top 10 books to read
Books, Lists of Love

Top 10 Books on my To-Read List

As a self-confessed book-hoarder, bookworm, and bibliophile, having an out-of-control list of books I want to read is a part of the job. Another thing we book-fiends revel in is talking, writing, and gushing about books until we hear the gentle click of the kettle as it comes to a boil. Enough chit chat – on to the books!

1 | Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman

I’m utterly obsessed with vikings and Norse mythology, and I think Neil Gaiman is just fantastic. When I hit Waterstones in Newcastle and saw this beautiful hardback edition of a book that merged those two things together, I just had to have it.

2 | Hold Your Own by Kate Tempest

Now this is actually a collection of poems by English spoken-word poet, Kate Tempest. I only really started to appreciate poetry when I was reading for my degree in English, but since then I’ve more than made up for it by making time to read good poetry, especially by writers who are still alive and kicking today.

3 | Event by Slavoj Zizek

Slavoj Zizek is a brilliant philosopher who, yes, I discovered at university but want to learn more about. Enter Event. 

4 | The Beautiful and Damned by F. Scott Fitzgerald

After falling hopelessly in love with The Great Gatsby and dealing with the inevitable book-hangover that followed, I’m ready for my next dose of Fitzgerald. Let’s say it – the man has a knack for badass titles.

5 | A Lover’s Discourse by Roland Barthes

A colleague of mine with excellent taste in books recommended this to me, and I’m going to trust her completely on this.

6 | The Colour of Magic by Terry Pratchett

Shame on me for not having read this already, I know. I’m sorry, please forgive me. But I’m here now, and I’m ready to enter Discworld.

7 | Notes from a Small Island by Bill Bryson

Bill Bryson is one of those writers who make you feel like you’re sitting down for a chat with your ridiculously good-humoured friend who’s also casually clever.

8 | East of Eden by John Steinbeck

This one is one of the heavier reads that I challenged myself to read a year ago. Ish. I’ve obviously failed. But I love John Steinbeck and will consider this blog post a promise that I will read it this year. Hold me to it, guys.

9 | Underworld London by Catharine Arnold

I love a bit of history – especially when it’s mixed in with some gritty crime. The full title is Underworld London: Crime and Punishment in the Capital City. Need I say more?

10 | The Elder Edda translated by Andy Orchard

Ah, we end where we began – with norse mythology! The Elder Edda is a collection of anonymous, Old Norse poems alive with the culture and history of the people who created them. It was actually one of the texts that inspired J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy, so it gets my vote twice.

Have you read any of these? Let me know what you thought in a comment below.

Until next time!

Kelly

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being yourself
Adult Life, Living Abroad, thoughts

What’s a ‘tiffin’ and when will it stop snowing?

As I write this, I’m sitting at Waterstones watching snow drift past the windows overlooking Newcastle city centre. To my left – a red pot of Earl Grey tea (fitting, since I’m so close to Grey’s Monument) and a teacup, with a cherry and walnut chocolate tiffin beside it. What’s a tiffin? I have no real clue, but it’s biscuity and amazing. A few years ago I wanted nothing more than to be in this exact place, just reading a book or doing some research. And now I live here, and I do that – perhaps too often, judging by the number of Waterstones Cafe loyalty cards I fill up. Today, the sky shifts from icy grey to bright blue with sunlight bouncing off the snow – almost blinding. It’s perfect.

It’s perfect because today is one of those days where I remember that I’m doing something I’d dreamt of doing for years before getting the gumption to actually go out and do it. Sometimes, somewhere between the ever-present deadlines, self-induced crises and little worries here and there that come with living alone, I forget how special that is and how much it means to me. So when I crunched through the snow on my way down here today, I felt happy. I feel light. I won’t ramble on about it – just don’t forget to take a moment from time to time to appreciate what you’ve achieved. Just be for a while.

