Already at year’s end, thoughts are turning to get-togethers, much-anticipated family time, gifting and reflecting. On reflecting – I’ve churned through a few books during the year and I want to share with you some of the ones that have stayed with me – and why. You never know: there might be a gift idea or two among them. Here’s the reading list and a few other thoughts.
All Our Shimmering Skies: Trent Dalton
I so loved this book. A wonderful, sometimes dream-like, story about the intersections between a complex bunch of individuals in World War 2 Darwin. The characters have enough unfolding mystery to be intriguing, with some really moving and unexpected acts of empathy. A few far-fetched bits, but don’t let those stand in the way of a good story.
Very internal, this one. An interesting if not actually gripping read (is it just me or is that woman neurotic?). Some very relatable observations of place and emotional attachments to it though.
The Midnight Library: Matt Haig
This book is just a glorious, wondrous, imaginative and profound contemplation of life. The first few pages left me thinking it would be a depressing read, but not for long! The magic picks up and just keeps going. I loved the whole thing, and the ending is fabulous too (no cliched happy endings here). It just might change your views on the whole why-we-humans-are-alive-at-all thing. You’ll feel uplifted after this.
Reasons for Staying Alive: Matt Haig
So good to realise you’re not as weird as you think. A raw, sometimes comical, self-effacing account of anxiety and depression that gave me real insight into, and some understanding of, the experiences of some of my own family members. Uplifting and positive.
The Kite Runner: Khaled Hosseini
I’ve wanted to read this book for years and finally did it. I’m so glad I did. I saw the movie and was gobsmacked by everything about it. The book is just heartbreaking and beautiful at the same time. A gripping story about honour and integrity, and the profound will to rectify past wrongs and be a decent human being.
The Silence of the Girls: Pat Barker
I heard an interview with Pat Barker about this book and was so intrigued I had to get a copy. I never thought I’d be absorbed in the fictional history of the lives of women during the Trojan War but this is simply Not. Put. Downable. It made me think of The Handmaid’s Tale, and the amount of research Margaret Atwood must have buried herself in. Can’t wait to read the sequel The Women of Troy (which is waiting for me on the bedside table as I write). A gruelling tale of day-to-day life for women living through a history traditionally told by men.
This is an insightful treatise of how the legacies of colonialism and racism have fed into the exploitation of our planet, and the human beings who keep everything running. A justifiably angry assessment of the wilfully blind trashing of Earth for the sake of our manipulated first world wants (mostly clothing-wise). And privileged greed. A quick read with lots of resources in the back, it must be said, unfortunately, it is not well written. Frankly, I don’t even think it’s been edited. There is plenty of repetition and ranting and sloppy writing, but the message is loud and clear and worthwhile. We all need to THINK before purchasing. Can’t be that hard, can it?
How to be an Artist: Jerry Saltz
A pertinent collection of tough love tips for practicing artists. And some humour, of course. Essential reading for people like me.
Year of the Monkey: Patti Smith
As yet unfinished, but a wonderful insight into the mind of an artist who seems to have been around forever. Both rambling and liberating in its observations, feelings and situations – like a stream of consciousness tirade that feels like your own mind talking. A readable ramble of thoughts that’s somehow soothing.
The Year of Magical Thinking: Joan Didion
Likewise, just started… but so far – what a book. A beautifully rendered portrait of grief and the other worldliness of loss, sudden or not. Very honest and relatable.
If you haven’t been tempted by any of the above, here are some other ideas off the top of my head.
-Buy something unique from an artist – perhaps something no one else will ever have, and that can be treasured for many years to come. Online (start with mine for some ideas), in-person or from a gallery.
-Something useful, quirky, beautiful from an artisan market (and there’s no expensive, extended, unreliable delivery involved).
-Something useful, not designed for obsolescence, and most important of all – durable from somewhere like Buy Me Once. They have everything from homewares to clothes to luggage to electronics.
-For tricky types (teens/Gen Zs/anyone in need of some tough love) try GFDA’s site for inspired ideas.
-If clothes are on the agenda, scout around the Good on You website or their app for plenty of ethical alternatives to fast fashion that will only quickly becomes waste. Kowtow are also a good choice for organically produced fabrics and ethical production standards. Likewise, Bianca Spender if you’re more cashed up and looking for something really special.
-If ethical and super gorgeous homewares are required take a look at Stitch by Stitch. They stock exquisite artisan textiles and homeware products from India, the Himalayas and the UK. Also worth checking out: Sally Campbell’s beautiful textiles and the Selvedge online store.
-Gift yourself some warm and fuzzy feelings and send off some cash to a charity. They can sure use it.
-Time, AKA no gifts – just a relaxed, fabulous meal/day/holiday with loved ones. That’s special enough.