Book nook update!

Goodness me, it’s been well over a year since I told you what I’ve been reading! Sorry for leaving it so long. As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve been a bit busy and feeling a bit hot and cold about blogging this year. But I’ve decided to give you a little update on what I’ve loved reading in 2015 (apart from the many, many journal articles I’ve read for Uni).

 

Big Magic – Elizabeth Gilbert

BIG MAGIC

Now, I know Eat, Pray, Love has become a bit of a divisive one in many a book club and friendship group, but hear me out here. I’m a bit of an artsy fartsy, creative type but I’m also a bit of a realist. I love to delve into big ideas and the expanses of my imagination, but I also need structure and routine and a good ol’ kick up the ass when I’m getting carried away. This book manages to strike a great balance between all of these things. Liz’s voice is so clear and so kind as well, so it was like having a sassy big sister sharing her worldly wisdom with me. For anyone who’s a combo of analytical/rational and creative/imaginative like I am, this one’s a winner.

Craft for the Soul – Pip Lincolne

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Craft for the Soul is the perfect companion for Big Magic. There are some overlaps, but in a good way – just enough to solidify those ‘aha!’ moments but not too many that they’re regurgitating each other. Pip Lincolne is one of my favourite bloggers (Gilmore Girls!!) so to have an actual physical piece of her work and compilation of her craft projects, recipes and advice makes me so happy. Suss out Meet Me At Mike’s first for a taste of Pip’s awesomeness.

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves – Karen Joy Fowler

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I picked this up at Dymocks on one of their 3 for 2 deal days because it had won or been shortlisted for a lot of awards and it had a cute cover and the blurb sounded good and I was feeling impulsive. About 50 pages in and I was regretting this decision. This was a bit of a problem book for me for quite a while; it frustrated me. But theeeeeen I got over the fact that I wasn’t necessarily going to love the characters because maybe I wasn’t meant to, and I started to engage with the ideas that the book was raising and the way that the narrative was being constructed and I got totally hooked. It’s not a light-hearted, fun ride, but it’s worth it. Good for people interested in psychology/sociology/philosophy/biology/nature vs nurture debates.

Funny Girl, A Long Way Down & How to be Good – Nick Hornby

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This year I traded a little part of my Australian winter for a British summer and flitted off to London to study Shakespeare (tough life, I know). While I was there, I went to an author talk by Nick Hornby at Kingston University and I bought a whole stack of his books to get signed beforehand. Apart from seeing About a Boy, I wasn’t very familiar with Nick’s work, or even Nick himself until this point, but I’d heard good things and my hopes were high. Like many authors, Nick was quirky and a teeny weeny bit belligerent but totally honest and completely fascinating. I loved it. The three books of his that I read (listed above) were all very simple on the surface but raised lots of tough questions and were full of wry observations and wit. Would definitely recommend if you’re after a speedy read but don’t want to feel patronised by the author or dumbed-down by the banality of the story.

The Secret Life of Bees – Sue Monk Kidd

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When I was in high school we read Eva Luna by Isabel Allende, and I found it enthralling but really difficult to ‘get’. The Secret Life of Bees had all the beauty and wonder and mystery and brutality that I loved in Allende’s writing but I ‘got’ it a lot quicker. It’s such a classic, and one I’ll recommend to everyone, forever. There isn’t much more I can say about it really. Just read it, if you haven’t already. I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to get to it!

So they’re all my faves that I can think of for now! I’ll try and update you again soon, as I’ve got another big stack of novels to get through over the summer holidays. Speak soon, lovelies!

Lxx

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What I’m Reading: November ’14

It’s been quite a long while since I filled you in on what I was reading, and I’ve churned through quite a few bits and pieces since then. Of course, most of what I’ve read has been for Uni so there have been a lot of plays (The Good Person of Szechuan, Waiting for Godot, A Raisin in the Sun and Who’s Afraid of the Working Class have been my faves), a lot of articles about modern European political history (I’ve become fascinated by the Soviet Union, the GDR and Thatcherism) and my Sociology textbook (Susie Scott’s Making Sense of Everyday Life; I can highly recommend it). I’ve started collecting a stash of books to read over summer too, but perhaps that will constitute a whole separate post..?
Anyway, here are my thoughts on some of the books I’ve recently read in my (very limited) spare time. I won’t give any plot overviews because I figure they’re easy enough to find on the interwebs anyway; I’ll just give you my perspective.

The First Week – Margaret Merilees
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To be honest, it took me a long time to warm to this one. It took me two attempts to get on a roll and even then, I wasn’t a big fan of any of the characters. What kept me reading was the intrigue of what Marian’s son had done and Merilees’s vivid descriptions of the rural Western Australian landscape – particularly because the book was based on some of her own experiences. I think it’s important to support local writers, and Merilees is certainly a very good one. My persistence did ultimately pay off because the story stayed with me for quite a while after I turned the final page, however I wouldn’t recommend this novel to everyone.

