“I read a book about that…”

As I was just sitting in my Atmospheric Physics lecture (It’s complicated, confusing, and cumbersome), I could think of nothing else than getting back home to continue reading my new-found love: My Life on the Road by Gloria Steinem, recommended to me by the lovely Stephanie (https://adventuresofabibliophile.com/). When I told a book-loving friend of mine, she said: “Feminism. The classic. Obviously.” She knows that I spend most of my money on books. About climate change, feminism, and self-improvement. The classics. One year ago I could never have imagined reading about these topics. I would always prefer fiction over reality.

This year I started to cure my little life-crisis with books. Where do I want to go? What do I want to be? How do I get there? Everything was explained to me. In books. All the books my friend and I had read and talked about during our runs in the last months had paid off. We were teaching ourselves how to be good managers more than our study course did.

When I started working on my book on climate change, I also started reading books about it for the first time. Took everything I could get my hands on. You wouldn’t believe how many works there are in our library. Every time I now have a conversation with my dad about the topic I always add: “I read a book about that…” He now is able to interpret the look on my face and finish that sentence for me. Climate change and the media? Climate change and feminism? Climate change and refrigerators? Climate change and bearded trolls in Sweden? You name it.

Through all this reading I got a little overwhelmed by the scope of the project in front of me. I read myself into a writer’s block. Do you know who cured it? Gloria Steinem. I was so excited that even in my lecture I couldn’t stop taking notes. Which was probably not a good idea. Hydrostatic equilibrium? Adiabatic what? Again please?

“A love letter to the books…
That make you jump up hyped to change the world.
That make you write your heart out.
That make you take notes in class with all the crazy ideas you have.
That take you back to your passions.
That make you daydream about reading on.
In which you want to underline every line because they are so true, so honest, so pure, so beautiful. “

My Life on the Road is such a book. I’m just into the first chapters and I’m already inspired. Her writing style is amazing and her sentences resonated with me even in the darkest minutes of my lecture when all I did is scribble down equations I didn’t understand, next to words I had never heard, and a professor who smiled briefly but coldly and said that it all was so logical. Of course. Welcome to uni.

In the midst of all that I remembered her words. They revived in me the wish to also be a journalist, a traveller, a seeker of stories:

“It’s as if attentive people create a magnetic force field for stories the tellers themselves didn’t know they had within them. (…) The simplest paths to deep change is for the less powerful to speak as much as they listen, and for the more powerful to listen as much as they speak.” Gloria Steinem, My Life on the Road

Weeks after weeks had I tried to word in my book the need for people to listen to each other, to consider each other’s fates, and to be inclusive in all their talking. Who would have known that it could be said that easily…

As you may have noticed I am in love with this book. I will write a review once I have finished it. Until then I have some questions for you:

Do you know any good books about journalism?
Any other non-fiction you can recommend?
What was one book that made you jump in excitement, that inspired you?


NaNoWriMo Day 28: My 2016 Reading Challenge

50 books in a year. That was my commitment for 2016. Along with a thousand other projects. Here is what I read this year. Here are the books that changed my life.

Opens goodread list. Scrolls down. Here we go. It feels like ages ago I read these books!

1. The Girl Who Played With Fire by Stieg Larsson

The Millennium trilogy are probably the best crime novels I have ever read. I couldn’t put them down. I ate through them. Give me more! I shouted. Not only do these books have intriguing characters. They are alive. They have challenges to overcome, they change. They are ripped apart by their own doubts and passions. Furthermore, I love how the writing bits are portrayed in the books. You can be led by a good idea but you have to do the work. Blomqvist is a really good journalist but it takes time for him to craft his stories. When you read about him writing, you can see his head veins pulse as he sews word after word together. It’s political, it’s gripping, it’s amazing.

What did I learn? I absolutely adore writing. Journalism would be kind of cool…

2. And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini

Hosseini has shown me with his book A Thousand Splendid Suns that he is an astonishing story teller. This book, though… I don’t know. Maybe I didn’t get it. For me the story line didn’t work. However, there were parts that were heartfelt and strong.

What did I learn? A lot about the history of Afghanistan

3. Night Train to Lisbon by Pascal Mercier

I don’t know how often I have read this book in the last three years since I discovered it in the library. How often I have gone through its pages and admired the words. I just love this book so much. Just like with Harry Potter, I have to read it once a year. It gives me so much. Inspiration to travel, to learn a new language, to think deeply about life. The author is a philosopher, he gives lectures in Berlin. That explains a lot.

