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The Books' Whisper

Literary Consultant and Scout
The Books’ Whisper 2019 Advent Calendar

The Books’ Whisper 2019 Advent Calendar

December 1st

10 Minutes 38 seconds in this strange world by Elif Shafak

This book was a contender for the Booker Prize 2019, and IMO it should have won. The story is genius, it begins with the death by murder of Tequila Leila, a prostitute working in Istanbul. Apparently, after our body dies our brain keeps working for about ten minutes, and that’s why Leila is able to recall her life and we get to know all about her. In the second and third parts of the novel, after her mind has died, we learn the rest of the story from her five friends (who are all outsiders in their own way), and we also get to know who committed the murder and their motive. This is a brilliant novel, beautifully written and heart-wrenching, and it also tackles delicate issues such as the terrible Article 438 of the Turkish Penal Code, which allowed a reduced sentence for those who raped prostitutes and was abolished in 1992 thanks to the women’s movement, or the existence of the Cemetery of the Companionless, the final resting place of people who don’t have a family or have been shunned by theirs. For exposing the dark side of Turkey, the author is investigated and censored in her country. She now lives in London. Here’s a quote from the book,

‘Nostalgia Nalan believed there were two kinds of families in this world: relatives formed the blood family; and friends, the water family. If your blood family happened to be nice and caring, you could count your lucky stars and make the most of it; and if not, there was still hope; things could take a turn for the better once you were old enough to leave your home sour home.

As for the water family, this was formed much later in life, and was, to a large extent, of your own making. While it was true that nothing could take the place of a loving, happy blood family, in the absence of one, a good water family could wash away the hurt and pain collected inside like black soot. It was therefore possible for your friends to have a treasured place in your heart, and occupy a bigger space than all your kin combined. But those who had never experienced what it felt like to be spurned by their own relatives would not understand this truth in a million years. They would never know that there were times when water ran thicker than blood.’

December 2nd

Zero by Marc Elsberg

This is a gripping thriller about a nagging contemporary issue: the oligopoly of a bunch of IT giants, and technology ever-increasing control on the masses. The audiobook version, read by actor Bradley James (who plays king Arthur in the tv series Merlin) it’s even more intriguing. We follow three “sides”, all of which have their own mission. The Daily newspapers hunts Zero, the number one most wanted online activists; Zero wants to destroy the credibility of the social media giants and awaken people’s conscience; Freemee, a big and dangerous tech giant with evil intent, must stop anyone getting in between the company and the power they’re conquering. Marc Elsberg created a world not so distant from the one we’re living in, but particularly scary. This novel, a real page-turner, invites us to ponder about social media or, at least, to use them with extreme care and awareness. Here’s a quote from the book,

‘Imagine if your government or the police demanded you carry a little box around with you at all times that constantly signals where you are and what you’re doing. You’d give them the finger! Yet you’re paying the world’s data oligarchs to spy on you. That, right there, is consummate surveillance. Please let me give you money so you can locate me and use my data! They could sure teach international spy agencies a thing or two …’ Zero lowers his voice, his tone more biting. ‘Here they come with their Trojan horses, offering you search results, friends, maps, love, success, fitness tips, discounts on your shopping and who knows what else – but all the while, armed warriors sit lurking in their bellies, waiting for an opportunity to pounce! Their arrows strike you right in the heart and the head. They know more about you than any intelligence service. They know you better than you know yourself! But the old question remains: who’s monitoring the monitors? And who’s monitoring their monitors? But perhaps we already know the answer: everyone monitors everyone else.’

