What I’ve Been Reading #1

 

As a former literature student, I sometimes wonder how my blog keeps ending up being very photography oriented. Not that I don’t work a lot with photography but I do many other things in my life, too. What the blog doesn’t reflect about me at the moment is my reading habits but I thought I would write a different kind of post this week, one about the books I have been taking the time to read lately.

At the moment my reading time is pretty limited. Most days I take the time to read for an hour before I go to bed but on days where I have a late shift, I will spend the morning in bed quietly reading for an hour or two before I have to get ready, usually accompanied by quiet solitude, a cup of Earl Grey and salty marmite on buttered, warm toast.

Because of this lack of time and my continous trips to bookshops, my “To Be Read” pile have been building up lately but I have managed to read some pretty good books in the last couple of months that I think deserves some line space on the blog.

 

Not Working – Lisa Owens

“Claire Flannery has quit her job in order to discover her true vocation – only to realize she has no idea how to go about finding it. Whilst everyone around her seems to have their lives entirely under control, Claire finds herself sinking under pressure and wondering where her own fell apart. ‘It’s fine,’ her grandmother says. ‘I remember what being your age was like – of course, I had four children under eight then, but modern life is different, you’ve got an awful lot on.’ “

I bought this in Bloomsbury after my graduation after reading about it on Twitter. I thought it sounded like a light, funny read (something I often find my collection seriously lacks), and it was. But it was also thoughtful and an honest depiction of the relationships we have with bosses, coworkers, partners and family, and how they influence how we see ourselves and the decisions we make in life. Even though Claire is a very different person from me (I’ve never shared her indecisiveness), there was still a lot of things I could recognize from my own life, especially how we communicate with each other and don’t really say the things we really think. It made me realise that maybe the workings of communication and relationships are more universal and less unique to us than we think they are.

Paris – Julian Green

“Julian Green was born to American parents in Paris in 1900, and spent most of his life in the French capital. Paris is an extraordinary, lyrical love letter to the city, taking the reader on an imaginative journey around its secret stairways, courtyards, alleys and hidden places. Whether evoking the cool of a deserted church on a hot summer’s day, remembering Notre Dame in a winter storm in 1940, describing chestnut trees lit up at night like ‘Japanese lanterns’ or lamenting the passing of street cries and old buildings, his book is filled with unforgettable imagery. It is a meditation on getting lost and wasting time, and on what it truly means to know a city.”

For my birthday in March I was given a giftcard to Waterstones and when I went down to my local shop to buy some of the books that have been on my wishlist, they didn’t really have any of them. Instead I ended up having a look at the Travel section where I found this. I had never heard of it before and the description on the back was very short, but something in that description made me feel like it was right for me and made me take a chance on it.

It’s probably the best thing I have read so far this year! Reading these essays is like going on a timetravel through memories of a Paris that no longer exists.  When I read it, I am no longer in England, I am in Paris walking down a street, into an old church or through a cemetery. The kind of connection Green has with Paris is something I truely, deeply understand from my own experiences with London. I understand that need to write down what it looks like, feels like, to walk through such a city, to try and hold onto it and immortalise it as it changes. I feel a connection to everything about this book, the style it’s written in, the longing to hold on, the places that have been chosen as its subjects. It was like reading a book I could have written myself.

Very Good Lives – J. K. Rowling

“In 2008, J.K. Rowling delivered a deeply affecting commencement speech at Harvard University. Now published for the first time in book form, Very Good Lives offers J.K. Rowling’s words of wisdom for anyone at a turning point in life, asking the profound and provocative questions: How can we embrace failure? And how can we use our imagination to better both ourselves and others?”

I might only be 25 but I have already experienced many failures in my life. I didn’t get into to the media specialised  A-levels school I applied for, I didn’t get into college on the photography course I had been dreaming to attend and because of my illness I have grieved a lot about the future I thought I was going to have before I got ill. But I truely believe that all of these “failures” has made me not only a better person but the person I was supposed to be.

