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.

To view the entire article, please visit Book Riot. 

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.

To view the entire article, please visit Book Riot. 

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?

To read the entire article, visit Book Riot. 

A Yoga Sequence for Reading

Sometimes when I read for too long sitting in the same position, my body gets sore and restless. I’m not sure if this happens to many other people, but when it happens to me, all I want to do is move around. The problem is that if I move around too much, I might lose track of where I am on the page and find myself reading the same sentence over and over again. If I try to read lying down flat, I inevitably drop the book on my face (this has happened to everyone, don’t pretend otherwise). If I try to read while walking around my house, I am infinitely more likely to walk into a corner or a wall (again, I think this is universal)

For a while now, I’ve been doing a yoga sequence while I read. Follow the flow below and hold each pose for as long as feels right for you. These all flow together into a soft yoga sequence that aims to relax. Book at the ready? Here we go…

To view the entire article, visit Book Riot.

Check Yourself: A Critical Analysis of My 2017 Reading

Every year, I try to set myself some sort of reading challenge. Last year I was hoping that 50% of the books I read would be by women, and I went out of my way to make sure that happened. In the spirit of examining my own behaviour, I set out on my 2017 reading journey without any list of books to adhere to, but determined that 10% of everything I read should be by a person of colour, and at least 60% should be written by female voices. At no point in 2017 did I stop to count if I was reaching these goals.

I wanted to explore genres I haven’t been too strong on—some environmental and science titles, some comedy, and some investment in comics. I wanted to read either more books about Ireland, or more books by Irish authors. I wanted to read more sports.

That’s a lot of goals—and to be honest, throughout the year I wasn’t really keeping track. It’s not quite the end of December as of this writing, so I’m not totally finished yet, but I’m stopping the clock to look back.

To view the entire article, visit Book Riot. 

Duncan Jones Launches the David Bowie Book Club

David Bowie was a prolific reader, so perhaps it’s not surprising that a book club in his name has been set up by his own son. Duncan Jones made the announcement on Twitter, referring to his father as ‘a beast of a reader’.

Jones didn’t indicate a structure for his book club, but has selected the first book–Peter Ackroyd’s Hawksmoor, and set a completion date of February 1st for anyone who wants to join in.

According to The Telegraph in London, Bowie himself travelled with his own library, books encased in cabinets that developed into an amazing collection over time. He credited his own parents with his fascination for books and noted that reading Kerouac’s On the Roadinspired him to get out of Bromley when he was a teenager.

To read the entire article, please visit Book Riot. 

Trying out ‘New Paper’ with the Remarkable Tablet

There’s a little theme in Eat, Pray, Love where Elizabeth Gilbert finds herself attempting to sum herself up in just one word. It’s a bit of a tricky task, but I’m sure everyone else who has read the book has, at some point, tried to work out their word. While on holidays recently, my boyfriend and I set about the task during a long drive.

I worked out that mine is “paper.” I’m fiendish about books and notebooks. I still have concert tickets from when I was 12 years old. I collected brightly coloured sheets of paper as a child. Nothing makes me happier than an unexplored stationery shop or, better yet, an unexplored bookshop. I’ll always prefer a notebook to a screen. But despite that, I’ve lately started to take the environmental cost of paper quite seriously.ReMarkable-Off-e1511821181643-768x1024

Given the amount of paper I get through—in the office, at home planning yoga sessions, during yoga teacher training, when I’m writing my own articles and work, it made sense to think about some kind of tablet option. I hit upon the ReMarkable entirely by accident and placed a pre-order on a whim, back in August. The tablet arrived just last week because the company had a supplier delay, but to their credit, they kept every buyer well informed of the situation as it progressed. I can’t fault them on that front.

To read the entire article, please visit Book Riot. 

 

Books to Push you through Winter Training

Cards on the table: some months ago, I quit my gym membership and decided to continue my fitness regime using just the mean streets of London, England. It was September at the time. The weather was neither hot nor cold. The days were long and evening sunshine was relatively common. I was quite happy with my decision. I signed up for several races and virtual races, getting my body back into the routines of running on the streets instead of on the treadmill.

Of course, this lofty sense of confidence was undone when the clocks went back in late October. The days are shorter now. London is bloody cold, and the rain frequently leaps from the heavens onto my head. Running now has an endurance requirement that it just doesn’t have in summer. The couch begins to look very, very enticing when the wind is slicing through my jacket and the rain is creeping into every nook and cranny.

Still, on I have to run. My love of chocolate and pastry demands persistent exercise and I’d rather run miles than quit the chocs. So, onward and upward. I’ve made this list of books that I find inspiring, either to listen to while running or to read when you finally hit the couch. Sometimes, you need a little motivation to hit the pavement: here it is.

To read the entire article, please visit Book Riot. 

Books for Building a Mindful Habit

A few years ago, I was speaking to a friend who works for an investment bank. He told me that he felt run ragged and beaten and had decided to attempt some meditation. His face flushed pink as he said this, as though it were something bad. “Don’t laugh,” he pleaded, “My sister said it works really well, but I can’t work it out. What do I do when I sit there? What’s meant to happen?”

Humans are easy to shame. I still can’t work out why he thought I’d laugh at him, but it’s clear to me that many people have hangups about perceived spirituality and the very idea of sitting down with only ourselves for company can be a hand wringing experience. In reality, beginning a mindfulness habit can be a jittery experience.

Below are a few books that approach mindfulness from different points of view, from the spiritual to the scientific and the miniature to the tome. Pick one up at a library and prepare to sit down with yourself. Be brave!

To read the entire article, please visit Book Riot. 

Censorship, Howl and City Lights of San Francisco

I recently found myself in San Francisco for a few days. I hadn’t been to the city before and didn’t have too much time for exploring; I was willing to forego my usual exploration of bookshops, but in the end my heart was drawn to one: City Lights, a bastion of literary freedom since its foundation in 1953.

Wandering the shelves of City Lights is an excellent pastime in its own right—progressive politics, brilliant fiction and non-fiction picks and downstairs, shelves upon shelves of gender politics, minority histories, and even religion and philosophy.

In the wake of the 2016 election, the store opened a “Pedagogies of Resistance” section, which was a total joy to browse, filled with titles about revolutionary movements that aim to empower the reader for present and future moments of resistance. You might wonder what sort of bookshop assumes such a public responsibility, but the truth is that City Lights has a rich history of resistance. This is a bookshop with history sewn into the very fibre of its being.

To read the entire article, please visit Book Riot.