Books for Aileen: Saying Goodbye to a Friend with Books she Loved

On March 18th last year, in a hospital bed in Ireland, one of my best friends passed away. She was 25. Diagnosed with a brain tumor at eight months old, Aileen fought for a quarter of a century before her war ended. She barely had a chance at life but she used the card she got dealt to live the life she did have with a resounding courage that I still can’t comprehend.

Aileen and I first bonded over books- namely, Harry Potter. She was one of the first friends I made in secondary school and we stuck together while we negotiated the move from childhood to adulthood, via the Teenage Years of Embarrassment. One of her favourite books was War of the Buttons by Louis Pergaud and in later years she remembered it really well even when her memory faded. It was the first book I read in an effort to bring her back to life in my mind- a story of rampaging children fighting a seemingly silly war with far-reaching consequences. The book stayed with me: even the smartest of us have big lessons to learn before we can properly grow up.

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Re-Climbing the Magic Faraway Tree

As a child, I stumbled across a miracle book. There was a bright place in the woods where a giant tree stretched to the clouds, its branches hosting a plethora of whimsical residents. The magic spilled out of every page and I read, and re-read, and read it again. It was called The Enchanted Wood. I was 6 years old, I’d just found Enid Blyton, and the world exploded.

Arguably, the adventures of Jo, Bessie, and Fanny were my introduction to fantasy, a genre that I adore to this day. I had no idea, reading The Farway Tree series in 1996, that it had been written in the 1940s. The world was at war a second time, hardship was everyone’s neighbor, and Enid Blyton was producing stories that would, for generations, help young people imagine a better, brighter place.

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Understanding the Real Ireland: Hardship and Change

Ireland has a sort of mythical status among creative types. The land of saints,  scholars and Guinness. Many depictions show Ireland as a home of parties and alcoholism, religious dogma and at time, Troubles. Ireland is both more and less than this mythical generalisation- but understanding the real Ireland takes more than a read of Ulysses.

2016 marks 100 years since the Easter Rising in Ireland. Revolutionaries, aggravated by years of imperialist rule, took up arms and led a struggle against the British forces in Ireland, beginning on Easter Monday 1916. It’s a story that often gets lost in the babble of world history, but some of Ireland’s best creative work covers that period. Sean O’Casey wrote , a play based in central Dublin in that week of 1916, and shows the experience of a family dragged into the rebellion and the devastation created in Dublin by rebels and British soldiers alike. The play is a microcosm of a history that gets lost and forgotten too often.

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Books for the Yoga Obsessed

Yoga has been around for centuries and as a result, there are endless books about it, some sublime and some ridiculous. I’m currently working hard to become a yoga teacher so I’ve spent months leafing through all types of books on the topic (because I’m a nerdy yoga teacher!)

Book Riot Yoga II

Yoga is more than the physical movements that people practice in classes. Not all parts of yoga suit all people (I discount quite a bit of it because I’m a tad cynical), but it has been a seriously mind opening experience to read about the different types, branches and effects of yoga, built up as a practice over hundreds of years. There’s a history in yoga that people just don’t see in their weekly vinyasa class- so I’m gathering the best books, technical, philosophical, instructional and plain old fashioned fun.

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