• All
  • accepting ourselves
  • admiring the world
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  • calming books
  • change
  • confidence
  • courage
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  • depression
  • designing your life
  • escaping from hectic life
  • exploring the world
  • failure
  • feel-good
  • finding direction
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  • inspiring
  • introversion
  • know yourself
  • living well
  • loss
  • low mood
  • meaning and purpose
  • meditation
  • mental strength
  • mindfulness
  • mood-boosting books
  • OCD
  • on love
  • persevering through hardship
  • ptsd
  • reading for wellbeing
  • relaxation
  • self care
  • self-esteem
  • self-improvement
  • shyness
  • silence
  • sleep
  • slowing down
  • social anxiety
  • solitude
  • stoicism
  • Tolstoy
  • trauma
  • travel
  • twentysomethings
  • your life in bloom

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

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 novels to lose yourself in if you haven’t been reading lately

A few years ago, my habits slowly changed from relaxing with 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. Now, there’s nothing wrong with non-fiction. Haemin Sunim has taught me to slow down, Cheryl Strayed has honed…

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.

8 recommended books if you don’t know what to read right now

If you’re spending more time at home, you might feel like you should be reading more. But it’s not always easy to focus in-between the news stories and nervous moments. This doesn’t have to be a time for productivity (more on this here.) You don’t have to learn Arabic or finish writing your book or…

8 habits to adopt from Sattva: The Ayurvedic Way to Live Well

Has your life been a bit out of balance lately? If your mind and body are in need of soothing, pick up Sattva: The Ayurvedic Way to Live Well as your guide to recalibrating. “Ayurveda understands that there’s a still, serene lake inside each of us, of unimaginable depth. What we need is innate, natural,…

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…

11 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…

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…

20 of the best books for anxiety to relax with

I’ve shared my favourite books for self-care and books for difficult days. But what about books for 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…

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

It’s no secret that I love War and Peace. I’ve shared the reasons why before, but as a recap: it’s taught me more about life than any other book, it’s beautifully written, and has helped me through anxiety and trauma. A lot of that comes down to the translation I’ve read. So, what’s the best…

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 38 books Barack Obama recommended in 2019

I love when Barack Obama puts out his list of favourite books on Facebook – as do hundreds of thousands of others around the world. There’s usually a good number of books I recognise, as well as plenty of new material for my reading list. The 2019 list is no exception. Here’s what was on…

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…

The 10 best books I read in 2019

Another year coming to a close, another stack of books read… At just 25 books high (see the full list here), 2019 has probably been my lowest reading year since I discovered words on paper. Some part of me is slightly ashamed of that – and also aware that when I’m reading, I’m feeling balanced…

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.…

10 books to give as gifts this Christmas (or to treat yourself)

I’m not really a big gift person. I usually ask for time spent with loved ones or experiences rather than gifts, and that’s usually what I give people, too. But there’s one exception – books. I love the feeling of giving someone a book I know they’ll love. It might be a book that matches…

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 self-care books for relaxing and unwinding with

We all need to remember to take care of ourselves, 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…

Yoga for Life: A Journey to Inner Peace and Freedom by Colleen Saidman Yee

In the last few years, I’ve had a lot to thank for helping me become less anxious, more confident, and less tied to the past. One of them, of course, was books and bibliotherapy. But there were other things at work too. I loved reading A Pukka Life by Sebastian Pole and finding ways to rebalance myself…

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…

Finding balance in an anxious world: Notes on a Nervous Planet by Matt Haig

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…

8 books to appreciate how beautiful life really is

I live in a beautiful part of the world, in the heart of the Swiss Alps. My surroundings are stunning, but in any place – no matter how incredible – sometimes we just get caught up in our own thoughts. Here are some of the books that have reminded me of just how spectacular life…

12 calming books to help you take a deep breath and relax

Sometimes we just need to take a deep breath and relax – but it’s not always that easy. It can be difficult to recognise when we’re most stressed out. But carving out regular reading time with a well-chosen relaxing book (even if you have to force yourself to sit still) can help you rebalance and…

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…

My favourite books of 2017: A Whole Life by Robert Seethaler, plus 6 others

“To acquire the habit of reading is to construct for yourself a refuge from almost all the miseries of life.” ― W. Somerset Maugham Re-reading Wind, Sand and Stars in Morocco last month.   2018: 41 books, 11,211 pages 1. A Whole Life – Robert Seethaler (4.50/5.00) The kind of book I adore. It’s a story…

Building our relationship with a place day by day, just by looking

I like to think about our relationships to places. How, sometimes, we fall in love with a place as well as a person. Or, we love a place because we love a person — or even the opposite sometimes. I spend a lot of time alone, but a lot of that is time looking out…

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…

“Life – her life – depended on self-discipline”: Reading Elephant Moon by John Sweeney to rediscover perseverance and wonder

I don’t think anyone’s immune from the doldrums. The same goes for loneliness. Just recently, I felt a wave of something tinged with sadness and just wanted to be comfortable and tucked up some place familiar. I didn’t know what to make of it. Maybe this is what loneliness feels like, I thought. Huh. I’m…

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…

The 28 books that stopped my worrying, sent me travelling, and shaped who I am today

It’s a long, long journey out of the trap of anxiety and not believing in yourself. When you’re used to hiding away, making yourself smaller, and never speaking up, a bold change is needed for things to be different. When I was living at home, I didn’t have the motivation nor the opportunities to leap…

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,…

Escaping hectic city life for Burma with Jan-Philipp Sendker

I have a real fondness for reading about Buddhism, beautiful temples, and real and imagined retreats. I love the thought of taking off from a busy life and landing in a quiet spot in nature with plenty of time to sit and think. To look out the window. Tend to some plants and flowers. Brew…

Does bibliotherapy actually work? (My two-years-on take)

When I started Tolstoy Therapy in 2012, I hadn’t yet heard of bibliotherapy. I launched the website to share my own brand of using books to feel better, and while I shared these ideas publicly, they were mostly for my own benefit. I never really thought about writing for others or having an audience. When…

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…

How to make your head the best possible place to spend time in (featuring Stoicism, Sherlock, and mindfulness)

Do you ever get told to get out of your own head? It’s a real challenge to stop overthinking on command. But I think we can reframe the solution. Instead of trying to stop thinking, we could focus on making our minds the best possible place to spend time in. It all goes back over…

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 has, 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 Tedium…

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…

A new direction for Tolstoy Therapy

I last posted in May about how I was taking a break from Tolstoy Therapy. Six months later, I finally feel like I have something worth writing. It’s a bit different from before, though.  In the last year and a half, I’ve strengthened myself and rearranged the furniture of my mind so much that it’s all…

Whether or not to keep blogging: taking a sabbatical after one million pageviews

A confession: I haven’t published any articles on Tolstoy Therapy for two months. If you have in fact noticed this, firstly: I’m grateful that you have. Secondly, I apologise. Here’s an outline of what’s been going on and the decisions I’m making. How things have changed since June 2012 I started blogging in 2012, shortly…

To be kind and well-read: cultivating virtues in Kate Atkinson’s A God in Ruins

Kate Atkinson is a brilliant writer, and I admire her most when she’s writing about books and bookworms in her fiction. A God in Ruins is both a beautiful novel and a superb example of this. I read Life After Life back in 2013, a novel in which Ursula Todd lived through the turbulent last century over and…

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…

How to sustain creative thinking and projects when you have a 9 to 5 job

When you’re making an effort to be more creative, or sustain an ongoing creative project such as a blog or a book draft, work can get in the way. I’m working for a software company in Switzerland at the moment, and while I’m spending the day writing, this isn’t doing-it-because-I-love-it creative time. When I get…

Not always accurate, but rich and engaging nonetheless: The BBC adaptation of War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy

The cast of 2016’s BBC1 production of Tolstoy’s War and Peace. Photograph: Mitch Jenkins/BBC The first episode of Andrew Davies’ reworking of Tolstoy’s War and Peace has just aired on BBC One, as one of six one-hour episodes. My verdict? I enjoyed it, much more than I expected. The novel’s famous opening scene, a soirée…

8 books to add to your Kindle this winter (featuring deals, award winners, and simply great reads)

You can’t beat a proper paperback, but sometimes downloading a book on your Kindle just makes more sense. If you’re travelling, it’s silly to lug around what can only be described as a fully-fledged library. You might also want something new to read straight away, and not have time to call at a bookshop. And…

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. A considerable amount of…

18 books for winter: feel-good novels, big books, and classics for colder weather

