review: body positive power | where has this book been my entire life?

body positive powerTitle: Body Positive Power
Author: Megan Jayne Crabbe
Published in 2017 by Vermilion
Genre: nonfiction
Rating: ★★★★★ – a new favorite

We’ve been convinced that happiness is something that only comes once we hit that goal weight, get those washboard abs, shrink ourselves down and change every part of ourselves. We believe that our bodies are the problem, but the truth is that our bodies are not the problem. How we’ve been taught to see them is the problem… it’s time for us all to stop believing the lies, and take our power back.

With her inimitable flair, whip-smart wit and kickass attitude, Megan argues for a new way of seeing ourselves, and a world where every body is celebrated. Where there is no such thing as a ‘bikini body diet’ and 97% of women don’t hate the way they look. 

A powerful call to arms as much as it is inspirational and practical, this book is the life-changing answer you’ve been looking for.

my thoughts on - review black (1)

At the start of the year, I was having a rough time with my body image. I didn’t feel happy in my body, didn’t feel beautiful, and felt like I needed to hide. I don’t know what sparked the sudden increase in body image issues, but it was having a severe effect on my mood and life. I felt down so often, and didn’t want to go out. One of my bestest friends recommended me this book, and I decided to give it a try. It’s not like I had much to lose, right? I listened to the audiobook of Body Positive Power, and I can’t even properly portray how much Megan helped me. I know I’ll buy a physical copy of the book someday, so I can read it again and mark the parts most helpful to me.

I’ve been following Megan on instagram for a long time, and she has helped transform my feed into a positive space, rather than one based on guilt and envy. I knew she had written a book, and had added it to my to-read list ages ago, but for some reason never picked it up. I’m glad Inge reminded me of its existence, and urged me to read it.

Ever since reading this book, I’ve been doing so much better. I’ve started to love my body once again, even though I still have days where my confidence takes a dive. I’ve started to buy more colorful clothing again, clothes I’ve always wanted to wear instead of those I felt like I should. I’m smiling again, going out with friends more, and doing things I’ve been putting off for ages.

I can’t thank this book enough. While not everything in it applied to me, obviously, I still found every sentence Megan write helpful. No matter what your situation is, or how you feel about your body, I think you could gain something from this reading experience. 

If you’re worried about some of Megan’s experiences triggering you, especially with regards to eating disorders, you should know that she included content warnings throughout the book. If a particular passage that could be triggering to some comes up, she includes a warning first, and states where you can start reading again if you need to skip it.


I think everyone should read this book. Just saying. No matter how you feel about your body, you could gain something from Body Positive Power

Review: Night | a testimony everyone should read

nightTitle: Night
Author: Elie Wiesel
Translator: Marion Wiesel
Published in 2006 by Hill and Wang (originally published in 1958)
Genre: nonfiction
Rating: 10/10 – a must-read for everyone

Born in the town of Sighet, Transylvania, Elie Wiesel was a teenager when he and his family were taken from their home in 1944 to Auschwitz concentration camp, and then to Buchenwald. Night is the terrifying record of Elie Wiesel’s memories of the death of his family, the death of his own innocence, and his despair as a deeply observant Jew confronting the absolute evil of man. This new translation by his wife and most frequent translator, Marion Wiesel, corrects important details and presents the most accurate rendering in English of Elie Wiesel’s testimony to what happened in the camps and of his unforgettable message that this horror must never be allowed to happen again.

my thoughts on - review black (1)

I feel really weird rating and reviewing a memoir/testimony, but I feel the need to talk about Night anyway. If you’re offended by my 5-star or 10/10 rating because you feel it’s inappropriate to rate books such as this one, please know that I simply do so to provide you all with my thoughts on the book. I want everyone to read this, and the rating is a reflection of that fact.

This is Elie Wiesel’s account of his deportation and life in Auschwitz-Birkenau during WWII. It’s only 120 pages long, but it will stun and paralyze you. I’ve always known about the horrific things that happened in the concentration camps during the second World War, but reading about it from a survivor’s standpoint was difficult and harrowing.

I honestly don’t know how to convince you all to read this if you haven’t done so already, but I have to try anyway. Elie Wiesel talks about the rise of the Nazi party and the rumors they heard in his town in Hungary. Sure, they’d heard about the Germans and their campaign against the Jewish people but never truly considered it a threat. After all, it was far away from their home and had nothing to do with them, right? That attitude, the feeling that everything will be okay and surely nothing will happen to you or your family, really struck me. Isn’t that what the majority of the world is still doing today? The recent rise of fascism isn’t being taken as seriously as it should be.