N-W – Zadie Smith
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This is another one that I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with – I know, not off to a great start, am I? I think that most people are either pro-London or pro-New York when it comes to a big city setting, and I’m definitely on London’s side. Perhaps that’s because I’ve been there twice and so some of the places are more familiar to me. Perhaps it’s because I get excited butterflies in my tummy at the thought of going to live in London, but New York seems far bigger and scarier and gives me heart palpitations of the scared variety. In any case, the setting of this novel and Smith’s unique style of writing initially drew me in; I was inspired by both. Unfortunately, I haven’t stayed in that captivated state. My interest has ebbed and flowed and even though I’m almost at the end, I don’t think I’ve really learnt anything. The only revelations I’ve had have been of style rather than content (particularly the numbered, episodic middle section). I haven’t really found myself rooting for any of the characters. I shall persist mostly out of stubbornness rather than interest, and I’m hoping the ending will be more satisfying than the rest has been so far.

Dear Fatty – Dawn French
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By golly, French is hilarious! I mean, I already knew that but this autobiography reaffirmed my belief. This is such an enjoyable read; easy to smash out in one burst or dip in and out of, whichever method is more your thang. I could relate to so many of her reflections on the absurdity of acting and drama school; her tales of famous friendships and adventure through London’s comedy scene less so, but they were just as fascinating to me. French tells her story in her typically unapologetic, unabashed, unafraid style, making Dear Fatty a heck of a lot of fun as well as seriously touching.

Not That Kind of Girl – Lena Dunham
Not That Kind of Girl
I was actually really impressed with Lena Dunham’s writing style. I love her TV show, Girls, but it can get a bit whiny at times. Despite critics saying the same of Not That Kind of Girl, I actually found it far less grating and far more engaging. It’s the sort of memoir I wish I had had at the age of sixteen or seventeen; it probably would have been far more revelatory and engaging. In saying that, still found the book extremely engaging and I found a lot of reassurance in some of the chapters. Dunham presents her story in a similarly unapologetic way as French, and I think that’s why I ended up enjoying it so much and why I would recommend it to other young women. I think it’s important for everyone to be at peace with their own stories and Not That Kind of Girl has helped me appreciate certain aspects of my own.

Womankind Magazine
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Womankind may be on the more expensive end of the mag spectrum, but I reckon it’s worth it as a substitute for your average mainstream lady’s mags. Not only is Womankind without advertisements (YAY!), it features stunning artwork rather than airbrushed stock images of the ‘lady laughs whilst eating salad’, ‘lady laughs in bikini’ and ‘lady looks longingly into the distance at the reminder of how single and alone she is’ varieties. Womankind’s content is smart, well-considered and focused on ‘big ideas’. For example, this month’s Cosmo includes riveting articles like ’17 signs its #forrealsies’, ‘Manthropology: Decode his emojis’ and ‘Hide a big arse pimple’. Whilst they’re all probably questions I’ll ponder from time to time, reading about ‘the packaged self’, conservationist Rachel Carson and the artform of high reading gives me a far greater sense of satisfaction and fulfillment. Most of all, Womankind has taught me that there is always more to learn and more to explore about oneself, those around us, the world. And that’s kinda exciting to me!

Next up on my reading list: Yes Please by Amy Poehler (continuing with the funny lady memoir theme), The Wife Drought by Annabel Crabb (I love her a little bit), Backstage Politics by Phillip Adams, Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse, The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath and The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson (amongst others).

It’s a good thing I’m in the process of wrapping up my last lot of Uni work for the year, because it looks like I’m going to need a lot more time on my hands to get through all those books! I’ll keep you posted on my progress, but in the meantime, what are you reading at the moment? Do you have any books sidelined ready for summer? Do you have any recommendations for me? I’d love to hear from you!

Lxx

What I’m Reading – April 2014

Just a quick little update on some of the things I’m reading and loving at the moment, and some things I’m about to start on.

 

The end of your life book club – Will Schwalbe

ImageAs I mentioned in my previous post, I’ve recently joined the CWA (SA website here).One of the many rad things about my particular branch is that they have a door prize (or three) at each meeting. My (not so) inner competitive spirit came out as soon as this was mentioned at my first meeting and I was more than a little intrigued as to what the prizes could be. As it turned out, I won – first go and everything! I scored myself a lovely bottle of sauvignon blanc and this here book. I’d heard of it before but hadn’t been particularly motivated to go out and purchase a copy. I think you should though. I think everyone should. ‘The end of your life book club‘ tells the true story of the author, Will, and his mother, Mary Anne (/Mary/Mary Ann… you’ll see), as they form a two person book club when Mary is diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Filled with pearls of life wisdom, charming anecdotes and plenty of literary serendipity, this tale really affected me. Schwalbe’s writing is inspirational without being preachy or melodramatic and manages to delicately balance rich imagery (especially in relation to his mother’s work) and simplicity (especially when discussing her battle with cancer). I loved this little gem.

