A mental health booklist

I’m developing a list of resources that you can use to make sure your life is exactly what you want it to be. These are mainly free resources as you don’t need further obstacles when you have decided that you need some me time.

I have started to use the Artists Way by Julia Cameron. This comes highly recommended by many famous patrons that have benefited from the information inside. It is also stuffed full of quotes from pretty anyone who ever lived that said something quotable. I have borrowed the book from my brother in law who didn’t like it as he said it was too simplistic. I can see what he means if I compare to Metahuman by Deepak Chopra but I think this is unfair since they are for completely different audiences.

I also have the accompanying workbook that he bought to see what if anything it does for me. The Artists Way is a 12 week course consisting of daily morning pages and artist dates amongst other activities. Morning pages are 3 pages of stream of consciousness writing to clear your mind for the day ahead. Artist dates are where you set aside time to indulge in culture. There are also other tasks such as reading as detailed in the book.

I have also ordered one of Melanie Beattie’s books on Codependent no more. I found the online version beneficial. Having now endeavoured to use technology less where possible, I now going to try to switch over to the paper copy. It provides space to write what you think about the daily devotional as it’s called. This allows you to develop your ideas about the concept better.

I have the Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle which was instrumental in me starting down this path and being that I now have a physical copy means I can read it and make notes where necessary. It’s so much easier to bookmark, read and absorb the information in a proper book rather than an e book. They may be more expensive and less portable but you get far more from them than their electronic copies.

In addition to these I have the Little Prince by Antione St Expury when I want something lighter and The Alchemist by Paulo Coehlo. Fiction is a necessary compliment to non fiction. There is something much more reassuring and relaxing for a bed time story in an actual book rather than a Netflix series or YouTube video.

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

This is a book I read at college but I didn’t like it. It was shocking and terrifying. I also didn’t like the way the book was constructed but I don’t think it could be done in any other way. It was meant to illustrate the power that such a revolution would have on you and it certainly did that for me. I was confused as to how such a thing could take place but so is Offred and everyone else. That is why they fight to overcome the system. Offred is very strong and resistant to the new regime but sensible enough to know that you have to act a certain way to survive. I don’t want to give the game away to any of you who haven’t read it or seen the TV series. I expect the follow up The Testaments is where the material for later series comes from.

Have you found any unexpected novels that you persevered with and later understood them much better?

Feminism

This is quite an unusual article to me to write based on my past history but I feel now is the time to start exploring it. I have realised that actually I’m a strong woman. I need to start embracing this characteristic of mine. A person can only go so long not recognising who they are before they start to develop their inherent potential.

The woman’s struggle has existed since the dawn of time and I have been guided through my mother and others to study the Suffragettes at college, to see exhibitions about them, to gather information about Virginia Woolf, visiting Sissinghurst where she stayed and acquire lots of books about the subject. This also led to me reading a Handmaid’s Tale as it was on my high school book list and later on watching the TV series. I will get the Testaments later. Other books that are on my list are Vox, The Farm, etc.

As I got quite into feminism through an alternative viewpoint on classist history I wrote several articles on what I discovered. I think it’s a novel idea because history is written from the standpoint of the victor. This traditionally has been male so to put another spin on it is quite good. It also helps me to learn about myself as my mother and my grandmother have been very strong influences on me. I’m only starting to realise the extent that impact has had on me.

Reading and Autism

I love reading. This much is pretty obvious early on as I read so much hence I think I’m hyperlexic. I’m a highly visual person who can recite what they read parrot fashion for some time to come later on. This is a common attribute in autistics and is demonstrated by Clare Danes playing Temple Grandin in the movie about her. However, if you stop to ask why we read so much or why we like to read so much you might not get a cohesive answer if you receive anything other than I don’t know or I just do.

