The book that forever changed how I view nature


Books I read in February 2018

February was not the best reading month for me (I read 8 books vs 11 in January) and I know exactly why:

I read 4 fiction and 4 non-fiction.

As much as I enjoy learning from the non-fiction, it does mean that I take longer to read and finish those books.

One of them had chapters that would be 18 minutes long (according to my Kindle) and then it’d take much longer to actually finish. The Kindle is usually really good about estimating my reading speed so this was a bit frustrating for me.

Still, we have a long weekend at the end of this month, which means an extra book for me 🙂

I had two 5* books this month and the first one is the book that has absolutely changed how I look at nature and seasons.

Lab Girl by Hope Jahren

I bought this book on an audible sale late last year after hearing a bit about it on the internet.

I honestly loved this book and can’t wait for a re-read, or re-listen. I have studied science but not botany so the study of plants is not really my thing, and yet she explains things so that everyone gets it.

I loved the way it was structured with short chapters on the science and then longer chapters on the memoir part of it all.

It really was a great read. I bookmarked huge sections on autumn  and falling leaves, which I will definitely listen to soon as the southern hemisphere is now in autumn!

Here are some favourite quotes:

“Looking up, you notice that the leaves at the top of any tree are smaller, on average, than the leaves at the bottom. This allows sunlight to be caught near the base whenever the wind blows and parts the upper branches.”

“My strongest memory of our garden is not how it smelled, or even looked, but how it sounded.”

“It takes a long time to turn into what you’re supposed to be.”

“The very attributes that rendered me a nuisance to all of my previous teachers—my inability to let things go coupled with my tendency to overdo everything—were exactly what my science professors liked to see.”

“The very attributes that rendered me a nuisance to all of my previous teachers—my inability to let things go coupled with my tendency to overdo everything—were exactly what my science professors liked to see.”

As for my favourite fiction book of the month, I again loved reading What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty.

This was the very first Liane Moriarty book I read and I’ve caught up with all of them so I’ve started re-reading. At first I read the Kindle version and since I have an older Kindle, I didn’t pick up all the nuances in formatting, which added to my enjoyment of the book this time around.

I thought a lot more about this book reading it this time around, probably because 10 years ago I myself was going through infertility and didn’t know if I’d ever have children. I felt closer to Alice this time because the concept of losing 10 years of my life is rather…frightening!

One of my favourite quotes:

“Early love is exciting and exhilarating. It’s light and bubbly. Anyone can love like that. But after three children, after a separation and a near-divorce, after you’ve hurt each other and forgiven each other, bored each other and surprised each other, after you’ve seen the worst and the best– well, that sort of love is ineffable. It deserves its own word.”

How was your reading month?

What was your favourite book – fiction, non-fiction or both?

PS Here’s how the rest of my month went.

What went well in February?

Hello friends

I want to tell you something kind-of interesting.

lots of reading


I have 6 questions on my monthly review sheet and my intention is to use a different question as an example every month to show you how I use them.

Last month I answered the question “what energised me this month?” and this month I scheduled in just the blog draft title “what went well this month”?

Do you know? I haven’t had the best month. In fact, it’s been one of the more terrible ones in a long, long time.

Probably why I haven’t really felt like writing this post about what went well, because not much did.

Still, let’s see.

magnificent walk

What went well this month?

  1. I had 8 friend dates. That’s a lot, even for me, because two from January got pushed back. That was truly the highlight of my month.
  2. We had a wonderful book club last week – great discussion, lovely people, challenging and energizing.
  3. I took two wonderful walks (the goal was four) but at least they were picturesque and gorgeous!
  4. I walked more than 5000 steps 79% of the month.
  5. I read 8 books. I will tell you more about this next week because there were some lessons in there for me, and perhaps for you too?

That’s it.

Book club!

Of course I could probably make a list of 10 things that did not go well, and I have acknowledged some of the more important ones in my bullet journal, but I’m very glad to see a clean slate today now that it’s a new month.

Tell me what went well for you this month.

What I want more of this year

This is always a fun post to mindmap and then to write. It’s even more fun when I ask friends and colleagues and I hear everyone’s responses.

This year in 2018, I want more…

  1. consistent sleep

I’m getting to my sleep goal but last year I’d skimp on sleep during the week and make up on the 3 weekend nights. This year I want to work on getting more consistent good sleep.

