Autumn is creeping up, which is my favourite time to be curled up under a blanket with a good book. The ‘reading shed’ is finally finished, I’ll do a post on it in the near future… So I have been tucked away with a pile of books and a nice hot chocolate, in my little shed. Bliss!
In last month’s 3 books 3 points post, I asked for suggestions to keep track of reading, and Goodreads was suggested by a few! So, I’ve signed up – thanks everyone for the recommendations. I’m just getting set up, it’s good that I can rate the books I’ve read recently, instead of just starting from scratch! It looks like the sort of website that I might easily spend a few hours on…
Anyway, on to the books! I’ve been reading a lot this month, so I’ve split this month’s reviews into two parts (Yey lots of books! Might have to think of something different for next month – maybe 50 books, 3 points?).
So here are some of the books I read in the first few weeks of this month:
– I read this book in one sitting, absolutely absorbed. The book is based on the experiences of Lale Sokolov, who was taken to Auschwitz during the second World War. It tells of his experiences, and how he met his love, Gita, inside the camp. I’d heard so much about this book online and was desperate to read it, and it didn’t disappoint. It is not a comfortable read – the experiences of Lale, who, becoming befriended by the Tätowierer, starts out as his assistant, tattooing people with identification numbers as they arrive at the camp. When, one day, the Tätowierer is no longer there, Lale is forced to take on the role.
– I found myself physically affected by the brutality of the story. Morris is able to weave two very opposing tales around each other, blending a tiny thread of hope into the darkest of realities. The blossoming love between Lale and Gita is contrasted starkly with the horrific experience of Auschwiz and Birkenau. This is a story of survival and how people find an element of humanity where your life can be extinguished at any time. It is a hard read, but an important one. At the back of my mind, the entire time, was the harrowing fact that this was real, it really happened – as years move on, it is important for us not to disconnect from the horrors experienced in Auschwitz, Birkenau and other concentration camps during and after the war.
– Lale’s story is both fascinating and horrifying – a window into how people survive when all is taken from them. Stripped of all dignity and forced into anonymity, identified only by a number, experimented on and beaten, all under the dark, omnipresent shadow of death. It is a testament to Morris’s writing that I still think of this as Lale and Gita’s story – told and experienced by them, rather than narrated by another. I’ve not read a book for a long time that affected me as much as this one. Read it!
Notes on a Nervous Planet, by Matt Haig
– Notes on a Nervous Planet is a sort-of-follow-up to Haig’s best-selling Reasons to Stay Alive. The book discusses how we are affected by the constant pull of social media and negative news – being entirely addicted to social media myself, I was keen to read it. I loved Reasons to Stay Alive and was looking forward to this book too.
– Written in the same style, peppered with lists and thoughts, Notes on a Nervous Planet is easy to read and a good book to dip into. It follows Haig’s experiences with anxiety, which he realises is affected by what he is consuming through social media. I identified with this a lot – a good scroll through Facebook invariably leaves me feeling dejected, floored with comparison to other’s shiny lives. If you’re finding yourself arguing on Twitter or feeling down after going on Instagram, there is a lot of relevant advice in this book!
-However I felt that the content of the book was slightly light and a few chapters seemed to repeat themselves. I’m not sure that this is because I identified on a deeper level with what Haig talks about in Reasons to Stay Alive as compared to Notes on a Nervous Planet, so I wasn’t as drawn in by the subject. Having said this, there are some great points. As it is told from Haig’s own experience the human element makes it a good read – overall I’d recommend it to those of us stuck in the fb/twitter/insta loop!
Where the Wild Winds Are, by Nick Hunt
– Where the Wild Winds Are is a sumptuous treat of a book, following Hunts journey on foot to experience some of the famous winds that blow across Europe: the Helm, the Foehn, the Bora and the Mistral. Hunt wanders on foot across Europe, pulled by stories of these famous winds, following ancient paths and meeting some rather eccentric people on the way.
– Hunt’s writing expresses the excitement and disappointment of hunting those elusive gales – from a few attempts each missing out on the Helm wind, to feeling the madness said to be brought on by the Mistral, which may have been a factor in Van Gogh’s decline into despair. Not just a tale of the winds, Hunt adds to the story of the winds with tales from the areas in which he walks. Unexpected museum openings, jars of winds from all over the world, and a cornucopia of home-brewed beverages contrast with memories of war, discrimination and madness. Not just a tale of weather, it is a tale of humanity and how people are shaped by the famous winds and the hills, mountains and plains from which they blow.
– I found myself reading a small section at a time, just to make the book last longer. I found myself with old maps and a big mug of tea, planning the best time to experience the Helm, researching other winds that Hunt had been told about animatedly by a gentleman, while walking the Mistral. This is the best kind of book – one to indulgently read, which then inspires you to go out and plan your own adventures. I loved it.
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**I am a member of NetGalley, where I received this review copy for free.