Yes reading is entertaining, diverting and occupies your time in a productive manner but also gives us something to talk about. We need to spend a lot of time recovering from the outside world so we escape into the world of literature. If we got out more we could talk about what we did or who we met like everyone else but we are solitary creatures often. Books are a refuge but they are also a substitute. Since the world is so overwhelming for us we choose to enter one that is much more calm. We can decide how long to stay there and when to leave. It gives a sense of control but also of adventure. We can visit many worlds, meeting all their inhabitants from the safety of an armchair.

Our knowledge is frequently ploughed back into fan fiction, comics, short stories, novels or even creating our own languages like Tolkien. We like words, well I do which is why I have spent so much time and effort concentrating on improving my verbal ability. Talking will never be easy for me so my conversational ability will forever be a struggle. I rely on my reading ability to provide me with something to talk about but it often doesn’t find a warm reception.

There is a lot of reading I have had to learn in addition to the book kind. The “reading between the lines” in social behaviour or documents. The forever unsaid, implied or just briefly referenced in some way by a gesture. There is also a new kind kind of reading as I’m learning.

In drag culture to ‘read’ a person is to notice their flaws. If ‘the library is open’ as Ru Paul says in every series of Drag Race; then you reveal what you really think about the person. This is often harsh but truthful yet comedic. It helps to be honest as then you can move on having aired your grievances without resorting to violence. Since they all spend so much time together it’s not wonder that problems crop up. There separation from the outside world creates an environment where everything is focused towards the end goal but not everyone plays ball. Willam is most famous for breaking out of his self imposed prison but nobody else has.

I am looking forward to breaking out of myself imposed prison due to the corona virus lockdown. Only about 6 weeks before I may be able to fly to Greece because they have announced their timetable. Here’s hoping that July really is my independence!

The Quarantine Chronicles

I was just thinking that the situation we find ourselves in right now is not far off the nightmarish world of Fahrenheit 451. In it physical human connection is replaced by conversations on video screens. These video screens are larger than life in the fact that they become all consuming. It is considered highly attractive if your lounge/sitting room is in fact just 4 screens for walls. In that way that highly prised connection is permanently established but there is in fact no connection because you can’t really see the people or their lives. You only have a facsimile of reality. This was life for me existing behind a screen because reality was so painfully overwhelming as it was real.

It’s like living in the world of Equilibrium. We wanted to remove all the negativity present in the world but in doing so we also cocooned ourselves to the point of numbness. We no longer felt anything so we lost the ability to connect on any level let alone a meaningful one.

This virus is allowing us to reconnect with our immediate family but also disconnecting us from our extended family. We no longer have stories to share or deep conversations because those present were not there.

Everyone is currently in the same boat with regards to lack of mobility. We are craving interaction with our friends. We like to be social and have experiences so being told stay inside is jarring to a couple of rebellious individuals. Usually I’m on the side of the outsider always being one but for once we need to do as we’re told. In this regard tv is helping by having cooking shows, craft shows, walks and quiz shows. These all keep us occupied and possibly give us ideas to try out later. Let’s turn the pain and anxiety of missing friends and family into positive activities that benefit our communities .If we do this we may find a much better world with improved mental health.

Learning to cook is an essential skill that we seem to have lost but maybe we can regain it over the coming weeks. Let’s see if we can get the nation cooking, cleaning, repairing, exercising, gardening and generally looking after ourselves and our environment.

Dovlatov on Netflix

This is a film set in 1970s Russia based on a real life author struggling to get published. It’s in Russian with English subtitles. I love the authenticity this provides and how it correlates with other films I have seen of this era. From what I can remember of when I was previously very interested in Russian films; the 1960’s and 1970’s was a good time for Russian film making as lots of good films that are available on YouTube were made. Since I don’t speak or write Russian here is a list compiled by someone who does

I added this in as a bonus because I like to listen to foreign songs as they tend to be more realistic and you can figure out the gist even though I have no clue what they are saying. Russian songs on YouTube.

As I’m struggling to occupy myself right now due to the enforced isolation; I thought I needed the challenge of watching a Russian program from another era. As you know I love history and languages so why not?

