I finished 8 books. That’s a big month even for me. Two were audiobooks borrowed from the library. I download them onto the Overdrive app on my phone so that they are very portable. I listen to books when I’m walking and when I’m doing chores.
The only way I can afford my reading habit is because of the library. The other books this time were all library books, too, and all plucked from the front table where the librarians set out a selection. It’s the only way I would have come across Swedish author, Jonas Jonasson or Parisian author, Katherine Pancol. It is interesting to ‘hear’ the slight differences in views, voices and customs. I’m more sensitive to the differences after spending a week with 700 people from around the world at the TEDxSummit. We all bring our own lens, the way our experiences shape the way we see the world. I look for those shades of viewpoints when exploring concepts.
This was a month of shedding old ideas by stepping into other perspectives.
Pond Life: a swimmers journal, by Al Alvarez. I must admit that I put this down because at the start it was pretty much a log of his daily swim: water temp, other swimmers and wildlife. It seemed almost boring, even though I enjoyed the writing, but I have a big enough pile of books to read to feel them looming over me. There comes a point in every book where I make the decision to keep going or dive into the next book. I don’t put a book down lightly. Something drew me back and I’m glad I did. The story that unfolded over several years was one of aging. In fact he describes having several strokes and his determination to continue swimming despite the difficulty in getting around. Let me be clear, he is talking about swimming year round in a pond in London. The idea of swimming in 4C water is daunting, but it made me think about habits, what’s possible and determination.
Restaurant at the End of the Universe by Douglas Adams, read by Martin Freeman. Douglas Adams was a genius at taking an idea and showing you the other side of it. You’ll have to read the book to find out the big flip in this book. His books are full of characters that see the same things and have completely opposite views of what they really are. Listening to Martin Freeman read Restaurant at the end of the Universe, was cool for 2 reasons. He played Arthur Dent in the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Universe movie. The third season of Sherlock went by way too fast and we miss it already.
Hands of Flame by CE Murphy. Yet more books about the ‘other’ races that live among us. We can only see what we can see. PS if you want a funny story about vampires, read the Fat Vampire series.
The 100 year old man that climbed out the window and disappeared, by Jonas Jonasson. This was a thoroughly enjoyable book with an eccentric cast of characters. The story is also about Karl’s life (said 100 year old man). He had great swaths of years and decades that were seemingly lost – one to an alcoholic haze on a beach. It made me feel that it’s okay to be able to sum up a decade with a few sentences. Being able to do that doesn’t mean those years are lost and that it’s hopeless to bother carrying on. We can still do something that matters. There is also the element of living longer. Being able to climb out a window at 100 years old isn’t far fetched. How does that change the way we view our time on earth?
The Yellow Eyes of Crocodiles by Katherine Pancol. When a book comes out of another country it’s likely to be one of the best. When it is translated, I can’t help but wonder whose voice are we reading? I loved the writing, in fact I stayed up until the wee hours to finish reading the book. This is a book about reinventing oneself and about the more things change the more they stay the same. I know that seems like a contradiction, but I think our core stays the same, while we can change how we navigate the world. We can’t change others or how they relate to us. It’s why we often lose relationships as we change.
Heartbreak Hotel by Deborah Moggach. She wrote the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, another ensemble piece set at a hotel. The story is about a retired actor from London being left a B&B in Wales. He decides to trade the city life for town life. His solution to not enough custom opens the doors to interesting people and interactions. Another story about reinvention on one’s own terms.
Walden on Wheels: the open road from debt to freedom, by Ken Ilgunas. When he graduates with a “useless liberal arts degree” and $32,000 debt into a non-existent job market, Ken takes to the wilderness in Alaska to make as much money as he can. Along the way he learns about strength, resilience and determination. This is a true accounting of his life over 6 years. He explores simplicity, the slippery slope and the loneliness of not stepping in tune with the conventional drummer.
Secrets of Eden by Chris Bohjalian. This is the second audiobook and, as always, I listened to it over the same time period as reading other books. This makes for interesting juxtapositions. This was another book I almost didn’t finish. The story is based on spousal abuse and a murder suicide. I try to be careful with what goes into my mind. I believe our minds are our most important environment. The story was presented from 4 different perspectives (read by 4 different people). It’s a story of assumptions based on surface information and only seeing what we are looking for.
I didn’t plan to consume a group of books all about reinvention, seeing what we are looking for and determination to be true to ourselves. Then again, maybe that’s what I got out of these books because that’s what I’m exploring now. Maybe if you were to read all of these, you would find a different unifying theme.
I’m Frances Schagen, business strategist and author of Your Effortless Business.