anna brones

writer + artist

Posts Tagged ‘books

Coffee Outside, by the Ocean

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Coffee Adventures Outside is a collaboration between myself and Alastair Humphreys, released each month somewhere around the new moon. We hope you’ll join us in our coffee adventures, wherever you are. 

These monthly creative coffee musings, matched in time to each new moon, have made us pay more attention to the lunar cycle than ever before. That noticing is a good thing, but we also keep catching ourselves thinking, “is it time to write an essay AGAIN? We’ve only just finished the last one!”

Because despite all of the good intentions hatched during the past fallow year to streamline life, we seem to have already fallen back into our old ways of chasing our tail and juggling too many balls at once. And so down to the sea we must go; to swim and then to sit, coffee in hand, and stare out at the waves for a while. For you should sit by the ocean for 20 minutes whenever you can… unless you are busy, then you should sit for an hour. If you are not close to the ocean then any water will do just fine. You can perch by your river or by a lake. And if you live in the middle of a desert, well lucky you—let your eyes and mind look up to the horizon.

Away from the beach, we enjoy the serendipity of bookshelves. As much as we enjoy a Kindle for its-on-the-go ease, we prefer the way bookshelves look over us while we write, nudging us, reminding us of their lessons through their titles and colourful spines. We often reach to take a book from a shelf and find our eyes drawn to another book. Holding the two books in our hands sparks new connections. Browsing old favourites ferments new ideas.

And so it was today with Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh. We write these essays collaboratively across thousands of miles of ocean, but both separately rediscovered and loved this book recently. 

Gift from the Sea is a wise book set by the ocean. It is a book about balancing life, work and family; about finding space to think and breathe. It is a simple narrative of inspiration taken from shells on the seashore; reflections familiar to many of us during a holiday [vacation] about the busy-ness of life and the need for space in order to pause and be creative. Last month we offered the challenge of a coffee with a wild swim, but in these summer months, the shores call to us again, this time with more lessons. 

“The sea does not reward those who are too anxious, too greedy, or too impatient,” writes Lindbergh. “To dig for treasures shows not only impatience and greed, but lack of faith. Patience, patience, patience, is what the sea teaches. Patience and faith. One should lie empty, open, choiceless as a beach—waiting for a gift from the sea.” We want to find our way back to that slow, calm, expansive, place, the one where patience and curiosity abound. So when we swim, we must be sure to float too, creating a time of quiet within us. Summer is our opportunity to float, whether it’s in the water or not. When we float we are untethered, unrestricted. There are no deadlines, no to-do lists. We all need more time to float, physically and metaphorically.

When we sit by the water we pick up pebbles, turn them in our hands, discard some and keep only the one or two that just feel ‘right’. Lindbergh also yearns to pare things away: “I have learned that certain environments, certain modes of life, certain rules of conduct are more conducive to inner and outer harmony than others. There are, in fact, certain roads that one may follow. Simplification of life is one of them.

I mean to lead a simple life, to carry a simple shell I can carry easily – like a hermit crab. But I do not. I find that the frame of my life does not foster simplicity.

I remember again, ironically, that today more of us in [the West] than anywhere else in the world have the luxury of choice between simplicity and complication of life. And for the most part, we, who could choose simplicity, choose complication.”

We too often make the mistake of slipping into living a frantic, unreflective life, chasing deadlines for books and artwork and forgetting to celebrate the achievement of completing those creative endeavours. 

“What is the answer?” Lindbergh ask herself. “There is no easy answer, no complete answer, I have only clues, shells from the sea. The bare beauty of the channelled whelk tells me that one answer, and perhaps a first step, is in simplification of life, in cutting out some of the distractions. But how? Total retirement is not possible. I cannot shed my responsibilities, I cannot permanently inhabit a desert island. I cannot be a nun in the midst of family life. I would not want to be. The solution for me, surely, is neither in total renunciation of the world, nor in total acceptance of it. I must find a balance somewhere, or an alternating rhythm between these two extremes.”

And so too with us. For the duration of this coffee break by the waves we are experiencing the simplification of life as a beginning. If we appreciate how this feels we can pick up the scent and follow it where it leads into the rest of our lives.

While you drink your coffee, dig in the sand with your toes for a seashell to take home, as Lindbergh did. “It will sit on my desk in Connecticut, to remind me of the ideal of a simplified life. To ask how little, not how much, can I get along with. To say –is it necessary?– when I am tempted to add one more accumulation to my life, when I am pulled toward one more centrifugal activity.

