Books About Brexit, the European Union and the UK

I admit to you, I’m not even sure where to start with this. I suppose I can start by giving a reader some scale, to understand the true nature of the European Union (EU) in the first place.

Since the end of World War II, the EU has been a daily part of life for most of Europe’s population, whether we realise it or not; its directives and decisions govern over half a billion people, more than 7% of the world’s population.

From small things, big things come. What started as a series of small, trade-based initiatives in the 1950s has boomed into a behemoth political and economic union of 28 member states committed to four fundamental freedoms of movement: people, goods, services, and capital, in an internal market with so much power that the EU is recognised as an emerging superpower.

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Books to help you take the plunge for Zero Waste

I live in London- a city swamped by disposable coffee cups, cute little plastic straws sticking up out of cocktail glasses and offensive amounts of plastic wrapping on every item in the supermarkets. When I first moved here, plastic bags in shops were still the norm, and the disdain in the city for the environment was obvious.

Things have changed in just a few years. Plastic bags are now subject to payment (with the money going back to community groups), sustainable eateries and schemes are popping up left right and centre, commitment to bicycles has gone up even further and, since the recent televising of Planet Earth II, David Attenborough’s series has dominatingly convinced London that plastic straws have to go- as well as a current scheme to prevent plastic bottle use by introducing public use water fountains.

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From Book to Musical: Hamilton in London

I read Ron Chernow’s Hamilton only recently, after months of good intentions and months of fears about the size of the book and its resulting capacity for use as a weapon on the London Underground. It’s a hefty tome, but I didn’t notice the pages going by- Hamilton’s story appealed to me as an immigrant, but his flaws and imperfections are both neither hidden nor undercut; Chernow’s portrait of Alexander Hamilton is one of a man living through some of American history’s most extraordinary moments- but just one man, nonetheless; flawed and imperfect like the rest of us.

Booking tickets to Hamilton in London was an event in itself. I booked tickets for my boyfriend and I in January 2017, for a show in March 2018. At the time, I remember telling him that if we weren’t still together at that time, he would be the person not attending. He was offended, though mostly because my faith in our relationship appeared to be quite thin.

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Travel Writing for the Rest of Us

More and more lately, I find myself immersed in travel writing, a sector that appears filled to bursting with totally ordinary white men trying to bring perspective to the world. This isn’t a criticism—much of the writing is beautiful and nuanced, but as a tiny woman, often I don’t really feel that I belong in their stories. Over the past decade, I’ve travelled to lots of different places, from Iceland to Azerbaijan and Mexico to Argentina—and I think, as a woman often travelling alone, my experience is very different to the easy confidence of a lot of travel writing.

Let’s face facts: travelling looks like paradise in Instagram photos, but in reality comes with the hefty weight of multiple challenges, some of which are felt much more bluntly depending on the traveller. Women travelling alone face inherent risks, especially in places where women’s rights are less developed. People who are disabled are rarely accounted for in guidebooks, and it’s only in recent years that I’ve seen guidebooks offering recommendations and advise for LGBT travellers. People with illnesses that may need management, people with young children, people of colour—the world of travel writing, in its efforts to broaden our view, sometimes narrows people down quite a bit.

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A Reader’s Guide to Repealing the 8th

In 1983, the people of Ireland went to the polls in a referendum to amend the Constitution of Ireland. 66.9% of the population voted to approve the 8th Amendment, which would recognise the equal right to life of a pregnant woman and the unborn. In 2018, after 35 years of surviving the realities of the 8th Amendment, the people of Ireland returned to the polls and voted to repeal it.

Ireland has long been known as among the last bastions of unborn protection in the western world. Across the world, the repeal of the 8thwas seen as a ‘blow to the church’, a surprise from a ‘largely Catholic country’ and ‘a quiet revolution’. It was all of these things, but it was also none of them.

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Books About Herbalism and Natural Skincare

In the past few years of yoga teaching, book reading, and long hikes into the woods around southeastern England, I fell in love with plants and flowers. It came as a bit of a surprise to me and I expected my interest to dwindle over time, but the affliction has only gotten worse (to the extent that I recently acquired an allotment in London, and am poised to spend the next year of my life clearing, growing, and harvesting on it).

In the course of my learning about plants and flowers, I picked up an interest in herbalism and natural beauty and skincare. I’ve long been against animal testing, micro-beads and falsely advertised ‘miracle creams’, so the idea of being able to make my own skincare and some small healing concoctions for my cupboards was very appealing.