With lazier days and more time indoors, winter comes with the distinctive benefit of having more time to spend with a good book. Sometimes a long book – with a hefty list of characters and an inner universe that’s hard to exit – is the ideal companion to while away the hours with. At other…

The factors behind Churchill’s powerful speeches: studying history, working smart, and being different

Winston Churchill in RAF uniform, c. 1940. The UK National Archives. As Bobette Buster explains in Do Story, Winston Churchill’s ongoing prominence in British and international history owes much to his legendary speeches. In 1940, all seemed lost for the British Army. The Battle of Dunkirk had been, according to Churchill, a “colossal military disaster”, and the British…

Homer as a “surprisingly accurate observer of anatomy”: The Iliad, injury, and mortality rates

No one can hurry me down to Hades before my time, but if a man’s hour is come, be he brave or be he coward, there is no escape for him when he has once been born. – The Iliad Few readers – or academics – could have read The Iliad with more care than P.…

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 and…

“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…

Nick Hornby: our appetite for books is the “literary equivalent of salads, or chocolate, or meat and potatoes”

Published in 2004, the book is a collection of Hornby’s “Stuff I’ve Been Reading” columns in The Believer.  Our feelings, ambitions, and anxieties often influence what we choose to read, and rightly so. In books we find reassurance, motivation, and kindred spirits. So when I came across this quote from Nick Hornby, I couldn’t help but enjoy it: I’m…

“A hunter knows when to quiet his mind”: Sherlock Holmes, Maria Konnikova, and a defence of solitude

I wrote in my last article about the classical scholar Edith Hamilton, who wrote of Aeschylus: “Life for him was an adventure, perilous indeed, but men are not made for safe havens. The fullness of life is in the hazards of life”. Since I published that, I’ve moved to Switzerland. It was a sudden decision, largely…

“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…

Reading The Great Gatsby when you can’t sleep, as in Donna Tartt’s The Secret History

I’ve posted before about insomnia and the books that might help to alleviate it. However, sometimes nothing seems to work. If you struggle with insomnia too, you might find this quote from Donna Tartt’s The Secret History resonant. It mentions F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, as just one of the many books referenced in Tartt’s novel.…

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…

How people (and hobbits) can “find strength they didn’t know they had” with books and good company

The End of Your Life Book Club Will Schwalbe’s The End of Your Life Book Club is one of my best-loved non-fiction books, rightly described by Edmund De Waal, author of The Hare with Amber Eyes, as “a true meditation on what books can do”. It is Will Schwalbe’s account of the books that he…

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…

On retreating into galleries, museums and the beauty of art (with help from Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch)

Museums and galleries remain among the few oases that can deliver what has become increasingly rare in our world: the opportunity to disconnect from our hyperconnected lives and experience the feeling of wonder. Museums are where we go to commune with the permanent, the ineffable, and the unquantifiable. And it’s an especially rare, and thus…

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…

9 lessons on slowing down and reassessing our values from Arianna Huffington’s Thrive

I wasn’t expecting huge things from Arianna Huffington’s Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder. For one, there’s the title. Reviews haven’t necessarily been glowing either. However, Thrive comes with a few life lessons that really are worth mulling over, and it’s a book I’ll return…

‘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 how to survive from Laurence Gonzales’s Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why

I’m fascinated by Stoic philosophy and “survival mindsets”. I read a lot about how we can tailor our thinking to help us get through both everyday challenges and the most difficult of circumstances, and recently came across Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why by Laurence Gonzales. I enjoyed the author’s application of Stoic philosophy…

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…

Linklater’s Boyhood: finding meaning through family and connecting with others

Mason Evans, protagonist of Boyhood, at the movie’s brilliant ending. Photo source.  Boyhood, the extraordinary 2014 movie shot intermittently over twelve years by Richard Linklater, maps Mason Evan’s journey from six to eighteen years old, with all of the challenges and moments of joy in-between. The beauty of the film is ingrained in this detail,…

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…

Mastering the art of being brilliant (and how to be one of the super-happy 2%)

During a recent mentoring session I was recommended several books for business and personal development. These were to help me work out where I want to be, where to start, how to become a more confident leader and thinker, that sort of thing. The books included: Linchpin: Are You Indispensable by Seth Godin The 7 Habits…

Marina Keegan’s list of interesting stuff, and why we should create our own

I wrote about Marina Keegan’s book The Opposite of Loneliness: Essays and Stories towards the end of last year. I suggested that the collection could be used to find hope and the courage to be creative, but there was something else that particularly inspired me. This was Keegan’s list of Interesting Stuff, which is mentioned in…

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…

Find meaningful work & nurture creativity with the 99U book series

One of my best-loved non-fiction books is The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp: an inspiring mine of creative wisdom that can apply to all manner of projects, professions, and plans. I included this book in my list of books for bookworms to treasure in their libraries, and I’ve also delved a little deeper into the…

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…

Starting 2015 with a Recap of 2014 on Tolstoy Therapy: 10 Favourite Articles & 10 Best Books

So 2014 has come to a close, and it was a good one. Going over past successes may have just as much of a positive effect on us as forming resolutions, I think, so here are a few highlights of the year. Here’s to another year of great books being published, prioritised reading time, and…

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.…

Marina Keegan on Finding Hope & the Courage to be Creative

The Opposite of Loneliness by Marina Keegan, a reminderto nurture hope, creativity, and a love for life. Marina Keegan’s story is a tragic one: five days after graduating from Yale with great prospects ahead of her – including a job at the New Yorker and a play to be produced at the New York International…

Aung San Suu Kyi and the Books That Kept Her Strong, 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…

Festive Reading: 10 Warming Books to Enjoy by the Christmas Tree

After postponing the Christmas music, mince pies and decorating for a few weeks later than most, I’m finally letting myself enjoy the run-up to Christmas. And what goes best with a glass of mulled wine? A good book, of course. Here are a few cheery, uplifting and warming books (in my opinion – feel free…

“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…

Family Life and Karen Joy Fowler’s We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves

I wanted you to have an extraordinary life. – Rosemary’s mother, We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler Often when I find myself in a reading slump, reading too many academic, heavy books is to blame. When it comes to my favourite authors (ahem, Tolstoy), reading is still a joy, but when…

Winter Reading: 9 Books to Keep Warm With in the Coming Months

What makes good winter reading? For me it’s all to do with what goes with hot drinks, warm covers and a comfy sofa. Uplifting fiction is good, but I don’t choose the same feel-good books I’d go for in summer. I look for real characters who face difficulties, yet show a true love for life…

5 Pieces of Advice for Reading, Understanding & Enjoying James Joyce

I’m currently studying a modern Irish literature module, and I’m enjoying every moment of it. The last two weeks have been spent studying W.B. Yeats (on Thursday I submitted a critical analysis on “An Irish Airman Foresees His Death”), but this week I progressed to James Joyce. I’ve never read Joyce in an academic setting…

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…

Feel-Good Fiction: The Rosie Effect by Graeme Simsion as a Mood-Boosting Sequel

  The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion swiftly became one of my favourite books to get out of a rut and acted a welcome antidote to homesickness when I was living in Barcelona. I also included it in my mood-boosting and feel-good books list for the summer. Last year it helped me Now that the book’s sequel,…

The Tolstoy Therapy Calendar of Wisdom: Quotes and Sayings to Nourish the Soul

I’d like to thank all of you who contributed such wonderful quotes for the giveaway at the start of this month, and I’ll be using this post as a round-up of the contributions I most enjoyed. Some of the quotations which you shared with me would certainly be worthy of a place in Tolstoy’s own…

Celebrating Tolstoy’s 186th Birthday with a Giveaway of A Calendar of Wisdom

A portrait of Leo Tolstoy in his study by Vasily Meshkov, 1910. Today marks the 186th anniversary of Leo Tolstoy’s birth, September 9th 1828, and I felt it was only right that Tolstoy Therapy celebrates the occasion. I was overwhelmed by the wonderful comments I received for the blog’s two year birthday giveaway (I should…

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…

Tips for Reading War and Peace & Getting Started with Leo Tolstoy

A reader recently got in touch to ask what advice I’d give for reading War and Peace the first time. I’ve written before about the reasons why I love War and Peace, but with any 1300-page book, it takes some motivation to get started and, perhaps more so, to keep going. If you’ve been looking to read the almighty…

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…

On Visiting Dove Cottage, William Wordsworth’s Home, to Better Enjoy His 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…

How Much Do You Really Remember About The Books You’ve Read?

