Tag: Books: Nonfiction

Review: The Little Book of Hygge

Posted 2 June, 2017 by Lianne in Books / 6 Comments

The Little Book of Hygge
By: Meik Wiking
Format/Source: Hardback; my purchase

Denmark is often said to be the happiest country in the world. That’s down to one thing: hygge.

‘Hygge has been translated as everything from the art of creating intimacy to cosiness of the soul to taking pleasure from the presence of soothing things. My personal favourite is cocoa by candlelight…’

You know hygge when you feel it. It is when you are cuddled up on a sofa with a loved one, or sharing comfort food with your closest friends. It is those crisp blue mornings when the light through your window is just right.

Who better than Meik Wiking to be your guide to all things hygge? Meik is CEO of the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen and has spent years studying the magic of Danish life. In this beautiful, inspiring book he will help you be more hygge: from picking the right lighting and planning a dinner party through to creating an emergency hygge kit and even how to dress.

Meik Wiking is the CEO of the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen. He is committed to finding out what makes people happy and has concluded that hygge is the magic ingredient that makes Danes the happiest nation in the world.

Haha, so I caved and bought this book a few months ago when I was at the bookstore. I’ve heard of hygge long before it became this huge thing here in North America, and didn’t think I needed to read a whole book about it, but doesn’t that book cover look so enticing? Plus it had some recipes, so that prompted me to pick it up right away :3

The Little Book of Hygge is very informative about Danish culture and the concept of hygge and how it applies to their everyday lives. From the history of the word itself to statistics on Danish consumption of candles and candies, it was a delightful read; I ended up blitzing through the book in one evening, it was quite a comfy read as it talks about the ways in which they incorporate hygge in their everyday lives. There’s a wee bit of repetition here and there about past information mentioned, but otherwise it was a very informative book that left me inspired to add a bit more hygge in my life 🙂

(Plus, haha, there is a chapter in this book that was very useful as I was planning my trip to Denmark at the time! So you could say this whim purchase was timely 😉 )

Rating: ★★★★★

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Review: Spiritual Writings

Posted 29 May, 2017 by Lianne in Books / 0 Comments

Spiritual Writings
By: Soren Kierkegaard
Format/Source: Paperback; my purchase

Harper Perennial Modern Classics presents the rediscovered spiritual writings of Søren Kierkegaard, edited and translated by Oxford theologian George Pattison. Called “the first modernist” by The Guardian and “the father of existentialism” by the New York Times, Kierkegaard left an indelible imprint on existential writers from Sartre and Camus to Kafka and Derrida. In works like Fear and Trembling, Sickness unto Death, and Either/Or, he by famously articulated that all meaning is rooted in subjective experience—but the devotional essays that Patterson reveals in Spiritual Writings will forever change our understanding of the great philosopher, uncovering the spiritual foundations beneath his secularist philosophy.

I think I mentioned it before in a previous review but I don’t normally review non-fiction religious and philosophy books here. It just never seemed to be a thing for me even though I do write in the margins of these books and have plenty of thoughts about it *shrugs* But I decided to write a review for this book, partly because I did review another book from the series, The Present Age (review), not to mention because I had read this over the first half of Lent. Plus, I love Kierkegaard and he should get more attention here on the blog 🙂

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Review: In Search of Duende

Posted 19 April, 2017 by Lianne in Books / 0 Comments

In Search of Duende
By: Federico Garcia Lorca
Format/Source: Mass market paperback; my purchase

The notion of “duende”—a demonic earth spirit embodying irrationality, earthiness, and a heightened awareness of death—became a cornerstone of Lorca’s poetics. In Search of Duende gathers Lorca’s writings about the duende and three art forms susceptible to it: dance, music, and the bullfight. A bilingual sampling of Lorca’s poetry is also included, making this an excellent introduction to Lorca’s poetry and prose for American readers.

I had no idea this book existed until I was wandering around the poetry aisles the last time I was at the bookstore. I love the cover of the book too; the minimalist look is absolutely soothing and eye-catching *hearts and stars* Anyway, I had no idea Lorca had delivered a few lectures when he was in New York–which makes total sense, of course–so I thought it was cool that a publishing company had compiled them along with some of his poems.

Are you surprised at all that I really liked this book? It was a fascinating collection of lectures he had delivered accompanied by some of his poems that reinforce some of the points he makes about the Spanish culture around duende and the artistic/cultural scene. Having read all of the his poems, his lectures on duende were quite illuminating, not only about Spanish culture and, to a lesser extent, Spanish and Andalusian identity, but also to his own poetry and why he wrote the way he did, and the steeped history that he worked from and inherited from previous artists and singers and poets. Duende is such a mysterious concept, and yet it’s something so deep and inherent in human experience that it came only be expressed in poetry (which then leads to the next question as to whether contemporary Spanish poets or poets hailing from Andalusia still write with duende infused somewhere in their work). The supplementary poetry nicely reflects the themes and points that Lorca makes in his essays and of course like his poetry, his lectures are quite beautifully written.

Would I recommend In Search of Duende to first-time Lorca readers? Likely not, if only I think you need to be a bit familiar with his poetry to appreciate where he’s coming from in explaining duende and why it’s so important. But this book is an excellent companion piece to his poetry and I highly recommend checking it out if you have read his works before.

