Books Bought and Read – November 2018

I’ve just finished writing my October 2018 one, so thought I’d just get on with the November one straight away!

Books Bought

I bought the kindle version of The Complete Short Stories: Vol. 1 by Roald Dahl, because it was in the 99p deals one day.

Later in the month, We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson was also in the kindle 99p sale.

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That’s it for outright buying. I also got Talking As Fast As I Can by Lauren Graham in a subscription box I get. I loved Gilmore Girls, so I’m really happy to get this book!

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I received this fantastic sounding book from Faber & Faber. A Good Enough Mother by Bev Thomas. Getting sent books is a complete rare even for me! This is only the second I’ve ever received. So it’s fantastically exciting!

Books Read

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Wake by Anna Hope

The Outsider by Albert Camus (review to follow shortly)

Looks like I’m slowing down towards the end of the year. I know all I’m going to want to do in December is look at xmas recipes! and that’s going to get in the way of reading 😀

Other posts on my blog this month.

Top Ten Bookish Items I’d Like to Own. Blatantly trying influence people just before xmas.

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Wake – Anna Hope


Set over five days in November 1920, Wake follows the lives of 3 women in the aftermath of the First World War, in the run up to the burial of the Unknown Warrior at Westminster Abbey. It focuses on the effect of the war on the women left behind, and the general disruption to society in the years afterwards.

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Wake manages to get across the feeling of collective grief felt by society after the war, and the dreadful situations many people found themselves in, particularly the poor soldiers who were traumatised, then abandoned by the government shortly after they returned home.

The chapters are interspersed with the story of the Unknown Warrior: the finding of a suitable body, the process of transporting it from France, and finally the burial. I liked how this linked the different stories, with it being the big news of the day, all the characters discuss it.

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The three main stories in the book are about Hettie, a dancer at the Hammersmith Palais, whose brother has returned from the war a broken man. Evelyn, who lost her lover during the war and is now living a very grey existence without him. Finally, Ada whose son is missing, presumably dead, but she never received an official letter about him.

The stories of these women mean that a large cross section of the whole society are covered by the story. Different age groups and classes are all involved, and all are broken by the war in different ways.

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Wake was chosen by my book club as we would be meeting near Remembrance Day. I really enjoyed in and was particularly glad to not have to read a book about how grim life in the trenches was. It was nice to read about how grim life in the UK could be after the war. 😀

The burial of the Unknown Warrior gives a potentially depressing book a more hopeful ending as it signifies the start of a collective healing for society and for some of our main characters. I really enjoyed Wake and would definitely recommend it.

Book Bought and Read – October 2018

I’m slightly late with this one! But it is just about still November… for another 5 hours anyway. I read seven books in October! This compares with only two so far in the whole of November. I guess I was having a quiet social life month back then.

Books Bought

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Wake by Anna Hope for book club. This was chosen to tie in with the 100 yr WWI anniversary this year and remembrance day.

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Mythology: Timeless Tales of Gods and Heroes, 75th Anniversary Illustrated Edition
by Edith Hamilton. This book is beautiful. The cover is all shiny and there are several colour illustrations inside that are just gorgeous. 
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The Gallows Pole Ben Myers. I bought this because I was going to another Manchester Literature Festival event in December with Ben Myers and Adelle Stripe (see two books further down!). I can’t go now because now my daughter’s school play is on the same evening – for one night only! I will have to relinquish my tickets… so two more may become available! This book looks great. I have seen it around a lot – probably just remembered because of the distinctive cover. It’s about coin forgers in Yorkshire!

I next bought the kindle version of The Odyssey by Homer, translated by Emily Wilson because it was 99p and I’d been reading great things about this translation.

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Black Teeth and a Brilliant Smile by Adelle Stripe. Bought because I was going to be going to that Lit Fest event.This book looks amazing though. It’s based on the life of Andrea Dunbar, who famously wrote the play Rita, Sue and Bob Too. 

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I’m a Joke and So Are You: A Comedian’s Take on What Makes us Human by Robin Ince. A supermarket bargain!

Books Read

Seven this month! Click the book name to be taken to my review.

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Miss Nightingale’s Nurses by Kate Eastham

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Ponti by Sharlene Tao

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In Our Mad and Furious City by Guy Gunaratane

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The Mother of All Questions by Rebecca Solnit

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Heartburn by Nora Ephron (I somehow completely missed reviewing this one!)

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I’m a Joke and So Are You: A Comedian’s Take on What Makes Us Human by Robin Ince

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Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata

Other Posts this Month

I’ve been making an effort to do a few more general book posts – top tens etc. In October I managed to do:

Top Ten Longest Books I’ve Read. Spoiler alert: it contains a lot of Jilly Cooper and a lot of A Song of Fire and Ice books.

Top Ten Villains in Books. Starts out well, then gets a bit ranty!

and a Review of Manchester Literature Festival Events I attended.

