january books 📖

Saturday, February 22, 2020

The book blogposts are back! Or are they? I’m not 100% sure yet. I think from now on I’m going to only talk about the books I’ve really enjoyed and would recommend, instead of discussing every single book I’ve read in a month. So, … the monthly thing might not even make sense anymore and I’ll probably just talk about “recent reads” on a regular basis? Thinking out loud here. Feel free to skip ahead to the good stuff. January has been a good reading month. It usually is, because I get a lot of books for Christmas and my birthday and then, with all those unread books on my bookshelf, it’s like having your own little bookshop/library at home. But now I’m really getting off track. 🙃

Elizabeth Hall : The Music of the Deep (2018)

I picked this one up in Langley on Whidbey Island in Washington last summer. There’s a whale center in Langley—I know, THE DREAM—with a shop and a little book section (ALL ABOUT WHALES!!!11).
Although it doesn’t say so anywhere in the book, the story is set on Whidbey Island, I’m pretty sure.
Let’s start with a little snippet of the blurb on the back:

Fleeing an abusive marriage and tormented by her past, Alexandra Turner finds solace in a small coastal town on Puget Sound and a job with a local marine biologist studying orcas. [Source]

First of all, trigger warning: domestic violence. 
Not down below, but in the novel. I wish all books came with trigger warnings of all kinds: sexual violence, sickness, death of a loved one etc. – but I digress.

Although I mainly picked up the novel for its setting and the whale theme, I found the story very well written and really compelling. I could have read the book in just one day. The story itself isn’t excitingly new or surprising—person escapes very bad life situation and makes a new start somewhere else far away and finds weird but nice people who become friends—but hey. I’m here for it. That’s why I’m currently very much into Virgin River on Netflix don’t tell anyone.

Anna Hope : Expectation (2019)

A book I got for my birthday and read through very quickly is Expectation by Anna Hope. I don’t like to compare novels to one another, but I’d sort and shelve this one with Normal People and Conversations With Friends by Sally Rooney, The Girls by Emma Cline, and Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng. Not because the stories are very similar—they aren’t—but because of how the books ~ made me feel ~.
Expectation is about female friendship and about how friendships can change and evolve or fade out over the years.
The novel is set in London and southeast England, which was quite fitting, because we’d stayed in Canterbury right before I started reading this book. And I have a thing with geographical settings. Stories set in places I love/have been to? Yes please!.

Hannah, Cate and Lissa are young, vibrant and inseparable. Living on the edge of a common in East London, their shared world is ablaze with art and activism, romance and revelry – and the promise of everything to come. They are electric. They are the best of friends.
Ten years on, they are not where they hoped to be. Amidst flailing careers and faltering marriages, each hungers for what the others have. And each wrestles with the same question: what does it take to lead a meaningful life? [Source]

I really, really enjoyed this one. The story has quite a few sad and tragic parts, but I feel like it paints a relatively realistic picture of how life can unfold in different ways, including the ugly bits you usually don’t see in people’s lives at first glance.

Danielle Marchant : Pause (2014)

We’ve arrived at the non-fiction part of this blogpost. I think I picked up Pause quite a while ago. It then sat on my bookshelf for at least two years, until I decided to finally read it in the middle of December of last year. Usually—especially with non-fiction and self-help type of reads—certain books find their way back into my hands when it’s time to read them.
December was really stressful for me. I felt out of breath for most part of the month and it wasn’t just down to a to-do-list that was too long. 
Just sitting down and taking the time to read Pause already helped slowing things down a little. The book touches on various things that can add to stress and tension—above the usual suspects like just “too much to do”. Uncertainty and change are big stressors for me, for example.
Danielle Marchant offers a lot of exercises that I found quite helpful. Mind-mapping exercises, for example, that help you find out, how you spend your time, or what parts of your life you want to work on and what parts actually are just fine how they are. We usually throw everything in one pot when we’re stressed and suddenly “everything is bad“—rightorisitjustme? But most of the time there are only one or two elements, that need work and improving them, will improve your whole experience—rightorisitjustme? 
Another favorite of mine were the breathing exercises—they actually help a lot with the feeling-out-of-breath-all-the-time-situation. 😬

Leaving you with the blurb here:

I know your life is crazy busy. I know you spend most days moving from one task to the next, getting stuff done but never really accomplishing your heart’s desire. I know it’s relentless. It feels impossible to stop, doesn’t it? That somehow if you slow down everything will fall apart.
I know you remember another way, a different time when there was more space to breathe. It might have been a long long time ago but the memory is still reachable within you. A time when there was laughter and dancing, ease and flow. Somehow somewhere the flow was dammed. Blocked by to-do lists, endless email, and meetings that went on for to long.
And now it’s hard to breathe. To simply catch your breath and feel. Chest tight, body aching, restless nights, that constant dull ache in our head that never seems to go away.
Always switched on, yet somehow sleeping through life. [Source]

Julia Cameron : The Artist’s Way (1992)

Last but certainly not least, is this little gem by Julia Cameron. I’d heard about The Artist’s Way many times and always thought “It’s not for me, I’m not an artist.“
I actually remember carrying the book to the checkout in an English bookstore in Amsterdam three years ago. But in the end I turned around and put it back on the shelf, because … “It’s not for me, I’m not an artist.” And then, on a whim, in Waterstones in Edinburgh on my birthday in the beginning of this year, I saw it again and finally bought it. And, let me tell you: It is for everyone.

The Artist’s Way is a twelve-week-long program with lots of food for thought, exercises and journal prompts, that help you get more creative in every possible sense of the word. I dug up some pretty interesting things, that I hadn’t thought about in a very long time. Threads, so to speak, that I’ve kind of lost, that I’m picking up and weaving in with the rest of my life.

I read the book cover to cover in the course of two weeks and then went back through it again week by week, doing the exercises as I went along. It takes a lot of commitment, but I also allowed myself some wiggle room—taking two or sometimes three weeks to do a one-week-portion for example. I also struggled with parts of it. Some exercises made me angry or really sad. But that as well was so interesting to see and explore.
I keep the book on my desk and leaf through it every now and again, re-reading parts and re-doing some of the exercises. Seeing the shifts and changes that can occur, is really interesting.
I think we’re all creative beings, even if you’re not ~ an artist ~, so I think everyone can benefit from this program. Try it and make it your own.

And those were ~ some ~ of the books I’ve read in January. Do you have any recommendations you think I might enjoy? What have you read recently? Let me know and see you again next time!

1 comment

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