December 3rd

The Weight of Ink by Rachel Kadish

Two timelines. In modern-day London, Helen Watt and Aaron Levy find an important collection of letters dating back to 17th Century. This discovery’s not only invaluable as a historical document but also as evidence of what Jewish Europeans had to endure during the time of the Inquisition and the fictitious Popish Plot. In the sections of the novel set in 17th Century we read about instead Ester Velasquez, a charming, highly intelligent young Jewish woman, whose hunger for knowledge cannot be fulfilled because as a woman she’s not allowed to study. These timelines intertwine, and slowly the pieces of the whole story untangle, fascinating and engaging the reader. A must-read if you love books and history. Here’s a quote from the book,

‘Love must be, then, an act of truth-telling, a baring of mind and spirit just as ardent as the baring of the body. Truth and passion were one, and each impossible without the other.’

December 4th

The Crystal Cave by Mary Stewart

In this book, the first of a trilogy, Myrddin Emrys, also known as Merlin, is still a child. Being the bastard nephew of a British king and son of princess Niniane, he’s regularly mocked and alienated by others, especially because his mother refuses to reveal his father’s true identity, and this makes everyone believe that he’s the devil’s son. From a very young age, Merlin starts “seeing things”, and a wise man named Galapas teaches him the natural laws, how to use medicinal herbs, and much more. Despite his harmlessness and disregard to politics and power, eventually Merlin’s seen as a menace to the throne and forced to flee to save his own life. During his exile he has the opportunity to improve his magical arts and to sow the seeds of the Arthurian legend. This first volume of the trilogy ends with Arthur’s birth. Here’s one of my favourite quotes from the book,

‘My Lord, when you look for (…) what I am looking for, you have to look in strange places. Men can never look at the sun, except downwards, at his reflection in things of earth. If he is reflected in a dirty puddle, he is still the sun. There is nowhere I will not look, to find him.’

December 5th

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

The Help is a choral historical novel with three main characters, two black women and one white girl living in the segregated Mississippi during the ’60s. Aibileen works as a maid for Elizabeth’s family and looks after little Mae Mobley. Minny’s a fantastic cook but always gets in trouble for speaking up. Skeeter is the young daughter of a plantation owner; she dreams to become a writer and is obsessed to find out why her beloved nanny suddenly left her family. Nobody would have thought that these women would become friends, especially in Jackson, one of the American towns with the highest rate of hate crime at the time, and yet out of necessity they start working together on a very brave, but also extremely dangerous, project. Apparently, this book was rejected by more than fifty literary agents before Susan Ramer agreed to take Stockett on as an author. Since then, it’s been published in over forty languages, and a movie based on it hit the cinemas in 2011. Here’s a quote from the book,

 ‘All my life I’d been told what to believe about politics, coloreds, being a girl. But with Constantine's thumb pressed in my hand, I realized I actually had a choice in what I could believe.’

December 6th

Tender at the bone by Ruth Reichl

Food critic and writer Ruth Reichl’s memoir, Tender at the bone, is a masterpiece. Through her experiences with food and cooking, the author shares her life: her childhood with a manic-depressive mother and a “resigned” father, the French boarding school in Canada where she had her first proper culinary experience, her job as a waitress in a restaurant, her experience as a cook in an ”anarchic” cafe, and so on. An exceptionally gifted cook and writer, Ruth Reichl captures readers with her engaging, frank, insightful story, and her magnetic, elegant, and pleasant writing. It reads more like a novel (or a fairy tale) than a memoir, for the delicate style and the structure make it a book for you to taste – together with the recipes included – and to lose yourself into. A perfect reading for a cozy winter night with a cup of hot chocolate and comfy chair. Ruth Reichl writes how she soon discovered that, ‘food could be a way of making sense of the world’ and ‘I was slowly discovering that if you watched people as they ate, you could find out who they were’.

