April book report

As always, I’m amazed at how quickly this year is flying by. How is it already mid-May?

I read a lot in April (a streak which has not continued into May, I will confess!), so here’s a quick round up:

My Beloved World

I picked this book after it was mentioned in The Triple Package (which I read in March), and also because the Supreme Court was all over the news for a while after Scalia died. And while Sotomayor doesn’t actually write about her life after she was appointed to the Supreme Court, her early life is fascinating, at times heartbreaking, but also completely inspiring.

The Smartest Kids in the World: And how they got that way

After reading Finnish Lessons, this book popped up on my ‘recommended for you’ list on Amazon. It was less academic than Finnish Lessons and as such, perhaps more engaging, exploring a number of key issues in education through the eyes of three American students and backed up with interesting research.

Me Before You

I finally read this after reading rave reviews for ages. Perhaps it’s the rave reviews that lift expectations far too high? I enjoyed it, I wouldn’t rave about it, I felt like most of it was fairly predictable.

Pride and Prejudice (on the list)

How is this the very first time I’m reading Pride and Prejudice?? Loved it, of course, and already hunting down the 6 hour BBC film version on the recommendation of various friends.

The Importance of Being Earnest (reread)

Because it’s quick, light and funny, perfect for a dreary Nairobi commute.

The Residence: Inside the Private World of the White House

I saw this recommended by Shauna Niequist on Instagram (along with The Big Short – below), which seems to be where I’m finding a handful of book recommendations lately. What an enjoyable read! Author Kate Andersen Brower brings together interviews with White House staff and former First ladies to give a glimpse into life in the White House.

First Women: The Grace and Power of America’s Modern First Ladies

Straight after The Residence, I dived into Andersen Brower’s second book on the White House, this time focused on the First Ladies who have graced its rooms. As a political science major, I especially appreciated reading some of the behind-the-scene action of major political events over the last couple of decades, from the perspective of the women who were most closely involved with the men making big decisions. Insightful and a pleasure to read.

The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine

I didn’t quite understand all of the finance speak, but clever and engaging story telling that kept me hooked and up far too late one evening! I’m now also in the process of hunting down the film.

March book report

I read seven books in March: five non-fiction and two fiction novels, which seems to be my standard breakdown. I also finished my epidemiology textbook and all the required readings from my medical statistics textbook, but I’m leaving those off the listūüėČ

Simplify: Ten Practices to Unclutter Your Soul (reread)

The first time I read this, I was expecting a different angle and I  read it very quickly (too quickly!) and was perhaps disappointed. But the second time, I was able to read it for what it was and took a lot more away from it.

The Triple Package: What Really Determines Success

After rereading Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother in February, I was intrigued to read this next book by Amy Chua. Totally fascinating, totally the type of non-fiction I most enjoy – research and anecdotes and observations about social issues. I’ve been forever intrigued by Mormons and the longer I live overseas, the more interested I’ve become in American and immigrant cultures. This book was my favourite read in March.

House of Sand and Fog

A book off the reading challenge list I’m working through, I finally picked it up actually because it was mentioned in The Triple Package. It was a powerful story but it left me a depressed fog myself, and in hindsight I should of put it down and picked up something else a little cheerier rather than persevering through it.

Black and White Bible, Black and Blue Wife

What a title, right?! A powerful, shocking story about domestic violence – in the author’s marriage, but also in the wider church.¬†I feel deeply that this is an issue that the church and the community needs to talk about more, to deal with so much better and to bring into the light. I have great admiration for Ruth Tucker for penning this book.

Finnish Lessons 2.0: What Can the World Learn from Educational Change in Finland?

After 5 months working with an education NGO last year, I’ve been more and more interested in the field of education. I read an article on the Finnish system and based on this book a few years ago and it stuck with me – it was super interesting to then read about Finland’s success in much more detail. The simple logic of investing in teachers makes so much sense to me, and now I’m intrigued as to why other countries haven’t explored similar approaches.

The Nightingale

A beautiful, heart-breaking story and one of my favourite fiction reads this year. Recommended if you enjoy historical fiction set during the war years.

Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand in the Sun and Be Your Own Person

An easy and mostly enjoyable read, but I don’t think I’d recommend it. It felt rather self-indulgent and a little hard to connect to – many of the stories are very specific to the author’s life and lifestyle and I think it fell short when trying to inspire the wider audience.

Previous reports: January, February

February book report

I didn’t expect to keep up the reading streak after our January holiday, but our car has broken down and I’ve been taking taxis to work and suddenly I’ve found all this extra time to read (such a great silver lining!). I doubt I’ll keep up this speed for the rest of the year but gosh I’m reading some great books!

