Books of the Month: Let’s Have a Threesome

Has a month ever seemed so long? With the world in lockdown, there really is very little to do except eat, sleep and read. It seems a shame, then, that so many people are finding it hard to concentrate and settle down to reading. Long plots or complex character arcs don’t sit easy on a spirit that is discomforted by daily briefings and rising numbers. When will this end? Who knows?

But it will end one day, and we will party well when it does. For the moment, though, I keep settling down to read The Mirror and the Light, only to lay it aside in favour of guacamole reading: books I love to dip in and out of.

This month I was reading three books on very similar topics, but which approached it in three quite different ways. I wanted just to choose one to recommend, but really it was difficult to do that. All three books have merits and drawbacks and what appeals to one may not be what another person needs. So, for a crazy April Easter weekend, I present to you my Books of the Month, all with the theme of sustainability, slow living and balance.

Grounded by Anna Carlile

Grounded by Anna Carlile

Slow down. Simplify. Let’s go.

Grounded is a beautiful, solid colourful book full of quotations and photographs that illustrate a grounded (describing a person who has a good understanding of what is really important in life) lifestyle. It’s focused on encouraging people into nature, getting back to basics and building a life that allows for connection to greenery often, while being honest enough to admit that we are not all going to skip off into the wilderness and set up in a cabin like Thoreau.

It has plenty of ideas, organised by season, although the details can be light…. Walk in Nature, for example, is literally those three words and four pages of photographs. If you need to be told how to walk, the implication is, you need to get out more. In a way that’s very good, because it isn’t a preachy book, or over-heavy to read. It’s very visual, and eminently readable at this time because of that. Recipes are beautifully clear, photographed and focus on natural or foraged ingredients.

I love that so many of the ideas are family-friendly. Many of them will help to create children who are used to spending time in the natural world, used to swimming, walking or camping in nature. Activities like cloud-watching and star-gazing are explained clearly with photographs that clearly show the differences.

The subtitle is “A Companion for Slow Living”, and it’s very much a companion in the old-friend sense, someone who sits beside you on the porch, nods or grunts and you understand what they’re saying. If you’re new to the whole step-off-the-carousel lifestyle, it will be inspiring, but leave you needing more explanation on practicalities. I read it all in one (fast) sitting a week ago, but it’s sat by my chair, and I keep dipping in. Because it’s so visual, you can flip through and stop on a photograph or section of text and appreciate the pause. It is, however, lacking in a resources list, or information to send you looking elsewhere for the next stage in your journey. Anna Carlile has another book out, 365 Nature, which I’ve been promised for Easter, and is a designer with Viola Design, website or Instagram.

How to Balance Your Life by Robin James.

How to Balance Your Life by Robin James

This is a book of “Everyday tips for simpler living and lasting harmony” and is a really nicely presented compilation of ideas for balancing mind, body, spirit and home. It’s beautifully illustrated, with a mix of photographs and illustrations (I love the colour aesthetics in all three of these books: this one is particularly pretty, pastel pinks, blues and beiges) and plenty of short, easily written chapters.

The journey starts within, and then goes out in circles: rebalancing the mind leads to strengthening the body, sorting out the home, time with others, time in nature and giving to community. I like that way of doing things. Change, improvement or not, comes from within. There’s plenty of clearly set out advice, diagrams to illustrate yoga or breathing exercises and plenty of practical points that will definitely improve your life in terms of connection with your inner self, the natural world and each other.

If I have a criticism of the book it is that it doesn’t send you on to the next step, and has no resources listed at the back. That aside, it does have a lot of inspiration and information clearly presented, and I have been dipping into it over the week as well.

Minimal: How to Simplify your life and Live Sustainably by Madeleine Olivia.

Minimal by Madeleine Olivia

I said these three books had a shared theme, of sustainability, building a life that will last, and this book is possibly the most informative on the subject that I have read recently. Madeleine Olivia runs a great blog that focuses on living a life that won’t cost the earth. She lives a vegan lifestyle and is determined that we should all take steps now to ensure the planet has a future. Herinstagram is also beautifully curated.

Of all the books this has the most content. It’s closely worded, pages of text, and very few illustrations (definitely no photographs) but it is a book that will have you reaching for a pencil and making notes all over your copy. Madeleine sets out the whys of minimalism and self-sufficiency as well as the hows. She uses her own life to show how the principles are applied in practice, and include fashion, food and travel. Homemade recipes for cleaners, beauty products and plenty of ideas are followed up by a list of resources and leads to further reading. I have had the book by my chair for a week now, like the other two, and I am a fraction of the way through a proper read.

I really like that the book is heavily biased towards the concept of less stuff. It’s called Minimal, because we should be making sure that we have a minimal impact on the environment and that will only be achieved by using minimal resources and creating minimal waste. Madeleine lives an urban life, so her blog and writing is focused on areas that are of interest to singles or couples rather than families, but I know that living minimally is important for families just as much as, if not more than, it is for childfree people. Waste increases exponentially with each child, usually. Even though there is no specific advice or information for parents, the basics of living sustainably are transferrable so it’s a worthy read for families as well. They’ll just need to take the concept further with their extended reading.

Although there are few diagrams, those that are included are clear and easy to read and information tables are detailed but succinct. I have ideas marked down to do, and I think there will be more ideas jotted on my inspirations list as the week goes by.

Three books: three different approaches. I’m not recommending that you buy all three, although they each have merit, but that you decide what you need from a sustainability book. If you love text and information, go with Minimal. If you prefer inspiration and visuals, then go for Grounded. If you like a good blend of sustainable living and self-development, then How to Balance Your Life may be the one. Whichever, this is my last post before Easter so let me wish you all a happy and peaceful Easter if you worship, and a restful and balanced weekend if you don’t. I’m hoping to be back on Tuesday with my usual Monday Magazine post.

If you’d like to support me,please click through here  for a full list of my books or ways to donate: every penny I receive goes on more books and resources to review: I don’t take paid advertisement jobs. Hygge, like the best things in life, is free.

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