Reading Books: Expectation Vs Reality

What makes you pick up a book? Is it the cover? A recommendation? Or do you pick up a random one and give it a shot?

Books have become so much more than just the writing itself. Once you’ve started it, that’s all that matters, but before that there are so many other considerations that take place, whether we’re aware of it or not.

People always say, in marketing and advertising, that you often have to see something 7 times before you think about buying into it. Have you perhaps unconsciously bought a book because you’ve seen it so many times it just makes sense to give it a go? Or maybe you are more easily convinced, by simply a cover or a friend’s recommendation.

I’d like to share my thoughts on the book buying process and what leads me to eventually pick up a book – perhaps some of you can relate!


How Beautiful Is The Book?

If I said I’d never bought a book just because I loved the cover, I’d be lying…

There are some really well designed book covers out there, and the publishers know exactly what they’re doing – drawing in those who appreciate the visual and aesthetic side of reading. Because having something that reads well and looks good on your bookshelf is the best of both worlds, right? The problem is, they sometimes aren’t a very good read at all…

I’ve fallen into this trap many times before, and I still fall into it time and time again. The irony is that I never end up keeping the book even if it does have a beautiful cover, because what’s the point if I’m not going to read it again?

4 Star Rating? Let’s do it!

If you’re also an avid reader, you’ve likely got Goodreads, and you’ve also likely spend hours scrolling through, exploring books, sorting through ratings and reviews. I definitely have.

However, sometimes I place a little too much trust in Goodreads ratings. I see a rare 4 star rating and I think, this has to be a good book. And it is a good book, for majority of people. But sometimes it’s easy to forget that you won’t necessarily fall into that majority too!

There aren’t many 4 star books I’ve read and felt hugely disappointed, but I have read a couple and thought: I’m not sure I really understand what everyone else is seeing here. But that’s the beauty of art – we all see something different in it. If anything, we look for parts of ourselves within it. And it’s natural to not feel connected to every book, in the same way that we wouldn’t feel connected to every person we meet either.

“You HAVE To Read This”

We’ve all had the classic recommendation from a friend or family member, or maybe even from a stranger, where they claim they have the perfect book for you. Do you believe them? Can you trust their book taste? Is it worth the shot or will it just lead to an awkward conversation of “It was good, buuuut…”

I never know whether to follow up on recommendations, so often I head back to good old Goodreads and see what everyone else is saying about it too. The more opinions, the better, right?

However, I think every now and again it’s good to step outside of your comfort zone and try a completely different book to your usual read. I can’t say I’ve had much success with this yet (*cough cough* horror that wasn’t scary *cough cough* confusing sci-fi that made no sense). But, I’m still willing to give it a shot.

Do you relate to any of the above?

Why do you think the reality of a book is often so different to the initial expectation?

I’d love to know what you think below.


I Wrote Something Everyday For 5 Years… [One Line A Day Book – Review]

Just over 5 years ago, I was given one of the best presents I’ve ever received – a “One Line A Day” book – and it’s been my little companion through the most influential stages of my life. From finishing A levels, to starting university, to graduating and starting a new job, it has helped me track not only the vital stages of my life but the ages where I grew the most as a person and overcame the biggest challenges. And because of this, I want to share a mini review on how it works and what I’ve learnt from it.

How Does The “One Line A Day” Book Work?

As simple as it is, you really do just write one line everyday (or in my case, as many lines as can fit!). You can share whatever you like – a quote, something meaningful, what you did that day. For me personally, I wrote a brief description of everything I did that day as if it was a diary in shortened form.

The unique element of this journal is that each page has 5 text blocks for 5 years, so when you return to that page the following year, you can see what you wrote on that exact day the year before, and the year before that etc.

What I Love About The “One Line A Day” Book

It’s simple, easy to use, and most of all, it’s just really fascinating. We go about our lives everyday and often we forget about the simple things that happened, but sometimes they’re the most impactful of all.

Sometimes, I’d go to write in the journal for today, and I’d notice that a small event had recurred from the previous year, such as seeing the same friend on the exact same day the year before, or eating the same meal. Sure, it was a coincidence and didn’t particularly symbolise anything, but it’s funny how small things like this can line up.

