Reading= happiness


In all the festive craziness and end of term deadlines, taking time out of our to-do list to read novels can seem a bit of an indulgence. In fact all year round I hear people piously declare to me, “I don’t have time to read”, which is a bit of lie really. All of us have time to read, I know very few people who don’t have any leisure time at all. It’s a case of how you choose to spend that leisure time. For me, I can’t not read. I get unhappy, my creativity dries up- in short my happiness decreases and that makes me lose motivation and productivity. Unless I am really ill then I read or listen to an audio book everyday.

At the moment I am reading The Shallows: How the internet is changing the way we read, think and remember by Nicholas Carr. I have so many things I want to blog about this book but at this busy holiday time, I’m going to start by explaining why reading is essential happiness. When we read fiction we are able to get ‘lost’ in a book because our brain tries to recreate what we are reading. Our brain actually stimulates our senses and uses our memories so we feel like we are living what we are reading.

Reading fiction makes us see the world in a new way and makes our brain pay attention to the smaller things in life. Carr explains: “The words in books didn’t just strengthen people’s ability to think abstractly; they enriched people’s experience of the physical world.” If you need to de-stress or find happiness in everyday life again then you need to make time to read whatever fiction takes your fancy.

Do you make time to read regularly? Or, do you believe you don’t have time to read?

SUMMER READ: Introduction and ‘Eat, Pray, Love’


Every summer I need to read at least one light hearted book, something that helps me escape to a foreign country or romantic city- something exciting. If you are going on holiday, or more importantly if you are not, you need to buy a least book this summer- you can buy them really cheaply from Amazon.  If you are stuck for a choice, then I’d like to help you, look out for more posts with my recommendations and reviews. My first recommendation is…

Eat, Pray, Love– Elizabeth Gilbert

This book is perfect for anyone who feels like they are stuck in a rut, but just as well matched for someone who only wants to be transported to a pizzeria in Italy. Gilbert writes in such a natural way, you feel as though you are having a chat over coffee with a friend. Liz has realized that she is unhappy, despite being surrounded by what should feel like success- a husband, a nice car, a very handsome income. She writes her journey from the decision to end her marriage, through a terrible divorce, and then on to the year she spent travelling. You may have seen the film, but in a lot of ways it doesn’t do the book justice; there isn’t the necessity for a happy ending or a lovers tiff, the book is raw and honest. Perhaps the biggest thing missing from the film is that Gilbert shows the people she loves, as they really are, which is flawed, it’s difficult to do that in film without making that person ‘the baddie’. Gilbert’s story is refreshing, she doesn’t write about a fairytale gap year where everyone she meets changes her life, and is the nicest, most interesting person ever. The reviews of this book, mine included, all agree that this book is inspiring, no matter how dissimilar your life is from Liz’s, you cannot help but ask the questions she does, about yourself. The book is split into 108 miniature stories, which means the book is easy to pick up and put down without feeling lost.

Beauty is on the inside and other cliches part two


In my post Beauty is on the inside and other cliches I talked about the difference between being obsessed with perfection and enjoying enhancing your appearance with make-up and hair products. Recently I began reading The Female Eunuch by Germaine Greer for research. While I don’t agree with everything Greer says and some parts are now not relevant (the book was published in 1970), I really liked the chapter about beauty. It’s normal to have reservations about your appearance, but as Greer argues, we should be mainly not only be okay with our natural appearance/body, but should love it. You don’t have to be arrogant, but find a way to convince yourself that we are each different, and come to appreciate yourself and the natural appearance of others.

If we could stop striving to become the ‘perfect’ woman (or man), then there would be less ‘frankensteins’ as I like to call them (and yes I know Frankenstein was the creator, not the monster). Frankensteins are created when a person sees a part of someone elses body that they like and try to change their own to be the same, most of the time this either ends up greatly exaggerated, or just doesn’t fit with their natural appearance, and the result is ugliness. For example, I have pasty white freckled skin and auburn hair, if I started hitting the sunbeds or used spray tan I would look ridiculous. There are tons of orange women parading our streets, it ain’t a good look ladies, you’d be far better off accepting your pasty skin and just using blusher.

I don’t say these things lightly, I have experience. I was a size 8 before I got sick and now…I’m a few dress sizes bigger. It’s frustrating and yes most people will look at me and think “don’t order the cake” but it’s not the end of the world, worse things happen. As long as I’m eating healthily then I won’t waste my time worrying about the odd treat or the size of my waistline, I’ve come to accept my bigger self, and hopefully soon come to love it.

My freckly knees

When I was teenager I hated my freckly knees and did all I could to cover them up, until freckles came in to fashion one summer, and my friend said they were a cute oddity. Not everyone loves them but I do, my friend helped me see my spotted knees in a different way, and now I like that I’m the only person I know who has freckles on every joint, as if they all congregated at the bends.

Perhaps there’s a part of yourself that you could see in a new light?

“For women, there is one aspect which is common to both situations: demands are made upon them to contour their bodies in order to please the eyes of the others. Women are so insecure that they constantly take measures to capitulate to this demand, whether it is rational or not” – The Female Eunuch

The Beauty of World Book Night

Aside


On 5th March World Book Night distributed 40,000 free books. I was lucky enough to meet up with

All Quiet on the Western Front

Emma Dodd and was given ‘All Quiet on the Western Front’ by Erich Maria Remarque. The book follows a young German soldier called Paul and his time fighting in World War One. This is not a book I would have picked to read myself, but that is the beauty of World Book Night, because this is one of the best novels I have ever read. It is so far from the subjects I usually write about but Remarque has taught me a lot in 200 pages.

Aside from Remarque’s writing skills, the book is very moving. History hasn’t allowed us on the “winning side” to sympathise with the “enemy”, but the truth is, as the book shows, that there was very little difference between the boys in one trench, to the boys in the opposite trench. In his own words, Remarque wasn’t picking a side, but wanted to tell the story of a lost generation. The heart-ache of the families who lost their brothers, husbands, sons, that pain was just as strong in Germany as it was in Britain, France, Italy and America. And, for those who did survive, Remarque believes those boys lost their lives too, through Paul and the other soldiers, the reader is exposed to the result of asking teenagers to fight for survival and become murderers. And he paid for expressing that opinion- the Nazis exiled him from Germany when they took power years after the book’s publication.

I will happily pass this book on to another reader. Thank you World Book Night for helping me find great book, I would have otherwise dismissed.