Goodreads Best Books of 2021
Last year I wrote a bit late about the Icelandic tradition of gifting books on Christmas Eve, also known as The Christmas Book Flood, and spending the evening reading. This year I wanted to give you some time to prepare.
I know my book recommendations can be quite niche, as I normally follow my current interests rather than recent releases or trendy topics, so instead, I am sharing for your inspiration the Goodreads Best Books of 2021, released just yesterday and based exclusively on users’ votes (approx. 4.7 million votes, to be precise). This top holds the most credibility in my eyes, but if you want, you just need to google Best Books of 2021 and you will find lists from everyone and their mother, from The New York Times to Vogue.
For bonus points, I loved the idea of pairing books with other gifts that are somehow connected. There are some great examples from Modern Mrs Darcy, but it all depends on the book.
I had heard of this idea before but never looked properly into it until this week when I learned that this was a project developed by Artist John Giorno, a public poetry service that required a phone call to hear a poem. Simple, yet so inspirational! It was launched in 1968 and visited a few cultural institutions until it was shut down in 1970… following an FBI investigation!
Source – John Giorno’s Dial-A-Poem (1970)
The project was resurrected between 1985-1987, but also more recently, in 2020/2021, with an app being launched by Nottingham Trent University and the Arts and Humanities Research Council. What’s more, part of an exhibition of the artist’s work at Almine Rech Gallery in London, a UK phone number is now available, which you can call, as you would have done in the late 60s, to hear a poem. The phone number is +44 20 4538 8429.
I find the idea brilliant and I encourage you to test it (as I most certainly did)!
If you think you know watches, you need to read this article on Christie’s website. If you don’t know anything about watches (pretty much me), you need to read this. Being something very foreign to me, I found the article about independent watchmakers and their hard-to-imagine innovations absolutely fascinating.
Watches can be extremely complex machineries and the names mentioned here have written history with their concepts, like the first wristwatch with date display, alarm function or option to record the length of long-distance calls (all developed in the 40s and 50s), designs, from minimalistic to over-the-top, and added features, think playing blackjack, roulette or even Texas hold ’em poker on your mechanical watch.
A whole different universe awaits to be discovered if this topic serves to whet your appetite!
Butterflies with transparent wings, like the Greta ono or Greta andromica, are something else! When we think of butterflies, I believe it’s their colourful wings that first come to mind, and of course, they are amazing in that sense. But I find these transparent wings even more awe-inspiring because they don’t seem real… they look like insects from a sci-fi universe, somehow robotic because the wings seem made of glass.
According to new research, clearwing butterflies have evolved these transparent traits in order to avoid detection in environments where pressure from predators is high. So they are not only very distinctive in how they look, but also in how they protect themselves through transparency when mimicry is more commonly used. You can read more about how they do it here.
I’d love to spot one, but it looks like I’d have to travel quite a long way, to Central or South America. One more reason to go!
Rarest Pasta in the World – Threads of God
Trust Atlas Obscura, and more specifically their team at Gastro Obscura, to find the rarest pasta in the world and tell you the story. And of course, I found it fascinating! Made only twice a year by just three women in the world, all living in Sardinia, if you want a taste of this, you first need to take on a twenty miles pilgrimage-hike!
Apparently, Engineers from the Barilla pasta company attempted, unsuccessfully, to build a machine that could reproduce the technique. Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver also visited Sardinia in hopes of mastering the elusive noodle. After two hours, he gave up.
Watch here how it’s made!
Rare Word – Phosphenes
This phenomenon and even the word describing it strike me as cute for some reason. Maybe because I remember myself as a kid as I enjoyed rubbing my eyes and then admiring those precise ‘starts’ and the melange of colours I now know to be called Phosphenes.
Technically, they are defined as a sensation of a ring or spot of light produced by pressure on the eyeball or direct stimulation of the visual system other than by light.
Did you know that this is what they are and that they are called so?
Pop-Up Christmas Cards
Last weekend I went to the first good car boot market in a while, and by that I mean I came home with a pile of books I got for a real bargain, a lovely round mirror with a beautiful slightly damaged frame for which I paid one pound (!), as well as other small bits and bobs, among them a pop-up Christmas card from Paperchase which proved to be the best St Nicholas present for my son. He spent over half an hour admiring it, analysing the lights and dancing to the tune when I first gave it to him. It was all too sweet. I must say, I was quite mesmerized too!
I believe it must be the lights show, but it truly feels like a little treasure that one needs to cherish, for it puts on a small spectacle at the touch of a button. Naturally, I had to look online to see what else is out there, and I have made a selection that combines the pop-up element with lights, music and maybe even movement! Surprisingly, there aren’t that many options, but Hallmark and Me&McQ, along with the aforementioned Paperchase, are the places to check!
I hope this brings you as much joy as it did me!
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