July Book Club

Book Club by Sam Granger

July was a quiet reading month for me. It was also a personally busy one which I think had a lot to do with my lack of reading. While I still read every night before bed, I was drifting off to dreamland much sooner than usual! At the end of last month’s post I mentioned that I was trying a new reading technique:

“..a speed-reading method in which you listen to the audiobook at 1.5x speed while reading along.”

It definitely works, people! If you are able to get hold of an e- or hard-copy of a book and the audiobook, I highly recommend you give it a go. Check your local library, especially if they have a digital media section online for ebooks and audiobooks. I finished Northanger Abbey in about 6 days, only reading at night before bed. Score!

Note: Due to the nature of this type of post, there may be some spoilers in my reviews, so read on with caution. Generally, I will give a brief overview of what the book is like (much like a back cover would), but I won’t give away major plot points and such. I will always warn you if I ever do, though!

What I read in July

July Book Club: Northanger Abbey by Jane AustenNorthanger Abbey by Jane Austen

Last month I mentioned how I thought I had read this before, a long time ago. That is correct, though I barely remembered anything, so it was almost like a new-to-me book. My overall impression of this book was positive. It’s known as Austen’s parody of the Gothic novels that were popular when she was writing, so she pokes fun at the genre while using many of its elements. It tells the story of Catherine, a 17-year-old avid novel reader from a modest background who is off for a holiday in Bath with wealthy family friends. While there, she meets Isabella, a vain and materialistic young woman who spends most of her time gossiping and flirting. Isabella ‘adopts’ Catherine and teaches her the ways of Bath and introduces her into society. Catherine also meets a young man named Henry and they get on very well. Unfortunately, Catherine is thrown at Isabella’s brother who, like his sister, is vain and more-or-less stupid. Catherine isn’t keen. Eventually, Catherine is introduced to Henry’s sister and they become fast friends. Catherine is then invited to Henry and his sister’s family home by their father, an appearance- and status-conscious General. Their home is Northanger Abbey and Catherine is most excited because she imagines it to be like the decaying abbeys in her favourite Gothic novels, with tales of tragedy and all sorts of horrors. She’s disappointed on arrival but finds her imagination running wild none-the-less. She enjoys her stay, for the most part, and her relationship with Henry grows (although she is not especially aware that her feelings are reciprocated). Something dramatic happens and it all seems to go pear-shaped, but then, as always, the day is saved and everyone lives happily every after.

The novel is a coming of age and I really like that Austen is telling the story of a younger girl. So far, most of her female leads have been at least 20. I like that she explores the teenage world a bit here, and all the changes and growing up that occurs during that time. Catherine begins as a whimsical girl who is carried away by imaginings heavily influenced by her reading material. She ends as a young woman who is a little bit more grounded and worldly. Aside from Catherine, I found many of the characters interesting, particularly Henry and his family. Isabella and her family were awful but were written in a way that didn’t make me want to punch myself in the face (unlike Mansfield Park). It’s also quite a bit shorter than the other novels so is a quicker read if you just want a taste.

5/5

July Book Club by Sam Granger - The Real Jane Austen by Paula ByrneThe Real Jane Austen: A life in small things by Paula Byrne

This is an intimate look at Jane Austen’s life, done in a really unique way. Byrne has selected various objects from Austen’s life that have been preserved and uses them as a starting point for illustrating the author’s life. I’ve never read an Austen biography before, just a few bits here and there online, so I didn’t have much else to compare it to. I think my preconceived notions of what Jane must have been like were similar to what was portrayed in the book. I didn’t think she was a boring spinster lady who was constantly sickly or anything. I assumed she would have been lively and her decision  not to marry must have been a calculated one. That’s not to say she would never have married had she lived longer and met the right person, but I admire that she refused to settle (as demonstrated by her acceptance and then refusal of a proposal by the brother of childhood friends). She knew it would take a very particular sort of man to be ok with her continued career as an author, without her having to change too many of her ways. She came across as being fearful of pregnancy and childbirth, and although she enjoyed the company of children and loved her nieces and nephews, she didn’t seem to desire motherhood especially. Marriage usually meant having children. Being a wife and mother would surely have meant less time for writing. So, sod that! And fair enough. She knew what she wanted and she wanted to be an author who was greatly admired. Although her novels were published anonymously, she said in many letters that she didn’t actually care very much about concealing her identity. I think she was quite pleased with the reception her work received and didn’t want to shy away from collecting the recognition she felt she deserved.

