Book Review: Live Lagom

live lagom

Live Lagom by Anna Brones

*I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest review*

From French women not getting fat to Danish people mastering the art of coziness to a certain Japanese woman getting the entire world to tidy up, it seems that all we want in the US is for someone from another country to tell us we’re doing it all wrong, then offer us a solution, usually imported from halfway around the world.

And so we end up with Live Lagom, which promises to teach us how to lead more balanced lives, just like the Swedish do. “Lagom” can be translated as “just right” or “moderate.” According to Anna Brones, it’s what what a Swedish person might say if you ask them how much coffee they want or how much food they want to eat.

So, will embracing “lagom” change your life?  I dunno. Brones’ book feels just like more of the same, given a Swedish gloss and packaged up with a lot of beautiful photos of impeccably decorated and well-lit Swedish homes. The advice she gives isn’t going to shatter anyone’s world, unless that person’s been living in a completely sealed off glass alternative world for the past decade or so.

This is all to say that, well, OK, we know we should work less and buy less and not destroy the planet. Brones tells us to do those things, which, is great I guess, but nothing we haven’t heard before. At one point, she actually tells us to switch to CFL/LED lightbulbs and my thought was “really! Like that isn’t something the entire world hasn’t been saying for years now.”

Does this book need to exist? I’m going to say no, but I do have to give props to Brones for being willing to glance at the negative side of lagom — which is that it can discourage people from striving in life. She’s also quick to note that Sweden isn’t the perfect society everyone’s always making it out to be. Just think — two of the biggest names in “fast consumption” came from Sweden (IKEA and H&M). So although it seems like she recommends that we all live lagom, she does acknowledge that not everyone, even not every one in Sweden, is doing so.


Book Review: L’appart by David Lebovitz

l'appart book review

L’appart Book Review

*I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest review.*

If you want a guide on what not to do when buying and renovating an apartment in Paris, David Lebovitz’s L’appart is the book for you.

I honestly wasn’t sure what to expect going into the book, I chose it because it’s about living in Paris and I’ve read Lebovitz’s blog from time to time. Would it be some boring, “and then I chose this material for my counter tops,” and “this is what I picked for the floor” story about renovation, which is kind of what I feared? Or would it be just a bit more interesting?

It was, I can assure you, the latter. Perhaps because he’s been blogging since blogging was even really a thing (1999!), Lebovitz has the friendly, conversational voice thing down pat. Reading his book is like having a one-sided discussion with a friend, during which they say maybe more than you want to hear and repeat themselves a bit.

But all in all, it was a pretty engaging read and it was pretty interesting to learn about the differences between living and buying real estate in France compared to in the US (OK, I might have lost a lot of people with that sentence). For example, to get a mortgage in France, you have to pass a medical exam, so you don’t, you know, die, while owing the bank lots of money.

There’s also a big difference when it comes to interactions between “bosses” and “staff.” One of the big mistakes Lebovitz makes is tutoyer-ing (that is, using “tu” instead of “vous”) with his contractor and the workers. There’s a social distance that exists in France because of the structure and formality of the language. By ignoring that formality, Lebovitz sets the stage for his contractor to take advantage of him, majorly.

OK, also, his contractor seemed like a connard, which is probably the main reason why he did such a bad job (spoilers, maybe, but the word “disaster” is in the subtitle of the book, so you kinda know that going in).

Since Lebovitz is primarily a cookbook writer and food blogger, there are a few recipes interspersed throughout, usually bookending chapters and serving as little set pieces for Lebovitz to make his various points. I haven’t tried any of the recipes, but a few of them, particularly the pastries, look pretty tasty.