As I sit and write these various articles at different times and moods it reminds me of War and Peace as that’s very clear to me it was written and rewritten several times. It doesn’t flow well in many places to my mind and it appears very disjointed like his own mind and life no doubt. Perhaps that is the beauty that I’m missing. The imperfections as that’s what makes us all real at the end of the day.

It also would be nice if WordPress told you who was reading your blog other than 1 person in Greece reads this etc. Is that the same person all the time? If it’s who I think it is thankyou for the inspiration and recommendations and if it isn’t thankyou anyway for checking out my blog on a regular basis. Thankyou to all the other people who participate in my blog too.

The Girl under the Olive Tree by Leah Fleming

This is a historical romance ie chick lit book I have been reading to cope with the social isolation that we all have to perform right now to rid ourselves of Corona Virus. Its in a similiar style to the Victoria Hislop books that I have read and tried to emulate.

This is a very interesting book as it documents the fictional life of Penelope Angelika Georgiou or Penny George as she goes by when in the UK. Pen as she is called in later years recounts her life as a Red Cross nurse in Athens, Greece during the Second World War. Its thoughtfully written with an accurate portrayal of what an upper class debutante would have to face going it alone with only her Greek heritage and looks for protection against an uncertain world.

It seems that the books that I enjoy most inadvertently tend to evoke my own life as Leah is in the Yorkshire Dales while writing these books which is where I originally hail from. The character Penny has for a middle name, my name in Greek and she reminds me greatly of myself. Very much like when I was reading Angelology and Angelopolis about 5 years ago. That was on my other blog as this one didn’t exist then.

Parsis and Zoroastrians

This is a book I started reading in my hotel in Mumbai as there is a big population of them there and I was curious to find out more about them. As far as I know they don’t exists anywhere else in the world.

Freddie Mercury (Farrokh Balsara) was the most famous one as far as I can tell but I didn’t even know that myself until I had watched Bohemian Rhapsody which is an awesome movie. Zoroastrianism also turns up in Nietzsche as he wrote Thus spoke Zarathustra which is the name of their God. Although it’s a much changed version according to the book’s author which I’m afraid I don’t recall.

I had a spare day since Covid 19 had cancelled my city tour so I settled down to read through a photographic journey of the life of the author so far. The writer grew up in the Parsi culture in Bombay but was educated elsewhere so that is why they were able to explain in English so well a religion that is not well known in the rest of the world.

Parsis is the cultural name given to Zoroastrians to separate them from anyone else that was living in India. The Parsis are originally from Persia but left due to persecution from Islamic forces long ago. However, they were followed much later on so became very insular. Where as before they were at the forefront of business and became very rich a bit like the Jews of Europe .This fear and persecution has contributed to their downfall in the eyes of the author since they will soon no longer be numerous enough to be considered a community (30,000+). At this point (25,000) they will now be labelled a tribe. There is a very big emphasis on staying within your community and they will provide for you that’s why this downgrading of their status is such a big deal to them.

I was unable to get more than half way through the book as I had to leave the next day but the information about the lives of the children who were becoming priests was fascinating. It is part of the culture for at least one boy in the family to learn how to be a priest even if they subsequently decide that is not the field that they want to go into.

India – Taj Mahal at Agra

India – Agra

India – Delhi (part 1)

Best wishes

Angela

Machines like Me by Ian McEwan

This is an Audible book that I listened to recently while I was on holiday. Listening to an enjoyable story that is engaging makes long road journeys pass so much more quickly!

It’s alternative history based on the fact that Alan Turing wasn’t turned insane by taking oestrogen tablets to cure his homosexual urges. With this in mind we end up with a very different 1980’s. We have advanced sufficiently with AI to build completely life like humans that tests what it is to be human after all. They are an exercise in humanity as it teaches us whether we can accept machines into our lives as equals.

