The Oh Nine Book Club
We spent this summer learning about the Course of Love from Alain de Botton, being enlightened by Viktor Frankl and his search for meaning, getting really into refugee biographies and diverting to Joan Didion, Khaled Hossein and the entire Confessions of a Shopaholic series when we really needed to check outtt. Basically, what we learned is we are not loyal to any particular genre - we can be as content with The Vanity Fair Diaries as we are with Lament for a Son (read it and weep) – but also that most of the books that grip our minds for the few days we are absorbed in them, come at the recommendation of someone else.
So we present to you Part One of BOOK CLUB – a (hopefully!) ongoing series. Here are some of our faaavourite people and the books that shaped their summer.
The book that shaped your summer? Essays in Love, by Alain de Botton
At the start of this summer I got really obsessed with the idea that I could prove to myself that love is just science and our brains, that there are pathways in our mind that we associate with certain things, and that we have the power to change the way we think about love. I listened to a lot of Esther Perel, a lot of misc podcasts on the subject, and I read this book. Essays in Love explores and analyses the heights and depths of emotions when a man falls in love with a woman, and it’s insightful and witty and deep.
What did it teach you?
To make decisions out of curiosity rather than fear. To understand that our pasts will inevitably play themselves out in our futures, both the bad and the good. That things will probably make more sense if we can all get into the hard work of understanding the ‘why’ behind all of the things that we do, and that sometimes you’ll wanna run and that’s ok. Sometimes you’ll stay and sometimes you’ll leave. The realisation that to a degree, the infatuation of falling in love is a bit of a bullshitter and it is true, the real work comes in the choosing. That real love is probably a miracle and it’s not formulaic, and I’m likely to f*ck it up again, but that’s part of it.
The book that shaped your summer? Nature Cure, by Richard Mabey
My summer has been spent recovering from a severe illness. Throughout my convalescence I have read a great deal, and one book that has very gently shaped my summer is Richard Mabey’s memoir “Nature Cure”.
Can you tell us a bit about it?
Mabey is Britain’s foremost nature writer, and has spent much of his life in the outdoors, and penning some remarkable work. Nature Cure is about his spiral into deep depression, and his recovery from it. It is an observation of how the natural world lost all meaning to him. However, it also details his slow but sure recovery. In this book, Mabey moves to East-Anglia, from the Chilterns and details his discovery of a new landscape, and how he began to love again. He also addresses the external madness of the modern world, and how there is still hope for balance with nature.
This isn’t a book about submitting to nature “and being taken out of oneself”. But about being put back into oneself, and the humble recognition that there is no singular “cure” to depression. But, by being loved, and allowing the world to enter into ourselves, firing up the old bits of our imaginations, we can feel again.
Who should read it?
I would recommend this book to everyone. If you have had battles with your own mental health, or know someone that does, this will give you a deeply thoughtful perspective. Nature cure is a book full of hope.
The book that shaped your summer? The Pursuit of Love, By Nancy Mitford
Over the summer I read a series of novels by Nancy Mitford, following the hilarious misadventures of the British upper class between the wars. Nancy was the eldest of the eccentric Mitford girls and the books are based on the experiences of her sisters growing up in society.
Narrated by cousin Fanny, who’s mother has been married 9 times and is known as the Bolter, the stories follow the Radlett family and the children’s rather isolated upbringing on the country estate, their debuts in the London social scene, and the subsequent marriages, elopements and affairs that span continents and decades to come. These colourful characters and their absurd lifestyles never failed to make me smile, and it was nice to be reminded that love was just as complex and disillusioning 100 years ago as it is today.
“She was filled with a strange, wild, unfamiliar happiness, and knew that this was love. Twice in her life she had mistaken something else for it; it was like seeing somebody in the street who you think is a friend, you whistle and wave and run after him, but it is not only not the friend, but not even very like him. A few minutes later the real friend appears in view, and then you can’t imagine how you ever mistook that other person for him.”
What book shaped your summer? WOOL, by Hugh Howey.
As I turn the page over from 2017 and into the heat of summer, I also find myself turning the page over in a book that I read two thirds of in 2015. Memories of characters came flowing back, Juliette, the protagonist, was sent to her death out of the sanctuary of the ‘silo’ and into nuclear wasteland. But there she tries to survive against all odds of burning, drowning and poisoning.
Did it teach you anything?
Reading this taught me is that maybe this is the year to go through with things, instead of finishing on page 430, I’m going to finish on page 536, I will make it the end, against the odds of this nuclear wasteland we call 2018. If you’re looking for the truth in your summer, give Wool a read, hopefully it won’t kill you.
If the lies don’t kill you, the truth will.
The book that shaped your summer? Milk and Honey, by Rupi Kaur.
It decorates your mind with vulnerability
moments of empathy
tasting the bitter
And the sweet
moments of relating
Of for once
Not being alone
That you thought only you had
It taught me unity
the power of vulnerability
The power of sharing
The power of words
It reaffirmed the movements of living
The pattern of ups and downs
That we are not alone in this.
This book gave me outrageous perspective
“I want to apologize to all the woman
I have called pretty
Before I’ve called them intelligent or brave
I am sorry I made it sound as though
Something as simple as what you’re born with
Is the most you have to be proud of when your
Spirit has crushed mountains
From now on I will say things like
You are resilient or you are extraordinary
Not because I don’t think you’re pretty
But because you are so much more than that”
If you want to be inspired, encouraged or just want to read beautiful moving words. This book is for you.