2. good, discussable books in book club

A good book is not necessarily a highly discussable book, especially if everyone liked all the characters. Some of my favourite book club meetings have been the ones where our ratings are all over the place 🙂 My favourite fiction book of last year was not well received by 60% of our members at that meeting.

3. recurring friend dates

I put the scheduling on my January goals list and have already scheduled some recurring friend dates for the year. This doesn’t mean I’m not open to spontaneity – of course I am – it just means I’ll at least have 4 times of connection every month.

4. to deal immediately with emails, decisions, etc.

In the name of crafting the most tactful email, I have been known to put off answering an email quickly. This year, I want to make sure I have a better balance of tact and speed 🙂

5. organisation at work

I’ve gotten a bit lax with some of my work routines that I know work wonderfully for me when I use them. This year, I bought myself a separate diary to use at work and I’m doing weekly planning (I’ve always done my daily to-do list) the same as I do at home, and even monthly goals 🙂

6. more going out of stuff than coming in

I listened to Lisa Whittle on the Jamie Ivey podcast and she said that she has a rule for herself – if she brings something into her house, she has to let go of 5 things. This means she has to really, really, REALLY love the thing that she brings in. I just love this idea so much and I want to adopt a looser version of it this year.

7. more family time

Always. I’m so aware that my kids are getting bigger and I want us to enjoy our times together even more. I usually tidy the kitchen and pack my lunch for the next day while Dion does bedtime reading, but I’ve started doing a quick tidy, joining the bedtime reading and then packing the lunch afterwards.

Do tell me at least one thing you want more of this year.

PS Here’s my what I want more of post for last year

The best book I read in January was….

That’s a serious question for you, dear reader.

What was the best book you read last month?

Before I tell you about the best book I read, I want to check in with you.

Could you take away anything from the two posts I wrote on how to increase your reading this year? If you want to, of course. No-one’s forcing anyone to read.

I just feel compelled to ask because so many people always tell me they want to read more and I’d love to know if those posts were helpful.

Back to this month, which was a great reading month for me.

I finished reading 11 books, 4 of them non-fiction.

Kindle/ Audible/ Physical = 8/1/2

As you can see, I’m working very hard on getting through all my Kindle books.

My favourite non-fiction read and the best book I read in January was The Happiness Project.

I read it on Kindle in 2011 when it first released, but this time I borrowed it from the library (Overdrive – here’s my post explaining how it works) and I ADORED the audible version. I gave it 4* last time around but this time (maybe because of the listening factor) I gave it 5*.

Highly, highly recommend you have a read if you’ve never read it, or even a re-read.

It really is the perfect book to read in the beginning of the year.

I read 4 Irish/ English fiction books this month and it was a glorious time of reading for me.

I think I enjoyed Meet me at Beachcomber Bay by Jill Mansell the most, probably because it’s set in a holiday place and I was on holiday at the time of reading. I always enjoy a good summer read when I’m actually on holiday 🙂

But actually I recommend all of the fiction! Let me know if you choose to read something from my list.

So tell me, what was the best book you read this month?

How to read more this year – tips by my husband, Dion :)

When I was putting together last week’s post, I happened to ask Dion what he would say and he rattled off such a lot that I thought it deserved its own blog post.

I hope you enjoy Dion’s 5 tips to read a lot of books every year.

Set a comfortable stretch goal

Dion sets a goal of about 50 books every year and he is very happy with that goal.

Break up your goal into quarters

If you break up your goal into quarters (instead of months like I do), there is more flexibility if you have an awful month of not a lot of reading, and you don’t feel like a failure.

Build momentum

Use all holidays and long weekends to build momentum and get ahead of your goal so you don’t feel pressure. If your goal is 48 books, that’s 12 a quarter but if you read well during your January holidays, you’ll be ahead for the rest of the year.

Stop reading boring books

Dion has a 100-page cut-off for bad books. Stop reading things you’re not interested in. There are no shoulds with reading.

Make a list of books you really, really, really want to read

and start reading those books at the beginning of the year. Dion does this and because he’s reading favourite authors that he knows and loves, the reading experience is pleasurable and it also helps him gain momentum with his reading goal.

Again, don’t read books just because you feel you should read them or other people are talking about them. Read what you want to read.

This also reminds me of something Laura Vanderkam said on the What should I read next podcast… – I’m paraphrasing but basically we’re not at university or school so there are no shoulds – we can all read simply for our own pleasure.

and last but not least…

Make time for 5 and 10-minute reading sessions

Dion is really good at this one. He takes a book to work to read while he’s having lunch, I often find him reading for 10 minutes while waiting for the rest of us to leave and he takes time to read for a few minutes every evening after he unpacks his work stuff.

