Books I’ve read this January/February 🌸

So, rather than gazillions of individual, short blogs for the books I’ve read during the first two months of 2018, I’m going to do a summary of a few. These are books that I’ve enjoyed reading and recommend (but have less to say about, they speak for themselves!) Take a look and let me know what you think.

1. ‘Bored and Brilliant – How Time Spent Doing Nothing Changes Everything’ by Manoush Zomorodi (Pan Macmillan) OUT 22.2.18

Official Description

It’s time to move ‘doing nothing’ to the top of your to-do list Have you ever noticed how you have your best ideas when doing the dishes or staring out the window? It’s because when your body goes on autopilot, your brain gets busy connecting ideas and solving problems. However in the modern world it often feels as though we have completely removed boredom from our lives; we are addicted to our phones, we reply to our emails twenty-four hours a day, tweet as we watch TV, watch TV as we commute, check Facebook as we walk and Instagram while we eat. Constant stimulation has become our default mode. In this easy to follow, practical book, award-winning journalist Manoush Zomorodi explores the connection between boredom and original thinking, and will show you how to ditch your screens and start embracing time spent doing nothing. Bored and Brilliant will help you unlock the way to becoming your most productive and creative self.

My Review:

‘Bored and Brilliant’ is an eye-opener of a book. Filled with all sorts of information on technology and how being bored is actually okay. In fact, it states that even the Neolithic people would have experienced boredom, but only now we have so much available to occupy us, do we approach this feeling quicker when we are not constantly being stimulated by one device or another. (Hence, why I turned back to books!) It is a very current topic, but one that many people are probably unaware of. We scroll down out feeds on social media, mindlessly taking in images on Instagram, comparing ourselves to others’ fake lives made for Facebook, watching it all kick off with the keyboard warriors on Twitter. It’s tiring and it’s detrimental. This book takes a look at all of this.

It was not a book really to ‘escape’ to as there was a lot of technical and scientific vocabulary to begin with and all the talk of switching off from technical devices made me more anxious than if I was actually on a device! It was a good read in terms of the insights on the effect of social medias and the like, but I like my mindful books to be aware of my mindfulness – with a splash of creativity, imagery to calm, an inventive layout. This book was more the reasons why and anecdotes on why an addiction to our phones and tablets can be detrimental to our mental heath and social skills. Don’t get me wrong, I’m very aware of the affect they have, having grown up and been a very young teen at the age of the first real phone, the dawn of the Internet and iPod/MP3 players – generation technology revolution aka a millennial! I see in my kids every day the problems caused for the next generation; by social media, by spending too long on screens or games – inability to play nice, to share, to communicate and to read (in some cases). This book is a good fact-based read with lots of challenges, data, numbers and anecdotes. Worth a read!

2. ‘O’s Little Guide to the Big Questions’ by The Editors of O, the Oprah Magazine (Pan Macmillan) OUT NOW

Official Description

The sixth and final instalment in this series of small, inspirational books from the editors of O, the Oprah Magazine, O’s Little Guide to the Big Questions is a collection of thought-provoking stories and essays on the wisdom to be gleaned from asking (and answering) life’s biggest questions. With contributions from Gloria Steinem, Rita Wilson and many more inspirational writers and artists, this stunning collection will help you find your route personal happiness. What matters most? What is my purpose? When is the right time to make a change? Who is most important to me? Asking (and answering) the big questions can be terrifying – but it is the only way to put yourself on the path towards living your best life. Big questions can be forces of empowerment, motivation and clarification. The editors at O, The Oprah Magazine have combed through the magazine’s extensive archives to assemble O’s Little Guide to the Big Questions, a collection of stirring, motivating, thought-provoking pieces from great writers and celebrated thinkers, that offers wise guidance and inspiration to anyone feeling lost or in need of a reset.

My Review:

‘O’s Little Guide to the Big Questions’ is a book series I’ve never come across, but this was the sixth instalment in the set. Despite the title of the book, for some reason I expected this to be a really light and easy read – I was wrong! It really is the BIG questions! ‘How do I live a full life?’, ‘What does it all mean?,’ and, ‘Can I handle the hard times?’ being the chapter headings for some of the smaller contributing articles within that chapter. They’re hard work. Some are more light-hearted than others (for example, ‘finders, keepers, hoarders, weepers’!) whilst some really do delve into the meanings of life and what these questions mean for this select group of women. This is a very anecdote based book and, as I don’t know who most of these women are (sorry, ladies!), it works hard to make them relatable as quickly as possible. It’s a good book, I suggest it’s for an older lady though, maybe those who have done the raising kids thing (not for one who is yet to hit her thirties and looking after her hamster is as much dependent care she has to give!). Give it a whirl!

