This year, I have become an obsessive reader. I started off with a goal to read two books a month, but now, I go through roughly one book a week. Having read a lot of really interesting books lately, I thought this would be a good time to give a little review of my favorite recent reads.
1. A Gentleman in Moscow
by Amor Towles
I was totally consumed in this book just after reading the first three pages. Barely half-way into it, I knew I was reading my new favorite book. Not only did I fall in love with the main character, a quirky, well-spoken, self-proclaimed gentlemen, but I also learned so much about the history of Russia and the Russian government in the 1920s and 30s.
I think I smiled through the entirety of this book. This is the only fiction book on my list, not because I don’t like fiction books. I have tried to read other fiction books after this, but nothing seems to compare. Beautifully written, A Gentleman in Moscow will forever be on my bookshelf.
2. Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life
by Hector Garcia and Francesc Miralles
In March, I randomly picked this book up in Urban Outfitters. I have never really thought much about books from Urban Outfitters (they are usually more or less coffee table books), but the beautiful cover caught my eye, and who wouldn’t want to know the Japanese secret to a long and happy life?? I certainly did!
This book really focuses on the lifestyle of the people on Okinawa, a Japanese island known for having more centenarians (people who are 100 years old or older) than anywhere else in the world. Ikigai not only made me reflect on the way I was living but also gave me a glimpse into a way of life on the other side of the world. In this book, I learned about the importance of finding my passion, living as a community, eating like an Okinawan, and moving gently.
Speaking of moving gently, my favorite thing I discovered in this book was radio taiso. Radio taiso is basically a “morning movements” routine to wake up the body. In Japan, these movements are usually done in groups such as in school before class begins or at work before the work day starts. Since all the centenarians on Okinawa practiced radio taiso daily, I had to look it up on Youtube and try it for myself! Let me just say that now, not a day goes by without me doing my radio taiso in the morning. This book is full of different tips and guidelines to live your life happy and long like an Okinawan, so if you want to know all the secrets, you should definitely read it!
3. The Little Book of Lykke: The Danish Search for the World’s Happiest People
by Meik Wiking
After reading about the Japanese secrets of happiness, of course, I had to learn about Danish happiness, aka “lykke.” I am a big fan of Meik Wiking ever since I read The Little Book of Hygge (which you should also definitely read).
Having read a little about happiness before, I knew some of the information already, but it was really nice to read Wiking’s research on happiness and why Copenhagen is ranked one of the happiest cities in the world. I also liked how he not only talked about Denmark but also about how happiness is cultivated all around the world. This book gave me a lot of ideas about how to improve my life, such as being a part of my local community, choosing to buy experiences over things, and becoming a “Raktivist.” The Little Book of Lykke is so cute and beautifully illustrated, just seeing it on my bookshelf makes me very happy!
4. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up + Spark Joy
by Marie Kondo
I can definitely say that tidying up our apartment was life-changing. These two books led to a massive tidying-up weekend. (Warning: Definitely read these books when you have LOTS of free time, not during finals.) Tidying does not just happen in a day. It is a long, intensive process, but as Marie Kondo says, it’s best done in one go.
Leading up to the weekend, I read both books (reading two books in one week is already a lot of work in itself) to fully prepare for my tidying extravaganza. The first book really helped me understand the processes of the KonMari Method ( which is the authors unique tidying method), but The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up was missing something. That something I found in Spark Joy. Not only does Spark Joy go over important aspects of the method again, but it gives you a detailed and visual guide of how to tidy EVERYTHING. Literally, everything.
This book was like my bible as I moved from tidying clothes to books to papers to electronics and everything in between. To say that I did not have a mental breakdown would be a lie. Tidying up is a lot of hard work both mentally and physically (especially when you have a boyfriend who tries to rebel against the KonMari Method). But once it was over, I felt so accomplished and that I could finally relax.
I could (and maybe I will) create a whole blog just talking about all the changes made in our apartment and how nice it feels to be at home. I actually feel inclined to clean the dishes now and put clothes back after I’ve tried them on (what have I become?!?!). All I can say for now is just read the book, and you will know the beauty of being surrounded by only things that bring you happiness.
5. Nothing to Envy: Real Lives in North Korea
by Barbara Demick
This book, I just finished reading over the weekend. I have always been curious about North Korea and all of its mysteriousness. This book is essentially an oral history of North Korea, over the last half of a century or so, which is told by six North Korea defectors that were interviewed by Barbara Demick. Having begun this book with little-to-no knowledge of North Korea, Nothing to Envy enlightened me about the plights of the North Korean people, including the defectors.
Although I thought everything was really interesting, I found the last chapters about the lives of North Korean defectors in South Korea to be most interesting. It is so hard to for me to fathom why anyone who escaped North Korea would want to go back, but once I read the sad truth of North Korean defectors’ struggles to assimilate into the South Korean culture, I began to understand. This book not only taught me SO much about North Korea but also made me even more grateful for the life that I have.
5 Happy Things
- Around 1 am, Mads got back from Latvia! I’m so happy that I don’t have to be alone in our apartment anymore!!
- Mads got out of bed early and made me breakfast before my exam, which was so thoughtful.
- The exam was difficult, but I think it went okay, which is better than I expected!
- We got our shoe rack in the mail! Now I can put all my shoes in the hallway. It’s important to count even the small things that make you happy.
- Now, after my exam and lunch, I have no obligations but to relax. And I’m really enjoying that. 🙂