As restrictions are once again introduced across Germany, it’s time to take a break and slow down. It’s hard for our brains to comprehend the situation, so instead of allowing ourselves to get stressed, we’re using this time to curl up and escape in a good book.
Founder Emily McDonnell is a self confessed book worm (aka a Leseratte!), having gotten into university to study English Literature by saying “I love words” during her interview. With a bursting bookshelf, she’s taken the time to share her recommended reading for the November lockdown, which will soothe your mind and allow you to escape into another world.
The Art of Travel by Alain de Botton
It might seem weird to begin the list with a book of essays about the power of travel (and how and why to do it), but de Botton’s writing is beautiful, funny and thought provoking.
My favourite essay is the one on that feeling of anticipation we get when we’re about to travel somewhere new, and - how when we arrive - our preconceived ideas about the place are crushed by the reality of it.
It’s not a bad thing, it’s just a reminder that the world cannot possibly be everything we expect it to be, but that makes it no less wonderful and precious.
“The coconut trees were throwing a gentle shade, the criss-cross patterns of their palms occasionally rearranging themselves in the afternoon breeze. But there was no pleasure for me in such beauty. I had enjoyed nothing aesthetic or material since the struggle over the cremes caramel several hours before.”
You can read an extract from the book here.
A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway
Hemmingway is the author that made me fall in love with travel writing, and this memoir, written during the last years of his life, is one of his most incredible works (in my opinion!).
A Moveable Feast is an exceptionally powerful and reflective take on his time in Paris in the 20s amongst some of the world’s most renowned bohemiens - think F. Scott Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound, James Joyce and Pablo Picasso.
The book is an elegant portrayal of a colourful life full of highs and lows, in which he reflects on writing, war, friendships, love and loss.
“Drinking wine was not a snobbism nor a sign of sophistication nor a cult; it was as natural as eating and to me as necessary...”
Shark's Fin and Sichuan Pepper: A sweet-sour memoir of eating in China by Fuchsia Dunlop
Two of my favourite things in life are travel and food, and Dunlop’s memoir focuses on both the landscape and food of China (with a focus on Sichuanese cuisine). The narrative weaves historical tidbits with anecdotal tales of the people she meets and food she eats, and is both engrossing and emotive.
My mouth watered for large parts of the book, so one of the best bits is the inclusion of recipes. I’ve tried making the ‘fish-fragrant aubergine’ dish (which is confusingly actually vegetarian) a few times, and it’s delicious.
“What we eat is an essential part of who we are and how we define ourselves.”
The recipe for the fish-fragrant aubergine can be viewed here.
The Emperor's Babe by Bernardine Evaristo
A book written in modern poetry verses and set in ancient Roman London. It sounded like a tough read (and perhaps a little dull), but I could have been more wrong!
I really lost myself in this vivid, lively other world and was saddened when the book ended (I read it in an afternoon!).
Feisty, precocious Zuleika, the daughter of Sudanese immigrant becomes the restless teenage bride of a rich Roman businessman. She craves passion and excitement, and - naturally - once it arrives, romance and drama ensue.
“I held on to my seat, as we raced
over the wild sloping grassland of Mayfair,
cut across the wheatfields of Hyde Park,
passed a sleeping hamlet of mud huts”
The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson
After being fed up of being stuck inside (who can relate?), 100-year-old Allan Karlsson flees from his impending birthday, acquires a suitcase from a bus stop, and ends up being chased down by the police.
There are lots of twists and turns, bizarre characters and quirky situations. The plot is creative and there are smart references to historical events throughout. This is the perfect light lockdown read that will fill your heart with warmth.
“People could behave how they liked, but Allan considered that in general it was quite unnecessary to be grumpy if you had the chance not to.”
Zen: The Art of Simple Living by Shunmyo Masuno
Written by the head priest of a 450-year-old Zen Buddhist temple in Japan (who also happens to be an award-winning Zen garden designer for clients all over the world and a professor of environmental design at one of Japan's leading art schools), these 100 mini essays are easy to dip in and out of.
Each is a clear, practical and easy to follow lesson about how to apply the essence of Zen to modern life. From learning how to exhale deeply to eliminate negative emotions to understanding how to arrange your house to clear your thinking, this is what we all need right now to help us cope with the uncertain and anxious energy in the world around us.
“There’s a saying that originates in en: ichi-go iche-e, or ‘once in a lifetime’. It means we should treasure each and every encounter, because we may meet a person only once in our lifetime.”
Psst! If you need a break from you book, head over to the collection pages and browse places to stay in Germany: we promise you'll be daydreaming in now time!