Clicking on book cover images will take you to that book’s Amazon page via fancy schmancy affiliate links, which means that if you end up buying the book I get approximately enough commission to buy half a can of cat food. Hooray!
A side note/cry for help before we dive into this this month’s books: If any of you can help me figure out what’s messing up the spacing and fonts and everything else on my sidebar, I will be your BFF and braid your hair and bake you cookies. There are just so many problems going on over there! It’s supposed to be all nice and neat and pretty, but…LOLNOPE!
Anyway… BOOKS! I read some!
Clear Your Clutter With Feng Shui – Revised & Updated Edition by Karen Kingston
I’ve heard about this book several times, so when I saw the new updated version avialable for review from Blogging for Books, I jumped on the chance to check it out. The original book was published in 1998 and became a classic, not to mention a best seller. The book I got is the 3rd edition, which has been updated and expanded. It’s a quick read at just under 200 pages in a book that’s only about 6 x 8″.
The main ideas behind it are quite a bit less “woo-woo” than “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up”; there’s no talking to your items and thanking them for their work, for example. It’s also a lot less detail-oriented – no order to tackle things, specific ways to fold an organize, and so on. She even says it’s ok to have a junk drawer, as long as it’s small and cleaned out regularly. I feel like this little paragraph sums up the book’s basic ideas well:
She breaks the definition of “clutter” down into 4 categories – things you don’t use and love, things that are untidy or disorganized, too many things in a small space, and “anything unfinished”. I immediately knew that last category was my biggest problem. I’m THE WORST at starting projects and not finishing them, which is bad enough, but if I just glance up from where I’m sitting, I see laundry that needs to be done, books that I’ve been wanting to read, mail that needs to be sent, a giraffe statue whose ear needs glued back on, products I want to review, a dress that needs to be altered… etc. And while we mostly just sort of ignore that stuff on a daily basis, on a subconscious level, all of those “Oh, crap, I need to take care of that” thoughts add up and drag you down. She suggests that you look at the things that surround you and ask yourself what they symbolize to you and how they make you feel. Does that framed vacation photo make you feel warm fuzzies, or bring up memories of the big fight you and your spouse got into on that trip? Items that make you feel guilty, sad, remind you of an ex, etc, should most likely go.
The last few chapters of the book leave behind the basic idea of a neater house and delve into things like cleansing your body, mental and emotional clutter, etc. Those might be a bit too new-agey for some people just looking for tips on a neater home, but you can take them or leave them depending on your interest level.
I hate to keep comparing this book to “Life Changing Magic…” but it’s such an easy reference point since the topics are similar and most of you have probably read it by now. I have to admit that while I found the philosophy of this book more practical and it definitely inspired to shake up the stagnant energy that having clutter sitting around is probably causing in my house, it didn’t inspire me to instant action in the same way that the “Life Changing Magic…” book did. I think both books have their merits, so if the Kon Marie method wasn’t quite your thing, I’d definitely suggest giving this one a try for a different perspective.
Deep South by Paul Theroux
As a big travel nerd, I’ve probably read at least 70% of the books in the travel section of any given library or bookstore. If you’re like me and hang out in the ol’ 900’s aisles of non-fiction, it’s almost impossible not to be familiar with Paul Theroux, who has written a whole host of books about his travels, as well as edited plenty of collections like those “Best American Travel Writing, Whatever year” books. I doubt he’s everyone’s cup of tea – his books tend to be long and detailed, full of history, and although they have funny moments they’re not exactly laugh a minute comedies. Still, Paul is the guy that taught me that the UK is shaped like a witch riding a pig, and I hold a lot of affection for him. When this book popped up on NetGalley (where I got it free in exchange for an honest review, like all the cool kids tend to do these days), I did a little dance of joy and requested it ASAP. It has taken me a couple of months to get through (mostly because I read like 5 different books at once, partly because it’s the kind of book that just takes time and is about 400 pages long.), but I finally finished this morning just in time for my review post!
