Outdoor Living is indoor living, just outdoors

An empty backyard is a blank slate for artistry.

I have all the Stuff and Expansion Packs to The Sims 2. But The Sims 3 gave us so much, I did not have the power of persuasion to get my mum to buy me all the packs. Besides, it seems that the Stuff Packs got so diluted it made no sense to buy them anymore – they were just a waste of money. (By the way, I never really got the gist of The Sims 3 Store).

There are several things I missed that were introduced in TS3, the Outdoor Living Stuff Pack being one of them. And I’m glad I didn’t get that one. It seems entirely, totally, absolutely useless. And it goes against my ethics of having every possible space in my Sims’ houses infested with plants and otherwise green stuff.

The only reflection I have after watching the pre-release trailer of Outdoor Living is that ‘outdoor living’, in the conception of the pack’s designers, is the same as indoor living – just outdoors.

The trailer encourages the player to ‘build the perfect outdoor setting’, ‘set the mood’ and ‘give your Sims luxurious outdoor living’ by having ‘the ultimate BBQ’, dressing in ‘chic attire’ and ‘relaxing under the stars’. Now, let’s hope the fumes from your Sim-SUV don’t dim the brightness of the stars by producing a thick layer of smoke that you would get in real life.

With the pack, you get ‘stylish furnishings’, ‘stylish new hot tubs’, ‘outdoor electronics’ and ‘all new outdoor kitchens’ – so that you can recreate your indoor life outside the walls. The emphasis is on ‘stylish’, so that not only your guests are impressed, but also your rude neighbours. They will inevitably peak through the fence after hearing your all-new hi-fi outdoor audio set, and get green from jealousy when they see your super cozy fire pit and smell the courgette burgers you’ve cooked on your elegant BBQ.

See, when I hear ‘outdoor living’, I imagine birdwatching, bugwatching, gardening, skinny dipping, and perhaps some new interactions with foliage (not sure exactly what, let me know if you have ideas). Anything that lets you engage more deeply with the Great Outdoors.

If you want a more modern-American touch, think: angling, fishing, hunting, and camping. I guess something in the gist of The Sims 4: Outdoor Adventure.

But The Sims 3 once again (retrospectively) proves its inferiority in the whole The Sims franchise. It’s bland, uncreative, materialistic, and still too much resemblant of Play-Doh.

Now, I might be biased. I spent too much time in the actual outdoors, whether building wooden bunks or hunting for slugs to protect patches of organic cabbage in the Welsh nowherehood. The outdoors has very different connotations to me than to a suburban American who was never taught to know better. Outdoor Living supports seeing The Sims as an American-centred product, revolving around the ideas of life formed in the late-c20 white American suburb.

The Sims 4 Snowy Escape: Siberia subpack

What you associate with snow is what you associate with snow. #mindwork

A collage of The Sims 3 Mother Russia images, The Sims 4 Snowy Escape promo material, and archival images of exiles in Siberia (including one of Jozef Pilsudski).

Remember, you can freeze to death if you stay too long in the cold!

A few observations about my job part 1.

I got this job exactly a month ago today. It’s since grown on me, and it’s one of my favourite things to do. It gets me out of the house, gets me moving, and to explore new parts of my city. I go to places I’d never go otherwise, either because they’d be out of reach (think, staircases) or because there’d be no reason whatsoever for me to go there (think, a dodgy street on the other side of the river…). I get to talk to people, smile to people, laugh with people, and have met new people – my colleagues.

It’s another tick on my random-jobs achievement list, but actually I am fulfilling dreams here. ‘I always wanted to be a pizza delivery person,’ I used to say, and now I can say I’ve been a pizza delivery person. I’ve delivered pizzas! Perhaps I don’t drive a car or wear a red T-shirt with a pizza on it, but I’ve made people smile by bringing them their flat, square cardboard boxes filled with cheesy, doughy goodness.

But hey, who said your future would be exactly as you pictured it.

Freddy the Pizza Dude - The Sims Wiki
I am not Freddy… but I could be.

Now, I’ve never expected to be exactly like Freddy the Pizza Dude (though you can probably be a Pizza Dude if you’re really convinced you are a Pizza Dude). I’d say my job is even better – I deliver lots of pancakes, chips, soup, even McFlurries. Although I have to say that McDonald’s deliveries are by far my least favourite.

