There are people who read the bible every single morning to get into the spirit of the day. While I've read the bible and didn't find any connection to it for myself, I've still loved the idea of getting up in the morning and dedicating yourself to some kind of scripture to sculpt the right mindset for a day. Morning contemplation has something very meditative in my opinion, but the question was which book would work for me?
With more spiritual books on the market than ever, it is fairly simple to get a compiled list of books to peruse, but finding the right one that works for you is another issue. It took me a while to get the books I like, for I first needed to find out what I wanted my contemplation to be. Should it be short stories that make me think? Philosophical concepts? Do I want to dabble into another religion?
In the end, it wasn't just one book for me - and I must admit I still don't read every single morning. However, the five books you find below are books I love re-reading during the morning, peruse and browse, and which always help me get into a calmer mindset while still provoking thought. Maybe something's there for you too.
Tao Te Ching by Stephen Mitchell
Tao Te Ching by Stephen Mitchell was given to me by my dad when I told him about my search for a morning contemplation book. It's a very compact book with about 100 pages. Every page has one lecture from the Tao in it, in total 81 snippets of wisdom. The short texts are almost poetic and definitely provoke thinking. As the texts are so short, it's the perfect book if the morning dedication cannot take up so much time (because the kids are already up, for example). While I loved the brevity and simplicity of the book, it's quite difficult to do something with it if you don't know exactly whether you want to take your thoughts further through journaling or meditation. Also, for true atheists, it might be a tad too religious in some of its messages, but definitely a good starting point.
A Poem for Every Day of the Year, edited by Allie Esiri
This beautifully designed book was actually a Christmas gift from my older sister, and I've had it longer than the Tao Te Ching, even. However, I've only recently started using it as a book for daily contemplation.
The book, as the title suggests, holds a poem from known poets throughout history for every single day. Every poem is assigned to a date, which makes the daily contemplation a little more focused than the Tao book. Some poems are funny, some sad, some long, some short. There is also a short introduction to the poem's author, as well as background story what inspired the poem (my personal favourite is 27th January).
Especially people who love poetry and literature and seek spiritualism more through stories than religious-themed texts may find this book very approachable. I think just sitting down to engage in a poem helps settle the mind and calm the nerves. Who prefers evening contemplation, there is also a night edition with a whole range of different poems to delve into.
Lebe Inspiriert by Debora Karsch
This German guide to live a more inspired life was gifted to me by my big sister (again). This is a far more interactive book with tasks and a daily page to read. It takes ten weeks to get through, and while working through it I enjoyed the tasks and interaction very much. It really helped me get a routine for my daily contemplation time in the morning. Compared to the others, it's far less spiritual and more coaching themed; however, it made me think more deeply and profoundly about what is important to me and what I want to change in my life.
The Daily Stoic by Ryan Holiday & Stephen Hanselman
Philosophical thoughts as basis for getting in the right mood are a great start into the day. When perusing the shelves for appropriate books for my morning contemplation, I didn't have to stumble far to get to The Daily Stoic. The book spans a year and each page relates to a date of the year (like the poem book), which makes it easier to choose a passage to read for each day. First, there is a quote from one of the big stoics, followed by a short interpretation by the authors. Each month is dedicated to a specific umbrella topic. What inspires me most about this book is that you can read the authors' interpretation, but you can also mull over the quotes for yourself. Many quotes have made me reflect about recent events in my life and recalibrate how I deal with them. It is also astonishing to note that already so many years ago, the philosophers philosophised about the very things that keep us up today.
The Comfort Book by Matt Haig
The Comfort Book by Matt Haig is my most recent acquisition and, to be honest, kind of my favourite. Matt Haig is one of my all-time favourites, and I have already written about my love for his books in various blog posts like the review for The Midnight Library, Some Fantastically Narrated Books to Read and 7 Great Non-Fiction Books that Will Leave You Inspired. In The Comfort Book, Haig collects his thoughts on any topic under the sun (ranging from peanut butter to happiness and pasta). Some are very brief and sweet, some are longer, all are brilliant. This book is perfect to peruse again and again, and it will never fail to give you what its title suggests - comfort. The texts are thought-provoking without being draining, and the short chapters with headings make it a fast-paced read. As you can surmise, this book is my favourite read in the mornings, it's 100% to-do-free, while being 100% inspiring.
