Book tour : Manic Man, by Jason Wegner & Dr Kerry Bernes

If there’s one thing I like more than receiving new books to read, it’s receiving new psychology books to read. And this one certainly did not disappoint!

Manic Man, written by first-time author Jason Wegner and clinical psychologist Dr. Kerry Bernes, was just published on October 14th, 2021, and is a raw, open memoir relating Jason’s firsthand experience of living with type 1 bipolar disorder.

Synopsis

The story begins with an outline of Jason’s normal life and then describes the hypomanic stage of his illness. The mania starts with his experience of taking the dangerous psychedelic drug LSD and takes off a few weeks later in Tanzania, Africa. He is in a full-blown manic episode while in Africa, and his behaviours and thoughts captured demonstrate this. Weeks of mania continued after he was home from Africa until he was tricked into going in an ambulance and taken to the hospital’s emergency wing. He would be hospitalized in the acute psychiatry ward for 57 days, and seven months of depression follows his hospitalization.

To lift himself out of his severe depression, his psychologist, Dr. Kerry Bernes, develops “The Octagon of Life,” which is the eight areas of life that he gets Jason to focus on. Following the plan, Jason gets out of depression and experiences post-traumatic growth and becomes a more successful person than he was before his diagnosis. 

Of all mental health concerns, personality disorders are certainly some of the most taboo in our society. We tend to avoid the subject as much as possible, and when we do have to talk about it, it’s usually mentioned with concerns about homelessness, danger to others and/or suicidal risk.

Which is why, amongst a sea of bleak portrayals of mental illnesses in current media, I find such a memoir essential to our collective understanding of what it’s really like living with a severe mental illness.

Representation matters, and what better representation than stories that come directly from the people living with the illnesses themselves?

Three things I liked in this book

The honesty

Memoirs are a difficult genre to write. Gloss over reality a bit too much, and your readers will be able to perceive the lies, the varnish coming off of the polished version of your life that you’d like to sell them between the pages. But be a little too truthful, and you might be confronted with intimate realities on the page that you might not have intended to share with such a wide potential readership.

Being honest with yourself and with your readers when sharing intimate personal experiences is a difficult challenge, and one that author Jason Wegner takes on without hesitation. It takes here the form of a heartbreaking but genuine description of manic episodes, from his perspective, that must have taken a lot of bravery to write and that leaves the reader with a new understanding of the trials of living with such a severe mental illness.

Speaking of recovery

One of the thinks I dislike the most in mainstream media’s portrayal of mental illnesses is the near total focus on the worst parts of people’s lives. What about the after, when a person has received their diagnosis and is in a better place to receive the help they seek in managing their condition?

Manic Man doesn’t shy away from that part of the process, and explains in more detail the difficulty of the work done by the author on recovery from manic episodes, and on managing his type 1 bipolar disorder in the future.

The difficult topics

Type 1 bipolar disorder is sometimes also called “manic depression”. This describes the two main emotional phases of the disorder, which are phases of intense mania – lasting at least a week, and during which the person usually exhibits extreme erratic behavior, and might require hospitalization for their own safety – and phases of deep depression, lasting at least two weeks.

The honest and raw descriptions of Jason’s experiences while in either one of these phases is something I found very educational for people wanting to broaden their understanding of the emotional cost and psychological effects of bipolar personality disorder on the individuals it affects.

All in all, I would definitely recommend this to anyone interested in psychology, cognitive therapy, or just looking for an excellent memoir to read this winter.

Find it on Amazon here, and on Goodreads here.

Book tour : Take charge of your diet, by Sylvie Boulay

Let me just start with how happy I am to be reviewing this book. One of my greatest passions in life is reading, and the other one is psychology, so you can imagine how excited I was when I received an ARC of a psychology book in the mail!

Take charge of your diet, written by author Sylvie Boulay, was just released on September 30th, 2021 – and if you’re interested in any way in psychology, self-help or weight management, then you should definitely add this short workbook to your TBR.

Synopsis

This is a short, accessible workbook offering a new approach to weight loss based on the principles of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). Rather than proposing a particular diet, the workbook offers practical tools to help slimmers adhere to whatever plan they have chosen. Written in plain language for the general reader it is based on principles widely discussed in academic research on addiction treatment.

