What have I been reading in 2021?

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‘It only works for me in the first two weeks of my period cycle. But then again, that’s the case with every positive thing in my life.’

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‘I love having existential crises at bedtime, it’s so restful.’

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‘It is exhausting that we still cannot have a frank discussion about experiences of structural racism without positioning white people as equal victims of racial discrimination– and it shows the limitations of the language our legislative bodies are using.’

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‘It only works for me in the first two weeks of my period cycle. But then again, that’s the case with every positive thing in my life.’

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‘I love having existential crises at bedtime, it’s so restful.’

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‘The woman who speaks about feminism is not always the one truly insisting on equality behind closed doors.’

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‘…didn’t anyone ever tell you that endurance, that resilience, that strength looks so different on us all? On some it looks like still waters and on others it looks like a dam bursting as the water falls.’

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‘We think that unless we’re moving at the task one hundred miles an hour, then it’s never going to happen.’

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‘A man makes a woman realise she’s a woman; a woman makes her realise she’s human.’

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‘One after another, he tossed pebbles into the swamp of my mind, but instead of coming to rest on the bottom, they continued to drift deeper and deeper down without end.’

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‘Guilt can be an invisible gatekeeper that stops us fully including ourselves in rooms of influence – and stops us including others.’

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‘The place where you made your stand never mattered. Only that you were there… and still on your feet.’

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‘If we find something that works, we stick to it. Once we find something that works – no matter how badly – we tend not to look for a better way. We’ll use a better way if we stumble across one, but we seldom look for one.’

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‘When you can, ask yourself if you want to before you do.’

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‘We often find ourselves stuck in a river of thinking due to fear or habit. The key is to break this thinking yourself before it is broken by something else.’

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‘Those wretched creatures with whom we’re forced to interact on a daily basis, and who – as I write this under coronavirus lockdown – I miss like long-lost friends.’

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‘Ignorant people always fancied that ghosts appeared as shrouded ghouls. Anyone who had suffered loss could tell them differently. Sounds and smells haunted with more persistence, dragged you backwards in a way that nothing else could.’

Audre Lorde - The masters tools will never dismantle the masters house

‘We do not have to romanticize our past in order to be aware of how it seeds our present. We do not have to suffer the waste of of an amnesia that robs us of the lessons of the past rather than permits us to read them with pride as well as deep understanding.’

What was I reading in 2020? (75)

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When your fists are ready to paint faces When there is nowhere to confide When your skin lingers high above your bones and you’re so out of touch with self, Write.’

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Being used to something is such a poor excuse for prolonging anything, but it seems a national pastime, don’t you think? We let ourselves get into the habit of the grind, we let the grind wear us down.’

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‘The ultimate key to freedom is to keep becoming who you truly are.’

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‘No wonder studies show that women’s intellectual self-esteem tends to go down with every year of higher education. We’ve been studying our own absence.’

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How you imagine something will be is always worse than how it actually ends up being.’

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‘Whatever the Grinch can steal, that’s not Christmas.’

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‘Fear and faith., The one you dance with determines your life.’

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You could track your meditation minutes and ounces of water consumed and… see who among your friends was best at prioritizing #metime, based on how many hours a day they spent on the app.’

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‘Today I’m flying low and I’m not saying a word. I’m letting all the voodoos of ambition sleep.’

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‘Burn the house down in search of yourself. don’t you dare ever stop looking. don’t you dare ever think you won’t be worth the finding.’

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‘A still patient whose chest is silent is far more frightening than any other sound.’

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‘I found a new and surprising strength inside of me, I found it at the bottom of a dark and lonely place, but I found it. And unfortunately, that’s where we find most of life’s treasures.’

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‘I don’t know if I’ve ever truly felt like the ground beneath me was firm. Things always feel like they’re moving and I never get the chance to catch up to them and when I do, it feels like it all goes too quickly.’

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‘When trust goes, how quickly love disappears and self-preservation takes over.’

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‘A good friend once told me that problems are like cockroaches…If you bring them out into the light, they get scared and leave.’

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‘Good people are not racist, only bad people are. This neat binary is a way of avoiding any real discussion at all.’

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‘I am not a dandelion, I am a mighty tree. And I am firmly rooted deep in who I’m meant to be.’

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‘Love is diving headfirst into someone else’s confusion and finding it all makes sense.’

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‘To love yourself should be no quiet affair, but a loud uprising.’

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‘You outlive the bad times. Happiness comes again, eventually … Just by staying alive. That’s all you have to do.’

