Book Review: Meik Wiking on Getting Hygge with It

kbb-little-book-of-hygge

I love the fact that one of today’s buzzwords, hygge, is not only Danish, but also that it has no direct English translation (kind of like the Swedish term fika, which I attempt to explain here). At best, we define it as the “art of being cosy”.

In fact, the Swedes have a similar word, lagom, which is closely (but not directly) related to hygge and it means roughly “just right”. The literal translation doesn’t really do the concept justice- it’s a word that’s often used to illustrate the Swedish way of life as well. It’s the idea of getting just enough of what you need in order to achieve satisfaction in life. It’s not a new idea: the mantra of less-is-more is a common thread across Scandinavian cultures and can be found outside of Europe as well. (The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, anyone?)

Considering we live in a culture of consumerism and abundance, it makes sense that North American society would latch onto a concept like hygge. We spend so much time making sure our professional lives run like well-oiled machines that we’ve lost the art of relaxation.

It’s no wonder then that how-to-hygge guides such as Meik Wiking’s The Little Book of Hygge are popping up everywhere. We don’t know how to be cosy, and we need someone to show us the way.

Unfortunately, this new interest in making your life more hyggeligt (Danish for hygge-ish) is also a powerful way to tap into consumer trends. Someone sent me this article recently about the dark side of hygge, and how this trend has generated tons of new products and marketing campaigns designed to instill a fear of not being hygge enough- unless you have the right socks, blankets, candles, etc.

It made me hesitate when wanting to write about The Little Book of Hygge, which is too bad, because it’s one of those fabulous books that not only makes an for an interesting read, it also looks great on a coffee table. In fact, it’s one of those that I would revisit again and again, because it reads more like a celebration of the Danish culture and sensibility than it does an instruction manual.

For those who want to take it as such, however, may I direct you to my favorite chapter on achieving hygge on the cheap, which proves the concept is much more about creating an environment than it is buying one.

Hygge isn’t sold in a store. It can’t be achieved by buying the right socks, investing in nicer linen, or by reading any book about the subject that you can get your hands on (although I highly recommend The Little Book of Hygge).

Instead, if I’ve got it right, hygge is about finding the place within yourself where you can be at your most relaxed and natural. Surrounding yourself with the people and things that give you the most pleasure and joy is merely a conduit for getting there.

So go ahead and buy those socks if they make you feel freaking amazing. I think that’s just lagom.

KBwB-BFlower-50

Psst- wanna see which books have previously graced my bookshelves? Click here. Want even more fun reading recommendations? I’ve got some for you here. Don’t forget to find me on Goodreads so we can snoop each other’s bookshelves and dish about our favourites.

 

Book Review: Jon Acuff on Loving Your Job Anyways

Do-Over-Cover-2

I was feeling a little bit sorry for myself the other day until I read Jon Acuff’s Do Over.

No, it didn’t make me feel better; at least, not at first. It made me bawl my eyes out.

Even though Do Over is the only business book to evoke such an emotional response from me, I didn’t enjoy it just for the catharsis it provided me. It’s a fresh perspective on why we work the kinds of jobs that we do, and the choices that we make in the workplace that can advance (or destroy) our careers.

Acuff argues that as a society we’re trained to find jobs instead of pursuing careers. Gone are the days when people found a “good job” and stayed in the same position for twenty-five years. Nowadays it’s common to switch careers up to three times throughout your working life.

So why this sudden shift?

Things like job security and health benefits are still important to most people. But in a world with a growing population and a fluctuating economy, these “good jobs” are fewer and far between. We’re living longer, too, and becoming more educated, so the competition for these jobs is higher. Many are forced to adopt a lower standard or accept a less than ideal position in order to remain employed.

Although much of Do Over is about giving your career a fresh start, what made it so poignant for me was the empathy Acuff expresses for his readers who feel frustrated and stuck in their current positions. And then he gives those readers a swift kick in the pants. It’s our attitudes that are the problem, he explains. No one ever got to exactly where they wanted without hard work and sacrifice. Sometimes it’s about making the best of an opportunity. Through befriending co-workers, finding mentors and developing new skills, you can take what you’ve learned in your current job and adapt it to any future situation, so you can finally start heading in the direction that you want to go.

Is it a challenge? Yes. Is it impossible? No.

And that’s kind of why the book got me in the feels- we’ve all been in situation where we feel stuck, bored or dissatisfied in our jobs. Yes, the purpose of a job is to make money, but there’s a lot to be said for enjoying yourself (even just a little) in the place where you spend most of your waking hours.

