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2018 – A proper go at it

Each year I make a list of attainable resolutions.

Waste less (money, food, materials), drink more water, read more, walk more, don’t eat out at work, text people back promptly…

I generally keep to these and manage to improve my habits year after year. However, I also set myself unrealistic goals like ‘write a book’ or ‘travel the world’ or ‘go to the gym’ . In order to help me achieve (some) of these goals over a longer time frame, I want to focus on learning and writing more in 2018. Aside from a few translations and the online articles and content I produce for work, I am still finding myself woefully lacking in time for writing, so it’s time I made a conscious effort to improve this and set aside some precious hours. Hopefully – and I have said this many (many) times in many diaries, journals, and blog entries -I will dedicate more time to posting on this blog. We’ll see.

I am also going to sign up for more free (and perhaps some paid) talks around London. I have lived in the city for 4.5 years and have definitely not taken enough advantage of all of the exhibitions, seminars and talks available to me, so here’s to learning more in 2018.

Reading goals:

  • Read more Russian authors.
  • Read more diversely (this was genuinely attempted last year and I ended up thoroughly enjoying Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi and Murakami’s Norwegian Wood)
  • Read more non-fiction

To read or reread this year (as usual, trying to clear my bookshelf/jenga pile of books):

  • The Secret History by Donna Tartt (a book club pick)
  • Persuasion by Jane Austen
  • El Laberinto de los Espíritus by Carloz Ruiz Zafón
  • Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak
  • Agatha Christie: An Autobiography by Agatha Christie
  • The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton
  • The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco
  • Dead Souls by Nikolai Gogol
  • This Blinding Absence of Light by Tahar ben Jelloun
  • I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

Read in 2017 (as of 29/01/2018):

  • Kill the Next One by Federico Axat
  • Letters of Note: An Eclectic Collection of Correspondence Deserving of a Wider Audience by Shaun Usher
  • The Blind Assassin – Margaret Atwood
  • Burnt Shadows – Kamila Shamsie
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Ramblings, Review, Uncategorized

Attempting Austen

I first tried reading Pride and Prejudice as a thoroughly unromantic teen, it did not go well. As an avid reader of mysteries (I’ve been Agatha Christie’s biggest fan since age 12), I was much more drawn to darker stories and therefore decided that Jane Austen was definitely not for me. Oh how time changes you.

*There will be spoilers ahead and, although these books have been around for 200 years, it’s always polite to give warning.*

I read Emma last year (at the age of 25) having picked up a cheap copy in a bookshop and, much to my surprise, was greatly amused at how witty Austen’s writing and social commentary is. This was greatly aided by the fact that, in coming from a small town where everyone knows everyone else’s business, I was familiar with many of the characters – particularly Miss Bates who reminded of a certain family friend. After more research (I tend to obsessively look at reviews of books I have just finished to compare experiences) I saw that many Austen fans had placed Emma pretty low down on the list of the best Jane Austen books, so made a conscious effort to read more of her work.

I read Pride and Prejudice just before Easter, and subsequently watched the mini-series and film over the Easter break. Suffice to say that I enjoyed the book. I already knew the storyline (I mean, Bridget Jones is just the modern version – right?), but more than anything just enjoyed the author’s voice and way that, similarly to Shakespeare’s treatment of Romeo and Juliet, you can see that she is gently ridiculing her protagonists.

Then, in earlier this month, I picked up Sense & Sensibility at my local library and enjoyed it even more-so than the previous two (yes, I have now also seen the 1995 film starring Emma Thompson and the 2008 BBC miniseries). As a child I was always more sensible than my years and looking after my more tear-away friends, I connected with Elinor, and enjoyed reading about her family’s ups-and-downs. I also felt from the very start like Colonel Brandon was clearly the best option amongst all of the gentlemen introduced and felt like he and Elinor should have gone off together, but alas I will have to settle for Edward Ferrars.

I shall continue on my Austen journey and expect that Persuasion may be the next one I connect with most, given that I too am currently a 27 year old ‘spinster’. Good night.

Ramblings, Uncategorized

Rediscovering my love of the library

I have always depended on libraries. The  library in my home town is an impressive sandstone building which stands proudly at the crux of our town’s main roads and from the moment I was old enough to own my own library card I remember going there  on fortnightly visits to the with my mum, always excited to find a new book, cd or film to rent.