It’s also such a great way of remembering past memories. Before writing the journal for that specific day, I’d really enjoy reading back on the previous years just to see what I was up to. And often it was very different – as I changed as a person, my habits naturally changed too. It was so interesting to see my progression as a person and how that reflected in the actions I took in my life.

How Did I Manage To Stick With It For 5 Years?

This is a question I often asked myself too, but I think when something becomes so meaningful to you, it naturally becomes a habit. I’d sit down for 5 minutes every evening to fill it in before bed, and it’s not any different than using that 5 minutes to scroll through your phone. Plus, I liked the challenge – once I start something, I try my ultimate best to follow through with it, and this felt like such a big but rewarding challenge. And I’m so glad I stuck with it – having 5 years packed into one tiny book feels so so special.

What Did I Learn From It?

The biggest, and perhaps really obvious, conclusion I drew from using the “One Line A Day Book” was that people change a LOT in 5 years. Even in 1 year. Even in a month, a week, a day. Reading back on past entries I’d written, I not only noticed the different events and situations I placed myself in, but the change in mindset too. A lot of my earlier entries were shorter and kind of negative too, but I felt like I had so many defining moments in the following couple years where I really morphed my mindset and my health into a much better place. Having this within the diary feels so important to me because that was a really important moment in my life, where I felt like I really became myself, accepted myself and learnt about the power of self-developing and seeing the world in a positive light.

I also learnt that, if I put my mind to it, I can do something that seems initially impossible. Writing something everyday for 5 years? Well, that would seem daunting to pretty much everybody, and at the start I wasn’t sure I could do it. But like anything, if you want to achieve something, you make time for it, you prioritise it, and you make it happen.

I think, more than anything, it’s also a huge reminder that everything is temporary. What I was doing, how I felt, the way I looked at the world and the people in it the year before, is so different to now. And it will be the same the next year, and the year after that, and the year after that too. As humans, we naturally progress. There is no stagnant waters. There is hope that you can become whatever you want to be in the future. It just hasn’t been written yet.

Have you tried the “One Line A Day” book or anything similar?

Or perhaps want to give it a try?

Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!


Anne Frank: The Diary Of A Young Girl [Book Review]

“All I can do is wait, as calmly as possible, for it to end… The whole world is waiting, and many are waiting for death.”

If any time is a good time to read Anne Frank’s diary, it’s now. The parallels between wartime and the pandemic are overwhelmingly similar. Whilst we cannot imagine the terrors of shooting, bombs, and the rise of a leader, we can relate more than ever to the sense of being trapped indoors, to not knowing what will happen next, to feeling like each day we are living is the same. For this reason, I couldn’t help but pick up this diary and see how I felt about it.

Reading Anne Frank’s diary is, in short, a surreal experience. As many of us do, I already knew a lot about her story, but reading her diary itself felt much more personal. It amazes me that these words on a page were written purely for herself, and yet now they’ve been read by millions of people around the world. I hope she knows the impact she’s made, from wherever she is, because I really feel like she’s spoken for a community of young people during the war that would otherwise have been overlooked.

What I found most interesting about this book was Anne’s conflict between her “mask” of a self (the outgoing, chatterbox she is around everyone she knows) and the deeper, more sensitive self that comes out only when is alone. At the start of the diary, I too fell into the trap of believing her mask. At the start, she seems a little over-confident and it’s hard to really understand who she is as a person. However, the more I read, the more layers of her mind she unravelled, and at heart she had such a strong, loving character. Although she never showed her more serious side to others, the diary really opened up her contemplative side, where she had much deeper reflections on the world, others and her place within it.

Anne speaks a lot in the diary about feeling distanced from others. As a girl who kept her feelings inside, she talks about her parents not really knowing her. She yearns for meaningful connections with others, where she can talk about her deepest thoughts and fears, rather than surface-level acquaintances and, as someone who also prefers closer bonds, this is something I completely relate to. It must be difficult for her father to wrap his head around, reading a diary from his daughter that is so different to who he imagined her to be. But I think it’s a really interesting notion to think about – to remind ourselves that each and every one of us have a public and private self and we are all on a journey to align them.

