Way, way back before my lost year that was 2019, I ran a weekly (attempted to be) book post. Now, I do usually end up reading almost a book a week, especially if we count my Audible listening while I’m asleep, but anybody with a full time job and family will tell you trying to find the time to sit down every week and review a book is difficult, so it generally fell by the wayside. That wasn’t helped by the fact that I was trying to make sure the books were hygge-based or hygge-connected, and there just aren’t 52 hygge books that are worth reviewing published every year.
I also, once I’d written my own books, found it harder to review books because it just seemed mean to say “This book is lacking in hygge and has barely any good ideas” when I know just how hard a writer works, and how much to heart a bad review can be taken. “There’s more hygge in a dead fish” is my favourite review written by a stranger about my own book, and I can laugh about it now, but at the time it really pricked my pride.
With apologies then for the long introduction, I’d like to introduce my solution. I intend to review a book a month on one Friday in the month, but not necessarily on a fixed timetable. They will probably be non-fiction, probably cosy, happy or hygge related but definitely something that I have read, thought about and used in my life. Think of it as positive recommendation, rather than criticism. Life’s too short to read bad books, so why shouldn’t we concentrate on the good, the kind and the positively inspirational?
This month’s book is The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown. I’d heard of her, and read articles about her, but this book was thrown into my path when I chose the word Wholehearted as my word for 2020. I’d been looking for a word that summed up the need in me to be completely a part of my life, to feel that everything I did was done with intention; that my activities, the people I surrounded myself with, the possessions I owned, all spoke to who I was and who I wanted to be, not who others thought I was.
I have to acknowledge here that, having chosen the word, Jen Carrington was a great inspiration, especially during Romjul, when I used her free download Your Wholehearted Year to look backwards and forwards at my life. It’s a familiar formula: thinking over what you wanted to achieve and did achieve last year in personal and business life, then setting positive intentions for the year ahead, with a focus on living authentically, wholeheartedly. I still have a couple of pages left to do, but I entered 2020 with my heart in the right place instead of halfway to my boots.
As a plain paperback, with no inspirational pictures, full colour photographs or even much in the way of big print, The Gifts of Imperfection doesn’t shout its values out loud, but it has been a really useful book. It’s like that More Reading Less TV meme that gets shared at the new year, but carried over into rules for life.
The book is only 137 pages long, and doesn’t take too long to read, but it takes absolute ages to reread and absorb. I think I’m working my way through for the third time with highlighters and capturing the lines that grab me. This is despite having the book on Kindle and having highlighted a whole different set of lines first time round. I can’t take Kindle seriously for books like this, I like to be able to flick forwards and back, to pick up and look at the section I feel in need of and to scribble notes in margins and gaps.
The book separates into two sections: the first few chapters set you up for knowing what wholehearted living means, what gifts or attributes you will need to develop for it, and how you can develop them. I really enjoyed the practicality of the book, especially in pointing out the issues (self-worth, acceptance, guilt) that we create that stop us living wholeheartedly.
The second section is the ten Guideposts: 10 positive actions, emotions, attitudes that we should cultivate. These are balanced with ten corresponding actions to release. For example, “Cultivating Authenticity” is balanced by “Letting go of what People Think”. They’re not long chapters, but they’re full of quotes, lived examples and Brene’s own journey through/past a breakdown and into an inspiring life. I love how each chapter ends with a DIG section; three incredibly practical actions to encourage you to be Deliberate, Inspired and Going.
The Guideposts are designed to give us the skills we need to live as our authentic, wholehearted selves. They’re not highfalutin’, inaccessible or incredibly intelligent concepts, but the down-to-earth gifts we should give ourselves and so often don’t. Gratitude, Compassion, Creativity, Play. Actions connected to these are what psychologists so often tell us we need to be happy, to live a better life, to be free to be ourselves. Humans are very good at ignoring what’s right before our eyes. Brene puts in one book a list as simple as you like, and then sends you off to do the hard work. I love her final thought… “Most of us have developed fairly sensitive bullshit meters when it comes to reading ‘self-help’ books… there are too many books that make promises they can’t keep.” And it’s true that if all you do is read this book and put it on your bookshelves, next to all the other self-help books, it won’t do much.