Don’t forget, there could be benefits to your job as well besides the money- a great relationship with your co-workers, a sense of autonomy, or a chance to be creative may be the reason you choose to stay in a position, or the reason why you chose a position in the first place.

Even if you’re not looking to make a major career change, I’d still recommend Do Over as a good read after a bad work day, or a bad work week, or if you’re simply just frustrated and in the mood for some wallowing. Acuff’s writing is snappy and humorous but at the end of the day it’s the catharsis I experienced after finishing it that makes Do Over such a good read.

KBwB-BFlower-50

Psst- wanna see which books have previously graced my bookshelves? Click here. Want even more fun reading recommendations? I’ve got some for you here. Don’t forget to find me on Goodreads so we can snoop each other’s bookshelves and dish about our favourites.

Book Review: Elizabeth Gilbert on Living Creatively

KBB-books-big-magic

Oh boy. Was I ever excited to read this book: not only is Elizabeth Gilbert one of my (living) literary girl crushes, but I couldn’t believe the amount of people who would come up to me, out of nowhere, and tell me how badly I needed to get my hands on a copy immediately.

Luckily- I found this book to be as advertised- a wonderful, inspirational read for virtually anyone looking to add a little bit of magic and creative whimsy to their otherwise busy, dissatisfying lives. Don’t believe me? Ask a friend of mine- let’s call her Wendy. It had been ages since I had seen Wendy so I was ecstatic to have the opportunity to catch up with her a few months back when she dropped by a local event that I had been hosting.

Things hadn’t been going so well for Wendy. She was one of those lucky girls who landed her dream job practically right out of college and had spent the last five years busy working her butt off climbing the corporate ladder when she swiftly and abruptly lost her job. It wasn’t her fault (the company was downsizing) but it was still a real blow to Wendy. For most of her young career she had worked steadily towards what she thought was a definitive goal she had some control over. Getting laid off made her feel adrift at sea, purposeless and uninspired until she picked up a copy of Big Magic.

What happened next to Wendy wasn’t unusual- after reading Gilbert’s manifesto on being creative and living fearlessly, she found the courage to pursue a passion project of her own and opened up an Etsy store. Although her prior job had been in a creative field, Wendy felt like she never had the freedom to put her own artistic touch on any of her work. Engaging in this kind of activity (making and selling things) was the spark she had been missing in her life, both personally and professionally. Even though when I met up with Wendy she was still unemployed, she confessed to me it was one of the first times she had felt fully satisfied with her life since she was an art student. Plus, she was making a few dollars on the side while she looked for a job. It seemed like a win-win situation, and Wendy was convinced it was thanks to the wisdom imparted in Big Magic.

It would be great to stop right here and tell you that Wendy went on to become a world-famous Etsy artist and made millions of dollars selling her wares because of Big Magic‘s advice, but I think what really happened after I saw Wendy was even more interesting.

Because neither of those things happened- Wendy still lives in the same modest (albeit beautiful) apartment and still lives the life of your average twenty-something. She’s still running her Etsy store, but by no means has she put all of her eggs in one basket because Wendy found a job. It’s less stressful and definitely less demanding than her previous job, and she thinks it’s great- having a steady job helps to pay the bills and the change of pace and environment has given her the breathing room to keep on doing what she loves in her spare time.

And that’s kind of the beauty of Big Magic- it’s not your typical “follow-your-dreams-and-make-your-doohickeys-it-will-make-a-lot-of-money-if-you-just-believe-in-yourself” self-help manual. Instead it’s more of a permission slip for those everywhere afraid to pursue their own interests, or explore what makes them excited or curious. It’s not a manual for how to do something creative with your life but instead a guide on how to live creatively.

Wendy knows this- she’s not interested in manufacturing her wares in a factory and shipping them worldwide. She relishes the slow thrill of her meticulous crafting process and the delight that each new customer brings. She’s happy to take a break from her creative work to focus on her professional work. For her, it’s enough.

Big Magic‘s biggest message, then, is the importance of making the room in your life to live it creatively, in whatever way you wish to interpret what creativity means to you. If it means creating for the sake of creation or exploring new interests, Gilbert wants you to go for it. (I do too, for that matter!) Maybe it won’t lead to your big break or a cushy bank account, but if it’s the only thing stopping you from living a happier, healthier, more satisfied life, then there’s no reason why you shouldn’t start, like, immediately.

Whatever the change, big or small, Big Magic wants you to make the shift.

KBwB-BFlower-50

Psst- wanna see which books have previously graced my bookshelves? Click here. Want even more fun reading recommendations? I’ve got some for you here. Don’t forget to find me on Goodreads so we can snoop each other’s bookshelves and dish about our favourites.