2020

I know that most of us want to completely forget the past year and focus on a possibly brighter year ahead. 2020 was bleak and even though I was fortunate enough to not be affected by the pandemic in terms of loss and work, I still felt the heavy weight of this year on my shoulders. However I have to say that I have learnt a lot about many different things this year and so I really wanted to properly say goodbye to what has been a pivotal year for all of us.

I tend to only broach this topic during my yearly check-ins and I was really hesitant to mention that this year because it is something very personal. But I have mentioned this before and I don’t think anyone should be ashamed of their struggles – we need to speak out more on mental issues. As I said, I have hinted at this before but I’ve been struggling with my mental health for quite a while now, and I started the year in a very bad place. I had been hunting for jobs during the last half of 2019 but couldn’t find anything. I had to accept the fact that I wouldn’t get a great job straight out of uni, and so I applied to literally every entry-level job I saw. I was in a very bad place financially and I’m not someone who copes well with uncertainty and having no purpose, so this was a very difficult time. I then found a job and it was nice to get a little bit of money in the bank but I knew from the beginning it wouldn’t do.

When lockdown started in March, I struggled even more because I felt like my whole life was my job in recruitment and I didn’t even like it that much. In the day, I would look at CVs, cover letters and job descriptions. In the evening, I would edit my CV, write cover letters and look at job descriptions to get a job in publishing. It was all very repetitive, and I think my brain assimilated the two and I started getting very upset when someone would get hired at work because it felt like everyone was getting their dream jobs but me (which I know is completely ludicrous as 2020 has been terrible for many who lost their jobs and struggled to find a new one). I just felt so sad and empty, I couldn’t even sleep properly anymore.

I was on the waiting list for therapy all that time and I finally got assigned to a therapist in the Spring. It helped me so very much – I can’t stress that enough. It sounds silly but being confronted with your own thoughts and words on paper or in someone else’s mouth makes everything sounds completely different. I realised what was wrong and what I needed to do to let go of unhelpful thoughts. I am still working hard at giving up my old thinking pattern, but I already feel so much more like myself – something I hadn’t felt in years. The NHS is a wonderful system and we need to applaud it – not at our windows, but by voting for people that would fund it properly. I would’ve never been able to get the help I needed if it wasn’t for the NHS, and I know this is the case for many, many people in the UK.

In the summer, I’ve also been accepted into the Society of Young Publishers mentorship program, SYP Into, to help people get into publishing. I got paired with the most helpful and lovely mentor, and I’m so glad I got to meet such a wonderful person during such a grim year. I feel a lot more confident that I can get a publishing job and I’ve even had several interviews since I became a mentee. I also learnt a lot about what I want and don’t want in my career, and I think that’s really useful because when we start we tend to accept everything and that’s how we end up being taken advantage of. Publishing is a very competitive industry though, and it’s been even worse this year, but I’m hopeful I will find something for me this year.

Finally, last year I started this blog and photography again – two hobbies that are very dear to my heart. It’s been a joy to share my love of books on here again. I have taken a break recently because I’m still not quite healed yet and I know now that it’s better to just stop and rest, than desperately trying to exhaust myself and go around in circles. I have spent the holidays with my family in France, which was lovely as I hadn’t seen them for a whole year! I’m back in the UK and in quarantine now, so I hope to be able to bring some nice content in the coming weeks.

This was quite personal, but it’s nice to check-in every now and then. I hope you all have a good year, may it be filled with laughter and great books!

Bookish Gift Guide

There are two things I love doing in my free time: reading and browsing websites to find beautiful things. It’s a little bit of a problem, really. I spend hours looking at books, clothes and various random things that I find beautiful, but I actually never buy them (well, sometimes but very rarely!). I just like looking at them. For that reason, I love gift guides because they gather all these pretty items in one place for me to admire. I thought I would try my hand at those this year, although I know that there are so many gift guides out there already. Hopefully, you will find my personal touch a nice addition!

Last time, I shared some books that would make a great present for Christmas. Today, I thought I would share some bookish accessories and gifts that would please every bookworm in the world.

Bookmarks

I think bookmarks are a perfect gift if you’re shopping on a budget or doing a Secret Santa because they’re always useful, and there are some amazing designs out there. I especially like these hilarious bookmarks from BookmarkBoys on Etsy. Each bookmark costs £3.75 but you can get a bundle of 3 for £10 – perfect for someone who’s always reading several books at once!

