Comment, Personal

hello september! an update

i was going to write and publish a book review today, but i realised it wasn’t really what i wanted to post right now. i know this is a book blog, but for me it’s also very personal. it is my life in books. books are right at the heart of me. but recently books have not been my priority or my main focus, because my life has been crazy. and so today i just wanted to share a personal post. so my apologies if you are not here for that – feel free to skip.

i started to write a review today, but then something made me stop and just look out of the patio doors at the garden. sometimes i get that in the middle of writing a review – a weird blank moment where i have no idea what to say next, and i need a minute of staring into space to just get my head back on track and remember what i wanted to say. this is why i find it helpful to write notes about a book before i write a review – i often have so much to say, or some weird specific point, that it’s easy to get overwhelmed and just forget it all.

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personally i have been feeling overwhelmed quite often recently. my job has become massively busier in the last couple of months, for several reasons, and i have been given more responsibility – which is both good and bad. it’s that classic catch 22 where you are doing well, so they give you more work, which then means you can’t perform quite as well because you are too busy. so you don’t do quite so well. that is essentially what has happened to me since like july. i pride myself on my organisation in my job and realising that i had started to let things slip was pretty horrifying. i started researching diaries and planners, somewhat frantically, and i have started to think a lot more carefully about how i plan and use my time. it made me realise that i haven’t done as much reading as usual over the last couple of months, meaning that i haven’t been writing and posting reviews as much, which is a shame because that’s what i love to do. for me reading is massively important to my self-care and if i don’t do enough then i feel overwhelmed, and un-centred, and weird. reading is my time to myself, when i can feel calm and centred, and i don’t have to worry about anything other than being comfortable and having enough tea. it is a haven.

my point is that my life has been crazy and stressful recently, and that’s why i have been a bit quiet on here, and on my twitter and instagram. in the coming months i am pledging to be more organised in all aspects of my life, to make more time for reading and blogging, and to emanate calm and zen – as much as i can!

apologies for the non-book post. sometimes a life in books isn’t just about reading.

back to book reviews for my next post – the review i’m currently writing is The Road Through the Wall by Shirley Jackson, and i am currently reading Life Among the Savages, also by Shirley Jackson. soon i am also going to be posting my review of A Little Bird Told Me by Marianne Holmes, which was sent to me from Agora Books, so look out for that! as always, happy reading x.

 

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Articles, Non-Fiction

I’m Still Here

I realise it has been a bit quiet around here of late. As per my last post I am still reading The Amazons by Adrienne Mayor, which is taking me longer to read than I expected, and is the principle reason I haven’t posted reviews since my late January round up.

It’s funny when you’re enjoying a book and yet it still takes a long time to read. The Amazons is a very dense book packed with a lot of information, a lot of detail, so I think that’s why it’s taking me a while to read. The start of 2018 for me was blighted by illness and I think I’m still recovering as I constantly seem to be tired, so there have been a lot of days when I have just not felt able to read, as much as I might want to. That’s a horrible feeling.

At least I haven’t lost my enthusiasm for reading. I had a bit of an online binge and bought ten of the new Penguin Modern series (a bit like the Little Black Classics), as well as a copy of The Histories by Herodotus, as it’s referenced so much in The Amazons. I also bought a copy of Jenny Mollen’s book Live Fast, Die Hot. I don’t exactly love the title, but I’m keen to read this one – I follow Jenny on Instagram and find her funny and engaging, and I like her frankness about life. Similarly, I pre-ordered Busy Philipps’ untitled book that I have heard her talking about on Instagram. She is definitely worth following – I love her.

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It’s easy to feel like there is sometimes just too much out there that’s amazing and worth devoting time to, and it can feel impossible to commit to everything that you’d like to. This applies to books, but also to other media like TV and movies – but also to friends and social life, work, housekeeping, relationships… throw almost constant anxiety into the mix (hello!), and it’s easy to feel overwhelmed.

Reading is my retreat, but I need the time and space to do it. Sometimes life overwhelms you to a point of paralysis. I am lucky that we have enough space in our house that if I want to, I can take myself off to another room away from the TV, my husband and the dog, and just read in peace for a while. I always feel restored when I am able to do this.

I’m now close to the end of The Amazons, so I will try and do a write-up as soon as I can once I have finished it. I absolutely love classical stuff, but I think I’ll take a break and read some of the Penguin Moderns I bought next. What joy can be found in these small perfect books!

More soon.

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An Update

Hello dear readers – as you may have noticed, the blog has been rather quiet of late. I had a total reading slump leading up to Christmas, though I did manage to finish one book at the end of December (Miss Jane by Brad Watson) which I will review at some point. I’m currently reading Mindhunter by John Douglas, as I loved the Netflix show based on it, and I love true crime. So far it’s a fascinating and engaging book, and I am very much enjoying it.

I am currently getting over the flu whilst also taking antibiotics for a chest infection, so I’m not exactly on the ball with keeping the blog updated. Life has got in the way too much recently, for better or worse. I’ve also just turned 30, which is making me feel old and weird.

I am still going to review books and keep blogging, but I think over the next few months the updates won’t be too frequent – but I am still here, still reading, still being 30. I’ve just got to get the hang of fitting everything in as life changes.

Happy reading x.

