Jim Carrey’s advice on how to live


You spend your whole life imagining ghosts, worrying about the pathway to the future, but all there will ever be is what’s happening here and the decisions we make in this moment, which are based in either love or fear. So many of us choose our path out of fear disguised as practicality. What we really want seems impossibly out of reach and ridiculous to expect, so we never dare ask the Universe for it. I’m saying I’m the proof you can ask the Universe for it.”

“My father could have been  great comedian but he didn’t believe that was possible for him. And so he made a conservative choice; instead he got a safe job as an accountant, and when I was 12 years old he was let go from that safe job and our family had to do whatever we could to survive. I learned many great lessons from my father, not the least of which was that you can fail at what you don’t want – so you might as well take a chance on doing what you love.

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Einstein on the meaning of life

Einstein the meaning of life



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To Kindle or not to Kindle?

That really is the question…

For a long time, I’ve been fervently anti e-reader. As far as I’m concerned, an unyielding piece of plastic just can’t compare to the wonder that is a bound book. I’m passionate about books; I love the way they feel in my hand, I love the way they smell, I love turning the pages and I love sitting in bookshops for hours, browsing and reading a little here and a little there, piling books up beside me and wishing I could take every single one home, and I love the process of deciding exactly which ones I’ll be buying this time round. (Inevitably, I take home more books than I think I should but far fewer books that I’d like to.) Continue reading

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A perfect Sunday

Bookshop browsing followed by a lazy afternoon in the dappled sunlight beneath a certain oak tree with my beloved. Bliss.

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On the Move

After a few weeks of intense fun in Beijing, I am back in the depths of the English countryside. Strangely enough, it rained the whole time I was away and it is only now something resembling summer has finally reached England. I’m making the most of my country garden that catches the sunlight while I can; in three weeks, I’m moving to central London to live.

 I’m currently sitting in my bedroom surrounded by piles of long-forgotten miscellany, such as tarot cards and almost empty bottles of perfume, with the occasional cardboard box teetering atop a heap of books pulled from the shelves and piled haphazardly on the floor or on top of something else. I have a distinct tendency to randomly throw things into boxes and then stash the boxes away out of sight, and on my journey through my wardrobe today I discovered old scraps of diary entries, neatly torn from school exercise books, mainly discussing boyfriends and horses; old love letters written to me by an enchanting boy I never met because he lived up North; a set of runes in a red velvet bag (when I pulled one out, it was the rune representing journeys); a set of plates and cups decorated with pictures of shoes that I have never used but intend to start using; and a lot more besides. I never throw things away. At university, my room was always awash with paper. Sometimes, when the urge came upon me, I’d pile all the paper into themed stacks – modern Chinese newspaper readings, notes from history lectures, photocopied short stories – but hardly ever filed it away properly, leaving it to gradually work its way across my floor and obscure the carpet until the urge to tidy returned. Unfortunately my room in the house I am moving into is significantly smaller then the room I am currently in, so I have to get rid of quite a lot. Including some books. I’m not especially impressed by this, but I’m only throwing away things like cheap classics that won’t cost a lot to repurchase and books I didn’t enjoy reading or have never read. The actual throwing out process is the hard part; after it is gone, whatever is it, I won’t miss it. This knowledge does not make it easier to part with anything.


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Goodbyeeee, goodbyeeee

It is goodbye from me until August – I’m off to China for the summer! I would blog while I’m out there, but none of my friends there can access my blog so I suspect it is banned. Maybe because I blogged about unpopular Chinese authors. Anyway, that means no more posts from me until I get back. I wish everyone a great summer, whatever you do and wherever you are. Enjoy yourselves!


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Over the last few days my reading has focussed on acquiring new skills. In a geeky kinda way. As preparation for the new academic year (I’m getting in early, here) I decided the best thing I could do, besides the advance asignments I’ll be set, would be to improve my study skills. I discovered Tony Buzan; my local library has practically all his books as far as I can tell, and I’ve taken several out and have started on Speed Reading, which promises, among other things, to make students of the technique improve their reading speed, comprehension, the way they use their eyes and brains, their vocabulary and general knowledge and overall confidence. Who wouldn’t love all that? It had to come home with me. Also in the collection are books on improving my ‘perfect memory’, writing better essays and even one entitled ‘How to Argue and Win Evey Time’ – and I do so love arguing (but only when I win).

Contained in one of these books were some true life stories of people who had applied Buzan’s techniques and shot straight to the top of their classes with no other training. This got me thinking; is it really possible to increase one’s intelligence? The general consensus from the limited online research I’ve done seems to suggest it is possible. Various studies have demonstrated that certain factors can increase types of intelligence, from eating and exercising to listening to Mozart to simply expanding vocabulary from a few minutes’ study each day. Business people with an extensive vocabulary are supposedly more likely to succeed than their counterpart with weaker vocabularies, although this study is not substantiated. Doing crossword puzzles or sudoku are also credited with enhancing problem solving abilities and of course reading is the traditional method of becoming smarter. But do these methods actually result in tangible, long lasting mental benefits?

I’ve decided I’m going to give them a go and see. First up is the Speed Reading book, as I mentioned. Time is always an issue for students so using less of it to acomplish more seems like a sensible place to start. I’m also going to work on increasing my vocabulary every day and I might even buy a Sudoku book to try. The thing is, I remember feeling like I could do anything at all when I was 17. I was confident in myself and my intellectual abilities, and I have somehow never quite got that feeling back. I want to return to 17 year old me, ready to take on the world and know I can win. If reading books to help me build upon my existing skills can work towards bringing that about then that’s what I’ll do. Watch out Einstein, I’m coming!