"The Child had become enmagicked. there was no doubt about it. and now things were more complicated than they had been before."
Title: The Girl Who Drank The Moon
Author: Kelly Barnhill
Age group: 9+
Brace yourself for a magical ride full or star and moonlight in Barnhill's bestselling children's book. It's been a while since a magical story has really gripped me, but this book is not only wonderfully written and full of emotion and plot twists, it also has an imaginative and new take on magic.
Start is a conspiracy in the sorrow-infested Protectorate, the town close-by an allegedly haunted forest in which an evil witch does her worst. To protect the people of the Protectorate, a baby needs to be sacrificed each year to appease the witch - who, in fact, is called Xan and doesn't murder children. She takes them and brings them to other places into families where they are loved and nurtured. To sustain the babies on their long journeys to their new families, Xan feeds them starlight - until one night she is rather absent-minded and feeds the baby the much more powerful and magical moonlight. Baby Luna - for how could she have a different name - is raised by Xan herself, who can guide her with her magic that seeps through every vein of the child. Helping Xan are a lovely bog monster called Glerk (I presume the sound wellies make when you pull them out of the bog), and a miniature dragon called Fyrian.
But Luna turns out to be a bit more of a challenge and she isn't the only trouble bubbling up. Things in the Protectorate are changing with a young man who starts questioning whether the witch really is as bad as everyone says, vowing to kill her, should she be. Also, there is a madwoman in a tower who wants to find her lost child in the woods and knows of a secret about the evil witch that will change the entire Protectorate.
Barnhill's story is full of innovation and she weaves the story skilfully together as the different perspectives intertwine and meet. Although the girl Luna struck me as a rather unlikable character who, for some reason, is beloved by everyone who meets her, it is still a story of complexity and depth and it is understandable why the author won a Newbery Medal for it and the book featured in the New York Times bestselling list. Although the targeted reading list according to Amazon is 9-11, this is a book that can enchant everybody and it brings the right amount of darkness and tragedy to the table to be taken seriously as a book of all ages.
If you're looking for more magical children's books of the likes, you can also read my reviews on Nevermoor Series: The Trials of Morrigan Crow and The Peculiar Peggs of Riddling Woods.
One word description: Moonstruck
"Between life and death is a library. And within that LIbrary, the Shelves go on for ever."
Title: The Midnight Library
Author: Matt Haig
Age group: 15+
Matt Haig, once more, whips up a truly magnificent story, full of genuine human stories with a magical twist. If you have ever wondered what opportunities slipped through your hands in life or who you could have been in another life, this book takes you on the right journey.
Meet Nora, a young woman whose life has turned for the worse and leaves her unfulfilled in her relationships, career and pretty much every aspect of her life. When her beloved cat dies, she decides enough is enough and wants to end her miserable life - yet there is a magical place between life and death where Nora finds her alternative lives crammed in a magnificent library, waiting for her to explore.
What would have happened if she'd pursued her ambitions as a swimmer or married her previous boyfriend? What would have happened if she hadn't let the cat out or become a glaciologist in Iceland? The infinite outcomes of her own life are the rims of possibility in this place and Nora has a chance to see what would have happened if she'd pursued her band and become a rock star - would she have been happier as a mum or a gold medallist? The answers lie in the tomes that concoct not only her present life but all the other-dimensional lives she has lived in another decision.
Once more Matt Haig takes a unique concept and spins a wonderful and warm story from it, like he does in many of his other books, for example A Boy Called Christmas. What makes this book even more of an unputdownable read is the pace of writing and the short chapters that wrap up the story in exactly as many words as it needs - not more or less. Having wondered about past regrets and possible outcomes uncountable times myself, I found this book very intriguing and a wonderful idea to put to paper. With humour, wit and heart, Haig delves into deeper human issues most of us are far too familiar with, but, as usual, manages to give the reader a feeling of understanding and positivity, rather than pessimism. Showing you can never quite escape yourself, he slowly introduces a new mindset for Nora that does not change the hard facts but how you can look at them - which assured me I can do so as well.
