Big Panda and Tiny Dragon makes a great gift for readers of all ages as it incorporates whimsical drawings with profound statements of wisdom, creating a heartfelt story which can be enjoyed by all.
Release the Beast by Bimini Bon Boulash
It’s only been a year since Bimini Bon Boulash strutted onto our screens in ten-inch heels and a Norwich City leotard and took the world by storm. Their quickly published self-help memoir Release the Beast has found similar success, becoming a Sunday Times bestseller and receiving support from everyone from Sadiq Khan to Kathy Burke.
The book uses Bimini’s unique humour and positive outlook to take on the patriarchy, politics, gender, sexuality and fashion. The book combines gender and queer theory and a message of self-love and acceptance to create an accessible manifesto aimed at the 34% of young people who are questioning their sexuality and gender.
The snappy text combined with regular illustrations makes this a quick read, but still a powerful one. The ideas covered are not new, but some of the terms used to describe gender identity may be, both to younger readers and older readers who are new to these conversations. Bimini's conversations about being non-binary on Drag Race brought the gender identity conversation to the wider public and they have continued this work in their book. Release the Beast takes gender theory and makes it practical, showing the reader what it was like to grow up in a small seaside town in Norfolk as a gender non-conforming young person and what it means to be non-binary.
Release the Beast makes it clear that Bimini's legacy will continue long after their series of Drag Race.
Atomic Habits by James Clear
“Old habits die hard” is a phrase that many of us are accustomed to, whether that’s because it’s something we’ve heard while growing up, or it applies to our own lives. It is this very concept that James Clear dissects in Atomic Habits, as he explores the science of how and why habits are formed, while giving ideas on how his findings can be applied to our own lives.
Using a humorous tone throughout, Clear uses real life anecdotes to show his principles in action. Similar to atoms, he presents habits to be minute in scale, yet immense in power. Much like splitting atoms can have massive consequences, so too can the breaking of an atomic habit.
Although it’s too early to say whether or not Clear’s principles have been applicable to my own life, they’ve certainly changed my perspective on how I view certain things – success is no longer a goal but an endless system to improve. While the book doesn't make any grand promises of change, each of his laws are relatable which is what makes them so profound.
If you’re after a self-help book that places emphasis on the small changes rather than the big, then Atomic Habits will certainly keep you engaged right till the end.