What’s wrong with McDonald’s deliveries?

  1. Don’t order COFFEE to be delivered to you from McDonald’s. Get a kettle. And some instant coffee. And some milk. Honestly, it’s not that difficult. Your coffee would spill in my backpack anyway, as it would in any other person’s backpack when they’re riding over cobblestones, curbs, and potholes in the road. Don’t be that kind of lazy.
  2. Actually, don’t order any McDonald’s to be delivered to you… unless your life depends on it. If you’re already going into the effort of spending 30+ PLN on food delivery, you could at least support one of your local businesses that are struggling to survive this whole pandemic thing. I bet we all know at least a few independent restaurants that didn’t make it through – so just pick a different place. What comes around goes around, you’ll score yourself some karma points and most likely get something way more nutritious into your belly. And you’ll make someone happy – the big guy who runs McDonald’s won’t even notice your lil’ Chickenburger, McFlurry and Diet Coke order.

I don’t mind going into the actual McDonald’s. The staff are always nice. But honestly… McDonald’s is meant to be a quick bite, when there’s nothing else available. When you’re sitting at home, you’ve got all the options. Choose them wisely.


Another reason why I’m not Freddy the Pizza Dude is that he’s dressed for the summer. I’m always dressed for the winter. But already on the second day my biggest expectation about this job – that I would be cold all the time – turned out to be false.

Okay, there are days when my hands are freezing, my ears are aching, and my toes are numb – perhaps as much as half my work days, or more. But most of the time I’m hot and sweaty. During rush hours (i.e. most evenings in the week) I’m always moving, and then all I want is water and to pull my coat off. I always wear the same stuff, trackies, a T-shirt, a thermal long-sleeve underneath and a winter jacket on top. And that jacket is doing really well – I’m never cold. We get good quality equipment, I can tell you that. You get used to its extremely bright colour and your humongous backpack…

The strategic parts of the human body you have to attend to when dressing for winter cycling are:

  • Ears! And the rest of the head. Make sure your winter hat won’t fall off, and wind won’t get through its fibres – loose-knit hats won’t keep you very warm, especially when you’re moving fast. Tight beanies are the best. You might want to give your ears extra cover, e.g. by wearing ear muffs, or a bandana.
  • Toes. Your shoes might let cold air in when you’re moving fast, even if they are winter boots. My hack is to wear one (only one) pair of socks with extra padding, and put little plastic sandwich bags over the front part of my feet. It keeps the cold air and wind away, and I can cycle for hours even in sub-zero temperatures.
  • Fingers. This one’s an obvious one. Fingers get cold. The best thing to do is invest in a pair of really windproof gloves – but make sure that they don’t restrict your hand movements, e.g. when pulling brakes or switching gears.
  • Boobs. I don’t wear a bra when I’m out walking, but you’ll really want to wear one when you’re cycling. You don’t want cold wind getting under your shirt (especially once your torso gets sweaty). Wear a bra!
  • Ankles. Having your ankles exposed while cycling in winter is very unpleasant. Wear longer socks and make sure there’s no bare skin between your cuffs and socks. You can tuck your trousers into your socks, if you want. Ankles are sensitive!
  • And to finish off the list, neck. Don’t get ill easily. A neck/throat exposed to hours of cold wind will probably not be able to speak much once you’re done, or the day after your ride.

And there! Thanks to me you can now safely embark on your cold winter bike ride.

I didn’t quite mean this post to be about ear muffs or tucking trousers into socks, but I guess I feel the moral responsibility to decrease suffering in my fellow human beings. The next post will include geography-related observations about my job, specifically about how I began to perceive my city and how it changed my way of thinking about space.

Fibbing Friday entry one!

So PCGuyIV and Di run this thing called Fibbing Friday, where each Friday they post questions and “the idea is to answer the questions below as imaginatively as possible. Just be sure your answers bend, stretch, break, or outright ignore the truth.” I thought – what’s more entertaining than making stuff up? So this Friday I’m taking part in this, too.