Yet we were still not worried. Of course we had heard of the Fascists, but it was all in the abstract. It meant nothing more to us than a change of ministry.

Reading about Elie Wiesel’s years in Auschwitz and Birkenau nearly made my cry my eyes out. It’s hard to imagine humans doing this to one another, especially considering it was only around 70 to 80 years ago. In modern times, surely we would not let this happen? But we did. And it’s important to recognize all the little steps that led to the mass murder in concentration camps because that’s the only way we’ll be able to stop this from happening again.

I could not believe that human beings were being burned in our times; the world would never tolerate such crimes…

I immediately annotated my copy of Night, because so many of Elie Wiesel’s words hit me like a brick. I’m sharing some of the sections I highlighted with you today.

Those who kept silent yesterday will remain silent tomorrow.

This may be because the public knows that the number of survivors is shrinking daily, and is fascinated by the idea of sharing memories that will soon be lost. For in the end, it is all about memory, its sources and its magnitude, and, of course, its consequences. […] To forget would be not only dangerous but offensive; to forget the dead would be akin to killing them a second time.

Never shall I forget that smoke.
Never shall I forget the small faces of the children whose bodies I saw transformed into smoke under a silent sky.
Never shall I forget those flames that consumed my faith forever.
Never shall I forget the nocturnal silence that deprived me for all eternity of the desire to live.
Never shall I forget those moments that murdered my God and my soul and turned my dreams to ashes.
Never shall I forget those things, even were I condemned to live as long as God Himself.
Never.

His cold eyes stared at me. At last, he said warily: “I have more faith in Hitler than in anyone else. He alone has kept his promises, all his promises, to the Jewish people.”

Lastly, one of the most important parts of all (at least, to me)…

Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.

My #nonfictionnovember to-read list of possibilities

It’s time for Nonfiction November again! Olive, from abookolive, hosts this reading challenge every year to encourage us all to read more nonfiction books. I absolutely love this readathon because while I have an endless list of nonfiction books I want to read, I never end up doing so. I have a list of books I own either in physical form or on my Kindle to choose from during the next month. To be honest, I might pick a nonfiction book from Scribd or Storytel too, which are audiobook apps.

PAST TIME/PASTIME

The first prompt of the reading month is past time or pastime. You can interpret all of these prompts as you wish, by the way!

For this prompt, I have 4 books to choose from (for now).

I’ve had SPQR by Mary Beard on my Kindle for so long, and I still haven’t finished it. I’m fascinated by the Roman Empire so I don’t understand why I haven’t read this yet. I also recently got a copy of King Leopold’s Ghost by Adam HochschildIf you are unaware, Leopold was the king of Belgium who colonized Congo. I am Belgian, and sad to say that we aren’t taught much about our colonization of Congo in history classes in school. I find that utterly shameful, so I’m hoping to become more knowledgeable on the topic. I could also read The Romanovs: 1613-1918 by Simon Sebag Montefiore, which I’ve been meaning to pick up for ages. All those books could fit for the ‘past time’ prompt.

For the pastime prompt, I could pick up Eat Sweat Play by Anna Kessel, which has been on my to-read list since my friend Ely talked about it. If I’m not mistaken, it’s all about sports and feminism.

SELF/SHELF

I have three books that could fit perfectly for the “self” prompt. The first is The Courage to Be Disliked by Ichiro Kishimi and Fumitake KogaThis just sounds like something I need in order to stop apologizing all the time and stop fearing what other people think of me. I could also read The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck by Sarah Knight. Once again, something I could definitely use. A slightly different perspective for the last one… I might pick up I Am, I Am, I Am by Maggie O’Farrell. I shelved this under “self” because it’s an autobiography.

My previous pick of King Leopold’s Ghost could also work for the “shelf” category because it’s a very recent addition to my shelf. Or SPQR because it’s been on my to-read shelf for ages…

WANDER/WONDER

For “wander” I chose A River in Darkness by Masaji Ishikawa, which is the story of the author’s life in North Korea, his escape, and his repatriation to Japan.

For “wonder” I could go with Muses, Madmen and Prophets by Daniel B. SmithThis is a book about auditory hallucinations through the ages which I guess is something I’ve been intrigued by. Listen, I was curious enough to buy it so I feel like it fits under this category.

MICRO/MACRO

I don’t have any reading plans for this category!


