Wednesday, 2 August 2017

7. Books In August

How quickly has summer gone by? My term starts a bit earlier than most due to my move - Erasmus + study abroad courses do tend to though. I'm actually super excited to be learning so much with the new classes I have chosen though and to be meeting even more likeminded new people. It is such a wonderful opportunity and I cannot wait to see where it takes me next.

The one thing I will perhaps not enjoy as much as everything else is reading less of my own personal choice. August is the last month where I have room enough and time to choose and spend time with the books which are only of my own choice. So, as you can see below, I am really trying to make it count. Lots of these books are going to be a challenge for me though all for different reasons. With some it might be the use of jargon, with others the length and some the topic itself. But all of them will leave me with important messages to take into the new academic year. Beginnings take training too - make no doubt about it.

Without delay, here is my book selection for August 2017:

Fiction reveals truths that reality obscures - Ralph Waldo Emerson
1. Emma

This year it has been 200 years since the death of Jane Austen, one of England's most important female writers. Her stories are well known all over the world, with there being so many modern interpretations. Fans of Bridget Jones might not realise it is actually a re-telling of Pride and Prejudice, whilst popular teen movie Clueless is based upon Emma.

One of the novels which I haven't ever really been a big fan of is Emma. I'm not sure why this is - perhaps it is because I am so different to the protagonist and cannot always fully comprehend her manner of thinking or behaviours throughout the text. However that said, it is rather comical and light to read making it perfect to go to over the end of summer as autumn fades in.  

For those of you who might not have heard of read this text before, this is the story of Emma Woodhouse and her attempts at match making. Whilst she likes to consider herself an expert in this field, she gradually comes to realise that she has made a few mistakes when it comes to matters of the heart...

2. Vincent

If you haven't guessed from the song above, this is of course a book which is all about the life + biography of the impressionist painter Vincent Van Gough. Originally born in the Netherlands, he painted the majority of his most famous paintings in Arles, France. During his life time he was not famous at all, selling only one painting! But today he is so infamous that he is found in different guises throughout popular culture, from his paintings at museums such as the D'Orsay (and his own museum in Amsterdam) to his cameo in an episode of Doctor Who.

This particular book on Van Gough is a graphic novel, a style I really want to explore a lot more but haven't really ended up doing so over the rest of this summer so far. It seemed fitting that this text would be my choice due to the fact that in a few weeks time I will be heading to the land of his birth to continue my literary studies as an undergraduate.

Van Gough is a huge inspiration to me. He managed to take his suffering and make something beautiful from it and that has not gone amiss amongst other humans. Whilst he has joined that canon of immortal figures throughout art, he is one of the few who remain open enough for others to relate to. It is easy to relate to someone who has struggled or questioned why they do what they do. I can't wait to learn more about him.

3. 50 Plants Which Changed The Course Of History

This time last year I had just purchased the first volume in this series from the natural history museum in London. Whilst that edition was equally interesting (it was about the 50 most significant animals to the world) I think that I am going to learn a lot more from this copy.

Botany has always been one of my interests, particulalry when I was focusing in on marine biology back in highschool. From this compendium I have already learnt so many cool facts. Such as how the onion has sustained the stereotypical guises of a French man in a beret and striped shirt, to how the pineapple was responsible for the rise of the green house (and the crystal palace).

Plants are more significant to our every day lives than I think we give them credit for. Knowing where  they are and being able to recognise them is the least we can do. I have no doubt that you'll be hearing some of the many interesting facts I read throughout my blogs whilst I am reading.

4. When Breath Becomes Air

For my Student Reads book club here on UCAS this month we are reading Paul Kalanithi's incredibly moving and insightful memoir about his cancer diagnosis and how he dealt with it over a period of several months. But it is so much more than that - it goes into the past and shares his most treasured memories as well as his many passions, from literature to neurosurgery.

His voice simply lifts off the page, bringing everything to life and whilst Kalanithi may not have lived to see the success of his writing he lives on so vividly through the words he strung together like paper boats out on to the sea. It feels like he is sat next to you telling you his story and I know that the ending is going to strike all the harder for this reason.

Such an important book for everyone to read. It keeps open that conversation about cancer which can sometimes be marked as a little too sad or dark to make an appearence in casual conversation. But nevertheless everyone has something to say about grief and about pain, which means that everyone can bring something to this conversation. It is so important to keep talking about this, just as Kalanithi did. His voice is one which will never be forgotten and which I know I will return to way beyond once I have reached the final page.

5. Amsterdam

Naturally I have to recap on all of the Dutch history in Shorto's masterpiece. This biography of the city really brings it to life in a way my studying the Dutch historical canon from text books has not yet achieved. I am eager to see how much I have remembered and learnt since reading it this time last year and I have no doubt that it will prove useful upon moving to the Netherlands at the end of the month.

Thank-you for all your support and comments. It is a fantastic thing to be able to help answer any of your questions and to share my adventure with all of you. It makes my day every day! 

If you like, you can click here to vote for me as Blogger of the month. Thank-you!

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