Last year, I wrote some blog posts about what was on my shelf (you can check them out here, here and here!). Since reading is one of my loves in life, I decided to do that again throughout this year, when I read a book that I felt was worth sharing, and this week I did just that!
I was recently having a conversation with some friends about reading fiction. One of them pointed out that she didn’t read fiction at all, as it felt frivolous, and she liked to be able to learn from the things that she read. I could definitely relate. Although I definitely do read fiction, when I was younger I used it for escapism and one of the definite pluses for me was that it shouldn’t be too closely related to reality, although it sometimes felt frivolous. I was happy with happy endings, and as long as I found the book readable and amusing it would work for me. However, in the past few years, I have a much greater appreciation for fiction as I have learned much from it, and I find that it can be informative as well as escapist. I learn a lot from fiction, and it can be thought provoking, and expand my mind on various topics - while being downright hilarious. When I think about why it can be so powerful in this context, it is because while I read fiction, my guard is down, and I often feel as if I can make my own mind up about what is being said there.
And over the last week I finished 2 books which reminded me of this, and I wanted to share a bit about them here with you.
What Alice Forgot - Liane Moriarty
I discovered Liane Moriarty within the last year, and I have loved everything I read by her. This was the third of her books that I delved into, and it was well written, witty and beautiful. It has been a while since I have finished a delicious novel that has left me crying, laughing, feeling thoroughly satisfied on the one hand and yearning for more. My father once told me a story of a book he was reading on a train - if my memory serves me correctly it was “To kill a mockingbird”. He talks about how it was raining and stormy in the book and when he got out of the train, he got out his umbrella - so convinced that it was raining. He was shocked to see it was bright and sunny when he stepped out onto the platform. This was how he described getting lost in the book. And that is how I felt about this book. I won’t give away the story, but this book is about a lady Alice who woke up one day after hitting her head and could not remember the last 10 years of her life. It is a story about life, about families, and about time.
It got me thinking - what would happen if I woke up and forgot the last 10 years of my life, and the 31 year old version of myself found herself here in 2019. I wonder what would confuse me most of all. Would it be that the guy from the American version of the Apprentice was running the USA? Would I wonder where all the DVD’s disappeared to? Why my phone was the size of a small TV? What about why everything hurt all the time! The book was definitely a reminder to me that a lot can change in ten years - even though it may not feel that way while we are living in it. It reminded me of an interesting truth - that as time goes by each individual experience we have can chip away at us and gradually erode away certain parts of us, while adding on other aspects until we become unrecognizable versions of ourselves.
That is what time does to us - time and experiences. With each experience we are changed into a slightly different version of ourselves. And that without awareness or intention, we may change into someone we might walk right past in the streets. I learned a hard lesson several years ago when I was faced with the tragic death of a friend - I could not truly predict how I would react in any given situation - how I would respond, how it would affect me. There were so many other factors working on that. Sometimes something can happen to us and we are strong and resilient and connected. But let that same thing happen when we are exposed and isolated, and we will react in an entirely different way. It taught me to be more compassionate towards others, and to myself - and this book was a reminder of that for me. And the other lesson: that came from something Alice said towards the end of the book. When she was able to look at her memories - her life over the previous ten years - as facts without all of the emotion wrapped up into it, she was able to untangle it and ultimately create massive shifts. It reminded me of how much our emotion can cloud the reality of something - especially if we don’t have a healthy way of managing our emotions - by expressing and feeling them.
So overall I would give this book 5 stars. It is a long read - like most of her books - but it was a good one and definitely worth the time.
The Humans - There’s no place like Home - Matt Haig
I will confess that due to unforseen circumstances (which included a sinus infection and a dead car battery) I read this entire book - start to finish - in one day. It was the latest pick for our book club, and definitely one of my top 5 book club reads. I would not be giving this book away by saying that it is about “alien abduction, mathematics, and that most interesting subject of all: ourselves” (taken from Goodreads). Or to put it another way - the book made me (and the entire book club) ask the question - what does it mean to be human? I love how the writer has so effectively stepped outside of the role of “human” to take an outsider’s view, and this outsider was (supposedly) rational and mathematically driven. I loved that his observations were astounding, and true, and poignant. One of my favourite - “Humans were always doing things they didn’t like doing. In fact, to my best estimate, at any one time only point three percent of humans were actively doing something they liked doing, and even when they did so they felt an intense amount of guilt about it and were feverently promising themselves they’d be back to doing something horrendously unpleasant very shortly”. This was only one of many gems about the human experience which I found true and it got me wondering - if I could step outside and observe myself - the internal struggles I faced, the actions I take (or don’t take) would it seem perfectly reasonable, or utter madness.
I won’t give anything more away but I also give this book 5 stars, and would strongly advise locking yourself away for a few hours and reading it.
So I have so many questions that I would love your responses to!
What would your 10 year ago version of yourself say if he/she could see you today?
Where do you need to remove the emotion and see a situation more clearly?
Does everything hurt?
What does it mean to be human?
And lastly - what’s on your shelf this week?
I look forward to some answers!
And I bring you big love from a small island!
PS If you want to make me REALLY happy then pre-order my book to put on your shelf!!! You get a signed copy and early read of the digital version! You can pre order it here! Or join my mailing list and get a sneak peek of chapter one here!