Everything I read in May

May was a big reading month for me. One of my favourite parts of going on holiday is all the reading I get done – so when I took a week off this month (Weekend Week!) I made sure to spend as much time as possible curled up with a book. Even though I was on holiday on my own sofa, it still felt very luxurious.

Here are all the books I finished this month and what I thought of them.

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Friday ramble: haircuts, telemarketing and city pop

I’m trying something new today! Recently this blog has felt a bit like work – I was hoping to get a post out once a week, but it’s not always easy to come up with an idea that I can churn out 1000+ words about. Also I’ve really been enjoying Nicole Cliffe’s newsletter recently, and I like how she touches on lots of topics, and it made me want to try something like that. Hopefully this will mean I can just write for fun instead of slaving over a lengthy and self-obsessed essay about my tween years which I later decide not to publish because it’s incredibly unflattering.

So. Friday ramble! Go!

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How I became a developer

I have officially been a web developer for about three years now. When I meet other developers, I’m always curious to know how they got into the industry. I used to think there was only one route into the job, and that always included a computer science degree. But that’s not the case – I’ve met people who have come to their current careers from all sorts of backgrounds, from acting to architecture to astrophysics.

My own path into the job wasn’t the most conventional. My degree is in English Literature, and I’m almost entirely self-taught. But now here I am, writing code that helps people do things on the internet, and I’d like to think I’m pretty decent at it.

So, here’s how I got into this line of work, and a few tips for anyone else who’s thinking of a career change.

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Novels from the end of the world

I have always been an anxious person. I’ve worried about school, work, relationships, politics, death – all the usual things. So I guess it was inevitable that over the last year, environmental anxiety has taken over large chunks of my life.

Sometimes I can redirect my focus for weeks, thinking about projects at work or wondering what haircut I should get. But then I see an article – climate change projections, biodiversity warnings, plastic, dead coral reefs – that hits me like a truck and completely trashes my mental health, at least until I manage to repress the fear again. And one of the things I do to distract myself is read.

Last year I read The Bone Clocks, by David Mitchell (some spoilers ahead). I wanted to like this book, but for the first 500 or so pages, I really struggled to get on with it. Its characters were interesting, but I wasn’t thrilled by the novel’s fantasy subplots or seemingly endless in-jokes about the Hay Festival.

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Here are those satisfying endings for Lullaby that you wanted

Recently I read the novel Lullaby, by Leïla Slimani. I thought it was a good book and I wanted to see what other people thought about it. So naturally I turned to the internet.

Unfortunately, Lullaby has been marketed as “the French Gone Girl“, which isn’t really accurate. It is not a fun thriller with lots of exciting twists and turns. So if someone picked it up expecting that, and instead got a tense exploration of class, poverty, race and the pressures of motherhood in modern France, I can understand they might need a while to adjust their expectations.

That being said… I regret reading the Amazon and GoodReads reviews, which have comment after comment grumbling about the book’s ending. “Waste of time.” “I don’t understand why she did it.” “Where is the twist?”

Lullaby immediately opens with a horrifying subject: a nanny murders the two children in her care. The narrative then travels back to explore the characters’ pasts and the relationships between them. What it does not do – much to the ire of these reviewers – is offer a magic explanation or easily digestible reason for this shocking crime. Something that you can read and say, “Oh, so that’s why that happened!” and then consider the case closed.

Fine. Let’s rewrite the ending of the book to be more to your liking. I present:

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A tour of my YouTube subscriptions

A few weeks ago I was talking to some friends about how much time we all spend watching YouTube. “I’d hate to know how much time I waste on it,” I said. “I bet it’s awful.” Then someone told me that you can actually check this in the app. I immediately declared that I was never, ever going to check because sometimes ignorance is bliss.

Today, I gave in and looked. On average, I spend more than an hour a day watching YouTube. This was kind of sobering. An hour is a good chunk of my time, especially my leisure time. It’s more than I spend doing any other hobbies, like cooking, reading, playing games, watching films, or exercising.

So, what exactly am I watching?

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Keeping a journal

There are some things I always carry with me – keys, wallet, phone, and a bright yellow A5 notebook.

I like to think of the notebook as an analog download of my brain. I follow the bullet journal system, which means it’s a combination of a journal, a planner, a collection of lists, and basically anything else I feel like writing down.

I highly recommend keeping a journal. Writing down your thoughts can be a good way to work through problems and relieve stress. Plus, years later you can look back at it and laugh at what an embarrassing idiot you were. It’s a gift to yourself that keeps on giving.

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