As we weren’t terribly well off, the library was my main source for reading materials and, on entering my late teens with little to no internet access at home, it became my weekly stop for internet use (even as late as 2008 I made the weekly trip to the library to do my weekend studying and university applications).  I loved the fact that after my studies, I could go for a wander along the bookshelves and pick up something new.

At university, like many, the library became one of the few quiet places where I could get essays and work done, I am sure I am not alone in pulling all-nighters sequestered among the bookshelves.

Then I started full time work in London and somehow just stopped visiting the library. I still read, but mainly picked up my books in second-hand book markets, or charity shops or (when feeling particularly wealthy in gifted book vouchers) treated myself to a brand new tome from a bookshop. In London I am spoiled, Foyles, Daunt Books, Hachetts and Waterstones offer fantastic selections in numerous languages, and the second-hand bookshops offer a wide variety of recent releases and classics (my favourites include the Oxfam bookshop in Hampstead and Bookmongers in Brixton). However, I noticed that I was buying books that I didn’t necessarily want to read, and then disappointed in having spent the money on them.

So, earlier this year, I decided to check out my local library and have been reminded of what I have been missing. Firstly, since my days of frequenting the library, eBooks and Audiobooks have improved enormously. Whilst I steadfastly refuse to use eBooks (I look at screens all day at work and am terrible at charging my devices) I have found joy in listening to audiobooks on my walks to and from work, and my library allows 15 free audiobook downloads. I have also recently joined a book club, so the library is a fantastic way of accessing the books I need to read, without risking spending the full amount on a book I may not enjoy. I also forgot how great it is just to wander and pick up any book in genres I don’t typically read, or on subjects I know little about, to see whether I might discover a new interest.

Therefore it saddens me to see libraries being used less and less. I came across a Guardian article (published in 2016) on a report regarding the significant decline library usage in the UK over the past decade, and it was interesting to note that poorer areas, like the town I grew up in, have been least affected. I know it is easier with eBooks and online shopping to pick up books with a click of a button, but I still feel like in wandering through libraries (and even bookshops) you always come across interesting books that catch your eye that you may never have heard of or searched for.

It is with this reacquired enjoyment for libraries that I hope to be using mine much more frequently in the next few years.

Review, Uncategorized

The Book Thief by Markuz Zusak

Why haven’t I read this earlier?!! A question that I am sure many others have asked themselves before. I’ve had this on my bookshelf for a good five years and have been meaning to pick up, I’m so glad I finally did!  To be honest, I remember being in a airport in France around 7 years ago and accidentally overhearing a girl talking in a very spoil-ery way about this book, so my justification is that I wanted to forget the spoilers she mentioned before picking it up – I am so glad I did.

Books don’t often make me cry (I can probably count on one hand the ones that have) but I can say that I cried at the The Book Thief. It made me cry, it made me smile, it made me despair for humanity in general.

Like most children in the UK I had a heavy dose of World War 2 knowledge dropped on me throughout my school career and have read many books and articles, seen many films and documentaries, and visited many museum and art exhibitions about that period, yet never fail be surprised to learn at yet another way humans managed to make each other suffer in those miserable years. On the other hand, it is always so heartening to learn about just how many good people tried to help each other, and the book wonderfully shed light on both aspects of wartime.

Whilst the book was perhaps initially aimed at a much younger demographic, I feel that there is much within the writing that you don’t appreciate unless you read (or reread) it as an adult, particularly Death’s rumination on humanity. An older perspective and deeper understanding on what happened and why things happened, adds greatly to the enjoyment of reading this beautiful book.

I loved Liesel, and Rudy, and Max, and Hans, and even Rosa. Rosa who’s forceful manner, again benefitting from having read from an adult’s perspective, you can immediately see comes from a place of love.

If you haven’t yet read this, I fully recommend doing so. The story of a young girl’s experiences through this terrible time, both positive and absolutely heart-breaking will stick with you. As will the wonderful people she meets, the caring foster family, brave young men, and adults who keep their gentleness hidden, you cannot fail to feel connected with every character in some way, and only hope that their kindness and heroism will somehow be rewarded in some sort of a happy ending, unfortunately like so many people during that time, this is not always the case.

Favourite quote: ‘A Last Note From Your Narrator: I am haunted by humans.’

Uncategorized

Beauty and the Beast Ponderings

This is not a book, I know. The only way I can think of linking it into my aim for this blog is that Belle is a book-loving princess?

I’m not going to do a review of the film (although I must admit that after going in with low expectations I was pleasantly surprised), but I had some stray thoughts while watching it and wondered if anyone else thought the same.