So when I discovered Rowling’s speech printed in this book, I understood exactly what she wanted to tell me. Failures and adversity feels really horrible in the moment it happens to you but if you can find a way to use those experiences you can still have a good life, despite what you have had to go through. We can still experience magic, strength and success, not only in spite of but probably because of those failures. If you are having a bad day, I would tell you to read this book and be inspired.

Annihiliation – Jeff VanderMeer

“Area X has been cut off from the rest of the continent for decades. Nature has reclaimed the last vestiges of human civilization. The first expedition returned with reports of a pristine, Edenic landscape; all the members of the second expedition committed suicide; the third expedition died in a hail of gunfire as its members turned on one another; the members of the eleventh expedition returned as shadows of their former selves, and within months of their return, all had died of aggressive cancer.

This is the twelfth expedition.

Their group is made up of four women: an anthropologist; a surveyor; a psychologist, the de facto leader; and our narrator, a biologist. Their mission is to map the terrain and collect specimens; to record all their observations, scientific and otherwise, of their surroundings and of one another; and, above all, to avoid being contaminated by Area X itself.”

This novel blew my mind away. I first read about it on Vivatramp’s blog and although I had a big pile of books waiting to be read it kept haunting my mind and I didn’t feel like reading anything else than that. For 2 weeks I really wanted to buy it but couldn’t justify spending money on yet more books, when all of a sudden the kindle price miraculously dropped to £0.00!

It was very strange because that haunting need to read it which I felt, feels like the same haunting need to discover area X, which the protagonist feels throughout the book. I loved the mix of scientific, rational exploration and the mysterious and irrational athmosphere of Area X. I couldn’t stop reading the novel to see what would happen next and at the same time, I was afraid to turn the pages to discover the horrible truth about that place. It reminded me of Heart of Darkness because of its portrayal of the horror that humans encounter and because of its Chinese box structure that opens up one box of mysteries only to discover another mysterious box inside.

Sweet Caress – William Boyd

“Amory Clay’s first memory is of her father doing a handstand – but it is his absences that she chiefly remembers. Her Uncle Greville, a photographer, gives her both the affection she needs and a camera, which unleashes a passion that irrevocably shapes her future. She begins an apprenticeship with him in London, photographing socialites for magazines. But Amory is hungry for more and her search for life, love and artistic expression will take her to the demi-monde of 1920s Berlin, New York in the 1930s, the Blackshirt riots in London, and France during the Second World War, where she becomes one of the first women war photographers.

In this enthralling story of a life fully lived, William Boyd has created a sweeping panorama of the twentieth century, told through the camera lens of one unforgettable woman.”

My boyfriend took me to the bookshop and bought this book for me to make me feel better when I was having a really bad day. I picked it up on random because the cover featured a woman with a camera and because I liked the description on the back. As I tried to get over my bad day and the disapointing news I had gotten, I escaped into this novel and the life of Amory Clay, letting her story take over my life.

At the time I needed something that wouldn’t be too straining, difficult or heavy to read, in other words something light but which at the same time would have some substance and thought about it in order to distract me from my own life and worries. It turned out it was perfect for all of it. It was easy to read, it was funny, it was sad and it was thoughtful. Most of all it reminded me how much I love photography and why. Because it takes us places, makes us meet new people, and makes us able to reccord the lives we are living. In the end, I felt like Amory was a friend holding my hand through those days as I got over my Weltschmerz.

2 Comments

  1. Lea
    August 15, 2016 / 12:50 pm

    I’m glad you liked the reviews! I used to read A LOT before I started studying for a literature degree, now I’m a bit more selective with my time. I really dislike coming home as late as I do but how many people get to read (or write) for an hour or two every morning before work! I’ll make sure to recommend you any books on Twitter that I think you might like!

  2. August 11, 2016 / 10:09 pm

    I think its great that you can find the time to read even though your days are so busy. I recently feel in love with books again thanks to JK Rowling releasing Cursed Child. I can’t believe I’ve gone so long without reading! I’ve even joined Goodreads to find books I want to read in the future 🙂 Thanks for posting your reviews on the ones you’ve been reading. I’ll be adding a few from here on my list too 🙂

    Yasmin xx
    http://www.yasminqureshi.co

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