One of the things I love about winter is the chance to spend evenings indoors catching up on reading, movies and television, and as someone known to rummage aimlessly around the library, bookstore or Amazon Prime listings in search of inspiration, I really enjoy picking up recommendations for books, films and TV shows on other peoples’ websites. When I wrote about my favourite books of 2016 back in December, I received more feedback on my post than normal, and so I’ve decided to do a round up of what I’ve been reading each month over here on the blog. I’m also going to include what I’ve been watching, as I’m a big lover of films, documentaries – and the odd bit of box set action. Hopefully my posts might provide a bit of inspiration, and perhaps a few ideas you might want to add to your own entertainment wish list soon!
I kicked off January by reading Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte – I’ve resolved to read a few of the classics this year having always shied away from them in favour of more contemporary fiction. I have to admit, though, that barring the connection to my favourite Kate Bush song, I didn’t know much about this story, and although it wasn’t the kind of romance I was expecting (it’s actually quite dark and menacing), once I got into it I found I really quite enjoyed it. Bronte’s telling of the intense relationship between Heathcliff and Catherine Earnshaw still feels very fresh, and having watched the BBC drama ‘To Walk Invisible’ at Christmas time, it’s amazing to think what Emily and her sisters achieved within the context of their time. It’s definitely given me a taste for reading more of the Bronte sisters’ writing – I already have a copy of ‘Jane Eyre’ ready and waiting in the ‘to read’ pile beside my bed.
Next on my reading list for January was The Life Changing Magic of Tidying by Marie Kondo. As a basically tidy person drowning in a household of bulging cupboards, I really needed a push to get some post-Christmas decluttering started and this book provided the perfect inspiration. Ms Kondo is as passionate about tidying as most people are about their favourite hobbies; and she writes with such enthusiasm about the benefits of discarding, tidying and storing that it’s almost impossible not to set off on a frenzied clear out of your own living space after finishing the last chapter. When I saw the title header, ‘never pile things: vertical storage is key’, I knew that I had come to the right place for inspiration. Long forgotten items at the bottom of drawers everywhere say thanks.
My final read for January was Louisa M. Alcott’s Little Women, a nostalgic one for me having read my Mum’s red hard backed copy of the book when I was little. The story of Jo, Meg, Beth and Amy remained as charming to me as when I first read it, and the copy my parents gave me for Christmas is now peppered with underlined text where quotes have resonated with me all over again. There is a little moral in almost every chapter, and the book is a wonderful reminder that there is, and always will be, plenty of goodness in the world. If you ever feel the need of a little recap on the value of kindness, humility and grace, it’s definitely one worth reading or revisiting. And it’s also a poignant reminder that despite the advancing years, women, both little and big, haven’t changed all that very much – ‘but, dear me, let us be elegant or die!’
With the kids, I’ve been enjoying re-reading Danny the Champion of the World, by Roald Dahl this month – Danny is one of my favourite Roald Dahl books, not least because of the beautiful portrayal of the relationship between the Danny of the title and his Dad. The message to children at the end of the book is particularly poignant: ‘when you grow up and have children of your own, do please remember something important: a stodgy parent is no fun at all. What a child wants and deserves is a parent who is SPARKY.’ Indeed.
Moving on to what I’ve been watching this month, and the whole family has enjoyed settling down to watch the new search-for-a-boy-band show Let it Shine on BBC 1 on Saturdays. As Mummy’s a massive Gary Barlow fan there was really no getting out of it, but in actual fact we’re all loving the format – and having fun playing along with our own guess-how-many-stars-they’re-getting competition as we watch.
After the kids have gone to bed, myself and GB have been enjoying Taboo (also BBC1, Saturdays), a dark and intriguing drama starring Tom Hardy (although I have to admit this is probably more GB’s choice than my own). On weeknights, our 9-10pm children-in-bed slot is filled by Vikings on Amazon, a fantastic historical drama inspired by the sagas of Ragnar Lothbrok and penned by Michael Hirst, creator of The Tudors (my favourite ever TV series). When I’ve got a spare hour of ‘me time’ (i.e. when I’m doing the ironing), my solitary go-to viewing is Outlander (also Amazon), a time travel drama about a woman who finds herself transported back from 1945 Inverness to the Scotland of two centuries before. Her arrival in 1743 cues romance, tension, and lots of beautifully shot Scottish scenery- it comes as no surprise to me that this series, and the books it is based on, have given quite a boost to the Scottish tourist industry and the locations in which some of the backdrops have been set.
This month GB and I also watched the film Minimalism: A Documentary about the Important Things. If you’re still reeling from the sheer amount of stuff your family managed to accumulate at Christmas, this sobering documentary about consumerism, consumption and living a more simple life is definitely worth viewing. And while it might not lead to us stripping back on our family possessions completely, it’s definitely given us food for thought on some of our habits and the benefits of enjoying life with just a little bit less noise.
GB and I also made a trip to the cinema last week to see La La Land, and like most of the rest of the world it seems, it’s safe to say I absolutely adored it. It’s a lovely, life affirming story about dreaming, love and music, and the chemistry between Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone kept me entranced from the film’s toe-tapping opening sequence to its bittersweet final scene. It’s exactly the sort of movie which as a teenager I’d have spent a weekend binge watching on repeat, and if you like dreaming, jazz – or just love love – I’d definitely recommend you go and give it a whirl.
I hope you enjoyed this month’s reading and watching update. I’d love to hear what you’ve been reading and watching lately in the comments!