The reader is taken through ten easy to follow stages. These are similar to those suggested in addiction recovery, but here they are applied to weight loss: keeping a diary, building motivation, identifying unmet needs, drawing a plan, creating new habits, identifying triggers and risk situations and learning how to deal with cravings and relapse. The last chapter also contains information for family, friends, carers or professionals to support loved ones or clients through the ten stages.

I’ve always had a complicated relationship with food. For as long as I can remember, eating has been a form of reward or coping mechanism for me – I eat when I’m bored, scared, stressed, angry… every “ugly” emotion I can’t properly process or express translates in as many iced frappuchinos (Hi, Starbucks!), molten lava cakes, pizza slices or entire chocolate bars just bought at the corner store.

I’ve been trying to lose weight for a while, now, and had some measure of success… before taking it all back on, and then some. I’m just one of many who tried on a couple of diets, and just can’t seem to make them stick.

The goal of this workbook is to help people like me figure out why we just can’t stick with it, and how to make it stop – in twelve easy to follow steps.

Three things I liked in this book

The simplicity

One of the things I look for the most in a self-help book that aims to make accessible to the general population key psychology concepts is simplicity – specifically, the way the author explains keywords and crucial concepts so that all readers will understand them, without losing any of their meaning.

Scientific vulgarization is a difficult exercise, and one that Sylvie Boulay has mastered with brio in this book.

The exercises

As interesting as textbooks or general self-help books are, in my opinion, there’s nothing that beats the workbook format in terms of practicality and direct usefulness in readers’ lives. That is – if the workbook is well-constructed, and the exercises are relevant to the theoretical materials.

Here, the exercises are pertinent to each chapter, and bring the reader to self-reflection rather than making them find pre-prepared answers to their questions – an approach that echoed my recent training course in applied humanist psychology, and that I found particularly important in the context of weight management.

The theory behind the scenes

My favorite branch of psychology is called Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, or CBT for short. It is rooted in several core principles, including but not limited to :

  • The belief that psychological problems are based, in part, on faulty or unhelpful ways of thinking
  • The belief that they are also based, in part, on learned patterns of unhelpful behavior
  • The following conclusion that people suffering from psychological problems can learn better ways of coping with them, in order to relieve their symptoms and become better adjusted in their daily lives.1

This book follows current CBT theory and its practical applications, and I found it extremely well done. The structure of the reflection, mirroring that of the 10-steps program used in addiction recovery programs, is efficient and clinically sound. Unlike a certain kind of self-help book that I will abstain from quoting here (but you know what I mean…), this is a document that can be taken with all the seriousness its topic requires.

Conclusion

Interested in weight management, CBT, or just self-help in general? Want to finally figure out what’s blocking you from feeling in charge of your own behavior, and at ease in your own body?

Then this book is the one for you. Seriously. You’ll thank me for it.

Find it on Amazon here, and on Goodreads here.

Reference : 1American Psychological Association. (n.d.). What is cognitive behavioral therapy? American Psychological Association. Retrieved October 9, 2021, from https://www.apa.org/ptsd-guideline/patients-and-families/cognitive-behavioral.; 

Fireside favorites : 10 of my favorite 2020 reads

Welcome back to another Bookending Winter post! Today’s prompt is hosted by Lauren and Becky @ Northern Plunder.

Bookending Winter is a book blogging event run by Clo and Sam, in which different bloggers host a couple of prompts each during the month of December. Anyone who wants to participate can register on the announcement post, make 3 (or more) posts during the event, and link them up on the challenge spreadsheet so others can find them easily!

Prompt Explanation : Take a look back at your favorite reads of 2020. Hopefully these will make it to someone else’s TBR for them to pass the time whilst snuggled in with a hot coco next to the fire.

At the beginning of 2020, I set my Goodreads challenge to 52 books – one a week, I thought, was perfectly attainable, seeing as I used to read a lot more than that, and my current classes at the time weren’t that time-consuming. 52 books, I reasoned, was a perfectly adequate challenge, and one I’d surely be done with in September, at the latest.

That didn’t age well. I’ve been trying my best to get through my ARCs and finish the books I currently own, to maybe get to the 52 books goal, but it might very well not happen this year. Still, I’m trying to not be too bummed about this, and this prompt serves as a good reminder that, even if I didn’t read a ton of books this year, I still read a couple of really good ones!