What did I learn? I have to learn a new language.

4. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

What did I learn? You can build your own beautiful world in your head.

5. The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest by Stieg Larsson

See 1. Guess why I started learning Swedish? I want to read these books in their original language some day… Well not only because of that but you get my point.

What did I learn? I have to start with Swedish.

6. Emma by Jane Austen

So seldom, we see strong female characters written in the time of Jane Austen. She really was a great writer and I love her stories. To be honest, I can’t stand most of the modern romance novels… When I do need a bit of that, I turn to Regency writers.

What did I learn? You should not try and marry people off. It always goes wrong.

7. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut

What did I learn? WW II was so traumatic that one can lose his mind and travel off to a different world of aliens. Plot twist! No but honestly, it is hard for me to process all these tales, to even understand who people could do something like that.

8. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

This book completely blew my mind. The character building is admirable. I cannot understand how she made us believe so many things and then crash it all at once. You could see some cracks but you would never have guessed to what extend she turns everything around.

What did I learn? You should never trust in what you see. Or in what you think you know about a person.

9. The Martian by Andy Weir

I cannot count the times I laughed out loud in the middle of the night. I couldn’t put this book down. Guy stranded on mars. It’s hilarious. The science behind it is well researched, it all makes sense. The best thing about this book is that this man retains his humour. It’s the most funny book I have read this year.

What did I learn? You can survive on Mars with only potatoes to eat. Also, you should never attempt to make water out of hydrogen and oxygen.

10-12. The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins

I don’t normally read young adult fiction but these books… I loved them.

What did I learn? You should fight for your rights and rely on the people who were always there for you. One originally good person can become more evil than the most evil of them all… Be careful.

13. The Chamber by John Grisham

What did I learn? I was against death penalty all the time. Now I’m even more terrified and more against of this whole system. All this legal stuff takes a long long time.

14. Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig

Oh, so… That is actually a thing. Matt Haig writes about depression in such an honest and loving way. I read this book in a day because I couldn’t stop. It comforts you because you are not alone. It opens your eyes. It is like a hot cup of tea on a bad day. It offers a lot of tips and stories, it gives you so much.

What did I learn? You should read this book over and over on bad days. You have a problem to deal with here.

15. Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler

What did I learn? All the worst things can happen at once. You should be prepared. Together, we are stronger.

16. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

This was one of the first English books I have ever read. I didn’t understand a thing. The overall plot maybe. Now that some time has passed and I read nearly every book in English – I’m amazed! This is an absolutely brilliant work! Also very deep. I like that.

What did I learn? It’s difficult to be a teenager in a world of phonies.

17. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

What did I learn? You can go high and fall very veeeery low in just a few moments.

18. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

What did I learn? Prejudice, the killer of love since 1813. Be open-minded.

19. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Re-read that one. You need some cheesy, heart-breaking fiction once in a while. And I do love John Green.

What did I learn? Some infinities are bigger than others. Your favourite authors can be douche bags when you get to meet them. Books can change your life. It hurts because it matters.

20. Deception Point by Dan Brown

Dan Brown’s later works are a lot about symbology and religion. This one, though, is about science. That’s exciting! A meteor!

What did I learn? You should always be a bit sceptical about improbable scientific findings.

21. Alice in Wonderland Part 1 by Lewis Carroll

What did I learn? A tea party is an awesome thing. A story can help you escape a little in difficult times.

22. Something to Tell You by Hanif Kureishi

What did I learn? Psychoanalysis is so weird…

23. Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

I had loved the film but now I had to finally read the book. I enjoyed it. It was very healing.

What did I learn? Love what you do, love yourself and do a little yoga from time to time.

24-26. Harry Potter 1-3 by J.K. Rowling

Every year I re-read these books. I always discover new aspects of the story. What they leave me with is that feeling of not being alone. I can always go back to these books and feel comforted. The school descriptions and the snippets we see of Hermione studying- they are very motivating.

What did I learn? You should go study now, Hermione said. Community and a sense of belonging are important. When in doubt, go to the library. Hard work will enable you to go anywhere.

27. The Girl in the Spider’s Web by David Lagercrantz

See 1, 5. It is the fourth novel. I was really unsure. Would I ruin my experience of the first three books? I didn’t, which is nice. He really did a good job.