Simplification of outward life is not enough. It is merely the outside. But I am starting with the outside.”

Perhaps these turbulent times –where the tide rushed out and now rushes back in– are, or should be, “a period of shedding shells; the shell of ambition, the shell of material accumulations and possessions, the shell of the ego. Perhaps one can shed at this stage in life as one sheds in beach-living; one’s pride, one’s false ambitions, one’s mask, one’s armour. Was that armour not put on to protect one from the competitive world?”

As we finish our coffee by the water and think again about our hectic lives, slip a shell into your pocket, and prepare to tackle the busy tasks of your day, but doing so with a fresh perspective and priority.

Share photos of your adventures with us: #coffeeadventuresoutside

Written by Anna Brones

July 10, 2021 at 08:26

Jólabókaflóð

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When it’s cold outside, there’s the gentle call of curling up with a book and a mug of tea or coffee (or even a glass of wine or a beer). Reading is wonderful any time of year, but if I was going to pick a reading season, winter would certainly be it; when it’s cold and dark, we want to curl up with a good story.

Maybe it’s the cold darkness of the north that has led to Iceland’s popular Jólabókaflóð, otherwise known as the “Christmas book flood.” Not only are many new titles released this time of year, but the majority of Icelandic book sales happen at this time, everyone prepping to gift a book come Christmas.

The tradition has its roots in World War II, when many imported items were heavily regulated, but paper remained fairly inexpensive. The book became the holiday gift of choice, and it still is today.

It all kicks off when the Iceland Publishers Association distributes a free copy of Bokatidindi  – the annual catalog of new book releases – to every single Icelandic household. It’s a season of book buying and book giving. “It’s considered a total flop Christmas if you do not get a book,” Icelandic writer Yrsa Sigurðardóttir told Read it Forward. Just imagine if children (and adults for that matter) were upset because they didn’t get a book as opposed to whatever new version of iGadget was on their list.

Having a culture of books and reading comes with many benefits. 93% of Icelanders read at least one book a year, compared with only 73% of Americans. (To put that another way, one of of four Americans isn’t reading at least one book a year.) Iceland publishes more books per capita than any other country in the world, and one out of 10 Icelanders will publish a book in their lifetime.

For those of us who don’t live in Iceland, how about creating our own book flood this holiday?

Start by visiting the library. Find a book you didn’t know you wanted to read.

If you read and feel inspired to write, do so.

And finally, in the spirit of not consuming (although, if you are going to buy presents, books are a pretty good option, and remember to be sure to support your local independent book retailer), here’s one final prompt for today to kick of your own Christmas book flood:

Go to your bookcase. Find a book that you loved reading, but are willing to part with. Think of someone who would enjoy reading it. Package it up, and take it to the post on Monday, or gift it to them in person. If there’s one thing better than reading a good book, it’s sharing one with someone else.

This post originally appeared in my 24 Days of  Making, Doing and Being advent calendar. To receive it, sign up for my newsletter

Written by Anna Brones

December 12, 2017 at 10:03

Preorder ‘Live Lagom’ U.S. Edition

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Earlier this year I wrote a book called Live Lagom: Balanced Living the Swedish Way, published by Ebury Press in the U.K. I am happy to announce that it’s hitting the U.S. market this December thanks to the wonderful team at Ten Speed Press.  It’s officially out on December 26, 2017 which means that you could consider it a belated Christmas present, or also, a kick off to the new year.

What is lagom? It’s a Swedish word that roughly translates to “the right amount.” In other words, not too much, not too little, just that perfect middle ground. It can relate to food, fashion, health, work, social life and beyond. I wrote a little more about the book when it came out in July, which you can read here.

The book is beautifully photographed by Matilda Hildingsson and Nathalie Myrberg and I like to think of it not just as a lifestyle guide about Scandinavian living, but a look at how slowing down and finding balance can help all of us.

Ask your favorite bookstore to order it for you, or preorder it online at your favorite indie retailer (mine is Powell’s.)

Written by Anna Brones

November 10, 2017 at 07:00

Signed Books Available for Holiday Gift Giving {The Culinary Cyclist, Fika: The Art of the Swedish Coffee Break and Hello, Bicycle}

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Fika: The Art of the Swedish Coffee Break by Anna Brones

I recently launched a revamped shop for my books and other creative endeavors, and I have added in signed copies of most of my books. If you order, I’m even happy to personalize them!