She wasn’t a shrinker and she didn’t shy away from some attention. She was ballsy, determined, and had an independent spirit. I think Byrne captures this beautifully in her book and I highly recommend this if you’re interested in learning more about Jane Austen.

4/5

What I want to read in August

Persuasion by Jane AustenAugust Book Club by Sam Granger: Persuasion by Jane Austen

This is the final book for the Jane Austen Book Club I belong to. I think I’ve read this before also? I’m looking forward to it as I hear good things!

 

August Book Club by Sam Granger: My Fellow Devils by L. P. HartleyMy Fellow Devils by L. P. Hartley

Found this on a random library excursion. Have begun it, not really sure. Watch this space.

Literally, anything else that isn’t rubbish!

I’ve had a few false starts lately. One book I just could not get into past the first chapter. Sigh!

Have a good reading month, fellow bookworms! Please do comment and let me know what you’re reading at the moment. xo

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June Book Club

Book Club by Sam Granger

Note: Due to the nature of this type of post, there may be some spoilers in my reviews, so read on with caution. Generally, I will give a brief overview of what the book is like (much like a back cover would), but I won’t give away major plot points and such. I will always warn you if I ever do, though!

What I read in June

 

June Book Club: Emma by Jane Austen

Emma by Jane Austen

This is rivaling Price and Prejudice for my favourite Austen novel! I thought it was written very well and the style seemed a bit more modern to me. I felt like it would be a good option for someone who hasn’t really read classic literature before but wants to give it a go. I don’t love the character of Emma very much because she’s incredibly self-absorbed and snooty, but there is something about her that makes it pleasant to read about her life. Love/hate, I guess!

4/5

 

June Book Club: Bringing Up Bebe by Pamela Druckerman

Bringing Up Bébé by Pamela Druckerman

This is a fascinating book about the differences between American and French parenting. While I don’t have children yet, I see no harm in arming myself with information. Plus, the areas of psychology I was always most interested in were child development and parenting, so there you go. Anyway, I absolutely loved the book. Not gonna lie, I’m a Francophile and am unrealistically and romantically biased toward almost everything French. That being said, the French view of parenting and childhood is something I have always felt akin to. It’s less helicopter parent and more parents have identities outside of being parents but children are loved and valued still. I learned that the stereotype of French pregnant women drinking wine every day and smoking is generally inaccurate, and corporal punishment is not a common occurrence anymore (at least among the middle classes of Paris, anyway). French parents believe in having firm limits for their children, but allowing them to have a lot of freedom within those limits. Babies are treated as rational beings and parents are encouraged to speak to their babies and explain what they’re doing and why. Babies are generally sleeping all night from about 3-months, which is partly attributed to French parents pausing when baby makes a noise during sleep, rather than rushing in to soothe at the first sigh or cry (because babies do make noises in their sleep and will often settle back down if left for 5 or so minutes).  Children are expected, from very young, to be polite (table manners, greetings, appropriate address of people), but play is highly valued and they are allowed to run amok in daycare and at home.

The only thing I found really shocking was the attitude toward breastfeeding in France. Most women only do it for a short period of time, and some not at all. This is partly because women typically return to work anywhere from three to 12 months post-birth, so for ease and practicality, breastfeeding falls away as formula comes in. There’s a general attitude that formula milk is just as, if not more, healthy than breast milk. In my own culture, and that of other English-speaking ones, the whole Breast Is Best message is so strong that even I cringe slightly when someone willingly chooses to formula feed. Which is awful because that kind of attitude will potentially affect mums who can’t breastfeed for whatever reason. But in France, it’s just accepted and you will be considered strange if you breastfeed for a year or more.

