Life has been a bit rough since I got back from Europe. My go-to for when times are super stressful is to revert back to childhood state of being, burying myself in video game music and good books. It gives me perspective, that life can be simpler and easier, . My own personal brand of comfort music is anything soothing from the FFVIII piano collection. For everyone else who isn’t a fan of VGM, here’s an equally calming Tycho playlist. If you’re on Spotify chill.out.brain is the bomb.
My main method of reading lately has been on my Kindle that I’ve recently started using again. My dead-for-the-entirety-of-2016 Kindle is embarrassing evidence that prior to August, I hadn’t read a book all year.
The Great Gatsby – Scott F. Fitzgerald
Some of the commutes around Europe were pretty dull. Note to self: A book or an e-reader is a much better companion when travelling than a PS Vita. Mostly because your eyeballs will be drier than the sahara from the early starts to catch cheap flights and the stale air inside of the plane. I ended up desperately craving something to read, downloaded a copy of The Great Gatsby and steamrolled through its humble 180 pages or so. It’s the same story about the opulent era of 1920s New York and a whole bunch of careless people against one shining beacon of hope of a man. This must be the third time I’ve re-read the novel, while my movie watch count sits comfortably high at around 13 re-watches. They’re both crazy numbers considering a rarely do repeats for books or movies. It still remains one of my favourite stories of all time.
12 Years a Slave – Solomon Northup
We picked this up for £3 at the Spitalfields Market in London. I was in a bit of a tizzy trying to decide which books I wanted and we were late. Before I knew it the book was shoved into my hand while coins were exchanged with the vendor. I was now the proud owner a copy of 12 Years a Slave. It hung in my hands for awhile as we walked off and I remember thinking ‘What have I done’.
I don’t feel like I’m in an appropriate enough position to comment too much on the book. But suffice to say it is as beautiful in style as it is horrifying in content and I highly recommend reading it.
It is not the fault of the slaveholder that he is cruel, so much as it is the fault of the system under which he lives. He cannot withstand the influence of habit and associations that surround him. Taught from earliest childhood, by all that he sees and hears, that the rod is for the slave’s back, he will not be apt to change his opinions in maturer years.
Modern Romance: An Investigation – Aziz Ansari
Modern Romance should be essential reading, like, it should be prescribed in high schools across the country and around the globe. I haven’t had much experience in online dating which is the main medium of dating that the book explores, but despite that, the whole culture of modern dating as Aziz explains it still really resonates with me. Modern Romance is an exploration into today’s dating phenomenon with the help of technology while comparing it to what previous generations might have experienced in the past. It helped me understand where my parents are coming from with their sometimes dated dating advice. I also found it startlingly accurate, in one of Aziz’s quotes he talks about dating problems that are unique to our time such as ‘Why did this guy just text me an emoji of a pizza?’. Can confirm one of my closest friends used to do the exact same thing as his opening message on Tinder.
Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo – Amy Schumer
I struggle a lot with personality questions but none do a battle as much with as the ‘Which one famous person would you want to have coffee with?’ question. Now that I’ve seen Trainwreck and read Amy Schumer’s latest, I can safely answer that she would be very high on my list of celebrities that I want to meet. She is extraordinarily funny and this book that compiles snippets of some of her most significant moments in life (and some not) tells it like it is. It’s not an underdog story or a glowing success story, it’s a people story that highlights the peaks and the troughs in her life, from fucks to fuck ups, food to literal shitting in your pants. That’s what I love so much about this book, it’s incredibly real and gives the good and bad in life equal weighting, all with a huge helping of hilarity.
Other famous people I would want to have coffee with are Haruki Murakami, Alan Shore from Boston Legal (not James Spader, Alan Shore) and the entire cast of Friends.
The Girl on the Train – Paula Hawkins
Reading this book was a decision made in anticipation of the film and hopefully I actually get around to watching it. I did the same for Gone Girl and I still haven’t seen the film. I’m not sure reading Girl on the Train was the best decision considering it really didn’t help with how I had been feeling, in fact it probably gave me anxiety. I guess that is a testament to how great the writing is in setting the scene and getting me completely immersed in the book. It’s a highly suspenseful story about the protagonist literally looking in on the seemingly perfect lives of others until she spots something she shouldn’t have and somehow gets embroiled in it. This is possibly the book I’ve finished the quickest out of the lot and I remember finishing the last couple of pages from a corner in my bed at 2.30 am. It’s been a long time since I’ve stayed up because a book turned out to be such a page turner and well, it felt good.
My Year of Meats – Ruth Ozeki
I’m always on the prowl for Murakami-esque books, that is, novels with a Japan-meets-West slant. Having danced with a Ruth Ozeki novel in the past, I was pretty excited to read this one since it came recommended as well. It’s vastly different to her other novel, in fact I’m not really sure how to place this one. It’s has a dual narrative going, one of a Japanese-American journalist tasked with directing episodes on “all-American” beef recipes for the Japanese audience and the other of a timid Japanese housewife caught in a loveless marriage but has a growing independence stemming from watching these beef episodes. The novel itself is one big commentary about the differences between Japanese and American culture which is great if that’s your thing like it is mine. But I think it’s still a very enjoyable read for the character development set against such a quirky plot.
Spark Joy – Marie Kondo
I can probably count the number of non-fiction books I’ve read in my life on one hand (sans textbooks and required reading at university of course). So having 3 in this pile is quite a feat. Spark Joy is probably the book most instrumental in making me feel better about myself, mainly because it wasn’t about distraction but about taking actionable steps in improving ones life. Even if it was just about tidying and putting things in order, a lot of the key messages in Spark Joy about visualising the life that you want and having a decluttered space leads to a clear mind and heart, I think are pretty relevant. If you looked at where I lived now you’d probably laugh because it doesn’t look like I’ve implemented any new tidying methods at all. It’s something I have planned soon!
Nakano Thrift Shop – Hiromi Kawakami
Similar to the Ozeki novel, I was looking for more modern Japanese literature. It has a pretty simple storyline of a few characters who all work at a thrift shop and each chapter details minor events that happen. It feels quite episodic with no one chapter having a link to another. If there’s an overarching narrative, I’ve yet to discover it. I’m still in the process of reading this and so far it is significantly less enjoyable than Ozeki but I’ve managed to pick up on some stylistic writing tips which I hope to utilise in my own fiction writing (whenever that happens again).
What books are you reading now, what can you recommend to me?