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Wonderplants

Book review : Wonderplants – planten in je interieur

written by Irene Schampaert & Judith Baehner, published by Lannoo
genre interior design & plants, 239 pages


When looking for garden and plant inspiration our home this book full of inspiring pictures of the most incredible and very original, green interiors had to be explored. Plants not only help keep your home fresh and clean, they also add life and character to your interior. Flipping through the pages of Wonderplants makes me even more excited to add some beautiful plants to our interior.

 

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The paris wife

The Paris Wife

The Paris Wife

written by Paula McLain, published by Virago
genre literary fiction, 385 pages

 

Each year the Dutch Harper’s Bazaar dedicates one magazine to writers, books and the love of reading. Each year I can’t wait for this issue filled with so much book inspiration. When Cécile Narinx, their editor in chief, mentioned ‘The Paris Wife’ to be her favorite book, I knew I would love it too. Not only because I think she does have excellent taste when it comes to lifestyle and culture, also the book’s main characters and their beautiful but heartbreaking love story immediate spoke to me.

 

 

The story in short

It’s October 1920 when 28-year-old Hadley Richardson from St. Louis visits a friend in Chicago and meets the 21-year-old Ernest Hemingway, a man that’ll change the course of her life completely. Ernest’s fearlessness, his intensity and ambition almost contradict Hadley’s quitness and empty feelings of depression since her father, mother and most beloved sister all have died. Despite their differences they immediately hit it off and after a short period of writing correspondence, Hadley moves to Chicago and within a year the two get married.

Building a life together in Chicago turns out to be harder than expected and when Hadley inherits money from her uncle they decide to immigrate to Paris; the city to be for an aspiring writer like Hemingway. With the help of a friend Ernest and Hadley soon find their way into the creative society of Paris and start building friendships with Gertrude Stein and the likes.

Paris turns out to be a place filled with competition and Hadley’s having a hard time defining her space as a writer’s wife, and mostly with all the attention Ernest gets and gives to other women. Even though their love is real and to the outside world they seem to be the perfect couple, they both have to work hard for their marriage to survive. Despite all the setbacks they have to face, their marriage stays solid until Hadley’s most trusted friend lays her eyes on Ernest too…

 

Why you should read this book

This fictional novel based on true historical events, tells the beautiful but sad love story of one of America’s biggest writers and his first and probably most loved wife. The story reads like a diary and gives a magnificent inside look into the life of Hadley and Ernest and their struggles of being (the wife of) a poor, young, upcoming writer in Paris in the 1920’s. Trying to keep up with the wealthy lifestyle of their friends and acquaintances, fighting for recognition from the world and from each other.

 

“Everyone laughed, and it was one of those domino moments.
That laugh would eventually set off an entire series of events, but not yet.
It just stood there in the room, tipping and tipping, but not falling.
Not falling yet. Not quite.” 

– Hadley Richardson

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  • hygge spread
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Hygge

Hygge – het geheim van de Deense Lifestyle / Hygge – The Danish Art of Happiness

written by Marie Søderberg, published by Boekerij
genre lifestyle, 224 pages

 

There are several books on the subject of hygge. But I got drawn to this one because of its wonderful cover. Such a beautiful abstract and festive design; a dark blue background decorated with confetti or blossom-like yellow and golden dots and the Scandinavian title written in an elegant but simple handwritten font. A book making such a promising first impression had to be explored.

 


The story in short

I’m sure most people have never heard of ‘hygge’ but for Danish people it’s a part of their DNA. Since we all strive for happiness and Denmark is known to be (one of) the happiest nations on this planet, we’d better pay attention. Especially since it turns out that this so called hygge does play a significant role in their happiness.

Hygge (pronounce: ‘Huuggeh’) is an amalgamation of the Danish climate, the country’s small size, its equality and welfare state and a focus on domestic bliss. Even though there are as many concepts of Hygge as there are Danish, you can say that it’s a lifestyle focussing on finding happiness in the small things in life. Things that don’t cost anything and actually could never be expressed in money. Happiness one feels while being surrounded by friends and family, the sensation of feeling sunlight on your skin, the enjoyment of drinking a cup of tea or coffee; all kinds of moments of happiness that can be found throughout day.

