My S.O. having left me for a humanitarian trip of 3 weeks to the other side of the world (more to come later) and my holidays not being planned for another week, I had to remember how to be alone for 10 days. Lonely however I certainly did not feel, in fact the amount of things I was able to slip in just a few days made me think that I should probably make more time just for myself on a regular base.
Beside getting my ass back to the gym to prepare for my first ever race on the 10th of September (Week 25 – Alone in Paris Part 1 – Back to Gym training) and learning and implementing productivity methods (Week 26 – On the Power of Small Habits and on Getting Things Done ) I mostly read…and it felt so good and so like “me”.
Growing up I could be a real loner, I had friends but I mostly spent time reading as often as I could. I could dive in a book for hours without noticing what was going on around me. I could also read the same book over and over to feel again and again the same emotions. Teenage books were the best (and the worse intellectually). I think I read each book of the Twilight saga dozens of times. Anyways, as these past months I have been trying new things, committing on new engagements, subscribed to Netflix…well, it did not leave a lot of time for reading.
So when I found myself all alone on a Sunday Morning a few weeks ago, I looked at all the books piling up on my shelves that I had been eager to read for months. And I started with one, and kept on for most of my free time. And while I left for my holidays, because of all the commuting I had to do, I was allowed several hours of reading time each day until I came back.
In 15 days or so I managed to read these very different books (different in terms of subjects and depth) and I personally like having different choices in order to always have something to read according to your current mood:
- The Five People You Meet In Heaven, by Mitch Alborn:
The novel’s protagonist is Eddie, an 83 years old man working as the maintenance manager at Ruby Pier amusement park, the same job his father once held. Eddie is resigned to his position, even though he swore to never follow in his father’s footsteps. The book starts on the morning of the day he dies while trying to save a young girl who gets in the way of a falling cart. Eddie goes to heaven, where he has to meet five people (who he used to know or who he has never met) who were unexpectedly instrumental in some way in his life. While each guide takes him through heaven, Eddie learns a little bit more about what his time on earth meant, what he was supposed to have learnt (while at the same time we learn about his troubled childhood, his years in the army in the Philippines jungle, and his first and only love). It took me less than a day to read it and although I was a little disappointed by the general message of the novel: it felt as if big questions were laid there (why are we here? why do we matter? ) but all the thinking had to be done outside the book. However its power lies first in the fact that you keep thinking about it long after you close the book and in the fact that in spite of the dark characters and the history of their sad lives not lived to their full potential, it is a feel good novel that leaves you with a positive message after all.
- Me before you by Jojo Moyes
I watched the movie before reading the book, without knowing at all what I was getting into (I thought I was watching an unconventional light romantic comedy between an exuberant woman and a paralyzed young man). In the end I cried watching the movie and cried reading the book but it is a beautiful love story between two extremely different people.
Lou Clark knows lots of things. She knows how many footsteps there are between the bus stop and home. She knows she likes working in The Buttered Bun tea shop and she knows she might not love her boyfriend Patrick. What Lou doesn’t know is she’s about to lose her job or that knowing what’s coming is what keeps her sane. Will Traynor knows his motorcycle accident took away his desire to live. He knows everything feels very small and rather joyless now and he knows exactly how he’s going to put a stop to that. What Will doesn’t know is that Lou is about to burst into his world in a riot of colour. And neither of them knows they’re going to change the other for all time.
Without spoiling the end, just know it is beautiful and it is heartbreaking.
- After you, by Jojo Moyes
In the sequel of “Me before you”, we find Louisa Clark learning to live after the transformative six months spent with Will Traynor, and this means learning to fall in love again, with all the risks that brings.
How do you move on after losing the person you loved? How do you build a life worth living?
This book is a perfect journey about healing after loss which mostly teaches us that we need to make the best of life. The message is basic although you take pleasure following the characters that you left devastated by the end of the first novel. In fact, it feels more like a book written for the fans of the first novel devastated by the ending, but it feels somewhat wrong. I read it because I hate bad endings but the first one suffices on its own.