Haig's books brim with life positivity amidst the turmoil and chaos of everyday life and all its minor and major catastrophes and are always a good read to feel better (his non-fiction books are great reads to feel better, too). Although I enjoy most of the books I read from him, this was a particular favourite as the main character was so genuine, vulnerable and yet very strong. Skipping through her possible lives was a great time filled with all emotions from fun to sadness and anger. Especially in these challenging times where many of us find themselves isolated, it's the perfect book to curl up and let the outer world pass by for a moment to be engulfed by the Midnight Library and all its possibilities.
One word description: Manifold.
"She was murdered by a far more skilful killer than you ever were."
Title: Troubled Blood (Cormoran Strike 5 Novel)
Author: Robert Galbraith (aka JK Rowling)
I am usually not a sucker for crime novels, but the Strike books are so gripping and enthralling that I was glad to get my hands on this little tome (only a few pages short of a 1000 pages). Despite the controversial opinions of Rowling and a "cross-dressing serial killer" (I'll get to that later), the book sky-rocketed on the book market.
I feel that Galbraith (i.e. Rowling) manages to become better and better at setting up gruesome stories, and this little jewel is the most gruesome so far in my opinion. A brutal serial killer in the mix and a cold case, which somehow makes it all the more tragic. Amidst all the conundrum of who-dunnit-it are also the continuous tensions between our main detective Cormoran Strike and Robin Ellacott. Especially their personal stories seem to be even deeper in this book, as Strike struggles with an ailing aunt in Cornwall who requires his attention, as well as mixed feelings he has towards his attractive business partner.
Meanwhile Robin is still in the messy parts of disentangling her short-lived marriage while dealing with sexism, work overload and, of course, her share of confusing feelings towards her business partner (Rowling has a gift of setting up long-term teases - just think about Ron and Hermione).
But where is the crime in all this? Well, in this book Strike is approached by a desperate woman who wants to find out what happened to her mother forty years ago when she just disappeared when walking from her office to a pub, never to be seen again. Strike's first cold case leads him down a lane of serial killers, confusion, a deranged cop who handled the case back then, and many layers of old guilt, all not making it necessarily easier to find out the truth - or the woman who went missing.
The fact that a brutal serial killer was making his rounds at the time and refuses to relay all the victims he's tortured and killed in his basement makes Strike's and Robin's case probably the most delicate, difficult and gruesome yet.
As for the "transphobic" criticism, it is utterly ridiculous. There is only a known serial killer who sometimes dresses up as a woman to lure women in, and some people from forty years ago saying he was effeminate in some ways, that's it and surely not a reason to flip out - so don't let that non-existent issue deter you.
If you love fast-paced novels with a genuine background story for the detectives and don't mind some grisly details (I honestly couldn't read the book at night), this crime novel is a fantastic read for you and so far my favourite Strike novel.
One word description: Gruesome.
One of the upsides of the corona virus lockdown is how much time I find for reading books now. For my birthday, my lovely husband surprised me with a long-time wish - a Strandmon armchair from IKEA in yellow - which has swiftly become my designated reading space.
I surmise that many people now have got plenty of time on their hands - and what better way to spend it than to relax and read books, delving into magical worlds or learning more about something new. Reading, for me, is still the most relaxing and fantastic activity, but sadly I often don't make time for it, and I can imagine many people face similar issues, but there is no excuse anymore!
In the past months as I was struggling through another depressive episode and the turmoil of pregnancy, I found particular support and joy in reading non-fiction autobiographical work in which people like you and me tell about their lives - sometimes as part of a "guide book", sometimes just to impart their story. Reading other people's stories fascinates me immensely, as you learn you're not alone with your thoughts and troubles. Regardless how successful someone has been in their lives, they may still have had periods of hell and now share their insights and stories to relate and support.