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‘Why can’ heads have overflow pipes like toilets? If they did I could pull my ear and flush it all out.’ (Lemn Sissay)

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‘Happily together, the friends go to the sea, to bob with boats and fishes, their spirits wild and free.’

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‘I love sleep. My life has the tendency to fall apart when I’m awake, you know?’

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‘Whereas dogs can learn to suppress their instincts, for humans there is no hope.’

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‘Try tuning out for a while and see how it feels.’

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‘Back then, it had never crossed my mind that it might one day be necessary to unpick the tapestry of our life.’

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‘It won’t be forever. You’ll be in the dark for as long as it takes and then you’ll come out.’

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‘If you hold the screen right up to your face you can maintain the fiction that you have something really important and personal to attend to.’

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‘I’m not the only person on this earth who has no idea what life is for, nor what is to be done with all this time aside from filling it.’

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‘Speaking truth to power. Acting according to our capability and opportunity, whatever that may be, is our collective responsibility.’

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‘I hate how the male gaze is still more powerful than a woman’s self-worth.’

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‘The morning is the seed that blossoms into what becomes your day.’

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‘You cannot be anything you want to be – but you can be a lot more of who you already are.’

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‘That’s the way with old friends. You understand each other, even when there’s not enough words out there for everything that should be said.’

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‘There’s no single way to be a badass.’

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‘But fear stole my choices one at a time until I didn’t have any left.’

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“I think everyone is just trying to get home,” said the mole.’

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‘Worrysaurus liked it when he knew what lay ahead.’

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‘I try to figure out what I really want to do every day, I say to myself, If this is one of the last days of my life, am I doing exactly what I want to be doing?’

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‘Aim to be you. Aim to look and act and think like you. Aim to be the truest version of you. Embrace that you-ness. Endorse it. Love it. Work hard at it.’

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‘When it comes to house building, most of the money gets spent on stuff that will end up being invisible.’

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‘Effective community strategy… is preventative medicine.’

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‘If you just let life come at you every now and again, you might be pleasantly surprised-and you might find you enjoy yourself a lot more.’

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‘Consider your wants. Answer to nobody. Love yourself.’

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‘An essential part of being able to tap into your sisu, the inner reserve you have but may not be aware of, is silencing all the superfluous noise.’

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‘We are effective through our communities, and we are held in the arms of our communities.’

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‘My self-delusion at this point is so rock-solid you could climb up it and plant a flag.’

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‘Some relationships are just meant for a moment, others are meant to be for forever.’

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‘One should waste as little effort as possible on improving areas of low competence.’

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‘They give everyone else their best, only to give themselves their worst.’

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‘Am still me, so impulsiveness ran out at potentially crucial moment, to be replaced by familiar, panicked indecision.’

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‘Your story is what you have, what you will always have. It is something to own.’

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‘Effective thinking isn’t about ‘working hard’ in any brute or rote sense; it is about learning to spot, defend, nurture and grow our fleeting, tentative periods of insight.’

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‘It’s amazing how friends can slip through your fingers, how your social network can vanish like it never existed.’

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‘There’s no such thing as ruining your life. Life’s a pretty resilient thing, it turns out.’

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‘It was surprising that you could spend hours in the middle of the night pretending things were okay, and know in thirty seconds of daylight that simply wasn’t so.’

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‘The poor were judged to be lazy and immoral paupers who refused to do honest work and bred bastards and enormous families while ‘living off handouts.’

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‘Letting go of the fear of being less than perfect is easier than you think. It all comes down to exercising your bravest muscles, one little bit at a time.’

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‘We felt guilty if we weren’t feeling guilty enough, so much so that we began to take pride in this ability to function under moral conflict.’

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‘We have years to converse with someone, to blurt and rant, to explain our desires and anger and regrets – and oh how we squander those moments.’

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‘This dull fear and hatred of her body. It had bloomed inside her all her life, purged but regrowing, unstoppable, every month.’

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‘Is it called The Bookshop because it’s full of books?’

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‘The voice within you that says, “This is not okay” is a direct call from the basic goodness of your spirit. Pick it up. Every time.’

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“Being brave isn’t the same as being okay,” my mum said quietly.’

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‘Problems tend to appear in a different light after a walk.’

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‘In that moment of unalloyed hope and happiness, it seemed to me that those rays were pouring into the darkest dimensions of the land itself.’

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‘We all get the opportunity to feel wonder every day, but we’ve been lulled into numbness.’

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‘Your entire life changes the day that you decide you will no longer accept mediocrity for yourself.’

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‘We dilute our effectiveness by “doing more efficiently those things that shouldn’t be done in the first place.”

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‘I think you have to have faith in people before they earn it. Otherwise it’s not faith, right?’

