Laura Recommends

February Recommendations III

March 6, 2020

SEEN

Thierry Mugler exhibit at Kunsthal, Rotterdam

Kunsthal constantly manages to create absolutely incredible exhibits and the Thierry Mugler exhibit is no exception. The exhibit wastes no time in introducing people to the designer – the first room is instantly immersing people in Mugler’s early work involving stage costumes. Besides this aspect, I was pleasantly surprised to see the number of iconic items they have gathered. I must have spent at least 25 minutes in total just gasping at the craft behind the pieces. The expo will move In March-April to Munich, so if you want to see you can catch it there.

1917 and 1917 Explained: How and Why They Did One Shot – The Take

I have absolutely loved this analysis of 1917! Obviously, the movie itself is a technical masterpiece – a rare immersive experience. I almost forgot to breathe during the movie because I felt it so intensively, but this is proof that it is definitely worth watching.

American Factory

This documentary shouldn’t have shocked me, but somehow it did. it takes an insider look at an American factory which is reopened by Chinese investors. The whole story made me feel very uneasy due to a lot of reasons I will not list here, but I would still recommend it. And btw, it was created by the production house set up by Michelle and Barack Obama.

Miss Americana

I did not think I would enjoy Taylor Swift’s documentary so much, but I did. And I am glad she made the step of opening up and letting people in her thoughts, her process, and her own issues. Naturally, I became OBSESSED with Only The Young – it’s a really good song.

Parasite – ending explained – The Take

Surprise, surprise – the second The Take video in a Recommendations post! Seriously, I am mesmerized by their video analyses. This one is also very nuanced, going through a lot of the movie’s layers.

Sex Education

Right after the second season dropped on Netflix, it seemed that all my friends had been hard-core fans of the show because everybody was hyping it left and right. So, obviously, I had to watch it to satisfy my curiosity. And I get it now. The topics, the acting, the characters, the aesthetic, the jokes – the combo of everything is a winner.

Burger King ad

In case this campaign has not reached you in February, I decided to list it here as well. I will not spoil it for you (you’ll get this pun after you see the ad), but it’s really good and provocative.The Goop Lab – Cynical reviews

The Goop Lab – Cynical Reviews

I didn’t even attempt to watch The Goop Lab because I don’t want to support in any way pseudo-science that aims to capitalize on gullible people, but I still wanted to know what they talk about in this show. This analysis is great and funny and very important, especially if you have the tendency to believe celebrity sponsored activities and products.

How Bollywood Gave Britney Spears Her Greatest Hit – INSIDER

WOW. I promise you that after watching this video you will never listen to Toxic in the same way. I wish more songs were broken down and analysed like this.

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Laura Recommends

December and January Recommendations

February 5, 2020

I know it may seem like I haven’t written a Recommendation post in years, but moving forward I was thinking of publishing these posts only once every two months as my schedule is getting increasingly busy. Any thoughts on this new frequency?

Other than this quick update, I hope the beginning of the new year found you happy, healthy, and determined to make the most of this decade.

Meanwhile, to keep you informed, entertained, and curious, I have prepared a list of all the books, articles, and movies I have enjoyed in the past two months. Obviously I included only the things I really loved and feel comfortable recommending.

BOOKS

The Fate of Food – Amanda Little

I have absolutely adored this book and will not spam you further with content about it, but if you are curious about it and still haven’t read my review, you can find it here.

Lab Girl – Hope Jahren

This book taught me that’s it’s not necessary to have crazy action and events to write a beautiful book. Hope Jahren is a professor and scientist in geochemistry and geobiology. In her first book, she manages to beautifully capture and share her passion for plants and nature and the struggles of being a researcher in a field where money is not necessarily pouring out of the sky. She also manages to present an honest perspective over friendship, particularly about finding friends who are as weird and passionate as you.

How to Stop Time – Matt Haig

I am a sucker for most books addressing time travel. While this particular book’s main character is not a time traveler, but a guy who lives for a bizarrely long period of time, readers can still enjoy stories from multiple centuries. This book is clever, emotional, gripping, and very pleasant to read.

This is going to hurt – Adam Kay

I laughed so much while reading this book that it actually started to hurt 😂 While this book is incredibly funny and enjoyable, I think its biggest achievement is its authentic depiction of a doctor’s life (in NHS). We don’t usually read stories this long about the exhaustion and the crazy shifts medical professionals have to go through, but perhaps the reason why is because most of them barely have time to sleep, let alone write a book. I am also curious to read his second book: Twas the nightshift before Christmas, so let me know your thoughts if you have read it!