What did I learn? There are some authors who can indeed make sequels to the great work of Larsson. It is better, though, to invent your own characters and just let it be.

28. The Color Purple by Alice Walker

How can I describe what this book did to me? I was in tears so many times. I loved it, I was moved by the writing, I was in shock about the story. It’s such an honest and true book.

What did I learn? Standing up for your rights can hurt you. You should always try, though.

29. Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

When I read the first pages of this novel, I knew that Adichie will be one of my new favourite authors. Her ability to tell stories, to connect thoughts, to find the right words… It has overwhelmed me.

What did I learn? I didn’t know anything about the Nigerian-Biafran war and about its horrors. She couldn’t have done a better job to underline the importance to read broadly to me. To stay informed, to be curious.

30. Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

She creates stunning female characters who fight for their rights, for their dreams with all they have. They crash, they have flaws, they are so real. Adichie is definitely my favourite author of the year. And my favourite female writer ever.

What did I learn? You should go out and find your path, but know that you always will come back in the end. A more balanced, knowledgeable person than before. Invest a little more time in your blog.

31. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz Part 1 by L. Frank Baum

I always read this one my phone when I was going somewhere by train. It’s a pretty little story, a beautiful fairytale.

What did I learn? If you don’t think you are smart but solve all the complex riddles you and your friends face… Chances are you are actually smart. Embrace your cleverness.

32. How to be a Woman by Caitlin Moran

What did I learn? You should call yourself a feminist. Here, rip of these glasses that patriarchy put on your eyes. Do you see? Yep, that’s inequality. It’s EVERYWHERE!

33. Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert

Such an inspiring read! It taught me were to seek for ideas, how to be creative. It tells the stories of books she has written herself and of other people who struggle with creating. Many of my self-doubts were addressed in this book and it really helped.

What did I learn? Ideas fly around, you just have to be open and catch them in the right moment. Keep going.

34. The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

I love unreliable characters. They add that bit of extra spice to a story. I love the setting of the novel, the characters, everything. It was brilliant. Second best crime novel this year.

What did I learn? You should maybe not trust the brain of a heartbroken alcoholic on a train.

35. De ensamma by Håkan Nesser

These Swedes do have a special love for incredibly dark tales, don’t they? I read this book while the ocean roared behind me.

What did I learn? If two murders happen at the same place with decades between them, possibly the same people were involved. Also, read some Kierkegaard.

36. The Call of the Wild by Jack London

What a beautiful little story. I read that when we were at the Baltic Sea, camping in the woods. The perfect atmosphere. It’s so beautifully written and the descriptions are great. You can feel the pain of these dogs. You can see him transform slowly back to what he always was- a wild animal.

What did I learn? You cannot deny your origin. Where you really come from. It will give you strength to endure anything.

37. The Starch Solution by John McDougall

This is the book that made me become a vegan. Consequently, this must be the most life-changing book this year. Afterwards I binge-read all books I could get on veganism and vegetarianism in my library. The Starch Solution explains everything you need to know if you want to be a vegan. The nutritional facts, the environmental ones… It’s great as a start package.

What did I learn? To become a vegan.

38. Der Tod in Venedig by Thomas Mann

What did I learn? The way from success to falling can be so quick.

39. Dead Poets Society by N.H. Kleinbaum

What did I learn? How to be a better teacher. Oh, Mr Keating… You have taught me a lot of useful lessons for my students.

40. Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer

This was the starting point for my obsession with non-fiction books this year. I have read other books by Foer but this one is especially interesting. He knows the facts. He’s a great researcher. After this book, I wanted to change people’s minds about eating meat.

What did I learn? Here are the basics to win nearly every argument about factory farming.

41. Anständig Essen by Karen Duve

What did I learn? The marzipan chocolate in my supermarket is vegan! Being vegan isn’t actually that hard.

42. The Bookshop by Penelope Fitzgerald

Atmospherically a wonderful novel.

What did I learn? Books are amazing. Bookshops are even more amazing. Never try to build one in a city where the people hate to read.

43. I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai

This book moved me so much. I never knew the whole story of Malala. All the things she did left me in complete awe. She is such a strong, intelligent woman and she already has changed the world.

What did I learn? Stand up for your education, you are so happy to have one. Go study, girl!

44. A Thousand Country Roads by Robert James Waller

What did I learn? Sometimes memories are better rested in your heart than revisited again after years.

45. Das Urteil by Franz Kafka

What did I learn? Well, that Kafka was weird, wasn’t he?

46. Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay

I’m so ignorant! I know so little! In every essay in this book, Roxane Gay showed me how little thought I had given any media I consumed or anything I said. She discovered racism and sexism in places I would never even looked for them. It made me feel a little ashamed, to be honest.

What did I learn? Look deeper, read more critically.

47. The Vegetarian by Han Kang

What did I learn? Becoming a vegan can break apart your whole family. People are ignorant, you have to deal with this. Also, artists can be really strange people…

48. Dreams from my Father by Barack Obama

What did I learn? Even the president has doubts. Work for the well-being of other people. Find your origins, make your family’s stories yours.

49. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

I talked about these last two books in yesterday’s post. Be sure to check that out.

What did I learn? Be courageous, follow your personal legend.

49 Books. 49 messages. So many things I’ve learned through reading. It made me a more curious person, a more considerate one. A more open one. It made me realise the important things in life and what I want to do with my own.

I’m aware that I didn’t do all the books on my list justice. I would have loved to write an article about every single one of them. It would take me another hundred pages I suppose. That’s why I broke it down a little and only talked about the most important ones to me. I hope you liked my book record.

One more book left for my challenge, it will be A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara. Next year I will attempt to read more books from all over the world. Broaden my experience. Learn even more. It will also help me with my writing because in the end… Writers only copy each other.

Which books have touched you this year? Did you read any of the ones I read? What are your opinions on them? I would love to know!

Current Word Count: 48048

NaNoWriMo Day 16: Stress and Streams

Remember that I told you I’m a few centimetres above the water surface with my head? Yeah, now I’m submerged. The waves sometimes give me some air to breathe and my eyes to look over the incredibly large surface of the ocean… Today, though… I’m under water. It’s beautiful down here. You don’t really notice anything around you anymore with your ears and eyes full of water. It’s a lovely world.

Stress. The feeling that I described, about being under water. To be washed over by all the tasks you have to do. By all the things you had long forgotten about. Once they roll over you, those that were buried in the ground get loose. And hit you in the face. Hey, I’m still alive, even though you have forgot about me. Now deal with me.

As I already started to talk about water, let’s make that the topic for today. Let’s focus on rivers. Am I qualified to do so? Me, munching on my kale? (Since I went vegan I have grown a weird obsession with kale and potatoes) Children, it’s story time.

In the good old days, every fish could move freely and undisturbed through its river. A salmon would feed luxuriously in the oceans and would take on a journey upstream to where it was born. There it would spawn, make a hole in the ground to protect the eggs… and die. On its journey it brought a lot of glorious nutrients with it that would later enrich the soils in the little streams where it dies. All species around would rely on these nutrients and have a feast. The tiny baby fish would also profit from that until they would go down to the ocean again. What a lovely cycle. It would see lots of trees shading the rivers and leaf litter that provides habitat for large amounts of species. It would swim in a beautiful little world of its own.

A river can be described by three major variables: complexity, dynamics and connectivity. Complexity means for example the structure of the stream. How its sediments are distributed along the course of the flow, which species occur and in which diversity. Dynamics describe the flow of the stream. What materials are transported and how the speed of water alters. Connectivity tells us something about how for example fish can move inside the river. If we build a dam, the connectivity is destroyed. All these aspects are important to consider when talking about rivers. They all play a role in the cycle and balance of the ecosystem river.

Us humans, we have a thing for interrupting cycles. Alternating them. We can make it rain when we want it to! (See: cloud seeding) We can make rivers go faster! (See: channelisation) We can destroy every little functioning ecosystem around us! (See: human evolution) We developed and as we did so, we exploited nature around us. Especially in the last few decades.

What does the journey of our little salmon look like today?

In the ocean the possibility is high that it would some day get entangled by a plastic component of our packaging obsession. It would swim in an ocean that is getting more and more acidic, that offers decreasing biodiversity and where huge coral reefs have lost their colour and their life. This is the reality the fish notices. Until it is maybe biting on a hook and remaining underwater half dead for several hours. Until it is caught, transported several times around the globe and put onto your plate. If it survives, it moves up the river where it was born.

Isn’t that just fascinating? A salmon has a better orientation sense than me. Without Google Maps I wouldn’t even find my own flat anymore. Technology!

