This month was a hard month to concentrate on any longer reads. My reading was bitty and more about current affairs with The Guardian newspaper getting many hits. Other featured websites were The New Yorker, The Atlantic, The Orion and The New York Times.
The readings was what it was, what it needed to be to get me through each moment, each day.
The one book I read, while I started many, was A Portable Paradise by Roger Robinson. A poetry collection exploring the Grenfell disaster intimately which went on to win the T S Eliot Prize in 2019.
March has come to an end. Even though it’s felt like the longest month from hell, someone on twitter mentioned 36 years and 9 months in length, my reading hasn’t been as steady as I’d like.
Please excuse me if my mind has been otherwise occupied. If news bulletins and articles and live updates were in book form then this month I would have consumed thousands of volumes as I seemed to have taken up residence at The Guardian news website. It is constantly on refresh. I’m taking care of myself though by having days when I do not consume the news, I stay away from social media and literally inhale positive, feel good art and literature and music. I highly recommend it during these troubling times. anyway, on to what I have read.
Completed March readings include:
1. Eyes Bottle Dark with a Mouthful of Flowers, poems by Jake Skeets
2. Swims by Elizabeth Jane Burnett
3. There are more beautiful things than Beyonce by Morgan Parker
4. Bone Map by Sara Eliza Johnson
5. Splinters are Children of Wood by Leia Penina Wilson
6. Life without Diabetes – Roy Taylor
7. Fleshing Out the Narrative – Marielle S. Smith
Ongoing March reading include;
1. The Last Wolf – Jim Crumley
2. Big Magic – Elizabeth Gilbert
3. Coastlines: The Story of Our Shore – Patrick Barkham
4. Blue Mind by Wallace J Nichols
5. The Northumbrians by Dan Jackson
6. 8 Master Lessons of Nature – by Gary Ferguson
“ I think deep down we know that our creativity is not just for us. The creative power flows through us and it’s not meant to stop there. We need to keep the faucets open and allow the gift of creativity to circulate, so that it can touch other people. So it can grow beyond our own limited reach. “ Anna Lovind, The Creative Doer
So the book, I’d like to talk about is Eat and Run- My Unlikely Journey to Ultramarathon Greatness – Scott Jurek. I think I was first alerted to this book while watching Game Changers on Netflix. If you didn’t know, I’m vegan and I’d heard a lot about this film, debunking the old myth about vegans not getting enough protein and ‘real’ protein can only come from animals; meat.
So even though I’d adopted a vegan diet at the back end of 2018, I’ve still got a lot to learn and was interested in athletes that are vegan, their training and good sources of protein.
Anyway, on Game Changers, Scott Jurek is featured as a record holding ultra runner and how he’s done it all while vegan. Even during the programme Scott’s fixing to break the Appalachian Trail Thru-Hike Record. And in 2015, the ultramarathoner completed the supported trek in 46 days, 8 hours, and 7 minutes, at the time a new record.
I’ll say it now, Scott interests me becuase one of my dreams is to complete an ultramarathon. There I’ve put it out there.
In the past, I’ve ran 3 marathons the last one being in 2014 in London. After that last one, even though I smashed my previous time by an hour coming in just over 6 hours, I fell out of love with running. And really not done much since. 2020 saw me lace back up my trainers and start at the beginning again with Couch to 5K. And as usual, I’m taking it slow and steady but enjoying the buzz. I’ve got a place in the Great North Run, running for the charity, Mental Health Foundation.
Anyway, Scott roused my interest because he runs and runs long and hard on a vegan diet. I’m fixing to do the same so bought his book to find out how it’s done. And I totally enjoyed it as it’s a mixture of memoir, training manual and recipes. His drive for running springs from personal pains and the struggles he went through for a long time in his life. His friendships developed through the love of running are amazing and heartfelt. The recipes included such as lentil mushroom burgers and apple cinnamon granola sound delicious and are totally doable once I get my finger out. But the idea of carrying hummus tortilla wraps on long runs instead of these energy gels and bars just sounds heaven to me. And of course, Scott didn’t always get it right and failed but kept going, year after year, perfecting his training, his mind and body and nutrition.
Eat and Run was a good read not only because of its hybridity or because of its details about different ultramarathons but because the reader is taken on the many journeys with Scott, almost running along with him as he becomes a record breaking ultramarathoner again and again.
I didn’t set out into 2020 with a reading goal. I didn’t set any numbers but I did say I wanted to read more. Vague I know. And not the ‘proper’ way to set goals that you want to succeed at but at the time it was enough for me. And it’s been working.
January saw me curled up with actual books and the iPad sporting the kindle a lot more times than I felt I did at the back end of 2019. Could I say the whole of 2019? I’m not sure. Maybe my memory fails me here.
But the reading habit, the muscle memory of turning off all distractions and getting lost in a good book, fiction, non-fiction even poetry, seems weak in relation to the last couple of years to be honest.
Hopefully, with January now behind us, I can say that the drought is over as I hurtled through a number of books this month. I’m pretty proud of my numbers but also about how expanded I feel in terms of ideas and language and joy. The joy of reading has paid a long overdue visit and I want it to continue. So look forward to a monthly round up of books read each month. You might even find a book you’re interested in reading along the way.