  1. What do the abbreviations, B.C. and A.D. stand for?
    B.C. is, obviously, Before Choosing. It’s something you write under each position in a cafe menu, that contains information the customer should be aware of before ordering. It might be something like: “B.C. Beware! Milk skin can form on top of this drink”, or “B.C. Ordering this meal contributes to deforestation and soil erosion in Costa Rica.”
    A.D. means Alternative Denmark, a parallel world to that we’re living in. Everybody knows that Denmark is cool (hygge, sustainability and all), but Alternative Denmark is even cooler. It sports more beards, hipster coffee, and certainly has some cyberpunk aesthetics going on.
  2. What do the abbreviations, B.C.E. and C.E. stand for?
    B.C.E. means “Before Cake Explodes” and is printed on the boxes of birthday cakes that are designed to explode when the solenizant blows the candles. These cakes are a thing of the future, the first one released for sale in 2041. (It took years to obtain the food safety certificate… though ‘food safety’ in this case gains a whole new meaning).
    C.E. is Central Europe, of course. There is nothing else this could mean. (Not to be confused with “P.R.C.” printed at the back of cheap plastic toys).
  3. What were “The Wars of the Roses?”
    “The Wars of the Roses” refers to the ideological battle between Rosa Luxemburg, a Polish Marxist philosopher, and Vivienne Rosa, who was a French Catholic activist who organised rosary rallies that were meant to protect Old Europe from the socialist revolution. The two never corresponded personally, but sent in letters to a controversial magazine called New Europe. All the copies of the magazine, however, have been burnt.
  4. Where was the Kingdom of Prussia located?
    Kingdom of Prussia stretched from the Oder River to Kamchatka. The name was a shortened form of “Polish Russia”, a kingdom that was created when the Polish king conquered all of Russia. The Kingdom didn’t exist for long because the king was quite disappointed with the barren, empty lands that made up most of Russia.
  5. According to the account in Genesis, what happened at the Tower of Babel?
    The Tower of Babel was built by Polish developer companies. Following its completion, a group of protesters gathered on top of the Tower to declare the spelling mistake in the name of the building. They argued it should be “Tower of Babyl”, short for “Babylonia”. This resulted mainly because they were in possession of the badly translated edition of the Bible, published by father Tadeusz Rydzyk.
    The Tower looked very similar to the one below the questions.
  6. What artistic style is Pablo Picasso famous for?
    Picasso was a digital artist, primarily known for his style developed using Picasa (now discontinued software released by Google). He would download various images off of random Picasa albums and combine them into realistic collages that represented worlds which nonetheless broke the rules of physics.
  7. January 6th was two days ago. What makes it special?
    It’s the only day that could otherwise be transcribed as all of the following: 601, 016, 16, 61, and 6I.
  8. In the comic strip, Calvin & Hobbes, who or what is Hobbes?
    I’ve never read the comic strip, but everybody knows that Hobbes is a hybrid of Patrick Geddes and L. Ron Hubbard. The character is known for establishing the church of Calvinology and having some avantgarde ideas on city planning, which he made use of when planning a settlement for the followers of his religion.
  9. The song, “Home on the Range” asks for a home where what two animals play?
    Rabbit and fox. The “range” refers to the shooting range.

Edit: whoops! I forgot one, here it is:

What event triggered the start of the U.S. Civil War?
It was of course the disagreement on which group of immigrants (the early immigrants, not the 20th century ones) made better bread – the Germans or the Poles. (Of course everyone should know that Polish cuisine is better).

5 Hopes for 2021

So Tanya from Salted Caramel does this thing called “5 things” (following the #5things hashtag trend on WordPress), and given that I wanted to participate in more things like this, I’m doing this one, too.

This week it’s 5 Hopes for 2021. These ones will be random, because they’re what just came to my mind right now.

  1. Tadeusz Rydzyk gets dethroned
  2. Some good events in Forge of Empires
  3. People buying less shit, especially in December
  4. People stop driving cars to work if there’s alternatives (take the tram)
  5. Diet Coke gets healthy

Everyone knows you don’t say your truest, deepest wishes out loud. So I didn’t say mine. But these ones are pretty strong wishes, too.

