October in Review

Whizzz! Another month gone by! Here’s what happened in October in my life…

School
Spent the first two weeks working my butts off for my paper. Barely managed to turn it in, only to have the university start the next day. Of course I’m behind all my readings. Ugh. Already started nodding off in some classes, especially if they are 8 AM ones… Enjoying classes about: company law, commercial law, English contract law, inheritance law. Ha, it seems abundantly clear now where my interest lies. Not-so-enjoyable classes: European law, sometimes administrative law. The rest is o-kay.
Applied for the AISEC membership, by the way! My expectation talk is scheduled for Monday, I’m kind of excited! I went to one of the local information evening thingy and I really enjoyed the atmosphere – it’s kind of a relief to see people stuck in similar situations and making the most out of it. (They were all jolly but also conducted themselves in such ways that they appeared more mature – I can’t believe they are all my age-group!)

Private life
… what? I have private life? Kidding, October was actually quite the social month for me. I met friends from high school three or four times (not always the same people) and had one of my best friends over for an evening of movie and friendly talk! As nice as all of that was, though, I am glad to have a free evening of relaxing tranquility. Oh wait, another friend is paying me a vist the day after tomorrow…
Also, I got rid of 150+ books.

Reading
I didn’t read anything that wasn’t related to the German criminal law in the first two weeks of the month, except for occasional pages of Poirot Investigates and this one lovely Korean book about tea. It wasn’t until I was almost finished with the paper that I allowed myself to read again. The first book I picked up was Jo’s Boys by Louisa May Alcott, which I finally finished! Yay, book No. 4 for my Classics Club Challenge! (I am supposed to have read at least 10 by now…) It was actually a very quick read once I got into it.
The next book I indulged in was The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie. At that point I was still reading Poirot Investigates, which is a short story collection and thus didn’t disrupt the flow of the overall story. Highly entertaining, this one!
To get ready for Waistcoats & Weaponry coming out in four days, I re-read Etiquette & Espionage by Gail Carriger! Now that I had some clue as to where the story was going and the structure of Sophronia’s world, it was even more delightful than the first time around.
The next book I finished was Agatha Christie’s Poirot Investigates. It contains eleven short stories narrated by Captain Hastings and it doesn’t refer to any events from its previous book, The Murder on the Links. (The fourth book in the Poirot series, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, see above, does refer to Hastings’ re-settling at the end of The Murder on the Links.)
After that I did not finish these books, but I did make a bit of dent on: Marmee & Louisa by Eve LaPlante (Bronson is just as unsympathetic as ever) and Jane Austen: A Life by Claire Tomalin. The latter started out good but the middle part is full of random information pieced together to somehow paint a picture of Jane Austen’s life. And there are quite a lot of author’s interpretations worked in although they are marked as such.
Books that I did finish were from the same series by Diana Rowland: I re-read (after four and a half years!) Mark of the Demon and Blood of the Demon, and immediately moved on to Secrets of the Demon and Sins of the Demon, book three and four of the nine-book-series, six of which are published. The seventh is scheduled for next April. I am burning with curiosity as to how the story will progress. I am fan of neither Rhyzkahl nor Ryan but hey, whatever makes Kara happy. It’s a good thing I like the narrator/protagonist Kara Gillian so much because like the Mercy Thompson series (author: Patricia Briggs), the side characters take turns being in the spotlight. The only consistent character – especially after what happened at the end of Sins of the Demon – seems to be Kara herself. I like Kara because I somehow can relate to her loneliness and the social isolation due to her situation of being a summoner. I perfectly understand the satisfaction she gets from her work as police detective and the family-like “brotherhood” she and her colleagues shares. My favorite characters include: Eilahn, Jill, Zack and somehow Carl. Eh, Ryan has his issues and his asshole-y moments that he seems unable to get rid of. Rhyzkahl is too secretive and manipulative (or so I learned from the blurb of Fury of the Demon). I have the feeling we will learn more about Kara herself in the next books, I can’t wait!
Last book I read and finished in October: another re-read – Curtsies & Conspiracies by Gail Carriger! Now I’m fully ready for Waistcoats & Weaponry, which I actually pre-ordered today using a 12%-sale thing (because today is Halloween – why not?)! I don’t have any mapped-out TBR for November except for W & W, which I will definitely read as soon as possible!

