One of my goals for this year is to read 2 books a month, roughly one fiction and one non-fiction. This post is to help keep me on track for this goal, as well as to provide some thoughts on the books I’ve read to give you an idea if they’d be the types of books you’d like to add to your reading list.
How We Can Save the Planet by Mayer Hillman
I bought this book for 50c at a second hand shop and immediately loved the feel of the recycled paper cover and pages and the fact that nearly every inch of it had printed text- nothing wasted! Although it was quite outdated (written nearly 15 yrs ago) and focused on the UK, I still found it very informative and inspiring. The part that had the biggest impact on me was the discussion of personal carbon emissions- how to calculate your annual emissions and ways to cut these down. An online calculator can be found here carbonfootprint.com.
When reading this book (ironically on the plane home from Australia) it really struck me
as to just how bad long distance air travel is for climate change. I flew from Hobart to Helsinki 3 times in the last year, equating to 13 ton of CO2 – more than half the Australian average per year and more than 3x the world-wide annual average (4 ton). Wow. So one thing I’ve decided as a result of this book, is to dramatically cut down on long distance air travel and spend more time exploring Finland and Europe!
Helsinki: People Make the City by Laura Iisale & Melanie Dower
This book was amazing for giving me an insight into how local people view the city and life in Finland’s capital, as well as providing me with plenty of hidden gems to explore on my newly found enthusiasm for local travel (see above). I particularly loved seeing into the classy, minimalist yet cosy homes of native Finns.
North: How to Live Scandinavian by Bronte Aurell
My mum gave me this book for Christmas and while Finland is not actually part of Scandinavia (it’s a Nordic country), I found it to be a fascinating insight into some of my new neighboring countries- Sweden, Norway and Denmark. Detailing traditional food, culture, landscape and outlook on life, this book has opened my mind to different philosophies and ways of life and given me a greater understanding of the people and part of the world in which I now live.
London Snow by Paul Theroux
I found this book in the free section of a local recycle center and was drawn in by the beautiful etchings throughout and by the snowy Christmas theme. While it’s more of a kids book, it particularly resonated with me as I read it during my first winter in Finland when Helsinki was experiencing an abnormally cold winter (so they tell me), with more than the usual amount of snow, ice and blizzards. I also loved the old English feel about it and will definitely re-read it at Christmas time!
Silas Marner by George Elliot
I’ve been meaning to read this for a long time, over a decade probably, and now finally got around to it. I was immediately drawn to the rich romantic language of this 19th century novel, yet there were definitely slow moving parts of the book that I became frustrated with and skim read. At times heart wrenching but more often heartwarming, the novel is famously moralistic on the surface but also has an engaging subtler dialogue on religion, agnosticism, solitude and community. Overall, I loved it and think it’s definitely worth persevering through the slower pages.
The Night Watch by Patrick Modiano
This started out in quite a confusing fashion with reams of names, places and snippets of foreign languages filling the pages in a stream of consciousness type of style. This was of course deliberate, nonetheless I didn’t like it. While it did improve, and definitely posed some interesting questions about morality, human nature and betrayal, I was tempted several times to give up on it. But if you can fight through the confusion and go back to re-read parts then it’s worth the effort.
Eleven Minutes by Paulo Coelho
I was intrigued from the first line, and the first half of the book was captivating. I found it much more engaging than the only other novel of Coelho’s that I’ve read- The Alchemist. This novel tells the story of Maria, a young Brazilian girl who moves to Switzerland to be an exotic dancer and then becomes a prostitute. The novel follows her journey of self-realisation and surprising discovery of ‘true love’. I found the second half to be a little patronising and overly didactic in it’s moral tone, but nnetheless, I recommend this book. It also made me long to return to beautiful Geneva.
The City of Woven Streets by Emmi Itäranta
The author wrote this fascinating fantasy novel simultaneously in English and Finnish- no mean feat! While the story-line is a somewhat typical dystopian shattered post-apocalyptic world, the utterly original imagery of woven streets and glass buildings and the concept of ‘dreamers’ and ‘spinners’ makes this novel like nothing I’ve ever read. The ending was quite anticlimactic though and I wonder if she had planned a trilogy. Definitely recommend.
