Browsed by
Tag: seasonal

8 Books I’m Reading This Autumn & Winter

8 Books I’m Reading This Autumn & Winter

I have known some amazing people in my life; people who have broadened my mind and taught me life lessons that no classroom ever could. There was once the young heroine who travelled between parallel worlds, using a knife to cut through the curtain that separated them. And the girl who shared the power of language with adults at a time when the world was falling apart.  Oh! And the boy with autism who solved a mystery about a murdered dog!

And while admittedly none of these people were actually real, they existed so vividly in my mind that they became familiar, like someone I had known forever. It never ceases to amaze me how I can fall in love with/detest/fear/pity characters that are purely fictional and yet, while I am reading the pages their world is contained in, I am so engrossed that they become a part of my own little world.

Yes, this is the magic of a good book. It pulls at your heart, making you feel a longing that you didn’t know existed. A good book will leave you in mourning for weeks.

Naturally, there are a lot of blog posts around this time of year full of book recommendation as we prepare for the season of hibernation. Books provide an escape, an adventure that we are denied during the darker months when things are slower and a little safer. There are thousands of stories that we can read that will scoop us up from our couch and transport us somewhere entirely new and exciting but for logistical reasons I am choosing eight for the autumn and winter that should just about see me (and hopefully you) through to spring.

My taste in books doesn’t discriminate; you’ll find a mix of genres here so I am confident that you will find one that you can add to your list. And, as always, I am open to lots of suggestions so please share with me the books you are choosing for your dormant hours.

La Belle Sauvage: The Book of Dust Volume One – Philip Pullman

If you haven’t read Philip Pullman’s epic ‘His Dark Materials’ trilogy then you have been missing something truly magical from your life! Although the series was marketed to young adults, the themes of the book speak to all ages with elements of fantasy, philosophy and theology all thrown in. It’s been 17 years since the release of the last book in the series, a book which made me cry at the age of 20 and I, along with the an army of fans, have been waiting a long time to meet Lyra again. The new trilogy is an “equel” as it is both a prequel and a sequel all wrapped in to one with the first book released today. I’ll be waiting by the door like a giddy child until it arrives in my hands!

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks – Rebecca Skloot

This is a non-fiction book, not my usual cup of tea but the story was so tragically fascinating that I couldn’t put it down. The book tells the story of Henrietta Lacks and the immortal cell line, known as HeLa, that came from Lacks’ cervical cancer cells in 1951. It sounds heavy because it is, not just because it involves some medical jargon that you might need to read slowly but also because it addresses the painful history of racial politics within medicine. Despite this, I still think it’s an important read because the author doesn’t just throw out scientific facts but bravely tells the story of a woman who, unbeknownst to her family, changed the course of medicine and scientific research. A powerful read but one that might take a while to get through.

All The Light We Cannot See – Antony Doerr

I have just started this and have already fallen in love. It tells the story of Marie-Laure, a blind girl who along with her father has taken refuge in a coastal city while the Nazis invade Paris. Her story collides with Werner, a German orphan who is fighting for Hitler Youth and who are about to face attack from the American bombers. I had read about this book after it won the Pulitzer prize back in 2015 and suggested it for my book club in work so I have high hopes that there will be positive reviews all round at the next meeting!

The Happiness Trap – Russ Harris

I’m going to sound extremely American here but…. My psychologist recommended me this book! I started seeing her about a year 6-8 months ago because it’s something the Cystic Fibrosis team encourage us to do since it can obviously be a bit stressful living with this nasty illness. The thing is, I hardly ever discuss CF and we mainly chat about the day-to-day stresses that all of us experience because these are the most consistent worries we have. This book encourages the reader to move away from the belief that we must be happy all the time in order for us to live a fulfilled life. In fact, the more we strive for happiness the more we will suffer in the long term. The author provides mindfulness skills on how to escape the “happiness trap” that will reduce stress and worry. I’ve just started it but can’t wait to learn a new way of thinking that could possibly change the way I live – no pressure of course!

Oryx & Crake – Margaret Atwood

Margaret Atwood has gained recent notoriety after her book ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ was turned in to a TV show this year and shamefully, I hadn’t read any of her books before hearing about her. This will soon be remedied though as Andrew bought me this book as a birthday present and I can’t wait to get stuck in to it! The author has described the story as “adventure romance” which sounds like a mixed bag but I’m totally down with it. It was also shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize back in 2003 and has great reviews to support which sells it even more.

All The Pretty Horses – Cormac McCarthy

Cormac is well known for his bleak themes that dominate most of his work (The Road was not an easy read!) but this book is a little more romantic and hopefully a little easier to digest. I’ve started reading it and while the dialogue is a little different, I quite like the approach since it feels like I’m getting inside the character’s head. The book tells the tale of John Grady Cole, a 16 year old ranger who grew up on his grandfather’s ranch in Texas who runs away after learning that the ranch is to be sold. A wild western book that will surely feel a lot different to my life in Belfast!

Rising Strong – Brené Brown

I’d heard about Brené Brown at a recent blogger’s retreat when the speaker, Mel Wiggins, quoted her in one of her talks. The quote was,

“Unused creativity is not benign. It metastasizes. It turns into grief, rage, judgment, sorrow and shame.”

Wowza. Hearing that quote stirred something within me and I knew immediately I had to hear more words from this woman so of course I went straight on to Amazon and ordered a copy of Rising Strong. In this book Brené discusses how the process of rising after a fall, regardless of its magnitude, teaches us the most about who we are. It sounds fascinating and I can’t wait to get deep in to it in the depths of winter.