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Happy new year!

Orange and black. Pumpkins and candles. The dead and the living. Sunset and sunrise, beginning and ending…

These images come to my mind at every Samhain – Witches’ New Year, Halloween, All Hallows’ Eve, or any other festival one might celebrate.

For me, it’s Samhain, and has been Samhain for some years even though observing Sabbats is all I do.
A year’s end is a lot more pleasant to observe when there is still some sunlight left, the trees not yet completely bare, the air only nipping lightly at exposed necks and hands and faces. A school week’s over, I have a steaming cup of tea beside me with my feet propped up on a heater because it gets a bit chilly in the apartment.

There’s some hours of sunlight left for me to reflect on the past twelve months with calm and leisure that I did not possess – or did not allow myself to possess – a year ago.

There are so many big changes on the one hand and small, barely visible ones on the other. Isn’t that always so? People notice the outward change and tell us on our birthdays how much we have grown or how much we have matured or even how much older we look (or “You don’t look any older than last year!” if the person’s polite). They remark on our new life situations – heartmates, family, homes, jobs, friends, cities, countries, and so on.

I could do that. I could start listing things that are visibly different compared to a year ago. I could, but I won’t. Instead, I want to use this one quiet afternoon, this opportunity to chronicle the invisible changes, the ones that no one will notice unless I tell them.

The newly found solitude has given me the chance to let me get used to myself. And as more time passes, I find myself enjoying this aloneness. It’s a bit like being in a trance. There’s no need to say anything, to do anything. In a way I can be purely selfish and indulge my every whim. I admit to trying to distract myself from this huge just-being-there-ness with the help of my electronic devices and all the entertainment they have to offer. The only times I buckle down for sure and be truly alone with my thoughts are on the Sabbats. I should do this observing-my-life-with-tranquility more often. Let’s make it my first resolution for the new year. Because sometimes you have to be very still and quiet to be able to listen to your own needs. Your body’s need for food, sleep, cleanness. Your soul’s need for company, life’s beauty, goodness. Your intellect’s need for stimulation and relaxation. Sometimes you need rest, sometimes you need a kick in the butt. Sometimes you need to cry and sometimes to laugh. Sometimes the past will give you strength, sometimes you have to look for the future. And you have to mind the present.
I have known for some time that I don’t like lying and that I really suck at lying. But I don’t have any problems skirting around the truth or giving evasive answers, I found out. I also can’t fake facial expressions to save social situations – I don’t have problem laughing out loud or crying my eyes out if they are displaying my genuine emotions. Emotions are so damn hard to fake. It was interesting to find out – but duh, it makes sense – that what my body wants is not necessarily what it needs, and what my brain wants may not necessarily be what it needs. But there’s this pressure on my chest, this prickling of senses that tells me what my conscience is feeling. It’s actually my conscience and my body and heart put together. Like, one slice of pie is okay, but not three. Following the pattern of thought, I can only affirm that too much of a good thing can still be bad.

I think there’s a ring of truth in the saying that you just have to be ready to grab the opportunities that come (or sometimes fly) by. You may not have to be chasing after those opportunities, but you have to be able to recognize them as such and go for them with all your might. Usually I rely on this urgent, nervous feelings I get about some things. Going after them terrifies the heck out of me but I am half-compelled to do it anyway. If I don’t, regret keeps churning up until I do it, so that the end result is mostly same.

Doing what’s right is hard, but figuring out what is right can be sometimes even more difficult. I want to develop a rational, objective intellect to keep my instincts in check because blind faith usually has horrible consequences.

I’ll take a deep breath to be grateful for life and to vow to be good.

