7 Reasons To Pick Up A Book Right Now

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Whether you are new to reading, or just in a bit of a slump, I’ve come up with a few reasons why you should pick up that next book. I’ve just come out of a reading slump myself, I was feeling a bit uninspired and not sure what to read next, so I’ve decided to compile a list of the best reasons to pick up a book in the first place.

You might learn something new

Even if, like me, you predominantly read fiction, there is always something to learn. Authors have to get their ideas from somewhere and will often research the intricate details of their plot to make the story as real as possible. A good example of this is Wolf Brother by Michelle Paver (and the rest of the books in the series). Paver travels the world, spends months studying wolves and traditional survival skills to write her books, and it shows. Despite these being aimed at a middle grade audience, I learnt an awful lot about wolf communication from them. There is always something to learn from a book.

Expand your vocabulary


There is no question that reading introduces you to new words. There have been may times in my reading that I have had to stop and look up a word I haven’t read before. Sometimes you can infer meaning from context , but I am the sort of person who likes to know for sure what something means, before I adopt it into everyday use

Reading influences your Intelligence

First things first, I am not a scientist and my evidence of this is purely anecdotal. However a quick google search takes me to this article on Bookriot which explains the link between intelligence and reading far more eloquently than I can here. In my experience though, it helps with empathy, problem solving and even memory. We use books to teach children about the world around them, so it must have some impact on brain connectivity and function. While reading may not make your IQ score higher, it certainly wont make it lower.

You can learn about other cultures

This one is particularly relevant today, as we all try to better ourselves and understand the plight of our fellow humans. I personally love to read about other cultures, sub-cultures, ethnicities, genders, orientations and identities. The world is a rich and colourful place, why limit yourself only to what you know? In reading about the people who differ to you, you can begin to understand them better. You gain a profound look at the world through someone else’s eyes when you read. It truly is a gift and only serves to expand your mind.

You can learn about yourself

While we are busy learning about other people, it might help us learn about ourselves too. Aside from all the self help books that are available, reading in general can really help you to understand why you are the way you are. When you connect with a character, its because you see a little bit of yourself in them. Relating to what motivates a character can help you understand what motivates you.

You can mind read!

As I touched on above, a book is really a look into the mind of its author. When you read, you are reading in their voice and tone. You can learn an awful lot about someone from their writing and it is a privilege to be allowed that deep into someones mind. to quote George RR Martin, “A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies. The man who never reads lives only one.”

Escapism

This is my favourite reason for picking up a book. You can escape into another universe completely different from your own. It’s so relaxing to put your life and problems on hold for a while and escape into a captivating book. You can be transported to mystical lands on the back of a dragon, or fall in love, or go to a school of magic, or save a kingdom from a tyrant, anything is possible, and all from the comfort of your sofa! If you are sick of the humdrum, then pick up a book. You’ll feel refreshed and ready for life when you emerge from behind the cover.

What makes you pick up a book? Leave a comment and let me know!

Book Review: This Is Going To Hurt by Adam Kay

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Rating: 5 out of 5.

This was a bit of a wild card for me. I’m not usually drawn to non fiction books but I had heard good things about this and I was not disappointed. The book was published in 2017 by Picador. It is a collection of diary entries made by Adam Kay during his time as a junior doctor in the NHS. He worked for the NHS for six years as a junior doctor, working his way up the ranks in the gynaecology and obstetrics department before finally giving up his career due to the pressures he faced.

I would pair this book with a very strong cup of English breakfast tea. The strong but bright flavour matches perfect with the light but intense tone of the book. There are some heavy themes discussed during the book, so a good strong cup of English breakfast will steel the reader for some eye opening truths and intimate discussions of a medical nature.

Much like most of the population of the UK, I am extremely proud of our National Health Service. They have always been there for me, through childhood illnesses to the birth of my son. I can visit the doctor and not have to worry about bankrupting myself, and that is a freedom we should never take for granted. We must protect our NHS with everything we have because free healthcare, along with free education, should be a basic human right. It was partly my experience of the NHS, particularly my recent pregnancy, which prompted me to pursue this book. I know what it is like to be a patient, so now I wanted to know what it is like to be a doctor.

The book itself is hilarious. I found myself laughing out loud at multiple points while I was reading. The text is witty and darkly humorous, and quite grim in places. Doctors seem to deal with an awful lot of bodily fluid, I shuddered at some of the horrors Kay describes during his time as a doctor. He keeps the tone of the book light for the most part, but there is a clear undercurrent of anger. It is obvious that Kay went into the NHS with all the right intentions. He wanted to help people and was excited at the prospect of working for the NHS. However as the book goes on, it becomes evident the toll working as a doctor takes on your personal life. Not only are you responsible for people’s lives at work, you are expected to work so hard there is no time left for yourself.

This book was a huge eye opener for me. I think most non-medics are guilty of not really seeing doctors as the people they are, myself included. To be fair, its much easier to get your bits out in front of someone if you just think of them as some sort of medical android, but this thought does doctors an injustice. It shocked me just how tough the working conditions are in hospitals. Shifts are too long and the pay is too low, and yet these people still show up to work and try to help you as best they can. The book does not disparage the NHS however, its more a cry for help to protect and improve what we have.

Behind the humour and the heartbreak, the overall message of the book is clear. Protect the NHS at all costs, and don’t forget that doctors are people with feelings too. Ask them how they are every now and again.

