One of my goals for 2018 was to read 2 books a month, roughly one fiction and one non-fiction. If you’re looking for some 2019 reading-list inspiration then take a look below- I’ve written a brief summary of each novel I read in 2018 and whether I’d recommend it.
The Year of Less by Cait Flanders
This was not quite the “how to guide” I’d imagined it to be, but was instead a funny heartwarming insight to Cait’s experience with addiction, stuff and personal demons.
I’d recommend it to anyone looking to break their addiction to stuff and anything in life that does not serve them well.
Alys Always by Harriet Lane
This novel fascinated me from the first lines. Set in contemporary London, it describes how the life of a young woman is altered when she witnesses a car crash. I found the novel so deeply disturbing and thought provoking, likely because it humanizes manipulation in an honest, relatable and endearing manner.
Recommend to anyone looking for a quick, thought-provoking read.
Tin Man by Sarah Winman
Simultaneous heartbreaking and heartwarming, this is a story of unconventional love in the late 80s amidst the HIV epidemic. A truly beautiful and moving story.
Recommend to everyone.
Letters of Love: Words from the Heart Penned by Prominent Australians by The Alannah & Madeline Foundation
An ode to everything from Aussie Rules Football to the Australian outback, beloved family members, imagined lives and past and future selves. The letters are funny, heartfelt and at times eye-opening. The book is published by the Alannah and Madeline Foundation- a charity established by Walter Mikac after he lost his wife and daughters in the Port Arthur Massacre.
Recommend to anyone who wants a glimpse at Australian culture or wanting to read something heartwarming.
The Carousel by Rosamunde Pilcher
Perfect guilty pleasure holiday read.
Recommend as a summer/lazy read if you love anything 80s/English countryside/small village style life.
The 4-hour work week by Tim Ferriss
The famous how-to guide about escaping the 9-5 and living anywhere in the world as part of the “new rich”. A bit dated (it was originally published in 2007) but still excellent advice on how to get the most of out life and do things on your own terms.
Recommend for anyone who feels disillusioned with the 9-5 or feels they could be more productive with their time.
Tiny House Living: Ideas for Building and Living Well in Less Than 400 Square Feet by Ryan Mitchell
I loved this book so much! It begins by giving some background on the tiny house movement and history, followed by many different stories (with pictures) of different journeys people have taken to create their tiny houses and lives for themselves. There’s also a decent amount of how to and practical advice including a large list of resources at the end.
Highly recommend for anyone wanting to learn more about tiny houses or for some inspiration for your own build.
Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert
A lovely friend gave me this book for my birthday and it’s such an inspiring read on the creative process and purpose. It’s written by the author of Eat Pray Love which I hadn’t read or seen but immediately watched after reading Big Magic. While I could appreciate the realizations and self awareness that Liz achieved throughout Eat Pray Love, Big Magic and her views on creativity resonated the most with me. I particularly love her message that “done is better than good”.
Can’t recommend it highly enough for anyone looking for new ideas on how to express themselves creatively.
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. Again McEwan delivers perfection with The Children Act. I loved the style and the story and the moral questions it raised. It’s recently been made into a film and I can’t wait to see it, as McEwan’s novel’s translate amazingly well to the screen.
Recommend to anyone who likes contemporary fiction or books that make you question your morals and preconceptions.
The Day of the Storm by Rosamunde Pilcher
Another guilty pleasure read. Set in Cornwall as many of her novels are, these are the types of stories that make me long to travel to England.
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 identify their secrets to success 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, not requiring 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 in a weekend trip to 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 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 and 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.
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 nonetheless, 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 wondered if she had planned a trilogy.
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.
If you can fight through the confusion and go back to re-read parts then it’s worth the effort.
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 living 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 re-read it at Christmas time!
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.