Tea & Bear #2

안녕하세요 ~

이번 일요일에는 트와이닝스의 Prince of Wales 차 한 잔을 옆에 세워 놓고 점점 어두워저 가는 하늘을 바라보고 있습니다. 뭔가 기분이 찹작하네요. 정신 없이 지나간 한 주… 삶을 음미하지도 못하고 살아남기 바빠서 그냥 통째로 삼키는 듯한 기분이랄까요? 참고로 차는 생각보다 맛있습니다! 얼 그레이처럼 진한 향료 맛도 안나고, 그대신 English Breakfast 만큼 차 맛이 강하지도 않은게 참 부드럽고 좋네요.

이번 주에 한 것… 음, 학교가기, 중간 중간 찔끔찔끔 공부하기, 친구들이랑 점심먹기… 뭐 이정도?? 아, 그리고 AIESEC Youth 미팅에 가봤는데 역시 가입할까 싶네요. 글구 이렇게 놀 시간 없는 거 알지만 어제 친구가 선물로 갖다준 심플한 그림체의 내용인 순정만화, 야마모리 미카 님의 <한낮의 유성 >에 관심을 갖게 됬습니다. (삐질) 일본에서는 벌써 단행본으로 11권 까지 나왔는데 독일에는 아직 4권까지 밖에 번역 안됬지만 2달에 한권이라는 무시무시한 속도로 출판하고 있네요… (인기가 좋은가봐?) 스토리는 그냥 흔히 있을 수 있는 고등학교 사각 관계… 문제점이 있다면 그 4명 중 한명이 24살의 선생이라는 것?! 아니 짝사랑이라면 또 모를까 그런 것 같지도 않고, 그렇다고 선생이 학교를 바꾸거나 주인공이 전학을 가거나 하는 것도 아니고… 참 골치 아픈 상황이랄까… 옛날 (= 중학교) 같았으면 그냥 ‘일단 사고 보자!’ 라는 생각으로 2권부터 4권까지 저지르고 한동안 버닝했을텐데 요즘은 함부로 새로운 만화 시리즈를 시작하기가 좀 그렇네요… 아직 완결이 난것도 아니고, 또 요즘 대부분은 20권 훌쩍 넘어가고 하니까… (그러는사이에 스토리는 엉망이 되는 경우를 수도 없이 봐왔기 때문에… 도대체 중간에 관둔 시리즈가 몇게야!) 왜 파라다이스 키스처럼 산뜻하게 5권으로 끝낼 수 없는 거지?!

오늘은 여기서 총총 ☆ 다음주에 뵈요~

The tree and the forest

Suddenly I was homesick. I longed to see my mother’s face… to hold my sister’s hand… to hear my father’s voice. I was empty because I felt like I was ripped away from a tight group and left alone.
I was engulfed by a darkness that had no beginning nor an ending… and as I was zoomed away to a tiny dot, I realized what a minuscule part of the universe I really was… it was a time when the faraway seems near and the near seems far away.
So there I stood, with my wretched choice in my limp hand. Oh, how I ached to let go of it, to let myself become a victim of the faith. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t holding on to it because I was afraid of what other people might say about me, this spoiled girl with her first-world-problem…
It didn’t feel like I had much to add to the world anyway, so I wanted to quietly fade away. But I continued to breathe… because it seemed I didn’t even have the energy to stop breathing. 
Why am I holding on to this life? Part of it is pride. I don’t want to be seen as a “failure”, a little girl who couldn’t hold out “adulthood”. Part of it is uncertainty… because I’m not at all sure my prospects will become better if I packed and left now. Sometimes I detest the circumstances that brought me here. All I wanted was a simple, quiet and ordinary life. Or so I thought when I was ten years old. Ten years later I am alone, even my immediate future uncertain, and I am growing afraid of the sound of the rain that I used to love so much – that used to be my favorite sound in the world.

The homesickness I feel is my mourning for something that used to be my home. I don’t have anything to anchor me anymore, except for the people I love – my homesickness is for them. I long to see my family. I want to feel their comforting arms around me even if they are thinking all the while how foolish I am being.

