Friday, June 5, 2015

"The Lacuna" by Barbara Kingsolver

Although this book took me nearly 3 months to finish reading it, I really did enjoy it. It was quite a thick book and didn't often fit into my work bag, and as most of the reading I've been getting time for is on the bus to and from work lately this meant it took a lot longer than it should have to read this book.

It is an historical novel (my favourite genre), set mostly in Mexico (and partly in USA) during the 1930s-1950s. Although the main character, Harrison Shepherd, is completely fictional, there are plenty of other interesting real life characters woven into the story - for example the famous artist Frida Kahlo and the exiled Bolshevik leader Trotsky. The story is mostly in the form of a series of diary notebooks written by Harrison depicting his life and his interpretation of life and politics surrounding him, from childhood to the 1950s. Harrison writes well, really capturing what is going on around him, and I was fascinated especially by the sections of the book set in Mexico. I didn't know a lot of Trotsky and his exile in Mexico, but I was a little bit familiar with some of Frida Kahlo's self portraits, and Mexico is definitely on my travel bucket list. I was less interested in a section in the second half of the story that dealt with the era of Communist hunting in USA, and the series of reviews and fan mail letters associated with the novels that Harrison writes while living in the USA. I really did enjoy the book overall though, and it did capture some interesting people, places and events in history that I didnt know a lot about. If I had been reading this on my kindle I'm sure I would have finished reading this book in less than a month. 

Started reading: 5th June 2015
Finished: 30th August 2015
My score: 8/10

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

"The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying" by Marie Kondo

I decided to read this book as I seem to have a lot of clutter in my little flat that has accumulated after moving house multiple times in the last 10 years. As my current place doesn't have a lot of cupboard space I've decided the time is right to finally sort through things properly and have a clean out, and really set my place up in a way I'm happy with. Which might include some more space for bookshelves rather than boxes of stuff I haven't opened in years or cabinets full of papers. The idea of de-cluttering has been a bit overwhelming for a while (which is why I haven't done it yet) and it will involve taking a hard look at what I need and want to keep, and being fairly ruthless in getting rid of/donating/trading things I do not actually need or want but have been keeping for whatever reason.

I thought that maybe reading this book would give me some inspiration/motivation to actually start the de-cluttering process rather than just thinking about it. It has succeeded in that aspect, and I have started sorting through and discarding items, so that is great. However I have mixed feelings about the book itself. Some parts of the book really made sense to me and gave me new approaches on how to tackle my de-cluttering, e.g. sorting by category of items rather than by room, but as the book progressed I started to realise that the author and me would not see eye to eye on many things. Her attitude to books...basically, if you've read it, you wont need to read it again so throw it out, if you bought it but didn't read it and have bought other books since then you missed your chance to read it and should throw it out, if you half read a book, throw it out...there's no point to a book being on your bookshelf unless it sparks joy when you hold it...(this is my paraphrasing of the chapter called "Unread books - sometimes means never"). The summary was 'the moment you first encounter a particular book is the right time to read it. To avoid missing that moment, I recommend that you keep your collection small". Not going to happen in my flat, most of my books "spark joy" whether unread or read. I enjoy reading them, re-reading many of them and just looking at and remembering them. Part of my desire to de-clutter was to make more space for bookshelves haha.
Then there was the anthropomorphising of inanimate objects. E.g. socks:
“Never, ever ball your socks. I pointed to the balled up socks. ‘Look at them carefully. This should be a time for them to rest. Do you really think they can get any rest like this?’ That’s right. The socks stored in your drawer are essentially on holiday. They take a brutal beating in their daily work, trapped between your foot and your shoe…The time they spend in your drawer is their only chance to rest…”
Hmm alrighty then. At first I wasn’t sure if this was due to the translation from Japanese to English, but as the book went on it really seemed to be something the author was seriously concerned with. She also on numerous occasions has conversations with inanimate objects…e.g “I return to my bedroom, put my empty handbag in a bag and put it on the top shelf of the wardrobe, saying ‘You did well. Have a good rest.’…”
While the author’s style and attitude do not match with mine, I did learn a few useful new tips for ways to approach a big de-cluttering of my flat. But it was either entertaining or ridiculous in many ways in my opinion.

Started: 20th May 2015
Finished: 31st May 2015
My Score: 5/10