A book-inspired notebook

Everyone loves a good notebook, and Country House Library has the most beautiful selection of notebooks with vintage book covers. I also love Paperblanks notebooks as they are extremely luxurious journals which you can close and that have a pocket to put loose papers. They’re also beautiful and I have gifted a few in the past few years… to myself!

Writing Sets

I think that most people who love to read equally love to write. As we not be able to see all our friends and relatives for a few more months, writing letters might a nice way to make communication a little special. If you’re looking for something to gift to a Jane Austen fan, then look no further: this stationery set is just perfect. It seems to be quite popular, though so I have linked it in three places in case it runs out!

Waterstones | Blackwell’s | Amazon

Bookish Clothing

It’s not often that you come across bookish clothing that is both cute and stylish. Joanie Clothing managed to do just that, and they have a wonderful selection of bookish slogan tops to choose from. They go up to a size 22, which also a great bonus! My personal favourites are their famous Avid Readers Club sweater, their Read More Books t-shirt, and 1984 sweatshirt.

Something from a Museum Gift Shop

If you know that your bookworm is particularly fan of a specific famous/old author, it’s definitely worth checking the museum’s online gift shop. You will find beautiful gifts there, and you will help supporting a museum in what has been a very tricky year. You can also make a donation to the foundation, in the name of the person you’re offering this donation to. I linked to the Bronte Parsonage Museum because it’s a very special place to me, but all museums have an oline shop.

I hope this little guide will have provided you with some inspiration – if not for this Christmas, then next year. You can also definitely pick from this list to treat yourself, I won’t tell!

Books to Gift This Christmas

There are two things I love doing in my free time: reading and browsing websites to find beautiful things. It’s a little bit of a problem, really. I spend hours looking at books, clothes and various random things that I find beautiful, but I actually never buy them (well, sometimes but very rarely!). I just like looking at them. For that reason, I love gift guides because they gather all these pretty items in one place for me to admire. I thought I would try my hand at those this year, although I know that there are so many gift guides out there already. Hopefully, you will find my personal touch a nice addition!

This week, I will focus on actual books that would make a great present (for a loved one or yourself), and in a next article I will talk about bookish gifts in general.

Penguin Clothbound Classics

These books look so beautiful on a shelf! There’s currently a deal on the Penguin website where you can get 3 for £33, instead of £45. This allows you to get a nice little selection to spoil your favourite reader of classics.

Barnes and Nobles Leatherbound Classics

These are truly beautiful editions of your favourite classics – and not so classics! My personal favourites include Les Miserables by Victor Hugo, The Vampire Chronicles by Anne Rice and The Complete Works of William Shakespeare. You can also just google ‘barnes and nobles leatherbound classics’ + the title of the book you’re looking for and it’s very likely that you’ll find the title you’re looking for!

Literary Gift Sets from the Literary Emporium

The Bell Jar Gift Set (I need this t-shrt in my life!)

These gift boxes are so exquisite, it will make any bookworm happy. Three to four presents in one, and the utter joy of wearing your favourite book on your chest – nothing can compare. I especially like the Hamlet one.

Juniper Books

For a higher budget, Juniper Books is a great alternative. They offer unique and gorgeous cover designs of well-loved hardback titles. You can get the books with it, or just the dust jackets. Special mention to the Nancy Drew set, Banned Books collection, and the Christmas Classics set.

Literary Box Subscription

Books can be such a personal thing, right? You know that a person close to you loves books, but choosing the right title can be a daunting thing – even if you too are a bookworm. This is when book subscriptions come into play and allow you to offer books without the pressure of choosing a specific title. There are so many out there but I personally prefer the more surprising ones with a general theme and goodies as well, everyone loves a little treat with a book. A perfect example of this is the gorgeous Books That Matter, pictured above. For secondhand lovers, this subscription is everything they could desire – including tea and stationery. Finally Reposed is a great option for a reader who needs to take a little bit of time for themselves (thinking of subscribing to this one myself!).

A Vintage or Antique Copy of Their Favourite Book

A gorgeous edition of Wuthering Heights from the 1940s that a friend got me for my birthday a few years ago – how stunning is that cover!

