Sunday, January 8, 2017

New Year's Reading

I've started off my new year's reading very similar to what became my go-to books last year: nonfiction memoirs by female authors. The last book I read last year (November and December reading will be up, er, soon-ish), was Such a Pretty Fat by Jen Lancaster, and the first book I read this year was--dum dum dum--Jeneration X by Jen Lancaster. But seriously. My fiance doesn't even know her name, but he's like "Oh no, are you reading that person who makes you laugh all the time again!?"

My second book this year was The Year of Living Danishly by Helen Russell. I'm interested (me and the rest of the world) in the Danish concept of hygge (I first saw it on the Konmari Instagram feed). It fits since winter is my least favorite season, and I'm sick of being somewhat sad for 4-5 months of the year. This winter has been mild, although there's currently an inch of snow and it's well below freezing. Still, the concept of making winter a "cozy" time to enjoy family, candles, blankets, and books appeals more than my previous strategy of telling myself that at least each day after Dec. 21st is longer!

I also received another hygge book (and a couple more are in the mail, ahem), The Art of Hygge by Elias Larsen and Jonny Jackson. It was mostly a how-to hygge guide with lots of hygge imagery: I'm looking forward to indulgent hot chocolate, decorative jars, and briefly considered making tea cozies out of old socks. Russell's book, however, was much more than just hygge, although it does provide a context for the concept. Russell, a British journalist, moves to Denmark when her husband gets a year-long job at Lego. She decides to spend the year investigating why Danes are reportedly the happiest people in the world.

One of the reasons I like Russell's memoir so much is because it isn't as memoir-y as others I've read. Don't get me wrong; I've started to become obsessed with the minutiae of other grown-up women's lives, but I also like to learn about things other than adulting.
Russell covers her daily life in Denmark month-by-month, but she incorporates a lot of research, primarily conversations with experts. I feel like I learned a lot about Danish society, and not just the shiny bits. She discusses gender (in) equality, domestic violence, and (copious) alcohol consumption. After a year, of course, she doesn't know everything, and much of her conversation is reflective of her UK nationality, as well as a clear bias toward a UK and US audience. As a US reader, I couldn't tell if a lot of her slang was just British or idiosyncratic to her; I'm considering reading it again just for that. I also found it interesting that she emphasized dollars and US comparisons so much. I wonder if she ever lived in the US or worked assignments there. Or maybe it was just the publisher's appeal to the US audience.

I've still got that new year's rush of feeling excited about reading, and now I'm also excited for a cozy winter ahead. Next up: Lab Girl by Hope Jahren.

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