I got The Sims 4: City Living! Welcome Estera

City Living was the third expansion pack to The Sims 4, released back in 2016. I know this was a while ago, but I only recently started catching up with the Simmies. (More than) four years late, I finally got this one – it joined Eco Lifestyle, which I got in June, and last week I also bought Island Living. And for me, as a geographer, it’s been incredibly fascinating to play.

I know that games simplify lots of things, use tons of tropes, and are made brighter and more fun than reality to get people to buy them. But the idea of the city that we get in The Sims is very, very appealing.

The city is fun, laid-back, and we get terrific views from our penthouse window at all times of day. Dusk, midday, dawn, the view is always stunning. That was the first thing I noticed when I moved into San Myshuno with my Sim named Estera Paris.

Stunning sunset from my penthouse in San Myshuno.

She rapidly made friends with her neighbours. And more neighbours. And more more neighbours. And, interestingly, all of her neighbours seem to come from the Near East, Middle East, or Far East. The city’s very multicultural. The only white people in the city (except for Estera) seem to come from the suburbs, like Willow Creek or Evergreen Harbor.

Art critics at work.

Estera quickly got to hang out exclusively with the coolest folks in town. At a karaoke club, she met her boyfriend – of lately, a husband and father of her daughter Tamara (named after Tamara Łempicka, because I couldn’t think of anything else) – Akira Kibo, who’s a tech guru from Japan. They used to go on late night dates blowing bubbles with their friends, including Bella Goth of Goth Mansion.

You and your friends can enjoy all the bubbles using this colourful Bubble Machina.

Their favourite activity, however, would be going to the GeekCon (Akira) and the Humor and Hijinks Festival (Estera). Both festivals had

The Humor and Hijinks Festival in San Myshuno. Of course, the finale included a firework show.
Drinking this mysterious substance symbolised my Sim joining the Comedy team at the Humor and Hijinks Festival.

Estera never shied away from Mischief, however at the Humor and Hijinks Festival she always joined the Comedians. Even though her clothes were predominantly grey. Still, she preferred pure laughs to evil jokes – she’s just kind-spirited.

Of course, there’s graffiti. Weirdly, only on the pavements.

Tamara rarely ate meals at home. She usually grabbed something to eat at one of the food stalls just outside her apartment block. It was tasty, accessible, and cheap. But since her and Akira moved in together and had a baby, they switched to cooking meals at home. (They probably would use HelloFresh in the real world. They are this cool).

My Sim was rather disappointed the only food available at the GeekCon was junk.

Estera is the alternative me; I wish I was this cool. Also, I don’t live in San Myshuno which always has sunny weather. But this could be fixed if I got the Seasons expansion pack. I won’t get it, though, because I already bought Island Living, and buying three packs in two weeks is just a tad too excessive.

My rating:

THIS IS AN EXCELLENT PACK AND IS MUCH RECOMMENDED.

2020: Summation/Share Your World

So I’ve lately been enjoying blogging for the sake of blogging, and it reminded me of the old good times when I started blogging as – I think – a 9-year-old. The sense of the blogging community was strong to me back in 2007, and I’ve recently felt it again. So in this post I’m engaging with a Share Your World series ran by Melanie from sparksfromacombustiblemind. I’m not sure yet how the ping-backs work and all, but I’m hoping to figure it out soon.

Anyway, here’s the link to the original post, and here are my answers:

Pick three words to describe this past year.  (Please keep them PG. Thanks).

Books – I read a lot of books.

Exploratory – everything I did felt like an exploration of some kind, even though I did not at all times know what exactly I was exploring.

Melancholia – for the third one, I was looking for a word that expressed how I felt for the majority of the year. I could see that year in cold colours: blues, greys, sad browns. A lot of what I did that year was driven by feelings of nostalgia, of times and places, but melancholia was a wider term, more encompassing of what I felt. It involves sadness, bodily complaints, but also symbolises cold, dampness, sourness, earth, autumn, and adulthood. Besides, the feeling that I really didn’t do that much caused by the pandemic felt like I was rather inactive, like melancholics are, theoretically.

What were the best books you read this year?  Or the best movie you saw?

For my summary of my book-reading in 2020, go to my previous post; but extracting from that, the best books I think were “Jeden miesiąc mojego życia” (multiple authors, 1981) and “How to write a sentence” (Stanley Fish, 2011). Also “Edgelands” (Paul Farley & Michael Symmons, 2012) and “Wild” (Cheryl Strayed, 2012).