Peppermint Mag

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Peppermint‘s tagline of “Style, Sustainability, Substance” could not ring more true than in the current issue. It’s full of inspirational tales of ethical and sustainable businesses and the innovative entrepreneurs behind them, as well as plenty of prettiness (the shoot that the cover image comes from is particularly divine). Unlike a lot of other environmentally-minded publications (online or print) that I’ve read, I didn’t feel guilty or ‘told-off’ after reading Peppermint. I felt well-informed, inspired and positively positive, which I think is a much better way to make people feel if you’re trying to engage them with a particular message or point of view. Peppermint is only published quarterly, but I kinda like that about it. I feel like the content is all the more thoughtfully produced that way; it makes it a bit special. Also, if I only have to fork out four times a year for it, I don’t mind a slightly exxier price-tag than something more commercially-minded like Shop til you Drop or Cosmo.

God’s big instruction book – compiled by Juliet Mabey

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I’m not part of any particular religion, but I find religion endlessly fascinating. I also sometimes need a bit more guidance than my favourite A.A. Milne quote (although it does suffice in most circumstances). This book is one of the few things that can give me that comfort. A compilation of quotes and teachings from religions and schools of philosophical thought from around the world, it was gifted to me from my Aunty for my 16th birthday. From Judaism to Taoism to Christianity to the Baha’i Faith, it covers a whole lot of the world’s major religions and a whole lot of the minor ones, too. The thing that struck me the most when I first read it was that regardless of the religion, they all teach pretty similar things when it comes to basic (but often complicated) concepts like love, grief, family, etc. Whether you’re religious or just religiously curious, this is a great little book to keep by your bedside to remind you of the commonalities of the human experience and for those times you need a little guidance.

The Fry Chronicles – Stephen Fry

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You may have noticed how I like reading about people’s lives. Maybe it’s the influence of my Mum’s oral history Ph.D that she’s currently tapping away on, but I think real lives provide just as much (if not more) drama and intrigue and funny coincidences as any work of fiction. I’m looking forward to borrowing The Fry Chronicles (my first audiobook) from my Dad and hearing some of the stories Fry has to tell about himself and his life. I’m especially looking forward to hearing him talk about his time at Cambridge, especially his theatrical collaborations and friendships with Hugh Laurie and Emma Thompson (1979-1980 President and Vice-President of the Cambridge Footlights, respectively).

The Book Nook: What I’m Reading

When I finished school, I felt so fatigued and overloaded and, as strange as this sounds, sick of words. I was sick of writing them for my Studies of Society subject, reading them for English, translating them for Italian and listening to them from the endless stream of people trying to give me advice for the new stage of my life I was about to begin. It’s taken me a full two years to fall back in love with language (especially the written word) and I’ve only just started to read novels for pleasure and interest again. In my usual manic style, I’ve gone from reading only trashy magazines and the weekend newspapers (which are arguably just trashy magazines themselves) to having my head in three or four different books at once. I’m still nowhere near my Mother’s power-reading capabilities but I’m getting there, and I’m enjoying it. Slow and steady, easy does it.

Thought it might be nice to share with you what I’m reading at present and I might even make this a regular thing…

First up is Traces of Absence, written by one of my ex-teachers, Susan Holoubek (published by Pan Macmillan).

ImageSue (Ms. Holoubek? Still not sure if I’m grown-up enough to use the first names of teachers…) was one of those rare teachers who just had a real spark about her and was one of the warmest, kindest presences in the school. This really translates onto the page as she weaves the story of Dee and the desperate search for her missing daughter, Corrie, between Adelaide and Buenos Aires. Written with such humour and heart, every little idiosyncrasy of Holoubek’s characters have resonated deeply with me. Really truly worth reading.

Next up, something a little less weepy but equally as thought-provoking. Advance Australia… Where? by Hugh Mackay (published by Hachette Australia).

ImageI’ve been feeling incredibly disillusioned by the state of politics in this country for the last few years and very disappointed by a lot of the widely-held attitudes of our society in general so it probably doesn’t come as a surprise that I’m an avid Q&A watcher, occasional reader of The Monthly (this edition was my favourite) and subscriber to about 3500 advocacy and charity group emails. I devour healthy political debate like Gwenyth Paltrow devours her bloody kale-maca-quinoa-chia-coconut-acai protein ball shake crap (see Goop for more if the sound of that tickled your fancy. If it did though, I’m unfriending you). Even though I’m a few years late in jumping onto the Hugh Mackay bandwagon, I’ve been really enjoying ploughing through (yep, that’s the most accurate way to describe it) his analysis of post-millennial ‘Straya’.

To round out the mix, I’ve got a few magazines that I’m loving at the mo whose stories have significantly more depth than your average NW/OK/WHO/Grazia. Apart from old faves Frankie, Yen and Peppermint, I’ve been picking up copies of Dumbo Feather and Renegade Collective and getting all inspired from their stories of innovative creatives, businessy folk and all ’round extraordinary people. Both of their websites are worth a squizz, so click on through those hyperlinks and check them out. The editors of these two publications, Berry Liberman (DF) and Lisa Messenger (RC) are two of my biggest role models at the moment too; I really respect their work so much.

So there you have it! That’s what’s occupying (part of) my busy little mind at the moment! If you have any book suggestions for me, feel free to add a comment below and send them through!

Lxx