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Man Booker International

Chinua Achebe has just been awarded the Man Booker International award – hooray! This is only the second year the prize has been awarded and selection criteria include: the author must still be alive; they must be deemed to have made a significant conribution to world literature; and their works must be either written in English or widely available in translation. The last one is technically rather discriminatory, but since nobody can read all the languages in the world it is understandable. 

Anyway I’m glad Achebe was selected. As the article in the Guardian this week says, “by honouring Achebe they have redressed what is seen in Africa – and beyond – as the acute injustice that he has never received the Nobel prize, allegedly because he has spent his life struggling to break the grip of western stereotypes of Africa.” The other author on the list I would have liked to see win was Carlos Fuentes, and he was probably the second choice. I think Achebe was the right choice though.


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Poems of Alice Walker

Some days, second hand book shops are just full of treasures. I discovered Good Night, Willie Lee, I’ll See You in the Morning and was so entranced by Alice Walker’s poems that I read the whole thing through in one sitting. Below are two of my favourites.


He said: Here is my soul
I did not want his soul
but I am a Southerner
and very polite.
I took it lightly
as it was offered. But did not
chain it down.
I loved it and tended
it. I would hand it back
as good as new.

 He said: How dare you want
my soul! Give it back!
How greedy you are!
It is a trait
I had not noticed

I said: But your soul
never left you. It was only
a heavy thought from
your childhood
passed to me for safekeeping.

But he never believed me.
Until the end
he called me possesive
and held his soul
so tightly
it shrank
to fit his hand.

Did This Happen to Your Mother?
Did Your Sister Throw Up a Lot?

I love a man who is not worth
my love.
Did this happen to your mother?
Did your grandmother wake up
for no good reason
in the middle of the night?

I thought love could be controlled.
It cannot.
Onl behaviour can be controlled.
By biting your tongue purple
rather than speak.
Mauling your lips.
Obliterating his number
too thoroughly
to be able to phone.

Love has made me sick.

Did your sister throw up a lot?
Did your cousin complain
of a painful knot
in her back?
Did you aunt always
seem to have something else
troubling her mind?

I thought love would adapt itself
to my needs.
But needs grow too fast;
they come up like weeds.
Through cracks in the conversation.
Through silences in the dark.
Through everything you thought was concrete.

Such needful love has to be chopped out
or forced to wilt back,
poisoned by disapproval
from its own soil.

This is bad news, for the conservationist.

My hand shakes before this killing.
My stomach sits jumpy in my chest.My chest is the Grand Canyon
sprawled empty
over the world.

Whoever he is, he is not worth all this.

And I will never
unclench my teeth long enough
to tell him so.


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Recent Reading

It’s been a while since I updated on the books I’ve been reading and there have been a few! Three that count towards the 100 countries and 1 that doesn’t, but which I enjoyed nonetheless. The three that are going on the 100 countries list are:

1 – The Alcehmist, by Paulo Coelho (Brazil)

2 – Metamorphosis, by Franz Kafka (Austria)

3 – The Book of Chameleons, by José Eduardo Agualusa (Anglola)

and the one that didn’t was The Secrets of Jin Shei by Alma Alexander.

The Alchemist was actually a sneaky re-read; I first read the book around 6-7 years ago and thought it was vastly overrated although I loved some of the imagery, particularly around the crystal shop. A few years on I’m in a different place in my life and can see why people rave about it. Don’t worry, I’m not about to rave about it, I still think it is overrated but perhaps a little less so than than I previously concluded. If you have never read The Alchemist, it is one to pick up when you need some help making life decisions. It is carefully written to send a message of affirmation to every reader – follow your dreams, no matter how hard it may seem along the way, and you will be happy. It is a heartening read and did make me feel temporarily more positive about life, but it won’t be something I’ll reread for a while.

Metamorphosis; I am ashamed that I have never read this before. I’ve never read any Kafka at all, in fact. Is it strange to say he reminds me of Ibsen? In a thematic way of course, using literature as social criticism, although I’m not quite sure why I would pick Ibsen out from all the authors who do just that. Perhaps it is something like Nora’s psychologial shift in A Doll’s House that contrasts with Gregor’s physical and mental changes in Metamorphosis and the selfishness both encounter from their loved ones as a result of those changes that make me link the two authors. Any rate, in a nutshell, a salesman wakes up one day to find he has morphed into a giant bug. What follows is how he and his family cope with his change (to be honest, I’m not sure I’d react well to my sister if she woke up as a super size cockroach). They don’t cope well. He doesn’t cope well. Far more subtle and thought provoking than The Alchemist but still very readable. 

 The Book of Chameleons recently won the Independent Foreign Fiction prize. Here is what Boyd Tonkin, Literary Editor of the Independent said: “José Eduardo Agualusa’s The Book of Chameleons is a delightful, moving and revealing novel about modern Africa, about memory, grief and the endurance of hope. It is remarkable for its witty originality and profound humanity.

It made me go to sleep. Perhaps I wasn’t in the mood for something like Chameleons, but I found it difficult to motivate myself to pick it up and continue reading once I’d put it down. I don’t even have any enthusiasm for thinking about the book retrospectively, so I’ll finish my musings here.

 Finally, The Secrets of Jin Shei. Wnted to read it for ages, loved it all the way through and felt vastly let down by the end. The whole way through, I felt the author was building up to something big…and I got to a tense point in the text, turned the page, and it ended. How come? Definitely one for BookMooch, but can’t be faulted for gripping escapism.


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