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Pat Barker and Kamila Shamsie!

Well then, now I’m immediately going to go and write my November wrap up!

Convenience Store Woman – Sayaka Murata

Convenience Store Woman is a really strange story of Keiko Furukura and her life working at a convenience store.  She’s an odd character and the job suits her because there’s a manual telling her how to behave and interact with customers.

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Keiko has been waiting her whole life for someone to just tell her how to behave with other people, because she has no clue herself. She seems to be devoid of any empathy. As a child, Keiko, has a few violent episodes where she is reacting to something very literally, and she has no idea why everyone is upset with her. Motivated by not wanting to upset her parents, she withdraws and asks her sister for advice on occasions when she wants to appear normal.

Finding the job at the convenience store is life changing for her because of the beloved manual.

“We’ve got quite similar tastes, haven’t we? I like your bag too,” Mrs. Izumi said with a smile. It’s only natural that my tastes would match hers since I’m copying her.

Things go well for Keiko for the next eighteen years, until she is getting so old that people start questioning her life. Why is she not married? Why does she still basically work at Spar? Honestly, these conforming weirdos should just leave her alone. Quite why other people are so concerned is beyond me. Most of the story is Keiko trying to deflect this negative attention from her and keep the appearance of normality.

The normal world has no room for exceptions and always quietly eliminates foreign objects. Anyone who is lacking is disposed of.

So that’s why I need to be cured. Unless I’m cured, normal people will expurgate me.

Finally I finally understood why my family had tried so hard to fix me.

Overall, I finished Convenience Store Woman and just didn’t really know how I felt about it! I enjoyed reading it, but it left me feeling quite disturbed. As though Keiko’s story is not really finished and something very, very sinister is lurking just around the corner for her… There’s one scene in the book that really hinted at this, and made me think the whole tone of the book was going to change, but it didn’t. Chilling!

Maybe I didn’t feel like I enjoyed it so much because I identified with Keiko in maybe too many ways. I’m quite socially awkward and also don’t like to do things just because society expects me to. I don’t have the no empathy thing though. Phew.

Overall I DID enjoy Convenience Store Woman, but it made me uncomfortable. This means it really evoked an emotional response and that’s generally what I want from a book. It’s just normally happiness or sadness! I haven’t been able to sit and write this review because I just couldn’t make my mind up about it! I finished it a month ago!

A lot of Convenience Store Woman is also really wry, and well observed, and funny. Keiko watching and commenting on other people is often funny and often very dark.

Now, however, it felt like he’d downgraded me from store worker to female of the human species.

Oh Keiko, we all get that. Urghhh.

Have you read Convenience Store Woman? What did you think?

I’m a Joke and So Are You: A Comedian’s Take on What Makes Us Human – Robin Ince

I was always going to read a book by Robin Ince because I’m a fan of the things he does, and happily, I’m a Joke is a great book.

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What is the book about? Rather than try and describe it myself, let’s have a look at the back of the book:

What better way to understand ourselves than through the eyes of comedians – those who professionally examine our quirks on stage daily? In this touching and witty book, award-winning presenter and comic Robin Ince uses the life of the stand-up as a way of exploring some of the biggest questions we all face. Where does anxiety come from? How do we overcome imposter syndrome? What is the key to creativity? How can we deal with grief?

Informed by personal insights from Robin as well as interviews with some of the world’s top comedians, neuroscientists and psychologists, this is a hilarious and often moving primer to the mind. But it is also a powerful call to embrace the full breadth of our inner experience – no matter how strange we worry it may be!

It’s a really enjoyable, easy to understand, interesting read about brains and the stuff they make you think.

If you find yourself thinking: I believe this writer is trying to engender a sense of ‘pity me’, then I am probably attempting to say, I was an idiot or I am an idiot or I will be an idiot again.

This is from quite near the beginning of I’m a Joke, and it just says to me that I will get along with this book.

 

I really enjoyed the chapter on voices you hear in your head and intrusive thoughts. It’s all interesting, and often funny too. He investigates day dreaming, the impact of events in your childhood on your adult brain, the idea of there being a ‘real you’, anxiety, and err…. death.

If anyone questions the sanity of your actions , just say it is art.

The interviews with different comedians and with scientist are a great addition to the text and give it a great balance between sciencey facts, and funny anecdotes. Probably worth reading just to hear Robin talk about his stage cardigan.

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supermarket bargains

If you haven’t already been to see Robin Ince’s stand up I would also recommend that. He is also part of my all time favourite podcast, with Josie Long: Bookshambles. Here they talk with guests about books. It’s where I get a lot of my recommendations from! Of course, if you are a science fan, you should also listen to The Infinite Monkey Cage with Ince and Brian Cox and guests.