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Laura Recommends

One of the best books to read in 2020

January 29, 2020

Back in August last year, I spotted in one of London’s many Waterstones a book that made all the other books fade away. It had a cover depicting a branch of kumquats that had a USB instead of roots. It was eery, beautiful and thought-provoking at the same time.

That was the cover of The Fate of Food by Amanda Little, a book I desperately wanted to get in London. I have confidently delayed the purchase until one hour before my train ride, thinking that the station will be the best place to get it – a naïve belief since I was among the last ones to board the Eurostar, obviously sans my book.

But I bought it eventually and read it in January. I have underlined countless paragraphs, I have scribbled dozens of OMG, WTF and Holy Cow (in pencil, of course, I am not a monster!) and I have arrived at the conclusion that this must be one of the best books I will probably read in 2020, if not the best.

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Laura Recommends

October and November Recommendations

December 1, 2019

Perhaps some of you noticed that in October I did not publish my list of favourites. I was not on an unannounced break, I just realized at the end of the month that there weren’t enough things to make for a full and worthy article. So, my call was to combine October and November recommendations in one post (I usually do November and December together).

BOOKS

When Breath Becomes Air – Paul Kalanithi

I saw this book on one of my coworker’s desks and then one of my best friends told me about it, so obviously I had to give it a go. I listened to the audiobook version of it and I was hooked from the first few minutes. The book explores death and mortality in sincere, hopeful, and raw ways and it quickly became one of my 5 stars books this year.

Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks – Rebecca Skloot

WOW. Let me tell you I had no idea about the ride I was embarking on when I started this book. Although it’s pretty big (over 400 pages), I read it faster than I expected because the writing was great, flowing and clear. I don’t think it’s easy to follow multiple timelines and characters, but Rebecca Skloot certainly did a great job telling the story of Henrietta Lacks, an African-American woman who died in 1951 due to cervical cancer and whose cells have been harvested and commercialized as the first-ever immortal human cells. The book leads to a lot of discussions about the medical industry, ethics, privacy, racism, and future practices and I highly recommend you to read it.

In the past weeks, I have also read The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan, which resonated to me more than I thought and which now made me add the movie adaptation on my To Watch list as well. I also read Outline by Rachel Cusk and found the writing absolutely beautiful and last but not least, I finally read This is how you lose her by Junot Diaz. Cannot wait to read The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao soon!

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Laura Recommends

September Recommendations III

October 5, 2019

Through what can only be explained by the work of magic, in September I managed to change almost everything about my life.

I switched faculties by starting a pre-master in Business Administration that will hopefully prepare me well for a Master next fall. While it is stressful, it is intellectually challenging (it activates parts of my brain that have been dormant for the past 5 years), so I am happy with my choice so far. I started yet another internship, working 3 days per week in a position that allows me to learn a lot about sustainability, communications and various sorts of media. These two choices alone dictated a new rhythm – going to bed before a certain hour, meal prepping even more relentlessly than before, scheduling house chores for the evenings and the weekend and so on.

But hold your breath – I didn’t stop there.

I decided to cut my meat consumption by 80% and eliminate as many animal-based products as possible from my diet. Then I decided to do something about the anxiety I was feeling and the lack of physical mobility I was experiencing – so I got myself a Classpass subscription, meaning I am now going to a pilates or yoga class at least once a week. I am already feeling much better and each training leaves me wanting for more.

I made one more decision, but that will only start impacting my life towards the end of November/beginning of December, so I will tell you about it at the right time.

Meanwhile, let me walk you through my favourite places, books and documentaries from the past 4 weeks:

Books

Hunger: A Memoir of my Body – Roxane Gay

This summer this book was everywhere on my Instagram feed. I have to admit, Roxane Gay’s name rang a bell, but I didn’t know much about her. This was obviously my loss because she is one of the most moving authors whose work I ever got the chance to read. Her biography shows so much depth, complexity and pain it’s impossible not to finish the book with a complete change of perspective on morbid obesity. I cannot recommend this book highly enough!

The Reading Cure – Laura Freeman

I was not planning on reading this book in September, but after reading Hunger, this book was the most obvious choice from my nightstand pile. The Reading Cure is the autobiography of Laura Freeman, a woman diagnosticated during her teens as anorexic. Despite losing her appetite for food for years, she remained devoted to her books, hence her remedy for her mental and physical state. It is an incredibly painful book as well, but also knowledge-heavy since the author is referencing plenty of books and their connections to the world of food writing. You have to add this book to your list too!