5/5

June Book Club: The Anthropology of Childhood by David F. LancyThe Anthropology of Childhood: Cherubs, Chattel, Changelings by David F. Lancy

The whole reason I ended up reading the previous book was because it was mentioned in this one, about the anthropological record of childhood around the world. I haven’t yet finished this book, but it’s been an amazing read so far. It’s definitely a book for people who are interested in attitudes toward children throughout the world. It details a rich ethnographic record of so many cultures, from isolated tribes to modern-day Western. It looks a little at the archaeological record of childhood throughout history as well. The overwhelming message, for me, so far is that the way we do things in the West is the anomaly. Compared with the rest of the world, we’re the weird ones, the different ones, and potentially “backward” ones (though I’m still fond of our medical knowledge and the fact we’re more likely to base what we do on scientific research).

5/5

What I want to read in July

Because I’m generally terrible at completing my reading lists for the month, except those I need to read for book clubs, I’m just going to include my book club read for the month.

Northanger Abbey by Jane AustenJuly Book Club: Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

I seem to recall having read this one, but maybe only once? I’ve already started this, and I’m using a speed-reading method in which you listen to the audiobook at 1.5x speed while reading along. It’s reminiscent of childhood, but I have managed to read about 60% of the book in four days, so I think it’s working!

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May Book Club

Book Club by Sam Granger

It’s the first of June, which means it’s time for me to reflect on what I read throughout May, and roughly plan out what I want to read this month. Something I’ve learned from doing these book club posts this year is that I can only ever have a sort-of plan for what I want to read in the following month. I usually pick books based on what I feel like reading at the time, or for a particular purpose, like learning about something new. Since April, I’ve been reading Jane Austen books for a local book club, and so far they are the only ones I plan to read and actually do end up reading! So, there you go. I’m a feeler-reader (that’s a thing; I just made it up).

That being said, I actually have read all of the books I set out to read in May. SHOCKER. I should, however, be totally honest: this happened because I wrote my April Book Club post halfway through May and had already read, or begun, a number of books on my to-read-in-May list. So, if you ever want to look dedicated, disciplined and organised, do that.

Time for the disclaimer: Due to the nature of this type of post, there may be some spoilers in my reviews, so read on with caution. Generally, I will give a brief overview of what the book is like (much like a back cover would), but I won’t give away major plot points and such. I will always warn you if I ever do, though!

What I read in May

The Mothers by Jennifer GilmoreMay Book Club: The Mothers by Jennifer Gilmore

The book is written in the first person and tells the story of Jesse and Ramon’s journey to parenthood. After years of trying to have a biological child, they turn to domestic adoption, which is a pretty complicated process and quite emotionally exhausting too. There is a lot of waiting, a lot of not-being-chosen and some really shitty prospective biological mothers. Throughout the book, you are constantly reminded of Jesse’s yearning to be a mother, of her disappointment at not being a biological mother, of her desperation. I can’t imagine how traumatic it must be to not be able to have a biological child, but Jesse is very angry with the world and takes it out on her husband, her parents, her sister, her friends. It was a bit much, at times, to keep reading. She was very self-pitying and just totally consumed by wanting motherhood, and by understanding motherhood, that she seemed to forget that she’s not the only person who wants a child and can’t have one.

2/5

Not That Kind of Girl by Lena DunhamMay Book Club: Not That Kind of Girl by Lena Dunham

Oh, this is a controversial one! I’ve read positive and negative reviews and wasn’t sure what my opinion would be. Overall, I enjoyed the book. I like Lena Dunham’s writing style and her sense of humour is similar to mine, so I “got” it. I can relate to her as a child a lot. I had anxiety about a lot of things growing up, from as far back as I can remember, and it got to the point where it would interrupt my life at times. It can be really scary and confusing having to deal with that when you’re little. She had quite a different upbringing than mine – many would argue that she grew up very privileged. Which is code for white, in a well-off family with plenty of resources for therapists, private schools, and lots of connections. But, just because that’s her life, doesn’t mean she’s exempt from mental health issues, bad relationships, parental disagreements, sexual trauma, and pain. It also doesn’t mean that she isn’t allowed to feel like shit sometimes because of those situations. We all are. Money and connections don’t automatically mean someone will be happy and struggle-free and therefore cannot acknowledge when they aren’t.

