I did something this year that was completely out of character; I read books. Before you literary buffs chase me out of London with flames and pitchforks – it’s not that I don’t like reading, it’s that I am an all or nothing kind of girl. When I read a book it is at the expense of everything else, I forget to cook dinner, I don’t blog and I will be reading ‘just one more page’ till 2am which is not exactly conducive to being a functioning human adult. But this year with all the long haul flights I had time to binge, I read for the first time in years.
So today I wanted to share my favourites. More specifically I wanted to share my favourites that weren’t cheap sci-fi or chic lit, because apparently people think I’m smart and I don’t want to spoil the illusion just yet (space pirates always tend to shatter illusions). Given the current 2016 pattern of narrowing focus and just thinking about your own problems, all of the books below are about opening your mind and seeing life from someone else’s perspective. Sounds wanky, but you will understand what I mean once you have read them.
Brain on Fire – Susannah Cahalan
This book is beyond incredible, it tells the true story of the month that Susannah Cahalan spent in hospital with anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis. Without warning she came down with psychosis, started having violent episodes and gradually lost control of her body – and all the wile she kept a journal which tracked her mental state. This book is amazing at showing how some of what we talk about as mental health (she was mis-diagnosed with schizophrenia) could actually have physiological reasons behind them. It will make you beyond grateful to be healthy and in charge of your own life.
Never have your dog stuffed – Alan Alda
When you think of Alan Alda you probable think of a gin guzzling legend from M.A.S.H, you might not know that he grew up touring around burlesque theaters because of his Dads job. Never have your dog stuffed is his life story; his bizzare childhood, finding the love of his life and of course becoming Hawkeye. It takes place in that glorious bubble of the 50’s and 60’s when the American dream was still possible and the story is as much a capturing of that time as it is Aldas story.
In Order to Live – Yeonmi Park
This one is a little heavy, but serves as a great reminder of how lucky we are to live in a free country (even in 2016). It is the autobiography of Yeonmi who grew up in North Korea, and then how she managed to escape North Korea. For me it was so interesting to learn what is is actually like to live in North Korea (a country that is the butt of jokes, but we never hear much about the reality) both in the city and villages, as well as being a harrowing look at what sacrifices she had to make to get out.
How to stay sane – Philippa Perry
This is an oldie but a goodie. If you are struggling with life at the moment, buy this book. It helps to take those irrational thoughts that are going around in your brain and give you the reasons behind them, and some practical tips for getting your life back together again.