So here’s – in random order – my 10 favorite books I’ve read so far in 2020.

Note : ⏳ are ARCs gotten through NetGalley or the publisher, 📚 are books I own or borrowed from my local library.

5 stars books

⏳ Better sleep, better you

I enjoyed reading this book a lot! It’s full of useful information on the science of sleep – why we do it, and what we’re doing wrong – and has a ton of advice adaptable for almost every situation so that its readers can improve their sleep habits. I learned a lot by reading this – definitely would recommend as a gift for a friend interested in science or how things work, or for your friend running every day on 5 hours of sleep and not understanding why they’re feeling like crap all the time!

Find it on Goodreads here.

⏳ Happily Ever After & Everything In Between

This is the cutest and most relatable thing I have read in a very long time, and every single one of the pages seemed like a situation taken out of my own life. I laughed so much out loud reading this that my partner came over my side of the living room to check if I was okay (and if I needed snacks).

It was my first book from this author, but I’m planning on checking out her other works too!

Find it on Goodreads here.

⏳ Surrender your sons

This was… wow. Just wow. You can check out my review here on Goodreads – I wrote it right after reading and I honestly couldn’t say it better right now. Excellent novel and amazing author, 10/10 would recommend.

⏳ Perfect on paper

I was really excited to see what Sophie Gonzales was going to give us next, and she did not disappoint! You can read my full review on the blog – I wrote an entire post about it, it’s just so good – but if you’re just looking for the short version : this is an excellent queer YA contemporary, and you should definitely read it as soon as it comes out.

Find it on Goodreads here.

Related post : check out my review of Perfect on Paper, by Sophie Gonzales

📚 The starless sea

I’ve been trying to write a review of this book for months now, but nothing I can write renders it justice. While this author’s previous novel didn’t work for me at all, this one was so poetic and beautiful that it went into my favorites in January and stayed there the whole year long. I’m planning on re-reading it in the second half of December, if I get stuck on my current TBR and need a break in the form of the most beautiful prose I’ve read so far in 2020!

Find it on Goodreads here.

📚 Leviathan wakes

I read the first three books of the The Expanse series, and rated them all 5 stars, so I’m only citing the first one here or they would take way too much space in this list. I love the narration, the different points of view, the intrigue and the space battles – everything fits neatly into place and it’s extremely entertaining!

If you like politics and spaceship, this is the book you need to pick up for the holidays. I’m waiting for next weekend to get into book 4, and I’m really excited to see what happens next!

Find it on Goodreads here.

📚 The way of kings

One of my first Sanderson books, and I must admit – this one put him immediately on the list of authors I’ll automatically give a chance to, whatever the subject of his next book may be. It had been a while since I’d read such a long and good novel, and even longer since I’d started a really challenging series – I’m planning on reading more from him next year, maybe make it a small reading challenge?

Find it on Goodreads here.

4 stars books

📚 Skyward

Another Sanderson book! I rated this one 4 stars instead of 5, mostly because I do agree with some other reviewers in the sense that, even though this book was really good, it felt more like a prelude to a bigger novel than an actual first installment in a series. Still, I can’t fault the quality of the writing, and the characters were easy to love and well developed.

Find it on Goodreads here.

📚 Maybe you should talk to someone

A non-fiction book! I love anything and everything psychology-related, so this book by a therapist about her job and her experiences with therapy sounded right up my alley. I really enjoyed reading this, even if it felt a bit longer than it should be in the end. It’s not as informative as I thought it’d be from reading reviews about it, but the experiences described in this book are very touching and complex.

Find it on Goodreads here.

📚 Aurora Rising

2020 was a pretty good year for my sci-fi loving heart! Aurora rising was a fun and easy book to read, filled with humor and nice plot twists. I liked the ending a lot, and my preorder of Aurora burning couldn’t come to my local bookseller soon enough!

Find it on Goodreads here.

What are your favorite 2020 reads ? Did you read and review any of these ones? Let me know in the comments! (And link your reviews if you did, so I can go read them!)

Empower yourself, by Xenia Tchoumi

I received a free copy of this book through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review, and as much as I’m usually happy with the books I request on NetGalley, this one was a miss for me.