There you have it, my list of possibilities for Nonfiction November! By no means am I planning on reading all of these. I just want to have my pick for the month and see how much I end up reading. It might be just one of them, or three or five. You never know!

5 non-fiction books I really want to read

Today, I’m talking about non-fiction which doesn’t happen very often on my blog. The vast majority of the books I read is fiction, so obviously they are more represented on my blog. Once in a while though, I get really intrigued by the massive amount of non-fiction books that exist. There’s so much knowledge out there for me to gather! Since I’m in one of those moods currently, I thought I’d talk about 5 non-fiction books I really want to buy and read.

Damnation Island: Poor, Sick, Mad, & Criminal in 19th-century New York by Stacy Horn // This is about Roosevelt Island, known as Blackwell Island in the 19th century, where the city would send its ‘insane, indigent, sick and criminal’. I’m curious…

Quackery: A Brief History of the Worst Ways to Cure Everything by Lydia Kang // This sounds both like an incredibly funny and sad read. I think I’ll find it funny what people thought constituted a cure for an illness, but I think I will also feel sad that people were subjected to these worst ways to cure everything.

The Cabaret of Plants: Forty Thousand Years of Plant Life and the Human Imagination by Richard Mabey // The description of this book states that it is a globe-trotting exploration of the relationship between humans and the kingdom of plants. I’m not sure why I’m so interested in this book, but recently I’ve cultivated a desire to learn more about plants, their history, uses, etc. I’m excited to see what this book will teach me!

The Secret Lives of Color by Kassia St. Clair // I am fascinated by colors, their meaning, and their history. This book encompasses the story of 75 unique shades, dyes and hues across fashion and politics, art and war. Doesn’t that sound incredible? I need to get a copy of this as soon as possible.

A Burglar’s Guide to the City by Geoff Manaugh // This book studies architecture from the point of view of someone trying to break in. It states, “Full of real-life heists-both spectacular and absurd-A Burglar’s Guide to the City ensures readers will never enter a bank again without imagining how to loot the vault or walk down the street without planning the perfect getaway.” I feel like I already do that now, after watching Leverage and Now You See Me, so this book sounds fun!


There you have it, 5 non-fiction books I really want to read.
Have you read any of these?

Do you pick up non-fiction every once in a while? 

Review: Every Falling Star | an absolute must read

every falling starEvery Falling Star by Sungju Lee & Susan Elizabeth McClelland
Published: September 13th 2016 by Amulet Books
Genre: non-fiction, memoir/autobiography
Rating: 5/5 stars – ★★★★★

Every Falling Star, the first book to portray contemporary North Korea to a young audience, is the intense memoir of a North Korean boy named Sungju who is forced at age twelve to live on the streets and fend for himself. To survive, Sungju creates a gang and lives by thieving, fighting, begging, and stealing rides on cargo trains.

Sungju richly re-creates his scabrous story, depicting what it was like for a boy alone to create a new family with his gang, his “brothers”; to be hungry and to fear arrest, imprisonment, and even execution. This riveting memoir allows young readers to learn about other cultures where freedoms they take for granted do not exist.

my review

I bought this book in July because it seemed so interesting. It’s a non-fiction book aimed to a young audience, a memoir of a boy’s life in North Korea, an autobiography. I knew I had to read it immediately. I’ve always wanted to learn more about North Korea, but never felt like I could truly trust any sources. After all, people with a different ethnicity or from another country might unwittingly let prejudices and subjectivity slip in. But reading from the perspective of a boy who grew up in North Korea? Yes, that I definitely want to experience.

Introduction

The book starts with two very interesting things: a disclaimer of some sorts, and a brief history of 20th-century Korea.

Some family names have been changed to protect relatives still living in North Korea. The names of my brothers, though, are real, in the hope that they are still alive and will read this book.

Until we meet again.

That reminder alone, that the names of these people have been changed for their own safety, made me realize how dangerous life can be in North Korea. Especially for the family of people who have escaped the country.

The brief history is a great recap for those of us with limited knowledge of Korea’s history, and will help you better understand life in North Korea as Sungju Lee experienced it.

Sungju Lee’s story

Sungju Lee starts his story at the age of 6 -or 7. He’s a little boy living in Pyongyang, the capital, with his parents and dog. His father is a military officer in the Korean People’s Army. They lived a pretty great life: they were never lacking in anything, food was plenty, Sungju went to a good school and a taekwondo sojo after school. He looked up to his idol, Kim Il-sung -their eternal leader.

