freelance life, Reading

Helsinki… and a whole heap of books

Ruth Dawkins freelance writer blog image

I’m just back at my desk after three weeks of travel with my family in Europe.

We started with a fortnight in Scotland, visiting friends and relatives in the Outer Hebrides and Edinburgh, and then to break up the long trip back to Australia we spent a few days in Helsinki. What a wonderful city! We loved the friendly people, the beautiful food, and the fantastic architecture. I’m definitely keen to visit again in future.

If you ever find yourself in Helsinki, we would highly recommend the hotel we stayed in: Hotel Katajanokka. A converted prison, it is well situated near the ferry terminal, and is within easy walking distance of the city centre. If you don’t fancy walking, there is a tram stop right at the front door. The hotel also has a wonderful restaurant, spacious rooms and a fascinating history – it was a great find!

Travel is always so much fun, but as a bit of a homebody I’ve got to confess that I love sleeping in my own bed again, and cooking in my own kitchen. I’m even enjoying being back to work and slowly sifting through a very full inbox!

As an easy return to writing, I thought I’d share a few of my recent reads. I couldn’t help laughing while we were away – it was clear from the weight of his suitcase that my 9-year-old son has inherited my love of books. He left Tasmania with six novels to last him the holiday, but somehow returned home with more than a dozen!

I managed to be a little more restrained. I did a few swaps in our Airbnb stays so although I brought one or two new books home I also left some behind for others to enjoy.

Here were some of my favourites:

1. An American Marriage, Tayari Jones.

Tayari Jones is an incredible storyteller, who creates complex, entirely believable characters, and this novel is every bit as beautiful as its cover would have you believe. An American Marriage is a love story, but one that will break your heart.

2. The Poet X, Elizabeth Acevedo.

I had to force myself to slow down and really savour this novel written in verse, because I wanted to tear through it. So compelling, please give this one a go even if you’re not usually a fan of poetry.

3. The Hate U Give, Angie Thomas.

I was very late to this party, but glad I finally got there! I’d been hearing great things about this book for so long and it didn’t disappoint. I wish there had been YA fiction like this around when I was a teenager. (Perhaps there was, but not in the library of my small town in the Scottish Borders!)

4. Tiny Beautiful Things, Cheryl Strayed.

I need a second copy of this that I can go through with a highlighter, because there are so many words of wisdom that should be revisited again and again. Cheryl Strayed produces the kind of clear, concise, honest writing that I absolutely aspire to.

5. Hunger, Roxane Gay.

Gosh this is a courageous book. It takes a very brave writer to be so vulnerable. I much preferred this to Bad Feminist because it felt more open and personal, but it still spoke such enormous, universal truths to me. What a lesson in empathy and love towards ourselves and others.

6. The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck.

This was a re-read for the first time in many years, and it was every bit as good as I remembered. It was an absolute joy to rediscover how good Steinbeck’s writing is, and to meet some of my favourite literary characters all over again.

7. Flames, Robbie Arnott.

This is the debut novel from a super talented young Tasmanian writer, and it’s an astonishing book, like nothing I’ve ever read before. So good! There are parts of the narrative that will stick with me forever.

8. Catalogue of Unabashed Gratitude, Ross Gay.

I first discovered Ross Gay through his poem ‘A Small Needful Fact’ about Eric Garner. I’ve lost count of how often I’ve revisited those fifteen lines to read them again, and every time they bring tears. This award winning collection is a wonderful one, which should be on the shelf of every poetry fan.


If you want to keep up with my regular reading recommendations and mini-reviews, please come and say hello over on my Instagram account @ruthreadsbooks.

Now that our trip is over, I’m also looking for some work to keep me out of mischief until Christmas. I’ve got a few interesting things on the go, but still have capacity to take on one or two days a week of writing and editing projects.

If you or your organisation are looking for an experienced copywriter please get in touch – I’d love to chat about your requirements and see if I can help.


Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

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