In January I managed to read a total of six books, which for me is blooming impressive. Last month I managed four. Two were short stories, one was a novel and the other was a self-help/how-to guide. Without further ado, let’s dive into my February reads.
7. A Chess Game by Stefan Zweig
Find it: ISBN 978-1-78227-011-9
Another gem from my ever growing favourite publishers, Pushkin Press. If you didn’t read last month’s WIRLM, I discovered some of the stories this publishing house has released. I love how they often choose stories with real, raw emotions, that are told in effortless ways. The authors of the stories never seem to rush or force their points, but rather let the words speak for themselves.
I actually received this book as a Christmas present from my mum or brother (I think it was my brother but between them they got me so many books I scarcely remember which are from whom). Whilst it was not on my wishlist, it was a recommended read from the sales assistant who had found the copy of In The Beginning Was The Sea, which I had asked for. Reading the blurb, it was not a story I would have perhaps leapt at choosing for myself. However, I’m rather glad it was chosen for me.
This short story is centred around, you guessed it, the board game chess. However, despite the blurbs warning ‘a searing examination of the power of the mind and the evil it can do’ I wasn’t quite prepared for how literal this description would become. I thought it might all be an exaggeration. After all, what harm can a little competitive game of chess really do?
By so vigorously showing the extent of the human mind, I think this book really tackles and highlights how you never know someone’s past, trials and tribulations. As well as the importance of a helping hand, and what it really means to support another person. There’s also elements of human curiosity, the extent of competitivity, and the joy in facing a challenge.
8. How to Find Love in a Bookshop by Veronica Henry
Find it: ISBN 978-1-40914-689-6
I mentioned Kay in my last book post; if you’re not aware she’s a lovely lady I work with who shares her books and love of literature with me. After rather enjoying The Reader’s of Broken Wheel Recommend, Kay thought I’d love this story too. Unfortunately, this wasn’t the case. There are definitely similarities between the two stories, but this one wasn’t for me. I finished the story, mostly because it was an easy read. It was sweet, and the story behind the bookshop was lovely. However, for me there wasn’t enough depth, some of the characters felt underdeveloped, and the storyline became too predictable. Perhaps I’m a little harsh, as even Broken Wheel on paper is too cliché for me. On the other hand, the writing style also didn’t do much for me. Maybe reading these two so close together, or not leaving a big enough gap between the easy reads has influenced my opinion.
If you’re looking for a light hearted, easy, summer read, then this is the book for you. If like me, you prefer stories with depth, and intriguing characters, this one is not for you.
9. The Little Book of Hygge: The Danish Way to Live Well by Meik Wiking
Find it: ISBN 978-0-241-28391-2
I added this one to my Christmas wish list mostly because it looked beautiful. I’d seen it in a couple of shops, and the whole feel and aesthetic had me in awe. Now that I own this little treasure, I stand by its beauty. The photographs are gorgeous, and the layout reflects the message of the text; slow, meaningful and simple.
Hygge seems like the new minimalism in terms of trends. In a 24/7 society, it can be ever so easy to get caught up in the chaos and materialism. Hygge is all about the feeling you experience in life’s everyday good moments. From movie nights in by yourself to group meals, Hygge can be found in all of our lives. I related the message from this book to slow living. Slow living is based on the idea of removing ourselves from the crazy and appreciating more of the things, people, and moments that money cannot by. Carrie, over on One Pleasant Day has discussed how this year she wants to focus on slow living. Making time for herself to slow down, and reharmonise within herself. To rush less, and to prioritise quality over quantity. If this is something you’re interested in, or desperately seeking, perhaps pick this book up, or even one similar.
Sometimes self-help books are pretty, and sometimes they’re helpful, other times they’re neither. This one is definitely a mix of both the former qualities.
10. Animal Farm by George Orwell
Find it: ISBN 978-0-141-03613-7
Moving on from all things sweet, slow and easy, I delved into Animal Farm. I’d heard on the news that in light of current world events this fable and Orwell’s novel 1984 had become bestsellers across the world. Sales of these books were, in fact, keeping some smaller independent bookshops open. Having never read either of these stories I thought it was about time I had. What better time, ay?
If you are not interested in politics, world events, power corruption, or anything relating to these topics then perhaps give this book a miss. (Also good luck surviving in this society). However, if you can handle these topics then definitely give this one a read. It’s short, easy to follow, and written so well. Orwell definitely knew what he was doing, and there is a reason why this satire has so much praise around it. I can also see why it is selling so well within the current political situation our world is facing. Politics aside for just a second, this example of corruption can even be seen in our everyday lives; why bullies bully, why some ‘friends’ aren’t really our friends, and why saying ‘no’ isn’t always a bad thing.
The use of animals to tell this story was a very clever move. Each character had the full development they deserve. Hats off to Orwell. Suddenly we are removed from humans, and we are given the lessons as if they are a new perspective. Naturally, we feel empathetic towards these vulnerable creatures and their limitations. I believe these limitations reflect the varying degrees of human education. Even those who may seem naive, ignorant, or uneducated, are suffering just as much. They just don’t realise their feelings of suffering, or something being wrong, are indeed correct and why. It might be a little dark and sad, but it’s an important text. Please, please give it a try.
In February I felt like my reading came full circle. I started out with a novel all about the power of experience, trauma and our minds, and ended with a fable on corruption, disruption, and again the power of our minds. The in between was light hearted, with a dose of cliché and a larger dose of self-care. A real mix this month. Bring on March’s reading list.
Side note: look at this illustration Lydia sent me! LOOK HOW CUTE ALL THE DINOS ARE!!!!! I want to be all of them, and friends with all of them. I don’t know who the artist of these cute characters is, and for this, I do apologise. If you know, or are, the artist/source please let me know so I can credit properly but also look at other works in this style.
[11/03/17 Update; Bonnie Pang is the artist behind this beautiful illustration. I have linked her website gallery in case you’re interested in her work]