Rating: ★★★★★

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Review: Reflections: On the Magic of Writing

Posted 11 April, 2017 by Lianne in Books / 4 Comments

Reflections: On the Magic of Writing
By: Diana Wynne Jones
Format/Source: Hardback; my copy

Diana Wynne Jones is best-known for her novels and stories – of magical fantasy – written mainly for children. She received a World Fantasy Award for Lifetime Achievement in 2007, as well as two Mythopoeic Awards and the Guardian Fiction Award for Charmed Life. But she was also a witty, entertaining speaker, a popular guest at science fiction and fantasy conventions and an engaged, scholarly critic of writing that interested her.

This collection of more than twenty-five papers, chosen by Diana herself, includes fascinating literary criticism (such as a study of narrative structure in The Lord of the Rings and a ringing endorsement of the value of learning Anglo Saxon) alongside autobiographical anecdotes about reading tours (including an account of her famous travel jinx), revelations about the origins of her books, and thoughts in general about the life of an author and the value of writing. The longest autobiographical piece, ‘Something About the Author’, details Diana’s extraordinary childhood and is illustrated with family photographs. Reflections is essential reading for anyone interested in Diana’s works, fantasy or creative writing.

The collection features a foreword by Neil Gaiman and an introduction and interview by Charlie Butler, a respected expert on fantasy writing.

As you know, I love her book Howl’s Moving Castle (review). I’ve been meaning to read more of her books, but I also really wanted to read this book and learn more about her approach to writing. So I was delighted when I found a copy at the bookstore months ago and snatched it up immediately.

I don’t know how much I can say about this book. Reflections: On the Magic of Writing is a fantastic collection of lecture notes, essays, and letters from Diana Wynne Jones about writing, about her books, about historical narratives, and about her life. It’s a fascinating look at the author herself as well as, more importantly, her approach to her writing and about writing in itself. It’s quite illuminating, and encouraging in a way, and writers I think will find this book incredly useful in the little gems she talks about when it comes to writing. The pieces written by others–Neil Gaiman, Charlie Butler, and her sons–were also very interesting pieces about the author and the impact of her works. My favourites pieces in this collection were “The Shape and Narrative in The Lord of the Rings“, “Two Kinds of Writing?” (especially interesting), “The Value of Learning Anglo-Saxon”, A Talk About Rules”, “Some Hints on Writing”, “Freedom to Write”, and “Characterization: Advice for Young Writers.”

There’s not much else I can say about this book except that it was an interesting one and that I learned a lot about Diana Wynne Jones the writer and the person. Fans of the author’s works as well as writers will want to check out this book!

Rating: ★★★★★

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Review: Two CBC Massey Lecture Books

Posted 30 March, 2017 by Lianne in Books / 2 Comments

After reading Margaret MacMillan’s History’s People (review) a while ago I decided to revisit two CBC Massey Lectures (see tag) I had previously read but never got around to reviewing here (which also happens to be the two first lectures I’ve read from the series) 🙂

The Malaise of Modernity
By: Charles Taylor
Format/Source: eBook; my purchase

In Malaise of Modernity, Charles Taylor focuses on the key modern concept of self-fulfillment, often attacked as the central support of what Christopher Lasch has called the culture of narcissism. To Taylor, self-fulfillment, although often expressed in self-centered ways, isn’t necessarily a rejection of traditional values and social commitment; it also reflects something authentic and valuable in modern culture. Only by distinguishing what is good in this modern striving from what is socially and politically dangerous, Taylor says, can our age be made to deliver its promise.

I read this book back in 2011 after seeing a blogger friend had read it and greatly recommended it. It also happened to be the first Massey Lecture book I had ever read. I found the premise interesting as every now and then I do find myself wondering about the topics mentioned in this book. I greatly enjoyed reading it the first time around, which was still the case the second time around, only this time perhaps it left me a little wanting. I suppose this is the general case with this lecture series as it serves as an introduction to the larger topic without losing its audience entirety with its intricacies.

One major thought that struck me as I was re-reading this book was how this book could really go hand-in-hand with Soren Kierkegaard’s The Present Age: On the Death of Rebellion (review). Much of this book talks about individualism and its impact on changes in the broader social scene, whether it is seen as a detriment to society or not. Intertwined throughout his argument is its impact on the political scene and the socio-economic scene. In retrospect the arguments felt a little more muddled rather than structured–it’s hard to explain in retrospect, but as I was reading it, I wished it focused on each aspect of his argument or each part of the human experience rather than going back and forth between elements. I was also surprised at how the political element played a role in his overall discussion for some reason; it makes sense, of course, given how much the political impinges on general society, but I was expecting the focus to be broader as oppose to individuals and their civic duty.

I had initially gave this book a full five stars but this time around I gave it four stars because, as interesting as the discussion was, it didn’t come to any definitive answer. I suppose any book of this nature can offer any concrete solution or address about the future, but I wasn’t terribly convinced by his wrap-up. It’s nonetheless a fascinating discussion and a book worth checking out if this topic is of any interest to you.

Rating: ★★★★☆

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