I’ll admit that when it comes to my reading, occasionally I focus on quantity rather than quality. In 2012 I read 93 books, which was, in hindsight, far too many. What was the name of the protagonist in The Lighthouse by Alison Moore? I haven’t a clue. It was by reading Moonwalking with Einstein by Joshua…

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…

8 Books for Every Bookworm to Have in Their (Miniature) Library

My book collection has invaded every room of my house and continues to grow at an alarming rate. This, I reassure myself, is all part of a bookworm’s life. As a dedicated bookworm, here are 8 of the books from my ‘library’ which I’m most protective over. They travel with me to and from university,…

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…

‘Give War and Peace a Chance’ This Summer with Andrew D. Kaufman

My copy of Give War and Peace a Chance, before it was covered in Post-it notes. If there were any book I’d be desperate to read,  it would involve the life lessons we can gain from Leo Tolstoy and War and Peace. This explains why I was so excited to receive a copy of Give…

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.…

18 of The Best Feel-Good Classic Novels (Mood-Boosting Summer Reading, Part II)

I really enjoyed compiling my list of feel-good novels to enjoy reading this summer, and it got me thinking about mood-boosting classic literature. Perhaps ‘classic literature’ is a little hard to define, but hopefully these suggestions will help prove that mood-boosting books don’t need to be modern and recently published. Even those books that frequently…

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,…

A List of Books Mentioned in The Secret History by Donna Tartt

In my first article on The Secret History by Donna Tartt, I mentioned how the book not only cultivates a love of learning, but is also full of intertextuality; in other words, mentions of other books and authors.  Some of my favourite books are in fact ‘books about books’ – The Perks of Being a…

9 Reasons I Think You Should Read The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith

 My love for crime fiction has been left largely unsatisfied during my adult reading life. Each time I pick up a great crime or detective novel I promise myself to read more, but I’ll then leave months before starting another. However, I think that reading Robert Galbraith’s Cormoran Strike series is changing this. The Cuckoo’s Calling…

Remedy a Reading Slump: 10 Ideas For When You’re Having Trouble Reading

“Music and Literature,” oil on canvas, by the American artist William Michael Harnett (1878) Being a bookworm is great, but it’s not always a smooth process. You’ll probably agree with me on this. Haven’t we all experienced a reading slump at some time or another? Every so often I find myself struggling to make time…

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

Rabindranath Tagore was a Bengali polymath who  reshaped Bengali literature and music in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Author of Gitanjali, he became the first non-European to win the Nobel Prize in  Literature in 1913. Reading the Poems That Make Grown Men Cry anthology by Anthony and Ben Holden has introduced me to…

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…

Here’s 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 The…

Tolstoy Therapy Birthday Giveaway: Which Book Has Shaped Who You Are Today?

Two years ago (only two years?), I started up Tolstoy Therapy as a summer project after finishing my first year of university. It was a way of keeping myself busy and adding another layer to my reading, but it’s become the most worthwhile experience. 221 posts later, I’ve met the most wonderful readers and bloggers,…

10 Quick Ways to Feel Better With a Book

Reading fiction is my first port of call when I’m feeling a bit stressed or low; it calms me down, grounds me when my mind is wandering, and helps me gain a wider perspective. Whether you’re facing a stressful interview, experiencing trouble sleeping, or if you’re just in need of a mood-boosting book, here are…

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…

6 TED Talks on the Power of Books, Learning & Fiction

I’ve written about TED Talks a few times here on the blog, but surprisingly I’ve never discussed my favourite talks on books, learning and reading fiction. I’ve come to realise there are a fair few available (although there’s certainly room for more), but here are a select few of my favourites. I do hope you…

Fiction as a Simulation of Life (Fiction on the Brain, Part II)

  Can Pride and Prejudice be a simulation of real life to learn from and apply to our own lives and relationships? For the second part of my Fiction on the Brain series, I’ve decided to focus on Dr Oately’s fascinating idea of fiction as a ‘simulation’ of life and the world around us. This concept,…

15 Mood-boosting and Feel-good Books for Summer

We could all do with some mood-boosting and feel-good books to enjoy on balmy days over the summer. Including both classics and newer releases, here are some uplifting novels to add to your reading list! 1. The Kabul Beauty School by Deborah Rodriguez “Kabul Beauty School transcends the feel-good genre largely because of the author’s superior…

Reading Tolstoy as a Twentysomething (& Completing His Major Works Before 21)

In the last few weeks, I’ve been very busy reading Tolstoy. I had already enjoyed his most famous works – including Anna Karenina, War and Peace and several collections of his shorter stories – but I decided, probably a little too close to the deadline, that I wanted to finish his major works before I…

Facing Death With Poetry: How Chidiock Tichborne Wrote His Own Elegy

Chidiock Tichborne, writer of his own Elegy andconspirator of the Babington Plot. Chidiock Tichborne’s Elegy, the first poem mentioned in the Poems That Make Grown Cry anthology, caught me completely by surprise. Reading it prompted one of those rare moments where you stop, look up from the page, and ponder what you’ve just read. I’d say…

A Few Words on My Writing and Reading Schedule

I’ve been making an effort to write more blog articles recently, hoping to publish a new piece every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. This is providing my daily routine with a bit of structure; I enjoy having topics to research, write about, and mull over for a day or two. This summer seems to be the…

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

Woman Reading in a Garden by Mary Cassatt 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 in…

Poems That Make Grown Men Cry by Anthony and Ben Holden (and My Own Choice)

Stephen Fry is just one public figure to contribute in Poems That Make Grown Men Cry by Anthony and Ben Holden. I was thrilled to hear about Poems That Make Grown Men Cry by Anthony and Ben Holden a few weeks ago in The Guardian. The book is essentially what it says on the tin:…

Literary Larks: 3 Writers on Why We Should Wake Early

Why I Wake Early: Mary Oliver’s ode todawn and starting the day outside. When it comes to mornings, we’re all very divided. While some us of leap out of bed without any need for an alarm clock, others aren’t quite so keen. This is normal, researchers assure us: being a night owl or morning lark…

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 Curreyfor more on the habits (coffee-related andotherwise) of great artists.…

Feel Inspired by… The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden by Jonas Jonasson

Everyone seemed to love The Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared. I lost count of how many people I recommended it to, so my expectations were set high when it came to Jonas Jonasson’s second novel (which he has now published, very quickly indeed). The Girl Who Saved the King of…

5 Astounding Ways Reading Fiction Can Boost Well-being

Note from Lucy: This is a guest post from the wonderful Angeliki over on Reading Psychology. I’ve read Angeliki’s blog for a few years now, and she shares so many of my own thoughts on the link between reading and wellbeing (see her posts on bibliosophy and fiction for depression). Therefore, I’m so excited to…

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…

Solve Your Problems With Sherlock Holmes (And Overcome Workaholism with Watson)

My Penguin English Library edition of “TheFive Orange Pips and Other Cases” The BBC Sherlock Holmes series has been a big thing in my house. Our sheepdogs are compared – and contrasted – with Sherlock and Mycroft, and the end of Series 2 cliffhanger provided lots of ground for healthy debate. I knew that I’d…

The LitTherapy Project: Thank You For All the Support!

My LitTherapy crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo has come to an end, and I’m very grateful to the supporters, link-sharers and contributors! As I opted for flexible funding, I aimed high and was able to keep for the project any amount I made. The money that I’ve raised is so useful for the site’s development, as…

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…

A Year Abroad in Books (Alongside Homesickness and Coming Home)

Some of you may know that from August 2013 I was in Spain, working in Barcelona for the year abroad of my degree. Well, time has flown by and I’m now back in England, surrounded by the familiar comforts of home. Am I happy to be back? I can’t lie. I’m so, so glad to…

Introducing… LitTherapy! Because Bibliotherapy Should be Free.

I’ve mentioned over the last few months that I’ve been working on a bibliotherapy recommendation site, and I’ve decided it’s time to share with you the site in its early stages! Although the name might change to something more original in future, for now it’s LitTherapy.com, which I’m hoping to shape into a useful bibliotherapy…

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…

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion: A Feel-Good Book to Get Your Life Back on Track

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion: a proper feel-good novel that makes for a great bibliotherapy recommendation! Image source. It would be fair to say I’ve been going through some transitions lately, and reading The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion provided me with just the bibliotherapy I needed to feel better about myself and get my life back…

The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton: Deserving of the Man Booker, Not My Book of the Year

It is 1866, and young Walter Moody has come to make his fortune upon the New Zealand goldfields. On the stormy night of his arrival, he stumbles across a tense gathering of twelve local men who have met in secret to discuss a series of unexplained events: A wealthy man has vanished, a prostitute has…

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…

A Quick Note on Changing Domains

Lots of lovely books! Image source. Dear lovely blog readers, I’ve decided to change my primary domain name to www.tolstoytherapy.com (much easier to type!), although I’ll be keeping therapythroughtolstoy.com as a redirect. This means you’ll be able to find the blog on this same address, although I’ll need to do some switching around in the…

My Latest Project: A Bibliotherapy Recommendation Site!