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Yoga Teacher Training: 6 Keys to Making the Most of Yours

I climbed off my mat in December 2016, after twelve months of training with YogaLondon, my 200-hour yoga teacher certificate clutched in my hands. My heart was swollen with joy — I made it! But my head was swollen with questions — what the heck happens now?!

Bridge

I had practiced yoga for the first time in secondary school when I was sixteen. All I remember is that my wrists hurt a lot, but I was certainly intrigued. It was years before I came back to the practice. I was suffering from acute anxiety and loneliness living in Dublin in 2013. The yoga helped, and as the months went by, my mat was a place of safety when I was struggling. More and more I started to think about teacher training.

The loneliness and anxiety of Dublin got the better of me eventually, and I departed the city for London in 2015. I had a shiny new corporate job, a salary that allowed me some crucial disposable income, and a whole new life. I found a yoga studio and, within months of landing in Camden Town, was researching possible training courses.

This article was first published for TribeGrow. To view the entire article, please click here.

History Books that Bring the Past to Life

I’m in a non-fiction rut and I think it’s time to admit to myself that true stories will always be my preferred ones. All books teach lessons, from comics to academic texts, but my love for non-fiction is abiding because I come away from each book knowing something more about the world I live in.

History is one of those topics that people either adore or tend to shy away from. I think there’s an abounding fear that it can be boring and bloated, but some of the best books I’ve read have been about the lives that were lived before me.

Some history books are definitely prone to a stalling sense of intransigence, but there are some true gems that make history come to life on the page. In those books, it feels like you’re living each second in the past. This  is just a short list– I’d certainly be interested to read recommendations for other truly immersive books about the past.

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In the Library with my Crisis of Faith

I think I am having a crisis of faith. Or rather, I have plenty of faith but no idea what it’s telling me, what I should call it or where it belongs. In true Hermione Granger style, I’ve been rifling through books to try to come to terms with my introspection—but since I have no idea how I got here, even the library feels like a labyrinth. Books alone might not be the answer. Let me explain.

I was born and raised in the Republic of Ireland. In the 1990s, we were still heavily under the thumb of the Catholic Church. When I was born, divorce, abortion, and suicide were illegal, as was homosexual activity. The photographs from that time tell a story of the prominence of the Catholic Church—when Ireland went to the polls to legalize divorce in 1995, parades of the religious walked the streets, statues of the Virgin Mary held aloft, insisting that marriage is a contract before God and should never be voided. The fervor was intense.

I made my first Holy Communion in 1997; I was six years old. Small girls in white dresses paraded down the aisle to accept get communion. We were forced to confess our sins to a priest. At age 6, I had to make up sins—I was mean to my brother and I swore at the cat. We didn’t even have a cat, so then I had made a sinner of myself for lying. Each week we were sent to Mass and tested in the classroom; shamed if it was discovered that we hadn’t actually been. There was a lot of guilt.

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Reliving Agatha Christie at Witness for the Prosecution

I’m a child of the ’90s—when I was growing up, it was all about the Spice Girls, Titanic, Y2K and Friends. Agatha Christie wasn’t even a consideration when it came to books, because Harry Potter had arrived and we were all busy with our Furbies. I read Agatha Christie for the first time when I was 22 years old and discovered And Then There Were None, one of the bestselling books of all time.

And Then There Were None is a child of its time—racist references and pejorative terms pervade the earlier versions of the text and even in the 2000s, the writing feels old. In the 1930s and ’40s, reviews lauded the originality and genius of Christie, who was prone to surprise endings, plot twists, and intrigue. For a child of the ’90s, where amazing twists and turns are par for the course, Christie can seem old-fashioned—until you realise that plot twists were the wheel she invented and perfected in pursuit of her craft.

Living in London, it seems a shame to not see more of Christie’s work, given that The Moustrap has been on stage here since 1952. When Kenneth Branagh’s Poirot took to the screen in 2017 in Murder on the Orient Express, I went to see it in Leicester Square. Neither item breaks the mould of modern cinema or theatre, but there’s no denying that Christie’s stories pull even the most contemporary reader in. Her plots are where the crime genre became a kingmaker, with intelligent storylines and a mass appeal—especially in the UK, where many stories were serialised in newspapers over a period of weeks or even months. It’s hard to imagine the excitement people might have had for the next snippet—not unlike today’s fandoms when a film trailer everyone has waited ages for pops onto a screen. Star Wars, anyone?

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