I loved the philosophical debates that Adam engages in with his housemates Charlie and Miranda. I also loved the technical, mathematical and physics details along with the anthropological studies. Adam raises a lot of interesting questions and provokes strong emotions which you wouldn’t expect a machine to be capable of. He is not really a machine though; but a conscious being capable of existing all by himself as along as he has the same comforts were used to like shelter, sleep and fuel.

This is essentially an exploration of the contradictions of being human. This is what every child has to learn and what autistics struggle with greatly. The same things that Adam can’t comprehend are also what we have difficulties with. There is however no real solution to these issues as life is such a messy business.

Best wishes

Angela

The Gift on Netflix (18)

This is the third program of this name but the one I’m referring to is the 2019 Turkish TV series Atiye not the 2000 or 2015 psychological thriller films.

This is an interesting looking series of 8 programs about an Ottoman era archeological dig in Anatolia based on a Turkish book and author that has been filmed for Netflix.

It’s Turkish originally of course but it’s available in English dubbed or you can have English subtitles. I personally find it jarring that when I was streaming it, the American voices are slightly out of sync with the actions. The actors and actresses are vibrant in their movements but since Turkish and English are such different languages it’s never going to look or sound exactly right. I tried turning the sound off and relying on the subtitles but then you lose so much of the program as your reading and not paying attention to what’s going on. If you however download it and put the subtitles on you can concentrate on what’s happening much easier.

It’s very modern and female forward which I’m surprised about but this is maybe Turkey trying to show to the world that it can live in the 21st century at least in a show that is about abstract art. If I didn’t know that they were speaking Turkish I would have figured it was perhaps another Middle Eastern nation like Israel who have participated in Eurovision each year since the 1980’s.

Best wishes

Angela

Michael Pollen – Cooked

He is a famous author and chef who has written several books on the history of food that are on Blinkist and I’m working my way through them. He also has a four part series on NetflixCooked after the title of his book that it follows. The episodes deal with the effects of Fire, Water, Air and Earth. It comes as no surprise that he has worked closely with Samin Nosrat on her Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat cookbook. He taught her how to write while she taught him how to cook.

In Fire he ventures around America looking for the secrets to bbq and grilled meats. He compares traditional methods to the ones used to industry. He goes in for the science and analyses the proteins present in meat with the transformation they undergo when being cooked – denaturalisation. He also indulges in some male bonding too while learning the secrets of southern cooking in addition to the history which is rooted in slave culture.

In Water he looks into the changes that have taken place in the American food industry since the 1950’s. He also tackles the rise in obesity and type 2 diabetes. I’m shocked to find that there is no longer an adult onset diabetes as type 2 used to be called. It’s now often found in children. This is directly linked to the fact we spend less time the kitchen and more time working. Even in India, one of the poorest countries in the world, you can’t live off one income and processed food is becoming the norm.

In Air he looks at the importance of bread to the daily diet in Morocco. He gets political about what happens when the price of bread rises too much; and how these conflicts cause shortages all over the world. Due mostly to over reliance on imports from bad harvests because of changing climatic conditions. He also gets scientific examining the role that gluten performs and why it’s so difficult to get a good gluten free loaf.

In Earth he examines the process of fermentation. Here he discovers that cacao beans are first fermented for a week before they are dried and then turned into chocolate etc. I didn’t know it was necessary to do this because the raw beans are so bitter as to be unpalatable. If you’ve ever eaten cooking chocolate you might know this taste. In contrast to chocolate, cheese is a another food that undergoes fermentation that we all know about. Here still there are more secrets to be discovered by looking into the science of the rind on cheeses. He also experiments by making his own beer to continue on from when he learnt to make bread.

