Mid-Year Reading Stats 2017

As we’ve just finished June, and I’m well underway with this year’s reading challenge (upped to 60 books from 50 because I had an unbelievably quick start to the year with some shorter books) I thought I’d share a breakdown of what I’ve been reading so far, what I’ve loved, and what I’ve hated.

 

Books Read

36

 

Top 5 Books so Far

The Good Immigrant, ed.

The Essex Serpent, Sarah Perry

A Monster Calls, Patrick Ness

The Power, Naomi Alderman

Girls Will Be Girls, Emer O’Toole

 

Books DNFed

The Melody of You and Me, M. Hollis

The Inexplicable Logic of My Life, Benjamin

Prep, Curtis Sittenfeld

Carry On, Rainbow Rowell

 

Fiction vs. Non-Fiction

64% fiction, 36% non-fiction

 

Fiction Genres

Fantasy 6

Contemporary 6

Dystopian 2

Romance 2

Historical 2

Graphic Novel 2

Children’s 2

Poetry 1

 

How are your reading years going so far? Are there any surprising stats from your year so far?

Advertisements

Review: 1984, George Orwell

17118898.jpg

✮✮✮✮☆

The year 1984 has come and gone, but George Orwell’s prophetic, nightmarish vision in 1949 of the world we were becoming is timelier than ever. 1984 is still the great modern classic of “negative utopia” -a startlingly original and haunting novel that creates an imaginary world that is completely convincing, from the first sentence to the last four words. No one can deny the novel’s hold on the imaginations of whole generations, or the power of its admonitions -a power that seems to grow, not lessen, with the passage of time.

 

Why I picked this book up:

I’d read this book a good few years ago, but as it climbed higher up the bestsellers list over the last few weeks (three guesses as to why) I realised that I hardly remembered anything about the book itself, or even the majority of the characters. Luckily this classic is fairly short one that I could dip in and out of during a hectic week of job interviews and class presentations.

 

The bad:

As you can probably tell from the 4 star rating, I did thoroughly enjoy this book – that being said, I don’t think it was anywhere near perfect in its construction. The first hundred pages, until the character of Julia comes into play, is almost entirely exposition told through the quite boring day to day activities of Winston. I also felt that when Orwell included passages from the book, these 5 page excerpts were quickly condensed by Winston’s internal monologue immediately after, so felt very unnecessary and clunky in what was a very fast paced section of the book. If I’m really being picky, in places the political messages felt a little over-stated, with some passages, such as that on the creation of newspeak, extremely intelligent and deftly handled, whereas others, such as when Winston discovers a photograph of some inner circle members, were a little overdramatic and lacked the nuance so much of the book contained.

 

The good:

Despite my few small problems with the narrative, this reread really cemented how excellent and relevant this novel still is. Orwell’s exploration of intellectual freedom, language, and different forms of rebellion is like nothing else I’ve read, and so clearly defined a genre that is continuously replicated today. The dark and menacing ending acts as a warning and stark reminder of political powers that go unchecked, and how rebelling can be as large as standing up to corrupt leaders, or simply finding the beauty in life that those in power would have you forget.

 

Favourite quote:

“Being in a minority, even a minority of one, did not make you mad. There was truth and there was untruth, and if you clung to the truth even against the whole world, you were not mad.”

 

Overall rating: 4/5

Hygge + Happiness: Books About Denmark

As I’m sure anyone who has wondered into a bookshop recently will know (or reads any lifestyle blogs, for that matter), almost every middle-class Brit is talking about Denmark and hygge – myself included.

Over the last few months publishers have been capitalising on the trend, with literal stacks of titles sporting the buzzword, offering cosiness and happiness and an idillic lifestyle in our very own England. Although I don’t see a few blankets and candles as a fix all for 21st century blues, I wanted to share two books I’ve really enjoyed on the subject, and the lessons that I’ve taken from them.

SAM_7070.JPG

 

The Year of Living Danishly – Helen Russell

This first book is a memoir-cum-cultural profile, written by a British lifestyle journalist who moves to Denmark with her husband when he is offered a job with Lego. The chapters are split into a month-by-month basis, with each section titled by a uniquely Danish cultural phenomenon. Her chapter on hygge appears fairly early in the book, but the ideas and the word itself appear frequently throughout her first year of living in abroad. She openly talks about what she thinks works culturally (and the things she thinks don’t) and the difficultly she faced as an outsider, but overall the book is a lighthearted and well researched peek into day to day life in Denmark.

What Russell emphasises as being the biggest impact on her personal happiness is the balance between work and home. In Denmark, the day finishes far earlier, and clubs, childcare, and family time seem to be built into everyone’s week. Although things such as family time, and time doing activities like walks, cycling, reading, or cooking all come under the heading of ‘hygge’, the shorter work days and government assistance are something country specific. Russell frequently theorises that it is the combination of personal choice and public policy that results in such reportedly high levels of happiness in Danes, and that short of actually moving to Denmark some aspects of life are not easily replicated elsewhere. However, she does argue that adjusting mindset and priorities are key in happiness at work, home, and with your own happiness, making sure that time is taken to spend time with loved ones, eat good food, and take life a little slower.