So if you have been debating on getting a copy of The Culinary Cyclist, Fika: The Art of the Swedish Coffee Break or Hello, Bicycle, now is the time to hop on over and order a copy (or two, holiday season is the perfect book giving season).

I am also going to be adding in a few more items during the month of December, including original artwork, so keep your eyes on that space.

Click here to check out the shop.

Written by Anna Brones

November 23, 2016 at 13:38

For a Love of Bikes and Books

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Bike_Book_Ends

“There are perhaps no days of our childhood we lived so fully as those we spent with a favorite book.”

–Marcel Proust

I would add that many of those magic childhood days were also spent on a bicycle. Books help us explore the world, and bicycles do too. Reading a book is a solitary activity, and while cycling is often done with friends, for me there is a pull to those rides when it is just you, the pedals, the road and your imagination. Your mind can wander to new places, see new things. Just like reading. No wonder those childhood days, full of freedom and exploration were so magical.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Anna Brones

June 1, 2015 at 19:02

A Few Coffee Books Your Bookshelf Needs

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Macchiato by Anna Brones

In my coffee column this week on The Kitchn I do a round up of coffee books. From how to make coffee, to the history behind our favorite drink, their books that anyone interested in coffee should definitely own.

My personal “handbook” continues to be the The Blue Bottle Craft of Coffee by James Freeman, Caitlin Freeman, and Tara Duggan. It’s the book I go to whenever I have a question about making coffee.

In all honesty, there are a few books on here I haven’t read yet, but are definitely on the To Read list, like Uncommon Grounds by Mark Pendergast. And last but not least, there’s James Hoffman’s The World Atlas of Coffee: From Beans to Brewing, which I can’t wait to get my hands on.

But that’s only three books – there are six more in the article, so hop on over to The Kitchn and read up.

Written by Anna Brones

December 19, 2014 at 09:01

Preorder My New Book – ‘Fika: The Art of the Swedish Coffee Break’

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Bron_Fika

It’s here!

Ok, so it’s almost here. And when I say “it” I mean the book that Johanna Kindvall and I have been working hard on over the last couple of years. As I have learned, book writing and publishing is a long process, and I am so excited to almost be at the most exciting part: the moment where the actual book sits in my hands.

But for now, at least the book is alive on the Internet, and it’s available for pre-order, which means you can snag a copy and diligently wait for it to come to your mailbox in spring.

Love Swedish baked goods? Ever wonder how to make a real Swedish cinnamon roll? Want to try to be more Scandinavian? Then this book is for you.

Packed with traditional recipes for cookies, cakes and breads, this book is all about celebrating the Swedish tradition of fika, otherwise known as the quintessential Swedish coffee break.

Drooling already? You can preorder from my favorite bookstore of all time, Powell’s, as well as AmazonB&NIndieBoundGoogle Books, and iBooks.

Now, let’s all begin the countdown to the April 7, 2015 on sale date!

Written by Anna Brones

November 13, 2014 at 22:11

Making a Kale Smoothie on the Pedal Powered Talk Show

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boaz frankel anna brones pedal powered talk show

Last summer my friend Boaz invited me to come and be on his talk show.

But this wasn’t just any talk show. No, Boaz created the Pedal Powered Talk Show, essentially, a talk show on wheels. Boaz takes around his cargo bike, sets up shop in all kinds of places, and interviews all kinds of interesting types. So I was honored when he asked me to be a part.

The night in question, the Pedal Powered Talk Show was a part of a live event put on with NW Documentary. I was there to talk about my book, The Culinary Cyclist, and Boaz asked if I would be willing to make a smoothie on stage.

Anyone out there ever made a smoothie on stage? No, I didn’t think so. It’s not really what you usually get asked to do. But I said yes.

This of course entailed me bringing my own blender, which I diligently packed up in my backpack before riding over to the event. Backpack filled with kale and a blender. That’s true Culinary Cyclist style.

Fortunately, the Pedal Powered Talk Show team got the entire thing on camera and is now available for your viewing pleasure.

It should also be noted that immediately after filming the intro to this episode, Boaz got into a bike crash. Thankfully, he and his awesome cargo bike survived just fine. Maybe it had something to do with his super-powered green smoothie he just drank.

Image: The Pedal Powered Talk Show

Written by Anna Brones

June 24, 2014 at 19:56