Because we all deserve an awesome book collection, right? Image source. I was planning to keep this secret, but here I am giving in. I decided a while ago that the blog’s bibliotherapy lists could be easier to navigate, particularly if they were in a more visual format. I also wanted to create an easier way for…

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…

Books for insomnia: a bedtime bibliotherapy reading plan to help you fall asleep

Can I use fiction and bibliotherapy to help my insomnia? Image source.   The woods are lovely, dark, and deep, But I have promises to keep, And miles to go before I sleep, And miles to go before I sleep. – Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening – Robert Frost You may recall me…

Best Book on Mental Health 2013: The Shock of the Fall – Nathan Filer

The Shock of the Fall, one of my favouritenovels on mental health. Image source. It’s hard to believe this is a first novel – it’s so good it will make you feel a better person. – The judges of the 2013 Costa award on The Shock of the Fall. I wasn’t planning on writing up my…

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…

Guest Post on Bibliotherapy & Doris Lessing: Spending Time in The Four-Gated City

A wonderful portrait of Doris Lessing byFernando Vicente. This is a guest post by Marcy Sheiner, published author and blogger at BookBuster and Dirty Laundry. Marcy got in touch with me recently to discuss her newfound interest in bibliotherapy, and she kindly agreed to write a guest post for the blog on Doris Lessing, an author…

Blog Book Awards 2013: My Top 5 of the Year

Ruth Ozeki’s A Tale for the Time Being: oneof my favourite books of 2013. Image source. Like so many others, I like the fresh start that January brings, yet in late December I also enjoy pondering the twelve months that have passed. When thinking over 2013, I couldn’t help but think over the books that…

Social Media Marketing for Bloggers: What Do You Do?

A beautiful desk and work space: perfect forblogging. Image source. As some of you may know, I’m currently undergoing a twelve-week Google mentoring programme. Alongside being incredibly exciting (it’s Google!), I’m also learning so much, particularly about marketing. I’m currently managing online marketing for a travel startup in Barcelona, so I’ve learnt a fair bit about…

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…

Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple: Antarctica, Agoraphobia and Loveable Quirkiness

If you read Where’d You Go, Bernadette, you’ll enjoy this photo from the author’s website! Image source. I can feel the irrationality and anxiety draining my store of energy like a battery-operated racecar grinding away in the corner. This is energy I will need to get through the next day. But I just lie in bed…

Books Can Heal: Reading Meditation and Bibliotherapy

Gorgeous bookshelves and reading nook to inspire yourreading meditation! Source. This is a guest post by Kathleen Miller at Project Reinvention. Kathleen is a brilliant coach and blogger (with many beliefs and thoughts similar to my own), so do check out her blog if you haven’t already! I have been a long-time reader of Lucy’s…

Would You Like to Write a Guest Post?

I’ve been wondering about ways to open up my blog to more readers, and I think a great way to do this would be to diversify the ideas and stories shared on it. Therefore, I’d like to open up an ongoing possibility for guest posts! I’d like to keep the options quite open, but ideas…

TechAbility 2013: Two Days at Google Paris!

I can vouch for the presence of this car in the Google Paris offices. There’s also a cow sculpture outside, a shrine to wine and VERY good food. Macarons, pizza, Google wasabi peas – the whole shebang. If you follow me on Twitter, you may have noticed that I mentioned a little trip to Paris I had…

Changing My Mind About… NW by Zadie Smith

NW by Zadie Smith – an intelligent novelor just jumbled? Source. I haven’t read any other reviews of Zadie Smith’s latest novel, NW, yet, despite it being published during Autumn last year. However, I’d like to write my review first to avoid getting too caught up in the thoughts of others. Here’s a brief summary of…

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…

Get My Bibliotherapy Book on Kindle! Tolstoy Therapy: A Fiction Prescription

Tolstoy Therapy: A Fiction Prescription –my ebook on bibliotherapy and the joy ofreading The project that I’ve been working on since the start of summer has finally come to a close: I’ve published my ebook! I could have spent another ten years editing it, I’m sure, but I decided to silence my perfectionism and simply get on…

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…

TED Talks on Mental Health: Depression, Bipolar & Schizophrenia

Many of you will know how much I love watching TED talks. While many are educational, there are just as many that are inspirational and motivating, and I’ve gained an incredible amount from the website. I’ve listed before the best talks on low self-esteem, anxiety and PTSD, but here I’ll outline three TED talks on…

8 Authors I Wish Would Write More

We all have a few writers who we simply wish would write more. You know, the authors that we keep tabs on for years on end, waiting for news that they’ve written another book. Sometimes they do, and sometimes they just keep us waiting. While there’s not much that we as readers can do to…

An Extract From Tolstoy Therapy: The Death of Ivan Ilyich by Leo Tolstoy for a Fear of Death

This is an extract about The Death of Ivan Ilyich from the bibliotherapy book I’m working on, currently entitled Tolstoy Therapy (is this too predictable?) I hope to give you more information about it soon, but I have a first draft written and I’m looking to publish it to begin with as a Kindle ebook in…

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…

A Bibliotherapy Review: The Novel Cure by Ella Berthoud & Susan Elderkin

The Novel Cure by Ella Berthoud and Susan Elderkin:a lighthearted and readable approach to bibliotherapy. “May we massage you with Murakami? Ease your pain with Wolf or Wodehouse? Do you require the Very Book to lessen your Loneliness? May we revive your Spirit with a Literary Tonic?” For almost a year, I’ve been keenly awaiting…

What Bibliotherapy Means to Me

Another amazing vintage library ad fromBrain Pickings! Bibliotherapy is a word I use a lot here on Tolstoy Therapy. However, it’s important to note that I didn’t even know the word existed when I first started the blog in June 2012. My blog originated primarily as a way for me to share my thoughts on…

Living in Barcelona, Part I: Settling in, Sightseeing & Reading

The lizard in Gaudi’s Parc Güell As some of you will know, I’ve recently moved from South East England to sunny Barcelona! It’s only for eight months as part of my university degree, but it’s quite a big step nonetheless. I’m living by myself in a quiet area called Eixample, on a street that’s really…

The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith (J.K. Rowling): Depression, Quotes from the Classics & A Murder Mystery

The Cuckoo’s Calling, a great tale of mystery, exploration and a little bit of Tennyson.  The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling has never really appealed to me. The novel is set in a village, which is perhaps just a bit too close to home to be exciting, and while I probably wouldn’t hate The Casual Vacancy, The Cuckoo’s…

Why Read War and Peace? The Reasons Why I Love Tolstoy’s Masterpiece

My well-worn (and well-loved) copy of War and Peace If you tell someone that you’re reading War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy, you tend to get a reaction. People are impressed by it: the book is renowned as being very long and, generally, very difficult. People tend to praise your efforts, but at the same…

On The Anti-Anxiety & Calming Effects of Asian Literature

A Ruth Ozeki inspired adaptation of the famous wave.Image from ft.com. Lately I’ve been reading mostly Asian-inspired and Asian-authored literature. In fact, it’s all I’ve been reading. I’ve been tempted by the superb posts on Japanese lit at Dolce Belleza lately, and I’m glad that I’ve finally followed suit. I find such literature helps me feel relaxed and mindful,…

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…

I’ve Written a Guest Post! – Tolstoyan Therapy for Mental Illness (on Better Living Through Beowulf)

Cover designed by David Laufer,1978. Image from Pinterest. Recently I was invited to write a guest post for Better Living Through Beowulf, a great blog that believes “literature is as vital to our lives as food and shelter”. In this post, published yesterday, I talk about the early influence that literature had on my wellbeing, and…

My Bibliotherapy Book Project! Would You Like to Get Involved?

