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I have been somewhat negligent of this blog for a few months so I thought I would drop a sneaky mid-year favourite books post, since everybody and their dog are putting these out online at the moment and I wanted to join in the fun. I’ve read lots of good stuff this year and am charging my way through my goal of 52 books in 2021 (currently at 34!). These three are the ones I could form intelligible thoughts about, but there are a few honourable mentions too.

Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer 

Braiding Sweetgrass is the feeling of lying in the woods looking up at the clouds and breathing deeply; the sight of butterflies landing on big flower heads and the smell of fresh tomatoes. I thought this book was sublime. The writing was wonderful – each chapter centred on another theme or way of thinking about the natural environment, often with heartfelt personal anecdotes and experiences weaved (or braided hehe) within. This book is a compilation of stories around Native American spirituality with regards to nature – how traditional thought around seeing plants as “non-human people” has allowed a greater appreciation and love for the environment, and has has implications for social and environmental wellbeing. 

“we must say of the universe that it is a communion of subjects, not a collection of objects”

One of my favourite chapters illustrated the idea that comes up frequently in this book, that “all flourishing is mutual”: Kimmerer tells the history of the “Three Sisters” planting technique (or companion planting), where corn is planted alongside climbing beans and squash in sets of threes. To summarise this strategy, corn is planted first and grows the tallest – it provides a tall pole around which beans, the middle sister, can grow, supporting both plants equally. Squash is the last of the three to grow, and grows strong broad leaves, which prevent pests from accessing the roots of all three plants. 

“Humans are viewed as the lesser beings in the democracy of species. We are referred to as the younger brothers of Creation, so like the younger brothers we must learn from our elders. Plants were here first and have had a longer time to figure things out”

Overall I would really recommend this book to anyone with an interest in the natural world, Native American beliefs and culture, botany, agriculture or even history. It was a wonderful read and I enjoyed it so much that I prioritised it over a fiction book I was reading at the same time – so that is saying something.

Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

This book is getting so much hype online at the moment and for good reason in my opinion – this story about magicians in a magical night circus, was, dare I say, magical. I can’t really find another word that best suits it – The writing was wonderful, the plot was interesting and though I thought the characters could have done with a bit more padding out, the settings were so beautifully-described. I especially loved the relationships between the children, Poppet, Widget and Bailey – their friendship was so pure and was a nice tonic to the more complex, calculating adult characters. But above all the striking settings are what make this book so memorable. The Night Circus is complete escapism.

The plot follows multiple characters at once, who are all somehow involved in a mysterious night circus, which arrives without warning and in a random location around the world. It is cleverly formatted so that each chapter might jump back/forward a few years from the previous, which really rounds out the story – we get to live each year from several perspectives, and might learn the secrets of one character in a chapter set five years ago from another character in the present chapter. This might sound confusing, but don’t let the writing style put you off – if I can keep up with it, anyone can. 

The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson

If Braiding Sweetgrass felt like lying in the woods on a summer day, this book felt like jogging through a city in the pouring rain. And it’s dark. And there are no people around. 

The Final Empire has got incredible reviews all over Goodreads for a reason – it is as brilliantly written story about a place where the poor are slaves to the rich, where people are watched over by men with steel spikes through their eyes, and where some individuals can burn metals within themselves to gain enhanced abilities – a handful of which come together in this book in order to overthrow the man who controls it all, the Lord Ruler.  

The world building, the characters, the pace of the plot – I loved everything about this book. Our main character Kelsier is a dreamer whose charisma and optimism draw people of all types to him, which is how we meet the charming but lazy Breeze, the calm managerial Dockson, and philosophical bodyguard Ham amongst many others. This is how we end up also following Vin, an orphan who is drawn to Kelsier for what he teaches her about being a “Mistborn”, a person who can use all of the metals available to gain super-human speed, strength or mind-influencing abilities. Vin’s character development in this story, her experiences undercover as an aristocrat, her friendship with Sazed and Kelsier and the unnerving setting all push this book to the top of my list this year.

 “There’s always another secret”.

As well as these top three books, I have also enjoyed The House in the Cerulean Sea by T.J. Klune, Song of Achilles by Madeleine Miller and Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. Let me know what your top books of the year so far were in the comments below. You can see all the other stuff I am enjoying and not enjoying particularly much by checking out my goodreads. Have a great week!


Published by avleveri

Hi! I'm Anna, an environmental science graduate from the UK. My main interests (if you can't already tell from my blog posts) are sustainability, consumption, conservation, nutrition, fitness and food! Lots of food.

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