My recent read was given to me by my good friend Sophie (we seem to have a mini book club going on here!) I had seen Eleanor Oliphant is completely fine on the shelves of the supermarkets but it never spurred my interest enough even though it was a COSTA Book Awards Winner 2017. Safe to say it was an unexpected read that I enjoyed.
Eleanor Oliphant is completely fine tells the story of Eleanor Oliphant, a 30 year old woman who lives and works in Glasgow in an office job with no prospects. She is bullied at work because she doesn’t have anything in common and she has no outside interests, Eleanor drinks and sleeps all weekend to kill time and everything she does outside her office is neatly timetabled. Pizza on Fridays and phone calls with her mum every Wednesday. We learn that her mother is in prison and she was brought up in care.
Eleanor’s life changes when she is walking back from work with Raymond, a guy she met in IT who fixed her computer when a man collapses in the street. This encounter triggers a series of events from falling for a band member she has never met, getting to know Raymond better and finally moving on from what has been haunting her the majority of her life.
At first I thought Eleanor Oliphant was really crazy however as I got further into the book and gained more of an understanding about her background. I realised that Eleanor has been through a lot and you can understand why she acts the way she does. You get to understand a woman who has been through a lot and you feel how debilitating loneliness can be. You see why Eleanor held herself back over so many years.
Eleanor Oliphant is completely fine is Gail Honeyman’s first novel, I learnt that Gail decided to write a novel after her 40th birthday. Reece Wetherspoon through her production company Hello Sunshine has bought the rights to turn the book into a film. At the 2015 Frankfurt Book Fair the book was involved in a eight way bidding fair for rights (which eventually went to Harper Collins). I cannot wait to see what the film version is like and I really hope the film is shot in Glasgow and not in America!
The latest book I have read is More in Common by Brendon Cox. The book details Jo Cox’s life. Jo Cox was the Batley and Spen MP who was murdered in 2016 by Thomas Mair who shouted Britain First. Thomas was linked to neo-nazi groups.
The chapters alternate from the time leading up to Jo’s death and the aftermath to Jo’s years growing up. You learn very quickly that Jo was very determined, very ambitious however very down to earth. She was a proud Yorkshire woman and loved where she grew up. Cambridge followed and then Jo started her career working as Neil Kinnock’s advisor and then worked at Oxfam and then also worked as an advisor to Sarah Brown, who was spearheading a campaign to prevent deaths in pregnancy and childbirth. It was clear that Jo loved being outdoors and had aimed to climb all of the munros in Scotland with her husband and spending time walking and renovating their cottage and their travels on their canal boat.
Understandably as Cox was an MP this features heavily in the book. It charts the time she decided she wanted to be an MP (before she moved to work in New York) she signed up to a Labour party session for women who were interested in making the jump to being an MP with a friend. When the position of Batley and Spen came up she was originally selected from an all woman shortlist. Jo spent hours knocking on doors and visiting residents and local businesses in the constituency to secure her vote and she won with 43.2%.
Jo criticised the vote against military action in Syria and wrote an open letter along with Neil Coyle about why they regretted nominating Jeremy Corbyn. the national chair of the Labour Women’s Network and a senior adviser to the Freedom Fund, an anti slavery charity. After a member of her consistency wrote to her and told her about how a member of her family died and that although she visited her as often as she could this member really suffered with loneliness. Jo did some digging and found it is a larger issue then she first realised. Jo had started to set up meetings with Age Concern and the Royal Voluntary Service.
From the book you can see that Jo was very principled and this started out from when she started at Cambridge and she felt out of her depth amongst those that went to private school. She was determined that no one missed out on opportunities due to where they came from.
Balancing motherhood with working was a common theme which I felt was worth mentioning. It is so clear Jo loved her children (the fact that her children were so young when she died really hit home to me) and she would even vote in her cycling gear so she could get home and put her children to bed and really hated the fact that the voting in the House of Commons happens so late.
The book gives a very comprehensive account of Jo’s life and the effect that Jo’s death has had on Brendon and his family. It is a real privilege to understand and have that much access about her life. I really do recommend this book.
Have you read this book? If so what did you think?
Where do I start with this beautiful book. When Breath becomes Air is written by Paul Kalanithi who was a recently qualified neurosurgeon suffering from stage IV metastatic lung cancer. Paul died in March 2015 and he is survived by his wife Lucy and their daughter Elizabeth Arcadia.
This autobiographical book is split into three parts, before and after diagnosis and after he has passed away. Paul talks about his life growing up first in new York but then moving to Arizona and how he developed a love for literature from his mother who gave him very advance books to read at a early age. This love for literature lead him to study literature at Stanford University. Paul had always had an interest in what made life meaningful. Not satisfied in the answers that literature gave him, he wanted to learn from a medical point of view. This lead to a Masters in History and Philosophy of Science at Cambridge University before he took a place at Yale Medical School.
