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15 of the best books for women in their twenties to read

I started this blog at the end of my teens, and now, a decade later, I’m in the last year of my twenties. Throughout that time, Tolstoy Therapy has been my way of documenting the best books I’ve read as a twentysomething, including those that guided me through anxiety, heartbreak, trauma, depression, and bold leaps:…

14 of the best books to read in winter on cozy days

With lazier days and more time indoors, winter comes with the distinctive benefit of having more time to spend with a good book. What makes for good winter reading? In an article for The Guardian back in 2011, Alison Flood wrote about the booksellers Waterstones asking authors, “What’s your favourite fireside read, the book you go…

What’s the best translation of War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy?

“The picture of everything that people consider to be their happiness and greatness, their sorrow and their humiliation, is complete. That is what War and Peace is.” From NN Strakhov’s review of War and Peace, Zarya, January 1870. It’s no secret that I love War and Peace. I’ve shared the reasons why before, but as…

What’s the best translation of Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy?

A few years ago, I first shared my thoughts on the best translation of War and Peace, the book that inspired me to create this blog (spoiler alert: I love the Anthony Briggs translation). But what about Tolstoy’s other books? And in particular, what is the best translation of Anna Karenina, Tolstoy’s classic love story-meets-tragedy?…

9 of the best novels set in nature to imagine life in the wilderness

“There are some who can live without wild things, and some who cannot.” Aldo Leopold’s A Sand County Almanac Over on Live Wildly, I recently shared my selection of the most beautiful books for nature lovers. However, in that post I made myself stick to non-fiction. There were just so many books I wanted to…

8 of the best books to read during a breakup to heal your heart

“Hearts can break. Yes, hearts can break. Sometimes I think it would be better if we died when they did, but we don’t.” Stephen King, Hearts in Atlantis Few things tear us apart like heartbreak. Sometimes it feels impossible to imagine a time when it doesn’t hurt to think of them… let alone imagine a time…

Books to read when you’re feeling lost and directionless in life

Stand still. The trees ahead and bushes beside youAre not lost. Wherever you are is called Here,And you must treat it as a powerful stranger,Must ask permission to know it and be known. From “Lost” by David Wagoner, in Traveling Light: Collected and New Poems. Sometimes life is clear – you know exactly where you’re…

12 of the best bedtime books to help you sleep soundly

Not being able to sleep: we all hate it, right? When it’s way past my usual 10:30pm bedtime and I can feel my heart beating and mind racing, I know something’s off-balance. My best cure is a good book. Generally I sleep well – and a lot. But not always. And it doesn’t take long…

8 books to read if you don’t know what to read

It happens to even the fondest of readers. Despite knowing that you want to read something, you just don’t know what… so you end up reading nothing. (Or, you start dozens of Kindle samples without feeling interested enough to continue anything.) Reading can and should be about nurturing ourselves. Even with no one watching, even…

Why read War and Peace? The reasons why I love Tolstoy’s masterpiece

“The misery of nations is caused not by particular persons, but by the particular order of Society under which the people are so bound up together that they find themselves all in the power of a few men, or more often in the power of one single man: a man so perverted by his unnatural…

How to read War and Peace (and what to know before you start)

“The misery of nations is caused not by particular persons, but by the particular order of Society under which the people are so bound up together that they find themselves all in the power of a few men, or more often in the power of one single man: a man so perverted by his unnatural…

Where should you start with Leo Tolstoy?

“The misery of nations is caused not by particular persons, but by the particular order of Society under which the people are so bound up together that they find themselves all in the power of a few men, or more often in the power of one single man: a man so perverted by his unnatural…

15 of the best books for when you feel depressed

“We all suffer alone in the real world; true empathy’s impossible. But if a piece of fiction can allow us imaginatively to identify with a character’s pain, we might then also more easily conceive of others identifying with our own. This is nourishing, redemptive; we become less alone inside.” David Foster Wallace I didn’t really…

12 relaxing books to calm your mind and soothe your soul

Sometimes we just need to take a deep breath and relax – but it’s not always that easy. Reading a calming book can make it simpler, though. Carving out regular reading time with a good book (even if you have to force yourself to sit still) can be one of the best ways to help…

The 30+ books mentioned in The Secret History by Donna Tartt

“It is is better to know one book intimately than a hundred superficially.” Donna Tartt, The Secret History The Secret History is one of my all-time favourite books. It’s one of those books that as soon as I think of it, I feel something. I think of autumn leaves, the start of a year on…

8 of the most beautifully written books of all time

In any part of the world, no matter how stunning, sometimes we just get caught up in our own thoughts. When I need a reminder of just how spectacular life can be, I turn to a beautifully written book. I also turn to beautiful books (as well as beautifully illustrated books) for a dose of…

10 of the best feel-good books to brighten your day

“I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading! How much sooner one tires of any thing than of a book! — When I have a house of my own, I shall be miserable if I have not an excellent library.” Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen I’ve written before about the best feel-good…

7 of the best books for when you’re feeling insecure about your body

Over the last few months, I’ve been finishing up a little book I’ve been working on called Your Life in Bloom. It’s my exploration of the art of courageously building a life – uniquely, boldly, and without turning away from challenges, flaws, and failures. One part of that is accepting, respecting, and loving your body…

12 of the most beautifully illustrated books for gifts or your shelves

I love books. I adore beautifully illustrated books, though. Pen and ink drawings, watercolours, digital art… all of it. Here are some of my favourite beautiful books with stunning illustrations, covers, and typesetting that make for the perfect gift to yourself or others. Some of the most beautiful books with stunning illustrations and design 1.…

10 of the most wholesome comfort reads for a hug from a book

It’s always a good time to escape into a wholesome book and remind yourself of the best parts of life. But it can be easy to forget about all the heartwarming, uplifting, and comforting books in libraries and on bookshop shelves. To offer a nudge in the right direction, I’ve been thinking of some of…

10 of the best feel-good classic books to lift your mood

Classic books can sometimes get a bad rep (especially if you struggled through them at school), but in reality they’re a treasure trove of life lessons, balms for the soul, and opportunities for self-care. After contemplating my favourites, I’ve compiled a list of recommendations to prove that happy and uplifting books don’t necessarily need to…

Books for when you’re worried about the state of the world

Reading the news lately, I’ve been wondering if any of the book recommendations I can pass on will really cut it. War, climate change, nuclear threat… it’s a time of unimaginable trauma and stress for many people. Can a book really help you feel better considering the state of the world right now? And what’s…

6 books about the joy of waking up early in the morning

“Hello, sun in my face. Hello you who made the morning and spread it over the fields…Watch, now, how I start the day in happiness, in kindness.” “Why I Wake Early”, Mary Oliver Ah, the beauty of early mornings… the sun hasn’t quite risen, the day is undisturbed as most are still in their beds,…

The Tolstoy Therapy Book List 2021

Each December I look back at the books I’ve loved most that year, taking note of the connections between them and marvelling at how long ago it feels like I read some of them. Most years, I read a mismatch of books published in the last few hundred years, with a rare addition of something…

12 books with a Studio Ghibli vibe to enjoy the magic and simple beauty of life

I’d never really watched much animation until this year. I didn’t grow up on Disney movies, and hardly spent much time watching television either. I was brought up on a farm by parents who had a books-and-fresh-air philosophy of parenting. So I’ve had some things to catch up on in adulthood. In the last few…