December 7th

Restless by William Boyd

When Ruth finds out that her mom’s name is not Sally Gilmartin but Eva Delectorskaya, and that she was a British spy in WWI, she is obviously shocked. Why did her mother waited so long to tell her, and why now? Why is her mom behaving so weirdly, like she’s paranoid? Are there really ex-spies that are trying to kill her? While Eva tells her daughter, and us, about her life as a spy, Ruth also finds herself confronting her own past and choices. Eva’s story is gripping and she’s an extremely charming, brave and intelligent character. Another page-turner for the Christmas holidays. Here’s a quote from the book,

“I stood there in the kitchen, watching her staring across the meadow still searching for her nemesis and I thought, suddenly, that this is all our lives - this is the one fact that applies to us all, that makes us what we are, our common mortality, our common humanity. One day someone is going to come and take us away: you don't need to have been a spy, I thought, to feel like this.”

December 8th

The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins

A fantastic novel, probably the first real detective novel in English literature. Using multiple narrators – who one after the other tell us the story starting from the point where the previous character finished, like witnesses in court – from the very start we’re hooked on the story about this mysterious young woman dressed in white, who wanders terrified and alone on the streets of London, and throughout the book we try to find out – together with the narrators – who she is and what’s her secret. Here’s a quote from the book,

‘The woman who first gives life, light, and form to our shadowy conceptions of beauty, fills a void in our spiritual nature that has remained unknown to us till she appeared. Sympathies that lie too deep for words, too deep almost for thoughts, are touched, at such times, by other charms than those which the senses feel and which the resources of expression can realise. The mystery which underlies the beauty of women is never raised above the reach of all expression until it has claimed kindred with the deeper mystery in our own souls.’

December 9th

Notes to Self by Emilie Pine

This little collection of essays is really “true”, honest, and page-turning. Though I disagree with some of the reflections and points made by the author, I understand where she comes from, and I love the fact that, even when she shares her toughest experiences and feelings, she is never self-indulgent. A very good read, that everyone, men and women alike, should read. Here’s a quote from the book,

‘This is the moment that we get to look around, find our own balance, and enjoy the view from where we are.’

December 10th

Love Begins in Winter by Simon Van Booy

I’m not particularly fond of short stories, but this is one of the most beautiful books I’ve ever read and I strongly believe it should be read by everybody. There are five stories and are all touching, profound, and thought-provoking, and they’re beautifully written. The author’s style is very poetic, and I believe everybody who aspires to become a writer should read him to understand and absorb what it really means to write well. Simon van Booy’s honesty in exploring people’s feelings and sorrows is almost brutal, for it lays bare the feelings and the truths that we, as human beings, are generally afraid to confront. So be aware, be brave, and be ready to dive within yourself.

Here’s a quote from the book,

‘I think music is what language once aspired to be. Music allows us to face God on our own terms because it reaches beyond life.

I feel moments from the end.

The muscles in my bowing arm tighten. The final notes are sonorous I steady my bow like an oar held in a river steering us all toward the bank of now and tomorrow and the day after that. Days ahead like open fields.

And night pools outside the concert hall. The city is still wet. The concert hall is glassed in and overlooks a garden. Eyes of rain dot the windows and shiver with each breath of wind. Stars fill the sky then drop to flood the streets and the squares. When it rains even the most insignificant puddle is a map of the universe.’

December 11th

The best of everything by Rona Jaffe

This 1958 novel, today described as a “predecessor” of Sex and the City – and favourite bedtime reading for Don Draper, the character from the TV show Mad Men – follows a group of young women who work in a big publishing house in New York in 1952.

Every girl has her dreams and aspirations. Caroline is a smart and intuitive college graduate who wants to shift from typist to editor; April is a beautiful and romantic country girl but not very lucky when it comes to relationships; Gregg is an aspiring actress who develops an unhealthy affection for her lover, a charming playwright; and Barbara is a divorcée and single mom. It’s easy to feel carried away by the stories and the settings, which give an accurate idea of what it meant to be a career woman in post WWII America, and to care and cheer for the girls. I really love this book because I understand Caroline’s drive and passion for books and publishing, and this novel was actually one of the spurs I needed to take the leap when I decided to shift career from advertising to book publishing. A book for book lovers. Here’s q quote from the book,