No is not enough – Naomi Klein

I picked up this book from Libreria in London and realized only half a day later that it was not the book I wanted. In reality I wanted to read ASAP Naomi Klein’s ‘”This Changes Everything” , but my brain mixed them up. I was so convinced it was the right book I didn’t even check the back cover. However, once bought and started, I had to finish it. And I am happy I did. “No is not enough” tackles the ways in which we need to oppose the current fast-rising racist, overly-nationalistic and far right political movements, and what happened that lead us to these moments in US, Europe, South America and more. It’s not hard to read and I personally appreciated Naomi’s way of writing – her calling Trump a buffoon was one of the sentences I highlighted in the book.

Places

Huis van Brienen

As part of my plan to visit as many canal houses as possible, I obviously had to pay Huis van Brienen a visit during Monument Weekend. The entrance was free and the place could have easily been a museum and not a privately-owned house. Their ballroom and garden views enchanted me for life and I can only suggest you go there next time they open it for the public.

Huize Frankendael

Another place I have seen during Monument Day – this is a beautiful restaurant, cafe and special events place with a magical garden. It’s crazy to think I biked on its street for a year and never stopped to see it on the inside, so I am happy I could remediate that. A true gem in Amsterdam East.

Pand Industria

Last place ticked off during Monument Weekend was this massive building in Dam square. I always thought it was the HQ of Ghassan diamonds, but apparently it is a hotel and a club, formally for gentlemen only, but now open to women as well. The tour was lovely and the history of the place is absolutely insane. You should definitely go inside if you ever get the chance.

Horta Museum, Brussels

While exploring Brussels on a weekend trip, I got a recommendation to go to this museum (thank you, Irina!), one of the most iconic buildings in the Art Nouveau style. It must have been one of the most magical experiences I ever had – the details, the light, the mirrors, the quirkiness – I loved absolutely everything in this house and it triggered my appetite for more art-deco museum visits.

Tropismes, Brussels

This bookshop is specialized in French books only, so I lingered there quite a lot because I was stumbling across so many titles and authors I did not know. The place in itself is absolutely stunning and jaw dropping, so you should definitely visit this place if you are ever in Brussels. It is part of the most popular and touristy gallery, however it is tucked in a sidecorridor, so it feels very intimate and cozy. It made me search for my French books in my bookcase, so now I am holding myself accountable to read at least one small book in French in October (around 180 pages).

Video Express, Brussels

While walking around Brussels, I stumbled across what I thought was a time machine shop: a video renting store! They claimed it was the right place for people who wanted to stop browsing streaming services mindlessly and instead switch to a curated list of videos recommended by cinephiles. If I would have lived in that neighbourhood, I would have probably been at the store at least once a week 🙂

Although you have to live in Brussels to fully enjoy this recommendation, I still wanted to add it here because I like the idea of a higher quality screen time, social connection based on advice and of course, supporting local businesses instead of soulless tech giants.

Waanders in de Broeren, Zwolle

This bookshop has been on my list for 3 years now and during a weekend trip I finally got to tick it off. It is hands on one of the most beautiful bookshops in the Netherlands due to the fact that it is housed inside an old church. I must have spent an hour there, going up and down the stairs, watching people and constantly adding new titles to my neverending TBR list. Definitely worth alone the trip to Zwolle.

P.S. If you do decide to visit Zwolle, please pay a visit to Lindeboom, one of the best small pastry shops I stepped foot in.

Videos/Series/Documentaries

The Miniaturist (2017)

This two episode series was based on the eponymous book by Jessie Burton. I think I read the book 2 or 3 years ago in my fever to read all recent pop books about the Netherlands, but somehow the news it got turned into a micro-series did not reach me. It is nicely done and a very pleasant way to spend a weekend evening. Plus, the story has loads of potential. It is not a flawless production, but I still liked it enough to recommend it 🙂

Years and Years

WOW. I was looking forward to watching this series ever since reading about it in an article few months ago. It is a family drama with plenty Black Mirror-like tech inserts and twists and it skyrocketed my anxiety levels considering it takes a pessimistic approach over the next 10 years. There are only 6 episodes, which I guess it’s the threshold the producers decided people will hit before they get too physically sick to watch it anymore. I’m not selling it well, but it’s really good. Really good. And the cast is one of the best I have seen in a while – incredibly talented and playing truly diverse characters.

How Alexa Meade Makes People Look 2D with Body Paint – WIRED

I have been following Alexa Meade on Instagram for a while and I find her work to be very playful and dynamic. I never really knew how she got to be a visual artist, but this WIRED interview tells her story pretty well.

Why your brain thinks these strawberries are red – WIRED

Another pick from Wired, just because they really killed it this month – this video is about our weird and incorrect perceptions over colors. It’s a bit trippy and fascinating and it finally made it clear for me why people went crazy over The Dress image few years ago.