8 can’t-put-down books to binge read

It’s 9 pm, you’re exhausted, and you just want to be horizontal and immobile for a while. So you head to the sofa, turn on the TV, and load up Netflix. And you find the perfect thing to binge and escape from the world with. Yeah, I get it. (And yep, I do it too.)…

7 magical books like Circe about nature and mythology

If only there were more books like Circe by Madeline Miller… Circe is a dream of a book. It’s the perfect example of the Greek myth retold genre that’s been exploding in the last few years – what with The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker and The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood among others…

20 cottagecore books to imagine a simple, cozy life in nature

Overflowing beds of sweet peas, marigolds, and cornflowers. Cans of peaches, jams, and chutneys. Fresh pies in the oven and bread on the kitchen counter. A self-sufficient vegetable garden and a handmade wardrobe of linens and embroidered fabrics. Cottagecore (thank the internet for the name) has ascended during covid-19 as more of us have turned…

9 books like Where the Crawdads Sing set in wild nature

I finally read Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens this month. I knew it was meant to be a great read, but until now I had unfairly categorised it as easy beach holiday reading. As I’ve been feeling burnt out and in need of easy reads, I decided to give it a go. I…

6 books to read during burnout when you feel exhausted

It feels like we’re in an era of burnout. In the last decade, the world has only become more stressful with the rise of social media and the amplification of our “always-on” culture. And with Covid in the mix too, it’s been a recipe for sheer exhaustion. I had a bad burnout back in 2018,…

8 books for women with autism to read (+ my story)

If you’ve read my writing for a while, I’ve hinted at my background with autism spectrum disorder (or Asperger’s) before, but I’ve never gone into it in as much detail as my experiences with PTSD and anxiety. I think that’s partly because autism is just who I am. It hasn’t been a barrier to living…

8 beautiful books for festive gifts this year

I’m not a big gift person. I rarely feel like I need anything, and often I’d be just as happy with a nice box of tea or something edible than a gift that will clutter up my living space. That said, there’s always a place in my heart (and house!) for beautiful books, and they’re…

Trust the seasons of your life

I’ve been writing down some of the lessons I wish I knew during the difficult moments… the anxious periods with panic attacks and a crippling fear of being judged, the lows I never thought I’d find a way out of, and days when I couldn’t see another option than being shy and insecure. I’ve noted…

On the hard days, the smallest things are the most important

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been writing down some of the lessons I wish I knew during the difficult moments… the anxious periods with panic attacks and a crippling fear of being judged, the lows I never thought I’d find a way out of, and days when I couldn’t see another option than being…

15 books that have helped me and others through lockdown

From Tolstoyan Russia to the Mongolian steppe and summers on the Gulf of Finland… here are some of the books that I and others have been enjoying during lockdown. How to describe the last five months? I’m not sure there’s much need to, because you probably understand: lots of time at home, changed plans, and…

10 books for creativity and inspiration to write

While writing my book about living in the Swiss Alps, here are the books about creativity that have been inspiring me to write.

A complete guide to bibliotherapy to heal yourself with books

Reading to heal – that’s what bibliotherapy is all about. But how does it work, why does it work, and what to read? Ever since humans have written and read books, we’ve had an intuitive understanding of their healing powers. And today, science is there to back that hunch up with facts.  It’s a fascinating…

8 books about courage to help us craft and change our worlds

Change can be fast and slow. Lately it has felt like the world has changed seemingly overnight, while other transformations are slowly unravelling. We keep hearing that it’s a time to reassess the “normal” we go back to. But equally, it’s a powerful moment to think about our power to create change and build stronger…

12 books to get lost in if you haven’t read in a while

A few years ago, my habits slowly changed from reading fiction every day to reading much more non-fiction – memoirs, biographies, and books on topics that interest me, from wild places to creativity and growing businesses. There’s nothing wrong with non-fiction… Haemin Sunim has taught me to slow down, Cheryl Strayed has honed my love…

13 soothing books to retreat into and relax with

I’ve been thinking back to some of my favourite quotes from Marcus Aurelius lately. In his Meditations, he shares how we seek retreats for ourselves in all manner of external ways, while forgetting that we can instead retreat into ourselves at any time – “into your own little territory within yourself [with] no agonies, no…

12 of the best audiobooks to enjoy now

Although I love unwinding at the end of the day with a paperback until my eyes become too sleepy to focus on the lines, there’s a very special place in my heart for audiobooks.

10 takeaways from Reasons to Stay Alive for the difficult days

If you want to read the words of someone who really understands the most difficult days – and the most beautiful days – of life, read Matt Haig.

A reminder to rest (and why we get more done when we do)

When I’m feeling my least productive, I often wonder why I’m lacking the motivation and discipline to get through my to-do list. Why am I so lazy? It’s these moments when I most need to stop working and rest. It can seem counterintuitive that we get more done when we work less. But it’s not…

Cutting for Stone is a book I should have read years ago

How had I not read Cutting for Stone before? From Ethiopia to New York, Abraham Verghese weaves a stunning story of medicine, learning, love, and heartbreak. As a teenager I worked in my village bookshop; a tiny little shop stacked floor to ceiling with books, its shelves overflowing onto every table and windowsill. I loved…

17 of the best books to read when you have anxiety

I first started experiencing anxiety as a teen. It was mostly social anxiety: I hated drawing attention to myself, having to speak in front of others, and being in social situations where I was judged. I intentionally did badly in exams so I wasn’t praised in public. At university, I dropped out of mandatory debate…

10 books that helped me through trauma & PTSD

Six years after finishing EMDR therapy for diagnosed PTSD, I’m still not entirely sure how to relax completely. But I am so much better than I used to be. I’m living my life – and thriving. I often catch myself holding my breath. Feeling on edge gives me a strange sensation of control. And physically…

Reading His Dark Materials as an adult for a relaxing dose of magic

I remember first reading Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials book series at nine or ten years old; jumping into the world of dæmons, the animals that every being has by their side, and Dust, mystical particles at the heart of the book’s quest. I’ve now rediscovered it through the BBC & HBO adaptation. Like many…

The Salt Path by Raynor Winn: finding strength and facing illness with a 630-mile hike

“Most people go through their whole lives without answering their own questions: What am I, what do I have within me? The big stuff. What a waste.” I read The Salt Path by Raynor Winn back in late August, just after I’d finished hiking The Arctic Circle Trail in Greenland. I love adventure memoirs like…

The Tobacconist by Robert Seethaler: a haunting tale of friendship in Nazi-occupied Vienna

From the author of one of my favourite books comes a heartbreaking story about a young man and his friendship with Sigmund Freud during the Nazi occupation of Vienna. I adored A Whole Life, Robert Seethaler’s finalist for the Man Booker International Prize 2016. As well as being fantastically written, there’s a story behind the…

Snuggling up for winter with The Art of Coorie: How to Live Happy the Scottish Way

Temperatures are falling, frost is coating the mornings, and the most tempting way to spend a weekend is with a warm blanket, book, and hot mulled wine. Scots would say it’s time to coorie in. Last Christmas, my boyfriend’s family bought me this introduction to coorie living: The Art of Coorie: How to Live Happy…

Into the Magic Shop: a neurosurgeon’s story of the life-changing magic of mindfulness and compassion

Some books come along and change how you think and what you want for your future. Into the Magic Shop by Dr. James Doty was one of those books for me. It’s quickly going to become one of my most-gifted books, I know that for sure. I first heard about Dr. Doty on the On…

The Priory of the Orange Tree: an entrancing story of dragon riders, courage & adventure