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Articles, Fiction, Non-Fiction

On Being Stuck

I am in a sort reading quandry, and it’s why I haven’t posted in a while. If you’ve looked at my GoodReads recently (though honestly why would you) you’ll see that I am ‘currently reading’ two books – something I never do. I started Simone de Beauvoir’s Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter back at the start of October, and I am still wading through it, even though it isn’t very long. I bought it with several other gems from ladies of the 20th century, including Jean Rhys and Joan Didion, and dived right into it for fear that if I left it for a while I would just never read it. It’s one of those books – not essential or urgent, but one that I do want to read.

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image: amazon.co.uk

It’s not a long book but it’s very dense – small type, hardly any page breaks, and no chapters. It’s divided into a couple of massive sections, and it’s easy to get lost in them. It also doesn’t really help that the ever industrious Simone, as I have discovered her to be, does not leave out a single detail of her formative years – which in theory could be a good thing, but it means that she gets too bogged down in these details and the reader feels dragged down with her. A lot of time is spent on her brooding teenage years, with their tempestuous relationships and her musings on what she should do with her life, and what sort of person she should become. Perhaps it is not surprising, given that de Beauvoir is such a celebrated and successful philosopher, that so much of her memoir of her youth could be described as ‘navel gazing’. It is entirely self-centred to the point that it is hard to picture her every day life and how she interacts with the people around her. Instead it is like reliving those tortuous teenage years, except this time in Paris in the early 20th century. I’m about two-thirds of the way through Memoirs and I am very close to giving up altogether – though I hope I will soon feel empowered to go back to it.

I started reading Loving by Henry Green in an attempt to give myself a break from Simone, hopefully to return to her more refreshed. I first read Loving at university, for a course on the concept of time in the 20th century, and I loved it straight away (no pun intended). It was first published in 1945 but is considered a modernist work, in that it is almost entirely character-driven and is a bit experimental with language and storytelling. Most of the plot moves forward through the characters’ dialogue and there’s very little exposition, which I quite like. In that sense it feels very natural, and more like real life, where all our information comes from the communication of other people, whether verbal on non-verbal. I shall probably write a proper review of it when I have finished reading it – which hopefully won’t be in several months’ time…

That’s it for now. I will endeavour to devote more time to reading, and to blogging, both of which have been a bit neglected recently. I adore this time of year, with Christmas and a lot of birthdays, but it’s also just really fucking stressful and tiring, so at the moment I feel a bit like the picture of Simone de Beauvoir on the cover of the Penguin edition I have of her memoirs (pictured above). Hopefully I will find enough time to relax and get some serious reading done!

What do you like to do when you are stuck in a reading rut?

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Articles, Comment

International Literacy Day and Why It Matters

Today (8th September) in International Literacy Day. This year’s theme is ‘Literacy and Sustainable Development’ –

Literacy is one of the key elements needed to promote sustainable development, as it empowers people so that they can make the right decisions in the areas of economic growth, social development and environmental integration. Literacy is a basis for lifelong learning and plays a crucial foundational role in the creation of sustainable, prosperous and peaceful societies.  [Quote from here]

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Literacy is one of those things that is very often taken for granted, mostly by people like us in First World countries with decent education systems. I for one have had a passion for literature almost all my life, and I cannot think of a world without it; indeed I can’t remember a time before I could read.

Our education system is at once brilliant and flawed. We are very lucky to have it, but it does not succeed in every instance. Children with dyslexia or any other kind of ‘reading disorder’ may take significantly longer to learn to read, or be confident with reading, than their peers with no impairments. This is of course something that can be handled by special teachers and tutors, and ensuring the child gets the right support and methods of learning. But what about children who have no disorders, but their school does not have the resources to ensure their reading abilities? This is where literacy becomes a wider problem that affects people who should have every opportunity to learn how to read and write.

The Independent today published this article in which they state that lack of resources, on the part of the schools but also the families, can mean that some children cannot read well even at age 11, which is utterly awful and ridiculous. The article points out that some families have fewer than 10 books at home and children are not encouraged to read outside of school – as someone who comes from a naturally bookish family this issue has always interested me. I always find it strange when people don’t have many books at home, or don’t read many themselves. Even if you are not ‘bookish’, and don’t feel passionate about literature, there will still always be a book out there for you, in some form. It doesn’t have to be difficult or long, or particularly fancy. Hell, I’d rather you read something like Dan Brown than nothing at all. Graphic novels are also probably a good way to get back into reading, if long books intimidate. Anyway, my point is that people need to want to read, and in order for that to happen they need to find something that appeals to them as well as learn the benefits of reading. Not only is it fun, you also learn new things, and it’s like exercise for your brain. It gives you a window on another world and therefore, I think, could potentially help to bring attention to lives different from yours and encourage curiosity and empathy.

It’s also a skill, something I never think about as it is like second nature to me. English Literature was my best subject at school, and the subject of my degree, and so I have taken it for granted that I can construct a good sentence and express myself. I can also analyse a text and understand what is being said to me. This comes partly from studying, but also from years of reading books that were a bit too difficult for me – that is, from challenging myself. I believe that when we are not challenged we do not learn. A lack, or low level, of literacy cannot be allowed to stagnate if it “will do” or “is good enough”. I’m not saying we must all be Literature students, but I am saying that we must all learn to appreciate our language in all its forms, and be able to express ourselves well. Learning to read and write correctly improves vocabulary and expression. It builds confidence, especially in children, and is a key skill in almost all professions. There is no downside to improving your reading and writing skills.

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This post was written in conjunction with Grammarly’s scheme to promote literacy. By writing this I am encouraging literacy and highlighting its importance, and a donation will be made in my name to the charity of my choice – which is The Book Bus. They work in the UK as well as Africa, South America, and Asia, to bring books and literacy to children.

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