I read a lot of nonfiction, especially personal development books, which I greatly enjoy reading. My ratings usually follow the Goodreads scale, with 1 = did not like it, 2 = it was okay, 3 = liked it, 4 = really liked it and 5 = amazing. Sadly, Empower Yourself by Xenia Tchoumi didn’t live up to its hype, as I rated it a 2/5.

So, why such a low rating?

Synopsis

Xenia takes readers on a practical, no-nonsense journey to self-empowerment, covering topics such as taking responsibility, using your pain and your failures to push yourself further, and learning digital dominance instead of letting yourself be digitally dependent. She offers a wealth of tips for creating productive habits, setting goals, protecting your mental health and resisting society’s pressures to confirm.

She shares her stories of struggling against prejudice as the child of recent immigrants, battling the restrictive structures of the fashion industry, making her mark in the digital space and ultimately making herself into an ultra-successful brand. Questioning exactly what empowerment looks like today, she also offers the inspiring stories of empowered people she has met all over the world and shows that, while empowerment can seem very different in different cultures, there are certain key traits that empowered people share – habits that anyone can learn and use to become a success in life.

What I liked

The book was well organized, with a page of important things to take away from the chapter at the end of each and every one of them. The #Powertrick inserts in the middle of the chapters, with practical tips on how to put in action the advice given in this part of the book, were interesting and well thought out.

On the content itself, most of it was very sound advice, like using daily journaling as a way to know yourself better and figure out your goals and ambitions, or making sure you don’t skip your self-care in favor of your work because that’s never going to end well… nothing revolutionary, but nothing inherently bad either.

The use of scientific evidence to support these tips was an excellent addition, at it served a lot to support the author’s claims that something would be beneficial for you – that’s something I’d like to see more in self-help and personal development books, as lately it seems to me that very few of them bother sourcing their advice or supporting their theories with psychological studies or sound research, even when including those references might help convince more strongly their readers of the legitimacy of their opinions.

What I didn’t like

I didn’t know anything about the author when I picked up this book, and from the very first chapters, this seemed to come from an extremely privileged place – completely detached from my reality and difficult to reconcile with my personal experiences.

I had a hard time finding any flaws to her behavior and character – it seemed, from her descriptions, that she did everything almost perfectly, from eating good food cooked at home to doing physical activity every day, journaling, communicating with loved ones, to being productive while still having time for her personal life… The problem with perfection, however, is that it puts distance between you and your readers, who see your behavior as an unattainable goal – if the people who do it are this immaculate, and I’m not, how and I ever going to succeed ?

Likewise, when I’m reminded more than once that the author “turned down an offer to work full time at a leading investment bank”, and that when she was looking for an internship, she was so sure she’d get into a top company that she felt offended and outraged when her therapist told her there was a lot of competition and it wasn’t a done deal… I’m having a hard time relating to these experiences.

This specific situation, with the therapist trying to make sure she wasn’t setting herself up for a terrible disappointment, served as a way to advance the idea that confidence is the only thing that makes the difference between you and other people – no mater your and their diplomas, experience, skills… of you have the confidence, you’ll get that job/internship/work offer! Except… for most of us, that’s not how life works. And treating the therapist as if she was actively trying to undermine her self-belief instead of trying to help her and make sure no matter what happened, she’d be okay… isn’t a good look at all. (Neither is qualifying people who weren’t productive during a worldwide pandemic as “sad and lazy“.)

Overall conclusion

On the positive/negative balance, the scale tips a bit too strongly on the negative side for me. This is not to say that this is a terrible book – to reuse the Goodreads scale qualification, it was okay. Sadly, with the amount of self-help and personal improvement books published every year, just okay isn’t good enough for me anymore.

Did you read this book, and have a different opinion? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

Why The latte factor is one of the worst personal finance books I have ever read

Warning : this post contains spoilers. But, to be honest, I wouldn’t recommend this book to anyone, so go ahead and read the spoilers.

If you’ve read a few personal finance books in the past year or so, or browsed through some personal finance blogs, you’re likely to have encountered a reference or two to the now international bestseller The latte factor, by David Bach.

As a personal finance aficionado, I got this eBook on loan from the library a few weeks ago, after hearing a lot about it – if everyone is talking about this, it must be interesting, right ?