Have books helped your happiness?Image from Pinterest Since the start of my university summer holidays, roughly two months ago, I’ve been working on a book draft. I’ve always wanted to do this, but I’ve only recently thought that the basis of my blog could be a viable topic for a book. I’m currently working on…

Twyla Tharp’s Concept of Reading “Archaeologically” & How to Do it

The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp is a brilliant book that helps us all be that little bit more creative. The book promises that “all it takes to make creativity a part of your life is the willingness to make it a habit”, and after a quick flick through The Creative Habit, it’s difficult to doubt this.…

A Lesson in Grief and Illness from Our Poorly Dog

Yesterday morning our eldest sheepdog, Nell, had to be lifted out from her run, where she’d suddenly become very unwell overnight. We immediately took her to the village vets, but we were soon referred to the larger surgery in town. The village vet thought she was suffering from a womb infection, and the second group…

The Best Bloggers on Bibliotherapy & The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson

Jonas Jonasson living a simple life, not unlike that  which Allan lives (before planting with explosives). Image from telegraph.co.uk I’m rather late in reading The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson. I mentioned in my Kate Atkinson post that my boyfriend had recently enjoyed it and I’d heard lots of positive reviews…

What A Game of Thrones Can Teach Us About Life: Growing Up, Change, Trauma, and Enemies

Emilia Clarke as Daenerys Targaryen in A Game of Thrones.  Image source. I thought I’d hate the TV show Game of Thrones. I’d heard it was full of violence and sex, and despite Steph’s frequent praise of both book and TV series, I couldn’t understand why women would enjoy it. Fast forward a couple of months,…

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.…

How to Cultivate a Reading Habit (Yes, You Do Have Time to Read)

“I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book.” ~ Groucho Marx Find your reading nook. Image from Pinterest I went shopping with my Mum and brother last week. We had run out of shops to visit, when I suggested a trip to…

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…

One Year of Therapy Through Tolstoy

“The love of learning, the sequesterednooks…” One of my favourite book quotes!Image from Pinterest I wrote my first blog post a year ago today. I had finished my first year of university, and I was left with four months of planned reading and very little else. Blogging made my summer so much more interesting, and…

A TED Talk on Books and Bibliotherapy: How Books Can Open Your Mind by Lisa Bu

Lisa Bu and bibliotherapy. Image from blog.ted.com In her February 2013 TED Talk, Lisa Bu begins by discussing her childhood dreams and ambitions. Lisa trained to be a gymnast, her parents wanted to be an engineer, and she wanted to be a Chinese opera singer. She sent letters to an opera school principal and a radio…

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…

A Call for Bibliotherapy Recommendations: What books have helped you?

Bibliotherapy: read until you feel better. Image from Pinterest Dear Lovely Readers, both new and old, I’m currently revising my “A-Z Bibliotherapy Recommendations” page by creating new sections and adding new books. I think it will prove useful (both for myself and others!) to have everything in one place and organised in an easy-access way. I’ve been…

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…

Bibliotherapy & Shakespeare’s Sonnet 55: Keep Calm and Memorise Poetry

Michael Schoenfeldt’s Companion to the Sonnets, Don Paterson’s “New Commentary” and my lovely White’s Books Ltd edition of the Sonnets (find the link at the bottom of  this post). I’m spending this week surrounded by books and students in various stages of panic. Exam season is in full swing, and I’m aware of few people who feel truly prepared for it.…

Bibliotherapy for Anxiety: Active, Beautiful and Calming Fictional Books

Reading to reduce anxiety. Image source. I’d like to emphasise now that literature is not a replacement for therapy or medication when anxiety is severe. Nothing replaces getting help, although I believe bibliotherapy can complement recovery and maintain wellbeing. In February I posted about using bibliotherapy for depression and low mood. Since then, I’ve been…

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…

Stoicism for Modern Lives: William B. Irvine and Marcus Aurelius

I’ve been interested in the Stoic school of philosophy for the last year or so, starting with my reading of Jules Evan’s brilliant Philosophy for Life (see my post here). This book primarily introduced me to Marcus Aurelius, whose Meditations I’ve underlined, highlighted and flicked through extensively. I included some of his main teachings in…

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson: Alternate History & ‘What Ifs?’

What if we had a chance to do it again and again, until we finally did get it right? Wouldn’t that be wonderful? ~ Kate Atkinson I’m now back in England, after a lovely week of snow and mountain air. Unlike some passengers on our flight home, I am thankfully back with all of my…

Silence in Literature, Catharsis, and Internal Retreats

Are you a quiet person? Do you read a lot as a way to retreat from the world? Great image on imagination found here. No retreat offers someone more quiet and relaxation than into his own mind, especially if he can dip into thoughts there which put him at immediate and complete ease. ~Marcus Aurelius  Last…

Toby’s Room by Pat Barker: Great Art, PTSD and War

An image of a solider with facial wounds by surgeon and painter Henry Tonks.  Image source. This is a novel about beautiful art, the people who create it, the subjects within it, and the context behind it. I would class Toby’s Room as a war novel, although the description is rarely centred on conflict. Rather, Barker…

March Update: Weather, Kindles and Reading Plans

After some promising signs of sun, and the premature appearance of T-shirts and vest tops, the weather is dreary again. It was only to be expected, really. However, dreary weather is good reading weather, and I’ve been making the most of it. Over the last week I’ve been reading Toby’s Room by Pat Baker, which…

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…

The Last Runaway by Tracy Chevalier: Quaker Living, Quilts and Intertextuality

A group of escaped slaves, 1862-1865, South Carolina,  US. The main character in The Last Runaway helps escaped  slaves  and struggles with contemporary racism. Photograph:  Corbis  (as featured on The Guardian) I’m so glad that I was given a proof copy of The Last Runaway by Tracy Chevalier to review. I have previously read and greatly enjoyed Girl…

The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas – Gertrude Stein

I spent last weekend with my boyfriend, in his hometown of Liverpool. I’ve posted many times about it, I’m sure, but it must be my favourite city. Just before I left I had my literature seminar on The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas by Gertrude Stein. I’ve never read anything by Stein before, and I’m…

Bibliotherapy: Mood-Boosting and Gloomy Books For Depression

Bibliotherapy for low mood (at the seaside). Image from easier.com For depression it’s always best to contact your GP and discuss the possibility of therapy and/or medication. There’s been a lot in the media lately about using books to assist good mental health, largely because of the NHS decision to start “prescribing” self-help material for…

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

Image of Charles Dickens’s route through America fromcharlesdickenspage.com After reading Claire Tomalin’s 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 I believe it changed my perceptions of the author and his…

Obama’s Inauguration Poem : ‘One Today’ by Richard Blanco

Obama’s inauguration, featuring Richard Blanco’s poetry. Image from guardian.co.uk I’m sure that a lot of you will have watched Obama’s inauguration today. I did, and I’m not even American. I presumed that my American housemate was going to, but she bluntly replied that she was not. I think she wanted Romney to win the elections,…

My Favourite Classical Music, featuring Haruki Murakami’s novels, The Road to Perdition Soundtrack, Chopin and more

Road to Perdition, the movie with my favourite classical soundtrack. Unfortunately, as I have nowhere to travel to for once, I’m in one of the few places in Britain that isn’t covered with snow. It’s dreary outside, but at least it isn’t raining like yesterday. As Bill Bryson emphasises in Notes From a Small Island,…

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…

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee: Themes, Concept of Morality & Family Reading Time

Image from http://www.ebsqart.com/ Although I first read To Kill a Mockingbird for my English GCSE about four years ago, I decided to re-read it recently. There’s a reason for this: I was shocked to find out that my boyfriend had never read the novel before, and therefore I bought him a copy. However, I soon gave…

Notes From a Small Island by Bill Bryson and Being British

I’m going to be studying Bill Bryson’s Notes From a Small Island this upcoming university term, and so I thought it sensible to read it now that exams are done and I have free time before lectures start. I’ve never read anything by Bryson before, but I enjoyed his writing. It wasn’t quite what I expected:…

Must-Read List for 2013

I realise that I’m a little late with this post, but it takes me some time to get my reading plans for the year ahead prepared. To begin with, here is a photo of the books that I’ve gained recently, which may or may not interest you. The majority of my family refused to buy…

Life of Pi Movie: Religion, the Natural World, Stoicism

Image from wired.com I’m afraid, book lovers, that this post will cover the film version of Yann Martel’s Life of Pi novel. I read the novel a few years ago, and would really love to read it again, but this post is largely in response to my cinema trip last week. However, I must say…

Farewell, 2012

Image from the BBC.  Everybody says it, every single year, but this year has flown by. It has been a year of so many memories and “where were you?” moments – for me, the London Olympics will always make 2012 a key year of my youth. I’ve done so much myself: I began this blog in…

Dubliners and a Defence of James Joyce: The Dead, Eveline, and Paolo Coelho

Image from joycesdublin.ie I first read Dubliners a few years ago – probably two – after receiving a hardback Penguin volume for Christmas. I read it whilst on a ski holiday, and, like most people who enjoy it, I was completely engrossed by “The Dead”. The ending passage is renowned as being exceptionally beautiful, and…