Throughout Medical School, it was clear that Paul was a high achiever, after Medical School Paul took up residency in neuroscience. Neuroscience is known as been the most demanding physically and mentally, the book details his operations in detail. One particular moment Paul remembers was after an operation he performed he walked out and was eating a cookie cream sandwich and he saw the patient’s relatives being given life changing news. ‘I was making more moral slides than strides’, he noted.
The second part details his his life after the cancer diagnosis. Paul grapples with suddenly becoming the patient. He details one time that a Junior Doctor wouldn’t give him the medication he requested. The Doctor that was looking after him tells him that if he wants to stop thinking like a Doctor and just be a patient he just needs to say. Paul also grapples with whether him and Lucy should have a child. Indeed they do via IVF.
Paul details the missed opportunities, he misses his graduation for completing his residency as he was throwing up very violently. Paul misses out on two very good job offers, one because he cannot bear to move across the country and leave Lucy alone bringing up their daughter and looking after him.
The thread throughout the book is the interest at what makes life meaningful. I feel that Paul does not answer this because the answer is different for everyone.
When Tanya Barad contacted me regarding her debut book How to Make a Decision asking me to review it, I was intrigued. My family could tell you growing up I was horrendous at making decisions. I could not make one and when I did I would change my mind all the time. It was getting to the point where I was seriously down as I could not trust myself to make the right decision. I have gotten a lot better now that I am older but I love a good self help book (read my review on The Defining Decade) so I decided to give it a shot.
Aim of How to Make a Decision
The aim of the book is to help you understand the theory and the science behind making a decision and how to apply this. Chapters 1-3 deal with the science of making a decision whilst chapters 4-17 is about how to come to a decision. Chapter 18 deals with helping someone make a decision and chapter 19 explores if you feel you have or have made the wrong decision. At the end of each chapter there is a section called Decision Time which allows you to apply what you have read with help worksheets. Worksheets include deciding if you are an audio, visual or kinaesthetic learner, seeing which bias’ you feel come naturally to you, allowing to think which environment to you make your decisions and the Johari Window to name a few.
What I learnt
- There are two popular decision making techniques called Gofer and the aptly named Decide.
- You can strengthen your decision making by planning for all possible scenarios.
- Split the negatives out to fully understand why they are negatives and how to turn the into positives or reduce the severity of the negativity.
- Talking through your decisions before making a decision is ideal.
The book contained a mixture of her own personal experiences and you can tell it was very well researched. My only criticism is that in one of the sentences it was talking about flipping a coin to make a decision and saying that is good in scenarios which have two answers and a lot of moral importance, and the example she used was deciding to have an abortion. That to me is poor taste. Other than that and a few spelling mistakes this it is a very good book to read if you struggle to make a decision.
How to Make a Decision is out now.
Hello, today I am writing about a book I brought recently in my haul called: The Defining Decade Why your Twenties Matter and How to Make the Most of them Now by Meg Jay. Meg Jay is a clinical psychologist who specialises in adult development. I don’t have any issues myself but I do love a good self-help book and the advice in them is a good reminder about how to make the most of the opportunities. This book interested me because it is specifically aimed for those in their twenties and for me heading into my late twenties. In this book she is bundles the most common issues that her clients have spoken about to help you make your descions more informed.
The book is split into three sections: Work, Love and The Brain and Body. The work section I found to be the most interesting. Since I have left University I have started a career in Marketing and am in and have had very good jobs in marketing, but I know this isn’t the case for everybody and some people reading this are lost and not sure what they want from there life, especially after University.
Meg talks about how those that came into her clinic were putting off getting a career because they wanted there own ‘Eat, Prey, Love’ moment but it doesn’t happen like that. Whilst they are waiting for this moment they are underemployed and the result is taking longer and getting harder to climb on the career ladder. She gave one example of a man who spent his twenties doing ‘dumb shit’ and now in his thirties with a child he is finding it is so much harder to get where he wants to be as he lacks the experience, which he wish he spent his twenties collecting.
Planning is another skill that Meg is keen to get across. An example she gives is of a woman who wants to have a career in law and go to University to study law and wants at thirty to have a family. However she needed to started studying as soon as possible otherwise she wouldn’t hit her timeline. By planning a bit more Meg shows that it can be possible to hit your goals.
I think with work, it became evident that you need to have confidence. I have always believed myself that you have to be ‘in it to win it’ and at the end of the day if you send that email or apply for that job and get nothing back or a rejection at least I tried. Meg empathises this in her book that it is worth trying and she cites examples of her clients that have taken the plunge and are reaping the rewards now.
The section on love, for me, I just skipped over as I didn’t find it relevant to me and the last section on The Brain and Body was not that interesting to me. I do think, if you are in your twenties and feeling a bit lost or just want a read then give it a go!
Have you read any twenty something self help books? Do you recommend any books?