Books I Read This Week 2019 – 16

I read a bunch this week, though several books weren’t super long. Here are my goodreads reviews. If you’re on goodreads, add me as a friend so I can see your books too! I’ve also started an instagram account where I join my love of reading with my love of art.

Rumi: Unseen Poems (4 stars): I grew up in Istanbul, Turkey. In middle school, I read several of Rumi’s poems. But at the time, it was annoying school work written in old Ottoman Turkish that was hard to decipher. Years after I moved to the United States, I rediscovered Rumi, this time in English.

His poems enchanted my soul. 

So when I heard of this new book, I knew I wanted to read more Rumi. And this book doesn’t disappoint. There is a wide range of poems here, some very similar to what’s been translated before, and some closer to what I studied at school and some that are different than both.

Here are a few clippings from some of his poems that I loved:

My face is a hundred times brighter when I see your face. 
My soul is a hundred times happier when your soul is near. 
When the mirror of my life is polished by your love, 
The mirror of the world is no longer dull and dark….

Look into the face of the beloved until his hues come alive.
As the hues reflect in your face, O pale one, come alive!
Every atom is whirling until they feel alive.
You, atom, don’t you wish to come alive?
You were like a stone. Touched by his life,
Sweet running steams from stones come alive. 
In the mirror, I looked into a vision of transcendence.
I asked, “Who are you?” 
He said, “I am light come alive.”

You are at peace when you don’t need more or less,
When you don’t need to be a king or a saint,
When you’re free from the sorrows of the world,
When you’re free from the tiniest atom of yourself.

I can go on and on. If you’re a fan of Rumi, this book will not disappoint.

Thank you to netgalley and the publisher for an advanced copy in return for an honest review.

Brand Identity Essentials (4 stars):  This book outlines 100 principles for building your brand and each of the ideas are explained with wonderful, specific examples. It’s very comprehensive and detailed even though the description of each principle is short and to the point which makes it a perfect companion and a fantastic reference book.

I am not a designer but I thought it would be fun to read a book on the topic and this completely delivered. I loved this section:

If your brand was a person, what would they sound like? Are they loud and boisterous or quiet and shy? Are they funny? Educational? What do they say? It’s an easy way to personalize the brand voice, and whether or not you use a spokesperson, successful brands have a deliberate voice.

And here’s another bit:

Staking a claim is giving customers a meaningful reason to choose your brand. What is significant to a customer depends on their motives and what they value. As a brand builder, your job, is to make your case for the brans in a clear and compelling way.

and finally:

A brand identity is a valuable asset – the symbolic face of the company. Once an appropriate approach is established, the organization needs to commit to it. Change is inevitable. Business must evolve with their customers, but the most successful businesses evolve strategically.

All of these are conversations we are having at my workplace about our product. These are great questions to ask, perspectives to explore and wisdom to keep in mind. Even if you’re not brand designer, you can get a lot of value out of this book.

Thank you to netgalley and the publisher for an advanced copy in return for an honest review.

Realistic Portraits in Colored Pencil (4 stars): This book is really one of the most fantastic art books I’ve read in a long time. While I try to dabble in sketching and some portraits, the artwork here is the kind that makes you do a double-take each time because you can’t believe it’s not a photograph. From the layer of film on the iris to the spit in a crying kid’s mouth, there is so much detail in these portraits it’s incredible.

This book is broken into several sections. Like most art books, it starts with materials. I have read at least 20 of these in the last few years and yet, I learned some new things from this book. And then she moves on to show some colored pencil techniques with great examples of each and why you would use one over the other.

She then moves on to a section where she breaks down every facial feature. She has the obvious ones like eyes and nose and mouth, etc but then much more detail like freckles, wrinkles, pores, membranes, etc. She gives detailed explanations of what you do with each (but not step by steps. In fact there’s very little drawing instruction in this book at all, it’s very coloring focused.)

The last section is the most awe-inspiring section. She walks you through a few very detailed projects, step by step with every single color she used. There is a lot of detail here, way more than I’ve seen in other books, and yet there’s still, of course, but swathes of areas where she just does it and you have to practice a million times to resemble anything that looks like a human. 

For those of you who are comfortable drawing portraits and have even colored some, I think this is a fantastic book. For beginners, this might be a bit intimidating, but I’d still recommend you add it to your arsenal even if just for the incredible inspiration it provides.

Thank you to netgalley and the publisher for an advanced copy in return for an honest review.