Wintertime by Robert Louis Stevenson

On the way past this field I heard jangling bells, and stupidly presumed that the noisebelonged to the sheep. It was only on the way back that I saw the real culprit. The weather here in England’s south east has been so dreary this week. It’s hard to feel christmassy when it’s raining and windy,…

The End of the World, Again, and John Donne

Image for the 2012 Mayan apocalypse fear from the BBC. Humans are obsessed with the end of the world. The concept of meaninglessness, or non-existence, is deeply threatening at a psychological level, and we generally wish to believe that our personal lives are significant and important to the whole. One BBC article includes the following…

My Top Rated Books on Goodreads

You can tell a lot about a person based on what books they value most highly. These are some of the books that have shaped me most. The Death of Ivan Ilyich changed my perspective on living a good life, and Meditations inspired my willpower to move away from the past. Those two books are…

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,…

BBC Sports Personality 2012 – An Edgar Guest Poem, Virgil & Courage

2012 has been such a year for sport. There’s been the Tour de France, Wimbledon, and of course the London Olympic Games (among so many more events – I’m slightly biased). This evening the BBC Sports Personality of the Year awards were staged, and it was such a great way to top off the year’s…

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…

“Two Spains”: León Felipe and Antonio Machado

Francisco de Goya’s Fight with Cudgels (c.1820-23) can be seen as a premonition of the civil wars of Spain. Image from Wikipedia. I thought that I’d post another poem by León Felipe today. Included in Ganarás La Luz, “Hay dos Españas” reflects the uncertainty and violence that surrounded the Spanish Civil War, and in particular the left-right…

Walking Home by Simon Armitage: Wordsworth; Gawain; Above Ickornshaw, Black Huts

I’ve been really interested in the relationship between poets and walking lately. I’m writing a university essay on how Antonio Machado dealt with the death of his young wife by walking and writing poetry, and I often wish that I had Wordsworth’s infatigable legs that allowed him to write so many great nature poems. After…

The Silver Linings Playbook: Mental Health and High-School Books

Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper in Silver Linings Playbook, a wonderful story of overcoming mental health issues. Image from guardian.co.uk In a recent radio interview, I heard Bradley Cooper being interviewed about playing the protagonist Pat in the film version of The Silver Linings Playbook (a novel written by Matthew Quick). After hearing the plot, I immediately…

Life as a Journey – Ithaca by Constantine P. Cavafy

Some time ago, a reader of my blog called 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. As you may expect from this influence, the poem has so much to say…

Living a Balanced Life: A Diagram to Deal with Anxiety

I have a copy of a diagram similar to the one below on the wall by my desk, and I find it helpful to look at every so often. I frequently find that some areas of my life are taking up all of my time, and that I need to pay more attention to other activities.…

Bibliotherapy & Reading for Wellbeing: The Novel Cure by Susan Elderkin and Ella Berthoud

Reading for wellbeing. Image from www.marksdailyapple.com As I was casually reading the School of Life blog yesterday, contemplating an idyllic reading retreat not far from here (which I’m sure would be ridiculously expensive), I came across a book to be published late 2013 which should be quite exciting. It’s to be published by Canongate, and is…

Shakespeare’s Sonnets, Music, Books, and Favourites

This week, as part of my Renaissance literature module, I’m studying Shakespeare’s sonnets. After facing texts such as The Faerie Queene and The Jew of Malta in recent weeks, I’m thoroughly enjoying the leisurely, rewarding study of Shakespeare’s poetry. I received a beautiful edition a few Christmases ago, but unfortunately it’s at home. Therefore I’m having to make do…

Remembrance Sunday: Red and White Poppies and Peace

From manvirsingh.blogspot.com I’ve seen poppy pins everywhere this week – when I went into town yesterday they were being sold on every street corner, and it was a rare to see a coat or jumper unadorned by one. I’ve bought one, as that’s what you’re meant to do, but I’m not sure if I agree with…

How to Overcome Social and General Anxiety Naturally

I enjoy having a list of everything in one place. I hope that I’m not the only one who this applies to, and that others will find this useful. Anxiety is a nasty burden to hold, but it’s not going to be your lifelong enemy (I assure you!) Whilst many sufferers, including myself in the…

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…

León Felipe Translation: The Poet and the Philosopher (El poeta y el filósofo)

Image from leereluniverso.blogspot.com Note: I am now posting my translations here: http://leonfelipeinenglish.blogspot.co.uk/I thought that I’d post another León Felipe translation today. I’ve been feeling quite philosophical lately, reading Francis Bacon’s essays for university this week amongst other things, and so I felt that the following choice was appropriate. I hope that you enjoy it, and that…

A Trip to Cornwall: The Eden Project and Poetry

I got back last night from a few days resting and recuperating in St. Ives with my boyfriend. We left around Wednesday lunchtime for the three-hour train journey, and got there early evening. The B&B we had chosen was absolutely perfect: cosy, well-lit, and very friendly. The view from our room was fantastic too –…

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

Daniel Craig in Skyfall, the most recent Bond film that quotes Tennyson’s Ulysses. Image from guardian.co.uk   I went to go and see the new Bond film last night, and I must say that I enjoyed it. There was plenty of action, humour, and “Britishness” – everything that a Bond film needs, really. At one…

Antonio Machado’s “Recuerdos” and the Healing Power of Nature

Antonio Machado’s Andalusia. From flickr.com After an endless stream of presentations, translations, meetings, and seminars, I had a bit of a meltdown on Thursday. To be honest, I had one on Wednesday too: I woke up and my head was screaming “DON’T DO IT, STAY IN BED!”. I managed to fight through that and attend two…

Shaun Ferguson Artwork

I love the painting below – it seems to encapsulate all that I’m feeling currently. The woman painted could just be sorting her hair, but I also see overwhelm and instability. This week has been very busy for me at uni, and I’ve also started a new course of therapy. I’m sure I’ll be fine though; I…

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…

TV’s “Revenge”: Links to The Count of Monte Cristo and a Theme of Self-Improvement

Revenge –  a great TV show with echoes of Dumas’s The Count of Monte Cristo. From guardian.co.uk I’m completely addicted to the TV series Revenge shown here on Channel 4 and in the US on ABC. It’s the story of Emily Thorne – real name Amanda Clarke – who returns to the Hamptons intent on revenging…

A Translation: The Jump (El salto) by León Felipe

An image well-suited for this Felipe poem from http://root.timothyponce.com/ Note: I am now posting my translations here: http://leonfelipeinenglish.blogspot.co.uk/ I love León Felipe’s poetry. This post contains one of his poems that I most enjoyed translating some years ago – I hope you also enjoy reading it. This poem is from Ganarás La Luz, which you can view on Amazon…

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…

A Review of “How To Live: A Life of Montaigne” by Sarah Bakewell

I really admire Montaigne’s writing and philosophy, so Sarah Bakewell’s part-biography, part-self-help book easily caught my attention. I read Montaigne because – as millions of other people do, making this statement quite meaningless – I see elements of my mind in his. Anyone who decides to retreat into their study and focus on writing gets praise…

A Favourite Poem: I Am Very Bothered – Simon Armitage

From loveafrican.wordpress.com I am very bothered when I think of the bad things I have done in my life. Not least that time in the chemistry lab when I held a pair of scissors by the blades and played the handles in the naked lilac flame of the Bunsen burner; then called your name, and…

The Faerie Queene, Healing PTSD, and Wilfred Owen

This may be a generalisation, but I’m sure that most people who read The Faerie Queene never go back to it. It’s not the lightest text to read on an easy night in, and Spenser as a character wasn’t too charming. However, in my recent studies of the text I’ve made some discoveries (sounds exciting, right?) My…

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…

On Resuming University Life and Wordsworth’s “After-Thought”

This is the river that inspired much of Machado’s poetry. This also partly explains thelecturer’s digression on Wordsworth – regarding a mention of a river – that I mention in this post. Image from alotroladodelhilorojo.blogspot.com Sorry I haven’t been blogging much. Anyone with anxiety – and other mental health issues – will understand how challenging…

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…

A Review of Elizabeth and her German Garden by Elizabeth von Arnim

Elizabeth and Her German Garden, a wonderfulnovel about escaping into nature. Although Elizabeth and Her German Garden is designed to be the prequel to The Solitary Summer, I read them in reverse. As expected, Elizabeth von Arnim’s writing is refreshing and light, and is the perfect accompaniment to my holiday. However, I do think I prefer…

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 out,…

Muriel Barbery’s The Elegance of the Hedgehog and Tolstoy

The Elegance of the Hedgehog, a novelwith great references to Leo Tolstoy. I was pleasantly surprised by The Elegance of the Hedgehog. I imagine that many have described it as being narrated pretentiously – the text is heavily detailed and elaborated. This also means that more concentration is required to read it than with most novels. Here’s…

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. Unfortunately I couldn’t get a very good photo; the above is the best that I could achieve. I was reminded of the poem “Romance de la…

NZT and Self-Improvement: What would you do if you had the Limitless pill?

