Reading

12 great reads… that have nothing to do with COVID19

A flatlay image of a desk with the caption '12 great reads that have nothing to do with COVID19'

I’ll start this blog post in the same way that I have started almost every email in recent weeks: “How are you going? I hope you’re keeping well in these strange days.”

I don’t know about you, but I’m finding it essential at the moment to take time away from the news cycle. Although it’s important to stay up date with what’s happening, it’s all too easy to get sucked into endless scrolling of updated figures and bad news stories from around the world – and that’s not good for anyone’s wellbeing!

There have been days during the lockdown when I’ve really enjoyed getting stuck into a good book. But there have been other days when I’ve only had the attention span for essays and features. I’ve been keeping track of the best ones so that I can share them with you.

I hope some of these keep you engaged and entertained. Continue reading “12 great reads… that have nothing to do with COVID19”

Reading

Reading as self-care

a blue book on wooden table with the text 'reading as self-care: what to read when the world feels overwhelming'

I’ve been meaning for months to write a blog post about the benefits of reading as self-care. For obvious reasons, now seems as good a time as any.

Reading has always been my go-to activity.

Worried about something and need to know more about it? Read a book.

Worried about something and need to distract myself from it? Read a book.

Need to shut out the white noise of the world and remind myself how to focus on one thing at a time? Read a book.

Heaps of time to kill – at home, in a waiting room, while travelling? Read a book.

It has been clear from watching the stress levels rise across my social media feeds and in-person communities over the last few weeks that not everyone has tuned in to the life-changing magic of books yet.

That’s reasonable. We are living in exceptional times – for those working in frontline jobs, on casual contracts, or as freelancers, there are financial pressures that accompany the COVID-19 pandemic that can’t just be wished away. For those personally affected by the virus, there are even more pressing things to think about.

But for every one of us, for our own wellbeing and mental health, it’s important to have a way of taking the occasional break from the strangeness of it all – from the pressure, the panic, and the 24-hour news cycle. Books are one of the most accessible ways of doing that. Continue reading “Reading as self-care”

Reading

What are the best books about Tasmania?

A stack of books with the caption 'What are the best books about Tasmania?'

For a relatively small state, Tasmania has a disproportionately high number of good writers.

From emerging writers like Erin Hortle and Ben Walter, whose work you can often read in contemporary Australian lit journals, to crime writers like David Owen, historians like James Boyce, and award-winning novelists like Amanda Lohrey and Christopher Koch, there is a wonderful diversity of styles, themes and genres.

There’s also an abundance of talented children’s writers and illustrators in Tasmania, including Coral Tulloch, Christina Booth, Emily Conolan, and Kate Gordon. Continue reading “What are the best books about Tasmania?”

Reading

My Top Reads of 2019

Tall stack of books with caption 'My top reads of 2019' by Ruth Dawkins

Have I mentioned before how much I enjoy reading? I think I might have! Once… or perhaps twice.

2019 has been an absolute cracker of a year for good books. My targeted approach of only buying and borrowing books that are on my wishlist – rather than lucky dipping from the sale table – seems to paying dividends. I’ve not encountered many duds this year at all.

We still have a couple of weeks to go, but my reading stats for 2019 are:

Books read: 117

Books started but abandoned before the end: 6

(I don’t like criticising books publicly because reading is such a personal thing, but message me on social media or email me if you want to know what they were!) Continue reading “My Top Reads of 2019”

Reading

Women’s Nature Writing

flatlay image of autumn leaves, glasses and a notebook on a wooden table, with the text 'Women's Nature Writing'

Kathleen Jamie’s new book Surfacing landed in my mailbox last week, and I can’t wait to read it. Kathleen is a Scottish poet and essayist, and Surfacing is her third collection – following Findings and Sightlines – of what you’d probably call nature writing, although that term does little justice to her delightful touch.