Water-borne dragons with god-chosen riders, powerful women, sweet rose-infused dreams, and a divided world battling good versus evil… Samantha Shannon spins a world of magic and otherworldly power page after 800 pages of The Priory of The Orange Tree, a marvellously-crafted fantasy novel published earlier this year. I read the book in unusual yet perfect…

Zen: The Art of Simple Living as a beautifully illustrated book for self-care

Peace, slowness, simplicity, joy, and zen… Japanese monk and garden designer Shunmyō Masuno shows us the art of simple living in his newly-translated book. In Zen: The Art of Simple Living, Shunmyo Masuno draws on centuries of wisdom to apply the essence of Zen to modern life in clear, practical, easily adopted lessons–one a day…

All about bibliotherapy: 10 lessons I’ve learned about healing & self-care with books

“I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading! How much sooner one tires of any thing than of a book! — When I have a house of my own, I shall be miserable if I have not an excellent library.”  ― Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice I started Tolstoy Therapy back in 2012, sometime before…

Taking inventory of your life after loss and heartbreak with Poorna Bell’s In Search of Silence

“Grief is the terrible reminder of the depths of our love and, like love, grief is non-negotiable. There is a vastness to grief that overwhelms our minuscule selves”. – Nick Cave Things fall apart. We grieve and feel a deep well of hurt inside of us. We feel stuck, wondering if this is just how…

Creating the most fulfilled version of ourselves with City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert

“At some point in a woman’s life, she just gets tired of being ashamed all the time. After that, she is free to become whoever she truly is.” City of Girls, Elizabeth Gilbert Some years ago, as a very different person – adventureless, timid and struggling with trauma and a lot of anxiety in my…

Have courage like Arya and sail beyond the sunset (what is west of Westeros?)

Everyone who has watched Game of Thrones has an opinion, especially if you’ve read the books by George R.R. Martin. I would have loved for the season to have had more time and added depth and logic between the sudden jumps. But I actually liked the finale. I won’t talk about massive spoilers here, but…

Pondering how to be a good creature with Sy Montgomery

“Knowing someone who belongs to another species can enlarge your soul in surprising ways.” One of my favourite books of 2018 was a very late contender. In fact, it was the last book I read of the year: How to Be a Good Creature: A Memoir in Thirteen Animals by Sy Montgomery. I adored it.…

Books for leaving a job that makes you unhappy & going freelance (from my last six months)

2018 has been a big year for me. Back in May, on my twenty-fifth birthday, I woke up and didn’t need to go into my office for work. The previous day had been my last at my software company job, and it was my first day of self-employment. The last six months have had big ups,…

7 soothing self-care books to relax and unwind with

We all need to set aside time for self-care, especially if we’re having a hard day or going through a tough time. But it matters even on the normal days – those where we go to work, follow our usual routine, and live without any major shifts in our universe. When we forget to look…

The simple & timeless wisdom of The Things You Can See Only When You Slow Down by Haemin Sunim

As I wrote in my round-up of books to read when life is hard, I owe a lot to Haemin Sunim. His first book, The Things You Can See Only When You Slow Down, has helped me through so much over the last year. When I was struggling through a breakup, I came across the Kindle sample and immediately…

Thich Nhat Hanh’s guide to loving others (How to Love Part 2)

In my first post about How to Love by Thich Nhat Hanh, I shared 7 pieces of wisdom from the book on loving ourselves. I started there because, as Thich Nhat Hanh tells us so beautifully, our ability to nourish others with our love starts with how we treat ourselves. Once we are in a good…

10 books to feel better with on difficult days

“Read Emily Dickinson. Read Graham Greene. Read Italo Calvino. Read Maya Angelou. Read anything you want. Just read. Books are possibilities. They are Escape Routes. They give you options when you have none. Each one can be a home for an uprooted mind.”  – Matt Haig, Reasons to Stay Alive   When I’m going through a hard…

7 gentle pieces of wisdom from Thich Nhat Hanh on loving ourselves (How to Love Part 1)

I’ve always turned to books to help me get better at things I struggle with. How can I relax? How I can I gain more confidence? Deal with insomnia? Be more adventurous? So it’s no surprise that I seek out authors to try and help me work out the really big question: how to love.…

A perfect book about life, loss, and the mountains: A Whole Life by Robert Seethaler

“You can buy a man’s hours off him, you can steal his days from him, or you can rob him of his whole life, but no one can take away from any man so much as a single moment. That’s the way it is.” It was nearly one year ago when I first read A Whole…

Sit and be peaceful with Silence: In the Age of Noise by Erling Kagge

“With no one to talk to, I began a conversation with nature. My thoughts were broadcast out over the plains towards the mountains, and other ideas were sent back…” I love silence, spending time in nature, and being on my own. When I was in South West England recently, I spent a rainy Saturday afternoon…

Finding the courage to start afresh with Murakami in Killing Commendatore

When I talk to people about Haruki Murakami, I tend to divide his work (perhaps unfairly) into two broad areas: 1. escaping to the mountains to drink coffee, make pasta, and listen to jazz; and 2. heading into the underworld to meet talking cats, magical beauties, and all manner of untold mysteries. Although the weirdness…

Consolations of the Forest: Alone in a Cabin in the Middle Taiga by Sylvain Tesson

I have a soft spot for escaping from the world. I also love escaping into books. Books about escaping from the world? Irresistible. Enter Consolations of the Forest: Alone in a Cabin in the Middle Taiga by Sylvain Tesson…   “REASONS WHY I’M LIVING ALONE IN A CABIN I talked too much I wanted silence…

12 takeaways from Notes on a Nervous Planet for anxious days

When it comes to writing about mental health, Matt Haig is right up there at the top. His 2015 memoir, Reasons to Stay Alive, soared up the UK bestseller charts, and his newest book – Notes on a Nervous Planet – is worth your while to nab a copy of. We’re living in an anxious…

Thinking about life with From a Low and Quiet Sea by Donal Ryan

Though some books are small, they can definitely be mighty. Such is the case with From a Low and Quiet Sea by Donal Ryan. I came upon it last month, after looking for short and beautiful stories that would follow on nicely from I Found My Tribe, another product of Ireland. I adored Donal Ryan’s writing –…

Educated by Tara Westover and how learning can change the course of a life

How do I start talking about Educated by Tara Westover? I’ll try with this: I was recommended the book by my boyfriend, who is studying for a Ph.D. in chemistry. He has postgraduate education in common with the author, Tara Westover. But he doesn’t have many other things in common, and especially not a Mormon…

I Found My Tribe by Ruth Fitzmaurice: wild swimming, coping, and finding your people

I tend to read more slowly now than when I was younger, usually taking a week or two to read a book. But every so often something comes along that changes that. A few months ago, I spent a snowy weekend reading A Whole Life by Robert Seethaler. And more recently, I read I Found…

19 quotes for people who love books from Books for Living: A Reader’s Guide to Life by Will Schwalbe

Will Schwalbe’s Books for Living: a Reader’s Guide to Life was published earlier this year, five years after The End of Your Life Book Club. Back in January, I wrote about how Books for Living had helped me to slow down, make time for the important stuff, and ask others more often, “What are you reading?” Since writing my…

Books for Living: a reader’s guide to life by Will Schwalbe – a reminder to slow down and savour life

Every once in a while, a book comes along that gets me really excited about other books. The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe was one of them. When I read it back in 2013, it came at precisely the right time. I was twenty, working for a tech startup in Barcelona for a year,…

