books i’ve read in may 🌞📚

Saturday, July 6, 2019

It’s the end of June as I’m writing my “May Books Blogpost” – whoopsy. Summer and high temperatures like we’ve been having them in Berlin lately, always really slow me down. Where I’d usually be buzzing with energy and ideas, I feel like an uninspired blob as soon as the thermometer hits >29°C. So you might get the June books blogpost in December, who knows. Although summer seems like the perfect time to read, the opposite is the case for me. I just want to lie down, drink iced tea and close me eyes, as my brain turns to mush in the heat. I read quite a bit in May—but don’t expect too much from next month, just saying. 😏
As always: The order I’m talking about the books is not a rating.

# 1 Fumio Sasaki Goodbye Things (2015) 

You might already know that I’ve been on the minimalism journey for a while. I’m saying “journey” because I think like with so many other things, minimalism is nothing you do from one day to the other and then you’re a minimalist, period. What is a minimalist anyway? There are very many different definitions I think, and every single one is probably correct.
But first, here’s the blurb:

“There’s happiness in having less. If you are anything like how I used to be - miserable, constantly comparing yourself with others, or just believing your life sucks - I think you should try saying goodbye to some of your things.”

Fumio Sasaki is a writer in his thirties who lives in a tiny studio in Tokyo with three shirts, four pairs of trousers, four pairs of socks and not much else. A few years ago, he realised that owning so much stuff was weighing him down - so he started to get rid of it.
In this hit Japanese bestseller, Sasaki explores the philosophy behind minimalism and offers a set of straightforward rules - discard it if you haven't used it in a year; be a borrower; find your uniform; keep photos of the things you love - that can help all of us lead simpler, happier, more fulfilled lives. [Source]

Fumio Sasaki practices furniture free living, has a capsule wardrobe and doesn’t own any books. Reading this, you might sense resistance in yourself. That’s at least how I felt. „No books? What? And no bed either? Where does he sleep? That’s taking things a bit too far, don’t you think?“ – Right, even the judgment set in right away.

Being able to reflect on your reactions to something that might be unfamiliar or new to you and probably even realizing where your resistance/judgment comes from, is actually really helpful for your own journey.
I realized that the thought of living without any things frightened me. Why is that? Apparently I connect safety and comfort with things. To what extent? How does this manifest? Where does it come from? Is this helpful or healthy? Do I want to change it? These were questions I started to ask myself while reading Fumio Sasaki’s story. He does not just share his own journey, but also countless tips on how to tackle your stuff. And I’m not talking about commonly known clutter, but things that you always thought you needed, that are in use every now and again and seemingly necessary. This book goes way beyond Marie Kondo. It’s the next step. I felt like I was on a dead-end road regarding my decluttering. I wasn’t dealing with clutter anymore. Every single thing I own brings me joy, yes, but they are still too many things.

Goodbye Things helped me let go of small pieces of furniture. They were kind of like accomplices in my holding on to stuff, because they literally provided the space to hold stuff. There were a lot of things I never questioned the necessity of, just because they were neatly stowed away and yes, also bringing me joy. So I imagined no longer having the small bookcase for example. Would I still keep the books and find shelf space on my big bookshelf or would I sell the books/give them away? By taking the means of storage out of the equation, so to speak, I realized that I didn’t really need or wanted to hold on to the items the thing was holding in the first place.

Through that method I got rid of said small bookshelf, a dressing table and a trolley cart where I stored all of my stationery. My room feels more spacious now and there’s more room to move. I don’t have to run around furniture anymore to get to the door or something. It really opened the space up and made it feel lighter. And I haven’t looked back since.
Am I aiming to live furniture free now? No. I don’t think so. But I’ve learned something new, again. And I’m looking at my things in a new way. As I said, it’s a journey and everyone is on their very own.

# 2 Mary H. K. Choi Emergency Contact (2018) 

I really liked this book. It’s funny and witty and not your average boy meets girl and we’re all white and blond and perfect kind of story. The language is also refreshingly interesting, different and more sophisticated than in most other YA novels.
I hope the blurb won’t give away too much – but I want to keep this short, since the only thing I have to say is yes, read this..