Right.

Sadly, The latte factor was, by far, the most disappointing personal finance book I’ve ever read.

Synopsis

Zoey cannot see any way off her endless treadmill—until one morning, when she strikes up a conversation with Henry, the elderly barista at her favorite Brooklyn coffee shop.

Over the next few days, as Henry reveals what he calls the “Three Secrets to Financial Freedom,” Zoey discovers that there is more to his life story than meets the eye—and that by following the simple, proven path he describes, she truly can create the life she’s always wanted.

What I didn’t like

The narration

The narration of this book felt terribly condescending and patronizing, and you could see every “plot point” miles before it even came up.

On a certain level, the story reminded me of another disappointing read : The 5 am club, by Robin Sarma. Both were a masquerade of financial advice disguised as a pseudo novel featuring an elder man as a mentor-like figure. Even the protagonists were similar : the Brooklyn journalist who wastes her money on coffee, and the entrepreneur who doesn’t know how to be productive, were both a version of the reader being lectured by the author.

Both these characters are women, by the way – isn’t it interesting how the ignorant protagonist is a woman and the wise, old know-it-all-but-still-seductive one happens to be a man ? Almost as if he were the writer’s self-insert, and the main character a projection of his misogynistic vision of women.

As one reviewer said : “Thanks for mansplaining money to me“.

The advice

It’s simply boring. The “three secrets to financial freedom” that Henry, the barista-actually-owner-of-the-coffee-shop (I told you there would be spoilers!) so generously gives to our main character are actually the following three things :

  • Pay yourself first
  • Make it automatic
  • Live rich now

And that’s… not really groundbreaking advice.

Pay yourself first

The first piece of advice is the best one – keep some money out of your paycheck to put into a savings account, before calculating how much you can spend on leisure or activities this month. The author’s take on the underlying logic behind this is, however, difficult to follow, and doesn’t seem that revolutionary.

Make it automatic

This is an extension of the idea that if you have to make efforts to save money, you won’t get around to doing it – but according to Bach, if you set up automatic payments from your main account to your savings or investments, it’ll be done without your active participation, and thus will have a stronger chance of actually being done.

This felt like a very condescending depiction of his readers : the author assumes that if you’re reading his book, you lack the self-discipline and/or organization skills necessary to put a set amount of money into your savings account every month. And sure, there might be people who need to make it automatic to make it easier, or to be sure they don’t forget – but that’s not a reason to treat your reader like a child, unable to do things themselves.

Again – not particularly bad advice, but not a secret, and not new at all.

Live rich now

The idea behind this one is to figure out what’s important to you – what projects or dreams you want to achieve the most – and budget for it accordingly. And even though, in the beginning of the book, the author tells us that budgets just don’t work for individuals – hence his second piece of advice – he seems to skip over the step where, in order to see if you can save the money necessary to take that extra photography class, or go on vacation, you kind of do need to make a budget.

Sorry, David. You can’t escape it.

The math

The problem behind the math in this book is that it’s blatantly wrong. Even the most basic parts.

For example : in the beginning, the author tells you that your latte at 5$ a day will save you 1885$ a year if you stop buying it – then goes on to explain that liking a nice coffee when you’re on your way to work is what secretly keeps you from becoming truly rich. But wait – if I’m getting coffee on my way to work, even if I work 6 days a week, that only amounts to… 1560$. Aaand we’re already more than 300$ off the mark.

But even if you choose to ignore the weird math : the most important piece of advice that’s supposed to help you become a millionaire with all those 5$ bills you’re so diligently saving is an investment – specifically, one with a 10% (or more !) return rate.

You heard right – more than 10% of interest.

As expected, when the main character goes home and talks about this amazing opportunity with a friend, they immediately tell her that she’s never going to get an account that will yield these kinds of returns – not in this day and age. Yet the author only uses that to further his point even more, making the friend sound like an idiot and doubling down on the 10% interest rates road.

In real life, investing all your savings into something high-risk that promises you a 10% interest rate is the best way to lose all your hard-earned money – and if you, like most Americans, need to save for retirement or pay pack heavy student loans ? That’s not an option you should ever consider.

What I liked

I’m sorry, I’ve got nothing to show here. I wish I could. Sincerely.

