In Spring I promised myself: less technology, more books. I love reading, I can inhale words like a hungry caterpillar and delightedly find myself on adventures conjured up by creative minds with glee. So I cancelled my Netflix membership and browsed my rolling list of book recommendations to indulge myself with a Book Depository book-buying spree. Et voila: here’s my summer 2021 ‘best of’ reading list:
Give me a daughter of Poseidon, one of the most beautiful nymphs in the sea, turn her into a witch on a deserted island and have her make love with the hottest of Greek Gods and turn men into pigs and you have got my heart. I feel such an affinity with this story, and beyond that, the emphatically magical storytelling of Madeleine Miller. I ended up thinking in her poetic prose for days after the book ended and I just wanted more. One of my intentions of this summer of reading was to find writers who really know how to use words to evoke depth and emotion so I may learn from them and anything Madeleine Miller delivers.
So much so I also read this one by her which is equally as mesmerising and fascinating because in this retold story Achilles is gay (and not a rapist of women) and in love with a very humble, quiet, lowly man expanding my horizons of all the ways that love can be experienced, felt and seen. All the ancient mythical innuendos captivate my imagination.
As a very European white woman, I can’t imagine what it might feel like to be judged by the colour of my skin the way that many people are, so when The Vanishing Half was recommended to me I devoured it. A fictional story about two twins, black, who choose different life paths and how the colour of their skin and life choices affect their overall happiness and experiences leaving me with a fascination with how we all sometimes try to be someone or something we are not. And how sometimes we gain something from it, and sometimes we lose ourselves in this effort to reinvent ourselves.
I can’t stop thinking about this book… It’s an autobiography but challenges and breaks all writing rules and at times touches on topics that are really hard to read: rape, child abuse, drug addiction, but with the fluid finesse on someone who has felt deeply and reflected on the gifts of these hardships with ingenuity. If you want to expand your ability to feel big hard and beautiful feelings and read unconventional hard-hitting stunning writing, you need to read this book. I loved it. I am going to read it again. Soon.
Something that people are often surprised by is the fact that I love science fiction. Essentially my dream life is a science fiction period drama. Leave The World Behind is another book addressing modern topics: race, emotion, class, belief systems wrapped up in a science fiction plot that is utterly compelling. Nothing actually happens in the book except for a strange loud noise and some human speculation but I was terrified (in a really satisfying way) about 99% of the time.
Ursula Le Guin is the most fascinating author… the way her imagination and brain works completely fascinates me and this story is the best blend of science fiction, romance, psychology and post-apocalyptic possibilities I’ve ever read. Essentially it’s about a man who changes the world when he dreams and his psychologist, who tries to use his clients power for seeming good but in effect evil. I don’t want to divulge too much but rcommend it if you enjoy intricate, mind-bending, dream-based literature.
While I don’t have ‘getting pregnant’ forecasted, I am wholly committed to overall health which includes hormonal and fertility. I want my body humming at its highest best capacity at all times and having dealt with some hormonal issues in the past I wanted to learn about what would be recommended to someone who was considering making a baby inside their body. Awakening Fertility is a beautifully put together book accessing and compiling ancient wisdom from across cultures to apply to our modern world. It’s easy to read and has just the right amount of depth with a nod towards psychology and spirituality and how our beliefs and emotions shape our health as much as foods and physical practices
I’m leaving the best to last… My friends started rolling their eyes every time I referenced Sand Talk as I did so so so often, so much so it even inspired this piece of poetry. It’s one of the most profound books I have ever read and when I say read, I mean read read… going over pages and paragraphs over and over again to melt them into my bones. Written by an Australian aboriginal university professor on how indigenous thinking can save the world he ushers ideas that I feel are keenly familiar but absolutely ambiguous in the modern world as I know it. I don’t want to give you any expectations because I want it to grasp you by the heart the way it did me and show you another way of living: the new way. Also, the writing style is non-linear which make my brain feel like “finally!, you write/speak in the way I think/feel!!!’ — this book should be required reading for every human being. Please, read it. And then let’s talk about it and apply it.
In late July of 2015 I was sitting in the little bungalow I had rented for a month in Ubud, Bali unpacking my bags (again) and placing my things around the room to make it feel like home. As I set up my mobile office: laptop, pens, 6 notebooks… I giggled at myself. Who the fuck travels the world with 6 notebooks, I thought. I do. But this is ridiculous. There has to be a better way.