What I liked the most is that she’s weird. Definitely not the absolute average, normal person with average, normal thoughts and feelings, that probably err on the side of a bit conservative and blah. She was a weird kid and her parents supported that. She’s still weird and she owns it, embraces it, and does her best to love herself. Whether or not someone is “weird”, all we can really do is embrace who we are and own it.

4/5

May Book Club: Trick of Treat by Lisa MortonTrick or Treat: A History of Halloween by Lisa Morton

I’ve always loved Halloween and been so sad that New Zealand doesn’t celebrate it. Which is really weird because I learned from this book that Halloween originated very much within the British Isles and Ireland, and given that New Zealand was colonised by those people I would have expected slightly more involvement. But no. Those who colonised North America seemed to be far more interested in retaining the old celebrations, which eventually lead to what most of us know as Halloween today: October 31, autumn, trick of treat, costumes and candy.

This was an interesting read that went as far back in history as possible and detailed the evolution of Halloween. At times, though, I found the writing style to be a bit textbook-like and boring, but the information was interesting to me so it made up for it. There’s also a lot of fantastic illustrations and imagery throughout the book. This is the first Halloween history book I’ve read, so I’m not sure how accurate the content is, but it does appear to be well-researched and contains references.

4/5

May Book Club: Mansfield Park by Jane AustenMansfield Park by Jane Austen

I don’t like this book. I’m not completely finished but I have read it before, so it’s ok. Seriously, though, one of the main characters, Fanny (basically the main character but it’s not written in the first person and the narrator does delve a bit into other characters, independently of Fanny), is the most insipid thing! I don’t hate her, but I do find her irritating. I think it’s because she was taken from her birth family at 9 and shipped off to her aunt and uncle, but never made to feel totally part of the family. She’s always been “just the ward” to most people in the family and therefore has never had the opportunity to assert herself as being worthy of…pretty much anything. Plus she’s probably just naturally shy and the type of person who likes to follow rules exactly. I’m sure she’s a lovely person, but my God, it’s hard to read about it.

Aside from my dislike of pretty much all the characters, I find the story overall to be quite boring, even though a fair amount happens. I feel like it moved very slowly and isn’t particularly funny. It’s just full of really irritating people, especially Mrs. Norris. Not Austen’s best work.

2/5

What I want to read in June

June Book Club: Emma by Jane AustenEmma by Jane Austen

After Pride and Prejudice, Emma is my next favourite Austen story. I can’t remember if I’ve ever read the novel, but I do own the Gwenyth Paltrow film on DVD, so there you go.

June Book Club: Bridget Jones' Diary by Helen FieldingBridget Jones’ Diary by Helen Fielding

I actually started reading this some months ago but other books got in the way, so I’m going to finish this off in June.

June Book Club: Rising Strong by Brene BrownRising Strong by Brené Brown

One I’ve been meaning to read for ages, and one I could probably really do with reading right now!

 

Have you read any of these books? What did you think?

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April Bookclub

Book Club by Sam Granger

Welcome to the April Bookclub! Every month I let you know what I read, how I liked it (or didn’t), and also show you some of the books I want to read next month.

I know, this post is about two weeks late, but life and stuff! Better late than never??

Due to the nature of this type of post, there may be some spoilers in my reviews, so read on with caution. Generally, I will give a brief overview of what the book is like (much like a back cover would), but I won’t give away major plot points and such. I will always warn you if I ever do, though!

What I read in April

Taking Charge of Anger: 6 Steps to Asserting Yourself without Losing Control by W. Robert Nay, PhD

Despite my best efforts, I couldn’t finish this book. It’s not that the content was bad, I just wasn’t feeling the way it was delivered. Despite that, it’s definitely a useful read for the angry person, or if you just want to learn how to manage your feelings better. Nay talks about how anger is generally caused by having expectations about a situation (internal or external) or person (ourselves or others), and those expectations not being met. Often, our expectations are impossible to meet – people are really good at  having unreasonable, perfection-focussed expectations of themselves, others and events. He goes on to teach readers how to recognised their own causes  of anger (the kinds of expectations you have), how to recognise warning signs and triggers, and then how to deal with it better. I didn’t get much into the latter part of the book, which went into dispute resolution and other ways of effectively communicating with people.