I think the most surprising part of this book for me was Anne’s mature attitude towards her situation and the world. As she grew older throughout the diary, there were a lot of moments that made me really stop and think about her reflections. For a young girl living in destruction, she had some positive and empowering thoughts that show just how much an awful situation like that can change you as a person. As she mentions a few times in the diary, she became independent in her time there. She learnt how to look after herself and her mind in a time when she could have easily fallen apart. And it’s remarkable that her diary captures this in action.

I’d like to finish on a quote that I think is equally empowering and heart-breaking – that shows who Anne really was inside but is saddening in light of knowing her ending.

“In spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart.”

Anne Frank

Have you read Anne Frank’s diary?

I’d love to know what you thought in the comments.


Time To Bookswap!

Last summer, I stumbled across a website which has honestly been one of my favourite things lately: Bookswap!

It’s a place where you can offer your old books to others who can purchase them for 1 book point and £3.58 (delivery fee + swapping fee) each. For every book you sell, you get a book point, and so on…

As you may already know, I actually love decluttering and lockdown has given me more opportunity to sort out my clutter even further. As a result, I now have 76 books up on Bookswap that I desperately want to send to nice homes! (with a little message and teabags)

So, if anyone wants to browse my Bookswap collection, which honestly is turning into a bit of a library, head over to my page here! You only have to pay delivery once if you order more than one book. Also, as a bonus, you can get a free book point if you use this referral link – woo!

I want to say this post is sponsored but it isn’t; I just genuinely love this site and my books are taking up too much space at home – I’m sure some of you can relate!

Have you used Bookswap before?

If not, what do you do with your old books?

Let me know in the comments below!


10 Books I Loved In 2020

2020 has been a really great year of reading for me – after years of reading for educational purposes, I finally got back into the habit of reading for fun and I’ve really enjoyed it!

This year, I set a target on Goodreads to read 12 books, thinking it would take me a while to get back into the habit, but I surprised myself by finishing 42 books this year – a lot more than I thought!

As a result, I’d like to share my top 10 books for this year. Let me know in the comments if you’ve read them too!


Feel Better in 5 by Dr Rangan Chatterjee

This was the first book I read in 2020 and I’m so glad it was because it set me up well for the year ahead! Dr Chatterjee is most widely known for his podcast Feel Better Live More which I’ve been listening to for about a year now. He’s such an inspiring doctor – someone who really listens and looks at people’s health problems in a holistic manner, promoting wellbeing and mental health tips to fight illnesses. His book Feel Better in 5 is how you can change your life in only 15 minutes every day. Don’t believe it? Read it. It’s amazing!

Insomniac City by Bill Hayes

This is one of the most unique books I’ve read. Filled with snippets of diary entries and black and white photography from across New York, it was a very real account of what it was like for Bill in the final few years of his life with Oliver Sacks, who was suffering from cancer. I loved how this book was like a snapshot into lots of different people’s lives, and I really did feel consumed by the New York bubble he portrayed, feeling a little lost when I came out the other side.

View full book review here.

Outline by Rachel Cusk

Again, such a beautifully unique book. I really can’t describe Cusk’s writing style, but it completely blew me away. There is a certain honesty and exposure of human life in the work she produces that delves deeper into what it is like to think and feel in the world. It is philosophical, like a stream of consciousness, and bursting with questions and reflections. I remember reading this one in a matter of days!

View full book review here.

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Before anyone asks, don’t worry, I had read this book previously! It had been a few years since I studied it for A levels so during lockdown I dug it up, re-read it and it was just as wonderful the second time! I remember sitting in the blazing sun in the garden during the summer heatwave whilst reading it and reminiscing on all the quotes I would write endless essays about. It was nice to read it just for what it is, to soak it all up for my own purposes. It’s one of those all-consuming books, and the Baz Luhrmann film is a brilliant adaptation!

Tuesdays With Morrie by Mitch Albom

There are so many things to say about this wonderful book! Another lockdown read for me earlier this year, this really got me thinking about what it means to truly live. Beautiful, heart-breaking and all a true story, this is one of those books I will forever be recommending to everyone I know!