Among the best things I’ve seen are Queen’s Gambit (2020) and Bilet na Księżyc (2013), both available on Netflix.   

Because there was lots of time for looking inward, what is one big personal lesson you learned this past year?

Perhaps that writing is such a big part of me that I can’t go without it! And that it doesn’t have to be good. But it has to be done.

Do you think Covid has strengthened or weakened societal bonds?

Strengthened, because we realise how dependent we are on each other to keep ourselves going financially – without customers, local businesses die, and without friendly places to go to we feel bored and isolated. There were also plenty of social initiatives to support different social groups, and that itself has strengthened bonds, on various scales – from interpersonal to transnational.

Gratitude

What is a New Year’s wish you’d like to share with the world?

The same wish that Pracownia na Rzecz Wszystkich Istot wished us:

to live in harmony with ourselves and our surroundings.

All the books I read in 2020

I don’t like long introductions to blog posts. They always happen on baking websites before each recipe. You won’t get it here, because I don’t post recipes.

Here’s a list of all the books I read in 2020 with some short description/notes/thoughts on the book/circumstances. (From the ones read most recently to the ones I read back in January).

Summary

First book of the year: Under Western Eyes, Joseph Conrad
Last book of the year: Hajstry. Krajobraz bocznych dróg, Adam Robiński
Most talkaboutable book of the year: Polska przydrożna, Piotr Marecki
Biggest surprise: Jeden miesiąc mojego życia, autor zbiorowy

Book total: 33 (16 in English, 17 in Polish)


Hajstry. Krajobraz bocznych dróg, Adam Robiński (2017). Another piece of fabulous contemporary geography, this time of Polish making. I’m now onto Kiczery, another book by Robiński. It’s the same weird style of writing, my mum didn’t like it, I’m not a fan either but it’s readable. I loved the fragments about Bledow Desert and Wacław Nałkowski, I’ve been looking for information on Nałkowski for a while now so that was a good start. The book talks about the less-likely tourist destinations in Poland.

Le Corbusier – tragizm współczesnej architektury, Charles Jencks (1982 [1973]). I bought the Polish translation of Jencks’ book on Allegro.pl and it was a terrific choice. This edition is from 1982 from Wydawnictwa Artystyczne i Filmowe, and I came to reason that translations back in PRL [communist Poland] were much better because there were fewer people with the qualifications and degrees to do it. Fewer people learnt English and so only the actually smart people got commissioned to translate books. It reads fast and well, is a volcano of information, and I finished it in two days, well before my exam in Texts and Theories in Western Architecture. I wasn’t expecting to ever read this book front-to-back, but I did. So if you want to learn more about Le Corbusier and know Polish, go for this one.

Jak nie zostałam influencerką, Majka Nowak (2020). A cheapo book I treated myself to spontaneously when shopping at Biedronka. It’s funny, a humorous take on the current social media influencer trend and how it might look behind-the-scenes for many wannabes who never make it.

Wild, Cheryl Strayed (2012). Picked up in a free library off some street in Inverleith, Edinburgh. I loved every single page of it. Wonderful travel account of hiking the Pacific Crest Trail and figuring out some life problems on the way.

Książka o mieszkaniu ładnym i wygodnym, Jan Szymański (1962). A 1962 book (illustrated with drawings only) on how to make your <48 sqm flat pretty and comfortable. Kind of like the grandparent of IKEA, but instead of buying furniture in a warehouse you order it from from a local carpenter – or just buy the wood and make it yourself. I guess that’s what my dad read when he was fitting out our flat in the early 1990s.

Urobieni. Reportaże o pracy, Marek Szymaniak (2018). A good quick read I squeezed into the last day before going back to Edinburgh after the summer. A non-fiction account about working people in Poland, Poles and other nationalities, and how screwed over you can get working there. A number of stories got stuck in my head, primarily the one about an old man working for 5 PLN per hour in a car park gatehouse without a radiator in the middle of winter.

Reasons to stay alive, Matt Haig (2015). Good, I needed these reminders, read quickly in the car on the way to Podlachia. Will need to pick it up again sometime.