That’s it.

Is there anything here that could help you read more this year?

Also, how do you think your tendency factors into your reading life?


How I read 120 books last year

At our last book club meeting of the year, I mentioned that I’d probably reach about 120 books and the question came:

How on earth do you manage to read so many books?

It’s not rocket science but I thought I’d put it here just to remind myself too.

I set a goal (of 72) for the year

I’m a big goal setter and I honestly believe that without goals life is a lot less exciting 🙂

My reading goal means I need to read 6 books a month, that’s one every week but another two built in somewhere else. Just knowing that I have to get through a book a week means that I have a focus.

Have a good list of books to read

I admit, I took this one too far. At one point I had about 40-odd fiction and 20-odd non-fiction waiting for me.

But… you read a lot when you have a lot to read. If you have only 3 books you want to read, you’re going to drag out those 3 books.

It’s Pareto Principle in action – work expands to fill the time available for it.

I actually proved this in December – I could have read more than 8 but I knew I only needed to get to 8, so I slowed down when I got to 6 books for the month, and spaced out those last 2.

Use Audible or Overdrive for audio books

If you haven’t yet listened to an audible book, leave a note in the comments and I’ll send you my favourite one of all time 🙂

I easily get through one audible book a month, some months two. Truth be told I could get through about 4 audible books if I didn’t listen to as many podcasts as I do. One of my goals is to listen to just one more audible book every month.

For those that say they have a short commute, I have a 6-minute commute to my gym and my dance class, and I use those short distances to listen to essay-type books like Present over Perfect.

Use the library

You are much more likely to try books if there’s a low risk involved, in other words, you don’t have to pay for them. There are some books I dithered over, but when I saw they were available at the library, I had no hesitation in trying them. Granted, I did try books that weren’t for me, but I also found about 3 new-to-me authors, all at the library.

I use my physical library (I’ve been going to this one for 16 years; the librarians knew me waddling in while pregnant, and now they know my kids too) and last year I discovered Overdrive. Overdrive alone helped me read 23 of my 120 books. 

Use all those 5 and 10-minute blocks of time

If D and the kids are upstairs doing bedtime reading and I’m cleaning the kitchen/ packing my lunch, I listen to a book.

If I’m waiting in a queue or at the dentist, I pull out my phone, and read on the Kindle app. Non-fiction works best for these tiny blocks of time for me.

You know that if we all stopped scrolling Facebook or Instagram, we’d instantly be reading a book a week. Just saying.

Read books you really, really want to read

I abandoned 5 books in 2017. This is huge for me 🙂

However, you can read a book you really want to read in half the time of struggling to read something. This is different from books that are a hard read because they’re challenging your thinking (which is good for you!) vs books that are awful that you’re forcing yourself to read.

Also, in this same vein, don’t feel bad about the type of books you read. Granted, romance is not my thing, but if you want to read romance novels and nothing else, you go ahead 🙂

If you’re an Upholder, put “read” on your daily and weekly to-do lists

I started reading dramatically more books when I started adding a simple item – read a book – to my weekend to-do list. It became a fun task for me and was easy to then sit down and relax in the middle of the day, even while there was work to be done.

Surround yourself with readers

I haven’t ever had a problem reading a lot but I know for a lot of the ladies in the book club, just all of us talking about books and our Whatsapp group has pushed/ prodded/ encouraged all of them to read more.

Listen to readerly podcasts like What Should I read Next? and sign up to Modern Mrs Darcy’s blog where they discuss bookish things – it’s sure to keep your reading list full.

Bonus – I asked my husband if he had any tips for my readers and he rattled off 5 tips so quickly before the kids interrupted us that I think I need to do another blog post, just with his tips 🙂

(he is also an upholder but he leans to obliger so it may be more interesting to some of you :))

Now, did you reach your reading goal for 2017?

What did you do that made it happen?

Organising Queen’s best books of 2017

I finished off the year with 120 books read, 40 non-fiction (my highest non-fiction numbers ever!) and 80 fiction.

May all things in life be as neat 🙂

It was a really great reading year and I’ll tell you later this month how I vastly exceeded my reading goal for the year (167% of the goal).

But for now, I want to tell you about the best fiction and non-fiction I read in 2017.