Stargazing as therapy: reminders to look up at the night sky from Tim Ferriss, BJ Miller, Ed Cooke

One of my favourite books of 2016 was Tools of Titans: The Tactics, Routines, and Habits of Billionaires, Icons, and World-Class Performers by Tim Ferriss. It was also one of the longest I read last year, at 704 pages for the hardcover. The title of the book is intriguing, and it delivers too. The content is…

Living and hiking the literary heritage of Tolkien in the Swiss Alps

Looking out of my window at the Reichenbach Falls and the mountains above it comes with a small sense of triumph. I have hiked over them to reach Grindelwald on one hike and more recently Chaltenbrunnen, the reddish Hochmoor (or upland moor) at 1875m. The landscape is awe-inspiring here and, of course, more so as…

Making your life an epic adventure with The Gutsy Girl by Caroline Paul

I read The Gutsy Girl: Escapades for Your Life of Epic Adventure by Caroline Paul when I was travelling in Greenland in June 2016. I had first heard about Caroline Paul a few months before, in her Tim Ferriss podcast, and fell in love with her incredible bio (including credentials such as lunger, firefighter, paraglider, author,…

Salute the life you didn’t choose with help from Cheryl Strayed

One of the biggest changes in my last five years came during EMDR therapy, when my therapist asked me to imagine my ten-year-old self. He then asked me to tell her she was safe and had a good life ahead of her. This all sounds like generic therapy stuff, but I think it really was…

On living like Thoreau (or creating your modern version of Walden)

Since I first read Walden, Henry David Thoreau’s account of his decision to live deliberately, I’ve dreamt a little of staging my own retreat into the woods. Like many an introverted, nature-loving bookworm, I’m sure. More than once I’ve googled modern-day walden to see what comes up (not too much, it seems, although “The Terror and…

Exploring the world with Tennyson to overcome anxiety: “for my purpose holds to sail beyond the sunset”

It can be very easy to stay in your own corner of the world, especially after building a life there that can’t just be picked up and moved. But when courage calls you, it’s often a signal for you to act on it. During more transient times of our lives, this could mean packing a…

Designing a life that makes you as happy as possible

I’m proud of the life I’ve designed for myself. “Designed” might seem a bit too moulded (how much can we really control?) but I think it’s the right word. This piece is about how I’ve created the best framework for my life, creativity, and wellbeing by making the right choices available to me. It’s about…

On going about your own life when a loved one is suffering: W. H. Auden’s “Musée des Beaux Arts”

After I spent some time memorising Tennyson’s “Ulysses”, I decided to move on to learning W. H. Auden’s “Musée des Beaux Arts” by heart. There are a few reasons for this. One, it’s probably my favourite poem by Auden: I first encountered it during my second year of university, and the poem and my lecturer’s…

Reading tip: how to get your Kindle highlights and notes on your computer (and sync to Evernote)

As a general rule, I love paperbacks. And of course hardbacks. But I like reading on my Kindle because it’s portable. Also, I highlight an obscene amount in the books I read that I read, and I have a way of importing these highlights into an easier format on my laptop. This comes in very…

Haruki Murakami on travelling light (and just getting up and going)

When I’m travelling, I like to read Haruki Murakami. I like the clean writing style of his books, but also their otherworldliness. Last weekend I spent two nights in Chamonix, travelling over the Swiss border into France, and finished up A Wild Sheep Chase before getting the train home. It was a good case of…

Is there anything to gain from reading a novel as sad as A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara?

I mentioned in my last article, 18 recommended books for winter, that I was reading A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara. I’ve now finished it, and – to sum up my immediate thoughts – it was turmoil. A Little Life is a painfully sad book, and I wonder if many other readers feel prepared for this.…

Tolstoy on doing “a lot of bad things, without wishing to – simply from imitating grown-ups”

When researching Tolstoy, I find myself noticing a common theme of failure: of not being quite good enough, of not carrying out goals, and of getting into all kinds of trouble. In War and Peace, there’s Pierre’s bumbling insecurity and failure to live up to expectations in the early stages of the novel, culminating in…

“The universe is made of stories, not atoms”: 10 reasons to tell your story, as inspired by Bobette Buster’s Do Story

Bobette Buster, a story consultant, lecturer and screenwriter, covers a huge amount in the 112 pages of Do Story.    The book – one of the “inspirational pocket guidebooks” by the independent publishing house The Do Book Company – is a beautifully inspiring exploration of storytelling, but is perhaps more so an encouragement to accept vulnerability…

“Works which made an impression”: Leo Tolstoy’s favourite books from each stage of his life

Tolstoy, 1895. Published by Cassell and Co,  NY, 1911. In 1891, a Petersburg publisher (who was undergoing the impressive feat of asking 2,000 influential luminaries for their favourite books) contacted Leo Tolstoy to ask about the books that had influenced him. Somewhat characteristically considering his love for lists, Tolstoy grouped his recommendations into the five stages…

“All things are at odds when God lets a thinker loose on this planet”: Edith Hamilton and sexism in education, succeeding as a woman, and exploring like the Greeks

Edith Hamilton visiting Greek ruins, 1957. Photo by James Whimore. In 1958, when Edith Hamilton was ninety-one years old, Life magazine declared her to be the world’s “greatest living woman classicist”. She lived to the age of ninety-five, and was described by The New York Times as the classical scholar who “brought into clear and brilliant…

The power of a sunset: how Viktor Frankl & Tolstoy’s Pierre Bezukhov are lifted from hardship by the beauty of nature

Despite experiencing unimaginable hardship during the Holocaust, Viktor Frankl describes in Man’s Search for Meaning how he was able to admire the beauty of a sunset like never before: If someone had seen our faces on the journey from Auschwitz to a Bavarian camp as we beheld the mountains of Salzburg with their summits glowing in…

Nick Cave’s chosen “sad poem of loss”: “The Widower in the Country” by Les Murray

Ubud Writers & Readers Festival 2012. Image credit Sally May Mills.  I was very saddened to hear the news of Nick Cave’s son; the family facing a tragic accident not far from where I live in Sussex. It reminded me of the musician’s selection for the Poems That Make Grown Men Cry anthology (edited by Anthony and…

Allen Ginsberg on never working again (and living a “literary and quiet city-hermit existence” instead)

Carl Solomon, Patti Smith, Allen Ginsberg and William S. Burroughs at the Gotham Book Mart celebrating the reissue of JUNKY, NYC, 1977. I recently came across a wonderful quote from Allen Ginsberg, the Beat Generation poet best known for his incredible epic poem “Howl” (“I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness…”),…

Kierkegaard on how “if one just keeps on walking, everything will be all right”

Unfinished sketch of Kierkegaard by his cousin  Niels Christian Kierkegaard, c. 1840 I finished my undergraduate degree last month, and since then I’ve spent a few weeks travelling. One of the stops was Copenhagen, where I decided to make Søren Kierkegaard a focal point of my wanderings: the Danish philosopher and father of existentialism whose work…

Tolstoy’s Pierre Bezukhov on why being knocked off course is “only the start of something new and good”

My favourite translation by Anthony Briggs and published by Penguin. A fortnight ago I submitted my undergraduate dissertation, which consisted of eight thousand words on Pierre Bezukhov’s transformation from “absolute scoundrel” to “a man of such value to society” in Tolstoy’s War and Peace. My argument: Pierre does not reach perfection, but rather a state of increased…

‘Feast on your life’: Tom Hiddleston on Derek Walcott’s “Love After Love” for accepting ourselves