View full book review here.

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

I started this book very much hoping it would live up to all the amazing reviews, and it certainly did! There is an internal conflict to the characters in this novel – you find yourself debating who to believe, who to root for, and who to ultimately side with, but there is no right or wrong. It’s a book full of honesty yet secrets, love yet misunderstandings. The relationship between mother and daughter is explored brilliantly, and, although hesitant at first, I ended up loving the TV adaptation of it too.

View full book review here.

The Humans by Matt Haig

This was another re-read for me this year, because it’s one of my all-time favourite books! Funny, honest and so heart-warming, this book may have a super weird premise, but it’s ultimately a reflection on what it means to be human and how important the people in our lives really are to us. I enjoyed it just as much the second time around, so can confidently recommend this one!

View full book review here.

The Five People You Meet In Heaven by Mitch Albom

Mitch Albom, author of Tuesdays with Morrie, makes a second appearance in this blog post! That’s because I’ve been on a bit of a spree collecting and reading his other books. Although Albom has a very simple writing style, I love the philosophical concepts to his books and they really touch upon the important aspects of life – what it means to be alive, and how we find meaning in the way we relate to and help others.

View full book review here.

The Midnight Library by Matt Haig

And Matt Haig makes a second appearance too, but I’m not surprised about this one! I’ve reviewed 7 books of his on my blog so far, and I never seem to stop! The Midnight Library is his most recent publication and it might even be his best yet. When Nora enters the Midnight Library, she can take out any book and go back to a life she would have had if she’d made a different decision. Reflecting on regrets and the search for a meaning to life, this book is truly amazing, and the overall message is something I really relate to.

View full book review here.

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

I don’t think I’ve ever had such a change of heart from the beginning to an end of a book. Eleanor is such an odd yet unique character and the more I read, the more I wanted to understand what it must be like to be her. This book was a wonderful reflection on what it means to be lonely, how important human connection is, and how to overcome past trauma – sometimes all we need is just someone to listen and stand by us, no matter what.

View full book review here.

What’s your favourite book you’ve read in 2020? (or top 3, if you can’t decide!)

Let me know in the comments below!


‘The Truants’ by Kate Weinberg [Book Review]

The Truants is one of those books that is really quite difficult to explain – both in terms of plot and how good it really is. Character-driven and drenched in darker undertones, I was consumed by a world that felt like hanging delicately on the edge of a cliff, never knowing what felt stable. There is no “one mystery” to solve; you are simply waiting around as many lives and stories interweave to create something much like a disastrous maze, in which no one can really get out of.

It’s not the usual kind of book I would pick up. I had no idea what it would be like going into it. But wow, I must say, I was really blown away by the writing. I loved Weinberg’s style, and I don’t often say that about a lot of authors. She had a very unique, simple yet meaningful style and I loved the parts that were written like inner reflections of the mind poured onto a page (those who have read it, you know what I mean – the ending).

Surprisingly, I realised during the book that it was also inspired by UEA, since the author studied her masters in creative writing there. This initiated an unexpected wave of nostalgia for me, since I graduated there, also having studied creative writing (but as an undergrad) earlier this year. Whether this had an effect on my connection to the book, I don’t know. But it did feel comfortingly familiar to me in some ways.

Overall, I feel quite taken aback by this book. It’s a truly original piece of work and a surprisingly good debut. There are flaws, of course – one of them obviously being the likelihood of a lecturer befriending her students – but at its core it’s a very intriguing read. I will certainly look out for more of Weinberg’s books in the future.

What book have you been reading recently?

Let me know in the comments below!


‘The Man I Think I Know’ by Mike Gayle [Book Review]

I’m afraid I have been led astray by high rated reviews again… because this was another popular book that just fell completely flat for me! A wonderful premise, not so great execution, and I may have loved the cover more than the book itself…

Summary

The Man I Think I Know follows two male protagonists who once were acquaintances at school. Brought together by a string of unlikely circumstances, they meet again. With James’ slow recovery from a brain injury and Danny’s lack of a job, they develop a friendship and help one another fight the struggles in their life.