This one requires a little bit of research, but it’s so gratifying to find a gorgeous book for a gorgeous friend or relative. You can also adapt your budget very easily, and the most beautiful editions are not necessarily the most expensive. My favourite places to hunt for used books (online) are Oxfam, AbeBooks (which is owned by Amazon, but has a very good research tool) and PsychoBabel (their physical store is called Skoob Books and is located in Bloomsbury – would highly recommend paying them a visit if/when you can). It’s always worth having a look on eBay as well, there are some great bargains on there! This is where I found most of beautiful Stephen King paperbacks, for instance.

I hope you find this little guide useful – if not for Christmas, for a nice little treat to yourself! Anything in particular you’d love to find under the Christmas tree this year?

Organising my bookshelves (and a mini bookshelf tour!)

As I mentioned in my last Stacking the Shelves, I bought a lot of new books in October, which means that I quickly ran out of space on my shelves. As I needed to tidy all my books, I thought I would document the process! As you will see, I really don’t have much space for all my books (or at least, I wish I had a lot more) so I have to be clever. My boyfriend (he’s a big reader as well) and I share a big bookshelf and a few shelves that we have on one wall , we also have a couple more wall shelves but I leavethem to him as they’re his ‘writing books’. I figured it made more sense for him to have all the books useful for his writing at the same place, rather than scattered around the place in my very personal organisation! Anyway, here’s what we had to deal with:

Look at my cute Halloween glow-in-the-dark skeletons!

So… yes, it was pretty messy. It was all the more upsetting that I had last organised my shelves in September! I had attempted a rainbow shelf (separating paperbacks from hardbacks), and I had freed a couple of the wall shelves to put some books on, but the bottom one ended up receiving my cameras and lenses, books awaiting for their rightful place, and various bits and bobs. Besides, it was a tragic set-up as there is a gap between the end of the shelves and the wall which meant that books kept falling off. I had also an extra pile of books on our coffee table that needed to be put away –

The only way to get started was to get everything out of the way, putting all paperbacks and hardbacks together, and also differentiating collections and purpose (for instance, I like my Penguin Classics to be together, and my Victorian non-fiction to be apart from the rest).

Paperbacks (in the background, on the shelf, are my Harry Potter books because they’re quite fragile so I prefer to have them in a safe place)
Hardbacks/Oxford and Penguin Classics/Penguin Modern Classics/French books/Victorian books/Antiques/Special series

I didn’t remove many books from the bottom shelf of my bookcase because they’re all big and heavy books that can’t fit anywhere else, so I saved some time and effort by leaving them where they were.

I started by putting all my antique books on the higher wall shelf, as well as all my Jane Austen Vintage classics. The shelf below is for my Penguin English Library books, my Brontës Vintage classics, and my Harry Potter books. Below that, we have my Persephone books, My Brilliant Friend book series, our Penguin Modern Classics, some Penguin orange spines and my Victorian non-fiction books. Finally, I’ve put together my Penguin and Oxford classics, and my French novels on the bottom shelf.

For the bookcase, I went for rainbow shelves again – separating paperbacks and hardbacks. I have to say, I’m not convinced I like this set up, I think I prefer a more traditional order or sorting out books by size. I feel like it looks a bit chaotic at the moment! There are also some books underneath the bookcase because I ran out of space… To be fair, these are my boyfriend’s economics and maths textbooks so they can absolutely stay hidden there, haha!

I also realised that most of the books I have I’ve either read or presented to you in a haul, so I don’t think I will be taking part in Shelf-Control for the time being. I have many more books in France but if I’m honest, I don’t know exactly what’s there… so yeah, taking a break from this meme which I really liked but I don’t think I’ve got interesting content for it.

Anyway, here are my two favourite bits: My Harry Potter and English Library section, and my vintage Stephen King paperbacks collection – with a delicious Peach-scented candle on top!

I don’t know if this was very interesting, but I hope this might have inspired you to try a new way of organising your shelves, I think it’s a great lockdown activity!

The Sunday (or rather Monday) Post #3

The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Kimberly @ Caffeinated Reviewer. It’s a chance to share News. A post to recap the past week, showcase books and things we have received and share news about what is coming up for the week on our blog.

You can find the original post here.

Another HOT week where I’ve been begging for a good thunderstorm! It happened at the end of the week, and I have never been so happy.