Inside Bill’s Brain: Decoding Bill Gates – Netflix

One of the documentaries I truly enjoyed this month – this three episode series about Bill Gates is a brief insight into one of the most interesting public people in the world. The documentary tackles his childhood, his years at Microsoft, his relationship and marriage with Melinda and the many topics and world issues populating his mind. There were a lot of things discussed in only three episodes, so I never got bored. In fact, I probably could have watched 10 more episodes like these 3.

Articles

Mesmerizing photos of Vietnam from above – National Geographic

This slideshow is instantly uplifting and awe-inducing. These shots and their colourfulness and symmetry reminded me of Samsara, which is one of the most beautiful visual expressions of all time. Please look up Samsara and stream it on the biggest screen you have in your house.

Top 100 – the Guardian

In September the Guardian started recapping the best culture of the past two decades (can you believe it is going to be 2020 in less than 3 months?!) and all their lists are fascinating rabbit holes where you can discover plenty gems. Have a look at Top 100 movies, Top 100 books, Top 100 series, and also don’t neglect looking over their art, architecture and theatre shows rankings.

My father had a lifelong ticket to fly anywhere. Then they took it away – The Guardian

I binge read this article because it sounded like something out of movies. It is deeply captivating and quite divisive (who is right in this conflict? is there such thing as being right in such a case? where is the line between maximizing an investment and fraud in the case of this lifetime pass?). It is almost unbelievable that the events presented in this article are real, but they for sure make a very enjoyable read.

I Was Caroline Calloway – The Cut

This article made the rounds on social media and I have to say that even without knowing the people involved, it was still a fascinating read. All the drama ensuing later and the articles that followed it only made it juicier. This is not necessarily an intellectually stimulating piece, but sometimes we simply need something well written and with thrilling action.

Hello From the Year 2050. We Avoided the Worst of Climate Change — But Everything Is Different – TIME

This article wanted to be that triggering point to make us realize that if we want a happy future we must start taking action now. I don’t yet fully know how we individuals can make sure that companies and governments will implement carbon-neutral practices, but I do know that I am trying my best to reduce my own carbon footprint. If you want me to write more about this, let me know.

Climate Action Tracker

If you care about the climate and what countries around the world are doing to protect our planet, Climate Action Tracker is an independent organization tracking emission pledges and action. Even though they haven’t got yet accounts of all countries, their findings so far are mind boggling: only 2 countries are on their way to satisfying the 1.5 degree Celsius warming set as a target by the Paris agreement. Everything over this could be highly disastrous for the entire planet, so have a look at what Morocco and The Gambia are doing to set a climate example.

That’s all folks! Thanks for reading and see you in a month!

Laura

Laura Recommends

August Recommendations III

September 2, 2019

After what seemed like an endless holiday, I am back to uni and an internship, but I figured until I get neck-deep into work and books, I might as well share with you a massive list of recommendations from the past four weeks.

BTW, on the 1st of September I celebrated the 7th anniversary of my blogging adventure career debut, so it’s safe to say the transition from August to September is always a happy one for me 🙂

PLACES

Libreria, London

This bookshop was on all lists I have found about beautiful bookish places in London. It is way smaller than I thought, but this is props to the optical illusion created by the mirror ceiling. It had by far one of the best selections of books in London and considering its size this is very impressive! Also, the reading nooks were perfect! Will definitely return there on my next London visit.

Pages Cheshire Street, London

This place was recommended to me by someone at Libreria and I have to say it’s one of the best ideas and executions I have seen in a long time. The purpose of this bookshop is to showcase only books and other literary products written and created by women, trans or gender diverse people. This does not mean this is a bookshop with just feminist books, as some people may think, but a place to find books of all kinds, from economics to science fiction. It made me more aware of the gender ratio of the books I was reading, so I highly recommend this place if you are in London!

John Sandoe Books, London

This is another fantastic bookshop. It’s lesser known, but again, the selection of books is fantastic, the staff is very kind and helping, and the atmosphere of book-crowded rooms is just my cup of tea!

Food – Bigger than the Plate, Victoria and Albert Museum London

This is perhaps, one of the most thought provoking and habit-changing exhibits I have been on the past years. I learned a lot and I got to watch and experience the results of so many innovative projects, so I have sent all my London friends there to see it. It’s a must if you the least bit interested in food, its origins, the sustainability of mass farming and cattle raising and more. On until October 20th.

God’s Own Junkyard, London

Yes, this may be an Instagram famous place. But unlike many places I have visited, it’s not an Instagram trap, but a place to marvel at a fantastic collection of neon signs. It is the closest I have felt to an American place in an European setting and it left me smiling for hours.