4/5 for good content, 2/5 for writing style.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

For April’s Jane Austen book club, we read this classic! Oh man, that was a fun group discussion, too. Being P&P, everyone had something to say about it. And, of course, we diverged a little into comparisons with the various movie and television adaptations.

As I mentioned last month, I’ve read this book many times over the last 12 or 13 years (wow, I feel old…), so it’s nothing new, but every time I read it, I have different thoughts and feelings. For example, this time, I found Lizzie to be a tad annoying at times. I used to, perhaps blindly, adore her as the heroine. This time, I kind of wanted to slap her and tell her to stop being such a judgemental, snooty, cow (albeit, one that was quite humorous at times). I would also tell her that just because a man is as charming as Wickham, doesn’t mean he’s at all trustworthy; and just because a man is reserved and conversationally challenged like Darcy, doesn’t mean he’s totally a rude toff with no value.

Sometimes I think the only character with any real sense in the book is Charlotte! She knows her situation and what the society she lives in is like. She knows marriage is her best chance at having a life that is at least semi-comfortable, and so she goes for it. She might have married a complete doofus, but she’s intelligent enough to know how to handle him in a way that means she gets to live her life more or less how she wants to. Obviously, I’m very pleased that nowadays we don’t have to get married,  we can be single and lead full lives, but in Austen’s time that wasn’t so and I think Charlotte’s practicality around that is quite admirable.

4/5

The Rites and Wrongs of Janice Wills by Joanna Pearson

This is a quick young adult read and one I thoroughly enjoyed. Janice Wills lived in small-town USA south and doesn’t fit it. Her interest in anthropology has led her to ‘study’ her peers through a critical (and at times downright mean) eye. The story follows her as she learns some valuable lessons about herself and her town during a coming-of-age tradition. I haven’t read a YA novel in a while but reading this has reminded me that I totally need to do it more often.

4/5

A 1950s Housewife by Sheila Hardy

This book was so fascinating! It’s a look at what it was like to be a housewife in 1950s England. You either look back on that time and think it seemed awful,  great or maybe a bit of both. There are some things I’ve always found appealing about the 1950s: fashion, doing food shopping more regularly and in smaller amounts (so, fresher produce, etc.), the general style of everything, and manners. Lots of aspects are far less appealing: gender inequality, more pronounced/socially acceptable racism and classism, no internet. Hardy takes us on a journey through what life was like for the typical 1950s young woman, from schooling to work, dating, getting engaged and married, the honeymoon, homemaking, working after marriage, and a little bit about 1950s sex lives. She interviewed many women who were housewives during the decade and includes lots of first-hand accounts of these stages. You get quite a good picture of how it was back then. It strips away some of the romanticism that I think people tend to attach to that time while also demonstrating that it wasn’t all unequal. Women didn’t have to do everything around the house and many couples operated under a far more equal marriage that people might assume.

5/5

What I want to read in May

The Mothers by Jennifer Gilmore

Another book club read. It’s about a couple’s journey through adoption.

Not That Kind of Girl by Lena Dunham

I’ve been meaning to read this for ages and I’ve seen loads of very mixed reviews, so I’m interested to see how I find it.

Trick or Treat: A History of Halloween by Lisa Morton

Despite being New Zealand-born and raised, I have always been a bit nuts for Halloween and feel strongly that my country is missing out on a lot of fun. Now to learn more about the hows and whys of this spooky holiday!

Mansfield Park by Jane Austen

The third book for the Jane Austen book club. I’ve read it before but not in a long time. I can’t really remember the story much, so we’ll see how it goes.

What are you reading at the moment?

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March Bookclub

Book Club by Sam Granger

Welcome to the March Bookclub! Every month I let you know what I read, how I liked it (or didn’t), and also show you some of the books I want to read next month.

Due to the nature of this type of post, there may be some spoilers in my reviews, so read on with caution. Generally, I will give a brief overview of what the book is like (much like a back cover would), but I won’t give away major plot points and such. I will always warn you if I ever do, though!