How to Breathe Underwater

This book is a collection of short stories. In reading it, I discovered I really like the’s writing style, but I’m really not a fan of short stories. As soon as they suck you in, they end. So short! So teasing! This was another one for my birthday list goal (read 10 books from this list).

Essentialism (reread)

I’m not sure what happened the first time I read Essentialism, but I got infinitely more out of the book reading it this time around. Practical and direct and wise, it had me questioning areas of my life and rethinking my routines and commitments.

When Breath Becomes Air

While Essentialism had me questioning my life, When Breath Becomes Air had me examining it to a whole new level. What would I do if I knew I only had ten, five, two years to live?

I wept through the final chapter of this book. Beautifully written, moving, challenging, inspiring. Highly recommended.

My name is Lucy Barton

I picked this because I saw it mentioned on a few blogs and instagram accounts I follow. I enjoyed it, but I wouldn’t rave over it. I didn’t ever make a strong emotional connection with the main character Lucy, and I think that’s where it fell apart a little for me.

Complications

Ah Atul Gawande. I will read everything and anything you write. I love his type of books – pulling together research and personal stories and clever ideas that give you a whole new insight into interesting topics.

You Learn by Living

Another book from the list. Wise words from a wise women.

The Invention of Wings

Sue Kidd Monk is quickly becoming my new favourite author. This book was amazing – I read well past my bed time a few nights in a row! It’s a moving and beautifully written fictionalised account of a true story, capturing the life of two young girl – Sarah, the daughter of a wealthy white family, and Hetty, an African-American slave girl presented to Sarah on her 12th birthday.

Brave Enough

A very quick, very easy read, picked because I enjoyed Wild and Tiny Beautiful Things, all by Cheryl Strayed. Probably better in a real book (vs. reading on a kindle)

Follow the Rabbit Proof Fence

After reading The Invention of Wings, I wanted to read something about the dark chapters in Australia’s history – a subject I shamefully know too little about. I picked Follow the Rabbit Proof Fence as it’s the basis of the well-known movie of a similar name. I usually don’t read book reviews before reading a book but happened to see a few were reviewers thought the movie was much better than the book (it’s usually the other way around, right?) I’m yet to see the film, but while the book captured the basic details of a profound and inspiring story, the writing was not equal to the subject matter and the book fell short for me and I found myself agreeing with most of the other reviewers!

Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother (reread)

Thought provoking and insightful and really rather funny if you catch on to the author’s self-parodical humour. I took away much food-for-thought on the idea of expectations – for ourselves, our families, our children.

Previous reports: January

January book report

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I’m trying to add more reading to my life. I love books, I adore my Kindle, and I find reading one of the best ways to unwind. My reading list is always growing, but I’m not always good at making time to read. It’s so easy to get sucked into social media or binge-watch a TV series (I’m part way through Parenthood at the moment), but I never feel half as good spending 45 minutes on my laptop as I do after half an hour snuggled up with a good book.

I don’t have a ‘number’ goal of how many books I want to read this year, I just want to keep up a steady reading habit. I thought I would keep track of what I’ve read here in a mini-book-report format. And I’d love any book recommendations!

So here’s what I read in January. I must admit, I read five of these books in five days when we spent five nights at the beach. Holiday reading is the best.

Delicious! by Ruth Reichl

I read this over Christmas and it was a perfect easy-reading holiday pick. The way Reichl writes about the food made me hungry most of the time, and while I predicted bits and pieces of the plot, I really enjoyed how the story unfolded.

Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes

As part of my 27 before 28 list, I want to read 10 books off this list*. I picked this¬†book as my next read with no real idea what it was about and, to tell the truth, my decision was based purely on a passing conversation about the name ‘Algernon’ with friends (it means ‘with moustaches’ – isn’t that hilarious?!). It’s sci-fi, which I don’t typically read, but oh, it was good. Moving and clever and though-provoking and I read the entire thing in a 24 hour period.

The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling

My sister-in-law sent this over for us and it’s the first real, printed-on-paper book I’ve read in ages. It took me awhile to get into it, but then I could certainly see why it was so well-received. Gritty and so well-written and heart breaking and very British.

Wildflower by Drew Barrymore

I’m not sure what I was expecting with this one, but I was slightly let down. I read it after heading a podcast interview with Barrymore, who came across really well – witty and articulate and thoughtful. My expectations were probably a little too high then when I started the book, but it was a quick and easyish read.