W głębi lasu, Harlan Coben (2007). Borrowed from a girl whom I stayed with when volunteering at Bialowieza National Park. She and her friend were on a student placement and much less excited about pulling out Himalayan balsam for days, in the forest, in the rain. I read the book in a day, which means it was easily digestible. The Polish translation wasn’t too bad. I still like the show (Netflix’s the woods) better.

Things fall apart, Chinua Achebe (1958). Probably the first book of an African author I’ve ever read. And this one was a good start. I will read more books like this when I get back into proximity of a UK library. I actually got this book in the summer of 2017, from a Spanish man who was travelling through Europe on his bike. We met when I was at work in the souvenir shop, and he was sitting outside the cafe next door having a coffee. We hung out, had gazpacho together in a Mexican restaurant, and he gave me the book the next day.

Życie w PRL, Iwona Kienzler (2015). I am among the many young Poles who are interested in the history of my country under communism and what life was like back then. This book covers the period from 1950s until the end of 1980s. It was an entertaining read, but I’d like something more in-depth on the same topic.

Turbopatriotyzm, Marcin Napiórkowski (2019). It was ok. I like the idea of ‘soft’ and ‘hard’ patriotism. Anything that helps me understand the contemporary Polish society is good.

NY, NY, Nowy Jork, Jan Zakrzewski (1980). A book I picked up from the free-to-take shelf in one of the Hel museums. It was serendipity. A great read – description of New York City by a Pole, for a Polish audience, written in the 1970s. The only thing you remember after you read it is that you can get killed any minute, any day in any New York neighbourhood.

Kapitalizm do lat 18, Karl Hess (1991). Also read in Hel. Fantastic way to get your kids thinking about running a business and making profit. Capitalism working as promised. (It actually gave me some new perspectives and ideas, so I’m glad I read it).

Przełęcz Złamanego Serca, Alistair MacLean (1974). Picked up in Hel, read on the train back to Torun. A classic Western. I don’t generally read stuff like that, but what is summer for if not for new experiences? I liked it. Of course, majority of the characters were males, very masculine males, but the female character was compensatingly badass.

Jeden miesiąc mojego życia, autor zbiorowy (1981). AHHHHHHH! What a blessing! This was one of the most fabulous Polish books I have ever read. It’s a compilation of diaries collected in the late 1970s by the Polish Sociological Institute.

Alchemia scenariusza filmowego, Piotr Wereśniak (2000). Just a little handbook on how to write movie scripts. I wish I could write a movie script.

Źle urodzone, Filip Springer (2017). Read quickly, majority of it on a bench in Park na Bydgoskim, outside the amphitheatre. Springer keeps it brief, throws in some biographical facts about Polish Modernist architects, I wasn’t massively transformed by this book.

Polska przydrożna, Piotr Marecki (2020). The book of the year, if you ask me, I read it and it stayed with me, and it’s been a while. I don’t know whether it’s because of Marecki’s weird promo-campaign on Instagram where he posted the worst reviews of his book he could find. If it is, then his technique was genius. Or maybe it’s because of the appeal of Polish countryside idyll, with all the roadside shrines and provincial pizza places. Yes, it was probably that.

Polskie mięso, Jan Kapela (2018). I told my dad to read it. I think he read two chapters at most and got so disgusted that he abandoned the book and went back to eating his meat as normal. What can I say? Men are dumb. (It’s a book on how meat and fur are produced in Poland, and also speaks about the lives of people who work in these industries – they are at so much risk of injuries and have very poor health, it makes you think very differently about processed meat).

The importance of being earnest, Gustave Flaubert (1895). Not a book, but a play. It sat in my Kindle until one sleepless night where I picked it up and read it in one go. It was funny and entertaining, despite being from the 19th century.

Zakopanoptikon, Andrzej Strug (1913). I found this book on one of our top, most dusty shelves in my parents’ flat during my first week of quarantine. The plot sounded so interesting, and I was already on a fin-de-siecle bandwagon by then, that I set out to read it. The back includes a lot of informative footnotes as well as cartoons of some kind. I wonder if Strug wrote anything better, because I really struggled with reading the second half of the book.

The Mammoth Hunters, Jean M. Auel (1985). Finally finished it! Now on to the fourth book in the series, but it’s massive, so hopefully I’ll have read it by the end of 2021.