It’s really so hard being a human… to feel all the feels and somehow not to crumple and exhale the last breath…

Tea & Bear #1

오늘의 차는 트와이닝스의 얼그레이 입니다 ~ 역시 아침에 주로 즐겨 마시는 English Breakfast Tea와 비교했을 때 베르가모트 향이 싸 하게 올라오네요. 은근히 끝맛이 텁텁할 수도 있는데 깔끔해서 좋아요. 물을 좀 넉넉잡아서 그런건지, 차를 한 3분 정도 밖에 안 끓여내서 그런건지는 잘 모르겠지만… 곧 저녁 먹을 시간이라서 간식은 자제했습니다. ^^

아침에 빈둥거리면서 놀다가 오후에 집안일 하고 (주말만 되면 쌓이는 빨래와 먼지… 아… *먼 산 바라보는*) 한 5시 쯤 독일 행정법 책을 손에 잡았습니다. 월요일이 (내일이잖아!) 첫 수업이라서 좀 예습 좀 해갈려고 했는데 양이 꽤 많네요… ㅠㅜ 뭐랄까, 막 읽을 때는 아아, 그렇구나 하면서 고개를 끄덕거려도 책을 덮고나면 내용이 혼미해지는 참 골치덩어리 학문입니다. 행정법 외에도 준비해야 될 수업이 가득 싸였는데… 그렇다고 주중에 시간이 더 많을 것 같지도 않구요.

차를 한 잔 끓여놓고 마시다 보면 어김없이 생각나는 책 주인공이 아가사 크리스티의 유명한 미스 마플 (Miss Marple) 인데요, 벌써부터 나이들면 나도 미스 마플처럼 아침 느긋하게 차 마시고 오후에 산책 좀 하고, 정원도 가꾸고 그렇게 살았으면 하는 생각이 듭니다. 아, 물론 살인사건 해결 같은 건 저한테 맏기지 말아 주세요. 미스 마플이나 무슈 포와로 (Monsieur Poirot)같은 두뇌 (아니, 정확히 말하면 아가사 크리시티 같은 두뇌)는 없어서…

해가 점점 짧아저서 그런지 오후 여섯시만 되도 벌써 어둑어둑해지네요. 왠지 자러가는 시간은 똑같아도 하루가 더 짧아진 느낌이 들어서 가을 & 겨울의 그런 점은 싫습니다. (심지어 추위도 더위 보다는 더 잘 견딜 수 있는데…)

그럼, 다음주에 뵈요. (꾸벅)

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd

The Murder of Roger AckroydThe Murder of Roger Ackroyd
Hercule Poirot #4
Agatha Christie

first published in 1926
368 pages (UK Harper Collins edition)

Who killed Roger Ackroyd, who knew too much and had to be silenced? His sister-in-law and her daughter, Flora; his secretary Raymond; his butler Parker and housekeeper Miss Russell; his friend, Major Blunt? Dr. Sheppard faithfully chronicles the events. Oh, and where is his stepson, Captain Paton, the prime suspect? And everyone has something to hide…
But of course no one can hide anything from Hercule Poirot, for it is him who is residing in the town of King’s Abbot incognito, not even correcting the townpeople’s mispronunciation and just answering that no, he is no Frenchman.

Yep, our Hastings is missing here since he relocated to Argentina (with Cinderella, presumably), and Poirot misses him quite a bit sometimes. You see, it’s not at all necessary to read the Poirot books in order* but it’s so much more fun if you do, because then you catch all the little details!

As to the story itself, even though I knew the murderer (thanks to an off-hand remark from my sister before I started the book), I was just as engrossed by the way it unfolded and couldn’t put the book down. For some reason, it did not even have the inevitable dull-middle-part syndrome of a detective story. I found the characters more intriguing than the ones from The Murder on the Links or The Mysterious Affair at Styles.

Poirot says he’s “retired” and that this case will probably be his last one, but as there are many more to follow, let’s just say, cheers!

*Some books should be read in order, though. Curtain should be read last. Lord Edgware Dies is to be read before After the Funeral. Five Little Pigs is to be read before Elephants Can Remember. Cat Among the Pigeons is to be read before Hallowe’en Party. Mrs McGinty’s Dead is to be read before Elephants Can Remember and Hallowe’en Party. Three Acts Tragedy is to be read before Hercule Poirot’s Christmas. If you are interested in reading Poirot novels in order, I’m sure this list will be of a great help to you.

