August in Nairobi is the perfect, perfect time to curl up with a blanket, hot coffee and a good book. And oh, what a selection of good books it was!!!
Every couple of years, I feel the calling to revisit A Suitable Boy, so I make the time and cancel all unnecessary social obligations (something I look forward to with more than a little excitement). This time round, the book was just as good and just as absorbing as always, but fully cognizant that not everyone has the time, or energy, to get through over 1,500 pages, I did blog about some shorter alternatives…accessible here.
Audiobooks have changed how I approach my commute, something I think I have mentioned before. When I was listening to Matt Haig’s Notes on a Nervous Planet earlier this month, it was one of those books I couldn’t wait to listen to every morning, and I actually felt like I had lost the guidance and company of a good friend when I finished it!
August was also when I stepped up the pre-course reading for the masters degree I am starting this month…mostly, I’m not going to refer to those books but I feel like one merits attention – Flow. Part science, part philosophy, this is a book that approaches happiness by altering our perspectives and learning how to truly enjoy the everyday things in life through total immersion. It is not the easiest of reads – I found myself reading, and re-reading, entire chapters, but it was so engaging that I never felt like it was work…I guess it was flow? (Too much? Cheesy?)
Dance of the Jakaranda was fully reviewed in a separate post, so I will just summarise here – definitely a must-read for anyone who is looking for a thoughtful, well-written historical fiction account of Kenya in the early 1900s.
Stefan Zweig was a new author I tried in August – Fear was a novella about a young woman who, bored by the predictability of her bourgeois married existence, starts an affair with a young pianist. The former lover of her lover starts to blackmail her, threatening to expose her to her husband and bring her carefully constructed existence crumbling down around her ears. While short, the story packs a powerful punch, and Zweig masterfully portrays the inner turmoil felt by Irene – I look forward to reading more of his work!
One of my favourite works from August was hands-down The Tao of Pooh and the Te of Piglet – an explanation of Taoist principles through the voices the much-beloved Winnie-the-Pooh and his friends.
I rounded off the month by delving into the well-researched and detailed writings of my friend Glenn Stein with Discovering the North-West Passage. Before I read this wonderful book (be warned though that it is not the lightest of reads being more reference in nature), the only expedition that I was familiar with regarding exploration in the Arctic was the doomed Franklin expedition. This work focuses on the McClure expedition, one of the few that was commissioned to discover (with hopes of rescue) what happened to HMS Terror and HMS Erebus, bringing to life all the trials and tribulations an expedition to the Arctic would face, and pulling no punches – not one for the faint-hearted but if, like me, this is a subject that fascinates you, it will make you want to read more.
- Notes on a Nervous Planet (Matt Haig): ★★★★★
- Flow (Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi): ★★★★★
- A Suitable Boy (Vikram Seth): ★★★★★
- Dance of the Jakaranda (Peter Kimani): ★★★★
- Fear (Stefan Zweig): ★★★★
- The Tao of Pooh and the Te of Piglet (Benjamin Hoff): ★★★★★
- Discovering the North-West Passage (Glenn M. Stein): ★★★★★