The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin (reread)

It had been quite awhile since I’d last read The Happiness Project, but I enjoyed it again all the same, a definitefavourite. It always makes me reflect on my own life and the things that both bring me happiness and those that try to take it away, and perhaps with all the added ‘opmh’ of it being a new year, it inspired me again to shape 2016 in the best possible ways.

Also, I love how vocal Rubin is about the joys of ‘rereading’. I never used to ‘reread’ books, in some strange effort to grow the total number of books I’d read, rather than enjoy all over again the ones I love. Now I am a proud re-reader, even if Will does tease me about always seeming to read the same book!

Being Mortal by Atul Gawande

I’m a huge fan of Gawande’s ‘The Checklist Manifesto’ and had heard good things about Being Mortal. He has such a smart and accessible way of writing! Perhaps I shouldn’t have read this on our relaxing beach holiday – it is heavy and, at times, sad, and because it touches on issues so relevant to us all it was hard to keep some emotional distance. But like all good books it made me think deeply about life, and death, and it’s definitely worth the read.

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Another pick from the Rory Gilmore list. I’m glad I read it and at times I enjoyed it (actually perhaps enjoy isn’t the right word – I marvelled at it? I’ve never read anything so long with so few paragraph breaks!), but I know nothing of Colombia’s history so the entire metaphor went right over my head. It was epic, however, and I was often overwhelmed by the sheer volume of activity and description in the story.

my one little word

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I started playing with the one little word concept in 2014 to complement my birthday list and as an alternative to New Years resolutions. My choice for that year was ‘simplicity‘, and I really enjoyed seeing how that one word unfolded in various aspects of my life.

In 2015, my word was ‘brave’.

I think this song and this quote first put the word on my radar and I grabbed hold of it with two hands.

This time last year I was about to finish an internship, unsure of what lay ahead professionally. I was planning to start a Masters programme in Public Health (via distance), but was a little nervous about going back to school. I wanted to start a brave conversation about ethical fashion. The general uncertainty we’ve experienced the last couple of years about where I’d work, what we’d be doing, where we’d be living continued to linger and in the face of it all I wanted to be BRAVE.

The word gave me a focus and a little push everything I had something hard to do. 2015 ended up being a wonderful year.

I finished my internship, completed two consulting jobs and started a new contract in a dream role. I started school and bravely signed up for both statistics and epidemiology – and have loved it. I had a lot of fun (and learnt SO much) starting Better Dressed as a little side project.

Funnily enough, about August I had another word capture my attention – momentum.

I read an article about a couple who let their kids have unlimited screen time, as long as they did a few things first: household chores, read for 30 minutes, do something creative, spend time outside. To their delight, they discovered their kids were less and less interested in the screen. The activities they had to do to access screen time created momentum and when it finally came time for the kids to jump in front of the computer or TV, they were already engrossed in their current activity – playing with Legos or riding their bikes or with their nose stuck in a book.

I LOVED that idea and there were a few areas in my life that needed a good dose of positive momentum, so I kind of tacked momentum on as an additional word to push through to the end of the year. Yay!

In the last couple of weeks of December I started thinking about my word for 2016.

I played with a few different ideas before I landed upon ‘dig deep‘. Two words, not one.

But I think it’s exactly what my 2016 needs.

I want to focus, to narrow down on a few things rather than try and do everything. To switch from widening (adding more things to my life), to deepening (giving more time, energy and love to what I already have). I want to cut out some distractions and end some commitments to burrow in, put down roots, tend the crops, hustle. 2016 is a year of working hard, pushing in, doing the work.

I want to dig deep into my studies. I know I’ll get out what I put in, and I want to make the most of the opportunity. I also know I need to make time, put in the hours, knuckle down, and this season is the time to do it.

I want to dig deep into my work. After seasons of unemployment, underemployment, and uncertain employment, I’m still waiting to see exactly what 2016 will look like. But if all goes to plan, I’ll be continuing in my current role – and I want to make the most of it. To learn, to grow, to build my experience, my confidence, my networks.

I want to dig deep into my wonderful life. I have an incredible husband. Amazing friends and family. A wonderful community and church. I want to deliberately invest into each of those areas, to take shallow connections deeper and to truly celebrate and recognise how blessed I really am.

I want to dig deep into my bedside pile of books. I want to dig deep into some new recipes. I want to dig deep and make time for more hands-on, diy creative projects. I want to dig deep into the Word. I want to dig deep and be generous.

I want to dig deep into 2016.

 

enjoying the small things

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puppy dog cuddles

brushing my teeth in the shower

ballet flats with little bows

eating mascarpone straight from the tub

tiny daisies

wearing polka dots

colourful embroidery thread

pink paper clips

a new planner

late night chamomile

jacarandas in bloom

sunday evening traditions