  I read it to my dearest friends after dinner once, and to my family at Christmas, and they started crying. Which always, unfailingly, makes me cry. – Tom Hiddleston on “Love After Love” by Derek Walcott Derek Walcott, a Saint Lucian poet and playwright. VIII Festival Internacional de Poesía en Granada, 2012. Source. In Poems…

Lessons on failure from Pierre in Tolstoy’s War and Peace

I’ve posted before about Tolstoy’s “Rules of Life” and desire for self-improvement, both of which generally led to failure rather than any real progression. War and Peace tells a similar story, as my university dissertation research into Pierre Bezukhov’s path from “absolute scoundrel” to splendid husband and father suggests. Sketch of Pierre by M.S. Bashilov, to…

Navigating a Confusing World with Whitman’s “Of the Terrible Doubt of Appearances”

Walt Whitman photographed at his home in Camden, New Jersey. Samuel Murray, 1891. “Of the Terrible Doubt of Appearances” by Walt Whitman is included in my favourite poetry anthology of last year, Poems That Make Grown Men Cry by Anthony and Ben Holden. It is chosen by Stephen Fry in the collection, and it’s also alleged to…

Amusing books and blazing fires: Sydney Smith’s 20 antidotes to depression and low spirits

One of my favourite additions to Shaun Usher’s perfect-for-browsing collection of noteworthy lists, Lists of Note, is that of essayist and clergyman Sydney Smith. Sent to Lady Georgiana Morpeth in February 1820, Smith listed twenty pieces of advice to help his good friend overcome a bout of depression. Sydney Smith, wit and provider of goodadvice. Judging…

Levin on The Joy of Retreating into Nature (Reasons to Read Anna Karenina, Part II)

I wrote last month about “literary retreats”, or novels about retreating into relaxing and recuperative settings that can’t help but calm us too. Re-reading Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy has given me an interesting take on this – while the novel is often depicted as a romance or romantic tragedy (a little unfairly), there are essentially…

Ernest Hemingway’s list of 16 books we ought to read, including War and Peace and Anna Karenina

In 1934, a young American with aspirations to become a writer hiked across America to meet Ernest Hemingway in his Florida home. After knocking at the author’s door, Hemingway gave the young man, Arnold Samuelson, some advice. Firstly, he warned not to compete against contemporary authors, but rather writers of the past that haven’t yet been forgotten.…

Aung San Suu Kyi’s favourite books, including John le Carré, Austen & WWI poetry

BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs makes for intriguing listening. Each episode invites the chosen castaway (a celebrity or important figure of lesser or greater fame or virtue) to choose eight pieces of music, a book (in addition to the Bible – or religious text – and The Complete Works of Shakespeare) and a luxury…

“Head and shoulders above the others”: What James Joyce Thought of Leo Tolstoy

Stephen Longstreet, Elliot Paul and James Joyce, 1927 James Joyce wrote to his brother, Stanislaus, in September 1905 at the age of 23: As for Tolstoy I disagree with you altogether. Tolstoy is a magnificent writer. He is never dull, never stupid, never tired, never pedantic, never theatrical! He is head and shoulders over the…

Retreating into a Book for Bibliotherapy: 8 of the Best Retreats in Fiction

I’m convinced that when we read about characters retreating into settings that allow them to recuperate and relax, we undergo a similar process. Here are a few of my favourite literary retreats – they might just help you too.   1. The Pyrenees mountains in The South by Colm Tóibín   Calm, quiet days in…

Brooklyn by Colm Tóibín: A Novel About Transforming Ourselves That’s Inspired by Austen

Colm Tóibín is a writer I know a fair bit about yet have never properly read. Until now, that is (one of the great benefits of taught literature modules being that you must read writers you’d otherwise skate around). When researching my blog article about novels set in Barcelona before moving there, Tóibín was right at…

Reasons to Read Anna Karenina, Part 1: The Authenticity of Levin

I shared some thoughts on the introduction to Rosamund Bartlett’s translation of Anna Karenina at the start of October, happy to have found a new edition of Tolstoy’s classic novel. War and Peace has always seemed to win more of my attention, but I think that’s largely due to the diversity of translations available and the…

5 Tips for Reading, Understanding & Enjoying James Joyce

I’m currently studying a modern Irish literature module, and I’m enjoying every moment of it. I’ve never read Joyce in an academic setting before, and I thought it could go one of two ways: it could help me to enjoy Joyce’s writing more, or it could simply make it less fun. I’m pleased to say…

Initial Thoughts on Rosamund Bartlett’s Translation of Anna Karenina

I don’t give Anna Karenina enough attention here on Tolstoy Therapy. In fact, I’ve never given the novel it’s own, dedicated post. Now that Rosamund Bartlett, author of my most-loved Tolstoy biography, has translated the novel, this will certainly change. In fact, the one translation I’ve read of Anna Karenina was the Pevear and Volokhonsky. I…

Reading W.B. Yeats’s “An Irish Airman Foresees His Death” as a Meditation on Life

Today I’m sharing with you something that’s a little different. I’ve just started a university module on Modern Irish Literature, and this week’s focus is on W.B. Yeats. While I was tempted to write a little about “The Lake Isle of Innisfree” to help us to envisage relaxing settings, I decided to embrace the unpredictable…

If You Don’t Know Where to Go in Life, Try Reading War and Peace

I write a lot about Pierre Bezukhov, one of the main characters in Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace. I’ve suggested how he can help us to appreciate life’s simple pleasures and even overcome anxiety, as a character which so many first-time readers of the Russian masterpiece find themselves relating to. In this quick post (which I’m compiling during a break…

Study Success: 11 Books & Articles to Help Students Hack Their Education

Today’s article is slightly different from what I’d normally write about, but I’ll use the excuse that the next academic year is approaching. Also, perhaps one or two of my readers are students (do lifelong students count?) I’ve always enjoyed reading about learning techniques and study hacks, particularly when it comes to increasing efficiency and…

Poetry for Letting Go: In Blackwater Woods by Mary Oliver

Lately I’ve been reflecting on good poems to learn by heart, and “In Blackwater Woods” by Mary Oliver has caught my attention. I think this piece is applicable to both life’s challenges and quieter plateaus, so I’d say it fits my unwritten requirements for memorised verse. I know that the following lines will help me…

Visiting Dove Cottage to better enjoy William Wordsworth’s poetry

I recently spent three days in the English Lake District, which could only mean one thing: a mandatory visit to Dove Cottage, William Wordsworth’s home between 1799 – 1808. Located in Grasmere, a short but idyllic bus journey from Windermere, fans of Romanticism – or any other reader or visitor – can tour the 400-year-old…

I Am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes: One of The Best Thrillers Ever Written?