«You see them every morning at a quarter to nine, rushing out of the maw of the subway tunnel, filing out of Grand Central Station, crossing Lexington and Park and Madison and Fifth avenues, the hundreds and hundreds of girls. Some of them look eager and some look resentful, and some of them look as if they haven’t left their beds yet. Some of them have been up since six-thirty in the morning, the ones who commute from Brooklyn and Yonkers and New Jersey and Staten Island and Connecticut. They carry the morning newspapers and overstuffed handbags. Some of them are wearing pink or chartreuse fuzzy overcoats and five-year-old ankle-strap shoes and have their hair up in pin curls underneath kerchiefs. Some of them are wearing chic black suits (maybe last year’s but who can tell?) and kid gloves and are carrying their lunches in violet-sprigged Bonwit Teller paper bags. None of them has enough money».

December 12th

Take Courage by Samantha Ellis

In this interesting and powerful biography of Anne Brontë, the least known and celebrated among the three sisters, we discover a woman who’s totally different from the one described by old books and by the harsh reviews of her novels – Agnes Grey and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall – but also by her older sister Charlotte. We get to know a young woman hungry for life, determined, and a writer gifted with a great deal of talent and especially great courage. Anne Brontë, who was always in poor health, showed to be strong and heroic in handling the TB that killed her, but above all exposing the mere truth about the condition of governesses in 19th Century England, and the real nature of some violent and cheating husbands she should have never spoken about, according to the critics (all men) and the right-thinking people of the time. Adorable and inspiring. Here’s a beautiful quote from the book, something she said shortly before she died,

‘I long to do some good in the world before I leave it. I have many schemes in my head for future practice – humble and limited indeed – but still I should not like them all to come to nothing, and myself to have lived to so little purpose.’

December 13th

The Forests of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley

This is not an essay or a history book but a novel that could be a quite realistic representation of Druidic life and the relationship between Romans and British people during the neo-Christian era. Right in this era unfolds the fascinating story between Elian – a young woman from a Druidic family – and Gaius – son of the Roman prefect and a British woman who died while giving birth to her daughter. The two meet when Gaius falls into a bear trap and Eilan’s family put him back to health, unaware of his Roman heritage as Gaius knows the local language quite well. Soon the two fall in love and he reveals Eilan his true identity, which she accepts despite her struggle between what she sees inside Gaius’s soul and the terrible stories that she’s learned about the Romans in her childhood. Their families will oppose their relationship, so the two youngsters will have to part but will conceive a boy child during the Beltane celebration, where Eilan – now a priestess – serves the Goddess. This encounter, clearly marked by their destiny (as revealed by Merlin’s appearance to Eilan), will bring to the birth of Gawen, who one day will be destined to bring together the two opposed worlds represented by Romans and Britons and their relative religions. Here’s a quote from the book,

‘The fire can only harm you because you believe it is in the nature of fire to burn; once you know its true spiritual nature, you can handle it as you would a handful of dry leaves. Fire burns within you as it burns on the hearth. How can one flame harm another? Let the spark of life within you welcome fire!’

December 14th

De Profundis by Oscar Wilde

I love all Wilde’s works, but this is particularly profound – as the Latin title indicates, meaning “out of the depths” – and it shows the man behind the genius, and how suffering and soul-searching change an individual and often help him grow personally and spiritually, therefore making him a bigger person. This letter, written by Wilde to his lover Lord Alfred Douglas during his incarceration at the Reading Gaol, is a masterpiece and herein the great writer relives their tempestuous relationship, and highlights the differences between them in the way the lived, loved, and treated each other (Wilde was always considerate and kind, Alfred was violent and selfish), and he accuses Alfred of being responsible for Wilde’s financial and literary ruin. In the second half of the letter, Wilde writes about his soul-searching in jail and his conversion to Christianity and understanding of the figure of Jesus. Not a light read, but certainly passionate and wonderfully written. Here’s a quote from the book,