Classics Club Challenge #4: Jo’s Boys

Jo's BoysJo’s Boys
by Louisa May Alcott
as a sequel to Little Women, Good Wives and Little Men
first published in 1886

Sich zu lieben, heißt, dass man manchmal auch streng mit sich selbst sein muss…
(No, it’s not a quote.)

Jo’s “boys” and “girls” are grown up, and we follow them as they manage to navigate in the big, somewhat scary world of being “adults”. Curious about how Nat, Demi, Daisy, Josie, Bess, Tommy Bangs, Franz, Emil, Rob, Teddy, Dan, Nan, Stuffy and Dolly turned out? Then look no further. Although it is really a lot of kids, Louisa May Alcott manages to keep tabs on everyone. Let’s see – Nat is studying music in Germany, Demi tries his hand at journalism, Daisy is faithfully waiting for Nat, Josie and Bess are invested in their artistic careers/hobbies/lives, Tommy still pines after Nan and goes even to the detested med school with her, Nan meanwhile is flourishing in her studies, Franz is a merchant in Hamburg, Emil a sailor, Rob still the “little professor”. Teddy is restless and full of mischief, Dan sets out to the wide world, Stuffy and Dolly are studying law, of all things. Oh, and there is a love bug in the air, too.
Now, the older generation is quite a bore (as it has been since Little Men) because they are the responsible, wise grown-ups doling out wisdom to the kids whenever they need it. Despite the sarcasm you hear in that previous sentence, I didn’t mind this as much. It’s just that I’m terribly fond of the Marches (who isn’t?) and wish that they had been portrayed more realistically – with problems and struggles of their own.

The terrific thing about Jo’s Boys is that it manages to reach across the continent, culture, language and time – its words, written more than a hundred years ago, find their way to this Korean girl in the twenty-first century as she struggles to juggle her studies, hobbies and taking care of herself. It addresses issues that are still relevant today – Nat’s careless spending of other people’s money, Dan’s temper, Teddy’s restless spirit, feminism (and lots of that, too!), Stuffy’s laziness, Dolly’s fastidious obsession with the surface. Almost unrealistic in its simplicity (do good, and you’ll end up well; do bad and you’ll end up bad), Jo’s Boys gave me the push to resolve to be a better person. Because trying to be a better version of yourself is a timeless challenge. It doesn’t matter that instead of theater, opera and afternoon teas, my distractions are my smartphone, the internet and my fear of being alone. This book, coupled with Ashley’s video (seriously, where would I be without her insightful words?), has made me realize where the focus of my concentration should be: with my studies. I should be trying to absorb as much as I can from the many opportunities that my university offers. My time and energy shouldn’t be wasted trying to read as many “quick” books as possible and staying up till 3 AM playing games on my phone.
If you strip all of this away, an unpleasant truth emerges. I’ve been staying up as late as possible to exhaust myself so I’ll fall asleep right away, so that I won’t have to spend the few minutes in the dark because I’m afraid to be left alone with my thoughts without anything to distract me from them. My fear to be myself. Although “being oneself” is such an abstract concept I think you know when you are faking your personality. I was taking the easy way out. Telling myself, oh, wouldn’t it be nice to finally read the classics you wanted? To write a review about that book that is still haunting my thoughts? To go over my exam to see what I did wrong? To prepare for the upcoming semester? To write that twenty-page paper? I thought about all the things I could do to improve myself, to feel better about myself. Thinking isn’t doing. And at the end of the day, I “consoled” myself by saying that I hadn’t given a 100%, so I could have been better. That I still had that potential. Fuck the potential. You could have the potential to bring world peace about, but if you don’t do anything with that potential, it’s more wasted than a rotten apple. Stop thinking about all the glorifying potential you might or might not have. Just do it. That’s what I needed to hear (from myself, as there is no Mother Bhaer or Father Bhaer in my vicinity), so that’s what I eventually did. It gave me courage to see all the young people from Jo’s Boys fall into the pits of temptation, and to see them crawl out of them again.

