Category Archives: books roundup

My Top Politics and Feminism Reads for 2017

Having looked at all the non-fiction I’ve read this year, I’ve decided to split them up into science, politics and feminism, and biography and memoir, otherwise I would have a really long blog post summing it all up! I can’t quite believe I’ve managed to read 22 non-fiction books this year! and there’s still a few weeks left… what if I read another incredible book before January?

These are my favourite non-fiction politics and feminism reads for the year, out of the ones I have read this year, not that they were necessarily published this year. I can’t believe I thought I didn’t like books about politics before this year… how very wrong I was! Click on the images to go to my longer reviews.

Politics

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Hope In The Dark – Rebecca Solnit

I came to this after hearing it mentioned on the Bookshambles podcast many, many times by Josie Long (this is also why I now have the first Elena Ferrante book on my shelves waiting to be read!). I loved reading this this book with every fibre of my being.

It’s under 150 pages and is a collection of essays on the role of hope in politics, environmental issues, and social problems. The dark is the unknowable future. It’s about how small acts of activism can have huge consequences. It’s about how hope is what’s needed to be an activist. There are examples of all of these things in Hope in the Dark.

Hope in the Dark was written in the aftermath of the re-election of Bush as President of the USA in 2004. I read a version updated to 2016 with a few extra essays about the intervening years. It inspired me to become more politically active – even in small ways – because that can make a difference. While it’s easy to feel like the world is falling apart around us – politically, socially, and environmentally – rather than stepping back and feeling despair and hopelessness (because that shit will get nothing done), we all need to feel hope and take steps to change the future to help change these things. I feel like I can do that after reading Hope in the Dark.

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What Happened – Hillary Rodham Clinton

17 hours of Hillary Rodham Clinton reading her book to me (audiobook!) and I feel sadness at what american voters did last year, I feel like I understand the issues much better than I did before reading this. I know much more about her Clinton’s whole career and the chapters on feminism are excellent. I cried several times during this audiobook, I was so moved by how she talks about the loss of the election and compares it to personal grief, but I left this book feeling hopeful, and empowered.

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The Good Immigrant – ed. by Nikesh Shukla

I wasn’t sure where to put The Good Immigrant in my crude categorisation of all non-fiction books, but I decided on politics because immigration is political. Brexit is political and has negatively impacted of the lives of BAME people in the UK. So here it is, in the politics category.

The Good Immigrant is 21 essays by BAME writers living in the UK. The stories deal with many themes, often about how feeling ‘other’ is rubbish, and stories about racism, but there’s also plenty celebrating positive aspects of being an immigrant in the UK. I enjoyed every single essay and it has also given me more writers to follow and find their other work. I would class The Good Immigrant as essential reading for anyone living in the UK. I’ve bought it for several people already! My longer review also inspired some good post-Brexit swearing *bonus*.

Feminism

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Men Explain Things to Me – Rebecca Solnit

Another collection of essays, another by the amazing Rebecca Solnit, from 2014. This time she is dealing with feminism, and she does it so well. I read Men Explain Things To Me and wished I could have all these perfect arguments at the tip of my tongue whenever I talk about feminism.

The title essay is the one that brought about the phrase mansplaining (though Solnit dislikes the term) and highlights this phenomena many of us have experienced.  The rest of the essays deal with other aspects of just why feminism is still needed and necessary. There is also beautiful artwork between the essays by Ana Teresa Fernandez.

She has a new collection of feminism essays out: The Mother of All Questions : Further Feminisms. I have a copy of this but haven’t started it because I already don’t want it to be over!

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Nasty Women – 404Ink

I love this collection of essays (theme!!! I didn’t even know how much I like essay collections before this year!). This time the essays are about being a woman in the 21st century. It was inspired by the Trump election, and of course his nasty woman jibe to Hillary Clinton.

The essays cover a huge range of themes: being fat and taking a flight, gendered violence in punk rock, being Puerto Rican and living under a Trump presidency, contraception, pregnancy, class, racism, loving Courtney Love, being a black woman in Scotland, and many more.