‘I bore up against everything with some stubbornness of will and much rebellion of nature, till I had absolutely nothing left in the world but one thing. I had lost my name, my position, my happiness, my freedom, my wealth.  I was a prisoner and a pauper.  But I still had my children left.  Suddenly they were taken away from me by the law.  It was a blow so appalling that I did not know what to do, so I flung myself on my knees, and bowed my head, and wept, and said, ‘The body of a child is as the body of the Lord: I am not worthy of either.’  That moment seemed to save me.  I saw then that the only thing for me was to accept everything.  Since then—curious as it will no doubt sound—I have been happier.  It was of course my soul in its ultimate essence that I had reached.  In many ways I had been its enemy, but I found it waiting for me as a friend.  When one comes in contact with the soul it makes one simple as a child, as Christ said one should be.’

December 15th

The storied life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

A.J. Fikry owns a bookshop that he and his (deceased) wife bought when they were young. His grouchy and standoffish attitude is a frail disguise of a good, hurt man, who’s just forgotten how to open his (big) heart to life. One day, a young woman abandons her daughter at the bookshop, leaving a note. The toddler immediately steals the man’s heart, driving him to rebuild his life, to put himself out there and, above all, to love his job again. With a little help from the adorable police chief Lambiase, his sister-in-law Ismay, and the Sales Agent Amelia Evans, A.J. and little Maya turn Island Books into a place of light.

The novel, beautifully written, says a lot about contemporary book publishing, described with love and irony. Here’s a quote from the book,

‘To the Owner of This Bookstore:

This is Maya. She is twenty-five months old. She is VERY SMART, exceptionally verbal for her age, and a sweet, good girl. I want her to grow up to be a reader. I want her to grow up in a place with books and among people who care about those kinds of things. I love her very much, but I can no longer take care of her. The father cannot be in her life, and I do not have a family that can help. I am desperate.’

December 16th

Conversations with friends by Sally Rooney

Conversations with friends is not exactly a life changing read, but it’s nonetheless a book that grows on you and an interesting insight of human relationships and the things we tell or keep from others… and ourselves. Francis is a 21-year-old woman who starts an affair with Nick, a married, 31-year-old not particularly successful actor. Bobby is Francis’s former girlfriend and friend, she’s young, charming and outspoken, and now shares the flat with Francis. Then there’s Nick’s wife Mellissa, their marriage’s basically dead but they refuse to acknowledge it and to break up. There are a few more supporting characters, and all of them has some impact on Francis in a way or another. Among them we meet Francis’s alcoholic father, who clearly affected his daughter’s approach to romantic relationships. The book revolves around the characters’ conversations, reflecting patterns all of us have. For instance, we’d like to tell something to someone we love, but we give up because we’re afraid to hurt or disappoint them or, as with Francis, because we are ashamed of something we did. Or we lie to ourselves – and automatically, to others – about what truly motivates our actions, or we despise certain behaviours of others because, in truth, we do the same, albeit in a different way or intensity. Eventually, in one way or another were going to have to pay for not being authentic, and we’ll have to start looking within. Here’s a quote from the book,

‘You’re fucking married, I said.

Yeah, thanks. That’s very helpful. I guess because I’m married that means you can just treat me however you want.

I can’t believe you’re trying to play the victim.

I’m not, he said. But I think if you’re honest with yourself, you’re actually glad I’m married, because it means you can act out and I have to take the blame for everything.

I wasn’t used to being attacked like this and it was frightening. I thought of myself as an independent person, so independent that the opinions of others were irrelevant to me. Now I was afraid that Nick was right: I isolated myself from criticism so I could behave badly without losing my sense of righteousness.’