It moves up a river which transports lots of material into the ocean. Well, not only sediments – also our pharmaceuticals and microbial pollution that the river took with it on its course. A river is a perfect transport system- for our garbage. It collects everything from each site, mixes it until it reaches the oceans. And we wonder why our coasts are so polluted.

The river does not only transport pollutants, though, sediments, stones, gravel! As we channelise our streams, the bed gets deeper, the rivers get faster and the sediment load that is transported gets higher.

We destroy floodplains and wonder why we get more and more severe flooding. Floodplains are links between terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. They store water. They are among the most diverse and productive systems we have on this earth. What does man decide to do? Destroy them, we don’t need them. Instead they are used for agricultural purposes. Highly fertile soil. We compact and expose the soil making it vulnerable to erosion. We put contaminants and excessive amounts of nutrients in there. This causes biomass growth in lakes where the water is transported to, that we can’t manage anymore. Many species in the lakes die because the leaf coverage does not allow any oxygen and light into the lake anymore. Great job!

Remember, water is flowing in a cycle which is quite beneficial for us to survive. However, we decide that it is a good idea to put massive amounts of pollutants in our water that we in the end will drink again. Well done, humans!

Furthermore, we do not only destroy the streams themselves but the vegetation around them. A dense canopy of trees can regulate the light that is hitting the surface of the river. Thereby the temperature and the organic matter within the stream is controlled. If we remove the trees, small streams get a lot warmer and species have a hard time adopting to these changes. Trees provide organic matter that builds the basis of a food web. They filter the water, prevent erosion and hold nutrients back. They are habitat and flood control and if that all doesn’t move you at all – they just look nice!

Our little salmon has now reached some smaller streams. Wants to go further up. And finds that it can’t. Bumps against a wall with its head. A dam. Here we get to an essential problem. Human population is increasing and so is the electricity demand. For decades, environmentalists have said: Change to renewables! Fine, we’ve done that. Hydropower. Now what? These incredibly large dams cause many challenges themselves: They hold the water back, logically. What is transported in rivers? Sediment and such. Consequently, we have a huge accumulation of sand behind the dams. Water quality is decreased, biodiversity lost. A running water system was conversed into a lake. Upstream fish now find themselves confronted with the problem that they have to live in an ecosystem that doesn’t take them anywhere. And the poor downstream fish can’t get where they want to be. What do we do? We catch them, take their eggs and put the newly hatched fish back into the streams. Disclaimer: it does not solve the problem. As the flow of the water is altered, so is the temperature. The small organisms that are gathered behind the dam produce methane. This happens especially in high temperate climates. Surprise, surprise, even renewable energy sources produce greenhouse gases!

There are many problems yet to solve, concerning hydropower. It is not a perfect system. Not for the environment, not for us. People are displaced, the downstream population gets less or no water, water-borne diseases occur.

However, we cannot forget about the positive impacts these dams have. We provide flood control and produce energy without emitting CO2. We can store energy that way. As climate change has high priority, we have to improve these systems that give us the green energy we so desperately need.

What do we need to do?

We have to re-establish the flowing of the river in some way. Fish have to be able to move up and down the dam. We can build fish ladders. They might sound cute and they often work quite well. There are little basins on each step where the fish can jump into. That way, they can go up the stream, even if a dam happens to block their way. I never said it was easy going upstream.

We have to protect the vegetation around streams. When the sea level rises and the temperatures get higher, we will have more flooding. We want nature to help us deal with this. We have to restore ecosystems and their original functions. We have to give the areas besides the rivers back to nature. Removing trees from streams does not only result in habitat loss but has other severe impacts on whole streams. That’s why we have to assess which impacts our actions have on streams. We have to reduce our pollution. Here is a shocking statistic we talked about in class today: The amount of waste water produced in a year is six times higher than the amount of water flowing in all rivers on this earth. We endanger our own health by that. A large fraction of the wastewater is for example due to animal farming. Highly hazardous substances are used in agriculture. Do we really want them in our drinking water?

Here is another problem: Reducing pollution requires infrastructure. Especially in industrialised countries we like to talk and talk but do not change anything. Pay for better infrastructure, for example. Provide education on how to deal with problems arising from degraded river ecosystems. Our intensive agriculture harms our landscape, our coast lines and oceans. At the end of this cycle ourselves. There is a lot we still need to do. Water-borne diseases kill a child on this earth every 90 seconds (http://water.org/water-crisis/women-children-facts/) We need to do something about that. Water is essential to our surviving but becomes increasingly a cause of our dying. For changing that we need to re-establish our river ecosystems, let nature do its part and work on our own part, too.