Some of the books on this list are more fun reads than deep transformative pieces, but I feel a little fun can never go amiss - especially not in times like these. Others gave me the feeling they were only written for me in a particularly difficult time of my life - and maybe they can give you perspective, too. Others tell of everyday life and how "normal" people made something magnificent with their lives by trusting in their abilities.
So let's delve in and give you something to read until the stores finally open again and we can all indulge in mindless consumerism once more :-)
Do you sometimes read a book and feel it's only been written for you? A book so uniquely shaped to your situation you have to doubt your atheist attitude and can only feel a greater being sent it your way to help you cope?
Or maybe you just enjoy a really good roll with your books and seemingly everything you pick up is great literature? Recently, I have felt that way. In the past weeks I have read so many incredible great books that varied in narration, content and quirkiness that I cannot help feeling I am jinxing it by writing about it - the next drought will certainly come.
If you are amidst a reading drought at the moment, maybe reading through this list can help you get back on track. For this list I am considering books that have a unique way of telling a story and bend the rules of narration, which I always love for no one should writers tell they can or cannot do this or that - it's your book and you can do whatever you want!
So let's get into it.
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
Yes, I know I am late to the party but I only recently bowed to social pressure and finally read The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. Although I am usually not a fan of Holocaust fiction, I must say I really enjoyed reading the book. Not only because of its in-depth characters and how Zusak sheds light on how German citizens experienced the Second World War, but predominantly because of its unique narration.
The book is narrated by Death itself and he doesn't mind jumping back and forth, spoiling the plot in advance for the reader (and knowing about it), and inserting little facts and thoughts in embellished boxes. I love when authors just narrate their stories without worrying too much what is considered "normal narration". I loved how Zusak gave Death a gentle voice and made the tragic topic invariably sadder, but also more hopeful, somehow. One of my most favourite parts is the beginning was where it says,
First the colours.
Then the humans.
That's usually how I see things.
Or at least, how I try.
HERE IS A SMALL FACT
You are going to die.
Especially if you want to complete the bleakness of the winter months, this book is a great choice - and don't cheat and watch the movie before you read the book.
With the Christmas season kicking in it's time for our favourite vomit-inducing Netflix Hallmark Christmas movies. After major successes (but why?) with movies like A Christmas Prince, The Holiday Calendar and The Princess Switch, they've now taken to ruining fantastic books for their lazy movie adaptations. All their cheesy Christmas movies have a sub-par cast in common with a story line that reekes of cliches so much you can still smell the lingering stench at Easter.
Don't get me wrong, I am a sucker for Christmas movies and enjoy binge-watching them, but there are simply some that let you regret that Christmas is coming. If you're looking for a good selection (in my humble opinion), you can check out past blog posts about it here and here.
But now to this week's movie Let It Snow, directed by Luke Snellin and based (my ass) on the short story collection of acclaimed YA authors John Green, Maureen Johnson and Lauren Myracle. Although the movie garnered predominantly positive reviews, it is only plausible that it did so because the reviewers were unfamiliar with the book - for it surely is one of the worst adaptations they could have made. Before I delve into the book and the movie adaptation, be warned that there will be MAJOR SPOILERS ahead, as I will give account on how different the stories are.
Title: Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow (Book 1 of the Nevermoor Series)
Author: Jessica Townsend
Are you ready to be swept away into the magical world of Nevermoor? Because I was more than ready. There are books galore on magical worlds, but many are not well-thought out or have uncarved characters - if you've been looking for another book to whisk you into a magical world you don't want to leave like the Harry Potter books did for me, you'll love this gem by Jessica Townsend.
Accompany quirky, black-clad and cursed Morrigan Crow when she, contrary to her belief, does not die on her eleventh birthday, but it whisked off to the magical Nevermoor by her new, and undeniably ginger-haired, patron Jupiter North. Wait, what, was that too fast? Alright then, let's recap, but try to keep up, for this fast-paced story will demand you to do so.