For Penny Lee high school was a total nonevent. Her friends were okay, her grades were fine, and while she somehow managed to land a boyfriend, he doesn't actually know anything about her. When Penny heads to college in Austin, Texas, to learn how to become a writer, it's 79 miles and a zillion light-years away from everything she can't wait to leave behind.
Sam's stuck. Literally, figuratively, emotionally, financially. He works at a café and sleeps there too, on a mattress on the floor of an empty storage room upstairs. He knows that this is the god-awful chapter of his life that will serve as inspiration for when he's a famous movie director, but right this second the 17 bucks in his checking account and his dying laptop are really testing him.
When Sam and Penny cross paths it's less meet cute and more a collision of unbearable awkwardness. Still, they swap numbers and stay in touch - via text - and soon become digitally inseparable, sharing their deepest anxieties and secret dreams without the humiliating weirdness of having to see each other. [Source]

# 3 Deborah Schoeberlein David Living Mindfully: At Home, at Work, and in the World (2015)

I picked this up at a tiny bookshop in London, Kensington on our way back to the hotel after my birthday afternoon tea back in January. Thinking about that trip and the wintery temperatures makes me very nostalgic…

Anyways, although the cover of the book kind of turned me off, I decided to judge it by the title and the blurb on the back and give it a read. It took me some time to get to it, but I enjoyed it a lot in the end.
As always with these kinds of “self-help/self-development” books, I think the best way to go about it is to pick what works for you and to leave what doesn’t. There’s no use in you getting worked up about not being able to put some highly recommended exercise or tip by the author into practice. That’s counter productive and does more harm than good. Deborah Schoeberlein shares a lot of breathing techniques in this book for example and there were some that worked instantly for me and others that I either had to practice more often or just couldn’t warm to. 
Deborah Schoeberlein’s approach to the “living mindfully” topic is very practical and useful for every day life. She discusses mindfulness in different contexts like work, relationship and parenting. The whole topic has turned into a bit of a buzzword lately and can feel out of each or like a weird figment for many people, because we think that mindful living is only possible when we have our shit together and our life in order. That’s when we can be and live mindfully. But the contrary is the case, as Deborah Schoeberlein also argues. You can be amidst the biggest chaos or life tragedy and find more energy and strength by being present and mindful. So it’s not a state you want to obtain, but a daily practice (at first) and then a way of living your life (at best).

Here’s the blurb:

Learn to live a life that's good—for yourself and for the world.
Like a wise friend or kind teacher, Deborah Schoeberlein David—educator, meditator, and mother--walks you through a complete, easy-to-follow curriculum of mindfulness practice.
Beginning with the very basics of noticing your breath, David shows how simple mindfulness practices can be utterly transforming. Each practice builds on the previous exercise like a stepping stone, until you have the tools to bring mindfulness into every aspect of your life including sex, parenting, relationships, job stresses, and more.
This is an approachable guide for anyone who desires positive change. [Source]

# 4 Jenny Zhang Sour Heart (2017)

Let me just start by saying that this is a remarkable collection of stories. They feel so real, and raw, sometimes ugly and well, real. Jenny Zhang is an American writer who was born in China and came to the US when she was five years old. I’m always very, very careful to say that a work is autobiographical. When the author doesn’t say it is, it isn’t, the end. These stories are a work of fiction ~ but they seem to be influenced/informed by Jenny Zhang’s own childhood experiences, possibly, maybe, I haven’t asked her about it or looked it up, so there.

These seven startling stories of family, femininity, sexuality and otherness will plunge you into the tender and chaotic hearts of narrators you won't easily forget. Centred on a community of immigrants who have traded their endangered lives as artists in China and Taiwan for the constant struggle of life on the poverty line in 1990s New York City, the stories that make up Sour Heart examine the many ways that family and history can weigh us down, but also lift us up. From the young woman coming to terms with her grandmother's role in the Cultural Revolution, to the daughter struggling to understand where her family ends and she begins, to the girl discovering the power of her body to inspire and destroy, these vibrant, raw and powerful stories illuminate the complex and messy inner lives of girls struggling to define themselves. Fuelled by Jenny Zhang's singular voice and sly humour, Sour Heart introduces a bright new force in literary fiction. [Source]

Jenny Zhang’s writing is incredible and so real that you sometimes want to look away almost … because it kind of feels like you’re a gawker and shouldn’t be hearing and learning about what is being shared with you. 
The stories often made me feel like an outsider, a stranger, looking through a window, witnessing something from afar, not being part of this something and knowing that I wasn’t supposed to be there. I found that really interesting because I’m assuming that that is how the people of the community of immigrants, that are the protagonists of Jenny Zhang’s stories, probably often felt.
All in all, an incredible work which I highly recommend.

And that’s it for my May books. There’ve been a few other books I’ve read but won’t share. I explained in my last book blogpost why that is.
I’ll probably combine my June and July book blogpost seeing that it’s the end of June and I’ve only read two books so far. 😬 As I’ve said in the beginning, really hot summers don’t make me want to read much, but just lie around lazily and think about the misery that is summery heat. 
Anyhow, let me know what you’ve read in June and would like to recommend!

Thanks for your time and see you again soon! ✌️

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