On another note: Ann Morgan whom I mentioned in yesterday’s post about writing, responded to me on twitter! *Fangirl mode on* That’s so amazing! I was so happy when I read it this morning. Isn’t she the nicest? *Fangirl mode off* Today I started a new novel  that was on her book list: The Vegetarian by Han Kang…


Current Word Count: 27263

NaNoWriMo Day 15: On Reading and Writing

We are half way through NaNoWriMo! Day 15! Keep going! I have an article in two parts for you today. Let’s first focus on the writing part. What have I learned in these first fifteen days?

Writing is hard. Writing every day, writing three pages every day is particularly hard. It is not the exam phase yet so I still find the time to do it. Mostly in the evenings. That’s the most creative portion of the day. Fuelled by a gazillion cups of tea (I don’t count it in cups of tea anymore but in packages of tea bags: probably around 3.) I made my way and wrote every single day.

So here are some statistics so far:

cups of tea: uncountable

characters killed: none – that’s fortunate…

emotional break downs due to unreached word count: 2

emotional break downs due to sleep deprivation: 5849

emotional break downs due to uncertainty what to write about: 38429373299

times cursing myself that I started this project once again: 15

times falling asleep on my laptop screen: 5

Ted Talks watched as inspiration: 34

The last two ones are accurate. Very accurate.

Things I have learned so far (also including last year’s Nanowrimo):

  • You can indeed force your brain to come up with something new every day.
  • Ted Talks and documentaries about Salmon and Climate Change help. Maybe not for every novel, though. If you want to write a blog entry about the environment every day because you are too afraid of fiction… yeah… might be helpful.
  • You can trick your brain into thinking that it needs less sleep than it actually does. Most of the time.
  • I need around 2-3 hours to produce a decent text the length NaNoWriMo founders want us to write every day. Another hour to fix all the major errors I have made. To freak out about how that text will come across. To stop myself from deleting everything. To search for motivational quotes on tumblr. To finally stop thinking and upload the finished text.
    Sometimes the steps after writing take longer than the actual process of writing. Which is I guess pretty accurate for a lot of authors out there. We are made to permanently criticise our own work and freak out about it. At least I can’t picture a process that would look different. Maybe I’m only giving myself a hard time?
  • That I, after all, really enjoy this emotional roller coaster that is writing a text a day.
  • That checking your word count after every sentence you have written is not beneficial to your overall text structure.
  • That it helps to silently mutter “Keep going” to yourself. Often in combination with some curse words.
  • That a lot of great authors have said great things about writing. I have written them into my calendar to keep me motivated. Hemingway said some great things…

All you have to do is write a true sentence. Write the truest sentence you know.

Now that sounds easy, doesn’t it? He always makes it looks so easy that whole writing thing. Putting word after word, avoiding wrong ones, writing true… I’m more a fan of the whole: “Sit at a typewriter and bleed” thing. Simply seems more accurate to the whole process.

Crippling anxiety, self doubt, exhaustion and all those questions. Am I offending anyone by saying that? Could that be said another, nicer, more true way? Should it be said at all? Do I know enough about this subject to even have an opinion on it? Should I even write at all? Ever? Again? I suppose you, who are participating in NaNoWriMo or ever have, will know all these thoughts.

Now onto the reading part. I love reading. As you might have guessed if you read any of my articles. I invest my money in two things: Food and books. That’s about it. You have to physically drag me out of a bookstore. If I were to go to the library with you – you would have to carry three bags for me and wait approximately 4 hours until I am out of that building again. I just love books so much.

My problem, though, is that I do not have that much time for reading. That’s a common excuse, I know. But I have writing and painting and drawing and knitting and making music and all these other things I love. And uni. Obviously. At the end of the year I will have read around 50 books. That’s not that much. A book a week.

My strategy is to combine my hobbies. I am a woman, I’m able to multitask! Knitting or painting while listening to an audiobook. Reading a sentence, writing a sentence. Doing uni work and reading… Well, I have to work on that last one.

I’m really into biographies and non-fiction at the moment as I have already mentioned. I’m reading Barack Obama’s stories about his family, Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay and Stefan Zweig’s The World of Yesterday. Those are what I call my active reads. There are a lot of books that I started and probably have to restart because I already can’t remember what they are about anymore. Too many books I’m reading parallel.