My Thoughts

As you can see from my (not so great) attempt at summarising this book, I really don’t know how to describe my experience with this book. I’m always tentative starting something with high expectations, and yet I always find myself wondering how my opinion of a book can be so overwhelmingly different to the majority of the people who have read it. It just proves the power of perspective.

The main reason this book did not resonate with me was that I felt like there was very poor character development. With a book on such a sensitive topic, speaking about brain injury, alcoholism and depression, I would expect to have some emotional attachment to the situations at hand, but I found myself completely detached. Although the perspective was switching between the two main characters, I often lost myself on who was speaking because there were no differentiating characteristics. It was like they just moulded into the same person, with the only difference being one calling the other “mate”.

However, the dialogue was the most frustrating part for me. It was unbelievably unrealistic and it felt stilted and forced. Normal conversations were turned into arguments in a matter of seconds with no build up, and there were too many clichés in this book to count, including the typical argument conclusion “it’s not fair!” from a grown woman, and the classic “my heart feels like it has just broken into a million tiny pieces.” I have no comment.

I so wanted to like this book, and I think that’s why I kept going until the end. There had to be a redeeming quality, right? It had such great reviews, after all. And I don’t think it was a pointless book – it got me reflecting on what it would be like to have to start life over again, for things to not go the way you had planned, and the importance of family and friends in supporting you. However, the switch never flicked. I got to the end – to the cringey, predictable and unsatisfying end – and I felt nothing.

I wish I could see this book through the eyes of all the four and five star reviews, but it just wasn’t for me. Instead, you get to read another of my ranting reviews!

Pick this book up if you like – maybe you’ll enjoy it more than I did – but for now, I’ll happily move onto the next book in my to-be-read pile, and hope it goes better than this did!

What book have you been reading lately?

Any good recommendations?

Let me know in the comments below!


Why Do We Feel Emotions For Fictional Characters When They Don’t Exist?

Don’t you just love that feeling when you dive straight into the world of a book, becoming almost like a secondary character to the story that unfolds, feeling the character’s emotions as if they’re your own?

It’s only when we think more about the process of reading a novel that we realise the emotions that arise are for non-beings. We are feeling a story that doesn’t exist in the real, physical world and yet it feels as real as anything. Why is this? How is this? How is the brain capable of translating a fictional text into a real world inside our own minds? And why do we believe in it?

I don’t think there is an answer to any of these questions – not definitively – but I do think it’s interesting to reflect upon. I find that when I’m reading a book, I often lose track of time. It really is like entering a new world. But I also know that I become the world. Not just in my mind, but my emotions are intertwined with that of the characters.

I think perhaps this is down to humans being, at heart, social beings. Whether a character is real or not, we relate to them in some way. After all, the characters are written by real humans and often those real human authors slide parts of themselves into their characters. It is almost like a lens in which we see the author through the character, yet in our minds it is still the character, but it allows us to relate to another life wholly different to our own.

Perhaps we feel the emotions of a character as our own because we read to feel something – I know, on some level, I do. We read to find something to latch onto – something relatable, something meaningful, something real. We read to understand the human condition better – whether we realise it or not – or we read to see a different perspective. Essentially, we must read for the same reason we read a film or watch a TV show – they are almost one and the same.

The Theory of Mind says that reading improves empathy and I agree; reading a book is like meeting a lot of different people at a party except they are in their natural habitat and their thoughts are sometimes expressed and they’re unique and not real but could easily be real, if they were fathomed into existence.

Ultimately, our mind is capable of wild imagination. Reading a book is, at its core, simply reading words on a page, and yet we create this whole world in our minds – the way it looks, the way it feels – from these words. It is our capability to imagine that makes it so real. Without our mind transferring these words into a little film inside our head, perhaps we wouldn’t be so emotionally attached to the journey. Perhaps we wouldn’t really absorb any of it at all.

The truth is that reading is a truly unique experience. One book has millions of different versions inside the heads of every single person who reads it. And no one can enter that other experience. No one knows what it’s like to see those words through the lens of those eyes, because they only know their own. Reading becomes a personal experience. It has to be. We connect with it in the way that we want to connect with it, even if the link isn’t even really there. And I think we do that with a lot of things; we find ourselves in art because that’s how something becomes meaningful – when we can relate to it. It’s both self-indulgent and curious and sad and enlightening. It’s many things that can’t really be put into words.

