Oops, it’s already mid-year and I realised I never posted the following up. I actually read the following books late last year but never got around to finishing up typing out my reviews until…well, a few weeks ago :3 Luckily I did keep notes around the time that I read the following books so I have some recollection of my thoughts and reactions to reading them 😛 But as you may notice, this is a non-fiction edition of a mini reviews post. Included in this batch are:
The Populist Explosion: How the Great Recession Transformed American and European Politics
By: John B. Judis
Format/Source: eBook; my purchase
What’s happening in global politics? As if overnight, many Democrats revolted and passionately backed a socialist named Bernie Sanders; the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union; the vituperative billionaire Donald Trump became the presidential nominee of the Republican party; and a slew of rebellious parties continued to win elections in Switzerland, Norway, Italy, Austria, and Greece.
John B. Judis, one of America’s most respected political analysts, tells us why we need to learn about the populist movement that began in the United States in the 1890s, the politics of which have recurred on both sides of the Atlantic ever since. Populism, on both the right and the left, champions the people against an establishment, based on issues–globalization, free trade, immigration–on which there has been a strong elite consensus, but also a strong mass discontent that is now breaking out into the open.
The Populist Explosion is essential reading for our times as we grapple to understand the political forces at work here and in Europe.
I picked up this book exactly because of what was going on late last year and how the word “populism” was being thrown around, both in Europe and North America. It’s pretty informative if you’ve never heard of the term and the history behind the political concept and how it’s evolved over time. It was also informative from an economical-political viewpoint in understanding what’s going on with the rise of these nationalist groups. It was a good refresher, but I was expecting more in-depth analysis on the subject and its ramnifications. Despite the blurb mentioning the European Union, I thought it could’ve been more comprehensive with the European side as the book was discussing the United States more. It also doesn’t touch too much on these groups’ social context and their impact post-elections especially in the case of Trump (though it does touch on immigration in relation to jobs/the economy) but I suppose you’d need to loo elsewhere for a more detailed discussion. Nonetheless the book was a good starting point on the subject matter.
Tiny Beautiful Things
By: Cheryl Strayed
Format/Source: Paperback; my purchase
Life can be hard: your lover cheats on you; you lose a family member; you can’t pay the bills—and it can be great: you’ve had the hottest sex of your life; you get that plum job; you muster the courage to write your novel.
Sugar—the once-anonymous online columnist at The Rumpus, now revealed as Cheryl Strayed, author of the bestselling memoir Wild—is the person thousands turn to for advice. Tiny Beautiful Things brings the best of Dear Sugar in one place and includes never-before-published columns and a new introduction by Steve Almond. Rich with humor, insight, compassion—and absolute honesty—this book is a balm for everything life throws our way.
I had long heard of this book and good things about it but I never got around to picking it up (even at times when it seemed like this book would really come in handy). Well, I finally got around to picking it up this year and then figured this was the perfect book to read when I went on holiday weeks ago (see Instagram post)
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 😉 )
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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 🙂
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.
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