Permission to relax

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Last Friday, on my day off, I gave myself a wonderful gift.  It didn’t cost any money and I didn’t even need to leave the house. It was a grey rainy day outside and I knew I had an intensive weekend ahead, so I spent a large part of the day just lying on the sofa, reading.

I let myself be swept into the characters’ lives and was completely absorbed in another world for hours, while totally ignoring my real-life to-do list and not feeling like I needed to stop reading to do something more important.  It was wonderful and it recharged my batteries much more than ticking off items on my to-do list ever would. I plan to do this again soon. Here’s to giving ourselves permission to relax and recharge in whatever way works for us, regardless of what still needs to be done!

Not-quite-end-of-year book recommendations

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The first snow has made its appearance in Amsterdam this weekend, and it is the perfect weather for cupping a warm cup of tea with two hands with a good book in my lap. It’s not quite time to review the statistics about all this year’s reading, so for now I’ll just share three recommendations from the last months, as inspiration to read during the cosy evenings of the Christmas holidays!

All the birds, singing – Evie Wyld

I came across this book at the library by chance and it kept me in its grip for the few days I spent reading it.  The story telling is well done and you can really feel the heat of the Australian bush as if you were there. It brought back very clear memories of a trip we took with my family over 25 years ago to a farm in Australia where we saw sheep being sheared, it’s amazing how those images remain ingrained in some deep corner of the brain after all those years!

Tattoos on the heart: the power of boundless compassion – Gregory Boyle

I found this book in a little free library, and though it is written by a pastor it is not at all the ‘religious’ as I thought it may be. This book will warm your heart. It is a bundle of anecdotes from Father Gregory’s time working in Los Angeles in a neighbourhood with high gang activity and his amazing project to find concrete solutions.  It’s a powerful mix of down-to-earth, hilarious stories and deep reflection about hope and how to value every single person whatever their situation. It’s inspiring to read about the effects of acknowledging our common humanity and approaching it with unconditional love.

Vox – Christina Dalcher

This is the latest book we are reading in our book club (great suggestion by Paolo!), about a world very similar to ours, except women can only say maximum 100 words a day, after which they receive an electroshock for every extra word.  The frustration and anxiety you feel just reading about such a situation is a serious reminder of how precious our voices are and a powerful call to activism.

*****

Previous book recommendations: books I enjoyed lately, books about creativity, non-fiction books, discovering new voices.

Little free libraries

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I remember first reading about little free libraries online and thinking what a generous and sustainable idea it is: people making books they no longer need available for free to strangers they will never meet. Those articles usually featured photos of gorgeous tiny houses containing a few shelves of colourful book spines.

So when little free libraries started to pop-up in my neighbourhood I was stoked! Suddenly there was one on my way to work which I’d check it every few days to see what treasures I could find. Since then three more have appeared walking distance from my place:)

I would never throw a book away so it has also helped me to declutter to put books in a dedicated place where an avid reader might come across them and enjoy them as much as I did (or even more!).

In the past few years, I’ve picked up many a free book on my neighbourhood walks and during my travels. What I love most is discovering books I would never have bought in a bookstore which I really enjoy. Some of the best treasures I found lately in little free libraries were:

  • Fear and loathing in Las Vegas (Hunter S. Thompson) which includes awesome illustrations
  • Yeruldegger (Ian Manook)
  • Super Sad True Love Story (Gary Shteyngart)

I look forward to what my next finds will be!

The power of a book

Before leaving for the Camino, I explained how I was inspired to walk the Camino by a Paulo Coelho book I read as a teenager (The Pilgrimage).  So I found it a funny coincidence when just recently I stumbled across this interview of Paulo Coelho on a podcast where he speaks about his experience on the Camino and how afterwards he took the decision to start follow his dream and begin writing.

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I really enjoyed the interview (which is not just about the pilgrimage).  I found myself nodding in agreement to many of the snippets of wisdom. I particularly liked how Paulo Coelho explains what he went through to get his book (The Alchemist) published after its initial failure, what he says about his relationship with his wife and them not being the same people as who they were when they met so many years ago,  as well as how we have dreams as teenagers that we forget but life gives us second chances.

Interestingly I re-read part of The Pilgrimage shortly before going to walk the Camino and I didn’t actually like the book anymore! It makes me really grateful for the image of the Camino that my younger self found within those pages at the time.  I’m so glad that my mind held on to that impression for all these years, without letting me forget to follow this amazing dream.