About three years after Kim Il-sung died, so when Sungju is 10, his life takes a turn. Sungju’s family is sent on a ‘vacation’ to the countryside (Gyeong-seong). His parents don’t want to tell him too much about this vacation or why they have to leave their Pyongyang apartment and belongings behind, because they want to shield him from the truth.

Life in Gyeong-seong isn’t good at all. There’s no money and almost no work to be found, which eventually means no food. His father decides to try and cross the border to China to trade/smuggle and earn money that way, and his mother goes to his aunt to see whether there’s any money or food to be had there. Sungju is left on his own at age 12. That’s when he has to start stealing in order to survive, and when he has to live on the streets. It’s the start of him forming his own ‘gang’ to survive the increasingly more difficult life in North Korea.

My thoughts on his story

I always find it awkward to review autobiographies, because who am I to judge someone’s life? And I feel terrible saying it’s an interesting read, because he actually lived through this. It’s not just a story, it’s someone’s reality. But the fact of the matter is that this is an interesting read.

I learned quite a bit about North Korea I wasn’t aware of. For example, that North Koreans call their country Joseon, after the last and most influential dynasty of Korea. It’s all these little pieces of knowledge that are so hard to find with a country so completely closed off. I’d like to think this book has made me more aware. The hatred and fear of the Americans, Japanese and South-Koreans has been drilled into North-Koreans minds from the get-go.

This story was even more informative because it was told from a child’s point of view at first. Children don’t question the things they’ve been taught all their lives if they don’t have any access to different sources or knowledge. Seeing how Sungju Lee revered his leader and country may seem baffling to us, but it’s all he had ever known.

History -or what I now call propaganda- was often the first, fourth, and final subject of the day, and the lessons almost always began with the same introduction.

This shows how indoctrination truly works, as well as the following passage.

…and oversaw biweekly revealing sessions, in which the class lists the things they had not done right. [….] In these sessions, we also had to condemn our peers for what they did wrong. The goal was to help us become good citizens, of course, and follow the rules of the country.

It’s clear that these sessions are used to showcase one thing: obey the rules, or we will know and condemn you.

It’s easy to overthrow these ideals and thoughts as an outsider. Growing up like this however, I cannot imagine. Even after reading this book and learning so much about him, I could never truly understand.

Another aspect I found very interesting is the clear difference between life in the capital and life in the countryside. Living in Pyongyang is for those good citizens, the military men like Sungju’s father who obey and do not step out of line. Once you do step out of line, you’ll be sent to far less fortunate places. It’s especially interesting because while the divide between rich and poor -favored and unfavored by the leader- is so big, Sungju himself was not even aware of it. As a kid, he had no idea there were people on Joseon who suffered. After all, isn’t this the best country ever? Why would anyone lack in food?

Reading about Sungju’s life on the streets was harrowing. It’s heartbreaking to see what so many children have to do in order to survive. How hard surviving actually is. I know that this doesn’t only happen in North Korea, but reading about it is still difficult. His life as a streetboy and in a gang takes up the majority of this book, I’d say. How quickly his innocence was stolen, and how lesser fortunate boys had never had any to begin with. I can’t really say much about this part of the book, because it’s something you’ll have to read for yourself. I wouldn’t be able to do his experiences justice in this review.

His eventual escape from North Korea happens very late on in the book. It only takes up a very small amount of the book. What receives more emphasis is what he experienced and did with his life after arriving in South-Korea. As a North Korean ‘defector’ and teenager, he felt like people looked down on him. He wasn’t treated as an equal by his classmates in school, and other South-Koreans in general. It’s intriguing to see him deal with the prejudice of his peers.

What struck me most, though, was the part at the end where he talks about what is needed for reunification according to him. He talks about what we, as the West, as China, and as South-Korea have to do to prepare for reunification. He stated that there were nearly 30 000 North Korean defectors in South Korea. That we have to work with them, not isolate them. “If we cannot be their friends, we cannot prepare for reunification.” And the following part too,

“First step: unite all the Koreans within South Korea. Get rid of this mentality that South Koreans are superior and North Koreans are inferior. This cannot solve any problems. Approach each other as friends and learn.

Final words

My review for this book is so long already, so I’ll keep it short here. This book gave me so much to think about. It taught me a lot about North Korea, a country and people I know very little about.

It’s beautiful, it’s heartbreaking and absolutely devastating. It’s someone’s life and experiences. And I think we would all benefit from reading his book. Please go and read this book. It’s aimed at a young audience and almost reads like a novel, so don’t be intimidated by the fact that it’s a memoir. 

