7 books I would re-read from my 2014 bookshelf

When you take advantage of every opportunity to whip out a kindle rather than a mobile phone, you end up reading a decent amount.

In 2014, I read 31 books. You’ll need to scroll inside the box below to see them all. The white frame contains links to my books collection which I curate on pinterest. Last year’s board is called Books:2014.

Follow eurydice13’s board Books: 2014 on Pinterest.

I create this with pinterest’s widget builder.

what I would re-read from 2014

1. A story everyone should read:

2. Most inspiring, kick-you-in-the-arse book:

3. The book I’ve talked about the most, referenced hundreds of times, learnt the most from and given as a gift to several people who have found it as fascinating as I did:

4, 5 and 6. Top 3 books designers should read:

7. Strangely, there is one book that a very large proportion of people I know have read and talked about this past year. Who knew tidying up was trendy?

N.B. All links will direct you to pinterest. All pinterest pins will in turn link you to Amazon.co.uk (sometimes, if I have remembered, using an amazon affiliates link) and the kindle edition of the book. I prefer to read on kindle because I can carry many books at once. Given I usually have more than one on the go at a time, this is very convenient for me. For Christmas my partner got me the feature-full kindle Voyage! (which I keep calling “voyager”). A very comfortable read! Although I am definitely keeping my vintage (3-years-old) classic kindle for my beach holidays.

my prep for “cheating” in NaNoWriMo 2014

I have participated in NaNoWriMo since first discovering it the early 2ks. I have managed to “win” (write 50’000 words in 30 days) ONCE. It is a daunting challenge of quantity over quality. And this year I am planning to cheat. I will write essays instead of a Novel, and below I share the topics I have chosen. NaNoWriMo: National Novel Writing Month.

NaNoWriMo_participant-2014-eurydice13

why NaNoWriMo

That one “win” gave me immense satisfaction, forced me to focus and spend time by myself -writing- every single day, and to just keep. the hell. going.
50’000 words. 30 days. That’s NaNoWriMo.
Perseverance. That’s the trick.
A worthwhile lesson that I am keen to repeat. Like this excellent post by @jseiden reminded me this morning: writing is not editing. Make that your wallpaper for the month. Write it on the cover of your notebooks. Stick it to the top of the screen of your laptops. Put it as the “screensaver” image on the lock screen of the tablet you write on. Writing is not editing.

My challenge with NaNoWriMo is that it is a National NOVEL Writing Month. Novel. Not short stories, not essays, not novellas, not blog posts. A novel. I have always been better at working with arguments, points to make, outlines, a structure to work to. Thoughts. Give me a blank canvas and I will draw you horizon lines. I need boundaries to be creative (said the designer / engineer). And a novel has no boundaries. So this year, I am going to cheat.

the cheat

My cheat is that I will not write a novel. I would like to, but novels are not my writing style. I write as I think. So I will write about my thoughts. My 50’000 words will be a collection of essays on various topics that interest me. Amateur philosophy hour, perhaps. 50’000 words of it, that I hope nobody will ever read.

Incidentally, odds are the blog will go quiet in November. Now you know why.

the prep: playing by the rules; mostly

As preparation to this cheating mechanism, I have (in accordance with NaNoWriMo rules) not written a thing, but created a list of topics (some with a short outline of points to expand on) that I want to write about.

These are what I am sharing with you today. Why? Because telling someone else about a goal you are striving for makes you twice as accountable. Letting myself down is easier than letting nearly a thousand twitter followers down. I don’t expect they all care, far from it. But the idea of them knowing I have not keep my word will spur me on through the daily 1667 words quota. And you need a spur to win, believe me.

topics

Here is the collection of topics for essays on the philosophy of technology, consumerism, marketing, media, branding, archetypes, design, psychology, behavioural economics, and other big ideas of the 21st century.
Be warned: this is a braindump.