Conclusion

Don’t read this. For the price of this book, you could buy yourself 5 Grande lattes at your local overpriced Starbucks, and have a morning full of joy (and caffeine) – something you definitely won’t get if you decide to spend your time reading this.

In the end, the only person that will be enriched by The latte factor is… David Bach, with his masterclasses on how to follow the Latte factor method and live your dream – at “only” 50$.

Seriously. Go read something else.

A practical guide on personal finance : Simplify your financial life, by Dawn Starks

I’m not going to lie – I’m a big fan of personal finance books. I’ve always been interested in learning more about managing your budgets, planning for the future and organizing your financial life in the simplest way possible.

For me, this includes carefully planning my monthly budget in my bullet journal, using my credit card carefully, and checking every time I go grocery shopping so I don’t overspend – and reading financial management books.

So when I got an ARC of Simplify Your Financial Life: 104 Easy Tips for Creating the Abundant Future You Desire, by Dawn G. Starks, I didn’t hesitate one second before sitting down in my comfy armchair and reading it intensely. And I’m really happy that I did so !

Do yourself a favor and don’t bury your head in the sand. Be brave and face your financial difficulties head-on.

Simplify your financial life, Dawn G. Starks

This is a very useful book separated in clear themes and chapters, with a ton of pertinent tips for every situation you could possibly be in. It gives you the basics of financial planning, then goes into some more details on investments, retirement funds, and savings. The information is concise and to the point, and I liked the minimalist ideals to streamline your financial planning and make it as simple as possible.

I do think this is very focused on the American perspective of personal finance, as a lot of other cultures don’t have the same habits towards credit cards mortgage and student loans as the US, and the American continent as a whole.

Nevertheless, for the people it’s geared towards, this is an excellent book to have ! I would definitely recommend it to people who are struggling a bit with how best to manage their money, make their budget, or who aren’t sure how to use their credit card in the best possible way.

Short reviews : 4 January quick reads

It’s already the end of January, and even if I didn’t post much, I haven’t been idle this whole month. I read a couple of books on my way to university in the morning and on my way home (the metro is a surprisingly good place to read one you’ve got your schedule figured out and know when your stop arrives), so here are 4 short reviews of those metro books.

Lagom, by Linnea Dunne

Rating: 3 out of 5.

It was interesting to learn about the philosophical aspects of Lagom, the swedish word that roughly translates to “not too little, not too much”, and the illustrations in this book were pleasing to look at. I didn’t feel extremely engaged into the rest of the content itself, though, as some parts seemed to completely miss their target – a recipe for cinnamon buns can be found in a cooking book, and I’m not sure I’d ever use any of the food recipes / advice mentioned in there. 

Still, it’s a pleasant read, and it looks very nice as a coffee table book, or as a Christmas / Birthday gift for someone you’re not extremely close to.

Find this book on Goodreads

How to become a straight-A student, by Cal Newport

Rating: 4 out of 5.

This is a book for students who’d like to change their study habits from cramming everything the night before the exam to being able to relax and do other things than pull all-nighters whenever a big paper is due.The author goes over success studying strategies of various straight-A students, and explains a bit more about why they work, and how to improve your own study habits. It’s instructive, practical, solid advice. I knew most of these techniques already, but still learned some things about organisation and university readings, and didn’t see any methods that I’d tried that had failed to yield any good results. 

Bonus : the Cheat Sheets at the end of each part of the book are useful if you want to read it quickly, or just get to the point of the different methods.

Find this book on Goodreads

Dot journaling : a practical guide, by Rachel Wilkerson Miller

Rating: 3 out of 5.

If you’re completely new to bullet journals, this is the book for you. If you’re not, you won’t learn much more than what you already gathered by looking at bujo hashtags on Instagram. It goes over the basics, then shows you a few different ways to make the main types of bullet journal page layouts – monthlies, weeklies, etc. It might be a nice gift for someone who’d be interested in the crafts aspect of bullet journaling but doesn’t have social media accounts – but not for anyone with access to Instagram or Pinterest.

Find this book on Goodreads

Healthy as F*ck, by Oonagh Duncan

Rating: 2 out of 5.