The Left hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin
I first read Le Guin’s work twenty years ago, when the Wizard of Earthsea was on our year 7 reading list. I loved it and devoured the remaining books in that saga. Somehow I didn’t discover her other works until last year, when I read Four Ways to Forgiveness. While the setting is similar, The Left Hand of Darkness was by far my favourite, engaging, thought provoking, it resonated with me particularly through the theme of being an alien in a strange foreign land, and the immense pull of beautiful yet savage wilderness. This novel made me cry and laugh and wonder at universal truths. Two of my favourite quotes from it include: “…the perfect uselessness of knowing the answer to the wrong question” and “It’s good to have an end to journey towards, but it’s the journey that matters, in the end”. I can’t recommend this book highly enough.
Almost French by Sarah Turnbull
Over a decade ago the images inspired by Sarah’s story in my 2006 diary of the same name fueled my love and idolisation of Paris. I recently found her travel memoir at a second hand store and reading it lead to not only a re-appreciation of her idyllic descriptions of Parisian life but also the challenges and rewards of being a young Aussie woman living abroad in a strange yet fascinating land. Highly recommend for anyone dreaming of Paris or anyone feeling a little lost in a new homeland.
The Gold Mine Effect: crack the secrets of high performance by Rasmys Ankersen
Interesting book that tracks eight ‘gold mines’ of sporting talent, in order to crack their secrets and apply these to other areas of life. I found it fairly repetitive and in parts glaringly obvious, but I also found some of the key messages to be useful and insightful. Mainly I was struck by the huge opportunity cost involved in becoming the best in anything, particularly sports. I feel fortunate to have had a more balanced life and not required the hunger to dig myself out of a tough life.
The Genius & the Goddess by Aldous Huxley
I loved A Brave New World and when I saw this book at in Turku, I jumped at the opportunity to read another, slightly more esoteric novel of his. If the tag line on the cover didn’t draw me it, ‘Reality never makes sense‘, then the first page definitely did:
The novel centers around a Christmas Eve conversation with the protagonist and an unknown friend, who together reminisce on the 1920s, when as a young physicist having recently received his PhD, falls for his new boss’ wife. The simple truth of his words, spoken so unapologetically, is mesmerising. I don’t think it’s the sort of novel everyone will enjoy, but it’s definitely one of the better books I’ve ever read.
The 4-hour work week by Tim Ferriss
After mentioning to a friend how much I liked this concept and that I follow Tim’s blog and podcasts, she lent me this book. I’ve just begun it and am already hooked.
The Children Act by Ian McEwan
I’m I huge fan of Ian McEwan, and have read about half a dozen of his novels, my favourite being On Chesil Beach. Looking forward to getting into this one.
The Mountain Shadow by Gregory David Roberts
This is the sequel to Shantaram, one of my all time favourite novels about an escapee Australian convict living in a slum in India and working for the local mafia. I can’t wait to get stuck into it soon.
The Daily Stoic – Ryan Holiday
Intended to be read a page per day, I often end up reading a few pages at a time as the book is a little heavy for me to cart around with the intention of reading one page at a time. Planning on getting into the routine of reading it daily when I’m back from travels.
Tender Is the Night – Scott Fitzgerald
A Clockwork Orange -Anthony Burgess
Walden – Henry David Thoreau
The original tiny house/cabin dweller! I’ve listened to the blink on this classic book and read some pages at the Turku library but am waiting for a copy to come into the Kallio library before I really get stuck into it.
Cazaly The Legend – Robert Allen
A history of not only the Australian football legend but also of my family’s migration and early days in Australia. Looking forward to getting stuck into this and learning more about my great-grandfather.
Tiny House Living
Woman in the Wilderness – Miriam Lancewood
Where Good Ideas Come From – Steven Johnson
Consolations of the Forest – Sylvain Tesson
The Year of Less – Cait Flanders