And I think this post is mostly me typing out a load of my thoughts with no coherence to them whatsoever but, like reading, it’s just one single personal experience and to you it’s a whole other personal experience, but they all join to one point: the love of reading. And I think that’s pretty remarkable.

Why do you think we feel emotions for fictional characters?

I’d be interested to know what you think.

Let me know in the comments below!


‘Where the Crawdads Sing’ by Delia Owens [Book Review]

Beautifully unique, and full of intricate descriptions of nature at its most vulnerable, Where the Crawdads Sing is different to any other book I’ve read.

Summary

Kya Clark, known as the “Marsh Girl”, lives amongst the gulls and the sand, residing in a shack on the edge of the marsh with no true company than herself. When a murder echoes across the town, rumour has it that it is the “Marsh Girl”. But what can be said of an isolated girl, with nothing but the wild beauty of nature by her side?

My Thoughts

This was one of the only books I’ve read where I felt immersed in the world within the first few pages. Owens has such a unique writing style that I couldn’t help but feel nature right at my fingertips, authentic and all-consuming as soon as the story began.

There is a meaningful slowness to this book, a capacity to really breathe in every empty space within the marsh as if it is your own. And I imagine that is what it felt like for Kya, to have a home deep-rooted in the earth itself. It is an inspiring reflection on what it means to truly be connected to life.

I’m not sure I really knew the character of Kya, even by the end of the book, but I feel like this was entirely the point. It was all about an isolated and misunderstood girl who doesn’t speak her truth, not in the way that she’s always wanted to. Instead, her passion for nature rings her soul.

This beautiful debut novel, with a truly wonderful ending, had me consumed in a world I’m sure won’t leave me for a long while. This book isn’t to be understood, but to be hugged from the inside, to feel life on the flip side, to be grateful for our feet on the ground and the people by our side.

Have you read Where the Crawdads Sing?

Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!


Turtles All The Way Down by John Green [Book Review]

John Green is one of those authors I collected books of as a child. Not only did I have Fault in Our Stars, Looking for Alaska and Paper Towns, but I read Will Grayson Will Grayson and An Abundance of Katherines too. However, it has been many years since I’ve opened one of these books – the last time was probably when I was thirteen or fourteen years old, seven years ago.

So, hearing about Turtles All the Way Down I thought, why not relive my childhood, but with a new John Green book?

I can’t say it was the most magical experience of my life, but here I am writing about it anyway!

Summary

Turtles All the Way Down follows the story of sixteen-year-old Aza (and her best friend Daisy). Struggling with the spiral of her own thoughts, and the town’s disappearance of a billionaire, she is drawn towards the character of Davis. She yearns to figure out where his father has disappeared to, but also figure him out too.

 

My Thoughts

I don’t think this book was necessarily bad, but I didn’t enjoy it as much as I wanted to. John Green is a good writer – there are many quotable lines and I like the deeper meanings he embeds within the storyline – however I just wasn’t feeling it.

One thing that particularly frustrated me about this book was that I didn’t connect with any of the characters. And, hey, maybe I shouldn’t be surprised by that. After all, it is a YA book and I’m slowly morphing out of that age range…

I think John Green did a good job at portraying Ava’s mental health struggles – it felt all-consuming – but it didn’t feel all-consuming for me as a reader and that’s where the problem came in. I felt too distanced from the character’s lives, as if there was something missing from their character development for me to feel their pain in the same way that they do.

I also found Ava’s thought process very negative, which is completely the point – as she is battling her mental health – but as someone who tries to stay in a positive mindset, I just couldn’t relate to her belief that thoughts can’t be changed (because I think with a lot of work, they can). However, I do think that if I had read this book in the past, I would have related a lot more. I just feel like I’m in a different stage of life now.

Overall, it wasn’t a bad book – it was written well and something made me want to continue – but it just wasn’t really for me.

 

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Have you read Turtles All the Way Down?

What did you think?

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