It all starts with Morrigan Crow. She's on the brink of her eleventh birthday, knowing she must die, for all children born on Eventide must die on their eleventh birthday. When the new year is rung in quite earlier than she'd expected and wished (for who would want to speed up their time till death), she thinks that's her story told. However, the boisterous Jupiter North has come to cheat death and saves her by bringing her to Nevermoor - the Free State, where the Wondrous Society recruits the brightest and most talented - those with a special "knack" - to join their forces.
So far, so good. Instead of being dead, which would have been a most undesirable state, Morrigan has a shot to join the most prestigious and acclaimed society there is; however, first she must pass all the tricky trials the society sets their recruits to find out who is worthy and who is not. And if a trial weren't enough, Morrigan has to battle with arrogant and full-of-herself Noelle, a co-competitor for a spot, as well as a weird, hair-braided girl we shall learn more about later in the series (just to let you known on whom to keep an eye).
Thankfully, she doesn't only make enemies in Nevermoor. Her sprightly and ever-supportive patron Jupiter takes her to his own hotel, the Hotel Deucalion, where she meets the magnificent Magnificat Fenestra and many nice people like opera singer Dame Chanda and the vampire dwarf and party planner supreme Frank. The cheeky dragonrider Hawthorne also befriends her on her first day (is there such a thing as friendship at first sight? If there is, consider this a prime example of it) and then there is the mysterious Mr Jones who pops in regularly and who also made a bid on becoming her patron. Should Morrigan trust him or may he keep more than he says, and what about evil Baz Charlton, Noelle's patron, who's threatened to call the immigration police on Morrigan?
Let's not spoil this wonderful story for you by exploiting the content here, but snatch your copy and be engulfed by the magic of Nevermoor, ripe with wonderful details and quirky elements and embark on the trials with Morrigan. And, remember, it's Christmas soon, so if you're still undecided on what to put on your wish list, here's something to enjoy.
This book is the perfect fusion of breathtaking adventure, complex characters you want to stay friends with forever and an escape from everyday life whenever you need it - regardless your age. I admired the witty banter and dialogue-centred writing, as well as the beautiful details that strike you as insignificant to tell the plot, but invaluable to create a story. Morrigan is a likeable, yet flawed, character, and you'll wish a dragonrider like Hawthorne to be your friend, too. And the best about the book? There's more to read once you've turned the pitiful last page.
One word description: Wondrous.
Remember how I shared my last summer reading list with you? Summer is on its peak and autumn is also waving from the distance, so I thought I'm going to share my recommendations for the summer of 2019 as well. These books are not necessarily new or received outstanding praise, but I consider them a perfect reading material for your holiday - either away or at home. Included in the list is children's literature as well as adults fiction, crime and fantasy books, so let's do this.
1) Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
Indulge in a trip back to your teenager times and seize this summer to read Eleanor & Park - the story of two ordinary American teenagers falling in love through their mutual love of music. Though both have to deal with their individual families, school friends, peer pressure and more, their cusping love for each other is of a unique quality that gets them through almost any ordeal.
With short chapters and changing perspectives, this book almost reads itself and is perfect material for lounging under a tree with a glass of iced tea. Check out the book review here.
2) Ostrich Boys by Keith Gray
Follow three teenage boys on a magnificent journey through England to scatter their best friend's ashes. Set in hot summer and with plenty of fun, action and seriousness, this book is a great read for people of 15 and up, so let's get to Ross together.
3) The Peculiar Peggs of Riddling Woods by Samuel J. Halpin
Something sinister is going on in the town of Suds where children have gone missing for many, many years now. Follow Poppy and her peculiar friend Erasmus as they solve the mysteries of the adjoining woods - a surprisingly sinister read for a children's book! Read the review here.
4) The Famous Five by Enid Blyton
Definitely not a new read, nothing says summer as spending it with the Famous Five in Kirrin and on Kirrin Island. I've recently re-read the first three books, but actually every one of them - apart form the few set over Christmas - will let you share the glory childhood memories of the adventurous children and invite you on a fantastic trip to England.