Saint Dunstan in the East Church Garden, London

This church, very close to Sky Garden, has been bombarded in the war and has now become a stone-walled garden with arched windows and doors. It’s absolutely fascinating and saddening at the same time, but I am surely happy it was not completely tore down and just left like this, so visitors can have tangible sights of war’s cultural destruction.

De Koffieschenkerij, Amsterdam

Visited this coffee place on the last day of summer and I have already posted about it on Instagram as well. This place truly ticks all boxes: it has a great location (the garden of the oldest church in Amsterdam), fabulous coffee and lemonade and plenty of character and history. Go there in the mornings, so it’s less crowded.

BOOKS

The Hidden Life of Trees – Peter Wohlleben

This has been one of the most surprising books I have read this year. I have learned so much and did even some 180 regarding certain things I didn’t question until now, such as older trees produce more oxygen than younger ones (which should worry us) or that…

A Gentleman in Moscow – Amor Towles

This book was on the reading lists of Barack Obama and Bill and Melinda Gates, so I knew I had to read it. While it was not my usual read, I found it very pleasant and entertaining. It was well written, the characters were charming and peculiar in their own ways and it was one of the few reads I went through this year with no major eye roll moments. A true feat!

I also listened to two audio books: Wonder by R J Palacio and No One Is Too Small To Make a Difference by Greta Thunberg. Wonder was great, heartwarming and sweet, and Greta Thunberg’s book was a powerful and urgent manifesto about the climate crisis. I recommend both of them 😊

Of course, the books featured in my Recommendation articles are not all the books I read in a year, I simply want to spare you of mediocre books or books I would never recommend.

VIDEOS/ SERIES/ DOCUMENTARIES/ MOVIES

An Inconvenient Truth

Why, yes, I am recommending you to watch the world’s most famous documentary on climate change. I shamelessly only got to watch it this month (via YouTube’s movie selection, it cost me 4 euros) and I completely understand why it became such a sensation. It’s serving hard facts backed by science, emotional imagery and a strong and somehow contained plea to start making a difference. I don’t know how Al Gore would go on about making this documentary in 2020, but I am pretty sure the message would have to be even more urgent.

Cowspiracy

On the same note, this documentary was the final straw to convince me to ditch as many animal-based products from my diet. I already said goodbye to cow milk last year, but I have now started changing more things, such as limiting my meat intake to max. once per week. I found Cowspiracy more graphic and disturbing than An Inconvenient Truth, so prepare for some unpleasant, yet highly necessary visuals.

La Casa de Papel – Netflix ES

Everybody was talking about this Netflix series, so as always I had to watch it to understand why it was so praised. #FOMO. I have to agree this was a very good and entertaining series, with plenty twists and turns, memorable songs (anyone else also has Bella Ciao stuck in their head?!) and also incredibly funny moments. The script didn’t have solutions for all loose ends in season 2 and season 3 and I sometimes asked myself why the series showed the viewers something (eg. A character’s obsession) and then never brought it up again.

How Wildlife films warp time – VOX

This VOX video made me go back to my unfinished episodes of Our Planet with even way more respect and admiration for the production work that goes into creating those incredible images we gasp at and remain in awe.

ARTICLES

The Dubious Business of Food Delivery –  Derek Thompson for The Atlantic

After discovering that Derek Thompson (author of one of my favourite books this year, Hit Makers) is an editor for The Atlantic, I started tracking everything he wrote. This piece is so well written and it has so many insightful thoughts that it’s hard not to quote here the one that struck me the most: “convenience maximalism”. Think about that for a second in relation to food delivery apps.

Why Online Dating Can Feel Like Such an Existential Nightmare – Derek Thompson for The Atlantic

Another fantastic article by Thompson. Let me offer you this quote as a taster:

If the journey toward coupling is more formidable than it used to be, it’s also more lonesome. With the declining influence of friends and family and most other social institutions, more single people today are on their own, having set up shop at a digital bazaar where one’s appearance, interestingness, quick humor, lighthearted banter, sex appeal, photo selection—one’s worth—is submitted for 24/7 evaluation before an audience of distracted or cruel strangers, whose distraction and cruelty might be related to the fact that they are also undergoing the same anxious appraisal.

A woman’s greatest enemy? A lack of time for herself – Brigid Schulte for the Guardian

The title of this article instantly hooked me on to read it. While it may appear the society at large is making historical strides towards gender equality, reality begs to differ. This article looks at how women are still clocking more housework time than their partners and how this may affect their passions and resources for creative and personal projects.

I hope you had a wonderful summer and that you are now feeling recharged and inspired to start new projects!

Laura