Often when I read non-fiction it’s some sort of science, historical or investigative book. Although I love to learn from these, the ones that stick with me most tend to be the more friendly and approachable ones that end up really making you think. From memoirs, to essays, to curations – sometimes you can gain the most not from science, but just reading other people’s thoughts. I find that if I’m having doubts and anxieties or am just a bit lost, it’s a wonderful thing to find my own worries put into words by some of the best writers we have. Many of these books have the feeling of a warm and yet deep and undoubtedly helpful chat with an old friend, possibly over your drink of choice. So really what I’m getting at is that I’d love to be sitting with Dolly Alderton and David Sedaris in a beer garden in the sun but I understand that even outside lockdown, that will most likely stick to just being another one of my daydreams.
Firstly, if you haven’t yet read Dolly Alderton’s Everything I Know About Love, why not? It feels like a hell of a lot of women fell in love with Alderton through her glorious memoir (I’m definitely not included). Alderton writes with such honesty and brings clarity to many of the shared experiences women have throughout their lives. It’s wonderfully entertaining and funny and shows the reality and true unconditional love within female friendships, of which she appears to have some of the best. Through the groovy times and the bad, Dolly Alderton has really lived her life her way which I’m sure will inspire other women and remind them to cherish the women around them that have held them up and got them this far. Filled with optimism and lots of fun, it’s the perfect distraction and reminder of the small joys of life.
Very few men can make me laugh like David Sedaris does, particularly in his most recent book, Calypso. Sedaris has plenty of fans and yet I didn’t see a single review that quite prepared me for how much I was gonna love his writing. I’d like to add that I find it a bit annoying everytime I see his work compared to a certain nonce who’s memoir has thankfully been dropped by Hachette- the audacity that they’d even think about being the people to give him a platform after only recently publishing Ronan Farrow’s book Catch and Kill, which I love. And yes of course I know that just because I wouldn’t read it doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be published (@ Stephen King I hear you) but I think anyone who read Farrow’s book would agree that Hachette shouldn’t even have considered Allen’s work. Anyway, back to the good stuff. The world would be a lot less boring if we were all as blunt and honest as Sedaris and I know his humour isn’t for everyone, seems it’s a love it or hate it type thing like marmite, but well I’d certainly love to meet one of these people that hate it. I truly think it’ll provide entertainment to everyone’s rather simplistic repetitive days at the moment. And the writing is far more than funny, he can make you look at things in a new way and remind you of the simple pleasure of observing. It might also leave you uncomfortable (I know, I’m going against my own title) but in a good way that allows for growth as Sedaris certainly doesn’t beat around the bush. And don’t stop with this book, he’s got plenty to choose from (Me Talk Pretty One Day started my obsession) and even better you can listen to him online, there’s plenty of YouTube videos and podcasts too (Clare Balding joining him to pick litter in the countryside near his home on her podcast Ramblings is the most random and yet brilliant thing). His writing is even better in his own voice and his answers are never dull. David Sedaris could basically keep you occupied for the whole of lockdown he spoils us that much.
If Sedaris is one voice whose reaction to things I can imagine in my head, Nora Ephron is the other. They each have such a distinct voice and way of thinking that’ll take a while to leave you. I Feel Bad About My Neck is a collection of Ephron’s essays that I raced through in one day and have re-read many times. I’d say Ephron’s writing is the epitome of comfort reading but that hardly covers it. Ephron will take you on all the ups and downs of life, and she’s one of those women that just instantly becomes your idol. Whether you are interested in her profession or not, her honesty, heart and absolute lust for life is one that us mere mortals can only try our best to obtain and hold on to. This new (and lovely) addition has an introduction from Dolly Alderton as well, which I think is a wonderful pairing. It’s a shame for us all that we never got to hear Ephron’s wit and wisdom long into her old age as she’s been a guiding light for so many throughout their lives. I’m sure that anyone who reads this book will find something of themselves within. She never shied away or forgot the important things and I don’t think I’ve ever read anyone who writes better about well, just about anything really, but particularly the experience of life itself- from ageing to love to cooking- she has something to help with it all.
I seen Matt Haig live for his Notes on a Nervous Planet book tour and he was just as emotionally intelligent and aware and calming as you’d expect from his books. This book showcases our worries and 21st century problems then takes them all apart. Haig explains why humans are going through the crisis that we are, the one on the inside that can be hard to pinpoint and explain. With technology advancing far faster than our unchanged brains can keep up with, Haig points out that it’s no wonder we’re overwhelmed and facing a global mental health crisis. It may seem like a worrying read but Haig is on hand throughout to provide reassurance and his own experiences to remind us that we are not alone in our thoughts. I managed to find the last rainbow hardback cover left in my local bookshop and as you can see it’s such a beautiful edition but I treasure it for far more than the cover I promise. This book and Haig’s others books cover difficult topics but somehow bring joy and help the reader regain perspective and remember the loveliness of being alive.
Scarlett Curtis’ second curation of writing, It’s Not Ok to Feel Blue and Other Lies, is the perfect sign that we aren’t alone. Featuring essays, poems and even a few drawings from over 70 people including; celebrities, authors, journalists, poets and activists, all talking about mental health- it quite literally has something for everyone. This is anything but a sad book though, it is filled with stories of strength and the refusal to give up and the desire for something better. I’m sure it required a lot of courage for people to put their own stories out there in a book but as I’m sure Brené Brown would agree, that vulnerability can bring so much good as well. Scarlett Curtis’ own pieces in the book were some of my favourites and her story and passion for helping others is something we can all learn from.
If you’re looking for something a little on the motivational side, Raynor Winn’s The Salt Path is certainly a book for changing things up. I’ve talked about it a bit in a previous post on upcoming books, as the sequel is coming out this summer. What starts off as a scary upsetting time for Winn and her husband, is turned around dramatically by their determination and love for one another. I won’t provide much plot detail so as not to ruin it as I think it’s most impactful to go on the journey with them but it is an emotional and uplifting story and a reminder of the great things the human body is capable of. Upon finishing the book, no one could possibly leave without being reminded of the importance (and necessity) of nature in our lives for both our bodies and our minds.
Another collection of essays this time in aid of women for women international, is Comfort Zones. Filled with some of my favourite writers taking on topics and styles that are far from what they are used to. Exploring the importance of change for allowing room for growth and endless possibilities. It’s a proper lovely little book, filled with so many treasures inside, with sections on learning, relationships, fiction and big ideas covering a wide range of topics in a easily readable way. It’s heartwarming and full of things to learn to peak your interests, and now that we’re all in a time where we’re forced out of our usual routines, this might help us cope and gain something from being stuck a little out of our comfort zones.
Hopefully these books can provide the reassurance and warmth we all need, or at the very least, be a great distraction. I’ve gotten something from each of them, mainly a whole lot of laughs, and maybe even a lil touch of belonging- things I get from my best friend- so I’d say that’s a sign of some damn good books.