As you might guess from the title, this one is about Theroux’s travels in the American South. I grew up in southwest Missouri, which is kinda south, but I’m hoping to do more traveling in the “real” south soon, since I’ve mostly just driven through when moving to Florida and back. There’s a lot to talk about when it comes to the deep south of this book (which mostly features the Mississippi Delta area, land of amazing blues music), and I’m still not totally sure how I feel about the author’s take on it. I might be tumbling some of it around in my head for a while, but that’s a good thing.
One of the first points in this book that struck me was the idea about how there are two different “Souths” – the southern Gone with the Wind plantations, sweet tea, magnolia blossoms, Hart of Dixie south you think of (probably) most often when picturing the area, but also the rural, very poor south, which is where Theroux does most of his exploring in this book. When he brought up the concept of two different definitions of the South, I immediately thought of Disney’s Port Orleans Riverside resort, which is divided into huge southern plantation mansion style buildings in Magnolia Bend, and Aligator Bayou, which is much more rustic and swampy. (Sorry, guys, I worked at Disney World for 3 years. These are my points of reference for life.) He mentions frequently that the poverty he sees in these forgotten parts of the South are on par with what he’s seen traveling in third world countries, and yet while the US sends billions of dollars in aide to help those in need across the globe (as we should), hardly any funds go to those living in conditions just as poor here at home.
Most of the chapters are quite short, to the point that it’s almost more like a long series of short essays or quick scenes than a continuous narrative. Unlike most travel books which cover a single visit to a place, Theroux ended up making four trips – one during each season, often revisiting places and getting to see how they have changed (or stayed the same) since his last theme there a few months before.
This book felt so much different from Theroux’s other works, since instead of far-off islands or exotic-sounding destinations halfway around the globe, he’s writing about (almost literally) places practically in my own back yard. (The last section of the book s spent traveling through Arkansas, and I live like 10 minutes from the Arkansas state line.)
If you followed my old blog, you might remember that I blogged about that exact billboard a couple of years ago when I drove through Arkansas on my way to New Orleans!
Given the book’s setting, race is obviously a huge theme. I found it especially interesting to read about the history given the charged feelings over recent events like Ferguson, Tamir Rice, and the whole Black Lives Matter movement.
Note – I felt super guilty that I had this book for several months before I got around to reviewing it, but I just realized when grabbing the cover image that no, it wasn’t published in October 2015, it WILL BE published in October 2016! Oops? At least I’m really early with a review for once!
The Sinner’s Grand Tour by Tony Perrottet
I spotted this book at the library while browsing the travel books and couldn’t resist. Travel AND racy history? SOLD! Im so glad that I stumbled upon it, because it was definitely a fun read. The author travels around Europe (wife and kids in tow) to visit some of history’s more scandalous sites, like Cassanova’s favorite parts of Venice, the Marquis de Sade’s old home and dungeons, and even the secret bathroom in the Vatican covered in erotic paintings by Raphael.
While this probably isn’t your kind of book if something like the word “penis” makes you blush, it’s really not that provocative at all. There are definitely amusing and interesting stories, but nothing gets TOO graphic. That said, I absolutely have to share this photo from the book – it’s a sketch of the plans for the sex chair that King Edward VII designed to be built for him when he got too fat for sexytimes with the ladies without crushing them.
I especially like the top hat.
(Keeping the image small in case your terribly wide-eyed and innocent kid walks through the room, but you can click to delight in the silliness of the larger version.)
Thumbs up for this one if you like history, especially the less conventional stuff that you don’t find in the guidebooks. (I started a biography of Edward VII, aka Bertie, last year but haven’t gotten around to finish it. I wonder now if the author will mention his fancy Chair-o-fun?)
I’d love to hear what you’re reading lately, and don’t forget to check out the Show Us Your Books link-up at the top of this post to see what other bloggers have been loving (or throwing across the room) this month!
Books I’m currently reading:
Yes, I’m one of those people who reads like half a dozen books at once!