Limitless is one of my favourite films. It’s the story of Eddie Morra, a writer played by Bradley Cooper, who begins taking a pill that allows him to access his whole brain, rather than a mere 20%. As a result, he writes the book he’s been unable to produce for so long, learns multiple languages,…

Books I Couldn’t Finish: For Whom the Bell Tolls, Tender is the Night & More

For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway:a book I couldn’t finish! I love to read, as shown by my blog. However, occasionally there’s the odd book that never obtains my complete interest and remains unfinished. Often these aren’t particularly celebrated books, but other times they are texts which I held high expectations of. I…

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,…

Film Review: The Way

I saw this film listed on Netflix a few weeks ago, and thought it would be worth watching at some point. However, I thought it might be slightly boring for my boyfriend to watch – it’s the story of a father who decides to travel “El camino de Santiago” after his estranged son dies on…

Currently Reading and Recently Read: Walden, 1Q84, Pursuit of Italy

Life in southern England is always changing at present. Earlier in the week I was reading on the garden bench with frequent suncream applications, but in the last fifteen hours it hasn’t stopped raining. My family had a barbecue planned for today, but I’m not sure how certain that is of happening. I feel quite…

Books Worth Re-reading & Why We Should Re-Read Favourite Novels

I read an article on The Guardian website today which claims that “anyone who talks about re-reading a book is arrogant, narrow-minded or dim.” The author goes on to add that people only re-read in order to show off. I don’t agree with him. I only read very special books more than once, unless they’re university…

Che’s Poetry (4) I Don’t Know Why You Think – Nicolás Guillén

Today’s poem is No Sé Por Qué Piensas Tú by Nicolás Guillén, a Cuban poet I gave brief information about in a post on another poem of his, The Grandfather. When I’m translating a poem from Che Guevara’s collection (El Cuaderno verde), it always interests me to think about why he chose it. This one makes…

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

A lovely cover of The Idle Traveller 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…

Will Smith’s Inspirational Quote on Running and Reading

Will Smith on running and reading. Image from Film School Rejects. Will Smith is a pretty inspirational man. 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…

35 Ways to Make the Most of a Summer

In England, summer has gone before you’ve even realised it’s arrived. Before long it’s back to the seemingly perpetual drizzle and winter coats weather. However, today the sun is shining! Instead of moaning about it like I usually do (I’m ginger, what can I say?), I’m going to focus on making the most of the…

August Challenge – Halfway through!

From http://designbyrita.files.wordpress.com/ Near the top of my blog, there’s a link to my “August Challenge” (or you can just click here). This is a project to do one thing every day in August that scares me, to help relieve both my anxiety and my smaller fears. It’s going really well actually, and I’ve seen improvements in…

Thoughts on A Life with Books by Julian Barnes

When A Life With Books by Julian Barnes came into stock at work, the boss exclaimed how it must be the tiniest book we sell. At a mere twenty-six pages, I think I’d have to agree with him. It looks more like a leaflet, to be honest. During a quiet moment free from customers I…

Which books would you take to a desert island?

A photo from my trip to Malawi in 2009 I always have been, and always will be, surrounded by books. There’s a photo of a much younger me face down asleep on the floor of my bedroom, books scattered everywhere around me. I was also completely naked. Nowadays, I tend to read while dressed, and…

Bibliotherapy and Nina Sankovitch’s “Tolstoy and the Purple Chair”

I’ve been trying to get hold of this book for so long. Whilst my blog narrates my journey away from anxiety through hefty reading, Nina Sankovitch’s Tolstoy and the Purple Chair: My Year of Magical Reading shows the “all-encompassing power and delight of reading”. Therefore, it seemed destined for me to read this book. The author and…

A Review of 11.22.63 by Stephen King

I have mixed feelings about Stephen King’s 11.22.63. It’s a “what if?” novel – what if JFK was never assassinated, in this case. This is a fascinating idea for a novel, so kudos to King for that. Here’s the blurb of the novel: “King takes his protagonist Jake Epping, a high school English teacher from…

Poetry by León Felipe: Dialogue Between the Poet and Death (Diálogo entre el poeta y la muerte)

Thanatos – daemon personification of death in Greek  Mythology. Sculptured marble column drum from the Temple of Artemis at Ephesos.  Here’s another León Felipe poem from his collection Ganarás La Luz. Look out for notes of John Donne’s “Death be not proud”. DIALOGUE BETWEEN THE POET AND DEATH Poet- Oh, death! I know you’re already there. Please have some patience. Death-…

Philosophy Snippet: Pythagoras

“Learn to be silent, let your quiet mind listen and absorb.” Pythagoras Peace and quiet are right up there with my basic human needs. When I become too stressed, I can’t settle down completely until I have a dark, silent toom to rest in. However, I do find it hard to focus entirely on silence…

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…

Tolstoy On Changing Yourself, Not Humanity; August Challenge

I thought that I’d share the lovely Tolstoy quote that was read out this morning on Radio 2: “In our world everybody thinks of changing humanity, and nobody thinks of changing himself.” Leo Tolstoy This makes a lot of sense to me, as a person constantly striving for self-improvement. This quote also links nicely to…

War and Peace: Thoughts on the Epilogue

It feels like I’ve left it too long after finishing War and Peace to write about it, but I’ll try my best! I completed it last Thursday, and since then I have read a few other books that have blurred my memory somewhat. It was a relatively quick re-read (by War and Peace standards!), taking…

Poetry by León Felipe: Biography, Poetry and Destiny (Biografía, Poesía y Destino)

BIOGRAPHY, POETRY AND DESTINY (My own translation of BIOGRAFÍA, POESÍA Y DESTINO) The poet first tells of his life to men; Then, when men are sleeping, to the birds And when the birds have flown, He tells it to the trees… Later the Wind passes and there’s a murmur of leaves. And this is what…

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…

August Reading So Far

Having finished War and Peace (final post to follow), I’ve spent a lot of time reading the last few days – avidly is probably the word. The journey north to visit my boyfriend, Chris, is always extremely valuable to me: I look forward to it as a time to rest, think, and rejuvenate with the aid of…

War and Peace: Thoughts on Volume IV

I must say that Volume IV contains most of my favourite moments in War and Peace. There’s so much to relate to, to learn from. In my edition, this volume surely has the highest number of annotations. Hélène’s illness and death largely determine the course of the final sections. It’s part of Pierre’s journey to freedom,…

War and Peace: Thoughts on Volume III

I’ve finished reading Volume III, so here are a few of my thoughts on the last four hundred odd pages of War and Peace. The Emperor Napoleon in His Study at the Tuileries, by Jacques-Louis David, 1812 (Nasty) NapoleonNapoleon’s crossing of the Niemen isn’t a pleasant scene. Polish uhlans are keen to impress the emperor, and are “proud…

Reading the Book of “Simple Pleasures” in Light of Tolstoy’s Pierre

On a recent literary spree in town, I picked up a little hardcover book entitled Simple Pleasures: Little Things That Make Life Worth Living (collated by the National Trust). As I had an armful of books already I didn’t buy it there and then, but I did later order it on Amazon. I’m glad that I…

Literature in the 2012 Olympic Ceremony

After all the premature doubts surrounding the Olympic Opening Ceremony – whether it will be anywhere as good as Beijing, whether it will be an international embarrassment – I was pleasantly surprised with it. The English countryside theme really seemed to work, and a lot of our national history was appreciated. The moment of remembrance…

War and Peace: Thoughts on Volume II

Here’s the next post on my War and Peace progress. If you’re interested in Russian literature, I really recommend that you check out the blog Lizok’s Bookshelf. She has written quite a lot on War and Peace, and I particularly like this comment of hers: “Russian high school students read Война и мир (War and…

War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy: Thoughts on Volume I

I’m so glad that I’m re-reading War and Peace. Yes, it’s really (really) long at 1358 pages, but it’s also so moving. I’ll write a little summary of my thoughts on Volume I here, so if you’re reading it and haven’t got that far yet, or are planning to read it, I apologise for any…