December 17th

The diary of a bookseller by Shaun Bythell

A very funny book, or rather a diary, as the title announces, that puts us in the shoes of a bookseller. The Bookshop is a big second-hand bookshop in Wigtown, Scotland. Those who work there and the customers are equally hilarious and at times we find it hard to believe that what we’re reading actually happened! And yet it has! A must read for book lovers! Here’s a quote from the book,

‘Ronnie the electrician turned up when the shop was full of customers and started loudly describing the various ways in which we could blow up Kindles. He has a disconcertingly comprehensive knowledge of bomb-making. I would probably go for a sugar/sodium chlorate mix, although he seems quite keen to try an oxyacetylene bomb. Customers who arrived half-way through the conversation gave him a wide berth.’

December 18th

The little soul and the Sun by Neale Donald Walsch

A beautiful tale for children and adults, teaching us to see anew those experiences that we perceive as negative and evil and it teaches us to look at everything with the eyes of Love. Here’s a quote from the book:

‘Everybody is special, each in their own way! Yet many others have forgotten that. They will see that it is okay for them to be special only when you see that it is okay for you to be special.’

‘Wow,’ said the Little Soul, dancing and skipping and laughing and jumping with joy. ‘I can be as special as I want to be!’

‘Yes, and you can start right now,’ said God, who was dancing and skipping and laughing right along with the Little Soul.

‘What part of special do you want to be?’

‘What part of special?’ the Little Soul repeated. ‘I don’t understand.’

‘Well," God explained, ‘being the Light is being special, and being special has a lot of parts to it. It is special to be kind. It is special to be gentle. It is special to be creative. It is special to be patient. Can you think of any other ways it is special to be?’

The Little Soul sat quietly for a moment. ‘I can think of lots of ways to be special!’ the Little Soul then exclaimed. ‘It is special to be helpful. It is special to be sharing. It is special to be friendly. It is special to be considerate of others!’

December 19th

The binding by Bridget Collins

Beautiful and well-written, The Binding is a (slightly disturbing) great novel, a bit historical, a bit fantasy and a bit mystery, and it tells the story of Emmett Farmer, a young farmer who, because of an unidentified “illness” is sent to work as a binder for an old woman everybody believes to be a witch. It’s hard for him to understand why his parents do that, since the only time Emmett saw and bought a book as a child, he was severely punished. So, his new adventure begins, and he finds out that novels are not made up stories but memories of people that have been erased, or rather bound in books, and that people can recollect their memories only if these books are destroyed. Not everyone can be a binder though. It is a gift, a kind of “supernatural power” that very few have, and Emmett is one of them. But why people should want to erase their memories? Some committed unconscionable acts, others had a wonderful life and happy memories but sold them to low-level binders in order to make a living. Breathtaking. Here’s a quote from the book,

‘Memories,’ she said, at last. ‘Not people, Emmett. We take memories and bind them. Whatever people can’t bear to remember. Whatever they can’t live with. We take those memories and put them where they can’t do any harm. That’s all books are.’

December 20th

Howards End is on the landing by Susan Hill

I found this book magnificent. Beautifully written and suggestive, it’s a journey through books and life. One autumn afternoon, while Susan Hill (author of the novel The Woman in White, among many others) was looking for a book in her home library, she realized there were dozens of other titles she hadn’t read, forgotten she owned or that she’d like to reread, so she decided to spend a year reading these rather than buy new ones.

Each chapter is therefore about different books and subjects and it’s full of anecdotes on Hill’s life, on her experience as a reader and writer, on her meeting famous authors, on reading and much more, and it’s all written in a magnificent, poetic, elegant and suggestive style. We discover (or re-discover) forgotten or underrated authors and we feel the need to be nurtured by them.

Hill is a true writer. She masters literature, she studied it, she absorbed it, she lived it and has created a masterpiece, a book that should be translated and published everywhere, a book to study, especially by the thousands of people who nowadays write and self-publish.

The book also tackles the lost sense of reading today and the “competition mania” (my words) among many other interesting subjects.