I didn’t manage to post yesterday because we spent the weekend by the sea, which was very much needed! I live with my boyfriend in a small studio flat in London and we hadn’t seen nature since March (or had actual holidays for that matter), so it was really nice to escape from the city and smell the air of the sea. We went to Kent as it was not too far and not the most popular destination either – we certainly didn’t want to be stuck in super busy places! I had never been and I loved discovering a new part of England. Our Airbnb was heavenly and I will share a picture below, which will explain why I chose this specific one:

‘Leicester Villa’, in Ramsgate, if you fancy visiting Kent one day – I would highly recommend this stay, it was great!

Currently reading

Akala, Natives (2019) – still, I’m very much taking my time with this one.

Jessica Andrews, Saltwater (2019)

This week I finished

Kiley Reid, Such a Fun Age (2019)

Washington Irving, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow (1820)

Donovan – Season of the Witch (I think I’m desperately waiting for Halloween!)

Have a great week, everybody!

The Sunday Post #2

The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Kimberly @ Caffeinated Reviewer. It’s a chance to share News. A post to recap the past week, showcase books and things we have received and share news about what is coming up for the week on our blog.

You can find the original post here.

I complained about last week and I will complain again: it is HOT! I really don’t like hot weather, summer dresses are nice but I would rather be a little cold, thank you.

This week has been quite uneventful (as most weeks are these days)… I’m just waiting for our little weekend away next week! Here in the UK, the government has started a ‘eat out to help out scheme’ where you can get 50% off your meal at most restaurants if you eat in from Monday to Wednesday in August. We haven’t even thought about doing this because I heard that some restaurants were fully booked for the whole month because of that. I’m not sure I’m ready to eat in a very busy restaurant, yet.

We did have a little trip to Covent Garden yesterday, and it was less busy than usual so it felt a little bit nicer (although of course, it was still a little busy!). We bought some secondhand books and had an ice cream, it was quite lovely.

Currently reading

Akala, Natives (2019)

Kiley Reid, Such a Fun Age (2019)

Daphne du Maurier, Rebecca (1938) (although another edition)

Sarah Perry, The Essex Serpent (2016)

Father John Misty – Chateau Lobby #4 (in C for Two Virgins), just a light summer song!

Have a great week ahead, everybody!

On not finishing books and other bookish sins

In July, I took part in #Middlemarchalong, a readalong of George Eliot’s famous 1872 novel, Middlemarch, hosted by Claire Fenby. Claire organised things so well with a discord chat, and weekly videos to discuss various topics of the book. It was really nice to feel connected to other readers and feeling this sense of community. But (there’s always one) I didn’t really care about Middlemarch. I painfully dragged myself along for the first 300 pages, only to realise I had only read a third of the bloody book. I started skimming some pages but felt very tempted to do that up until the very last page, read the last line, close the book and shout at the top of my lungs, ‘I have finished Middlemarch’. It seemed to me quite silly so instead, I just put the book back on my bookshelf.


I didn’t hate it, I just didn’t care for it. There are so many things that I do every day that leave me indifferent but that I must do, so I don’t want my reading for pleasure becoming the same sort of drudgery I take no pleasure in. So I simply did not finish the book. I know that a lot of people would never think of doing that because they need to feel closure and read till the end, or they feel a certain pressure to not give up on something. But when it comes to books I read for fun, I’m 100% a quitter. It doesn’t mean I’ll never go back to them, it’s just at the moment I started reading these books they were not what I needed.


Here’s a list of a few books I started but didn’t finish:

  • Dolly Alderton, Everything I Know About Love (2018)
  • Marlon James, A Brief History of Seven Killings (2015) – This one I know is to do with language skills, unfortunately!
  • Thomas Hardy, Far from the Madding Crowd (1874)
  • Tracy Chevalier (ed.), Reader, I Married Him (2016)

Some of those I will never go back to because they were a bad reading experience for me, but some others I know I will reach for again at one point. I think that it’s okay to DNF a book if you’re not having much fun reading at a certain point in time – it doesn’t necessarily make it a bad book or you a bad reader.