Reading Tolstoy’s War and Peace and Where to Start with Tolstoy

Tolstoy’s notes from the ninth draft of War andPeace, 1864. It is also an example of what hispoor wife had to decipher! I first tackled the mighty War and Peace in 2009, I believe. I asked for it as a Christmas present, which made everyone think I was rather mad. It took me a while…

Philosophy Snippet: Disraeli on Suffering

“Seeing much, suffering much, and studying much are the three pillars of learning.” Benjamin Disraeli Disraeli was British Prime Minister 1874-1880, playing an integral role in the creation of the modern Conservative party. He also dabbled a bit with literature, and is the owner of a great many quotes, including the one above. I’ve had…

A Review of A Severed Head by Iris Murdoch

First published 1961, my edition 1964 “To lose somebody is to lose not only their person but all those modes and manifestations into which their person has flowed outwards; so that in losing a beloved one may find so many things, pictures, poems, melodies, places lost too: Dante, Avignon, a song of Shakespeare’s, the Cornish…

Che’s Poetry (3): The Black Heralds – César Vallejo

Here’s another poem from Che Guevara’s Cuaderno Verde, written by César Vallejo (1892-1938). Vallejo was Peruvian, and was called by Thomas Merton “the greatest universal poet since Dante”. Pretty strong words. The first line of The Black Heralds is also one of the most recalled in Spanish poetry. Che used this poem to open his collection, and…

Favourite Words: “Muse”

Polyhymnia, the Muse of sacred poetry. “Sing to me of the man, Muse, the man of twists and turns: driven time and again off course, once he had plundered: the hallowed heights of Troy.” The quotation above – the opening lines of The Odyssey – is one of my favourites ever written. It’s so magical…

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…

A Guide to Learning Languages When You’re Shy

I study Spanish at university, and have also learnt some Italian and Catalan. However, due to the struggles I’ve had with social anxiety, this hasn’t been – and still isn’t – easy. I enjoy reading books and news articles in foreign languages, alongside watching films and listening to music or the radio. Also, I can…

Che’s Poetry (2): The Grandfather – Nicolás Guillén

Here’s one poem from Che Guevara’s “Cuaderno Verde”, as mentioned in my previous post. Nicolás Guillén was a Cuban poet, and 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. My apologies…

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…

The Etymologicon – David Forsyth

I’m going to start working at my local bookshop soon, which is a big step forward! I’ll have to get myself a reward of some sort. I spoke to the owner today, and he asked me about my plans for after uni and if I enjoyed my first year. That was kind of him. He…

Poetry by León Felipe: “I am leaving because the earth is no longer mine…” (Me voy porque la Tierra ya no es mía)

For college, not too long ago, I translated Ganarás La Luz, a poetry collection by a man called León Felipe. He’s completely underrated, and one of the finest civil war poets in my opinion. Felipe was born in 1884 to wealthy parents, and later went on to start a business as a pharmacist. However, due to…

Five Favourite Covers (1)

As a lover of pretty books, I do judge books by their covers a lot of the time. When I know that the book’s a classic or that it can come with a beautiful cover, I’ll usually buy a copy rather than getting it from the library or for my Kindle. I know not everyone is…

My Favourite Novels to Read During Summer: Books From Around the World

When English weather finally decides to act against its stereotypes, I like my reading to reflect it. I look for books set in the sun, and that have light and not-to-taxing content. It isn’t really the time for Russian literature, no matter how much I love it. I need a book that I can read…

Exposure Therapy for Anxiety

Over the years, my social anxiety has been bad. Really bad. It led to agoraphobia of some sort, and that made everyday life even harder. It’s getting better now, as I’ve made sure to continually expose myself to the things I fear. It was really difficult at first, but I like proving myself that I can…

Spending Too Much and The Great Gatsby

I went a bit crazy at the shops yesterday. I even spent £19 on a conditioner (does my hair really deserve that?) The art shop couldn’t accept my card if the amount was under £5, so I circled around the shop again looking for something enticing. When I came back with a fifteen-pound notebook the…

A Parrot in the Pepper Tree – Chris Stewart

I’ve almost completely run out of reading material. Well, I have my Kindle, but I like to have actual books lying around. Luckily, I found A Parrot in the Pepper Tree lurking in my bookshelf, a book I’ve always dismissed before. I think it was from a pile of books I stole from my Mum’s (very…

Ten Favourite Classics

At around nine years old, I decided I was too old for children’s books and that I was ready to move onto the world of classic literature. For a book to be considered one of the “classics”, I believe it needs to possess artistic quality, universal appeal, and success over time. Classics are the books…

Addiction and Talent in Requiem for a Dream by Hubert Selby Jr.

Seriously, what is the world coming to? This book really got to me, perhaps more than any other book. Murakami’s The Wind Up Bird Chronicle left me completely on edge after reading (that well was terrifying), but Hubert Selby Jr. does something entirely different. The scary thing is that we can relate to everything he writes.…

Using Ayurvedic Medicine for Anxiety: Compassion, Relaxation, Self-Care, Diet

I’m a fan of all things natural when it comes to solving problems with my body. I just can’t deal with prescription drugs, it seems. I’m not sure if that’s because I’m quite a small person or that I’m not used to harsh chemicals, but they’re not right for me at all. I know you…

Inpsiring Reads: Fiction to Help Us Improve Ourselves

Ever since my early teenage years, I’ve always made lists of ways in which I can be better. I wanted to be better at sports, top of the class and a linguist. A life of never being satisfied admittedly isn’t healthy, but I’ve always wanted to continually improve myself. I guess that’s a positive quality. I…

Eat, Pray, Love and Understand Yourself

My life isn’t exactly full of activity at the moment, but I’m loving it. It’s great to have time to slow down and decipher how I’m feeling and what I feel like doing (which isn’t much). I think I’m finally beginning to understand how to rest without panicking about what I should be doing –…

The Road – Cormac McCarthy

I remember my English teacher once saying how her most hated book was “about a guy and his son who just walked along a road… and that was it”. She was a great teacher, but after finally reading The Road, I’d have to disagree. I can’t believe I left so long before reading it – it…

“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…

Self-Improvement and Transformation in Patrick Süskind’s Perfume: The Story of a Murderer

This is a disturbing yet magical book. In eighteenth-century France,  Jean-Baptiste Grenouille is born with an extraordinary sense of smell. People immediately reject the unusual baby, believing him to be the devil, and eventually Grenouille sets about Paris alone in search of scents. He becomes the apprentice of a master perfumer, but this isn’t enough…

Books Made Into Films 2012

Anna Karenina – September – Keira Knightley, Jude Law, Aaron Johnson, Matthew Macfadyan I think Keira Knightley is a good choice as Anna, to be honest. Also, I’m interested to see what Kelly McDonald is like as Dolly (she played Diane in Trainspotting). I can imagine she and Keira would act quite well together. I can’t…

Positive Books, Films and Actions to Brighten Your Day

We all have days where we just can’t really be arsed. Maybe it’s because of the weather (if you’re English…), or perhaps life is just getting a bit too much. Treat yourself to a day of undivided attention, no matter how selfish it feels. You’ll feel better in no time. Read: The Little Prince- Antoine…

What books did you read at school?

Great Expectations: the ultimate novel prescribed by schools? The literature we read in school has different effects on people. It can put someone off reading for a long, long time. It can give someone else a lifelong love for reading. The latter is probably more applicable to me, yet isn’t entirely true. Some books I…

I’m a Book Blogger After All: Twenty-Five of My Favourite Books

A Girl Reading, 1932 by Vanessa Bell I think you have to do a post like this on a blog largely about books. So here we go, twenty-five of my favourite books. The Death of Ivan Ilyich- Tolstoy. This book is incredible. It covers so much in so few pages, and leaves you with a…

Poems to Memorise for Life & Difficult Situations

“Always learn poems by heart. They have to become the marrow in your bones. Like fluoride in the water, they’ll make your soul impervious to the world’s soft decay.” – White Oleander, Janet Fitch There’s something therapeutic about memorising poetry and reciting it during difficult times. Not necessarily aloud, but just letting it run through…

Philosophy for Life by Jules Evans: Control, Nietzsche and Savouring the Little Things

I recently picked up “Philosophy for Life and Other Dangerous Situations” by Jules Evans. I only read the blurb before compulsively buying it, but I can’t say I regret it. Beforehand, the only people I knew interested in philosophy were consumed by arrogance and felt a need to speak incoherently. Needless to say, that had put…

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…