3. ‘Also Human – The Inner Lives of Doctors’ by Caroline Elton (Random House UK) OUT 15.3.18

Official Description

Doctors are the people we turn to when we fall ill. They are the people we trust with our lives, and with the lives of those we love. Yet who can doctors turn to at moments of stress, or when their own working lives break down?

What does it take to confront death, disease, distress and suffering every day? To work in a healthcare system that is stretched to breaking point? To carry the responsibility of making decisions that can irrevocably change someone’s life – or possibly end it? And how do doctors cope with their own questions and fears, when they are expected to have all the answers?

Caroline Elton is a psychologist who specialises in helping doctors. For over twenty years she has listened as doctors have unburdened themselves of the pressures of their jobs: the obstetrician whose own fertility treatment failed; the trainee oncologist who found herself unable to treat patients suffering from the disease that killed her father; the brilliant neurosurgeon struggling to progress her career in an environment that was hostile to women. Drawing on extraordinary case studies and decades of work supporting clinicians, Also Human presents a provocative, perceptive and deeply humane examination of the modern medical profession.

My Review:

‘Also Human’ by Caroline Elton is my third medical book in the same number of months. The world of medicine fascinates me and really, at the minute, is something we cannot escape a discussion of in the media and in the news. It affects us all as we all need to be well! Having read a doctor’s view, a nurse’s view, this book is a psychologist’s point of view. The first chapter sucks you in straight away, reminding us (as the title suggests) that medical workers are also human beings; that we may never think of our doctors as finding us attractive, or thinking us hypochondriacs, or the worry they have with patients in regards to ‘should I or shouldn’t I refer them?’ – bearing in mind the dangers and repercussions as GPs if they don’t, the damages to their Surgery’s figures if they do. I’ve read about the damaging consequences of being a doctor on a person’s mental health, but this book really takes it to another level. The reasoning behind it, the more shocking of stories, the suicidal doctors who get in touch for comfort and help, the seven years of education and confidence, then the first day on a ward which damages everything they knew and already breeds doubt. It’s shocking. Don’t expect an easy read here, it’s a hard read for a reason. My respect for these people is unwavering, I think it would do anyone who uses the NHS good to read this and remember the people they refer to as ‘the NHS’ are actually people with families and lives of their own outside of work. Definitely a recommended read.

4. ‘Souvenir’ by Rolf Potts (Bloomsbury Academic) OUT 8.3.18

Official Description

Object Lessons is a series of short, beautifully designed books about the hidden lives of ordinary things.

For as long as people have traveled to distant lands, they have brought home objects to certify the journey. More than mere merchandise, these travel souvenirs take on a personal and cultural meaning that goes beyond the object itself. Drawing on several millennia of examples-from the relic-driven quests of early Christians, to the mass-produced tchotchkes that line the shelves of a Disney gift shop-travel writer Rolf Potts delves into a complicated history that explores issues of authenticity, cultural obligation, market forces, human suffering, and self-presentation. More than just objects, souvenirs are a personalized form of folk storytelling that enable people to make sense of the world and their place in it.

My Review:

‘Souvenir’ is classed as an educational book, a short lesson. I like the idea of this and it was a lovely little lesson indeed. When you actually look at what souvenirs are, as Rolf Potts does in this book, it’s actually a really strange notion! When we go on holiday or away somewhere memorable, we pick up something to take a part of that experience back with us. Potts looks at why we do this. The enhancement of a memory, even when it’s kitsch tat from a gift shop in Paris which is nowhere near the Eiffel Tower! Little bits, nicknaks, reminders that ultimately (unless they get put on the fridge) are stored away and never used! A wonder is whether this notion will change over time, now we have phones to take photos and videos? Even as far back as the Egyptians (who travelled to Sudan) bought souvenirs from their travels, the Greeks and Romans manufactured them, early religious pilgrimages allowed a chance to purchase them. This book is a journey through time, a history lesson and a look into the human psyche all in one. An educational book from a series, for anyone looking to learn a little about everyday objects in our lives and their significances to us.