As I was approaching London Charing Cross on the train last month, I saw a nearby passenger completely engrossed in a book. He got off the train with the pages still open and sat down on a bench just opposite the train doors to finish his page. Later that same day, I heard the same…

What Leo Tolstoy Can Teach Us About Overcoming Anxiety

Tolstoy at the time of writing War andPeace, 1868. Image source. While on a trip to the Penza region in 1869 to look at some land he was interested in buying, Tolstoy stopped overnight at a hotel in the Russian town of Arzamas. Despite feeling ‘perfectly well’ and tired after travelling, at two o’clock in…

Books or Marriage? The Dilemma of Charles Darwin in 1838

 My God, it is intolerable to think of spending one’s whole life, like a neuter bee, working, working and nothing after all.— Darwin in 1854, aged 45, then working towards publishing On the Origin of Species It’s July 1838, and Charles Darwin has just returned from a break in Scotland to remedy his overwork. Upon…

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s Idea of ‘Flow’ & How We Can Create it by Reading Great Fiction

Flow: a brilliant book which remindsus to get reading great fiction. I’ve noticed that Flow: The Psychology of Optimum Experience by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi has been mentioned in so many books I’ve been reading lately. Lisa Zunshine’s Why We Read Fiction is the first example which comes to mind, but I know there are many other instances.…

James Joyce’s Daughter and the Possible Influence of Her Schizophrenia on Finnegans Wake

Paris, 1929: Lucia Joyce dances at Bullier Ball. Lucia Joyce, born 1907 to James Joyce and Nora Barnacle, learned Italian as her first language, studied ballet as a teenager, and was believed to have casually dated Samuel Beckett. However, after being diagnosed with schizophrenia in Zurich, Lucia was sent to an institute in Ivry-sur-Seine, France,…

“Let My Country Awake” by Rabindranath Tagore to Inspire Individual and Social Change

Reading the Poems That Make Grown Men Cry anthology by Anthony and Ben Holden has introduced me to so many wonderful poems, poets and – perhaps most of all – stories, especially those of the ‘grown men’ who chose the collection’s one hundred poems. One such story was by Salil Shetty, Indian-born human rights activist…

Proust on How the Finest Friendships Can be Made by Reading Fiction

Forming friendships with characters we look up to, see ourselves in, and aspire to be like must be one of the greatest gifts of reading fiction. It’s easy to scoff at the idea that we can become friends with fictional characters, but Marcel Proust makes a convincing argument in Sur la lecture that it’s the…

Why You Should Reread Your Favourite Novels (Again and Again)

“Master those books you have. Read them thoroughly. Bathe in them until they saturate you. Read and reread them…digest them. Let them go into your very self. Peruse a good book several times and make notes and analyses of it.”-Charles Haddon Spurgeon, Lectures to My Students   Some readers may find rereading illogical: why return…

What The Secret History by Donna Tartt Can Tell Us About Cultivating a Love for Learning

For if the modern mind is whimsical and discursive, the classical mind is narrow, unhesitating, relentless. It is not a quality of intelligence that one encounters frequently these days. But though I can digress with the best of them, I am nothing in my soul if not obsessive. ―The Secret History I should have read…

Keeping Poets Alive: Why You Should Know About Jack Clemo

Clemo’s Selected Poems, publishedby Bloodaxe Books (out of print butavailable second hand) How do we ensure that a writer’s work continues to be read? Over the past few years I’ve been working to do this for León Felipe, and I’ve come to believe that “so long as men can breathe or eyes can see” is…

Robert Frost: A Homesick Poet Stuck Mid-Atlantic?

On the point of returning to the United States from England, where he had lived from 1912-1915, Robert Frost wrote in a letter to a friend: “England has become half my native land – England the victorious” (“Selected Letters”). This is one of the more outward signs that Frost was facing a sense of physical…

Reading Fiction Doesn’t Mean You’re Lonely (but Non-fiction Might) (Fiction on the Brain, Part III)

If you read a lot, others may have implied – or even told you directly – that you’re socially awkward or lonely because of this. However, upon delving further into the psychological, social and cultural aspects of reading fiction, I’ve come across fascinating research to suggest otherwise. “Bookworms versus nerds: Exposure to fiction versus non-fiction,…

A Bibliotherapy Plan for OCD, Including Perfect by Rachel Joyce

I’ve written before about Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), although not in terms of books which could provide sufferers with characters to relate to and feel reassured by. However, Rachel Joyce’s latest novel, Perfect, has got me thinking about this. In 1972, two seconds were added to time. It was in order to balance clock time…

12 Life Lessons to Gain From Reading Leo Tolstoy

After completing a considerable chunk of Tolstoy’s major works, I’ve been thinking about the lessons that I’ve gained through my hours, days or even weeks, of reading.  Here are the twelve life lessons that come to mind first, which I’d like to share with you alongside some favourite quotes. After all, what better benefit of reading…

Why Do We Enjoy Reading Fiction? (Fiction on the Brain, Part I)

Why do we enjoy reading fiction? It seems like a simple question to answer; a question that’s not really worth asking at all, perhaps. However, Keith Oatley’s fascinating Such Stuff as Dreams: The Psychology of Fiction doesn’t leave such matters unturned. I’ve explored Oatley’s ideas before (here), and his superb interpretations of fiction and psychology couldn’t be…

Tolstoy on the Importance of Books and Literacy in Prisons

“When you are free you don’t have such a painful desire to read as you have in prison. You can get any book at home, in the shops or from the internet. In prison books become the air. Your body needs air to breathe. No books – you cannot breathe. And if you cannot breathe…

Coffee and Literature: Readers Who Love it, Writers Who Need it

“Reading in bed can be heaven, assuming you can get just the right amount of light on the page and aren’t prone to spilling your coffee or cognac on the sheets. ” ― Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft Read Daily Rituals by Mason Currey for more on the habits (coffee-related and otherwise)…

Feeling Grateful After Reading Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption by Stephen King

Gratitude in the movie adaptation of Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption by Stephen King. Image source. “I was down here in the supermarket, and this old woman comes around the corner […] – obviously one of the kind of women who says whatever is on her brain. She said, ‘I know who you are, you…

How Reading A Game of Thrones Can Help Us to Cultivate Courage

I’ve written before about how brilliant I think George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series is. The series begins with A Game of Thrones, the book that most of us are used to hearing about, and with each book I want to write more about it. The first cover of the stunning…

A Book for Life: Wind, Sand and Stars by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

“Behind all seen things lies something vaster; everything is but a path, a portal or a window opening on something other than itself. ” – Wind, Sand and Stars by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry I read The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry some years ago, but I’d never looked into the author’s life or other…

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt: Beauty of Music, Art & Life

The Goldfinch: a novel of great art and beauty For some reason, over the last few months I’d been thinking of The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt as a book quite like The Luminaries, although after finishing both I’ve realised that it must just be because they’re long and were released around the same time. The…

Books Can Heal: Bibliotherapy and The Effect of Reading on the Brain

Reading on the brain: is bibliotherapy goodfor our health? Image source. I’m certain that reading has had a positive effect on my brain, my health and the way I live my life. I often encourage readers to find positive books to help their wellbeing, problem-solving abilities and attitude to life, but it’s worth thinking about…

On War & Peace: My Problems With The Pevear & Volokhonsky Translation (Part II)

  My well-worn copy of War and Peace.   I recently shared the reasons why I enjoyed the Anthony Briggs translation of War and Peace more than the popular Pevear and Volokhonsky. However, there were a few points I decided to leave for another post, including: side-by-side comparisons of the two translations and an investigation into…

Dubliners by James Joyce: Short Stories with Life Lessons

Today I’ll be sharing with you an analysis of James Joyce’s Dubliners, probably my favourite short story collection, by Brian over at Babbling Books.  Brian’s been a long-term reader of the blog, and I always look forward to his comments and his own blog posts. Therefore, I was clearly excited when we started discussing guest…

On War & Peace: My Problems With The Pevear & Volokhonsky Translation (Part I)

    What are your thoughts on the Pevear and Volokhonsky translation of Tolstoy’s War and Peace? I decided about a year ago that I’d like to re-read Tolstoy’s War and Peace every summer (this post may help to explain such madness). The first two times I read the almighty tome, I picked up the…