The diary of a bookseller, Shaun Blythell (2017). Entertaining, but each page was soaked through by the confidence-slash-arrogance of the author. I lent it to my former boss. If you want to become familiar with the ACTUAL bookshop that is described in there (by its owner!), go to www.the-bookshop.com (weird www address…).

Edgelands, Paul Farley and Michael Symmons (2011). So very contemporarily geographic. It talks about “England’s true wilderness“, and I’d present this book to each person who wonders what geography could be about, if not about rocks and earthquakes. It is about environments, but you can’t remove people from environments.

Department of Speculation, Jenny Offill (2014). It was a small book that caught my interest in the Edinburgh Central City Library. Pleasant and intriguing.

Why I am so clever, Friedrich Nietzsche (1908). Not so much of a book, it’s a £1 Penguin essentials edition, containing fragments of Nietzsche’s essays that he wrote very shortly before he went mad. One of my most valued reads. I particularly like the fragment “All silent people are dyspeptic. You may note that I do not care to see rudeness undervalued; it is by far the most humane form of contradiction, and, amid modern effeminacy, it is one of our first virtues.”

The lost art of walking, Geoff Nicholson (2015). I took this out from the ECA Library to read for the Writing Landscape course. We had some classes on psychogeography, and our short essay was meant to be inspired by the walk we did in small groups when we threw dice at each crossing to decide which way to go. So I read The lost art of walking, and I remember how I sat at Roots in the window and just reading this when all the people were walking by in the street. An insightful journey into the social history of walking.

The shack, Paul Young (2007). I started reading the book in 2017, but accidentally left it on the plane coming back from Paris. Later, I took out the Polish copy from the library in my hometown, but didn’t finish it before leaving Poland again for seven months. When my neighbours were giving away their copy, I knew I had to get it and finally finish it. And I did. It’s a Christian book, and I’m not Christian, really, but nonetheless it was very intriguing. I saw the movie when it came out (spring 2017) and I knew I wanted to read the book. I recommend the movie for sure, and if you like it, you can read the book, too.

First you write a sentence, Joe Moran (2018). I read that book for my Writing Landscape class, trying to teach myself about writing, you know. It was good and a good read. I guess that’s the point of the book – to make you aware that how you put your words together, where you drop punctuation marks, it all matters to the reader in unobvious ways.

The picture of Dorian Gray, Oscar Wilde (1890). I’d wanted to read this since I was in middle school, and I finally did, thanks to the Secret Santa who gifted it to me at Christmas 2019. It was great. The best of 19th century writing style. Strongly recommended.

H is for Hawk, Helen MacDonald (2014). A book recommended to us by our course organiser for Writing Landscape. And this is really where my reading boom started this year; I’m so grateful to have had the opportunity to take that class, if it wasn’t for it I’m 99% certain I wouldn’t have read more than four books this year.

Ghost writer, Philip Roth (1979). Had to read the Wikipedia article to remind myself the plot of this book.

Under western eyes, Joseph Conrad (1911). A sound find from Edinburgh City Library. Conrad was Polish, and one of the most famous writers in the English language. Now I’m reading Heart of Darkness, but Under western eyes was better – it takes place in Moscow and there’s more dialogue and monologue, so that’s great. I really want to get to know Conrad more, so I hope he wrote more readable books.


Ah! It’s been good to revisit these books, mainly by looking up their years of publication. I never read so much in my adult life, and I am thankful to my Writing Landscape lecturer that he re-introduced me to reading. I’ve been reading all the time since the beginning of the year, and hopefully nothing in 2021 messes up this nice routine. Here’s to 32 more books read in the New Year (no pressure though).

Year of publication tats

Oldest book I read: 1890 (The picture of Dorian Gray)
Newest book I read: 2020 (Polska przydrożna; Jak nie zostałam influencerką)
Average year of publication: 1986 (pointless but funny)

Books by century:
19th century: 2
20th century: 13
21st century: 18

Books by decade:
1890s – 2
1900s – 1
1910s – 2
1950s – 1
1960s – 1
1970s – 3
1980s – 3
1990s – 1
2000s – 3
2010s – 14
2020s – 2