51VF1U6WPFL._SX326_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg

Buy it here.

 

The Little Book of Hygge – Meik Wiking

Although this little book is also non-fiction, it couldn’t be more different in its approach. Written by a Dane, Wiking attempts to give a comprehensive guide on exactly hygge is, why it is important, and how to achieve it in every aspect of life. This volume is chock full of gorgeous photos, recipes, DIY projects, and even clothing tips.

After my first cover-to-cover read through of this book, I’ve so often gone back to it in times where I’ve needed a little pick me up. The tips Wiking gives range from the lifestyle altering to the most basic, so whenever I’m in need of a cosy break from the day to day, there always seems to be something that I can implement immediately.

 

30045683.jpg

Buy it here.

What are your thoughts on the hygge trend? Let me know down in the comments!

7 Favourite Books About Art

At the time of writing, I only have three (three!) months left of my undergraduate degree. The last three years have been a haze of essays, sculptures, and library days, with a few great books folded between.

As I can already feel myself feeling nostalgic for pouring over impossibly convoluted texts in the name of Art History, I thought I’d do a round-up of the best books about art (and thinking about art) that I’ve read throughout my degree.

Ways of Seeing – John Berger

61rbO4IAa4L.jpg

To say that this book is a cornerstone for Art History would be an understatement. As well as being possibly the most useful little book throughout my degree, Ways of Seeing is wonderfully accessible and easy to understand. The reason I love this book so much is simply because Berger opened up History of Art to the masses, showing that it was something interesting, relevant to modern society, and something very much open for anyone to learn about and discuss.

Buy it here.

 

 

 

 

The Story of Art -E.H. Gombrich

909524.jpg

In a similar vein to the previous book, The Story of Art also gives an incredibly comprehensive introduction to the history of art, as well as being easy to understand while still dealing with very complex topics. I read this book cover to cover before starting my degree (admittedly I did look a little strange lugging around my hardback version for ‘holiday reading’) and referred to it during almost every essay and exam season.

Buy it here.

 

 

 

The Improbability of Love – Hannah Rothschild

9781408862476.jpg

As the only work of fiction on the list, The Improbability of Love is something a little different. It’s a satirical take on the art world, involving the auction of a lost painting, Nazi plots, themed cooking, and an ex-rent boy that occasionally dresses as Marie Antoinette. The author is well immersed in the art world herself, so even though the characters are completely over-blown, the book is extremely fun, very well researched, and still somehow very believable.

Buy it here.

 

 

 

 

A Grand Design – Edited by Brenda Richardson and Malcolm Baker

5104A2C2TCL._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg

I will admit, compared to everything else on the list, this is a bit of a wild card. Even before I came to university I was obsessed with the V&A, so much so that by this time last year I had decided to write my dissertation on its entrance. This book has not only been an invaluable research piece, but is an extremely interesting and passionate history of the museum, with reflections on privilege, class, and Britishness, as well as some beautiful illustrations.

Buy it here.

 

 

Artemisia: The Story of a Battle for Greatness – Alexandra Lapierre

9780701168957-us.jpg

Simply put, this is a biography of one of my heroes. Artemisia was a Baroque painter with a fascinating upbringing as the daughter of another successful artist, who painted common biblical or mythological scenes with a distinctly feminist edge. She painted for the Medici’s, was buddies with Galileo (!) and was an amazing single mother to boot. This book also covers the misattribution of some of her work to her father, as well as her extremely public rape trail, meaning that this book reads almost like a piece of page-turning historical fiction.

Buy it here.

 

 

 

Art Made From Books – Alyson Kuhn

51nOOXl49mL._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg

Books? Check. Art? Check. Gorgeous binding? Definitely! This book is all of my favourite things put together with love, alongside descriptions of sculptures so wonderful that I wish I could see every one of them in real life. A great coffee table book as well as an introduction to some inspiring contemporary artists, Art Made From Books makes a great gift or a treat for your own shelves.

Buy it here.

 

 

 

Why Your Five Year Old Could Not Have Done That: Modern Art Explained – Susie Hodge

41hNs5djVoL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg

I fully admit that, until the second year of my degree, I despised almost all contemporary art. I’d written it off as ugly, pretentious, and unnecessary, but this book (as well as a fabulous second year module) helped to convert me. Using examples of high profile art from the last hundred years, Hodge explains the movement that the piece comes from, its exhibition history, and why it is considered ‘good art’.

Buy it here.

 

 

 

 

Although I could ramble on and on about a huge range of books about art, I thought these showed a great cross-section of books that I’ve loved and thumbed through the most over the past three years. If you have any recommendations for art books, please let me know in the comments!

Note: this post contains affiliate links for The Book Depository. If you buy anything through my link, I’ll earn 5% of the cost of what you bought (without costing you any extra).