But read, really read, and reframe some of your life in terms of the Guideposts and you may well find that it makes a difference. Cultivate gratitude, cultivate laughter, cultivate calmness… and see what your life throws back at you.*
***Leonie Dawson (do you know her? I love so much of her work) was offering posters of Brene’s Guideposts in 2015 in this blogpost: I don’t know whether the posters are still available, but the inspiration to create a page in your planner or for your wall certainly is.***
*So far this year my life has gifted me a dead starter motor in the car, a close Aunt’s funeral and a small panic over a lump on my guinea pig (she had a cancer scare last year and lumps are not always benign). I’m still smiling: and life is just as it should be. Sometimes good, sometimes bad, and my attitude is lifting me through. Just, some days, and the crest of a wave of positivity others, but what matter?
If you’d like to support me….
My new book, Cosy Happy Hygge is available as an ebook or a paperback on Amazon now. As you know, I do the whole kit and caboodle myself, from writing to proofreading to designing and I’m very proud of this one. It’s about using rhythm and ritual to make your life a gentler, kinder place. Writing it has been an important part of my mental health recovery.
I don’t monetise my blog. I don’t run adverts, take sponsorship for writing posts or use affiliate links. I want everything I do on this blog and in my hygge life outside to be truthful. If I promote a book it’s because I’ve read it and like it, if I point out an item it’s because it’s impressed me on its own merits and not because the publicist has talked me into it. It does mean I don’t run giveaways and I’m not chasing followers, but the drawback is that I need to find a way to support myself.
That’s why I write books. My thoughts are that if I ask you to buy a book not only does it support me, and let me keep writing as an independent writer, but you get something back for your bucks. I’ve written several books, some on hygge, some on Christmas. If you like what you read here, or in the Hygge Nook, and you’d like to support a struggling writer, would you please consider buying a book? Ebooks give you the best value, since for 2 or 3 pounds you get the whole content of the book without paying the extra for paper production, but I’d be a pretty poor writer if I didn’t appreciate the beauty of a real book in the hand. If you buy just one book, it all adds up in the end to support me, and I’d be so grateful.
If you already have my books, or just want to support me as an independent writer, you can always just send me the price of a cup of coffee as a friend, to paypal.me/HyggeJem . I tend to use a lot of my spare cash on books that I review for the website, so every penny donated goes towards building my happy hygge life.
My first three books are hygge related, 50 Ways to Hygge the British Way was my first book, and is available in Paperback and Kindle version. It’s a simple look at ways to feel more hyggely in life and at home even though we’re not Danish and don’t have it in our DNA.
Happier is my fourth book. It’s about how I boost my own happiness levels. It’s full of hints, tips and ideas for you to use and adapt to suit your own situation. It is available in ebook and paperback version from Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com.
I have three Christmas books,
Have Yourself a Happy Hygge Christmas was released in September 2017 and is available again in paperback and ebook version. It looks at keeping the Christmas season warm and cosy, with ideas for activities and routines to keep Christmas happy.
A (Hygge) Christmas Carol is my look at Dickens’ immortal classic and the many lessons we still learn from it today. It contains the full text of the book as well as hyggely thoughts on the story.
Enjoying a Self Care Christmas is only available in ebook version. It’s about keeping Christmas simple enough and healthy enough to keep you sane in the process.
If you buy any of the books or some of the items through the links on this page, I get a couple of extra pence per copy, as an Amazon Affiliate, in Amazon vouchers which go towards buying more books to review for the blog. I’d really love it if you’d support me monetarily, but I quite understand that cash is tight for many people, and I just love having your support via reading and commenting as well.
Truthfully, I’ll probably never make a living as a writer, but I do make a little extra income that gets ploughed back into books and magazines. One obsession feeds the other…