Here’s a quote from the book,

‘I wanted to repossess my books, to explore what I had accumulated over a lifetime of reading, and to map this house of many volumes. There are enough here to divert, instruct, entertain, amaze, amuse, edify, improve, enrich me for far longer than a year and every one of them deserves to be taken down and dusted off, opened and read. A book which is left on a shelf is a dead thing but it is also a chrysalis, an inanimate object packed with the potential to burst into new life. Wandering through the house that day looking for an elusive book, my eyes were opened to how much of that life was stored here, neglected or ignored’.

December 21st

’Tis by Frank McCourt

In this sequel to the bestselling book and film Angela’s Ashes, Frank McCourt recounts his experience as an immigrant in post WWII America. Young and alone, he begins working as a janitor in a prestigious New York Hotel, ends up fighting in the Korean war, and manages to become a teacher without a formal education. McCourt has a special way to make even harsh and complicated situations charming, and his sense of humour is spectacular. He’s a great storyteller. Here’s a quote from the book,

‘Important people say, Let’s meet under the clock at the Biltmore, and what happens if they come in and the place is covered with dust and buried in garbage. That’s my job: to keep the Biltmore famous. I’m to clean and I’m not to talk to guests, not even look at them. If they talk to me I’m to say, Yes, sir or Ma’am, or No, sir or Ma’am, and keep working. He says I’m to be invisible, and that makes him laugh. Imagine that, eh, you’re the invisible man cleaning the lobby. He says this is a big job and I’d never have it if I hadn’t been sent by the Democratic Party at the request of the priest from California. Mr. Carey says the last guy on this job was fired for talking to college girls under the clock, but he was Italian so whaddya expect.’

December 22nd

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Brontë

Superbly written, insightful, moving. The story of a brave woman and mother who leaves her abusive husband in the 19th Century. Anne was a true writer, and considering that she died young, never married and didn’t have much life experience, she describes a very realistic story and characters, which shows that she was likely a great observer of human nature and her surroundings. Also, she was so brave to create a female character who “dares” leave her husband, to create a plot so innovative for a female writer of the time. This is a book to read and read again, because the style is so beautiful and it’s so detailed that I believe each reading brings out new insights and emotions. Of the three Brontë sisters, she is my favourite. Here’s a quote from the book,

‘There is such a thing as looking through a person's eyes into the heart, and learning more of the height, and breadth, and depth of another's soul in one hour than it might take you a lifetime to discover, if he or she were not disposed to reveal it, or if you had not the sense to understand it.’

December 23rd

Aprons and Silverspoons by Molly Moran

A lovely and heart-warming story about a woman who worked as a scullery maid, then kitchen maid, and finally cook for the gentry in the 1930s. Her funny, smart and original personality pops out of each page and it is impossible not to love her. Loving to cook and bake myself, I really enjoyed reading about all the tricks, recipes and workways of the time. Nowadays we are all stressed out and feel like we work too much, but it’s nothing compared to what they did in the last centuries. Adorable. Here’s a quote from the book,

‘When people think of domestic servants they often think of butlers and housemaids and housemaids and imagine it to be hard work. No one ever thinks of the poor scullery maid. A scullery maid, otherwise known as a skivvy, was the lowest position possible in a house. You were the youngest, the lowest paid, you worked the longest hours and you spent most of the time on your hands and knees, scrubbing. You were even a skivvy for the servants. You are literally the bottom of the heap and regarded as such by everyone else above you.’

December 24th

The Laws of spirit by Dan Millman

An educational and inspiring tale about the author and his encounter with a mysterious woman sage in the mountains, who teaches him important truths for living in alignment with the universal laws that govern our lives. Dan Millman is the author of the bestselling book and film, Way of the Peaceful Warrior. This is a wonderful Christmas gift for the people we love and want to live a more fulfilling and purposeful life. Here’s a quote from the book,

‘Process transforms any journey into a series of small steps, taken one by one, to reach any goal. Process transcends time, teaches patience, rests on a solid foundation of careful preparation, and embodies trust in our unfolding potential.’

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