5) The Afterwards by A.F. Harrold
Not necessarily a cheerful book, but the summer sun can throw the darkest shadows out. The Afterwards is a beautifully illustrated children's chapter book dealing with death and what happens to us when we're gone. Ember and Ness are best friends, but one day Ness dies as a consequence of a terrible swinging accident - and Ember sets out to rescue her friend from the place where the souls go. A fantastic and hauntingly wonderful read.
6) Wonder by R.J. Palacio
As I wrote in my book review of Wonder, this book is a wonderful narrative as it does not only focus on deformed August and his ordeal, but also on many other characters, which proves that all children, essentially, deal with the same life ordeals - whether deformed or not. Read this magnificent and fast-paced book before seeing the movie (if you intended to do so) and spend a balmy summer night with August and his family.
7) Tolstoy and the Purple Chair by Nina Sankovitch
Lovers of books and reading definitely have to spend a summer day with this gem. Based on real events of the author's life, this book is both a reflective therapy session for the author, as well as a captivating story for the reader, as Nina embarks on the project to read 365 books in a year - one per day (obviously). Following the tragic and untimely death of her sister, Nina fills her sister-shaped hole in her heart with her biggest passion - reading. Especially for fans of books like Gretchen Rubin's The Happiness Project.
8) The Robert Galbraith books
Should you have more time to kill and enjoy a thrilling crime read, I can recommend the Cormoran Strike novels by Robert Galbraith. The latest published is Lethal White, which grew even darker and more sinister than the previous ones, but all of them guarantee a captivating read for a vacation or leisure time on your terrace. Delve into the streets of London with Strike to catch the creme-de-la-creme of serial killers before letting out an audible gasp when everything you thought you'd figured out is upended again.
9) The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion
Let's return to a fun read. If you love weird characters like Sheldon Cooper or the Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime, this is your read for the summer. Follow neurotic and Asperger-syndrome inflicted Don Tillman through his life as he tries to find love - and may find it in the entirely unsuitable and chaotic Rosie. Made me laugh regularly, and is a real page-turner!
10) The Beast's Heart by Leife Shallcross
Fantasy, fairy tale and a pinch of history all come together in this Beauty and the Beast re-telling of epic proportions. Travel to the cursed beast's castle with Isabeau, a well-educated but impoverished French girl. Witness how they slowly fall in love and experience the popular story with more complex characters and backstories. Stretching over a year, you can both wander with Isabeau and the Beast through the summer-kissed gardens, and get a little tingle for Christmas already when accompanying them through icicle-frozen woods.
Eleanor hadn't written him a letter,
Title: Eleanor & Park
Author: Rainbow Rowell
Do you still remember what it was like to be in love when you were young? Delve into the world of the 1980's and teenagers Eleanor and Park who are about to experience true love for the first time.
With Park living with his super happy (borderline gross in love) parents in a posh house and Eleanor living with her piece-of-a-shit stepfather, siblings and mother in a rundown house, they make an unlikely couple - but aren't those the best?
Eleanor is the new girl, and Park lets her sit next to him on the bus to school, which makes him inherently less evil than Eleanor's other class mates. Through their mutual love for music (great references for teens of the eighties), they slowly start to fall for each other, and some love is direly needed as their hormonal problems are also overshadowed by family, friends, peer pressure and everything else that comes with being young and in love.
Apart from the captivating story, the form also needs some praise. Rainbow Rowell is a brilliant story-teller. With short chapters recounting the character's stories from their respective perspectives, the book is a fast read and a total page-turner. Sensitively and authentically, Rowell depicts young teenage love without giving it the too-deep "Twilight" vibe, yet taking it serious to not sound like a condescending adult.
Filled with well-known topics like abusive stepfathers, overachieving Asian families and rebellious teenagers on the cusp of adulthood, this book still brings lots of new aspects to the table with its eye for detail and complex characterisation. If you are a teenager or crave a little detour back into teenage-hood, this is a page-turner not to be missed. And even though the book's end sort of blew my mind (no spoilers here), I cannot really find a flaw in this pleasant and catching read. Especially perfect for your summer reading list - so snatch it up quickly before August is looming above September.
One word description: Authentic
Here you find book reviews, and sometimes also things about films. Enjoy reading.