 

 

Some of my favorite non-fiction reads

I’ve mentioned a few times now that I’m not really reading anything at the moment. I’m probably in the worst reading slump I have ever been in (it’s been about 3 months now) and it doesn’t look like it’s about to end. I’m especially sad about this because I really wanted to participate in Non Fiction November again. Since I can’t do that, I thought I’d just make a post and video on my favorite non fiction reads so far. 

Quiet by Susan Cain // This may well be my favorite non fiction book ever. Mostly because I read it at the time in my life when I needed it most. This book is about introverts, and how we can thrive in a western society that values extroverts. At university, I really struggled with balancing my health and what I wanted with my friends and what everyone else was doing. Reading this helped me understand what being an introvert is, and how that isn’t a bad thing or something to be ashamed of. 

The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin // I received this book as a gift from Inge (thank you!) and I really enjoyed it. I do think that Gretchen Rubin is privileged, which is why she was able to do this whole year-long happiness project in the first place. But I really liked some of the things she said, like making an interest-list so you can keep track of every little thing that piques your interest (and look into it later without forgetting).

The Upside of Stress by Kelly McGonigal // I read this book because I listened to her Ted Talk (which I’d highly recommend you do as well). The idea that changing your mindset on stress could be beneficial for your body and mind is intriguing to me. 

We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie // This is only 50 pages, which means that there’s no excuse not to read it. It’s such an important read!

The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg // I like reading about things like habits! I’m always trying to improve my routines and habits, so I can lead a healthier life. This was a really interesting and easy read, that I’d highly recommend. 

The Best We Could Do by Thi Bui // This is a graphic memoir on Thi Bui and her family. It portrays her family’s journey from war-torn Vietnam to the United States. First of all, the artwork here is beautiful. And then there’s the story. I don’t really know much about Vietnam, so this memoir taught me a lot. There’s a lot of pain and hurt in this story, so be prepared for that when you pick it up.


I haven’t read that much non fiction, but these are some of my favorites so far. Have you read any of these? Which non fiction books are your faves? 

Top Ten Tuesday: Non-Fiction Books I Recently Added to My TBR

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. Each week I will make a list of 10 books, authors or other bookish things surrounding a certain topic. This week,  we’re talking books from X genre you’ve recently added to your to-read list. I went with non-fiction, so let’s get into it! 

Unfiltered by Lily Collins // I adore Lily Collins, so obviously I had to add her book to my to-read list. I also like the concept of it: her just being honest about her life, the things she has done and whether she regrets any of it.

Eat Sweat Play by Anna Kessel // I think I saw this on Ely’s Goodreads? Anyway, it sounded really interesting! I think it’s about women in sports. I’ve been meaning to pick sports back up this year, so I’m intrigued.

Worth It by Amanda Steinberg // From what I’ve gathered, this is a book about finance – more specifically, your finances (instead of just the general economy). This sounds quite interesting, and I can wait to see what she has to say.

Unbowed by Wangari Maathai // This book is about Wangari Maathai’s life as a political activist, feminist, and environmentalist in Kenya! Sounds like something I need to read, and someone I need to know more about.

Body Positive Power by Megan Jayne Crabbe // I love Megan, and I’ve been following her Instagram account for ages. I immediately added her book to my to-read list after the announcement came! I can’t wait to read it in the fall. 

Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil DeGrasse Tyson // I don’t need to explain this one. It looks like an epic non-fiction book.

The Silk Roads by Peter Frankopan // I don’t think I have to explain what this is about? I have a very limited knowledge of the Silk Roads though, so this seems like the perfect read for me!

Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World by Jace Weatherford // Again, I feel like the title is pretty self-explanatory. I definitely need to brush op on my knowledge of Genghis Khan because I know only a basic amount.

The Inheritance by Niki Kapsambelis // This is about a family’s struggle dealing with Alzheimer’s disease. I’ve been interested in dementia and Alzheimer’s for quite a few years now, and have faced it in my family. So I want to read about a family who is going through this.

The Polygamist’s Daughter by Anna LeBaron // I am weirdly fascinated by cults, mostly because I just don’t understand. So I’m always interested in reading about someone’s experience with them. I find this especially intriguing because Anna was only a child.


YAY for my first Top Ten Tuesday in quite a while! So those are 10 non-fiction books I’ve added to my to-read list lately. Have you read any of these? Which non-fiction books did you add to your TBR recently?