Lastly, feminism. There are different sorts of girls represented in this novel. Daisy has her heart set on being with Nat and becoming an excellent house wife. Nan is determined to become a doctor and help people, and doesn’t really want to have to take care of a family, too. Josie and Bess are absorbed in acting and sculpting, respectively, but they assume they will marry sometime. Of course, there are also Mary and Dora who embody the “virtues” that girls at that time were praised for having – you know, being delicate and humble and looking up to the males nearest to them. But there is that scene in which Bess quietly disses Dolly when he tries to “teach” her and Josie how “young ladies in good society” ought to behave. And there’s another in which young girls realize that marriage isn’t everything and that they could “become noble, useful, and independent women, and earn for themselves some sweet title the grateful lips of the poor, better than any a queen could bestow.” (p. 258, end of Chapter 17)

There’s one criticism linked to the last paragraph, and that’s the 18th century’s equivalent of slut-shaming. Mrs Jo differentiates between “frivolous girls” and girls who love studies and wish to be treated like reasonable human beings, not “dolls to be flirted with”. There are other instances in which she vilifies other women for being greedy creatures and temptresses. Well, that takes the humanity right out of them, doesn’t it? So it’s okay not to treat those other women as reasonable human beings? If a person succumbs to a temptation, only the person who poses the temptation is at fault? That’s some wacky logic there, Mrs Jo.

The book actually ends on a slightly fed-up tone of the narrator, who half-jokingly says that “[i]t is a strong temptation to the weary historian to close the present tale with an earthquake which should engulf Plumfield and its environs so deeply in the bowels of the earth that no youthful Schliemann could ever find a vestige of it.” But to spare the gentle readers’ feelings, the historian flippantly ticks off what has become of all the characters. The last line says it all, really: “And now, having endeavoured to suit everyone by many weddings, few deaths, and as much prosperity as the eternal fitness of things will permit, let the music stop, the lights die out, and the curtain fall for ever on the March family.” Well, someone seems to have had it enough.

P.S.: The chapter about the three plays – the middle play was dedicated to Marmee, it seems.

Life updates & October TBR

October is halfway over, we have begun our descent into the darker half of the year, and it’s getting cold.
I’m finally done with the dreadful paper! For the past 8 days or so, I was at the library every day, sometimes only for 3 hours, sometimes up to 9 hours. I’m done, I’ve learned something, and I wish I’d started earlier so I could have done more research. It’s really fascinating subject – just so tiring for my brain. My body has started to complain about all the stress and fatigue I’ve been loading up, which isn’t fun.
Today was the day to turn the paper in, and I freaking overslept. I had about 70 minutes to print the 33-page-paper out, get myself presentable, go to the university, and turn it in. It takes me about 50 minutes to go to the university. If I don’t miss any bus or train, that is. And of course today was the day my printer decided it was fed up with me and refused to print out the last four pages!
I took a taxi to the university, an extravagance that was necessary for me not to fail, and it still lies heavy on my soul. Because it’s I was stupid and went to bed at 3:30 AM when I knew I had to be up by 8:00. I didn’t hear the alarm go off, three times. By some sort of miracle I woke up by 10:45-ish, before it was too late. I thought to myself while I sat in the taxi: If I get there too late and have to write another paper next semester, it’s only a just punishment. Maybe today was a warning, a sort of wagging finger that tells me to stop, take a look at myself, and change for the better. So I will.

Reading-wise, I didn’t read anything that wasn’t law-related for the first third of the month. On Saturday I picked up Jo’s Boys by Louisa May Alcott again and finished it on Sunday. Review coming soon! Because I was almost done with the paper by Saturday, I took The Murder of Roger Ackroyd with me to read during the commute. It’s interesting so far, especially because I already know who the murderer is. A word of advice: Avoid any spoiler concerning this book!

Oh, and guess what? University starts tomorrow. Officially it started today, but since it was all welcoming-party for the first year students (Eek! I can’t believe I’m already in my second year!) the lectures start tomorrow. Luckily, the first week is relatively relaxed because some classes don’t start until next week. This week I have only 14 hours (one “hour” equals 45 minutes) instead of the 30 hours I will have from the second week on. Uh, it’s a huge adjustment.