That got me thinking, what about skim-reading? I don’t think a lot of people approve of that, either. But honestly, this is what got me through my master (although if I believed everyone else, they were reading the whole of the books and articles?). I think I got pretty good at this, but it definitely requires some practice. Once again, I think it’s okay and in some cases, a rather clever thing to do. I remember that one week I had to read Dickens’s The Old Curiosity Shop alongside two other novels (plus all the different academic books and articles). It did break my heart to skim it as I thought it was such a nice novel, but it certainly saved my brain! I do skim passages of books I read on my free time as well, sometimes. Because it gets a bit boring or I’m dying to know what happens next and skip the descriptions, etc. 


What I’m trying to say with this article is that everyone should be free to read the way they want to (and what they want!) – especially if it’s for fun, on your own time. Of course, if you work on a book this might not apply to you. Still, I used the example of my degree because we all did at uni and we still got great marks, I’m sure. There’s sometimes pressure to read certain things a certain way, and I’m here to say ‘No, thank you’! 

What about you, do you always try to finish a book you started or are you happy to put it aside if you’re not enjoying? What is something considered ‘sinful’ by some that you do with your books?

The Sunday Post #1

The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Kimberly @ Caffeinated Reviewer. It’s a chance to share News. A post to recap the past week, showcase books and things we have received and share news about what is coming up for the week on our blog.

You can find the original post here.

The end of the week was HOT. Heatwave in the city is not much fun, it’s all very sticky and stifling. Although, if I’m being honest I hate the heat no matter where I am so wish me luck because next week is going to be just as hot!

We went to Ikea this week to get some storage solutions and random bits and pieces, and it was truly shocking to see the number of people not wearing a mask on the bus. It makes me wonder if London too is going to be on lockdown again, as is the north of the country at the moment.

On a positive note, I bought my first ever house plant! It’s a Peace Lily, and I had been wanting to have one for ages but just didn’t really have the budget for it. Here she is in all her glory:

I’ve read and finished

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (1999) – It was the first time I re-read it and it really is an amazing story, so much more engrossing than the previous two. Harry Potter brings me so much joy these days, I’m as much hooked as I was when I was little.

Currently reading

Akala, Natives (2019)

Ray Bradbury, Something Wicked This Way Comes (1962)

Robert Tressell, The Ragged-Trousered Philanthropists (1914)

Taylor Swift & Bon Iver, Exile (of course)

Have a great week ahead, everybody!

Mid-Year Reading Wrap-Up

 
I have read quite a few books this year so far, and I’m very happy about it! I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to find the time to read when I started my new job, but to be honest, this is what has kept me sane these past few months. Not all books are pictured as some were borrowed from the library, I am lending some others to relatives, and some I just donated.
 
 
Bill Naughton, Neither Use Nor Ornament (1995)
Bill Naughton was a playwright, his works include Alfie which was made into a film with Michael Caine (it’s really good, by the way, especially if you love the Swinging London era). This book is a volume of his memoirs where he retells a small part of his childhood, growing up as an Irish immigrant in Bolton, Lancashire. It’s a very sweet book and it depicts a very realistic image of working-class life in the 1920s, with endearing portraits of Boltonians.
 
Sophie Kinsella, I Owe You One (2019)
As I have already said, I’m quite partial to a good Sophie Kinsella book when life gets a bit too much. This book was exactly what I needed: a cute romantic comedy peopled with sweet characters that I really grew to love.
 
Candice Carty-Williams, Queenie (2019)
I have mentioned Queenie already, on an article about books that changed my outlook on race. It really opened my eyes on the added difficulties black women face each day – whether at work, on dates or in their daily lives. I didn’t find it particularly funny but Carty-Williams writes her main characters in such a way that you can’t help but feel for them.
 
M.C. Beaton, Agatha Raisin: There Goes the Bride (2010)
I’ve always wanted to read Agatha Raisin as it sounds like a very fun story, however I should probably have picked up the first book of the series… I felt completely lost in who was who, and I didn’t really enjoy the story because of this. Also, I think this is the kind of stories I enjoy to watch on TV after work, rather than something to read. It reminded me of Midsomer Murders, which I’ve always loved – although this is a source of fun for everyone as I’m apparently not the target demographic for this show.
 
Taylor Jenkins Reid, Daisy Jones & The Six (2019)

This book was cool. It tells the story of a fictional band in the 1970s through different interviews of its members in the present day, and the atmosphere in this book is absolutely amazing! I felt like I was around the pool of the Chateau Marmont, enjoying the Californian sun with psychedelic rock in my ears (when in truth, I was stuck on an immobilised plane during a storm). I love this period in terms of music and I was just so sad none of the music was real! But this is a great book, and an especially good thing to read during the summer.
 
