The age old questions

TRAVELS WITH EPICURUS: MEDITATIONS FROM A GREEK ISLAND ON THE PLEASURES OF OLD AGE BY DANIEL KLEIN

EPICURUS

This is a charming, escapist travelogue memoir by best-selling author Daniel Klein. We follow him as he packs a suitcase full of books by his favoured philosophers (Epicurus, Sartre) and travels to the Greek Island of Hydra to contemplate life’s big questions. Hanging out with the local old folk and immersing himself in ancient philosophies, and even the lyrics of Frank Sinatra, Klein tries to figure out whether it is better to try to remain forever young or to grow old authentically.

This is a guide to living well in old age for the modern age. At a time when the world is youth-obsessed and where many try to delay the arrival of old age by remaining active and setting goals, this books offers a welcome alternative. Epicurus believed that old age was the pinnacle of life, the best it gets, once we free ourselves from the prison of everyday affairs. In going from forever young to old old age, Klein, like Epicurus, believes that we miss out on the chance to be a fulfilled old person “docked in the harbour, having safeguarded his true happiness.”

As Klein adds: “Old people do not have to fret about their next move because the Chess game is over. They are free to think about any damned thing they choose.” Sitting, thinking, meditating and just being idle is advocated throughout this lovely book. Continue reading

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Giving your city a break

MINDFULNESS & THE ART OF URBAN LIVING: DISCOVERING THE GOOD LIFE IN THE CITY

BY ADAM FORD

This is a wonderful short book that I read in just a couple of hours. Like many of us city dwellers, I regularly find myself falling out of love with my surroundings. The traffic, noise, pollution, neighbours, anti-social behaviour – the list goes on, if we let it. Adam Ford’s book tackles breaking this cycle of negative thoughts about the city we live in and embracing our urban lives instead.

“Mindfulness,” he says, “is a way of living, a way of knowing oneself and the world. It involves taking stock regularly of the way things are, living consciously, becoming more aware and realistic about life.”

He encourages us to apply this approach to the way we live our lives in cities throughout the world by making time to think about ourselves in the here and now and to notice more, to look for the peace and for the beauty when moving around our neighbourhoods. Ford explores creative uses of small spaces in cities with inspiring ideas for urban gardens, allotments and even bee-keeping. He asks the reader to look around again at the wealth of parks, gardens, galleries, buildings and vistas that we may have taken for granted or been too busy rushing past to have ever really observed properly. Continue reading

American Interior

AMERICAN INTERIOR BY GRUFF RHYS

 American Int cover

Being the supremely talented artist he is, Gruff Rhys hasn’t just written a book called American Interior, he has also made a full length album, an app and a movie to accompany this great adventure story.

His multi-media package documents the odysseys of both Gruff and his distant relative, Welsh farmhand John Evans across the American plains, two centuries apart.

In 1792 a 22 year old Evans from Snowdonia travelled to America to find out whether there was, as many thought, a Welsh speaking Native American tribe – the Madogwys – still walking the Great Plains.

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In the summer of 2012 a fascinated Gruff set off to retrace the explorer’s route into the American Interior by means of an “Investigative Concert Tour” – a series of solo gigs performed along the way with just an acoustic guitar, PowerPoint presentation and the star of the show, a 3ft high felt avatar of John Evans. Continue reading

The Almost Nearly Perfect People

THE ALMOST NEARLY PERFECT PEOPLE: THE TRUTH ABOUT THE NORDIC MIRACLE

BY MICHAEL BOOTH

The Almost book cover

 

The last few years has seen our enthusiasm for all things Nordic grow. From their bleak television dramas to their chunky knitwear, it seems we can’t get enough of the Scandinavians.

In this timely book, writer Michael Booth leaves his adopted home in Denmark to travel through the five Nordic countries to discover the truth behind the myths and successes of these northern folk.

  • Why are the Danes the happiest people on earth when they pay the highest taxes?
  • Why do 54% of Icelanders believe in the existence of Elves?
  • Why do the Finns believe all Swedish men to be gay?
  • And most worryingly, why have 5% of Danish men had sex with an animal?!

Booth doesn’t just present us with the answers to these questions and other interesting facts, he writes with humour and gentle teasing about his findings. Some have accused him of being snotty, but I don’t agree, he’s just offering his opinion based on what he experiences from the point of view of his own liberal outlook. Fantastically readable and very funny, there is nothing to skip over here, a book packed with fascinating content. Continue reading