- Malevil by Robert Merle
Malevil is the name of a castle built-in the middle of the French countryside, which after a nuclear explosion having taken place during Easter of 1977, is occupied by a small group of survivors who have been protected by its thick walls. After the initial shock has passed, they realize that outside these premises, all human, animal and plant life has probably been consumed. Within Malevil, however, there remain some basic provisions: livestock, elemental tools, and, fortunately, a few country people who have the skills and crafts to use them. The little band of, at first, seven, has been bombed back into, not the Stone Age, but feudalism and, as more survivors appear, the group develops in primitive agrarian communism in which everything is shared. In the same way, monogamy does not have a place in a community that starts with 1 woman for 7 men. As they learn of other survivors it becomes clear that Malevil must defend itself, not only against marauders but also against more subtle political domination. What I really liked is how this novel, that relates the first months of survival of a very small community lost in the middle of nowhere, can explain at a very small-scale, the Human reactions of larger groups. The author makes it easier to explain Human nature to the reader by simplifying the context. While the leader of Malevil is someone with a lot of good sense apparently, all surviving groups organize in a different way and many take advantage of the situation to create dictatorship or to rule under a reign of terror. And although Malevil is the only place where order and democracy seem to work because of the intelligence of the people living in it, you soon discover that it takes one wrong leader to destroy everything.
- The $100 Startup: Fire Your Boss, Do What You Love and Work Better to Live More by Chris Guillebeau
Again a book I found on Blinkist which I bought right away. And again a book about how to quit your nine-to-five job in a big company and start-up on your own. What I liked about it is the promise to learn how to launch new businesses with small initial investments (hence without the fear of losing too much).
The $100 Startup is your manual to a new way of living. Learn how to:
* Earn a good living on your own terms, when and where you want
* Achieve that perfect blend of passion and income to make work something you love
* Take crucial insights from 50 ordinary people who started a business with $100 or less
* Spend less time working and more time living your life
Since I was extremely happy with the books I read (I am kind of getting good at chossing them online!) I am really excited about starting these ones still patiently waiting in my bookcase:
- The girl who saved the king of Sweden by Jonas Jonasson
Nombeko Mayeki started working at the age of five, was orphaned at ten, and run over by fifteen. There was no indication that she wouldn’t live out her life in her shack in South Africa’s largest shanty town, and then die, with no-one to mourn her. If she hadn’t been who she was: Nombeko Mayeki, the illiterate girl who could count. It is just a crazy book by the author of The Hundred-Year-Old man who climbed out the window and disappeared.
- Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari
Recommended by a friend, Sunday Times Number One Bestseller & New York Times Top Ten Bestseller, Sapiens is a thrilling account of humankind’s extraordinary history – from the Stone Age to the Silicon Age – and our journey from insignificant apes to rulers of the world
‘It tackles the biggest questions of history and of the modern world, and it is written in unforgettably vivid language. You will love it!’ Jared Diamond, author of Guns, Germs and Steel
- What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast: How to Achieve More at Work and at Home by Laura Vanderkam
By blending stories of fascinating people with cutting-edge scientific research, Vanderkam shows us how to maximize our valuable mornings, make the most of our working hours, and enjoy the results with deeply satisfying weekends.
- Show Your Work! by Austin Kleon
- The Ship of Brides by Jojo Moyes
Recommended by another Jojo Moyes fan: Australia, 1946. 650 brides are departing for England to meet the men they married in wartime. But instead of the luxury liner they were expecting, they find themselves aboard an aircraft carrier, alongside a thousand men. On the sun-baked decks, old loves and past promises become distant memories, and tensions are stretched to the limit as brides and husbands change their minds. And for Frances Mackenzie, one bride in particular, it soon becomes clear that sometimes the journey is more important than the destination.
- Seeds planted in Concrete by Bianca Sparacino
(It was love at first sight with this one).