Elena Ferrante, Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay (2014)
I have talked a lot about Elena Ferrante in an article dedicated to the Neapolitan novels, so I won’t repeat myself too much. I will just say that Ferrante’s writing is addictive.
 
Hallie Rubenhold, The Five (2019)

A series of portraits of Jack the Ripper’s victims to give back to Mary Ann, Annie, Elizabeth, Catherine, and Mary Jane their voices – which have been long lost amongst various cliches and prejudices. It’s an excellent book that is very hard to put down, and it’s also very accessible – you don’t need to know much about the Victorian era at all to make sense of what’s explained. To be fair, nothing has really changed since the late nineteenth century when it comes to judge working-class women, I think. Something very positive is that there was a mural representing the five women in Whitechapel and Rubenhold is actively seeking to have their memories celebrated to counter-balance the grim appeal of Ripper tours.
 
Elton John, Me (2019)
I listened to Elton John’s memoirs on Audible at the beginning of lockdown, whilst I was working from home. I think this was everything I needed during this strange time as it brought me so much joy! There’s a lot of name-dropping and extravagant displays of wealth, but it seemed to me that Elton John had a very honest look on himself and who he used to be. If you’re a fan, you will love it. I listened to his music for days on end after finishing the book. Also, the audiobook is narrated by Taron Egerton, so it really is quite perfect.
 
Diana Wynne Jones, Howl’s Moving Castle (1986)
I first read Howl’s Moving Castle when I was little and I remembered the book to be quite dark – much darker than the Studio Ghibli’s adaptation – which is a masterpiece by the way. So I was a little surprised to see that it was not very dark at all, just rather quirky and all-round lovely. It’s a great story, with absolutely amazing characters and I love them all. Of course, the fact that the main character’s name is Sophie only makes the book better.
 
Elena Ferrante, The Story of the Lost Child (2015)
Did I not say it was addictive? I finished the series earlier this year and I felt so sad to say goodbye to this world. I’m not sure why as the characters are not exactly lovable and it’s all very violent. I think I just loved Elena’s narration so much, it’s still with me months later.
 
Sophie Kinsella, Twenties Girl (2009)
As much as I love Elena Ferrante, I was very much in need of a happy story after that so of course, I turned to Sophie Kinsella. I have to say I was a little disappointed with this one as I didn’t think many of the characters were developed (I love how she writes parents, usually) and it was a bit too far-fetched for me at times. I still had a nice time reading it, but I think Kinsella has written much better books.
 
Italo Calvino, If on a Winter’s Night a Traveller (1979)
I was so excited to read this book as I love metafiction and thinking about the act of reading and writing. The book starts by telling the reader that they are reading Italo Calvino’s latest novel If on a Winter’s Night a Traveller, and what’s happening around them. It was not really what I was expecting as there were less philosophical reflections than strange and funny meta-scenes. Of course, the reader is a man so it all becomes very tricky to relate to him at one point, but it’s still a very enjoyable, clever book.
 
Patrick Dennis, Auntie Mame (1954)

I love eccentric older women from the past, so of course I love Auntie Mame. Little Patrick becomes an orphan at the age of 8 and he goes to live with his aunt, a wealthy single New Yorker. The story starts in the late 1920s and follows the adventures of Mame and Patrick throughout the years. It’s very funny and a very interesting thing to read at the moment because Mame is always standing up for the less privileged and against injustice – which makes her a very liberal woman for the time. I was so happy to find this early edition at Oxfam, because I find the cover absolutely gorgeous!
 
The School of Life, How to Overcome Your Childhood (2019)

I talked about this book in more details already, so you can just click the link if you’re interested in knowing more.
 
Celeste Ng, Little Fires Everywhere (2017)

That’s a strange one. I absolutely loved that book and I couldn’t put it down, but I’m unable to say why. The story is great but it’s not ground-breaking, the writing is also very good but I’m not sure this is why I loved it so much. I’m currently watching the TV adaptation on Amazon Prime, and I might manage to be more eloquent on the topic of Little Fires Everywhere later!
 
