So here’s a few books I’ve read this month:

Where Am I Now?Where Am I Now? by Mara Wilson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book had been teasing me to read it from the pile next to my bed since a friend sent it to me to read during the long hours of cancer. I read it in one long sitting as I was intrigued to know more … I’m not sure if I’ve seen Matilda but had seen Mrs Doubtfire. The book is essentially a themed collection of essays that bounces around chronologically a little, although it builds to contemporary … with plenty of insights into how she largely ‘fell’ into acting (by virtue of where she lived), and what it was like behind the scenes working on those films. There’s a real sense of vulnerability in the book, with nods to becoming feminist and dealing with body image. A little hard reading about her mother’s death from breast cancer but that’s not over-detailed. Well put together collection of insights into the life of a child-film-star and beyond.

My StoryMy Story by Jo Malone
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I knew of Jo Malone fragrances but never bought any … I decided I wanted to read this as Jo sent me a tweet about my breast cancer in response to a tweet my friend Kate Bottley sent out. There’s a couple of solid chapters on breast cancer which were encouraging, and interesting from a pre-FB era, and although extra chemo and a second mastectomy seem scary, the fact that she’s so far past that is encouraging! There is life after cancer …

I enjoyed the rest of the book too – as a historian always take autobiographies with a pinch of salt, but as someone now in a business school I thought there was plenty of material I could use with my students on entrepreneurship and branding … and even nods to early digital.

How to Unplug Your Child: 101 Ways to Help Your Kids Turn Off Their Gadgets and Enjoy Real LifeHow to Unplug Your Child: 101 Ways to Help Your Kids Turn Off Their Gadgets and Enjoy Real Life by Liat Hughes Joshi
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I really enjoyed this little book. Although the title indicates the common media narrative that we should be trying to move away from screens – having a good balance of different activities is great. As someone who likes new things, mini adventures, even I could play with some of these … and I recognise some of the things I was privileged to play in younger days.

There’s a sense of reality to the ideas suggested here, including how could draw on online information, or share the finished ideas online where relevant, otherwise a few tongue in cheek comments. A pretty realistic guide to help parents and children/teens think about new ideas of things to do if looking for some experiments in more offline activities.

I participated in a radio interview with the author, and we exchanged books for review purposes.

Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work LessRest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less by Alex Soojung-Kim Pang
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I enjoyed reading this book. It’s one of those popular-science type books, which draws on a range of research but presented in a very readable way.

Our society prioritises ‘looking busy’ in such a stressful way, and especially as I gently start a return to work whilst still completing cancer treatment, I’m even stronger in my determination that I want to “do a good job” whilst at work, and work on something I’m “passionate about”, but there is certainly more to life than 70+ hour working weeks.

One of the challenges of doing work that you’re passionate about is that it can be difficult to tell where work stops, and your interest picks up … but the need to ‘look busy’ and ‘be present’ can be problematic. I took my current job because of the emphasis on outputs rather than presenteeism, although within the REF/TEF/KEF culture metrics become challenging.

I found the book gave me lots of things to think about for what makes a healthy life, a life with creative thinking – and how so many well-known names (past/present) have achieved what they have achieved because they made space for rest, for downtime – but had to plan it in. I have quibbles about the need for a certain amount of ££/work seniority to be able to achieve some of the things that he mentions, and the fact that so many senior figures are men (but then these are the ones who are known in history). I’m always open to new ways of trying things – e.g. leaving a job at the stage at which you’re actually ‘flying’, taking time out to think rather than sitting and staring at a piece of work. Plenty to think on.

LongbournLongbourn by Jo Baker
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I think I saw this mentioned on a Georgette Heyer group…. where lots of people typically like Austen too. I think I read Pride and Prejudice too early, and prefer the film over the book… and this book is described as Pride and Prejudice – but the below stairs version.

I really like the concept, and found the book enjoyable and eminently readable – and quite blunt about the kinds of difficulties faced as downstairs servants in a small house. The mystery around James Smith takes a while to emerge, but eventually gets there, and the romance elements are thankfully not too detailed. Just the kind of thing I fancied reading on a tired evening.

If The Shoes FitIf The Shoes Fit by Pauline Lawless
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book was a free kindle download, so I thought I’d give it a go as I was in the mood for some mindless Irish chicklit.

There was more depth to the characters than I’d expected, and the storyline develops nicely – yes it’s all tied up easily at the end but fits with the lighthearted expectations.

View all my reviews

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