Tag Archives: Book Reviews

2017: The Year I Learned About Self Care

This time in between Christmas and New Years in always a time for self reflection and for self care. It took me a few years to full grasp on to this idea of self care. I had viewed it as more of a “treat yo’ self” kind of thing where women go get their nails done and sit at home surrounded by candles eating full fat ice cream watching You’ve Got Mail. While pampering yourself is definitely an aspect of self care the term means so much more.

It hit home for me this year with the endless news cycle of 2017. Everyday it was more about what Trump was doing, or about the endless number of women who endured harassment and abuse at the hands of powerful men. Self care means different things to different people but for me it started to make sense when I finally turned off the news.

The goal was to stay informed but not inundated by depressing stories after depressing stories. I would check my news outlets in the morning, take a quick scroll through twitter and then that was it. No more reading endless articles from Jezebel about why I should be outraged at the world. I was less exhausted and unplugging became part of my self care routine.

Depression and anxiety are two things I’ve struggled with, although it’s not something I have always been forthcoming about or willing to admit. Rough patches and mental breakdowns in grad school weren’t always met with the understanding I needed from those around me and therefore I began to see it as a weakness. It’s not, and there’s nothing wrong with needing a break.

I realized that the stress of grad school, as well as the stress my relationship at the time was causing, meant I had less time to do some of the things I had worked into my routine during undergrad and high school. Things like reading and writing for myself which I didn’t even realize I missed doing until I wasn’t doing them anymore.

As my relationship was on the way out and I started a new graduate program, one that was still a lot of work but much less pressure, I found the time to get back into the things that I loved. I even picked up new hobbies, specifically knitting. Working with my hands is calming and soothing for me and I began to use knitting as a way to centre myself and heal.

As I look to the year ahead I’m going to try and do more things that bring me joy. I’m going to try and be better at keeping up this blog as I branch out from writing exclusively about book reviews and try to open myself up a bit more. I’m going to try to work meditation practices into my knitting, and I’m going to continue to be mindful of the effect that the endless news cycle is having on me.

I thank everyone who has followed this blog for years and am excited about this coming year. So let me know, what is your self care routine? And how do you plan to take care of yourself heading into the New Year?

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Margaret McMillan – Paris 1919: Six Months that Changed the World

200px-Paris1919bookcoverIn current scholarship, the end of the First World War and the Paris Peace Talks have rarely been treated as their own events. Rather they have been viewed together as merely a jumping off point to the outbreak of the Second World War. When the Paris Peace Talks are discussed they are remembered for one thing, their failure.

Margaret MacMillan devotes her entire work to an event that deserves the time. She spins a complicated story of competing people and ideas that all converged to try and make sure a war of this scale would never happen again. This is without a doubt the formative work on the subject and what’s better is that it is written to appeal to the average reader. Even while 600 pages may deem daunting, her narrative style or writing makes it easy to get lost in her story.

MacMillan does sometimes get bogged down in detail, especially in her discussions of the personalities involved. While there is no doubt that these people were important, and understanding them makes them more human and relatable, it wasn’t necessary to provide the reader with every single biographical detail of “The Big Three.”

What most impressed me was the attention paid to minority groups, leaders from India, Vietnam, and Korea, present at the conference. While recent scholarship has began to pay attention to effect of Wilsonian ideas in these countries, MacMillan is the first who weaves these “outsiders” into the fabric of the Conference.

I was incredibly impressed with this work and am looking forward to reading her most recent book The War that Ended the Peace.

Frank McCourt – Angela’s Ashes (1996)

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I chose to read this book because it’s one that friends of mine often had to read in school, and because it was on the Rory Gilmore Book List.

I’m ashamed of myself for not having read this earlier; as it is without a doubt one of the best memoirs I’ve ever read. Frank McCourt recounts, with startling detail, the events of his childhood from originally living in New York, to growing up, poverty-stricken, in Ireland. While the story on the surface seems to be a tragic one, McCourt recounts his life with dry wit and writes in a unique style making his story all the more enjoyable.

In a way, I identified with Frank McCourt. Not in the growing-up-in-poverty-starving-needing-to-survive kind of way, but rather more as the oldest child. As the first born, Frank often faced situations that weren’t fair, but also often placed himself in the role of the protector. I loved this book, and regret that I didn’t have the chance to read it in high school.

Rating: 4/5

Patti Smith – Just Kids (2010)

A tragic fairytale romance that was quite unexpected coming from the Godmother of Punk. I always liked to claim that Patti Smith was one of my heroes. She was the kind of role model that “cool girls” had, and I, striving to be one of the “cool girls” told everyone I met that Patti Smith was a huge influence on my life. I should not have been surprised when my sister bought this book for me for Christmas. I was only half lying, I do admire Patti Smith as a feminist icon, and I do know a bit about the role she played in the birth of Punk, but other than that, I knew very little.

I started reading this book expecting to learn more about Patti Smith’s life, living in New York in the 1970s, hanging out at CBGB’s but that’s not what this book was. Just Kids is a love story outlining the relationship between Patti Smith and photographer Robert Mapplethorpe. The bond that these two people formed was indestructible. Despite the fact that both Patti and Robert had different partners and different times they remained so in love with one another, and not even death could stop them. Written with poignancy and impeccable grace Just Kids, gave me a real reason to admire Patti Smith. In these pages Patti is vulnerable and true, she is telling the world a love story, her love story, and the joy and happiness and well as the pain and suffering that was all a part of it, and that, I think is just about the “coolest” thing anyone could do.

Rating: 5/5