Let’s start with non-fiction:

1. The Four Tendencies – Gretchen Rubin

The Four Tendencies: The Indispensable Personality Profiles That Reveal How to Make Your Life Better (and Other People's Lives Better, Too) by [Rubin, Gretchen]

I wrote a bit about it here as it relates to me, an upholder. I’m telling you, upholder tightening is a real thing and I’m thrilled I now have the language to explain the things I do.

No matter your tendency, get this book. It is fabulous. You will learn about yourself and your family. My second biggest reason for loving it so much is understanding my kids better. (Dion and I are both upholders, but one of us leans to Questioner and the other to Obliger)

PS Her previous book, Better than Before, is on sale at the moment. I bought myself another copy because I bought the audible version the first time around.

2. Your Move – the underdog’s guide to building your business – Ramit Sethi

Your Move: The Underdog's Guide to Building Your Business by [Sethi, Ramit]

I love Ramit’s work and I really enjoyed this no-frills book on business.

His blog inspired this post of mine – 3 things I do to help my productivity.

PS you can see all my reviews on my Goodreads profile.

3. Born a Crime: And other stories – Trevor Noah

Born A Crime: And Other Stories by [Noah, Trevor]

Trevor Noah is South African but all I really knew about him (I’m not up to date with pop culture, as you know) was his TV ads for a cell phone provider.

This book was fascinating in all kinds of ways even to me, a South African.

I was educated, entertained, challenged and delighted by his narration of this book. Do yourself a favour and get it. If you’re concerned as I was that this would be too political, it’s not. It does challenge your thinking though.

Honorable mentions: Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother (one of my favourites ever but it already made my 2015 list!) and Reading People (Anne Bogel)

And now for the fiction:

  1. Truly Madly Guilty – Liane Moriarty

Product Details

This is the same author who wrote Big Little Lies. I love all her work but I truly was delighted with this one because I loved the characters. I loved it so much I’m planning to re-read it this year, this time on Audible 🙂

2. Every Last One – Anna Quindlen

Every Last One by [Quindlen, Anna]

Oh my gosh, this was such a beautiful book. My first by this author. Such detail to relationships and insights about people – just beautifully written in every way.

This year I read my first book by authors seemingly everyone has read – Anna Quindlen, Anne Tyler (Digging to America) and Maggie O’Farrell

I do want to say I abandoned 5 books this year which is AWESOME for me. This year I want to abandon them quicker.

3. A window opens – Elisabeth Egan

A Window Opens: A Novel by [Egan, Elisabeth]

Another new-to-me author and I loved this book. It was a book about normal life for married women with children and I can’t tell you what exactly I loved but just everything. I could not put it down.

Get it – you’ll be delighted.

Please share your top fiction and non-fiction reads with me.

And feel free to recommend books to me too in the women’s fiction, psychological thriller and memoir range. I’m also looking for a good memoir/ project book like this one.

PS Confession – while putting together this list and searching for links online, I actually bought 5 new books (!)

Readers’ favourite Organising Queen posts for 2017

This is a big post with lots of reading, guys. I love posts like this on other blogs and I usually stretch them out with numerous mugs of tea throughout the day 🙂

Let’s get to it – the favourite posts per month. And fun fact, each picture was taken in that specific month of the year, so enjoy Johannesburg (and Ballito, for July) through my lens 🙂


Word of the year recap and this year’s word

A bullet journal/ diary hybrid

What I learned in January


5 favourite posts about stationery

What I want more of this year

The annual filing that wasn’t 🙂


Free digital and audio books with Overdrive

How to write a friendship manifesto

Soul care vs self-care


My year of happy – April project goals

If it’s not serving you, let it go

 7 things about reading


Let’s talk about hygge (1)

My house has a to-do list

Your silent to-do list


Mental nourishment in the form of unplugging

What I learned in May

What’s in my handbag?


Getting motivated, Four Tendencies style

Creatives can’t get organised. Myth or truth?

Half-year review of my word of the year (give)


Your amazing habits

Do you suffer from perfectionism?

Lovely things to do this year


My 5 favourite posts about the goal-setting process (this is actually the most popular post of the year!)

How I do menu planning, and what I cook for my freezer

Why you should menu plan


Choosing your 2018 diary

How my whole planning system fits together

Good news – you get to choose


Technology and your tendency – work

Technology and your tendency – personal

Switching up what’s not working for you

Did you agree with these posts? Was there a favourite post that you want to highlight? Let me know. All of this influences some of the editorial content for next year.