Quotes for Post-its: Theodore Roosevelt’s ‘The Man in the Arena’ Speech

I’m a great believer in quotes, and Theodore Roosevelt’s ‘The Man in the Arena’ speech is one of my favourites. Brené Brown’s TED Talk helped me truly appreciate it, and it’s a passage that we’d all do well to remember, whether to help us through love, life, business, health or something completely different. “A quote…

Reading OCD: A Confession of Why I’m Not Reading

Yesterday evening I was planning to wind down with my Kindle and a cup of my ‘buenas noches’ tea. I’ve been looking forward to reading Brené Brown’s Daring Greatly for a long time now, ever since I first watched her TED talks, and I think it’s the perfect time for me to learn from her…

A Book About Books: The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe

The End of Your Life Book Club: a bibliotherapeutic book for booklovers!Image source. “Why didn’t I buy the paperback edition?” is the question that I seem to be forever asking myself these days. It generally happens after I read something remarkable and I want to share it with everyone. The End of Your Life Book Club…

TED Talks for PTSD and Trauma

This post was previously integrated with my TED Talks for Social Anxiety & Shyness post, but I’ve decided to do some blog spring cleaning. On the original post Helen kindly thanked me for including her TED talk, which I’m very grateful for! I watch a lot of TED talks, and the ones I’ve listed here…

Philosophical Healing: Life Lessons from Kierkegaard by Robert Ferguson

In my last post  I mentioned a lovely new ‘Life Lessons From Great Thinkers’ series from The School of Life, consisting of a selection of books that outline the teachings of various philosophers and consider how we can apply these to our own lives. While I somehow stopped myself from buying Life Lessons From Kierkegaard by Robert…

Five TED Talks for Low Self-Esteem

This post isn’t about literature, but it is about words. Powerful ones. A lot of people come to my blog via my TED talks for anxiety post, and I hope that this piece on TED talks for low self-esteem can be as relevant. I’ve never been graced with a great deal of self-esteem. Now I’m…

Tolstoy’s A Calendar of Wisdom: The Best Self-Help Guide for Modern Life?

My Scribner edition of A Calendar of Wisdom: Daily Thoughts to Nourish the Soul, translated by Peter Sekirin Despite my love for the great Russian author, until recently I had heard very little about A Calendar of Wisdom: Daily Thoughts to Nourish the Soul by Leo Tolstoy. This was Tolstoy’s last published work, and the book…

Regeneration by Pat Barker: Shell Shock, War Poets, and Great Friendships

Postcards of Siegfried Sassoon. Image fromPinterest. I always enjoy reading about novelists, poets and characters that I have some sort of connection with. This is perhaps why I enjoyed Regeneration so much: it tells of Siegfriend Sassoon, a poet who was born in Kent, twenty minutes from where my family and I have always lived.…

Edward Thomas: A Poet Who Spoke of England, Depression and Not Belonging

The solemn expression of Edward ThomasPhotograph: Hulton Archive/Getty Born in 1878, Edward Thomas, the Anglo-Welsh poet and essayist, only turned to writing poetry in 1914, three years before his death in 1917. Edward Thomas and Robert Frost: a great poetic friendship His turn to poetry was largely the result of encouragement from Robert Frost, a…

How Books Help Charlie’s Mental Health in The Perks of Being a Wallflower (Stephen Chbosky)

I posted about The Perks of Being a Wallflower and mental health last October, shortly after seeing the film production. However, after re-reading the novel by Stephen Chbosky today (I first read it in 2011), I’ve decided that another post is required. The Perks of Being a Wallflower: growing up and mental health. Image source: Pinterest Charlie…

Bibliotherapy and TV’s Mad Men: Frank O’Hara’s ‘Mayakovsky’ and Meditations in an Emergency

Mad Men has quickly become a favourite television show of mine, and I loved the reference to Frank O’Hara in episode one of the second series. O’Hara is not a poet that I know well, although I love the passage that Don Draper reads from ‘Mayakovsky‘ (found in Meditations in an Emergency): Now I am…

The best fiction (and non fiction) books set in Barcelona

Gaudi architecture in Barcelona (Casa Mila) As some may know, I will be spending my next university year in Spain for a year abroad. I have chosen Barcelona, an easy choice for me with its location, the Catalan language and, primarily, its culture. There’s Gaudi’s impressive architecture, the Sagrada Família, and the National Museum of…

Childhood, Boyhood, Youth by Leo Tolstoy: Themes of Shyness and Self-Improvement

Leo Tolstoy began Childhood, Boyhood, Youth – a trilogy – in his early twenties. It is a vibrant account of a young person’s emerging awareness of the world, himself, and the people around him, as described through the eyes of Nikolenka. Themes of shyness, self-image and self-improvement permeate the book, yet we are also exposed…

Logotherapy & Stoicism in Viktor E. Frankl’s Man’s Search For Meaning

Raby Castle, the Seat of the Earl of Darlington (1817) – J.M.W. Turner  Image from Wikipedia I first read Man’s Search For Meaning a few months ago, but I’ve only just felt ready to write about it. It’s such an immensely provoking piece to read, and as a reader you feel quite unsettled after reading some…

Charles Dickens’ Tour of America, as Described in American Notes

After reading Claire Tomalin’s fascinating biography of Dickens last year, I had some prior knowledge of his voyage to America in 1842. Yet actually reading the account of his travels in American Notes was so insightful, and it really changed my perceptions of the author and his character. He actually spent time around children, used…

A Painful Case by James Joyce: Dubliners, Nietzsche, Loneliness

Last week, with my home bookshelves to hand alongside a lack of work, I spent some time revisiting James Joyce’s Dubliners. I posted not long ago about the collection – particularly “The Dead” – but I recently found another story that resonated with me and kept coming to mind. I had read it before, but…

The Garden of Evening Mists by Tan Twan Eng: Finding Strength in Poetry

The Garden of Evening Mists by Tan Twan Eng, a novel set in Malaya. Image source. The Garden of Evening Mists is such a beautifully written story of strength, courage and the passing of time. It is the second novel by Tan Twan Eng to be nominated for the Man Booker Prize: his first novel, The Gift of Rain,…

My Experience of EMDR Therapy for PTSD and trauma

I hope that those interested in EMDR therapy will find this post useful. However, this is a long post – you’ve been warned! Why did I feel I needed EMDR? If you’ve been following my blog or Twitter, you probably know that I have recently undergone EMDR therapy, or eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (yeah,…

Susan Cain’s “Quiet”: The Power of Introverts & My Experience of Social Anxiety Disorder

As an introvert who has been diagnosed with social anxiety disorder, I could really relate to “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking“. It’s written by Susan Cain, a lovely lady who I briefly discussed in my “Five TED Talks for Social Anxiety” post. Cain explores the difference between introverts…

Life as a Journey – Ithaca by Constantine P. Cavafy

Some time ago, a reader of my blog named Rafael recommended me the poem “Ithaca” by Constantine P. Cavafy. I’d never come across it before, but I’m so glad that I read it. “Ithaca” is based on Homer’s account of Odysseus’s journey home. With this influence, the poem has so much to say about life in all…

My First EMDR Session for PTSD and Trauma

Image of EMDR from http://drkathleenyoung.files.wordpress.com On Tuesday I began “Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing” therapy, or EMDR to keep it simple. I came into the session already quite tired, after a busy and stressful day of classes and presentations, and the therapy took any energy I had left out of me. The therapist began by asking…