I was interested to read an interview with Kathleen in the Guardian last week, which dealt with the question of whether contemporary nature writing is overly dominated by white men. (Spoiler – it is.)

That’s not to say that there aren’t some wonderful men out there, producing great work – there are, and you’ve probably read at least some of them. (Hi, Robert MacFarlane…) But the natural world is too beautiful for us to only read about it through that one narrow lens.

Unfortunately, what the Guardian piece didn’t do was highlight any of the alternatives, of which there are many. So I thought I’d take sometime to pull together a non-exhaustive list of writers, books, essays and sites that you might like to explore if this subject interests you. It really is just a way of dipping your toe in the water – there’s so much out there and if you’re anything like me you’ll discover that following one interesting link leads you to a dozen more.

Have fun getting lost in nature! And feel free to leave a comment below with your own recommendations.

Continue reading “Women’s Nature Writing”

Reading

Do you need to own books to love them?

Weekend of Reading Tasmania - Do you have to own books to love them?

The inaugural Weekend of Reading took place in Hobart over the weekend. It was a fantastic three-day event, organised by Kate Harrison and Jane Rawson, which kicked off on Friday night with the announcement of the Tasmanian Premier’s Literary Prize shortlists.

I was really pleased when Kate and Jane – who work together under the banner of Read Tasmania – asked me to take part in one of the panel discussions. Along with fellow Hobart writers Peter Timms and Ruth Quibell, I tackled the question ‘Do you need to own books to love them?’ Continue reading “Do you need to own books to love them?”

Feature Writing, Reading

The best essays of 2019… so far!

Old typewriter on wooden desk with caption 'The best essays of 2019 so far' by Ruth Dawkins

According to my blog stats, a post I wrote back in 2017 about 20 Places to Read Great Personal Essays has proved to be enduringly popular. I suspect it’s mainly other writers who seek it out, looking for publications that might be a good fit to submit their own personal essays to. But perhaps there are also a few people out there – like me – who just really enjoy reading good quality essays and feature articles online.

One problem I’ve found over the years is that I tend to lose track of those favourite reads. I save the link on Facebook, or favourite it on Twitter… but then never manage to go back and read it a second time. Sometimes I forget to save it at all, which can be infuriating if I’m trying to find it again later! I’ll remember a great turn of phrase, or a theme that resonated, but no combination of Google search terms will bring the piece back to me. Continue reading “The best essays of 2019… so far!”

Reading

The Best Books about Motherhood

silhouette of mother and child with text 'The best books about motherhood by Ruth Dawkins'

Quite accidentally, I seem to have found myself reading a lot of motherhood memoirs recently.

My own son is now ten years old – the drudgery of sleepless nights is well behind us – but the tears and laughter that have been prompted by my recent reads would suggest that the memories of those early days are still quite raw.

I thought it would be useful to compile a list of my favourite reads about motherhood. Others may well disagree, but I always found fiction, memoir and poetry to be far more useful than how-to manuals and parenting guides. Sometimes all you need to know is that someone has else lived what you’re currently living, and come out the other side of it alive.  Continue reading “The Best Books about Motherhood”

Reading

Reading makes me a better writer: here’s why

Stack of books and caption 'Being a reader makes me a better writer... here's why.'

It’s no great secret that I’m a big reader. I’ve published several posts on this blog about my favourite books, and over on Instagram I run an account called @ruthreadsbooks which functions as a visual reading diary.

You can imagine then how pleased I was to find this recent study, which concluded that reading makes you a more empathetic person.

I’ve long-believed that being a keen reader makes me a better writer, and developing empathy is a key part of that. Whether you’re writing creatively and trying to put yourself in the position of a reader who wants to be engaged and entertained, or whether you’re writing copy and trying to make sure what you deliver keeps your client happy, the ability to see other perspectives and viewpoints is crucial. Continue reading “Reading makes me a better writer: here’s why”

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! Continue reading “Helsinki… and a whole heap of books”