5. ‘A Very British Christmas – Twelve Days of Discomfort and Joy’ by Rhodri Marsden (HQ) OUT NOW

Official Description

Imagine if all your Christmases did actually “come at once”.

That idiom is supposed to evoke an image of delight, happiness and nothing going wrong, but the British Christmas doesn’t always turn out that way. Yes, sometimes all the gifts are perfect, everyone’s on great form and no one chokes on a mince pie. But on other occasions you’ll fall through a glass cabinet or set your cardigan on fire.

A Very British Christmas pays tribute to all the peculiar ways we choose to celebrate; it tells stories of our propensity to behave badly, our uselessness under pressure and our unquenchable joie de vivre. Join us as we salute cultural icons, dissect national customs and hear from people who’ve eaten all the turkey and lived to tell the tale.

Tidings of discomfort, tidings of joy.

My Review:

Yes, I read a Christmas-centred book in January! ‘A very British Christmas’ barely needs a review. It’s funny. It’s crude. It’s rude. It’s also incredibly British. All it’s stories of manners when manners are hardest to use. When being polite is the hardest thing to be in the face of a terrible present. The anecdotes taken from people all around the country from Christmases past and present will make you howl. The stories of families, spare chairs, confrontations, drunk relatives you can barely abide at any other family occasion, let alone the main event in the calendar year, are very relatable, very funny and very retell-able. A must read for any Brit to laugh along with – and for any other nation to laugh at us in our loveable, quirky ways.

6. ‘Go Bravely – Becoming the Woman You Were Created to Be’ by Emily Wilson Hussem (Ave Maria press) OUT 27.4.18

Official Description

“Sometimes even the smallest acts of living out faith require great bravery.”

As a young Christian woman, do you struggle with insecurities and feel bogged down by the pressures and expectations of society? Do you find it challenging to take care of yourself and be a faithful daughter of God?

Emily Wilson Hussem used to feel the same way. In Go Bravely, the Catholic musician and speaker offers twenty bits of advice that will equip you to tackle your deepest concerns about relationships, self-esteem, and dating while strengthening your faith at the same time.

In Go Bravely, Wilson Hussem offers readers warm and friendly encouragement as she shares her experiences with other young women as their youth minister as well as her own struggles with insecurity, relationships, loving and forgiving herself, and living her faith. You’ll feel right at home as she challenges you to be a light in the world while simultaneously offering you easy-to-digest advice on your most pressing questions.

Fresh off figuring out who she is as a daughter of God, how to cultivate healthy friendships, how to save sex for marriage, and how to develop a prayer life, Wilson Hussem gives you advice about what she learned in the midst of becoming a young woman.  Aware of the information overload that young people face today, she shares simple wisdom for bravely living your faith, such as:

Always be kind to other women. Work hard at what you love. Recognize God’s plan for your life. Remember that nobody is perfect. Cultivate authentic friendships.

These are basic ideas, Wilson Hussem says, but taking care of yourself and loving others are easy tenets of our faith to forget. A book that can be read in short snippets or in one sitting, Go Bravely offers you the encouragement and tools you need to live out your Christian faith with purpose and zeal.

My Review:

‘Go Bravely’ is a really lovely book. The cover caught my eye straight away, a very calming collection of colours and images, and the description hooked me in even further. This book is a faith-centred book for women at every stage of their lives. Chapters include topics on; being kind to and loving yourself, being kind to other women, finding a good support network and following the word of God in our everyday lives to help us live fuller and more meaningfully. This was, what I would call, a note-taking worthy book. I sat and jotted things down as I went, took photos of passages of text to share with friends or to keep in my phone and wrote down Bible references to check out at a later date. A lot of the Biblical quotes are already within the text, but for some sections where multiple references are made, they are bracketed for ease of reading. I particularly enjoyed the exploration of how we deal with failure, and how failing does not make you a failure; relevant in a world where so much is expected of women in careers (and as mothers) as we are compared and held up against these ‘model images’ of women who apparently have it all – including a photographer and a very good set of filters to make their lives seem so good. I really like this book and it’s one I would share and recommend to the women in my life. Everyone needs a friend like this author (Emily) to build you up!


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