Top Ten Bookish Items I’d Like to Own

Yeh yeh, it’s nearly xmas. How well timed!

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday is about book stuff I’d like to own. Easy!

 

1) A year long book subscription

Yes please. Either something like this one from Foyles, where you just get a nice book. Or maybe something like this one where you get a book and some other bits and bobs.

As I was looking to see what book subscription boxes I would want, I came across Books That Matter and subscribed! It looks soooooo good and just exactly perfect for me!

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Happy Tuesday, bookworms! 📚Here's another one of our favourite photos of the boxes in their new homes, this time from @jaynestockton. Don't forget to tag us in any photos you upload of your Books That Matter box to be entered into a draw to win a free box later in the year! Thank you EVERYONE for your lovely photos, messages and emails – we read and reply to every one, and they mean so much! . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . #bookishbox #subscriptionbox #booksubscriptionbox #subbox#femaleentrepreneur #readdiversebooks #bookishfeature #bookstagram #bookstagrammer #bookflatlay #shelfie #bibliophile #tuesdaymotivation #womenrunbusiness #bookblogger #bookworm #feminist #feminism #feministgift #womenempowerment #empowering #womenwriters #chimamandangoziadichie

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2) This Amazing Mug

I really want this mug. I saw it on a book riot post, but the mug is from this Etsy shop.

3) A book list scratch off poster

Like this one. I love books and I love lists, and I’m a completist. So this is perfect for me. I just hope the books really are all good, because I will have to read them.

4) Literature is My Boyfriend pendant

Well, it’s true. Available here.

5) John Waters Quote Tote Bag

This bag is epic.

6) The Handmaid’s Tale T-Shirt

There’s loads of different ones, but I like this one I found on etsy.

 

7) Mary Wollstonecraft and Mary Shelley T-Shirt

Yes, I like t-shirts. This one is so good, clearly I’m just going to end up buying it myself!

8) Hermione Granger Quote T-Shirt

Yes! I want this.

9) Some Cool Book Inspired Art

Like this Mount Doom poster!

10) A bookish tattoo

Yes – would love a tattoo that’s to do with books. This one is great because it has a cup of tea in too.

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So there you are friends and family. See you at Xmas 😀

 

 

The Mother of All Questions: Further Feminisms – Rebecca Solnit

The Mother of All Questions is Solnit’s follow up to the amazing Men Explain Things to Me (my review of this can be found here). Firstly, if you haven’t read Men Explain Things to Me, please rectify this immediately. It is a brilliant book that sets out all the basics of feminism and why it’s so bloody necessary in the modern world. It makes arguments that I wish I could always remember. It is brilliant.

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I *really* dislike the cover

The Mother of All Questions, as the follow up, is also excellent. But it doesn’t cover the same ground as Men Explain Things to Me. It’s more of a what has happened since that was published (2014), with some new ground covered. If I was to recommend only one of them to you, I would say read Men Explain, but really read both!

So what is covered in The Mother of All Questions? The format is essays on different subjects, I should probably have mentioned that first. Some of which have appeared in other places previously. The longest essay is about ways in which women are silenced. It opens with the title essay: about families and motherhood. There are also essays on the cultural change that seemed to happen around feminism in 2014, men and feminism, gun violence and misogyny, the recent history of the rape joke, and a few other short essays on various pop culture topics at the end of the book.

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My favourite essay was The Mother of All Questions. It is no exaggeration to say that I found this essay to be life changing, or at the least to entirely give me confidence with some hard decisions I made at the end of last year. It was life-affirming for me. Solnit discusses attitudes to motherhood and her own experience of how people treat her as a childless woman.

She begins by telling a story about a talk she gave on Virginia Woolf. A lot of audience questions were about Woolf’s childlessness.

What I should have said to that crowd was that our interrogation of Woolf’s reproductive status was a soporific and pointless detour from the magnificent questions her work poses. (I think at some point I said, “Fuck this shit,” which carried the same general message, and moved everyone on from the discussion.)

 

In the long essay on silence, I underlined a few key points. They are firstly a clarification between silence and quiet:

for the purposes of this essay, regard silence as what is imposed and quiet as what is sought.

I like that and I’ll remember this difference. I don’t really think its something I’ve thought about before.

Being unable to tell your story is a living death and sometimes a literal one.

and

What we call politeness often means training that other people’s comfort matters more.

We could all do with remembering that every now and then.  Finally:

Being a woman is a perpetual state of wrongness, as far as I can determine. Or, rather, it is under patriarchy.

This essay takes up 50 pages of the book, and the whole thing is less than 200 pages altogether. It a wide ranging essay and is well worth a read. Some of it is reminiscent of Mary Beard’s Women and Power (my review here) and Beard’s lectures that Women and Power are based on, are discussed in Solnit’s essay.

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I love Solnit’s writing, so I was always going to love this book. It doesn’t disappoint.