But I had a system. A system that required that many notebooks. I started researching and landed on the only solution that seemed plausible: a Filofax divider that I could translate my seven notebooks into one, organised, systematic method. I wrote about that system and how it worked in an article titled: My pretty peach planner has revolutionised my life. It’s a love story.
That article received a lot of traction, excitement and engagement with countless emails asking if I could recreate my system and make it available. I liked the idea. I had no idea how to start. I’d always had an online, non-physical, location-independent business. How and where do you even begin with creating a product.
Over the years my planning, manifesting and journaling method evolved but I kept using the same old Filofax and refilling the pages every 6 months until it started to look scruffy and crack at the edges. Over those same years, I would sometimes lose myself in a rabbit hole of research on developing my method into a physical product. Every time I ended up on the Alibaba site looking at stationary factories based in China. It was disappointing and not what I wanted. I wanted to feel good about what I was going to create and put out in the world and this plastic mass-production option seemed to be the only one available to me and never felt right.
One day in mid-2019, while I was living in Mexico, the nudge to revisit the idea became stronger and stronger and again I spent countless hours looking for a small, kind and ethical printing house, preferably in Europe, that would take on my little dream. Finally, after many, many emails I received a response. After that everything fell into place with such fluidity and ease it was as if all I had to do was hold space for the vision.
The dream of sharing my life-organising and self-reflection method took on a life of its own: the name arose from a discussion with a friend, the change from Filofax to organic linen hardcover came from the desire to limit the use of plastics, the evolved version of my system was mapped out across many, many google docs and tenderly handed to a designer to turn into the vision I held in my heart for her. I share the story of this birthing of ideas in a podcast interview on living an intuitive life on ‘La Luna Eres Tu’ here:
5 years from its original conception, 1 year after that dream was put into motion, on an unusually hot June day a big delivery truck pulled up outside my Brighton flat with a palette of brown boxes: the first 500 Plannhers arrived earthside and into my little hands. With the help of my neighbours whom I later rewarded with chocolate and wine, we shlepped those boxes up into my flat filling up an entire section of my living room.
I spent the next 6 months going to the post office every day sending Plannhers to every corner of the world with so much love and gratitude. There’s nothing like the feeling of knowing that something you have made is going to live, love and support another soul in another corner of the universe.
Plannher continued to organically grow. Two weeks ago a new and edited version landed with two new colourways, and its own home with a website out in the world plus a fulfilment warehouse that posts each order out on my behalf. Our beautiful Instagram community is steadily growing and I have hired my first employee to manage customer service and marketing for the brand. It has been such an incredible journey and a powerful reminder that when you stay with what is and allow the unfolding of things dreams do become things.
Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for your love and support with this dream of mine. It means everything to me.
When I was a little girl I used to voraciously devour books as fast as I could, losing myself in their fantasy worlds to escape the seeming mundanity of my own. I couldn’t wait to become a grown-up so I could read all the books in the world. Over the years my reading changed from fantastical to educational and I rarely let myself loose myself in the inspired world of an imaginary land. And then 2020 happened, the country I lived in went into lockdown for 3 months, and I suddenly had long stretches of time to immerse myself in any genre of reading that warmed my heart. These are the 9 books that allowed me to traverse universes and inquiry beyond the 4 walls of my little seaside flat.
NORMAL PEOPLE Normal People has been lavished with praise from critics, longlisted for the Man Booker prize and turned into a television series that I inhaled weeks after reading the book. Sally Rooney writes with such precision that leaves you feeling raw, touched, vulnerable, seen and slightly uncomfortable all at the same time. A tale of a modern-day romance with all the awkwardness and confusion and sensitivity of two people willing to share their hearts with one another. I love the way that the entire novel runs in a fluid way with no quotation marks when characters speak so you have to use your own judgement between their thoughts and the words that are spoken out loud. I personally loved and could fully relate.
THE MOON SISTER
There’s this dreamy, ethereal quality to The Moon Sister that completely captivated me. In some ways, I felt like Lucinda Riley was writing my own story and history. Adopted by one man – Pa Salt – and raised together as sisters, each book focuses on one of the girls as they discover their ancestry and what part of the world they came from. The Moon Sister is Tiggy’s story. You’ll go from Geneva to Scotland to Spain with Tiggy as she discovers her heritage. It’s a very light and playful read that offers true escapism.
