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Fun, Heartfelt, Brilliantly Bookish: Review of While You Were Reading by Ali Berg & Michelle Kalus

July 2, 2019

Words are messy. Love is messier. While You Were Reading is a funny, sharp, modern new romance, perfect for booklovers everywhere.

While You Were Reading opens with one of the most awkward, squirm inducing scenes I’ve read for a long time – and I mean that in a good way. The book grabbed me right from the get-go. Beatrix ‘Bea’ Babbage, a 29-year-old bookworm from Perth, is bridesmaid at her best friend’s wedding, and in a total foot-in-mouth moment, destroys the wedding and her friend’s hour-long marriage.

As a result, Bea relocates to the other side of the country in search of a fresh start. While she continues to send daily messages to her best friend, begging forgiveness, she’s also hoping the move will bring some change to her love life and and her professional circumstances.

But after a few months, life is more stagnant than ever. Bea’s job is dead-end. Her romantic life? Non-existent. And her only friends are her books, her cleaning lady, and Dino, an aspiring poet/ barista at the coffee shop near Bea’s office.

​Then in a second-hand bookstore, Bea stumbles across a novel, inscribed with notes in the margins. Besotted with the poetic inscriptions, Bea is determined to find the author… which leads her to Zach… and one hell of a love quadrangle.

Funny, poignant and insightful, While You Were Reading reveals that there’s no such thing as perfection, and explores the value of true friendship and most importantly, the power of not living in fiction, but still reading it… often.

This is such a fun read. The characters are quirky and likeable. Melbourne jumps from the page. You can almost smell the great coffee on the city streets.

Booklovers will find themselves caught up in a wonderful tale where books really are the focus. There are book events, the mystery of who is writing inscriptions on books, and references to famous books. Bea even starts a ‘bookstagram’ – an Instagram account dedicated to books. The novel’s design is fresh and modern, with texts and messages and Instagram posts with accompanying photos throughout.

The authors pack a lot about books into this book! And they would, because authors Ali Berg and Michelle Kalus are true bookaholics themselves. For those of you who are yet to discover this bestie writing team, Ali and Michelle are not only the authors of the bestselling 2018 novel, The Book Ninja (yes, more books!), but they are also the creators of Books on the Rail, a movement that sets books loose on Australian public transport.

While You Were Reading is truly worth reading. It’s fun, heartfelt and brilliantly bookish! The book-loving besties have written another winner.

About the authors: 

Ali Berg and Michelle Kalus are the Melbourne-based cofounders of Books on the Rail, an initiative that encourages Aussies to put down the iPhone and pick up a book. Together, Ali and Michelle wrote The Book Ninja, published in 2018 by Simon & Schuster Australia, which has been sold to nine different territories around the world. Ali is also Creative Director and Co-founder of Hedgehog Agency, Melbourne, and Michelle is a primary school teacher. Ali and Michelle’s second book, While You Were Reading, is published in 2019. See more at and

Buy a copy of While You Were Reading here


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