Although Hygge is a universal sensation, the Danish are the founders of the one and only word for it. And having a word for these moments of happiness, makes it so much easier to be aware of them and enjoy them to the fullest. In this book, authored by Danish actress Marie Søderberg, (famous) Danes give their version if what hygge is and what role it plays in their lives.

  

Why you should read this book

This book is an introduction to a more hygge lifestyle, with hygge recipes, hygge diy-ideas and easy steps to make our lives and homes more hygge. It can be read, but because all stories are illustrated with beautiful pictures, it’s also fun to just thumb through the pages and enjoy the hygge atmosphere. It’s one of those books that make a wonderful present to give to loved ones or yourself.

 

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A survival guide for life

A survival guide for life

A survival guide for life – How to achieve your goals, thrive in adversity and grow in character

written by Bear Grylls, published by Transworld Publishers
genre non-fiction / self-help, 284 pages

 

Since my boyfriend kept mentioning this book I decided to give it to him as a birthday present. Not having any clue who Bear Grylls is and what the book’s all about. But as soon as I bought it, I realized I’d love this book as much as my boyfriend would.
The 284 pages are filled with 75 precious life lessons, personal experiences and hard-earned wisdom. Written down by a man who not only knows how to stay alive in extreme circumstances, but also knows how to translate these experiences into the most down to earth, to the point and valuable life lessons. A book that had to be read!

 


The story in short

Even though I’d not yet heard of the man, it turns out that Mr. Grylls is one of the most well known people around the world, when it comes to survival and outdoor adventure. Starting with training martial arts as a child, Bear joined the British Special Forces as a young man. While serving the 21 SAS he gained many experiences, perfected his skills and trained his heart and mind.

Over the years Bear Grylls has written 20 books and this one is an insider’s guide on how to follow your heart and live an empowered, effective, fun-filled life. As a former member of the SAS, Bear knows first handed how hard life’s challenges can be and how good it feels to keep holding on and to not give up.

A book filled with so many useful lessons can be hard to summarize. Picking my 5 favorite lessons might give you an idea why I loved this book and its author so much. So here they are :

  1. Be the most enthusiastic person you know. Enthuasiasm sustains you when times are tough, encourages those around you and rapidly becomes a habit.
  2. The will to win means nothing, without the will to train. Or as Winston Churchill put it: “Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm.”
  3. To get, you first have to give. A beautiful lesson Bear learned as a child from his mother. Please make sure to read this chapter in the book, I loved the explanation.
  4. No one cares how much you know, until they know how much you care. The real value of a team is the people and the relationships between them.
  5. It’s all about that little bit extra. Reaching our summits only requires us to hold on that little bit longer than most people are prepared to endure.

 

And because it’s incredibly hard to pick only 5, I decided to give a little encore :

  • You’ve got two ears and one mouth, use them in that proportion. Listen twice as much as you talk, don’t listen to reply but listen to understand.

 

Do you get what I mean? It all sounds very logical and sometimes even funny. But we all struggle with motivation or inspiration sometimes. According to Bear, champions never stay down for long. That’s why we need to keep feeding motivation into our brains and souls every single day, that’s what this survival guide is all about.

 

Why you should read this book

Having read quite a lot of self-help books, this one is definitely one of the quickest and easiest reads of all. The 75 chapters are very short and concise, they all add a new lesson or insight and together they add up to one overall story. It’s a book that can be read in just a day or two, or to have laying around to pick up every now and then for just that piece of  advise suitable for your specific situation or mood. If you’re in an instant need of motivation, this book will be the perfect cure!

 

“Life rewards the dogged, not the qualified.” 

– Bear Grylls

 

* Picture in header from Bear Grylls’ Facebook.

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Als jouw leven een cirkel is waar sta jij dan?

Als jouw leven een cirkel is

Als jouw leven een cirkel is waar sta jij dan? / If life was a circle, where would you be?

written by Inez van Oord, published by Kosmos Uitgevers
genre nonfiction / lifestyle, 263 pages

 

As long as I can remember, magazines always attracted my attention. Especially beautifully designed magazines, combining pretty pictures with interesting stories and topics. Being the founder of some of the most successful Dutch magazines, I’d heard of Inez van Oord before. I’d read her magazines and more recently found articles about her; about her life and the brave decisions she’s made. When I found out Inez had written a personal book about life, I just couldn’t wait to check it out.