Creative Lettering and Beyond (4 stars): I am always amazed at other people’s beautiful calligraphy so I always seek books that teach it. If only one could learn by osmosis, I would be a master by now. Alas, what you need is practice.

This book has lots of valuable information about materials, different practice exercises, script styles and even ways to make your own ink. She walks you through a whole bunch of different alphabet styles from Roman to Copperplate to Italian and more. 

But my favorite part was the last section where she has the step-by-step projects. I’ll admit that often step by steps skip so much of how-to that it drives me mad. This was a bit like that where she goes right to “pretty hard” and then jumps to “holy cow how did she do that!” but I loved the ideas so much and I especially loved all the embellished capitals that I am happy to stare at them for hours and try to figure out how to emulate them. 

One of the things I learned from this book which in retrospect seems super obvious but I had never specifically read elsewhere is that each of your letters have to be slanted at the same angle for great lettering (also the spacing and size should be consistent, which I had known.) As I said it seems obvious but it was an a-ha moment for me. 

The other little tidbit I loved is that the ampersand originates from the Latin “et” which means “and” so it originally contained both an e and a t. Apparently it’s no longer clearly visible but now that I know this, I am going to look for that e and t each time I see an ampersand. 

Overall, this was a wonderful book if you’d like a general reference and idea book. Absolutely beautiful to look at and some lovely extra tidbits of information as a bonus!

Thank you to netgalley and the publisher for an advanced copy in return for an honest review.

Hughie Mittman’s Fear of Lawnmowers (3.5+ stars):  I didn’t read the reviews of this book until after I’d requested it from netgalley and then I was worried that it wouldn’t be great. I kept dragging my feet and then finally sat down to read it today and I couldn’t disagree more with the ratings.

This story is the story of a boy named Hughie who has some terrible tragedies all at once and then has to grow up in the shadow of all that loss. Yes, it’s a coming of age story, but it’s much more a story about grief, in my opinion. And some of the language in this book will stay with me for a long, long time. 

I realised that sometimes you need the presence of other people to allow you to understand just how alone you are.

It didn’t sound like my normal voice, but the sound did come from inside me somewhere. I knew I was crying, but I didn’t know if the tears were falling outside of my body or inside. For all I could tell, they might have been cascading along the inside of my cheeks and spilling down into my heart.

…went back to the cocoon of my inner world, which, I was beginning to believe, was the only place where I would ever be able to survive.

‘Sometimes there’s something inside people that makes them believe they’re not good enough. Not a good enough mother, not a good enough wife, not a good enough person even. There isn’t always a cure for that, no matter how we try to help.’

I didn’t know back then that people and places really only live and die in our hearts…..IT’s a little like knowing that the people you love continue to live on inside you, even after they have gone.

I can go on and on. I loved Hughie’s relationship with his friend Nyxi and with his grandmother. I even liked that the dad was so flawed though I would have liked that character a bit more developed since he is such a pivotal character.

There’s so much good in this story. Touching, charming, sweet, sad, and it will stay with me for a long time.

Thank you to netgalley and the publisher for an advanced copy in return for an honest review.

Stretched Too Thin (3 stars): Depending on where you are on your journey and your background and how much you’ve read on this topic, this book has the potential to offer different paths for you. In some ways, I fall square into the demographic this book is catered to and in other ways I am very far from it. 

I’ve read many different books over the years around this topic so this wasn’t my journey into exploring these topics. My philosophy with books like these is that it generally helps to have regular reminders around these topics and that I almost always learn something new either about myself or just a new idea/approach altogether.

Turner’s book was no exception. There is a lot of content here and not all of it might apply to you. In fact, if you feel the need to all the things in this book at once, it might overwhelm you. My recommendation would be to focus on the 1-2 areas that need most focus for you right now. It might be that you want to deepen your personal relationships with your female friends (or make some!) or it might be that you want to figure out how to prioritize time with your spouse. Or how to use your time better as a family. Ideas for all that, and many many more, are in this book. 

And because there’s so much here, you can read the sections that you want to work on the most at the moment and then come back in a few months (or years) and read another 2-3 sections then. Of course, there are sections of this book that won’t apply to you. Books that are written for the masses will always contain sections that have nothing to do with your day to day. For me, the bar is whether i can find a handful of interesting new ideas to go ahead and try. 

And this book is full of those. Full of ideas you can try, areas where you can experiment and it also comes with a lot of support and reminder that you are not alone in struggling. Always a good reminder.