  1. Technology and the home
  2. Multilingualism
  3. Lack of time
  4. Postpartum
  5. Ancient greek philosophy alive today
  6. Islam, judaism, christianity, and religious intolerances
  7. Kindle & physical attraction of books
  8. Members’ clubs
  9. How engineers think and why it is so strange for non-engineers
  10. How to measure success Siblings. Friends. House size, neighbourhood, comparison. Money.
  11. Armchairs
  12. Shoes. Pedestals. Office. Women. Men. Career progression. Success. CEOs being very tall.
  13. Etymology. Butchering languages & destroying millenia of heritage
  14. Public transport. Buses vs tube. City-off. Paris London Athens Rome Berlin Montreal The Hague Brussels
  15. Making
  16. Coffee
  17. Iterative design process
  18. Desserts, chocolate, sugar, happiness, diet
  19. Depression
  20. Personal computers, mobile technology, tablets, phones, the future of technology and human interaction and integration, tech in the home
  21. Clothes, jewellery, and the habit doesn’t make the monk. Or does it?
  22. Beaches, taking a break, the joy of reading & deciding where to eat next
  23. Handbags, work, and the impossibility for humans to carry all that shit around. Essentials, tools of the trade, modern tech, etc…
  24. Holidays. Beaches, mountains, cottages, and city breaks. Brain needs a holiday, body needs a holiday. Various goals when going away.
  25. Meat, vegetarianism, diet, carbs, calories. Exercise. Health. What is “fit”.
  26. Ethnography. Observing others. Context of thing. Context of behaviour. Lack of belonging: lack of a context shared / in common with the people around you, the current tribe. Ability to observe like an ethnographer comes from having lost context repeatedly as a child.
  27. Journaling, writing, philosophy. Or poetry and literature. Or being a historian. The many ways of writing and what they each turn us into. Blogger writer poet diarist philosopher futurist storyteller science fiction author. What is writing.
  28. LEGO. Toys for kids who do not have friends. Instructions. Breaking things. Starting again. Houses. Cities. Restaurants. Hospitals. Police. Role playing. Growing up. Structures. Xmas assembly of a bridge. Phone camera to record a fly by. What is the phenomenon of play.
  29. Shopping. Habit. Addiction. We are what we own. We are what we wear. Quality, price, persona. Market. Life phases. Credit cards and financial risk.
    The perfect meeting. meeting rooms. agendas. goals.
  30. Philosophy. Philosophers. The luxury of thinking, quietly, too much and how one person can move the world forward. Socrates, Plato, Descartes, Freud, Jung, Sartre, D’Ormesson. Is “philosopher” a posthumous title? Are writers philosophers? Were painters philosophers too? Dali, Magritte. Paintings that make us think. Surrealism.

If I write it, is it a win? I hope so. If nobody hears a tree fall in the woods, does it make a sound? Given nobody will read my manuscript, what I have written is less important than the fact I have consistently written a daily quota and reached the epic milestone of 50’000 words in 30 days. So yes, I think it’s a win. Call it the diary of an amateur philosopher, and the technicalities are sorted…. right?

I promise not to read…

I read a lot. I am always reading. Street signs, menus, books on the tube, magazines with my coffee, newspaper headlines as i pass a newsstand. I am a reader. 

My favourite escape and one of my favourite pastimes in life is to expose my brain to new experiences, information, emotions and ideas, using books. I worship books, treasure bookshops, and dream of having a library in my home. 

This week, i am going on holiday to Berlin and Venice. This will be my third time in Venice. I was there in august 2003 and February 2004. A travel blogger and McGill alumnus told me, in 2013, that he had seen Venice all year round and it was the most beautiful in spring. So I am taking The Man there this May. He knows what to expect, and i hope he will be stunned, as I was, nonetheless. Venice is magical. A place out of time. 

It is my resolution to not read on this holiday. Normally i am an abundant and abusive reader, experiencing life through words, be they on a page, a kindle screen, a blog on the iPad or my twitter feed on the iPhone. If you speak to me at length, you will notice that when a conversation becomes more involved, my sentences start sounding like something you might write down. When i need to think and express myself clearly, writing habits take over. 

Despite my addiction to the written word, I am vowing to not read on this holiday. Perhaps i will allow myself the odd guidebook, or an italian magazine to brush up on my vocabulary. Maybe a german children’s book? Small things. Useful things. 

Writing will be allowed. But right now I am going to go home, finish adjusting my carry on contents (10 days abroad, 2 cities, 1 carry on case…) and add in my acquarelle travel set. Because from this holiday i want to remember every ray of sun, every glass window, every gust of wind and wave of water. I want to remember every brick in the arch of the Rialto bridge. Every cobblestone, every smile, every kiss.

So I will watch, and look, and draw. Because when i have drawn something, and see it again, not only do i remember the subject of my drawing, but also what i was thinking when drawing it. Whether i was eating, having coffee, sitting comfortably or sketching a fleeting impression, standing up, on the go. I remember what I was doing before, what I did after, and who was with me. 

When i read, i learn and I escape. My brain grows. 

But when I draw, I remember. And my body is present where I am. 

