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One From the Archive: ‘The Wonderful Weekend Book’ by Elspeth Thompson ****

When is there a better time to read such a book as The Wonderful Weekend Book than over a bank holiday?  That is exactly what I did.  I had hoped that I could read a little here and there and supplement it with other books, but that didn’t happen in the end.  Instead, I read it from cover to cover in one greedy gulp.  In The Wonderful Weekend Book, Thompson has created such a lovely concept for a piece of non-fiction.  She aims to help her readers to reclaim their weekends back from the mundane tasks which seem to fill them – chores and supermarket shopping being top of her list.

9781848540538Some of the ideas which Thompson has come up with to make the most of weekends are absolutely lovely.  I personally loved the way in which the book was split up into the four seasons, which enables the reader to easily locate appropriate activites to fill hours or entire days.  Thompson’s mini essays are very sweet, as are her introductions. The illustrations throughout are lovely, and I really like all of the different inclusions of recipes.  I was given so many ideas for places to visit, all of which have been entered into my travel journal.  I have picked up my hardback notebook which I began to fill with lovely quotes I came across a few years ago once more, and am now referring to it as my ‘anthology’, as Thompson does in her book.

Despite the general loveliness of this volume, there were a couple of definite drawbacks for me.  The first was that although the lists work well, they are entered rather haphazardly into the main body of text and often split up paragraphs in consequence.  Another downside was that much of the book felt like a plugging exercise for different brands and companies.  Early on in the book, Thompson speaks about buying ‘good bath towels from John Lewis’.  Rather than merely making this statement and moving on, she puts John Lewis’ phone number and website address in brackets right after it, which detracts a little from the text.  Overall, The Wonderful Weekend Book is a wonderful addition to any bookshelf, and will be invaluable for anyone aiming to spend their weekends doing more worthwhile things.  It is a volume which I will be dipping into a lot in future as the seasons change.

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‘Lagom: The Swedish Secret of Living Well’ by Lola A. Akerstrom **

‘Perfect for fans of The Little Book of Hygge and Norwegian Wood, find the balance in life that is just right for you. Let Lola A. Akerstrom, Editor-in-chief of Slow Travel Stockholm, be your companion to all things lagom.  As the Swedish proverb goes, ‘Lagom ar bast’ (The right amount is best). Lagom sums up the Swedish psyche and is the reason why Sweden is one of the happiest countries in the world with a healthy work-life balance and high standards of living.  Lagom is a way of living that promotes harmony. It celebrates fairness, moderation and being satisfied with and taking proper care of what you’ve got, including your well-being, relationships, and possessions. It’s not about having too little or too much but about fully inviting contentment into our lives through making optimal decisions. Who better than Lola A. Akerstrom to be your lagom guide? Sweden-based Lola is an award-winning writer, photographer , and editor-in-chief of Slow Travel Stockholm and she offers us a unique vantage point when it comes to adopting elements of a lagom lifestyle.Full of insights and beautiful photographs, taken by Lola herself, this authentic book will help you make small, simple changes to your every day life – whether that’s your diet, lifestyle, money, work or your home – so you can have a more balanced way of living filled with contentment.’

9781472249333I have a real love of Scandinavia, which is why I attempted to read Lagom: The Swedish Secret of Living Well, but for me, it fell short. I was expecting something akin to the wonderful lifestyle books published about the Danish hygge, but that is not what I got at all. A lot of what Akerstrom writes is highly obvious, and can even be construed as patronising at times. It feels as though she is addressing the reader as though they are an incredibly petulant child, and she is an adult with vast reserves of patience to deal with them.

I hoped that Lola A. Akerstrom’s take on the new Swedish phenomenon of lagom would be better than Anna Brones’ Live Lagom, which I found highly disappointing (and, incidentally, which I reviewed last week). Both, however, are very similar tomes, which address almost exactly the same themes, and contain an awful lot of overlapping content. I did like the structure which Akerstrom adopted, but found that a lot of it did not apply to me at all, or was not personally interesting. The only triumph within Lagom was the often lovely photography.

I have concluded that there is nothing overly groundbreaking to be learnt with lagom, and really, that most cultures which I am familiar with already practice a lot of the wellbeing which is linked with it. The majority of what Akerstrom says here could be worked out without too much trouble, and whilst the book is visually lovely, the rest of the content was rather lacking.

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