Yesterday I found a Ted Talk by an incredibly inspiring woman named Ann Morgan (https://ayearofreadingtheworld.com). She thought her reading was too narrow, just British and North American books. She decided to read the world in a year and so many people helped her on her journey. They send her books and even translated them for her. I am in deep awe of this project, I love it. My reading is a little broader than hers in the beginning but I often recognise that I really don’t know anything at all. The more you learn, the less you know. When people ask me what I like to read I tend to answer: Everything.

I love crime novels, poetry and fiction, sometimes young adult literature. I love novels about interesting people, about class and race and feminism. It is hard, though, to get these topics right.

Reading Bad Feminism, I realised that there are some deep flaws with some books I really like. I never thought about these! She raises questions that I never answered to myself. It hit me at first and I thought that her influence on my reading choices is frightening. It is good, though. Making me think about what I read and especially How I read is essential to a broader experience. Asking the uncomfortable questions means that I am not blindly accepting anything that I find in my books as true. That I’m seeking other sources, other books to confirm or contradict what I have read.

How I have read for many many years has contributed to what Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie names “The Danger of the Single Story”. I would not encounter other realities. I would not appreciate different tales of people I have never listened to. Last summer, as I discovered Adichie’s writing, I painfully became aware of my narrow reading. I changed it. At least as much as I could. There is some truth in it that most English novels we can buy are from English-speaking countries. The book market is not focused on the writings of other countries. However, it is not true that we do not have access to these books. If we just scratched the surface a bit and were more open about our choices – we would be able to find these books!

Here’s a story: One of my favourite films – a very cheesy one – “The Bridges of Madison County” starring the brilliant Meryl Streep is based on a book by Robert James Waller. I have to admit that I only watched the film. Which I normally avoid doing.
As I looked through the English bookcase in my local library, I didn’t know which books to take with me. The shelf isn’t that big but the choice is hard nevertheless. Therefore I didn’t read the titles of the books I was putting into my bag. I simply let myself be surprised afterwards, what I would read. Examining my new reads at home, I found “A thousand country roads”, which sounded beautiful. Guess by whom it was? Robert James Waller. It was the epilogue to Bridges of Madison County in novel form. Apart from the fact that I didn’t enjoy the book that much in the end, it was a very pleasant surprise!

What do we learn from this?

Each time I’m in the library now, I’ll pick some random books out of the shelf. I will read them with an open mind. I will try to get books from as many countries and regions and historical backgrounds as possible. I will try to get more books from women authors.

I simply want to widen my perspective based on a thing that I do every day and that is a vital part of me and my knowledge about the world: Reading.

Another very interesting thought is comparative reading. You take two books about similar topics or eras and read them at the same time. You compare the differences in their story telling, which facts they leave out or which ones they stress on. How they develop their characters or dialogue or story line. It’s such a fascinating technique to get more out of your reading experience and to develop more thoughts on books in general. It counteracts the Single Story.

Here is what I would like you to do:

  • Read a book from a country you never read a book from.
  • Read a book about a topic that interests you but that you have never learned anything about. Or about a topic that makes you uncomfortable. Find out why it does!
  • Read a book about a person you find interesting. A person who you wish to have met.
  • Read a book and tell me about it. I’m so interested in your choices! What is your favourite read at the moment? What would you like me to read?

Last but not least, I would like to thank you for your support and your lovely messages over the past two weeks, it really means a lot to me. And it kept me going!

Current Word Count: 25532

Advent Calendar: 7th

For all of the book lovers out there, from another book lover. As you might tell…

I had the most wonderful weekend (the best really in months) and now I’m back to painting although I should write an essay… I’m so looking forward to the Christmas holidays. *head on table, crying, drinking loads of tea, more crying, not working at all*

7th of december

Advent Calendar 2015: 4th

I’m in such a good mood today, in a few hours I’ll see a friend of mine whom I have missed so much… ❤

A little warm and cozy picture- for those lazy Friday evenings we all love 🙂

Have a wonderful weekend!!! xxx


Advent Calendar 2015: 1st

Get the Christmas playlist ready, it’s the first of december!! And I just saw it is also snowing on my blog again, love that!!!

I’m here to share a little drawing or painting with you every day to shorten the time until the holidays a bit. To get you in the Christmas mood 😉

See you tomorrow!!!

xx verena

PS: You’d help me a lot if you suggested some pictures I could draw, some inspiration. Thanks a lot!!