I’ll list the books read and then give a review or details about just one of the books, as if I did it for all of them read this month, we’ll be here all day and come on, it’s the weekend.
Completed January books include:
1. Eat and Run- My Unlikely Journey to Ultramarathon Greatness – Scott Jurek ( started in December and completed at the beginning of January)
2. Turned Out Nice Again– One Living with the Weather– Richard Mabey
3. Heavenfield – LJ Ross
4. Angel – LJ Ross
5. High Force – LJ Ross
6. Cragside – LJ Ross
7. Dark Skies – LJ Ross
8. Seven Bridges – LJ Ross
Ongoing January reading include;
1. The Last Wolf – Jim Crumley
2. Big Magic – Elizabeth Gilbert
3. Coastlines: The Story of Our Shore – Patrick Barkham
4. Blogging Basics For Authors – Nina Amir
Book review in the next post. Thanks.
I finally got around to buying Jennifer Sterling’s book, Dear Strong Black Woman: Letters of nourishment and reflection from one strong black woman to another. And beginning to read it.
I think I’ve been reluctant to read it as I was thinking it wouldn’t tell me anything new. And I think I was also not in the right place to face it, to face a big chunk of harsh reality.
I know what it’s like being a black woman in a predominately white world. In a world where my worth is questioned and examined daily and always come back wanting.
I’m a strong black woman and have had to become this way or live this stereotype for good reason. For survival. And being vulnerable and showing my weakness or even asking for help has been for decades non-negotiable. Not happening.
But I was wrong. This slim but powerful book is just what I need right now. As it speaks to my soul, it speaks to my suffering. It legitimatises my experiences and struggles. It’s a witness and a testimony to my existence. And I thank Jennifer for writing these letters to me and to other strong black women like me.
As hard as some of these letters are to read, they are the balm I need to keep moving through this world, strong but also vulnerable, open hearted and beautiful.
Do you wanna know a secret?
Yes I thought that might get your attention. I’m willing to share my dirty little secret if you’re willing to listen?
Okay. Here goes.
I love Nordic Noir. There. It’s out now and I feel a whole heap better.
When I want to chill and relax and switch off, I switch on a Scandinavian crime drama or pick up a novel in the same genre.
There’s something about the landscapes that act as a backdrop for the crime, usually a grizzly murder, that holds my attention and enchants me. I know. Sick right! All these people getting bumped off and there’s blood and guts everywhere and I’m mesmerised by the ice and snow and the mountains that set the scene.
This genre is quality storytelling as well and solid characterisation and suspense and tension too.
I can binge watch a whole series or read a whole book in a evening ( and into early morning) when I get into a certain groove and I’m not ashamed to tell you. At the moment I’ve been making my way through Walter Presents series on All 4. Last night was Rebecka Martinsson: Arctic Murders. A Stockholm lawyer who returns to her hometown after a childhood friend’s death. And isn’t her home town remote, icy and full is lakes and mountains? Beautiful.
I know it’s pure escapism but from time to time it’s good for me, or anyone really, to suspend reality and slip into another, usually distant from the norm, world. I do believe it supports me in my day to day living and striving and thriving. A little sanctuary of make believe. I highly recommend it, I do.
The Minimalist Vegan: A simple manifesto on why to live with less stuff and more compassion by Micheal and Maša Ofei does what it says on the cover.
This is not a ‘how to’ book but a ‘why’ book. For me, is serves as a reminder and an inspiration as the world we live in continues to suffers from “The More Virus”: the mentality of always wanting more.
This book doesn’t tell me anything that I haven’t read before, but I’m just grateful that this information is all in one place and up to date.
Micheal and Maša, the creators of the website The Minimalist Vegan, mark out how minimalism and veganism intersect, how these concepts work hand in hand to help us live more mindful and grateful and compassionate lives.
Our economic system is based on constant growth by any means necessary. It thrives on us consuming more. Each day we are bombarded by thousands of messages and adverts which persuade us to buy and consume more. The adverts promise us happiness and satisfaction and connection, playing upon emotional triggers. But once we get this new product home, it fails to provide the promised benefits. The thrill soon wears off and we’re left seeking another fix promising happiness and satisfaction and connection.
This book upholds the less is more doctrine. How if we simplified our lives, became more mindful of what we consume, becoming more aware of how every decision we make impacts our lives as well as everything and everyone around us, then we will stand a better chance of saving our lives and the life of this planet.
I found this book a quick and easy read but still important in terms of the messages it advocates. It serves as a reminder that change isn’t easy especially if we’d rather do what everyone else is doing to fit in rather than stand out and make a stand against the industries and practices which cause animals harm.
Did you know that about eight million tons of plastic are dumped into our oceans every single year? The figures in this book are shocking. What is more shocking is when we know the figures and could do something to change them, to make this a better world for all species, we still
choose to do nothing and continue along this path of self and others’ destruction.
Reading this book does affect me and makes me question what more I can do. What behaviours can I start to change today in order to buy and waste less and be more compassionate? Anyone who reads this book and isn’t compelled to make change really is missing the point.