What I read in March

Happier at Home: How I Learned to Pay Attention, Cram My Day with What I Love, Hold More Tightly, Embrace Here, and Remember Now by Gretchen Rubin

As I mentioned last time, this month I wanted to read Happier At Home, to continue my run through Rubin’s books on habits and happiness. This was a pretty easy and fairly quick read. The focus in the book was Rubin’s home life, including the home itself but also the ways she interacted with it and the other people living there. I liked having a bit of an update on her life since The Happiness Project book was release. I wanted to know what habits she formed during that first project that she had stuck to, if any.

What I didn’t like so much was that it did feel very similar to The Happiness Project and some information from the first book was repeated. It still gave me great ideas to try out in my own home life, though.

3/5

Sense and Sensibility by Jan Austen

I’ve been an Austen reader since I was in my early teens, beginning with Pride and Prejudice . This novel, however, is not one I believe I have read before! I own most of Austen’s works, but Sense and Sensibility hasn’t made it to my shelves yet, and I’m not sure I ever got it from the library as a teenager.

Anyway, I decided to read it this month because next month I will be attending a Jane Austen book club at my local library and Sense and Sensibility is the book we’re starting with. I figured I’d better go with more knowledge than just the Emma Thompson film version (Allen Rickman! Brb, crying.). I enjoyed the book, as I typically do with anything Austen. My teenage self can totally relate to Marianne – everything is uncensored emotion and passion. Now, though, I can relate more to Elinor: yep, feelings are useful and they exist and I acknowledge them to myself, but for the love of sanity, be rational too.

I did feel as though the book dragged on a bit and there were several occasions when I remember thinking “Oh just hurry UP already, what’s next?”.

3/5

Currently Reading

March has been a slow book month. I think technically I’ve only finished one book so far, because I have this awful habit of starting books before I finish others. Plus, I’ve been rather busy working on the design for this blog, and designing a website for my parents’ business, among other things. Reading had been happening mostly before bed, so I’ll only read for about 15-30 minutes a day. Which is seriously not enough!

Taking Charge of Anger: 6 Steps to Asserting Yourself without Losing Control by W. Robert Nay, PhD

This book interested me because I tend to bottle all my anger up and it festers away. While I don’t actually get really angry very often, I do find myself getting frustrated or irritated quite often with myself and others, or situations. I wanted to see if this book had some better ways of dealing with it. So far it’s been quite interesting – I don’t have an anger problem, but I definitely could work on expressing my anger more constructively and using assertive problem solving. I’m not finding it the most engaging read and I’m skimming some of it for that reason. I will let you know what my final verdict is once I finish the book.

What I want to read in April

The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg

I was supposed to read this during March but it didn’t happen, so I’m going to try and get it done in April. From my previous book club post: “Continuing on my habit research journey. I know very little about this book, so who knows what it will bring, but I look forward to it!”

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

I’ll be skimming this for the May Jane Austen Book Club meeting, because I’ve read it so many times, most recently at the end of last year.

 

 


This is the plan, anyway. Here’s hoping I do better in April and actually read all the books I set out to!

What are you reading at the moment?

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January and February Book Club

Book Club by Sam Granger

Welcome to a new feature here on the blog. Every month I plan to let you know what I read, how I liked it (or didn’t), and also show you some of the books I want to read the following month.

Due to the nature of this type of post, there may be some spoilers in my reviews, so read on with caution. Generally, I will give a brief overview of what the book is like (much like a back cover would), but I won’t give away major plot points and such. I will always warn you if I ever do, though!

What I read in January and February

Go Set A Watchman by Harper Lee

This, as you may already know if you’re a reader, is the much-anticipated second novel of the To Kill A Mockingbird (TKAMB; 1960) author. The story picks up two decades after TKAMB, when Jean-Louise takes her annual Maycomb trip to visit her father, during a time when civil rights tensions were shaping the South. This trip, she learns the important lesson that the people we often put on a pedestal of perfection are, in fact, not perfect. They are flawed like any other, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they are bad, or no longer admirable.

Overall, I enjoyed the book, but it didn’t captivate me as much as I had hoped. Sometimes I found Jean-Louise to be really irritating while also empathizing with her struggles. The fact that I did feel things about various characters is generally a good sign—it means that I was engaged with the story at least! And I certainly wanted to punch a few of those characters, at times.

