Much Loved by Mark Nixon (2013)
This is a book of photography and storytelling - of much loved soft toys and teddies and the memories they hold for us. I stumbled across this book by accident at the library and brought it home with the intention of reading it with the boys - some of the toys are so quirky, loved and threadbare that they are barely hanging together. It was later when I read it by myself in bed that I was moved to tears by the stories behind the much loved items. Mark Nixon's photography is simple and sublime.
Adam Bede by George Eliot (1859)
I have read some of Eliot's other works (Silas Marner being one of my favourite novels of all time) but never Adam Bede. It was her first novel written. I actually read it in a bookclub with my mum, sister and her partner and we shared our thoughts and feelings on it every few weeks via zoom. Who would have ever thought of a zoom bookclub a few years ago?! I found the story deeply engrossing and moving. Eliot is a master storyteller and she sets the pastoral scene and nuanced characters and conversations so well. So many of the issues she raises can relate to today - this quote stood out: " Falsehood is so easy, truth so difficult... Examine your words well, and you will find that even when you have no motive to be false, it is a very hard thing to say the exact truth, even about your own immediate feelings - much harder than to say something fine about them which is not the exact truth"
Quarterly Essay 72: Net Loss: The Inner Life in the Digital Age by Sebastian Smee (2018)
Does a long essay count as serious reading? I think so. I was able to access a digital copy of the magazine through my library. Critic Sebastian Smee writes with wit and insight on the idea of "the inner life" as explored in art and culture and how it has been changed or lost in the wake of digitisation. He writes: “Every day I spend hours and hours on my phone . . . We are all doing it, aren’t we? It has come to feel completely normal. Even when I put my device aside and attach it to a charger, it pulses away in my mind, like the throat of a toad, full of blind, amphibian appetite.”
Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport (2019)
Reading the Smee's essay promoted my interest in reading this one by Cal Newport. Instead of reading the pages, I borrowed the audiobook from my library and listened to it, slowly, over two weeks while I cleaned the eggs. There is something appropriate, I felt, to digest this one carefully - to listen to it an hour at a time with ample space afterwards to contemplate his ideas. Cal Newport is not dismissive of the benefits of digital technology, but calls for a more holistic (and minimalist) approach to using it: one that places more emphasis on developing a sense of self, of leisure and rest, deep work and building relationship over mere connectedness, and aligning our choices about digital tools with our deeper values at the fore. He writes: "How much of your time and attention must be sacrificed to earn the small profit of occasional connections and new ideas that is earned by cultivating a significant presence on social media platforms?"
Wild Light by Robyn Mundy (2016)
An engaging, fast-paced novel set on a remote Tasmanian Island. I enjoyed the descriptions of the wild weather, lighthouse keeping and local flora and fauna best of all.
Anti-Diet by Christy Harrison (2019)
I requested my library to buy a copy of this book and was so delighted when they did. I've been listening to nutritionist and journalist Christy Harrison's podcast "Food Psych" for a few years now and always found her conversations around food, shame, diet culture, intuitive eating and mental health really fascinating and insightful. She draws on so much good research and evidence to explore the perils of our modern obsession with diets, weight loss and wellness. It made me angry and sad, empowered and energised - so much better informed. She also draws on personal stories including her own and her clients, and offers practical suggestions for deconstructing the unjust and unfounded beliefs that proliferate about bodies and food. I cannot recommend this book enough.
Hold Your Fire by Chloe Wilson (2021)
Oh I just loved this one. It was one of those books I saw the cover of at the library and wanted to borrow on impulse alone. I stayed up way too late reading it bed because I just couldn't put it down. It reminded me how much I love short stories, and these ones by Australian writer Chloe Wilson are absurd, funny, dark and beautiful. Go and read!
Read my summer reading here //
Summer tends to be the season with the most reading for me - something perhaps about those long, light-filled days and the prickle of heat that makes me want to put my knitting away and stare at pages with the fan gently humming. Maybe there's a part of me, a learnt pattern in my body, that associates summer with reading - as mum would always gift us books for Christmas. Reading never feels like a chore in summer, a bit like walking at night: the very air of summer ushers permission to be consumed with words and breeze.
There, there by Tommy Orange (2018)
Christmas book from my sister, the first novel by Tommy Orange. It read almost like a play, dramatic and atmospheric. I found it a refreshing read and haunting in some scenes and dialogue that have stayed with me long after finishing. Highly recommend.
The Tall Man by Chloe Hooper (2008)
I wanted to read this as soon as I finished Chloe Hooper's other brilliant book The Arsonist. Hooper writes masterfully, poetically, with such clarity, sensitivity and humanity around issues that are so difficult - like this: the death of a young Aboriginal man in custody on an island I'd vaguely heard of. She paints the landscape and the characters of Palm Island with nuance and freshness that help you feel it all deeply, and not easily forget. The Tall Man is investigative writing on crime, racism, policing, history and mythology in Australia of the highest calibre. I didn't want it to end, and I longed for an ending that never came. I cannot recommend this book highly enough.
10 Reasons to quit your social media right now by Jaron Lanier (2018)
I had to read this even though I could think of thirty of my own reasons to quit. Jaron Lanier is a computer engineer, philosopher and musician. His "reasons" for quitting are sensible and intelligent and is definitely worth reading and pondering on.
You are not a gadget by Jaron Lanier (2010)
I enjoyed this longer manifesto of Lanier's even more than the one above. He wrote it almost a decade ago and is uncanny in his accurate predictions and concerns for what social media platforms and technologies were becoming - and have become - forces for immense social, cultural, political and economic upheaval. Highly recommend.
The Mother Fault by Kate Mildenhall (2020)
A speedy and enjoyable read. The plot is quite thrilling and fascinating, and while I didn't feel totally convinced by the main characters and the ending felt a bit clunky - there was something very poignant and timely about the near-future reality in which we are all micro-chipped and answerable to a global governmental system, as well as the over-reliance on digital devices, threats of constant surveillance. Critics mentioned a likeness to Atwood and I felt that too. Definitely worth a go.
The Service of Clouds by Delia Falconer (1997)
Have you ever begun a book only to fall in love with it on the first few pages, only to struggle to finish it half way and then fall out with it completely by the ending? I guess my reactions with this one was as capricious and changing as the clouds. Yes, there are some really clever, beautiful sentences, and the descriptions of the Blue Mountains at the turn of the 20th century is quite mesmerising, but something fell flat and unsatisfying half-way through. If you love Ondaatje you will probably enjoy this one...
The Twilight of Democracy by Applebaum (2020)
Oh this was a fascinating read. Insightful and frightening. I asked my local library to purchase a copy of Applebaum's book after I heard her interviewed on the New Yorker politics and more podcast. I'm glad they were able to get it in. Applebaum has been watching and writing about (and living) politics in Central Europe for decades, but has much to say about her place of origin USA too. Highly recommend.
Water my Soul by Luci Shaw (2003)
A re-read. Shaw explores the rich, interior life of faith through the seasons of the garden. Beautiful, wise, timeless. Highly recommend.
Into the Silent Land by Martin Laird (2006)
Read for my course in contemplative faith. I'd never heard of it before. I love the way Laird weaves in personal stories, poetry, literature and wisdom by the great Christian mystics along with more practical tips and exercises for cultivating a prayer-filled awareness of God's loving presence in everyday life. I would definitely recommend this one for anyone starting out on the contemplative journey //
What have you been reading lately?
ABOUT the author
Emily Clare Sims is a farmer and mama to three young boys. Each day she looks for ways to notice beauty, contemplate her faith and savour the seasons...