Please also note that there will be spoilers ahead and, whilst much of the film follows the beats of the original, there are some changes which I comment on below.

The Beast likes books
The fact that Beast couldn’t read never made sense to me. Before being turned, he was an 11 (?) year old born into royalty, so surely he must have been taught to read at some point?! I know that in the original film Belle and the Beast bonded when she taught him to read, but I think that Belle discovering someone else who enjoys reading seems like a more organic way to have her warm to him.

Also, surely in all that time he would have read as a form of entertainment? 10 years is a long time alone in that castle with such a big library!

The dance sequence
This was beautifully done as expected, if not quite as technically groundbreaking as the original. However, due the heavy use of CGI on the Beast, I could not quite suppress the image of Dan Stevens wearing a green body suit whilst dancing and staring romantically into Emma Watson’s eyes.
Please tell me that this is how it was filmed and please let there be footage somewhere.

Gaston doesn’t get a chance to remember 
So at the end of the film we learn that Belle’s quiet village was also put under the curse and had forgotten all about the castle and their loved ones who worked there (as is evidenced by Mr & Mrs Potts’ reunion). So what about Gaston? Maybe Gaston really had a lady love or family in the castle whom he forgot? We will never know if Gaston’s true self was perhaps a little less self-centred and he was just lonely all this time.

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Inspiration from my bookshelf

pile books

I suck at keeping diaries.

It’s true! Again and again, all of the diaries, journals, and even previous blogs I’ve tried to keep over the years have all been abandoned, replaced with hobbies, studies, work, or just given up on due to a simple lack of inspiration

So what’s new?  
A: The need for some creativity in my life.

Since graduating last June I have been working as a freelance translator, and constantly translating, editing, and proof-reading the words of others has made me realise how much I miss expressing myself and using my own thoughts and feelings to produce my own original material. Sure, in translation I get to exercise my writing skills. I get to play with words and phrasing, exploring ways to make target texts as idiomatic as possible, and in this I get to play with different styles, journalistic when translating news articles, informative when detailing product descriptions, persuasive when working on non-profit pieces, but they are not my own creations. I never truly think of them as my work. So now I’ve started this blog as a way to produce my own material and write about what care about.

Why High Piled Books?

Aside from it being a reference to my second favourite Keats poem (my favourite being ‘On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer’ for any Keats enthusiasts out there), it literally refers to this huge pile of books I have to get through (see above).

LOVE books. This love was the driving force behind my decision to study  languages, and the reason I hope to pursue a career in publishing in the future.

I read all the time and always have a book close at hand, I once even had one tucked in my bag in a night club (it is way less pathetic than it sounds when given the context of the situation), but unfortunately, with work and other things occupying my time, I haven’t been able to read as often as I’d like to recently, yet have continued to buy more, and more, and more books, resulting in this endless tower I now have to find a way to get through. It’s a mixture of books I thought looked interesting on the shelf, ones I’ve been meaning to read for years, and books I have already begun reading but have not yet managed to finish due to time constraints.

Despite having to put my favourite hobby on the back-burner, the plus side is that this Jenga tower of books did provide me with the inspiration for this blog.

I’ve no illusions that the ramblings of a 22-year-old may be of any interest whatsoever to the people of the internet. Hell, there are already so many blogs, vlogs, and twitter accounts that detail the daily lives of unknowns, that another is barely making waves.

Therefore I decided that I wanted to create something that might be of use to others in some way. After finishing a book I love discussing it, what I enjoyed, what I thought the writer did particularly well, how it compares to previous titles in the series/by the same author. I often note down in a journal those I’ve particularly enjoyed, my own kind of personal book review of sorts, and I figured I may as well publish them online where they can act as a reference for the poor soul that happens to stumble across this page and might be interested in reading them.

And so this is what to expect, a book-review blog…sort of.

I won’t be reviewing all the latest releases (as you might be able to make out from the photo, some of these have been out a pretty long time now, give or take 150 years), and they won’t be super-objective critical writings, just my own personal take on the book, what I enjoyed about it, or what I didn’t so much. It also won’t be purely book reviews, there’ll most likely be a mixture of any book-related news or random facts I find interesting that I hope you will too. I’m open to any suggestions of books you’ve enjoyed, although it may take me a wee while to get around to reading them!

Well, here goes.

Fingers crossed I keep it up! 

(the blog I mean, not the book pile, fingers crossed that goes down quickly to make room for more!)