I have found this series fascinating to watch to realise that there is a lot to learn from traditional methods of cooking that we can’t replicate in our modern high tech kitchens. The culture of disgust in relation to the French appreciation of stinky cheese is an amazing topic to have a discussion on. Our overuse of antibacterial sprays to clean with and antibiotics to cure to disease is causing a backlash in the health of our gut biome which is only just starting to be looked into seriously. I liked the anthropological look into ancient cultures and how they would pickle vegetables to get through the winter which is why vegans need to eat kimchi etc to remain healthy. Its a source of b vitamins and even vitamin c.

Best wishes

Angela

Advocating for autism

As a proud autistic adult I have written 2 new books and these are about how to deal with the traumatic and emotional events that life throws at us like dealing with grief, social occasions, adolescence etc

Imagina and A Life of Ice and Fire.

This is in addition to Autistic Communication and Autistic Education.

My other books are on How to learn the Greek language, Greek life, More Greek, How to learn languages and finally A Life of Halcyon Days which is a romantic chick lit book set in Greece.

Best wishes

Angela

Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat by Samin Nosrat

Just like my earlier post In praise of wine, it sometimes takes a novice to learn all the necessary requisite skills of an activity, to be able to explain them to others in an easily digestible manner.

She has a 4 part Netflix series which I watched over Christmas as it gave me insights into Mexican cuisines use limes and sour oranges (acid), The Japanese obsession with the sea (salt), The Italian love of dried meats (fat) and her own life as an American immigrant from Iran. (heat).

There is also a Blinkist book which I read this afternoon that gives some scientific explanation for the use of different elements in cooking. She explains why

  • Middle Eastern cooks love salt to an unhealthy degree (not just the climate),
  • why vegetarian cooking takes some re-education (fat is flavour),
  • why white wine or tomatoes are counted as a cooking acid where as lemon juice is a garnishing acid
  • and why we love crispy food (heat).

I have just received her cookbook in the post from Amazon and it’s a veritable textbook! It’s at least an inch thick so it’s certainly a distillation of all other knowledge that she has gained while working as a professional chef in America.

I like cookbooks that go into depth about the why things happen rather than just assuming you know all of the kitchen tricks already. When girls left school during my parents era they were given a book that detailed how to do all the different dishes that were commonly eaten them as well as advice about the ingredients. This was to back up the domestic science lessons that they had received. It helped them to run the household a lot smoother. While this was patriarchal, gender equality wasn’t present then. It did however allow women the skills to perform to the best of their ability.

I think we have lost something essential by stopping teaching cooking in schools. I don’t have the innate knowledge that has been passed down from generations or a handy cookbook to assist me to run my own life. I think it would benefit all students if they had such a book. Good mental health comes from good food and the knowledge that you can look after yourself on a budget. With this in mind I have decided to make this a part of a series on things that an autistic adult needs to survive in the world. When there mind is calm then they can contribute there brilliance to the world whatever it may be.

Best wishes

Angela

Circe by Madeline Miller

Circe by Madeline Miller
Circe by Madeline Miller

This is the Retelling of the story of Circe from her birth to her involvement in the Odyssey and beyond.

Circe here reminds me of myself as her company is unwanted by all who surround her as she is different from all the others. She is not interested in the great parties, the gossip or the other guests. Instead she is prone to wondering the great halls alone wanting her fathers attention while avoiding her mother.

This lack of attention causes great loneliness in herself as she has no purpose. She has great strength but doesn’t believe in herself because of the ridicule she has previously received from her loved ones. Her innocence and naïveté cause her to fall in love with the first man she sets eyes upon. This is unrequited love but she cannot see it until he falls in love with another. All she wanted was to help another because she cared for him but it wasn’t to be. She repeats the pattern as she cannot help the fact she has so much love to give it spills over. She needs an outlet but without children what is an Ancient Greek girl to do?

You can listen to a sample of this book if you are not too sure about buying it on Audible. It is alternative history as the female side of things tends not to survive. Hence we have history or his story.

Best wishes

Angela

Telling tales in Greek

For Christmas I got this book. It is a children’s book to help English speakers learn the Greek language. It is the tale of the Odyssey and Odysseus. However the Greek that is taught in this book is the original Ancient Greek. This means extra learning of words that they no longer use. It’s interesting looking at the origins of the language though. Some words however remain the same.