Giovanna Fletcher, You’re the One that I Want (2014)
This was a book which had been in my TBR list on Goodreads for quite a while. As I was in need of a cute little romantic comedy, I picked it up and to be honest, I was very disappointed. First of all, I forgot how much I dislike love triangles but here, it was especially strange and the characters’ decisions were questionable to say the least. I’m not sure I understood why they did what they did towards the end, but also, I did skim some passages so that might explain a few things!
 
Yvonne Battle-Felton, Remembered (2019)
I mentioned this book briefly in this article. It’s a rather hard book to read as some scenes are quite violent and graphic, but I would highly recommend it. I think some stories need to be told as they happened, even if they are hard to hear.
 
J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (1997)

I’ve been slowly collecting the books in the Harry Potter series (some first and early editions!) during lockdown, and I’ve read the first tome for the first time in English. I decided to dissociate the author from the works completely because Harry Potter is for me a little therapy in itself! I felt so happy whilst reading this book, it was a very Proust’s madeleine moment for me and I can’t wait to read the rest of the series in English, now.
 
Édouard Louis, En finir avec Eddy Bellegueule (2014)
I wrote quite extensively about this one in this article, so please have a look if you’re interested in knowing more about this great little book.
 
Overall, I have read some very good books so far this year. Please, let me know what’s been your favourite book so far this year, I would love to know and find inspiration for my next read!

How to Overcome Your Childhood, by The School of Life

It might come across as a bit of a cliché to claim that everything that we are now is a sum of our experiences as a child, but it is essentially true. This is what this book tries to explain, but endeavours to show that it’s not because this or that happened during our childhood that we can no longer do anything about it. On the contrary, this little book aims to help us find avenues to heal from our childish wounds.

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The School of Life is an organisation which strives to provide people with resources to find calm, resilience and self-awareness in their lives. They have a great YouTube channel, which I would highly recommend as they have lots of short films about different aspects of daily life. They also have very informative videos about key philosophers and intellectual figures, I found them really useful when I was studying Enlightenment thinkers last year! In short, The School of Life aims to make people understand themselves and feel better, but if you had seen me reading this short book (118 pages), you may not have believed I was feeling any better. I cried, and I cried, and I cried – through the whole thing.

As far as I can remember, I have always seen myself as an ugly duckling. I have always tried my best to please everyone and be a good little girl. I am still like this, a desperate people-pleaser who just doesn’t know how not to do things 200%. I still struggle with criticism as I experience it as a rejection of my whole being, and I demand a lot emotionally from people. I always thought that this is how I was born, however, I realised recently that it might actually have been a consequence of my childhood. I have heard the words ‘emotional abuse’ to refer to my own experience, but I am just unable to accept these words for me. I prefer to think I just wasn’t good enough from the youngest age (writing it down, I realise how ludicrous this statement sounds, though!).

With this book, I understood that there were quite a few things that I was deprived of growing up and which prevented me from being a mentally healthy adult. I found it useful to have concrete lists and tabs under my eyes, to really understand what I need now. I need to tackle the bad memories and really try to remember as much as possible. As they say, ‘We need the novel, not the essay’ in order to accept what happened and move on. It sounds fairly easy but when you have tried to bury those memories at the back of your head for many years, going back to them is an actual work of pain.

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Little me, aged 4 or 5, channelling my inner Dorothy

The one concept that they promote and which really stuck with me is that of a ‘bittersweet life’. How every good memory we have is tinged with melancholy and sadness, how nothing is ever all white or all black. This sounds fairly obvious but when we reflect on our childhood, we tend to lose this balance and tend to focus on just one aspect. Equally, when we experience a disturbed development we grow up forgetting about this bittersweet aspect of life and to see all in black – in my personal experience, at least. Yet it is important to accept that everything bad in our lives do not cancel the good things, life is a balance between the two:

‘Bittersweet memories force us to acknowledge that the positive is never far from being devilishly entwined with something more difficult.’

I am not a big fan of self-help books, in general. The ones I have partially read so far have been a little bit too spiritual for me, I just can’t get on board with gurus, higher-callings or revelations, which I realise is a matter of personal taste. However I found this one very useful as a way to start a long process of recovery, in order to understand ourselves better and feel a little relieved that we are, in fact, good people – if only we take the time to nurture our inner child. Of course, professional help will always be the best option as there’s only so much books can do to help someone to heal from their mental wounds.

 

Featured image is a still from Atonement, directed by Joe Wright (2007)