The Poem M Reads in Skyfall: A Quote From Tennyson’s Ulysses

I went to go and see the new Bond film last night, and must say I really enjoyed it. There was plenty of action, humour, and “Britishness” – everything that a Bond film needs, really. At one point M quoted Tennyson, a moment which was always going to be a winner with me. You can…

Five TED Talks for Social Anxiety and Shyness

I could spend hours watching TED talks: there are so many videos of educational and inspirational value to enjoy. It’s certainly twenty minutes well spent, as you not only learn through watching, but you also feel inspired to get off your bottom and do something. It’s hard to slob out on the sofa after viewing J.K.…

Family Happiness, The Tolstoy Book Mentioned in Into the Wild

I wanted to read Tolstoy’s Family Happiness after watching Into the Wild a few months ago: an emotional, philosophical film based on John Krakauer’s biography of Christopher McCandless in which the book is mentioned. In 1992, McCandless decided to leave his comfortable American home to hike into the Alaskan wilderness and find the solitude and connection with…

The Perks of Being a Wallflower: Mental Health, PTSD, and Literature

Sam, played by Emma Watson, and Charlie, who appears to have PTSD, by Logan Lerman.  From guardian.co.uk Perhaps I enjoyed watching the film adaptation of The Perks of Being a Wallflower so much because the novel’s author, Stephen Chbosky, directed it. Judging by the frequency of his name on the credits, he did most the work. Therefore, it seemed incredibly…

My Thoughts on 1Q84: Appearance, Ushikawa & Perfection

Haruki Murakami. From guardian.co.uk. I’ve mentioned before that I was a little underwhelmed by 1Q84. It did hold the magic that Murakami inspires into his writing, but the plot didn’t seem to be going in a very clear direction. I enjoyed the second book of the series most, and the third book the least (it…

Michel de Montaigne: Self-Esteem and the Quotes on his Ceiling

  The loveable philosopher himself. Michel de Montaigne knew a lot about low self-esteem. He realised how the achievements of others can make us feel less worthy, despite being a lawyer, twice mayor of Bordeaux and a friend of the King of France. He understood what makes us feel bad about ourselves, largely: bodily worries,…

Thoughts on How Proust Can Change Your Life by Alain de Botton

“Let us be grateful to the people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.” Firstly, a confession: I’ve never read anything by Marcel Proust before. I’ve also never read anything by Alain de Botton, the famous Swiss philosopher. Despite all of these lapses in my literary knowledge, I…

Thoughts on Elizabeth von Arnim’s “The Solitary Summer”

  “I want to be alone for a whole summer, and get to the very dregs of life. I want to be as idle as I can, so that my soul may have time to grow. Nobody shall be invited to stay with me, and if anyone calls they will be told that I am…

Translation of Lorca’s Romance de la luna, luna

The moon last night was incredible: nearly full, and almost orange. I love nights like that, especially if the stars are clear too. As I live in the countryside, they usually are. I was reminded of the poem “Romance de la luna, luna” by Lorca, included in the Romancero Gitano (or Gypsy Ballads) collection. A…

Thoughts on In the Penal Colony by Franz Kafka

We sell a few of the Penguin Mini Modern Classics at work – they’re lovely slim short stories that cost a mere £3.00. This Franz Kafka edition, containing In the Penal Colony and The Judgement, only amounts to eighty pages. Therefore I could easily read it during a work shift. As the story is so short,…

Che’s Poetry: I Don’t Know Why You Think by Nicolás Guillén

Today’s poem is No Sé Por Qué Piensas Tú by Nicolás Guillén, a Cuban poet who studied law at the University of Havana before working as a typographer and journalist. He was also a political activist, which perhaps is a reason why Guevara included his poems in his notebook. When I’m translating a poem from…

A Poem Worthy of Our Attention: “Brief Thoughts on Maps” by Miroslav Holub

The Alps, not the Pyrenees. Image source The poem below was mentioned in the book I posted about earlier, The Idle Traveller by Dan Kieran. I love poems that inspire me, or cause me to smile unexpectedly, and this poem certainly delivers. I’d like to find more of Holub’s work. His poems – originally written in…

A Review of The Idle Traveller: The Art of Slow Travel by Dan Kieran

Work was quiet yesterday, and so I decided – as I was in a bookshop after all – to read. I’d been eyeing up “The Idle Traveller: The Art of Slow Travel” by Dan Kieran for a while now; largely because of its artistic cover, I admit. I finished it during my shift (yes, it…

Will Smith’s Inspirational Quote on Running and Reading

Will Smith is an inspiring guy. When he was thirteen, his father asked him and his younger brother to knock down a brick wall. When they had done this, he asked them to rebuild it. They replied that this was impossible, but a year and a half later, they had succeeded. Perhaps his willpower is…

Thoughts on Sputnik Sweetheart by Haruki Murakami

Image from www.goodreads.com I read Murakami’s work far too quickly; his writing has a really fresh, contemporary feel to it that’s so different to any other fiction. I was talking to my boss at work about Murakami, and he said how his favourite novel by him was Sputnik Sweetheart. I had not read it, and…

A Reading of A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens in The Dark Knight Rises

Two leading actors in The Dark Knight Rises, a film with a lovely reading from Dickens. The Dark Knight Rises is a very long film indeed, and Bane is a horrible character. But I got through it. Towards the end – I won’t give away any spoilers – there was a moment that helped me…

The Therapeutic Value of The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius

I love Aurelius’s Stoic philosophy. Meditations is pretty much the first self-help book ever written, and to my eyes it is better than those around today. For me it’s like a resource, to refer back to and dwell upon regularly. It mainly covers death, the universe as one entity, the importance of the present, and the…

A Movie About Tolstoy’s Life: The Last Station (2009)

This evening I finally watched The Last Station, a film about Tolstoy’s life. I actually really enjoyed it, although I wasn’t sure about the rather harsh portrayal of his wife. I’m glad it was mentioned that she copied out War and Peace seven times – that’s quite a secure show of dedication. Sofya really was…

Che Guevara’s “Cuaderno Verde” (Green Notebook) and León Felipe

When Che Guevara was shot by the CIA in 1967, he was found with few possessions in a little backpack. There were twelve rolls of film, maps drawn with coloured pencils, a portable radio that hadn’t worked for some time, a pair of diaries and a green notebook. The latter item, Guevara’s “Cuaderno Verde”, contained…

Tolstoy’s ‘Rules of Life’, Perfectionism and Constant Self-Improvement

Tolstoy aged 79 in 1908 Last month I wrote a post about being inspired by literature, mentioning Tolstoy’s perfectionist tendencies that are very alike my own. I’ll talk more about his perfectionism and ‘Rules of Life’ here, and in particular write about his “Journal of Daily Activities” (mentioned in Rosamund Bartlett’s biography of Tolstoy). Tolstoy began…

“Innocent Holy Foolishness”: How Leo Tolstoy Dealt with Grief by Cycling

Tolstoy with his bicycle, next to his wife. Tolstoy was sixty-five when he took up bicycling on a British-made “safety bicycle” just coming into fashion in Russia. He began taking lessons held in the Moscow Manège, a long classical building used for parades (where he’d also learned to fence). After showing the police his proficiency, he obtained…

Introductions

When choosing a name for your first blog, I’ve discovered that it seems to just come to you. It doesn’t have immense amounts of reasoning or consideration behind it, but it simply means something to you. Last week I finished university for the summer, which means I have absolutely nothing on my agenda until October…