I had absolutely no idea who Oonagh Duncan was when I picked up this book, and honestly, even though some of the advice she gave was pretty good, it just wasn’t memorable enough for me to actually go and check out what else she had to say on the subject. It’s full of logical advice on how to eat healthy, exercise, be more active… but most of that is common sense and can be found in any non-diet book about nutrition, or “how to go to the gym for the first time”. 

Find this book on Goodreads

This has been part of my January so far – I’ve been trying to read backlist books (books published before 2019) for the Pondathon organized by CW @ the quiet pond ! Since my character is in team Gen, three out of four of these books fit in the description, but only two were read during the Pondathon so far – I’m looking forward to some more backlist books reading soon !

I even successfully completed the first side quest, which gave me a really cute badge to add to my character card – CW’s art for this readathon is really beautiful !

Short reviews : 3 NetGalley ARCs

I’ve recently reviewed a few ARCs on NetGalley that I really liked, so I thought I’d put the reviews up here too ! They’re pretty short, since I didn’t try to lengthen them a lot for Goodreads and NetGalley, so I’m making a post with the three together.

Bird brain, by Chuck Mullin

Rating: 5 out of 5.

In this extremely relatable, honest and funny book, Chuck Mullin talks about depression, anxiety, self-care, and other aspects of everyday life in a very touching way.

As a person who’s suffered from depression and anxiety for a long time, this book felt very real in its portraying of what you feel (and don’t feel) during these times. I’d definitely recommend this to people who would like to understand or empathize more with a loved one who has suffered / is currently suffering from mental illness, and to anyone interested to learning more about this.

Publication date : November 19, 2019

Out with the ex, in with the new, by Sophie Ranald

Rating: 4 out of 5.

This was a very fun read for a day off – I picked it up on my way home from he university, and ended up reading it over the weekend and enjoying it a lot ! You get attached pretty fast to the main character, Gemma, who over the course of the book kind of “grows up” as a person and starts to become more independent, discovering things about herself, what she will or won’t stand for in life, etc. The settings, the Youtube and vlogging spheres, are interesting and well described by the author, and it doesn’t fall into the “everything is perfect a fame is amazing” clichés.

Also, I hated Jack, the boyfriend-ex-boyfriend, from the moment he appeared on the page, and I was 100% rooting for Gemma and her “living my best life as a revenge” plan. Just saying.

Publication date : December 3, 2019

Everything isn’t terrible, by Kathleen Smith

Rating: 5 out of 5.

As a psychology student, I picked up this book by curiosity, and I was not disappointed. I really like reading books on this type of topic, and this one was very instructive and organized. It’s not a book that will teach you how to cope with extreme anxiety or trauma situations, but it will help you manage small to medium amounts of anxiety in your day-to-day life, deal with anxiety-inducing people, and be more mature in your interpersonal relationships.

I would recommend this book as a gift for someone who has problems with anxiety that don’t necessarily need them to go through therapy but that still bother them on a daily basis.

Publication date : December 31, 2019

Did you read ( and review ?) any of these books ? Would you be interested in reading them ? Let me know in the comments !

Spark joy, by Marie Kondo (+ the year of Less)

I’ve been reading nonstop this week – I don’t know why, or how this is happenning, but I’m taking advantage of it and reading as many books from my TBR as I can. So for today, I’m making 2 short reviews. These books were on a very similar theme, and I read both of them in two consecutive days, so I felt like they went together pretty well !

Spark Joy, by Marie Kondo spark joy

The secret to Marie Kondo’s unique and simple KonMari tidying method is to focus on what you want to keep, not what you want to get rid of. Ask yourself if something ‘sparks joy’ and suddenly it becomes so much easier to understand if you really need it in your home and your life. When you surround yourself with things you love you will find that your whole life begins to change.

I got this ebook from my local library, after reading Kondo’s previous book, the life-changing magic of tidying up, then watching every single episode of her TV show, and using her method to sort trough my stuff when I moved 18 hours away from home in September (with only 3 pieces of luggage to hold all of my belongings. I discarded, a lot.)

I loved the addition of the drawings – this was something that was lacking in her previous book, and that the TV show compensated for a bit : when explaining in detail how things are supposed to fit together, or how to fold or arrange objects, a visual representation is extremely useful !