Outer Order, Inner Calm (2 stars): I’m usually a big fan of Gretchen Rubin’s books. I’ve read and enjoyed many of her previous novels and found lasting ideas/approaches in them. This one, not so much.

Maybe because I wasn’t in a place to declutter at the moment. Or because I feel there’s already so much written about this topic. Or maybe because there was much repeated here from her other books. It just didn’t feel new enough, full enough, deep enough. 

I’ve come to expect new or well-synthesized ways of thinking from Rubin and this just didn’t deliver on that account. There are a few tidbits but overall it didn’t deliver as much as her previous books have for me.

The Parade (4.5 stars): What a fantastic, fantastic novel. With the amount of books I read each year, it’s very rare for me to find a story that surprises me. I’ve read several of Dave Eggers’ novels and I always love his writing but have had mixed luck with his stories.

This story started our without much fanfare. I knew nothing about the plot, hadn’t read the synopsis so it took me a while to grasp what was going on. On the surface, this is about two men Four and Nine building a road in a country through towns that have been ravaged by civil way, to ensure residents can get from one end to the other. 

There is so much conflict in this novel: personal, between the two main characters, between the two characters and the society around them. There’s a constant level of tension, sometimes low and sometimes much higher. I felt a bit on edge the whole time and kept waiting to see what would happen. 

Up until the ending, this felt more like a character study. And then the ending is completely wild and shifted everything for me, making this whole novel extraordinary, for me. A great read.

Lot (3 stars): Sometimes I read a book at a time when my mind is busy and elsewhere and then I can’t tell if it’s the book that wasn’t solid enough to pull me in or if it’s just that I was at a place where that wasn’t possible. To top that off, I am not usually a fan of short stories. I like to get to know the characters of a book, sit with them long enough to have them become a part of my life and short stories rarely have the heft to make that happen. I was almost reluctant to pick this up because of that but it had fantastic reviews and the short stories here are interlinked so the same characters show up again and again. I thought it might do the trick for me.

Alas, this was mostly an okay read for me. I really enjoyed some of the stories and wasn’t a fan of a few others. What kept me the most from loving it however was the distance. There seemed to be a distance between the characters (their lives, their stories) and me. So the characters never got under my skin. I didn’t feel for them. I was always alongside them.

That, I think, is what kept me from loving these beautifully written stories.

One True Loves (3.5 stars): Yesterday I was in that place where every book I picked up felt wrong. I knew I needed something that would be like a warm blanket on my soul and when I saw this on my list, I knew it would be just the thing.

And in many ways, it was. It took me out of my reading slump, I read the whole thing in two sittings and I certainly enjoyed the experience.

I’ve read enough of TJR’s novels to know she is an amazing writer. Especially her last two, for me, were full of rich characters, long and interesting plot, beautiful weaving of emotion, which is a lot to expect out of a novel, but she delivers. 

In my opinion, this novel fell short of much of that. I felt like none of the characters were developed enough to the depths that made them interesting to me, not even the main character. Everyone was a little too perfect for my taste. Even the imperfections were a little too perfect. 

And while I appreciated her journey to figuring out her path, I just didn’t connect with the way she responded to what was happening to her. I didn’t like the way she showed up to the situation which made it hard for me to connect with her. Not to mention the super neatly tied ending.

Having said all that, I still enjoyed this story and it definitely warmed up my soul the way I knew she would.

ps: I can’t get over the grammatically annoying title. I don’t care if it’s a clever play, it’s driving me mad.1 like

The Salt Path (4 stars): This is an unusual memoir of a middle aged couple who have lost their home, find out that the husband has a rare degenerative brain disease. They decide to buy minimal supplies and walk England’s South West Coast Path from Minehead to Poole. They are backpackers but they are also homeless and penniless. 

The story of their homelessness and personal lives is juxtaposed with the beautiful nature descriptions and the lively bits of people they run into along the way who both show unexpected kindness and unexpected cruelty.

It’s a reminder that there are a lot of homeless people and we don’t know their stories. It’s a reminder that most of us live lives that are more precarious than we think and that life can change in a moment. It’s a slow, lyrical story that I am glad I spent time with.

And there we go, an ok week of reading. Here’s to a great week next week.

Books I Read this Week 2019 is a year-long project for 2019. You can read more about my projects for 2019 here. I am also tracking my books in real time on Good Reads here. If you’re on Good Reads add me so I can follow you, too! I’ve also started an instagram account where I join my love of reading with my love of art.

Leave a Reply

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>




This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.