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‘In Syria there is a saying: inside the person you know, there is a person you do not know.’

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‘Have regular hours for work and play, make each day both useful and pleasant, and prove that you understand the wort of time by employing it well.’

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‘Dare to see when others don’t. Dare to speak when others won’t.’

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‘To have a hungry heart and mind determines what we create.’

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‘If it is true for you, it is true for someone else, and you are no longer alone.’

What was I reading in 2019? (71)

What was I reading in 2018? (56)

Fabulous Fiction

  • A History of Bees – Maja Lunde (how human actions write the future of the planet. Bees. They’re really important)
  • Brave New World – Aldous Huxley (I’m not sure I’d ever read this in full and it didn’t disappoint – a utopia is never really a utopia)
  • Mr Penumbra’s 24 hour Bookstore – Robin Sloan (a secret society and a code to be cracked in a 24 hour bookstore)
  • The Chrysalids – John Wyndham (a tale with messages about how we live and treat those different to ourselves)
  • The Midnight Palace – Carlos Ruiz Zafon (one of my favourite writers. I won’t have a bad word said about him. Shadow of the Wind is hard to beat but but I thoroughly enjoyed this one)
  • The Reader on the 6.27 – Jean-Paul Didierlaurent (a heart-warming tale about a man who saves writing from destruction)
  • The Road – Cormac McCarthy (A colleague recommended this years ago and I resisted but really shouldn’t have. It made me realise how much I love post-apocalyptic and fiction and the scenes depicted will stay with me forever)
  • Vox – Christina Dalcher (a dystopian fiction where women are limited to 100 words a day… the kind of terrifying fiction that feels completely possible if certain present conditions escalated. Ending disappointing but then I was unfairly comparing it to the likes of the Handmaid’s Tale)
 

 

Work – related reads

  • Community Building on the Web – Amy Jo Kim (I’m creating an online community at work so this made for essential reading that’s helped to form the strategy)
  • Design for How People Learn – Julie Dirksen (combining cognitive science and online learning – a great combination for my role!)
  • Educational Research: Taking the Plunge – Phil Wood and Joan Smith (writing online courses on educational research meant this read was entirely helpful)
  • Understanding How We Learn – Yana Weinstein, Megan Sumeracki and Oliver Caviglioli (writing an online course on the effective use of technology incorporates cognitive science approaches and this was accessible, practised what it preached by using the principles to explain difficult concepts, and has left me with further areas to learn about)

 

Notable Non-Fiction

  • Dear Ijeawele – Chimamnda Ngozi Adichie (the first non-fiction I’d read from this author. Advice for feminists everywhere, whether you have a daughter or not)
  • Do Breathe – Michael Townsend Williams (advice about a life with space to breathe that I’ll return to again and again)
  • Forgotten Women: The Leaders – Zing Tsjeng (inspirational stories of women from history you’ve never, unbelievably, heard of before)
  • Hidden Figures – Margot Lee Shetterley (an inspiring hidden true story… there’s a theme emerging with incredible women from history)
  • Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life – Cheryl Strayed (writing for your soul)
  • The Diary of a Bookseller – Shaun Bythell (especially memorable because I red it whilst running a bookshop in the town where it was written so I met Shaun and many of the characters he mentions)
  • Thrive – Arianna Huffington (shaped my year; full of advice for life and work)
  • Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race – Reni Eddo-Lodge (this affected my perspective on race greatly, led to me swapping books with colleagues at work and hearing from her in person made her words even more important)
 
 

Perfectly Good fiction

  • Black Eyed Susans – Julia Haeberlin
  • Bridget and Joan’s Diary – Bridget Golightly and Joan Hardcastle
  • Force of Nature – Jane Harper
  • Homegoing – Yaa Gyasi
  • How to Stop Time – Matt Haig
  • Sing, Unburied, Sing – Jesmyn Ward
  • The Book of Hidden Things – Francesco Dimitri
  • The Boston Girl – Anita Diamant
  • The Cows – Dawn O’Porter
  • The Keeper of Lost Things – Ruth Hogan
  • The Secret Life of Bees – Sue Monk Kidd
  • The Summer of Impossible Things – Rowan Coleman
  • The Taliban Cricket Club – Timeri N Murari
  • The Watcher in the Shadows – Carlos Ruiz Zafon

 

Non-Fiction with a little something

  • Don’t Feed the Monkey Mind – Jennifer Shannon
  • Help – Simon Amstell
  • The Little Big Things – Henry Fraser
  • The Little Book of Ikigai – Ken Mogi
  • The Descent of Man – Grayson Perry
  • The One Thing – Gary Keller

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