As a child I was the dictionary definition of bookworm, and I read at every opportunity, even while walking down the street. Now however, after being put in my place by the real world, I barely find the time to read more than a handful of pages every now and then and don’t get to knuckle down with a book quite as often as I’d like to. Regardless, here are a few choice reads from this month that I would highly recommend.
We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves
Karen Joy Fowler
This particular book had been on my to-read list for a while but I just kept putting it off and putting it off, until I finally took it on holiday and flashed through the pages all too quickly. One of the most intelligent first person narratives I’ve read in a long time, WAACBO has a protagonist that is easy to love despite her flaws and unfamiliar circumstance.
It’s difficult to do this book justice with a review as under 100 pages in there is a revelation that changes your perspective on the story entirely. Without giving too much away, the story follows Rosemary – a childhood chatterbox who was always told to skip the beginnings of her stories and cut straight to the middle – which is exactly what she does with this particular story of her missing sister. As the child of a psychologist, Rosemary’s narrative is interjected with old and modern theories about concious thought, whilst simultaneously cutting back and forth as she remembers and mis-remembers parts of her tale.
Ultimately, this was not an easy read, but give it the time and effort that Fowler put in and it is an incredibly rewarding story. This book taught me as much about the world we live in as it did about myself, and is the kind of book you find yourself thinking about in the middle of the night two days after you finish reading.
Fowler’s novel won the well deserved 2014 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction, and was also short-listed for the 2014 Man Booker Prize.
The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying
As a sentimental hoarder, I was very sceptical about this book, but having heard so much about it and how it has quite literally changed peoples’ lives (particularly one of my favourite YouTubers Estée Lalonde), I had to see what Marie Kondo’s ‘KonMari Method’ was all about.
Kondo’s book is an easy-to-read ‘guide’, but the voice feels more like an eccentric relative coaching you on how to reverse your poor life choices. The essence of her method is that we do not have the capacity to give the attention that is deserved to all the things we own. To remedy this, firstly you should discard anything that doesn’t bring you joy when you hold it. Once you have discarded down to just the items that bring you joy (plus a couple that don’t but you have to keep), only then should you start to tidy and give everything a proper place. When laid out so plainly in black and white, it makes perfect sense.
Although some of Kondo’s more rigorous/obsessive notions had me rolling my eyes, since putting this down I found myself agitated with my living space. I let it slide for a week before launching back into the book, sticky-tabbing the relevant pages, and starting my clear out according to this method (plus a few tweaks to adapt it to my life). Kondo claims that once the process is done, her clients remembered old hobbies, found new luck in their careers, and were overall healthier and happier, so at the end of the day a bit of a tidy up couldn’t hurt!
Life on the Refrigerator Door: A Novel in Notes
The last book on my list this month is from a collection of Young Adult fiction at the back of my bookshelf. After finding it, I blitzed through it cover to cover in one sitting and one cup of tea.
I will always defend young adult fiction as a genre, under the premise that just because something is easy to read, doesn’t mean it’s poorly written. YA fiction gets a bit of a bad name sometimes for portraying melodramatic, romanticised teenage years (with the occasional vampire) in large print with scattered grammatical errors. This is the perfect example of the exact opposite.
The unique format of this book, written completely in notes left on the fridge door by a mother and daughter as they face a difficult time in their lives, is incredibly simple. However, Kuipers manages to build two realistic characters through just these snapshots, and the shortness of some of the notes conveys the feeling of two people struggling to communicate and running out of time that makes you run through the pages with urgency.
I’ll admit that I only stopped reading to get a tissue to wipe my eyes. A real gem.
Let me know if you have any recommendations for things I should read next month!