3/5

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo

This book details Japanese tidying consultant Marie Kondo’s KonMari Method. Rather than decluttering your house bit-by-bit and room-by-room, she argues that doing it category-by-category, and each category in one go, is the key to lasting tidiness. She asserts that you must also not keep anything that doesn’t spark joy for you, and teaches you how to go about discarding things before you even think about putting what you keep away. There are folding methods, storage solutions (very simple and cost effective ones, I might add), and more.

Kondo is certainly eccentric in many of her ideas—her obsession with tidying and cleaning is very apparent. I’m not sure I will ever be the sort of person who takes everything out of her handbag at the end of each day and puts it away, then thanks the bag for all its hard work. That’s probably because I only ever use one bag until I get tired of it, then switch to a different one for months on end. So, while I don’t necessarily agree with everything she says we should do (mostly re: giving thanks to our possessions and what-not), I am totally on board with her method of discarding and tidying. Doing it by category and all at once is definitely a fantastic strategy, and one I have successfully employed throughout January and February as I have decluttered my flat. I’ve never been able to fit so much clothing into my drawers before, but, low-and-behold, folding certain items in certain ways has made a big difference to available space and tidiness.

I enjoyed her particular brand of quirky and found the book quite funny to read. I didn’t take it all too seriously, just enjoyed the ride and took the important points away to try out for myself. And they worked, so, hurrah!

5/5

Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives by Gretchen Rubin

Better Than Before is all about habits: how we can use them to change our lives so we are happier, how we form habits, and how we can sustain them. It provides opportunities to learn more about your individual habit tendencies and apply what you learn to form and maintain your own habits. Rubin details her Four Tendencies Framework—Upholder, Questioner, Obliger, and Rebel—and how to identify which group you generally fit into. Then, throughout the book, most habit strategies she goes into include notes about which tendencies are best suited to use certain strategies. Thus, you can identify what’s more likely to work for you, and what probably just won’t, so don’t bother trying!

I really enjoy Gretchen’s writing—she’s honest about herself, funny, insightful and motivating. If you’re interested in learning more about habits, I definitely recommend Better Than Before to start with. It’s comprehensive and easy to read.

5/5

The Happiness Project: Or Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun by Gretchen Rubin

Yeah, I’m on a Rubin kick, no apologies! So, The Happiness Project preceded Better Than Before and chronicles Rubins year-long quest to increase her happiness by making small changes to her ordinary life. There was no major upheaval move across the globe, no massive career change (she’s already done that). This was about taking her current life, appreciating it more, and adding or subtracting certain, generally quite small, things to make it better and, in turn, increase her happiness.

What I loved most about this was that it focussed on what we can do in our ordinary lives to increase our happiness. It doesn’t have to be earth-shattering changes that make us happier, but the little things we do in our everyday lives, including our habits, that can make a difference in how we feel. Obviously, this approach is not meant to be a cure for, say, depression (though it might certainly help), but for the average person who’s doing pretty okay, but knows they can feel better, I believe the everyday changes are where the biggest gains lie. Again, Rubin writes honestly, humorously, and offers up many truths that happiness researchers have found. Go forth and be happy!

4/5

What I’ll be reading in March

Happier at Home: How I Learned to Pay Attention, Cram My Day with What I Love, Hold More Tightly, Embrace Here, and Remember Now

Rubin’s Happiness Project 2.0, with a focus on home life. I have already begun this. I’m not sure how similar it will be to The Happiness Project—hopefully not too similar otherwise it might get boring.

The Witches: Salem, 1692 by Stacy Schiff

I actually attempted this earlier in February but got distracted by other books, so my mission is to finish it in March! I love books about witch trials, so this should be up my ally.

Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids: How to Stop Yelling and Start Connecting by Laura Markham

While studying psychology, parenting was an area of interest to me, so sometimes I like to break out a parenting book to expand my knowledge. I also see it as a great opportunity to arm myself early with useful information for when I have my own children. After all, we are not magically bestowed with How To Be A Successful Parent knowledge as soon as we have a baby—like anything else in life, it must be learned.

The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg

Continuing on my habit research journey. I know very little about this book, so who knows what it will bring, but I look forward to it!

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