‘Live Lagom: Balanced Living, the Swedish Way’ by Anna Brones **

I am such a fan of the Danish concept of hygge, which was very popular during 2016, that I was immediately interested in reading about the Swedish lagom. Rather than revolve around comfort and cosiness as hygge does, lagom addresses a lifestyle balance.  Its blurb states:

Live Lagom is a guide to life based on the Swedish philosophy of lagom, meaning `not too little, not too much, just right’. Celebrated author of Fika and Nordic happiness expert Anna Brones explains the practice of Lagom in traditional and practical terms, and includes advice and tips on how to find your happy medium. Lagom helps you to achieve balance in everyday life and in all areas including home, work and health. Learn how to save money, feel less stressed, reduce your environmental impact, and create your ideal home and career through the way of life practised in one of the happiest and most satisfied countries in the world. Discover for yourself the trend that Elle described as `the more sustainable and enjoyable lifestyle we’ll all be wanting in 2017.’ Lagom allows you to enjoy the moment, and not only accept what you already have but also to make the most of it.’

9781785037283I knew little about its details before I began to read Live Lagom: Balanced Living, the Swedish Way, and honestly do not feel much clearer after finishing Brones’ book. There is an awful lot of waffle here, and I found the writing very awkward in places; indeed, I thought it had been poorly translated at first, before realising that the author had been brought up in the United States.

Whilst the photography in Live Lagom was lovely, and I appreciated the inclusion of recipes, the text became quite repetitive, and a lot of what Brones tried to put across seemed highly obvious. The concept is interesting, but this book did not work for me at all.

Considering the heart of the concept, Live Lagom strangely lacks any balance, and a lot of the chapters felt quite superfluous. What did interest me was the section on nature and the environment, which was undoubtedly the strength of the book for me. I can only hope that other tomes which explore lagom are more… well, balanced.

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‘The Little Book of Hygge’ by Meik Wiking ****

Meik Wiking’s The Little Book of Hygge: The Danish Way to Live Well is the fourth title on the Danish phenomenon of hygge which I have read to date.  I adore the whole concept, and thought that snuggling down with this on a Sunday evening when I felt unwell would be rather comforting; it was.9780241283912

Wiking works at the Happiness Research Institute in Denmark, an independent think-tank ‘focusing on well-being, happiness and quality of life’, which aims to ‘work towards improving the quality of life of citizens across the world’.  Essentially, Wiking looks into what makes us happy.  In his book, he has written extensively about different happiness surveys, and how hygge contributes to the Danes being consistently voted the happiest nation on earth.

I read one review of The Little Book of Hygge which writes that it adds little to the slew of existing books.  I thought that I would challenge this viewpoint, which I found to be false, by formulating a list of all of the things about hygge that Wiking has taught me.  Here goes…

  1. The literal translation of the Danish for candle, levende lys, means ‘living lights’ (which is just delightful).
  2. 28% of Danes light candles every day.
  3. Only 47% of Danes believe that hygge can be translated into other languages and societies.
  4. The Danes believe that autumn is the most hyggelig season.
  5. Tokka is the word for a large herd of reindeer in Finnish.  (Not necessarily a fact about hygge, I know, but linguistically interesting nonetheless; it has no parallels in other languages).
  6. Sondagshygge is hygge specific to Sundays; it revolves around ‘having a slow day with tea, books, music, blankets and perhaps the occasional walk if things go crazy’.  (My favourite kind of day, no less).
  7. Per head, Danes eat 8.2 kilograms of sweets annually; this is second only to Finland, and twice the European average.
  8. In Danish fashion, a ‘scarf is a must’.
  9. Braised pigs’ cheeks, and ‘twisting bread’, for which there are recipes here, sound really tasty.

The Little Book of Hygge is very soothing, and includes many lists of ways in which hygge can be incorporated into any life.  The illustrations and photographs are a really nice touch, and the whole has been peppered with interesting charts and facts.  The ‘hygge dictionary’ is also lovely, and the structure, which is broken into different chapters following such things as ‘Food and Drink’ and ‘Clothing’, works marvellously.  The idea of making a hygge survival kit is absolutely darling.  In all, I would say that Wiking does add to the concept of hygge, and the books which already exist about it; it would be a lovely addition to any bookshelf, or an incredibly thoughtful gift for a dear friend.

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‘Hygge: A Celebration of Simple Pleasures; Living the Danish Way’ by Charlotte Abrahams ****

The Danish concept of ‘hygge’ (hoo-ga), developed in the eighteenth century as a ‘deliberate attempt to create something’ which was theirs alone, is such a lovely idea.  There is no exact translation into English, but it essentially reflects the act of making oneself snug and content, particularly through Denmark’s long, cold winters.  As Abrahams writes, ‘… essentially hygge was conceived as a concept centred on refuge; on the home as a comforting sanctuary from the outside world and a safe place to withdraw to with your loved ones’.  It is ‘about gentle pleasure, and it acknowledges that we need to pay attention to our well-being’.  The Danish adoption of the concept, and the fact that it is still heavily important within society, is something of which the nation are incredibly proud.

The core values of hygge are integral to Danish life, particularly with the eschewing of materialism and the embracing of the homemade or makeshift, but a contemporary twist has been built upon these firm foundations.  Abrahams has decided, in her factual appreciation of Danish society, to adopt the concept of hygge into her own life, lived in Gloucestershire with two teenage sons.  Like me, she has been to Copenhagen only once, but found it a welcoming place, with a fascinating, design-orientated culture.

9781409167594I am thrilled to say that I have been practicing hygge for the entirety of my conscious life, though not until recent years did I apply this wondrous word to what I have been doing.  I take time to notice everything; I like to look at and notice things that others tend to miss.  I love to go on long walks, watch the flames dance in the fireplace, watch the colours change in the sky and the clouds morph into different shapes.  I love to watch buds form in the springtime, lay back on a hammock with a good read during a sultry summer, crunch on autumn leaves with my boots, and crown a wonderfully chilly winter’s day with a glass of mulled wine with my family.  I am self-contented; I am more than happy with the person I am, and how I view the world.

I must admit that I wasn’t as interested in the emphasis on designer pieces of furniture which Abrahams believe would suit a hyggelig lifestyle.  Much of the book is lovely and well written, but the lists seemed a little unnecessary, and even a touch patronising in places.  It gathers a good momentum, and is itself both a fascinating social study, and a very cosy read.

Hygge is an important book, particularly within the frantic modern world in which we live.  If everyone read this, we would be kinder to one another.  There would be less emphasis upon how many things we could buy, and more upon using things we already have.  We would have more compassion; we would be more in peace, both within ourselves and within society.

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