WHERE THE CRAWDADS SING
I think this is the best fiction book I’ve picked up due to raving recommendations and read in years, so much so I sent a copy of it to my best friend who doesn’t read much but devoured Where The Crawdads Sing. It was the first few pages, where my heart falls in love with that little 4-year-old, abandoned by her mother as she walks down that dusty road, that captured me. I had to know what happens to that little girl. She of course turns into a beautiful woman, entirely led by and in tune with the natural world around her, astounding in her astuteness who falls in love with the boy who taught her to read. And then… unexpectedly ends up on trial for murder. I wish I could unread it and read it again. It’s that good.
MAN’S SEARCH FOR MEANING
I had been meaning to read Man’s Search For Meaning to learn and understand trauma and how we navigate severe trials in life from a psychological perspective for a while and then decided it was the perfect audiobook to accompany me on my lengthy pandemic-inspired walks during the lockdown. It was better than I expected. The personal story of Victor Frankl is completely captivating as is the observational and almost detached perspective he tells it from narrating descriptions of life in Nazi death camps and giving lessons for spiritual survival. It turns out that the desire we all have to give things meaning is precisely what allows us to survive and even thrive our way out of tragic experiences. If you enjoy really good storytelling, combined with psychology, spirituality and human behaviour it’s such a valuable insight into actively choosing your own perspective and meaning in life.
THE MAGDALENE MANUSCRIPT
I’ve mentioned The Magdalene Manuscript previously in this voice note I recorded on sacred sex etc… and with all this extra time on my hands decided to revisit it. Reading the story of Magdalene from the perspective of her being a high priestess who offered men an opportunity to activate and connect with their own spiritual depth through sexual intimacy while I myself was exploring those aspects of myself felt profound. It’s one of those books that must call to you and draw you in but if you feel it’s for you, it has treasures, wisdom and insights beyond any I’ve found in more conventional books on sex, intimacy and the spiritual depths we can reach in union with another.
THE BODY KEEPS THE SCORE
I love The Body Keeps The Score because it affirms so many of my own experiences, observations with clients and hunches yet I’ve never completed reading it so I started again this year. I must confess, I still haven’t finished it (still) but some books, like this one, you are meant to taste, savour and integrate slowly. The subject of embodied trauma and how we can heal it carries tremendous amounts of depth and can be triggering for all of us, so it takes time to move through the molasses of emotions and responses to rise up in response to this smart, inclusive and well-researched body of work.
THE POWER OF NOW
I first picked up this book when I was 24, over 10 years ago, when I was going through an inner transformation and awakening that I thought no one could understand. Until I read The Power Of Now and everything finally made sense. Reading it again during lockdown felt like slipping into a warm, comfortable bath and offered me a contrasting insight into the woman I was when I first read the book and how I have grown and gained self-confidence in my inner wisdom since. A practical handbook to living a spiritual life deeply seated in the present moment, with truly simple guidelines I think this should be required reading for anyone wanting to access and anchor themselves in the now.
CITY OF GIRLS
Another audiobook designated for long walks along the sea or up into the hills of Brighton’s hinterland I literally couldn’t get enough. “Life is both fleeting and dangerous, and there is no point in denying yourself pleasure, or being anything other than what you are.” City Of Girls is told via 95-year-old Vivian’s life story. She says she is good at two things in life and that’s sex and sewing. The rest is a colourful life in New York filled with all the adventures a young woman can muster amid showgirls and theatre personalities. The audiobook narrator Blair Brown is incredible in her ability to do all the voices and personalities. I would listen to it again on a long road trip as it is light enough to leave you feeling carefree with enough detail to captivate.
While I have never been a fan of Jessica Simpson I was certainly curious what she could possibly write about her life in a way that would have my good friend and incredible journalist Rosie, recommend it to me. Open Book turns out to be an endearingly vulnerable memoir about the challenges of life, family, fame, beauty and body image, and everything else you can imagine a woman in her position experiencing. I expected to endure it but actually loved it and laughed out loud many times as I listened to her narrate her story on Audible.
Plus 3 books I read or tried to read but couldn’t: Dune which is coming out as a film (thank the gods) later this year because even though I love science fiction, this was really, really hard to get through even the first 100 pages so I gave up, The Signature Of All Things that I feel like should have been good because Elizabeth Gilbert is a genius but was painful and I just couldn’t relate to an old, ugly virgin and Untamed that I bought upon a recommendation from a friend but feel repelled by every time I pick it up so haven’t even read the first page of it.