The fact that it's been 4 months since my last books post tells me that I don't finish very many books, or at least I don't finish very many books that I feel like recommending. Only the best for you! Here's what I've enjoyed reading since I published my last list back in March:
The Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth - Chris Hadfield
Chris Hadfield is kind of an amazing guy. At six years old he decided he was going to be an astronaut and every decision he made from that point on was in service of his dream. In case accomplishing that goal wasn't cool enough, he also created videos in space teaching kids about science and playing his guitar, and he became pretty famous. I came across his book on the shelf at the library and decided to pick it up. In it, he talks about all the skills that astronauts use to stay safe, happy and healthy while performing amazing feats in space and shows us how we can use those same skills to live our lives better. Full of humor, humility, courage, and plenty of useful lessons, this book should be required reading for anyone with a dream.
Positivity - Barbara Frederickson
I read this book as part of a class on Coursera about Positive Psychology and thought it was great. I've always believed that positivity and creativity go hand in hand and wrote this blog post about what I learned from the book and the course. I go a little crazy for books about happiness but am also wary of the fluff that my addiction leads me to. This book seems pretty solid: it's crammed with scientific information and useful ideas for making your life a little brighter.
Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil - John Berendt
I chose this book for our book club because I've always wanted to read it and the folks at A Beautiful Mess seemed to like it. Billed as a true crime novel, half the book sets the scene by describing the city and it's bizarre personalities through vignettes and character studies. The second half then focuses in on the famous murder trial of antiques dealer Jim Williams. I preferred the first half, as Berendt skillfully painted a picture of the beautiful yet insular city of Savannagh Georgia - one of my favourite stops on the great american road trip I took a few years ago - though the second half was certainly engaging.
Art & Illustrated Books
Art Made from Books - Alyson Kuhn
This is a stunning collection of artwork from artists who use books as their primary medium. I still haven't gotten all the way through it actually, since each page has me staring in wonder. If you like art made with paper or repurposed objects, check this out.
Jane, the Fox, and Me - Fanny Britt
A lovely graphic novel about a child who is ostracized by her peers but finds comfort in the book Jane Eyre. I think everyone can identify at least a little bit with feeling like an outsider, and those of us who spent our childhoods obsessed with books and animals will find it especially poignant. The illustrations, by Isabelle Arsenault, are gorgeous.
Luminaries - Eleanor Catton
I borrowed the ebook version of this for my trip back in April and its 800 pages lasted me the entire 3 weeks. This is a densely woven mystery that takes place on New Zealand's coast during the gold rush of the 1860s. Starting out with a group of 12 men whose secret conference is interrupted by a stranger, it had me hooked right from the beginning with its rich sense of place and carefully constructed characters. It's confusing at times, and the ending was a bit baffling, but I'm a sucker for a good mystery so I found the complexity intriguing rather than off-putting.
The First Bad Man - Miranda July
This is a strange novel from one of my favourite writers/artists. She has this magic way of making me feel slightly uncomfortable while also revealing and helping me identify with deeply human experiences. In this story, a middle-aged woman takes in the younger daughter of her bosses and their relationship goes for a wild ride. While at first no one in the story seems likeable, I found myself rooting for the mismatched heroines and admiring their strength despite all their bizarre faults. This book is straight up weird. But I couldn't put it down.
The Secret History - Donna Tartt
I'm just over halfway through this one, but for the most part I'm enjoying it. It's a murder mystery, but more of a whydunnit than a whodunnit. I'm sure my book club will find ways to tear it apart (we tend to get a wee bit critical) but it's still a fun ride and I'm definitely drawn into the hazy, atmospheric college town that Tartt has created.
Tale of Princess Kaguya (movie) - Isao Takahata
I'm including this movie in the list because in many ways it felt more like a carefully written epic novel than a film. It's the story of a magic princess found in a bamboo stalk that is taken in by a peasant and his wife, and grows up quickly to become a highly revered young woman. The plot is slow and sparse, almost meditative, and the animation - done primarily in watercolour - is stunning and unlike anything I've ever seen. After watching it I felt a deep sense of peace and inspiration. I only wish I could craft something so beautiful.