Okay, need to do some house chores (my apartment had been neglected in my writing-frenzy) before I go to bed!

September Book Haul & Wrap-Up and Minimalism

The “original” meme (I don’t know if this was the very first one – hence the quotation marks), In My Mailbox, was created by The Story Siren and Pop Culture Junkie. Right now there are other bloggers are hosting similar memes with different names. I don’t know who’s hosting Book Haul, though, or who started it.

Hey people :) September is the month I went kind of crazy with all the book-buying, and it is also the month I realized I have problems. I’m not talking about “Oh I have this book buying problem” thing (I realized that a long time ago). It was more like a “Oh I have this psychological issue I need to hash out but instead of dealing with it I am turning to buying books, which doesn’t help me at all” kind of thing. More on this below.

September Book Haul 1September Book Haul 2September Book Haul 3

Yep, I wasn’t kidding. Let’s see what sort of crazy things I did this month!
I collected more Nora Roberts – the Inn BoonsBoro trilogy (which I wasn’t impressed by), the rest of the Sign of Seven trilogy, the Donovan series, and The Witness. I started collecting the Alice series by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor. Basically I ordered books #1 – 12, plus some. I have the rest of the Young Royals series now. Some random classics – The Return of the Native, Lolita, The Casefiles of Mr. J. G. Reeder. A historical fiction by Jean Plaidy. One Ally Carter book. White Oleander by Janet Fitch. Oh, and the Love in the Afternoon DVD. A non-fiction: Thinking, Fast and Slow.

As for what I read in September…
You already know about Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, The Next Always, The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet, The Last Boyfriend, The Perfect Hope, Duchessina, The Earth, My Butt and Other Big Round Things, and The Murder on the Links.
What you didn’t know about are The Curious Case of the Werewolf That Wasn’t, the Mummy That Was, and the Cat in the Jar by Gail Carriger (a short story about Alexia Tarabotti’s father), Lovingly Alice by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor (Lester makes me snort out loud, Alice knows how to stick with her gut feeling although she can be a bit exasperating, and their dad tries hard and succeeds at being a good father), and Minimalism: How to Become a Minimalist by Bekka Thomas.
It’s the last book that has set off a catalyst that is ever so slowly changing my life. It’s a personal story about how the author became a minimalist. It has funny pictures and lots of personal touches. The tone is very down-to-earth and easy to relate to. The title is misleading, though, but other than that a fantastic journey!

The first time I really thought about minimalism is when I encountered Ashley Riordan on the internet. It was actually her YouTube channel that I started to follow because of her videos. I think she mentioned it in one of her videos, and I started going through her blog posts on her personal minimalist lifestyle. I vaguely remember thinking, That must be nice. But I’m not ready to do that.

Then I moved in past April to an apartment that was about half the size (which is still more than enough for a 20-year-old student who is not even financing it herself). I got rid of a lot of junk during the process, and vowed never to buy a product that wasn’t edible, the only exception being books. Now, I have mostly kept this vow. Of course it’s impossible to not buy toilet paper or soap or other items one uses on daily basis. But all that extra stuff we don’t really need – plush animals, some decorative pieces, extra pair of shoes (although I have never been a shoe person), whatever – I haven’t purchased. I also got rid of about 150 books by donating them or putting them in the trash.

Sometime after that I read a free ebook on minimalism – The Minimalist Budget by Julianne P. It was maybe a bit drastic and contained steps that I didn’t really need right now e.g. paying debts and letting go of car(s). But it started to give me a more solid idea about what a minimalist lifestyle meant.

Last week, I read Bekka Thomas’ Minimalism: How to Become a Minimalist, another ebook I got for free. In the first chapters Bekka Thomas tells about her life before she went down the minimalist route; She had a stressful, time-consuming job, a big house full of stuff she didn’t even use, a bad eating habit that was wrecking her health. When she decided to quit her job and move across the U.S. to Portland, she and her husband had to decide what to do with their houseful of (mostly) junk. The process they go through was a more intense version of my own moving-story. But most importantly of all, this book gave me an insight that I had until then lacked to really understand myself – and my book-buying habits.