You can get a copy of the book here.

Book Review: The Testaments by Margaret Atwood

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The Testaments is the follow on novel to The Handmaids Tale and was released last year (2019). It is set 15 years after the events of the previous book and follows the stories of three very different women. Their paths are destined to converge, but to what end? This novel reveals much more about the inner workings of Gilead and its origins.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

I realise I may very well be in the minority with this rating, and I wanted so desperately to love this book, but I didn’t. To be perfectly blunt, I feel it is a book that did not need to be written. The Handmaids Tale was fantastic. It was chilling, gripping and eyeopening. Everything down to the way the book was written makes The Handmaids Tale live up to its reputation of a modern classic. I love that book, and think it is a relevant and important read today.

It was not so with The Testaments. I found this book tough going to be honest, which is why it has taken me a while to read it to completion. I struggled with the constant changes of perspective between the women, and it would take me a while to remember what was going on and with whom. I also found the timeline of events confusing, as not all of the stories were told during the same time frame. The timeline does become clearer towards the end of the book however, which allowed me to understand more of what I had previously read.

“Still, I wanted to believe; indeed I longed to; and, in the end, how much of belief comes from longing?”

Margaret Atwood – The Testaments (Chapter 50)

Having said all of the above, the book definitely had its merits. As with its predecessor, it tackles the heavy issues of totalitarianism and religious mania. I think it highlights how easy it is to indoctrinate the masses into your belief system if you have the right tools at your disposal. This is particularly relevant today as we are, rightly, choosing to TEMPORARILY sacrifice some of our hard won freedoms in the name of the greater good. I wholeheartedly support this by the way. STAY HOME and SAVE LIVES, but it serves to show that fear makes people easy to control, a point well made in this book. We are trusting the powerful not to abuse their position and so far, the majority prove worthy of the trust, but this is not so in Gilead. The book certainly highlights the danger of a society formed this way.

The book also highlights the importance of being able to read and write in understanding the world around you. Having this form of communication is paramount to acquiring knowledge. By not allowing the majority of the population the ability to read and write, you severely limit their freedom, without having to use up many resources. It limits communication, the sharing of ideas and indeed the ability to fact check the rhetoric of those in power. As an avid reader myself, I would argue that to remove a persons ability to read and write, is to remove their ability to think for themselves.

“Once a story you’ve regarded as true has turned false, you begin suspecting all stories.”

Margaret Atwood – The Testaments (Chapter 51)

Spoilers Below

There are a couple of things I would like to talk about in more detail, including the ending of the book, so this section will contain spoilers. I have also referenced the ending of The Handmaids Tale.

Having read The Handmaids Tale previously, it was fairly easy for me to guess who each of the three women narrating were. I do not think this would be the case, however, if you had not read the previous book. My favourite of the three by far was Aunt Lydia. She was certainly the most complex character. I found the other two to be lacking in substance and I struggled to differentiate between them at points.

The book improved towards the end, but I felt it was a little rushed. It was such a slog to get to the exciting parts, only to have them over in a few pages. We spent the whole book hearing about how dangerous Gilead was and how no one really meant what they said and the Eyes were all knowing and always watching. It seemed remarkable to me then, that the two girls just breezed though the length of the country all the way to the Canadian border with zero problems.

I also had a bit of a problem with how Daisy (or Nicole) reacted to the death of her parents. She was adopted, yes, but she didn’t know that at the time. I mean, they got blown up by agents from another country on her birthday, then she was told she was adopted and her birthday wasn’t her birthday, then she was told she was Baby Nicole, the mascot of Gilead, then they asked her to infiltrate Gilead all in the same breath. She just accepted it and never seemed to grieve at all. Maybe shes a stronger person than me, but that would mess me up, she seemed to hardly react at all. I just didn’t find her character believable I’m afraid.

I understand why this book was written. People asked for closure after The Handmaids Tale, and they got it. I just think it was not necessary. Part of the beauty of that book is the ambiguity of the ending. It is satisfying to know that most of them lived happily ever after, but I really think it detracts from the impact of the previous book. The reason it made such an impression on me was because I didn’t know what happened. Much like in Gilead, its easy to be told what to think, its harder to come to your own conclusions.

You can pick up a copy of The Testaments here if you are interested in reading it.

A Book and A Teacup

Five words that pretty much sum up my ultimate happy place. A good book is priceless on its own, but accompanied with the perfect cup of tea, transcendent.

I have been an avid reader all my life. There is a joy specific to reading that enriches the soul and expands the mind beyond the mundanity of every day life. A good book, be that fiction or non fiction, can shape you as a person, and have a profound effect on how you see the world. This has happened to me on countless occasions. Books have enriched my life and my thinking, and they continue to do so. Which brings me to the reason for starting this blog. I thought I would use it as a way to air my thoughts on a recent read. I love to talk over a novel once I have finished it. To think on its implications and meanings. To digest and discuss the intricacies of a plot line or a character. As sad as it sounds, I always enjoyed writing about the books we would study in school.

As you may have also guessed, I enjoy a good cuppa. I am a self proclaimed (perhaps slightly obnoxiously) tea connoisseur and I enjoy almost all the teas I have tried, with the exception of Lapsang souchong. That just tastes like a forest fire to me. However, nothing can replace a good cup of builders tea in my heart, strong, just a splash of semi-skimmed milk and absolutely no sugar, just as nature intended.