During my first year of living abroad – or at least, the first six months – I threw myself into everything. Going for drinks, pub quizzes, weekends away, a sports team, eating out every night… sounds great, right? But after a while, I started to burn out. I’d believed that the only way I could make and keep new friends in my new city was to hang out all the time, and it got too much. I realised I needed more time to myself, at home, and now I feel like I’ve found a good balance. I’m enjoying reading, writing, watching Netflix and just chilling out.
So, I’ve been enjoying taking recommendations of shows, books and podcasts from friends, family and online. The wonderful blog Daisybutter shares regular Read, Watch and Listen lists and I’ve been inspired to start sharing my own. I hope you enjoy some of these recs!
I’ve been reading…
quite a lot this month! Four books so far, probably five by the end of the month, and I’ve been loving it. Most of them have been read alongside friends, Oli or my parents who have been visiting, resulting in interesting conversations about them. I’m aiming to continue a high level of reading this year as I’ve enjoyed it so much this month.
The Pisces – Melissa Border
I read this for my work’s Book Club, and I was the one who suggested it as our next read. If you’ve read it, you’ll know that it’s probably not the type of book you’d normally recommend reading and discussing with a bunch of colleagues! I couldn’t decide if I liked this book or not, but it did raise questions in my mind and surprisingly I enjoyed chatting about it. There’s some graphic eroticism, and it’s easy to focus on that rather than the underlying emotion and fragility of the main character, Lucy.
First, They Killed My Father – Loung Ung
I’m writing this in Cambodia, sitting on a beautiful terrace overlooking forest and sea. Later in the week, we go to Phnom Penh, where we’ll be visiting the Killing Fields and Genocide Museum. I bought this book last year, and decided I needed to read it before coming to Cambodia. I’m glad I did.
Ung gives her account of growing up in a Cambodia ruled by the Khmer Rouge during the 1970s, a regime responsible for one of the worst genocides last century. As a 5 year old, she and her family were forced to reach their comfortable, middle-class life in the city and found themselves struggling to survive in various villages and work camps. It made me cry, but gave a real, emotional but also informative account of the book.
My parents and Oli all read the book this month too, and we’ve had different perspectives on it. Oli had just finished Yathay’s Stay Alive, My Son, another account of the regime, and preferred the writing style of that book. Dad wanted to know what happened to the Ung family in later history and immediately started Ung’s second book, After They Killed My Father. Both books have been added to my 2020 To Read list.
This Is Going To Hurt – Adam Kay
Most of you have probably heard of this book, which is Kay’s diary of his training years as a junior doctor. Its reviews have been so positive, so I was a little underwhelmed. That being said, it’s honest, it’s funny and it’s a candid glimpse into life on the wards. I couldn’t do that job, and I have real respect for anyone who does. It’s a shame the UK Government make it so hard.
Sisterhood: A Love Letter To The Women Who Have Shaped Me – Daisy Buchanan
Despite the number of newspapers and magazines on Buchanan’s CV, I’ve been very much oblivious to her existence before hearing about and reading this book. Now, I hope to read much of what she writes going forward. Sisterhood is her memoir exploring life with 5 sisters, but it’s a commentary on my generation too. The childhood references are relatable, as are her descriptions of the anxieties of your 20s. The book made me laugh, made me cry and made me feel seen, despite the fact I’m an only child. It also made me really wish I had a sister.
I’ve been watching…
I’ve been watching Atypical on Netflix, all about Sam, a teen with autism. It’s a comedy, and Sam’s ‘homie’ Zahid had me laughing out loud. A lot. But it’s also insightful and interesting. It’s taught me a lot about autism, far beyond my teacher training, yet the show does this in a light-hearted, feel good way that’s easy to watch and enjoy.
Another Netflix comedy. Ol and I absolutely loved Season 1 and have been impatiently waiting for the next since we binge watched all of the first last year. We only managed a couple of episodes before we came away, and are saving the rest til we get back. I’m excited for Sunday evening already!
I’ve been listening…
to not very much, to be honest. Most of the Podcasts I listened to last year had a break over Christmas and I haven’t got back into them really. However, one I enjoyed while we were in NZ was Tim Harford’s Cautionary Tales. It is honestly like listening to a bedtime story as a child, and his voice is perfect for it. The true stories are interesting and well put together, and he makes links to real life. It’s definitely worth a listen.
Music wise, it’s been another month of Dermot Kennedy. I need to expand my music interests but he’s just so easy to listen to. If you don’t know him, find him on Spotify. Now. You’re welcome.
If you have any recommendations of Dermot-style artists or podcasts I might like, please let me know!