I know that this isn’t a book for everyone : Kondo explains a lot about her philosophy (including why she speaks to her belongings and talks about their spirit), and from the few negative reviews that I read, it seems like Americans really have a hard time with that. It works well for me, though, so if you’re a bit into spirituality and open to a new worldview, it should be a pretty easy read !

I do think you need to have read her first book to appreciate the second one properly, though, so I’d recommend doing that first.

The year of less, by Cait Flanders
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In her late twenties, Cait Flanders found herself stuck in the consumerism cycle that grips so many of us: earn more, buy more, want more, rinse, repeat. Even after she worked her way out of nearly $30,000 of consumer debt, her old habits took hold again. When she realized that nothing she was doing or buying was making her happy—only keeping her from meeting her goals—she decided to set herself a challenge: she would not shop for an entire year.

I rated this book 3 stars on Goodreads – I liked it, mostly because the more I read memoirs, the more I realize that’s something I actually do enjoy reading a lot, but most of the tips and strategies described in it just weren’t things that I could apply myself, and that made me feel a bit disconnected from what the author was describing. I have a very small monthly budget and I just don’t have the money to spend more than the sometimes bare minimum, so the “shopaholic” lifestyle is a long way from mine.

The only thing I spend more money on than I should is food, which I often used as a point of comparison while reading – I actually think I might take the challenge, adapt it a bit for myself and see if I can reduce my food spending to help me be more secure with my finances, and make my sugar addiction a bit less severe.

I really liked the structure of this memoir, though : it’s separated into months, for the months during which Cait Flanders had her ongoing “shopping ban experiment”, and it really helped with seeing the evolution of her situation more clearly.

Overall, this was an easy read, even though I didn’t get that much out of it. I suspect it might be, in part, due to the similarity with the Marie Kondo method of discarding and tidying, something the author mentions while explaining her own thought process on the subject, early in the book.

Have you read any books on a similar topic ? Do you have any books on tidying and minimalism that you would recommend ? I’m open to suggestions !

Art matters, by Neil Gaiman

I’ve had a pretty busy week, but today, I got to read a 5 stars book ! It’s called Art matters, by Neil Gaiman, and with illustrations by Chris Ridell, published in September 2018. This review might be a bit messy, because I’m writing it while procrastinating right before a final exam, but this book is EXCELLENT so I hope you’ll stay to read it 🙂

When I got the library copy of this book, I only knew two things about it :

  1. That Neil Gaiman wrote it.
  2. That one of the sentences from this book was :

The world always seems brighter when you’ve just made something that wasn’t there before

I’m 100% convinced that anything by Neil Gaiman is worth reading. This book, which is a compilation of texts that have already been published separately – Credo, Why our future depends on libraries, dreaming and daydreaming, Making a chair and Make good art – , is no exception to that rule. It’s about creativity, and the power of words and art in our lives, and in our world.

The text I liked the most in this book is the last one : Make good art. When I was a child, I dreamed about writing books one day, and Gaiman’s words in this essay hit really close to home :

Sometimes, the way to do what you hope to do will be clear cut, and sometimes it will be almost impossible to decide whether or not you are doing the correct thing, because you’ll have to balance your goals and hopes with feeding yourself, paying debts, finding work, settling for what you can get.

My dreams of writing are still there, and I hope to realize them one day, but I still have to balance that goal and the hundred other things I want to do, should do, and have to do in my life. It’s a difficult topic to think about, but a necessary one, I think, for anyone who wishes to make art, whether it’s photography, illustration or writing : if you can’t dedicate every hour of your day to your art, that doesn’t make you any less of an artist, and it doesn’t diminish the value and quality of your work.

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Choose art. It matters.

Other things in this book are very meaningful for me : I’ve been struggling with imposter syndrome for a few years now, in university, because every time I pass an exam with a good grade, I feel a bit like what he describes in the next few pages – that one day, the fraud police will come to my door and tell me they noticed I wasn’t in my place, that I had been given too many opportunities to do things I shouldn’t have been allowed to do.

The fact that such a famous and successful author acknowledges this, and talks about his own experience with impostor syndrome, is very important to me, and it’s one of the many reasons why I would definitely recommend this – as a gift for a friend, for a sibling, or for yourself !

This is a book that reminds you that yes, this idea that you have, this project you would like to do, this thing you want to make – you should do it.

Take a chance, and make art that’s yours. Make good art. It matters.