The best part of this book is it’s focus on grammar including the most difficult point I have come across so far – the genitive sandwich.

This is very difficult for an English speaker because we don’t really have cases, declension or even gender in our language anymore. We therefore don’t ever need to worry about genderised conjugation or even really conjugating.

English is a hodgepodge of rules that have been adopted from all of the different invaders. This makes it a difficult language to learn because it’s not as pure as older languages are. You do however get compensated by having many cognates with other newer languages.

Another reason for the inherent difficulty in processing Greek from an English speakers perspective stems from the genitive case being the one that you use to indicate possession. In our enlightened times we wouldn’t ever think of saying ‘of Daniel’ to indicate that something belongs to Daniel unless we were referencing The Handmaid’s Tale. It’s anti feminist and very archaic to think in terms like this.

Grammar wasn’t taught much in schools when I was attending in contrast to previous eras. I believe they have changed that now with an emphasis on more exotic foreign languages like Mandarin instead of just European. This means that today’s school children are better equipped to handle the linguistic diversity that is present in the world. At least in my opinion.

Best wishes

Angela

Ebooks vs real books vs audio books

This is an interesting conundrum as there are positives and negatives for all sides. I have addressed this previously in my books here on My author page. I have also written several articles about reading – Different types of Reading, The to be read pile etc. As it’s such an essential skill there is always more to examine so, today I’m going to delve into what happens when I read an ebook as opposed to the real version and add in a little about audiobooks too.

When I had a Kindle and started reading the e versions of books as it was too expensive for me to continually buy the real versions I noticed that I wasn’t enjoying them as much. I’m not one of those that particularly goes in for the smell of old books, the feel of the paper, the weight of the book or the cover design but the fact you can disconnect from the digital world is brilliant. This doesn’t happen if you have stopped working using a screen but progressed to reading using a screen. The book may be fiction and it may be an author or subject you really enjoy but the electric light interferes. Your not relaxed because the photons don’t allow that. You also can’t go to sleep reading an ebook as the light does the opposite in keeping you awake.

I used to think that the reasons I didn’t finish books was because of the style, subject matter, author but the format also has some input into my overall enjoyment. I read the paperback version of Organised Mind by Daniel Levitin. Or tried to read it as I should say because although it’s a very interesting book it was like trying to walk through a quagmire. I gave up. Then I come across the book on Blinkist. I read it very quickly as with all books on there because there designed like that. However, to me it didn’t feel like I was reading the same book at at all. It was summarised so it had all the salient details but as far as I know, by someone else. Therefore, to me, it doesn’t have any of the authors insight or stamp on it. It’s just a collection of words that teach you something, albeit better than the original, but bearing little resemblance to it. I’m really starting to dislike abridged versions of books.

I remember listening to a Jane Austen audiobook and it was enjoyable but since it was abridged it skipped out a lot. Sometimes when traveling my attention is diverted elsewhere so I lose the thread of the story and I found this happening frequently. I think I need all that extra information to keep my focus as it’s a bygone era.

I don’t like listening to audiobooks much as I have sensitive hearing that seems to be affecting me more than when I was younger. I could however just be noticing it more. I know alcohol dampens the senses but it’s not good to use that to cope with noisy situations. Anyways I find I pay less attention to an audiobook but it’s more relaxing that way as I can just switch off.

So in conclusion Real Books are best for absorbing information information, e books if you want a wide variety that doesn’t take up any space and audiobooks if you need a distraction from every day life.

Do you agree with my conclusion?

Best wishes

Angela

An alternative perspective on autism

This article is about an amazing book I have read about autism and this is one of the best descriptions I have come across. It’s certainly the best from someone who isn’t personally on the autism spectrum themselves.

transformingautism.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/eBook-TAP-May-2017.pdf