Today’s book is an oldie from 2017 that I had never read before. Slow: Live Life Simply by Brooke McAlary is only available in hardback form, so I’ve never picked it up as a holiday book or in a Kindle shopping frenzy when searching for something to read. I don’t always choose Real Books because they soon fill up the house, and I’m capable of doing that all by myself.
That’s not to say that I hadn’t heard of Brooke McAlary. I’ve read, and thoroughly enjoyed, Destination Simple, which is a thoroughly practical and simple little book on getting your head and heart in the right place to help you declutter. Live the simple life and you will simplify your life by getting rid of the excess that you no longer need. It’s good, and one that I return to again and again.
I can’t think that anything really stopped me from reading Slow before, except that I find books are a lot like people, the right ones hit at the right time if you’re open to it. I had a gift certificate, am in a state of flux and this hit the spot. Of course Brooke McAlary is a heroine of mine, sitting alongside Leo Babauta, Joshua Becker and Courtney Carver as advocates of slowing down and enjoying the ride, so this weekend I settled in to read.
At 264 good quality pages, the book is not a little one, nor too long to read in a weekend. But what I find is that it is a very thoughtful book, by which I mean you will read, and pause, and think. I’m still going back to it… not yet with a pencil and highlighter, but that is next…. and sucking the deep meaning out of it.
First off, it’s effectively arranged. The Introduction gives us a potted biography of Brooke and the body of the book gives us a roadmap to reaching a slower pace of life. I love how the very first chapter is telling us (me) to think first. Start with why… why simplify, why now, why here. Brooke says she was inspired when a writing prompt book asked her to write her own eulogy. I don’t know about you, but I have actually wondered what the eulogy at my funeral would be like. It’s crazy, it’s something we never get to hear and never get to put one word into and yet what we do and how we live will write it, every darn bit of it. It’s about identifying what kind of life we want to live, and then setting sail for that ultimate destination.
The chapters roll on through decluttering and de-owning (beg, borrow, share or buy mindfully) through being mindful to appreciate the world around us, coming off digital media to avoid the wantsies and comparisons (always odious) to my favourite chapter: A Cabin in the Woods.
This chapter isn’t about a real cabin, or cottagecore, shedporn or anything to do with interior design. It’s about creating your own internal safe space, a place to live slowly. The cabin, metaphorically built from noticing, intention, mindfulness and connection is furnished by what we spend on ourselves, the pillars of self-care and wellness that mean we’re strong enough, secure enough not to run to the shops to spend in a fit of anger or to reach for that cake when we feel low. The pillars of sleep, self-talk, gratitude, contentment, reading and more that create a simple life that benefits you and those around you. I, too, have a safe mental place, but it’s a cottage by the sea rather than a cabin in the woods, and hopefully furnished with love and care as well. Everybody has a different ideal slow spot, a point Brooke makes in the last chapter. There is no right way to live slow, only the way that suits you. To believe otherwise, to think that escaping to a wood or living on a small holding or being alone is the only way to live slowly and simply… well, that’s just swapping one set of Joneses for another. And living slow is about saying no to the Jones.
Seriously, I could share page after page from the book, but that would defeat the purpose of reviewing it just enough for you to see if you like it. The photographs are simple, but effective, while hand drawn illustrations make concepts like circuit breakers and a mindfulness toolkit clearer. My personal favourite of the hand drawn lists is this one:
A life of more while needing less: isn’t that what we’re all after?
The cover photo today is mine, taken at the office. Five minutes before I had set this up, with sunlight glimpsing in through the window and causing sparkles on the cover. But I got called away before I could take that one, and when I returned the grey skies had banished the sparkles. Never mind. It’s my office hygge in a single frame: good book, coffee, water and a candle.
How to Hygge the British Way is my gift to the world. I don’t get paid for writing it, I’m not in it for the kudos, financial rewards, to become an influencer, work with brands or otherwise make any money from the blog. That’s why there are no ads, and any products I mention and recommend have either been gifted to me or bought by me with my everyday wages or donations from supporters. Every book I review has been bought and read by me, unless stated otherwise.
I do get a couple of pennies each time someone buys from the Amazon links on my page, as an Amazon Affiliate, but otherwise if you’d like to support me, I like to give something back in return. That’s why I write books. You can find a full list of my books at my Author’s Page on Amazon, but especially recommended for this time of year are:
Happier: Probably my most personal book, it’s the story of how I used hygge and the little things in life to help boost my happiness. I still go back and reread to remind myself what I need to do to be a happy human.
Cosy Happy Hygge: Setting up a rhythm to life and rituals to enjoy it to make for a more balanced life that handles waves and storms better.
If you’d like to support me, but don’t want to buy a book, I have a Paypal.Me account as Hygge Jem. Every little helps, so even a few pence goes towards the books, goods and courses I use and recommend on the site. I’m grateful for every little bit that brings me closer to my dream of full-time writing, and I know I couldn’t still be writing if it weren’t for the support of many readers and friends out there. Thank you all for every little bit of support, emotional, physical and financial, you give me.