“I guess feeling out of control means, for some of us, we struggle to control the areas we can. We use buying things as a replacement for being able to make choices. […] I was surrounding myself with stuff because I felt powerful, even if only briefly, when I bought it. My mistake was in not learning sooner to go in the opposite direction.” (Chapter Two)

This book got me to going back to Ashley Riordan’s blog, and from there to another blog called The Minimalists at http://www.theminimalists.com , and to taking a hard look at the stuff I own. I especially took a thorough look at my bookshelves because that’s where most of my stuff was. Then one night, when I should have been working on my criminal law paper, I started pulling out books. The first to go were the ones I had initially planned on giving away when I moved in April but bailed out on because “just in case I want to read them first before giving them away”.
If there’s one thing I learned about minimalism is to throw those “just in cases” away, along with your junk. Best case scenario: You were never going to read that book so you got rid of it 50 years earlier, saving yourself additional space and less stuff when you move. Worst case scenario: You buy it again to read it. Thinking along this line helped me make decisions, and make them quickly. Sometimes I hesitated, especially if the book was an expensive one. Then I thought back to Bekka Thomas’ words: “[I]t’s the value that the item brings to your life and not the value of the item.” (Chapter Five) Added to this was this article on sentimental items that I read. With those on my mind, I went through my bookshelves again. And doubled the amount of books I was planning on getting rid of. I think I lost most of my just-in-cases. Those I have left mean something to me or I plan on re-reading them or I’m genuinely curious about what they can teach me. There were books I hadn’t given away during the move because they had been gifts from my mother or my friends. Again, that article above and other articles linked to that post helped. I didn’t need the books to remember my mother (who is alive and well, thank goodness) or my friends. So I got rid of them, too. Then a strange thing happened. For a long time I had to stack my books on my bookshelves because there simply wasn’t enough bookshelves in my house. After pulling out all the books I didn’t need, though, I was able to put books on some shelves back to their vertical positions. It feels so good to see that!
I’m also putting a temporary block to buying new books. I haven’t bought any new ones for two weeks but when you see a October book haul, please know that it consists of leftover books from September orders. I won’t buy any new ones in October – why? Because I still have four weekly steps left in my 6-weeks-plan. I have six shelves on Goodreads that read: 1st-week-want; 2nd-week-still-want; 3rd-week-will-read; 4th-week-will-reread; 5th-week-will-read-right-now; 6th-week-does-it-add-value-to-my-life. Every Monday I have the chance to move up the books. On the first Monday, I put over 200 books on the shelf, basically everything that I have even the slightest interest in right now. Next week they went under strict scrutiny and moved 71 of them to “still want” shelf. Every new book I took fancy to in the second week went right to the “1st-week-want” shelf. Every Monday each and every book gets the chance to move up, or remain. The first couple of weeks is all about want. The next three are about whether I will read them for sure and not in a vague oh-I-will-read-it-some-day. The question about re-read is important because if I’m going to read the book only once, I’d better get the ebook version rather than a physical copy. Of course I don’t know whether I want to re-read a book that I haven’t even read yet. So this is all based on the potential of the books. Mostly one can get a good picture of the book by reading the first chapter or two, which is almost always possible thanks to Amazon. The last hurdle my future books have to pass is one of the minimalist questions: Will this book add value to my life? Again it’s a potential question, and also a personal one. Does reading this book fit into my values?
The plan is to weed out books that I think I want from books that I really will read. I have been reading lots of fiction for pleasure for past five years. My reading habits and tastes are shifting ever so slightly and it’s my conscious decision that I want to gain something from my readings. I don’t want to indulge in mindless escapism reading every day anymore. (Nothing wrong with it though.)

I probably will go through other downsizing phases in the future, which I am already looking forward to. Right now, doing this, letting go of my clutter and helping myself to focus on what is really important, feels right to me. It feels good.