anna brones

writer + artist + activist

New Book: “Live Lagom: Balanced Living the Swedish Way”

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Today marks the release of my new book Live Lagom: Balanced Living the Swedish Way. I love book birthdays because they are the ideal time to give a little backstory on the book and what it meant for me to write it.

Lagom is a Swedish word that doesn’t have a direct translation in English, but means something along the lines of “just right.” As the title of the book would have you believe, it’s a look at how the concept of lagom translates into various elements of Swedish society, and identifies some of the lessons that we might be able to incorporate into our own lives.

But you don’t need me to tell you what’s in the book; you can buy it to get that story! You’re here for the inner look.

The backstory of this book in particular goes back a ways, far before I knew I would ever write a book on the topic of lagom. Isn’t that how things often start, percolating then turning into something big enough that we can trace the lines back to when it all began. In this sense, this book somehow feels like it was just meant to be.

Let’s being with my childhood. I grew up in the Pacific Northwest, with an American father and a Swedish mother. My childhood often felt more Swedish than American; speaking only Swedish, surrounded by predominantly Swedish children’s books, celebrating Swedish holidays. We traveled to Sweden almost every summer when I was little, spending extended periods with my grandparents. In terms of landscape, the Pacific Northwest and Sweden are not so entirely different, and my memories of younger days are a blend of two worlds very much intertwined. The result was that while in the U.S., I felt more Swedish, and when I traveled to Sweden, I felt more American. I felt stuck somewhere in between.

Lagom was a word and a concept that was very much a part of that upbringing, certainly a common reference for how much food to serve or how much cake to eat. Lagom, of course!

But until this year when the book project began to take form, I had never really given it much greater thought. It felt like such a basic thing, why would anyone read a book on it? In fact my 102-year-old Swedish grandmother quipped to my mother, “but how can she write an entire book about lagom?”

Truth be told in my household, with an expat Swedish mother who felt that the culture of her homeland could at times be too conformist, lagom was something we often rolled our eyes at. Lagom felt average, neutral, characterless.

Yet, as I started thinking about this book I started thinking about how “lagom” many elements of our life at home was. My mother always had an incredibly balanced approach to eating, one that involved a regular dose of whole grains and fresh produce, but that also left room for a little indulgence here and there. There was a focus on experiences over things. We didn’t watch a lot of tv; only once in awhile when it was a treat. There was an appreciation of nature, a celebration of small, everyday moments outdoors. The house was filled with natural textiles, wool blankets draped on couches, and bookshelves teeming with books.

It was, in retrospect, a very mindful, balanced approach to living. Not showy, or too indulgent, but also comfortable and not restrictive. Lagom, so to say.

As I researched and wrote the book, I started to hone in on this, and I started to think of lagom in an entirely different way than I had in earlier years. Lagom represents the space between two extremes, the middle ground, the balance.

In some ways, lagom is perhaps my own bridge between too cultures; not too much or too little of each one, just the right amount to feel in balance.

This middle ground, this balance is where we can find inspiration, and what I have taken away as the main lesson of lagom for those who aren’t Swedish.

Today, the world feels very out of balance, politically, socially and economically. There is no quick fix to any of these problems, but I do think that some of the essence of lagom may at least be a guiding path forward.

We live bigger, faster lives, often far beyond our means. We take and take and take, and that means that there is very little leftover for everyone else around us. Lagom is a bit of a different approach. Lagom is just. It is what is in balance, what is moderate, for the overall benefit for society, based on the idea that when the community succeeds, so does the individual. It is about taking a little less so that someone else may have a little more. It is about celebrating the small things, about being content in the present and satisfied with what we have.

The book itself covers everything from work to home – the section on Swedish design was my favorite to research and write – to food to environment. There are recipes (which I did the photos for – my first food photos to be published in a book!) and tips on how to bring a more lagom approach into your everyday. The photography done by Matilda Hildingsson and Nathalie Myrberg is beautiful.

Live Lagom It is not necessarily a manifesto for how to live our lives or reshape our cultural system, but it is food for thought on how we all might live better, not just for ourselves, but also for our community and the environment. I hope that for those who read it, the book is a source of inspiration to do just that.

I am thankful to Ebury Books for the opportunity to write this book, not just for allowing me to celebrate another book birthday, but because writing it has given me much food for thought over the last few months. I hope that it will do the same for you.

And for all you U.S. readers, if you don’t want to pay for international shipping and can wait things out for a few months, Live Lagom will be release by Ten Speed Press in December 2017; you can preorder it here.

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Written by Anna Brones

July 27, 2017 at 06:15

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