 


The story in short

Inez’ natural talent for identifying trends helped her to translate the elements that are missing in life, into magazines that can count on big fanbases. Her magazines Seasons (about living a pure and natural lifestyle) and Happinez (about living a spiritual and mindful life) are great examples of following your guts and making dreams come true. But despite her former success, Inez’ third attempt to set up a new magazine called ‘Humanize’, unfortunately didn’t work out the way she’d envisioned and left her with one question : What to do now?

That’s when creativity kicked back in and Inez decided to write the book she’d been thinking about for many years; a book about living life and finding your balance. The book that has been declared the best spiritual book of 2016. With this book, Inez got back on track and shows once more that following your dreams and guts can make you a very happy and successful person.

Having a lifelong fascination for circles (hence the typical Happinez cover design), this time Inez refers to life itself as a circle. A circle like a compass; a compass with ‘Mind’ as North and ‘Body’ being South, ‘Self’ as East and ‘Others’ being West. A compass to help us find our own balance within those four poles. A compass that can guide us back to the centre of it all, back to the essence of what makes life worth living.

 

Why you should read this book

The book is a quick and easy read and the illustrations that complement the stories make reading it even more enjoyable. The book can be divided into two parts. In the first section Inez explains the four quarters of the compass and links them to her own professional and personal life. She tells about her career in the magazine world, how it started and took shape, her struggles and successes. The second part of the book focuses on the reader. Inez hands us tools to help us find our way back to the centre of our own compasses.

To be honest, I read this book mostly because of the first part in which Inez tells about her career. The second part I’m sure can be very helpful for a lot of people, but I think I’d already found my answers to those questions via other ways. Nevertheless I loved reading this book, because it’s a good example of how the most honest and personal stories often are the most inspiring and can help others to make their own decisions.

 

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The Happiness Project

The Happiness Project

The Happiness Project

written by Gretchen Rubin, published by Harper Collins Publishers
genre non fiction / self help, 292 pages

 

The first time I came across this book in a store I had just finished reading ‘The Rosie Project’ by Graeme Simsion. Having loved reading Simion’s novel I felt drawn to ‘The Happiness Project’ immediately, hoping it would tell a similar story. But it did not.
Actually this is a totally different story and not at all what I expected, but it turns out that I like it even more!

 


The story in short

One morning like many others Gretchen Rubin, a NYC-based writer and mother of 2 young children, has the sudden realization that she’s in danger of wasting her life. She feels like the years are passing her by and decides it’s time for a change. Not because she isn’t happy, but because she knows she can be happier.
Knowing nothing will change unless she makes it change, she decides to dedicate a year trying to be happier and starts her own happiness project. A project that results in a blog, a website and eventually turn into a book. The book that I’ve been reading, several times.

 

“One of the best ways to make yourself happy, is to make other people happy.
One of the best ways to make other people happy, is to be happy yourself.” 

– Gretchen Rubin

 

Gretchen’s happiness project can be divided into 3 stages. First comes the preparation stage, a moment to identify what brings you positive feelings (such as joy and happiness) and what does bring negative feelings (such as guilt, anger and boredom). After that you focus on the making of resolutions, concrete actions that’ll boost your happiness. Goal of the final stage is the keeping of your resolutions.

Since all the great truths about happiness have already been laid out, Gretchen didn’t expect her findings to be new. But as for many changes, the difficulty lies within the action, not within the knowledge. Her methodical approach for putting her happiness ideas into practice in her life (including resolutions, commandments, secrets of adulthood and a scoring chart) makes it very easy to start of on your own project. Conquering your own idiosyncratic faults and limitations, changing your own life.

 

Why you should read this book

Gretchen Rubin shows in a very effective and enjoyable way, how to change your life, without changing it. Reading about her happiness project, her personal insights and experiences, is not only fun and interesting but also inspires you to start your own happiness project or just stick to some resolutions that you’re willing to keep.


To learn more about Gretchen, the Happiness Project and other projects she’s working on, have a look at her website.

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Wild

Wild

Wild. From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail

written by Cheryl Strayed, published by Luitingh-Sluithoff
genre Memoirs / non fiction, 384 pages

 

With a fascination for traveling, especially in combination with soul searching and the contemplation of life, my boyfriend chose very well to give me the book ‘Wild’ by Cheryl Strayed as a birthday present. Having seen the movie shortly after it came out, I hadn’t read the book yet. And as soon as the wrapping paper came off I couldn’t wait any longer and started reading immediately.