{Four Tendencies} Worth it even if just for this one insight

The Four Tendencies: The Indispensable Personality Profiles That Reveal How to Make Your Life Better (and Other People's Lives Better, Too) by [Rubin, Gretchen]

I’ve been eagerly awaiting Gretchen Rubin’s new book for months and months. Basically, I talk about the Four Tendencies to all my friends, colleagues and clients who are into these things.

And really, I bought and pre-ordered because I’m a fan, but also to understand those around me better. Since I’m an upholder, I thought I knew everything there was to know about being one.

But not!

First, an upholder is someone who readily meets both inner and outer expectations. They have no problems meeting work deadlines/ friend expectations (outer expectations) but they also have no trouble setting and achieving their own goals (inner expectations).

Right, this is me to a T.


I learned a ton from buying the book but today I want to talk about upholder tightening.


She had mentioned upholder tightening before on the Happier podcast but really delved into it in the book. In a nutshell, it means that upholders decide on their own expectations and get to it (no problem so far) and then, even if the thing no longer serves them, they keep on doing it even if there no longer is a reason to continue doing it.

I had some aha moments while reading that section and now, two months later, I can see this playing out in so many parts of my life.

I even told Dion (a fellow upholder) about upholder tightening and he told me how he definitely sees it in me when I keep flogging a dead horse 🙂

So where have I noticed this in my life?

At the start of this year, I decided to do my year of happy where I focussed on a specific theme for the month, and I’d blog the goals at the start and the feedback at the end.

The intention was to do this with other people joining in. Not one person did, so really at that point, I should have just said, “oh well, no-one’s interested, let’s move on”. But I didn’t.

I was happy enough to carry on for a few months, still hoping others would join in, but then it really got very boring for me.

But I pushed through every single month.

Upholder tightening!

On the bright side, the minute I read about it and recognised it in myself, I stopped.

The awareness gave me the permission to stop.

And so I did.

Isn’t that amazing?

I realise this is more amazing for me than for anyone else but of course I see it happening all over in my life.

Now I’m questioning (I lean towards Questioner) all the things that I decided I should do, that no longer feel right but I haven’t stopped doing yet.

I changed one other thing too.

But watch this space – one of my new goals is to evaluate basically everything in my life (aren’t I fun?!) and see if any of that upholder tightening shows up, and then stop it if it’s no longer serving me.

Are you an upholder? We’re the 2nd smallest group after Rebels.

If yes, where have you noticed upholder tightening show up in your life?

Otherwise, have you read the book yet? Do you intend to? What’s your tendency?

PS Better than Before is currently on sale. Pick up your copy here.


Reading according to the season/ What I read in November

So it seems there is interest in talking more about books on the blog. This is last month’s post if you want to catch up.

But today, I want to talk about reading according to the season and then I’ll run through the November highlights.

I’ve always enjoyed a good summer beach read when I’m actually on the beach, and I definitely enjoy Christmas-themed books in November/ December.

In fact, I store up a few books throughout the year so that I’m ready when the Christmas season is here.

I don’t only read Christmas books but a good percentage of my fiction reads from about the second last weekend of November are themed.

This year I’ve already read 3 books, I’m currently half-way through this very photogenic book and our book club read also awaits.

Do you read according to the season?

And now, onto the books I read during November:

6 fiction/ 4 non-fiction (this year has been my biggest non-fiction reading year ever)

4 Kindle/ 3 Audible/ 3 Physical

Best fiction read: Truly Madly Guilty – Liane Moriarty. This was our book club read for November and I absolutely LOVED it. I was the only one in the book club who gave it 5*. I heard a podcast after that (No filter by Mia Freedman where she interviewed the author and she also LOVED my favourite character in the book). Have you read this one? Who was your favourite character?

Best non-fiction read: Frientimacy – Shasta Nelson. If you’re passionate about the subject of friendship like I am, you’ll enjoy being challenged and provoked into deep thinking by this one.

I read my first fiction book on audible in November. I chose The restaurant critic’s wife and it was a good read. I enjoyed the process especially when I figured out it’s exactly the same as reading a non-fiction on audible 🙂

So next year I’ll put a couple of fiction books on my reading goals list 🙂

Most of the books were just 3 – 3.5* to be honest, but Truly Madly Guilty totally made up for it!

What were some of the books you read last month? What was your best fiction read? What was your best non-fiction read?

PS for those who are interested, here are my 12 days of bookstagram

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