Books have this amazing gift of being somewhat nourishing to the mind and can often assist you in ways you did not expect. In 2017, I made some intentions, ones that were not outlandish and did not demand too much from myself. One of those was to seek authenticity and to remain true to my beliefs no matter what. That being said, 2017 proved to be like any other year, bringing joy one minute, sadness another and often peppered with pain and anger, confusion and frustration. In the midst of all of this, I rediscovered two things: reading and meditation. I say I rediscovered reading but these books found ME. I cannot stress how much these books have shifted my world view and shaped my mind. Sometimes, it's great to pull the social media plug once in a while and do what nourishes you and makes your insides feel good and for me, that's to settle down with a good book.
1. The Outsider - I read this book upon the recommendation of a work colleague and this book kickstarted my reading frenzy. One of the most famous pieces of French literature, Albert Camus' classic reminded me of the importance of my authenticity. It takes you on this existential journey that forces you to examine society and it's flaws and how the central character deals with them. The final chapters were such a revelation to me that it made me completely rethink what it meant to be alive. Definitely up there as one of the most important things i've ever read in a long time.
2. Swing Time - I must of picked up this book at the airport as I was looking for something to read. I had no expectations other than the fact I knew the writer was the celebrated British author, Zadie Smith. This is a beautiful tale of two mixed heritage girls who share the same mixture of Carribean and English but whose lives each take a completely different turn. I was taken aback at how fluidly Zadie weaves between past and present, old and new, black and white and from old worlds to new. It's the first Zadie Smith novel I ever read and has instantly become my favourite read. If you're a born and bred Londoner you'll deeply appreciate all the places mentioned and the experiences the characters share as they're all completely undeniably true. At times this book paints a very relevant picture of class and race disparity in Western society but there is a harmony and a rhythm to the words that it allowed me to find resolve and remain hopeful in the unfairness of it all.
3. The Prince Where do I begin? I really feel as though the universe has a peculiar way of bringing things to you. Or rather steering you in a particular direction. I have always known about this book, but never read it. But as it turns out, when things want to be shown to you, they have their ways. This remarkable gem was written hundreds of years ago and is among one of the most translated books of all time, and in my opinion, with good reason. Originally written in Italian by Niccolo Machiavelli, who was working as a lawyer, politician and diplomat at the time, Machiavelli writes this as a short handbook- almost like a 'presidential pamphlet' on how to reign successfully as a new prince of a new kingdom. His work is still known today as some of the greatest earliest works of politics and political and psychological thinking to this very day. His statue can be found at the Uffizi gallery in Florence and is also venerated by many Italians as a great philosopher. The term Machiavellian is almost always used negatively and the practice is often frowned upon by many. However, when reading this book, I found myself in agreement with many ideas that were brought forward. It is said that the top independent schools in England give this to every young boy to read as they are the future 'employers' and 'politicians' of the country. I'd like to suggest that, instead of demonising great works from great minds we should encourage more and more people to read them. This book taught me several things in my quest for authenticity. One of which I would like to share. That is deep knowledge can be found if you know where to look. The power to have full command over your emotions in order to achieve your goals is very possible and extremely real. The sense that one might 'fall from grace' is also within your power and like Obe Wan, it's really how you choose to use it that might bring you to glory, or to ruin.
4. How To Use Your Enemies - I'll admit that choosing this book was purely because of it's title. At the time, I was bruised and confused and looking for ways to cope with recent experiences. This book was thrown up as a suggestion from Amazon after I had purchased a few other books one lunch break at work. When it arrived, it was extremely small and to my surprise- had nothing to do with the title (well kind of). It felt antidotal, a kind of remedy on how to deal with people as individuals and how to deal with them as groups. All the advice felt as though they came from a place of love and wisdom which meant I was able to take great comfort in the words.
5. Second Class Citizen - I was scrolling through my Facebook feed one ordinary day and a tribute video popped up dedicated to an author by the name of Buchi Emecheta. I decided to watch the video and became inspired by this women's incredible life. Buchi wrote a number of successful books but as my first choice, I decided to read this one. It tells the extraordinary story of what it was like for an immigrant to live in the UK in the 70s. Particularly from a Nigerian perspective and everything is there. Overcoming the odds and confronting harsh realities. For the first time, I felt I truly felt like I understood what England must be like from an outsider's perspective- especially one so close to home because of my Nigerian heritage. In these delicate times, Second class Citizen reminds me that it is far more beneficial to be kinder and more understanding to people who now call England their home for it was not without great struggle.
So that's what I've been getting stuck into recently. That, work and a fair bit of travel. What books have you read recently? I would love to know.
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