 


The story in short

It’s the summer of ’95 when 26 year-old Cheryl makes one of the biggest and probably most impulsive decisions of her life. Four years after losing her mother, Cheryl finds her family scattered and her marriage broken. Accidentally coming across a book about the Pacific Crest Trail at a gasstation, she decides this is what she wants to do, this is what she needs to do. Not knowing what she is getting herself into, her adventure starts then & there.

With nothing left to lose, Cheryl sells most of her belongings and without any experience or training starts her 3-month journey. During those months she hikes 1700 km / 1100 miles from the Mojave Desert through California and Oregon to end at the ‘Bridge of the Gods’ in Washington State, all by herself.

During the book, we get to know Cheryl as a strong and independent woman, who’s determination helps her to heal her broken heart and become the woman she wants to be. The book presents a mixture of all the emotions, pleasures and terrors she has to overcome during her solo hike. We are there with her when she feels lonely, when she meets wonderful people, when she feels overwhelmed and when she’s terrified. Cheryl shows us a wonderful and inspiring example of how you can’t always control your circumstances, but can control the way you’re dealing with them.

 

Cheryl Strayed near the PCT in Old Station, California, July 1995

 

Why you should read this book

Even though I read the Dutch translation, it’s obvious to me that Cheryl is a very good story teller. I loved how she intertwined passages from her past into the story of her hike, without becoming unnecessary personal or emotional. We get to know Cheryl and her situation very well and therefore get even more respect for the guts she shows and the choices she has made.

What I loved about the book was that it immediate takes you into the mindset and atmosphere of travel, the feelings of adventure, despite the discomfort and loneliness. This book resurrected in me the itch to travel again, starting on my couch reading lovely books like this one.

 

*Picture in header is still from the movie ‘Wild’ based on this book, directed by Jean-Marc Vallée, released in 2014 by Fox Searchlight Pictures

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Morrie Schwartz & Mitch Albom

Tuesdays with Morrie

Tuesdays with Morrie – an old man, a young man and life’s greatest lesson

written by Mitch Albom, published by Doubleday
genre autobiography, 192 pages

 

A friend of mine recommended this book to me, he said it’s one of the most wonderful and inspiring books he’s ever read. I ordered the book online and after receiving it, read it within just a couple of hours. Morrie had come into my life, and he never left.

 


The story in short

This book is the final thesis Mitch Albom writes for his old professor Morrie Schwartz. Unfortunately Morrie has ALS and knows the end of his life is nearing as his body is getting weaker every day. Despite this horrible disease Morrie focuses on the little joys that are left in his life, he surrounds himself with the people he loves and feels blessed for having the time to say goodbye.

One of his visitors is Mitch, a former student who accidentally hears about the circumstances of his old professor when Ted Koppel of ABC-tv’s Nightline interviews Morrie for the first time. After the show Mitch travels to West Newton to say goodbye to his ‘coach’, as he used to call Morrie, not knowing that this visit will be the start of the last class Morrie will teach, once a week by a window in his home study, discussing ‘the Meaning of life’. For this class no books are needed, the lessons are taught from experience. The class meets on Tuesdays.

 

Morrie & Mitch | picture by Heather Pillar

 

Why you should read this book

The book is easy to read, but so full of life lessons that you might like to take a little more time to process all of Morrie’s wisdom. Many quotes will stick with you for a very long time. The book is very personal, actually it’s Mitch telling about Morrie, the progress of the illness and what that means to Morrie’s everyday life. At the same time Mitch tells about his own life, about choices he has made and new insights he gets during the classes with Morrie. He describes very personally how the disease and Morrie’s dysfunctional body bring them closer every lesson.

Even if you’ve never met Morrie, reading the book gives you the feeling that you get to know him and that you want to get to know him, learn from him, his positivism and wisdom. He was and still is a teacher. Have you ever had a teacher like this?

 

“People see me as a bridge. I’m not as alive as I used to be, but I’m not yet dead.
I’m sort of . . . in-between.” He coughed, then he regained his smile.
“I’m on the last journey here – and people want me to tell them what to pack.”

– Morrie Schwartz

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