One of the symptoms of depression can be severe difficulty in concentrating on tasks one used to enjoy for no apparent reason other than a feeling of not being bothered. For me, my music and my video gaming very much has taken a back seat lately, and despite wanting to get back into it, my interest in actually starting anything is still low. It's gradually improving - just slowly. 

However, on the plus side, my reading has gone up exponentially and I've been getting through books, magazines and newspapers (well, crosswords!) more and more. As we come up to Christmas, here are a few I've finished recently, and my completely spoiler free impressions of them.

Nick Frost - Truths, Half Truths & Little White Lies

I love Nick Frost as an actor - everything he does just seems to somehow turn to gold, from his movie work with Simon Pegg, to his independent outings such as Cuban Fury and Hyperdrive. I also adored Mike in Spaced. 

Not only do I love his artistic output though, I also think we'd really get on as mates - I love how he comes across in interviews and generally as a human being: funny, confident but never obnoxious nor arrogant. It surprised me to learn then, in his book 'Truths, Half Truths and Little White Lies' that he'd actually had quite a rough time of things growing up. 

A largely dysfunctional family unit led to Nick's emotional demise, and within his book he discusses some obviously poignant moments and experiences that helped him cope with some serious issues. 

It's a humbling read, and really feels like Nick is baring his soul to you as a good friend. I was mightily intrigued throughout, especially to learn of his travels and exploration around the world, learning how he made his living and how he got to the beginning of his journey to where he is today as a successful comic actor and film maker. 

I'd recommend this to any fan of Nick's work, and even those who aren't but would like to find out that even after having the hardest time of it, things can and often do work themselves out.

Simon Pegg - Nerd Do Well 

I do love Simon Pegg, and much like his counterpart Nick Frost everything he stars in seems to become successful, and there's nothing he's done that I've really disliked. 

I'd like to think that we'd get on quite well if we met up to go for a pint together - we have very similar interests - retro video games, science fiction, comedy... I'm sure it'd be a great laugh!

Nerd Do Well is Pegg's recount of how he got into acting, comedy and writing in general. These autobiographical segments are full of anecdotes and funny stories of how he came to meet and work with many of his contemporaries. It was all very interesting and I found it difficult to put down, but what was especially nice about this read is that it is broken up with a fictional tale of Simon and his Robot butler (imagine C3PO combined with Alfred from Batman) and their comedic heroic exploits. All of Pegg's geeky influences can be seen in this, from Thunderbirds to Batman and of course Star Wars.

I also really enjoyed Pegg retelling his experiences of popular culture, and how these have influenced his artistic output and more generally his tastes over the years. I would recommend this to any geek, especially if you're familiar with anything Pegg has had anything to do with.

Chris Hadfield - An Astronauts Guide To Life On Earth 

For a real life astronaut, Chris Hadfield is a remarkably down to Earth individual. This book came highly recommended to me from a number of people, and I'm glad I gave it a go.

The book is sort of a self-help/life guide meets auto-biographical exploit through many of the decisions and life events that helped shape Hadfield's life and career into the David Bowie singing astronaut of the Canadian Space Agency. As somebody thoroughly interested in all things space travel, I was excited to get an insight into life training as an astronaut, as well as into Hadfield's experiences of the NASA shuttle, the Russian Soyuz capsule and life aboard the ISS.

Hadfield explains the workings of these well, simultaneously educating whilst never sounding arrogant or condescending. He is genuinely humbled by the experiences that life has afforded him, and his appreciation of this is ever apparent throughout, despite knowing that he has obviously put in masses of effort to make his dreams a reality.

Throughout though, Hadfield delivers great personal insight into keeping positive throughout life, no matter what your goals. He discusses how best to keep yourself grounded, whilst pushing yourself to achieve and ultimately enjoy what life has to offer, throughout the bad and good times.

Witty, intellectual and sometimes emotional, I would recommend this not only to people with an interest in space and space travel, but also those looking to better themselves as individuals. Interesting and entertaining.

Graeme Simsion - The Rosie Project

This is a beautiful story, and a real page turner. I really struggled to put this book down. Shockingly, even my video gaming time suffered! 

It's the story of how our main character, a 30-something, unlucky in love genetics scientist sets out in a super logical quest to find himself the perfect partner. A prime candidate for somebody on the autistic spectrum, Don is a stickler for routine, bordering at times on OCD, and finds it very hard to understand emotional expression and to empathise with his fellow human, often taking things literally. A good comparison would be Sheldon Cooper from the big bang theory. 

Don scientifically sets up a 'Wife Project' questionnaire to help find his life partner after the advice of his few friends, but after a series of twists and turns, his logical brain meets illogical Rosie. Other projects take over, and Don's normal routine is shattered as he attempts to juggle these new aspects of his life. 

To avoid spoilers, I'll leave the plot summary there. Know that this is an emotional, comedic story, with genuine laugh out loud and sad moments, despite Don's emotional difficulties. I became truly invested with all of the characters and just couldn't put it down until I arrived at it's conclusion... A triumph in story telling!

Nick Offerman - Paddle Your Own Canoe

As a big fan of Parks and Recreation, I was excited when I saw Nick Offerman, known on screen as burly, moustached Ron Swanson, had written a book. Like many of my recent reads, this is another autobiographical meets life advice kind of book. 

It's been a while since I finished this, but i'll try my best so summarise my impressions. Nick is simultaneously nothing like his on screen alter ego, but also incredibly similar! Having grown up on a farm, Nick is a very manly man - he insists he doesn't always have his moustache, but I find this hard to picture in my mind as I read through his humorous anecdotes of his early life, passion for red meet and dark liquor, and actual abilities in woodworking (with which he runs his very own woodworking shop, and has even won awards!)

Nick is incredibly humble and grateful of his upbringing shaping him into the rounded and independent individual that he has become. As he moves on to talk about his beginnings in comedy - working in sketch comedy groups etc, and meeting his wife, Megan Mullally, about whom he expresses immense affection and gratitude toward, he still maintains a grounded attitude towards life. He has many pearls of wisdom to offer, all the while being entertaining, funny and actually quite lovable. An enjoyable read. 

So, there we have it! All caught up on my brief, spoiler free reviews on all of my recent(ish) reads. Let me know if you agree/disagree with what I say, or if you just wanna chat about any one of them. Thanks for reading!

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