I promise not to read…

20140508-124023.jpg

what do squid ink pasta, mint and a @kindleUk ebook have in common? #recipe

20130611-230803.jpg

I know it doesn’t look appetising, but trust me, it was delicious. Squid ink pasta, rocket pesto, salmon, tomatoes, mint. This is how my flatmate and I came up with the recipe… And how you can repeat it at home!

One sunny Saturday, I was working at home (on a personal project, don’t freak out) and decided that all work and no play… Well you’ve seen the movie. (No? Here’s a helpful IMDB link for you.) so I persuaded my flatmate to go for a walk. This recipe is a direct consequence of that walk.

We live in Fulham, and headed west, mostly because i had already headed east on an earlier foray. Parsons Green is lovely! But that day, we headed to Chelsea. After several blocks of total quietness, we discovered a deli. A proper italian deli. It’s called Luigi’s.This is where it is.

Luigi checkin on foursquare

And it looks even better inside.

20130612-005655.jpg

This place has wall-to-wall and floor-to-ceiling food. It is an italian food lover’s inferno… You will never be able to cook and eat everything in there. But you really really want to.

They have about 5 bookcases’ worth of pasta. Just pasta. Mafaldine, orecchiette, strofie, linguini, tagliatelle, pasta tricolore… and tagliatelle al nero di seppia, and al zafferano. Neither of us could resit getting something a bit weird to eat. The squid ink pasta came back with us. As we were about to leave, some rocket pesto and mortadella just jumped into our arms. Really. They did! (They were delicious, too)

After some more exploring, we started to walk home, pondering what to have the pasta with. If you’ve ever had squid ink pasta, you will know it has a noticeable flavour. Neither of us even considered meat for it. But seafood? That could work. The simplest thing to find was salmon. There was a Sainsbury’s on the way. All good. We were almost there!

Both of us though felt like something was missing. I suggested we go home and consult the flavour thesaurus we both own a copy of, then paused. Despite my deep-seated dislike and disapproval of the current licensing and distribution model for publishing as far as books and ebooks are concerned… I had bought the ebook edition too, for precisely these circumstances.

So we sat on a bench, I whipped out my iPhone, launched the kindle app, and did a search for “salmon, rocket, squid ink”. Nothing came up. I tried “squid ink” alone. Nothing. “Rocket”. Some results. Then we both paused and thought “salmon”! We scrolled through the table of contents, found “fatty fish” and shortly after discovered that mint can bring out the flavour.

20130621-001119.jpg

After some discussion, we agreed to add some tangyness using tomatoes as well. A recipe was born.

20130611-230739.jpg

 

So what does it take to make this little dish?

  • Salmon fillets – Cook them in the oven, wrapped in aluminium (à l’étouffée) for a rich, juicy flavour. Put some olive oil and cover it in rocket pesto for extra flavour. Cooking takes a good 15min. Alternatively, cook them in a pan for about 5min, just be careful not to burn them. I removed the skins before cooking. I dislike fish scales in my food.
  • Tomatoes, cut into half-moons. We added these into the cooked and drained pasta at the same time as the pesto.
  • Rocket pesto – Toss it on top of the hot, just-drained, pasta along with the tomatoes. Yum!
  • Fresh mint – Chop it up and add it to the mix alongside the tomatoes and pesto.
  • Squid ink pasta – to boil. This takes about 3 minutes if it’s fresh pasta, so do it last. Boil the pasta, drain it, put it back into the pan while it’s still hot (ready for dressing, like a salad). Swirl the pasta well to cover it with pesto, tomatoes and mint.
  • It’s ready to eat.
  • Put a salmon fillet on top of each portion and non-vegetarian dinner is served!

If you’re a designer, you have got to read this book!

Bruno Munari, Design as Art

This is by far the most inspiring book I head read in a very long time.

The author, Bruno Munari, an artist, designer and inventor, developed his craft and ideas at the time of the surrealist avant-garde and created all sorts of improbable works like a lamp made from a stocking and useless machines, lightweight mobiles that moved in the wind.

“An engineer cannot be caught writing poetry.”

He argues that Design is linked to art, but that some ephemeral items, meant for larger consumption need to be designed more rather than be a fruit of divine inspiration, as their packaging, production cost, delivery cost and so on will bear in on whether they are successful products.

“What then is this thing called Design if it is neither style nor applied art? It is planning: the planning as objectively as possible of everything that goes to make up the surroundings and atmosphere in which men live today. […] It is planning done without preconceived notions of style, attempting only to give each thing its logical structure and proper material, and in consequence its logical form.”

I cannot do justice to the genius who wrote the words. So I leave you with this excerpt and a recommendation to buy the book (whether kindle or paper) for your personal growth.

20130506-180814.jpg