The Christmas Chronicles – Nigel Slater

Odd to throw a recipe book in to the mix but this isn’t just your ordinary cookbook. Nigel is the most delicious writer and this book his is ode to winter; the season for crisp mornings, candlelight and promise of snow. It was released today and I have pre-ordered it in time for the holidays when I maybe need inspiration more than any other time of the year. I can’t wait to snuggle up with it by the fire and no doubt drool all over it.

 

Happy reading!!

 

If you like this article, then give this one a whirl if you’re struggling with finding time to read or this one if you are in need of finding a new bookshop.

5 Ways to Get Out of the Winter Funk

5 Ways to Get Out of the Winter Funk

Hello friends, it’s been a while. I am well aware of the fact that I’ve been neglectful of this wee space over the last few weeks and I want to use the excuse that it’s because I was without a laptop (no lie – it was more difficult being without Pinterest more than anything!) but in truth I was in the middle of a major funk that I am only starting to resurface from. I’m not sure if it’s the weather and my neediness for Spring to be here already but whatever it was it really dragged me under.

 

When I get in to this negative mindset my confidence and motivation are the first to go. I become lazy in just about every area of my life which only makes me feel worse about myself. I am the eternal optimist in the eyes of my friends and yet when this fog comes down I turn in to the person I least want to be; needy, insecure and just a little sad. I don’t really know what triggers the fog but I do think being cooped up inside and forever yearning for a sunny day does tend to influence my pattern of thought – living in Ireland doesn’t help this at the best of times!

 

This state of limbo is not something I talk about often because it doesn’t really happen that often. It’s so common for people to feel this way at this time of year; we’re all waiting for the chill to leave us and for the sun to warm our souls again. But why shouldn’t I talk about it? Because I might share a part of myself that I don’t like? This part of me that’s far from perfect and far from the positive shiny person I want people to see me as is not something I should be ashamed of. Learning to like ourselves is such a necessary step to happiness and so accepting these little negatives is a lesson I will always be working on.

 

The weather is turning though and I can feel the weight being lifted already. Right now I’m writing with speed for this first time in what feels like ages and my fingers can’t keep up with the ideas that are flowing out. Yes spring is here. Actual sunlight is streaming on to the table I am writing at and I can see blue skies from my seat. How good it feels when we can finally see the light at the end of a tunnel we didn’t think would end.

 

Of course the dark moments will come and go but they are always a temporary blip that I shouldn’t pressurise myself to get out of as quickly as possible. I will endure them at my own pace. I will talk as much or as little as I feel I need to. I will like who I am even when I feel I shouldn’t. I will be the first person I am kind to each day.

 

If you are feeling a little burdened by our long winter and are in need of a little positivity to help guide you in to spring, then try a few of the below ideas that I turn to even when all I want to do is throw my jammies on!

 

Make Plans

Every Sunday I like to make my plans for the week which can wreck Andrew’s head because it means planning his as well! But knowing that I have people to see and fun things to look forward to allows me to get excited about the week ahead of me. Surrounding myself with people I like reminds me that I am in a much better place than I think.

 

c744b666-5efd-45b4-aee1-abc11beb2e73.jpg

 

Practice Yoga

I went to my first heated yoga class last week and walked out with my mind and body buzzing. I was soaked in sweat but I also felt like I shed a tonne of baggage that I hadn’t realised I was carrying that day. I have known how much good yoga brings in to my life for a long time but the heated class only heightened the positive change. Please try it out! I couldn’t recommend the Flow Yoga Studios in Belfast enough but there are sure to be classes near you if you’re not in the city.

 

img_0129.jpg

 

Do A Little Good

I am lucky enough to volunteer on the ‘Time to Read’ programme but to be honest I feel like the children do more for me than I do for them. Watching their confidence grow and the wee improvements they make over time is such a joy and it’s usually one of my favourite parts of the week. You don’t need to volunteer to do good, all it takes is a drive to make someone else’s day a little better. Bringing a smile to someone’s face will surely bring a smile to yours so it’s win-win all round.

 

58f43c5e-c807-465f-a13c-153615012893.jpg

 

Notice Pretty Things

Being a self-confessed Instagram addict means that I am always looking out for the beauty in the things around me. Some people might think that Instagram can create a constant need to share everything and can lead to comparing ourselves to others (which is never a good idea). But keeping an eye out for the little things that I might usually take for granted encourages me to appreciate the corners of my wee world.

 

ef1c838d-009d-435c-9ea5-4dc8a64c6434.jpg

 

Get Outside

Yes Ireland brings an awful lot of rain but this also means that there are endless fields, rivers and forests to get lost in. My favourite place to clear my head is Helen’s Bay. It’s my spot where I go to on my own to feel the sand, let myself get battered by the sea winds and watch dogs lunge themselves in to the waves (dogs make me SO HAPPY). Make time for those solo moments of gratitude, a time to sit and think of nothing. No internal arguments you will never actually have. No memories that make you feel bad. Just your own piece of wonder near you which makes your heart sing a little. Feel free to use mine if you don’t have your own!

 

8f908c3c-acec-44f1-9bc1-8dd89430a211.jpg

 

Do you have any methods of bringing a little lightness in during the darker moments? Any ideas that will always guarantee a happy head? Would so love to hear them!