February is at an end and spring is technically just around the corner – although I am curious about when the season will actually show up. Winter seems intent on overstaying its welcome. Yes, spring is synonymous with rebirth (or in my case, awful hayfever), but rather than that, I find that I’ve been thinking about change recently. Small changes, specifically. Changing bits of my day or shifting my habits because it’ll make me feel better in some small way. I mean I’m doing typical things like eating more fruit (ish), maintaining a balanced diet, going to the gym three times a week and all that jazz. I’ve even cut down my coffee intake to a maximum of two cups a day. But I’ve been thinking about one thing in particular: ‘authenticity’.

If there’s one theme in all my work, it’s about authenticity and self-expression. It’s the idea that some things are, in some real sense, really you – or express what you and others aren’t.  – Bernard Williams (Philosopher)

I don’t exactly mince my words when it comes to saying what I think, and I do try to be myself, but I feel like there’s something nagging at me. I think that moving to a new country, not knowing too many people, it can be easy to say or do things that you don’t necessarily think or want to because in your anxious mind it means winning favour or friendships (even if you’re sbukkata/outspoken like yours truly). It’s totally wrong, of course. Back in Malta, your people know you and have done (for the most part) since primary school. They know how old you were when you disobeyed your parents and got wrecked in Paceville, they know who first broke your heart and how long it took you to get over them, and they know exactly how you like to take your tea or coffee. There’s no complication there, no need to ‘appear’ any certain way. Move abroad, and it becomes tempting to be a little too agreeable because you want certain people to like you. Forget ‘silly’ – it’s stressful and unnecessary and should have been left behind in secondary school. People who are meant to become your friends will become your friends anyway, bullshit or no bullshit. With that in mind, I want to work on being a more authentic version of myself, or more authentically me – whatever way you’d like to word it. It’s a strange thing to try and express, but my guess is that if you understand what I’m trying to say you’ve probably experienced it yourself. I don’t even like using the word ‘try’ up there – if you’re trying to be authentic then I feel like there’s still some kind of artifice involved. I suppose it’s something like being the you that you are when you’re alone in your room folding clothes, or happily walking to Waterstones with snowflakes settling in your hair – and not compromising that for anyone, really. The only person you should be concerned about ‘liking’ you, is you. Isn’t that who you can always depend on in the end? Anyway, that’s just been on my mind recently and I felt like sharing – it’s probably some sort of weird way of holding myself accountable to this commitment to authenticity.

-Kelly

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T.S. Eliot the love song of j alfred prufrock
thoughts

Thursday Thoughts & T. S. Eliot

T.S. Eliot the love song of j alfred prufrock thursday thoughts

So I’ve never written anything like this (i.e. thinking out loud) before, but hey – why not? I was going through some photos I took yesterday, and stopped at this one. It’s nothing special, just a photo of the sea – something which we have in abundance here in Malta, a tiny island in the middle of the Mediterranean, sandwiched between Europe, Africa, and everyone else. Something about it (don’t ask me what or why, because for the life of me I don’t know) reminded me of T.S. Eliot, one of my favourite poets, and The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock – a beautiful poem I studied when I was reading for my master’s. It’s a pretty long poem, and I’d recommend listening to it here, but here’s the ‘full’ quote in all its poignant glory:

Do I dare
Disturb the universe?
In a minute there is time
For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.

For I have known them all already, known them all:
Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons,
I have measured out my life with coffee spoons;
I know the voices dying with a dying fall
Beneath the music from a farther room.
So how should I presume?

Something about this part of the poem resonated with me. Maybe it’s the sense of apprehension Prufrock feels, the ping-ponging of ideas and lukewarm decisions that plague and terrorise those so unsure about what to do next or how to do it, scaring themselves out of taking action in the process. Maybe it’s the potentially-maddening routine he captures in his ‘evenings, mornings, afternoons’ and coffee spoons. Maybe, being a coffee fiend, I just remembered the coffee. I don’t know, but I just wanted to share this particular poem on my little piece of internet in general, and with you in particular. Read it. Enjoy it. I won’t go into any more detail about the poem or my thoughts on it because I don’t want to colour your own interpretation, but I would love to hear what you think about it and how it makes you feel. Hit the comments if you’d care to share, fellow literature-lovers.

Have a great Thursday!

-Kelly 

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