Book Reviews

52 books challenge – the books that changed the most

I have been fond of reading since I was a kid. I remember when my mom would bring me a new book when she came back from work, and I would have it finished by the time I was going to bed. However, computer entered my life, soon joined by a mobile phone. I kept on reading, but nowhere near as much as I did when I was younger. Having an intense schedule at school didn’t help either. Soon, reading lost the position of my favourite pastime.

In February 2015 I have set myself a popular 52 books challenge, however, I modified it slightly. The original challenge suggested reading 52 books in 52 weeks, but I knew that I wasn’t up for that. I decided to read the 52 books in 78 weeks (1.5 years). The deadline I set for myself is 25th of July 2016, and I have finished the challenge 2 weeks ahead of time.

My initial idea was to write a mini-review (a few sentences) about each of the books I’ve read during the challenge. Then I realised that: a. it would be tedious to write it b. it would be unbelievably boring to read and c. that you can find such mini reviews on my Instagram anyway. In other words – it was a terrible idea. I have therefore decided to choose 5 books, one in each category. Books that I enjoyed the most – for various reasons.

The book I learned the most from

Being Mortal – Atul Gawande

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A surprisingly sobering read, recommended by Mr Arguably Honest. Atul Gawande is, in general, my discovery of the year. This book opened my eyes to how ridiculously bad we are at treating our elderly family members. It made me reflect on how I speak to my grandma – although she’s still quite capable of taking care of herself, she feels bad at times, and then, I noticed, the whole family feels we can just tell her what to do. It also made me think of how we die these days. In the past people were dying at home, surrounded by family. These days, we die at hospital, surrounded by machines and doctors, who can’t really do anything for us anyway. Although it seems like the only way to do it, Gawande shows us that it isn’t. I know the topic of pain, suffering, old age and dying probably isn’t the most uplifting one, but Gawande somehow avoids making the book grim. I will definitely come back to it one day.

 

The book that made me laugh

Naked at lunch – Mark Haskell Smith

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The ‘review’ on the cover says it all – this book definitely is hilarious and absorbing. Mark Smith decided to write a book about nudism, but what kind of a book would it be if he didn’t try it out himself? It’s a great mix of history of nudism and stories of Mark trying naked cruises, hiking and resorts. All of it while trying not to get his very pale penis sunburned. I was literally laughing out loud, while learning about a very interesting culture. Who knows, maybe I’ll try skinny dipping one day…

The book I’d recommend to a good friend

Ready Player One – Ernest Cline

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I’d say this was the book I enjoyed the most, even though I didn’t expect to enjoy it at all. Received in a book exchange, when I read the blurb I thought it’s totally not my cup of tea. But I had nothing better to read, so I thought I might as well. And I got immediately sucked in.

It’s a story of a time in the future when people are so sucked in by technology that they no longer notice the outside world. With a surprisingly captivating competition as the foreground of the story, the ominous prediction of the future forms a background which is almost like a wake up call.

You should definitely read it. Even if it doesn’t sound like your cup of tea. It didn’t sound like mine and now I can’t believe how wrong I was. I even made Mr Arguably Honest read it, and he mentioned it in his recent reading list. It’s almost impossible to put down – the type of book you stay up all night for because you just can’t stop reading.

 

The book that made me cry

Disgrace – J.M. Coetzee

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I first picked this book up when I was preparing for the English Language Olympiad, but I’m not sure I even started it back then. Why I picked it up again – I don’t know. Maybe because my university library has a very limited choice of novels (unsurprisingly). Or maybe because the blurb caught my attention.

It’s not a summer read, it’ll definitely work better on a winter evening by a fireplace. A story about a professor and his professional problems, but actually more about rural South Africa, and the relationships between black and white people there. It’s emotional, heartbreaking, it will also sometimes make you angry. But if you’re looking for something that will touch your heart, I think you should definitely give it a go. And as much as I often hate descriptions in books, the language of Disgrace is so beautiful, so perfect, that it gives this book an extra dimension. Truly beautiful piece of literature.

The book I could read again and again

You and Me, Always – Jill Mansell 

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Ok. So this is a chick flick, I admit. I discovered Jill Mansell when I bought one of her books for 50p at a library sale near where I worked. That first book was number 12/52, and I enjoyed it loads. This one however… is just lovely. It’s sweet, it’s funny, the characters truly come to life. They’re not one-dimensional, they feel like real people, and you soon find yourself rooting for them and wishing they get their happy ending. Of course, it’s not really full of plot twists (although there is one that caught me by surprise), don’t expect an elaborate story, and you can foresee the ending roughly 15-20 pages in, but that doesn’t matter. I could lie and tell you that I only re-read books of high value, ones that I learnt a lot from, but I’ve honesty written into the name of this blog ;). I usually reach again for books that are heartwarming, the type I describe as “warm blanket type of books”. I don’t care I know the ending – in fact, that’s the whole point. No surprises = relaxing read. If you’re looking for a book to take on holiday, Jill will not disappoint you.

There were many more great books in the past 1.5 years, but these 5 made a change in my life – even if only a temporary, tiny one, be it by making me smile or think about end of life care. If you want to find out more about all of the 52 books I’ve read, or are interested in what I eat, I recommend checking out my Instagram. Although the challenge is over, I feel that, once again, reading has become one of my favourite pastimes. If you feel that your reading is not as great as it used to be, I definitely do recommend setting yourself a little challenge. If you do, use the hashtag #arguablyhonest on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook, so I can check it out. It’s always easier if someone supports you!

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