It also introduced me to the music of The Petrol Girls, and I am very grateful for this because they are brilliant!

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Here are all the non-fiction books I read this year (click to go to my review):

What were you favourite politics and feminism reads this year?

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My Top Science Reads for 2017

Having looked at all the non-fiction I’ve read this year, I’ve decided to split them up into science, politics and feminism, and biography and memoir, otherwise I would have a really long blog post summing it all up! I can’t quite believe I’ve managed to read 22 non-fiction books this year! and there’s still a few weeks left… what if I read another incredible book before January?

These are my favourite non-fiction science reads for the year, out of the ones I have read this year, not that they were necessarily published this year. Click on the images to go to my longer reviews.

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Inferior: How Science Got Women Wrong – and the New Research That’s Rewriting the Story – Angela Saini.

Inferior is a wonderful look at the history of scientists letting their own attitudes to women get in the way of the science they are doing. It looks at difficulties faced by female scientists through history, and the discrimination they faced which was then thrown back at them as ‘well look, women just aren’t as good at science’. You wouldn’t let double Nobel prize winning Marie Curie join the French Academy of Sciences because she was not a man. Imagine what all these women could have done with support and access to scientific education!

It looks at what are the actual scientific differences between the sexes, and is a rallying cry to get more women into science to end the dominance of old white men. Ok, that last bit may just be more my feelings after reading it.  As well as being really easy to read and understand, it’s funny (see my review for a bit more on this!).

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The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks – Rebecca Skloot.

Straying into the world of cell biology with this one. Henrietta Lacks was a poor, black women whose cancer cells were taken from her without permission. She died from this aggressive cervical cancer. Her cells turned out to be an immortal cell line (they keep dividing and don’t seem to have a limited number of divisions before they die, like most cells). They have revolutionised many areas of medical research and are known to scientists as HeLa.

The story of the cells would be interesting enough, but the real genius of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is the story of Henrietta’s family. Her children didn’t find out about the cells until 25 years after the original sample was taken. The family had not received any science education and didn’t know what a cell was – they imagined the scientists had Henrietta chopped up in labs, and all sorts of horrific ideas. By the time Rebecca Skloot investigates the story it is a further 20 years later.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is a celebration of the advancement of science, and a heart breaking story about the human, and the family, behind those little samples of cells.

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Ad Astra: An Illustrated Guide to Leaving the Planet – Dallas Campbell

This is a beautiful book full of pictures and stories and facts and history all related to leaving planet Earth. Dallas Campbell has found the most interesting stories about the history of space travel, the current state of space travel, and where it might go in the future. You will read about space cats and tortoises, things smuggled into space, astronaut testing, and moon rock detectives. It’s a book I know I will find myself dipping back into many times to re read.

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Quiet: the Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking – Susan Cain

Quiet is about the strengths of introverts. We live in a society that seems to put all the value on extrovert qualities, yet introverts have brilliant things to offer the world. Quiet can help people understand their own introversion, help them accept and recognise its value, and can help extroverts understand the introverts around them.

I’m very clearly an introvert and it was nice to read a book all about how great that is. It also deals with a personal bugbear of mine: that being quiet and being shy are not always the same thing 😀

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Here are all the non-fiction books I read this year (click to go to my review):

What were you favourite science reads this year?

Books Bought and Read November 2017

Books Bought

I was doing very well at not buying a single book this month, then the black friday deals broke me.

Earlier in the month I used a few of my audible credits to get:

SPQR – Mary Beard (though having read a review, I’m not sure it will work that well as an audiobook. Think there will be diagrams and references it would be better if I can see them). Too late now!

Mythos – Stephen Fry. All part of trying to address a big gap in my education to ultimately help me be better at Learned League quizzes.

Dracula – Bram Stoker. A classic I’ve really wanted to get round to, especially after reading Frankenstein this year.

Then as I mentions, Black Friday sales broke my resolve and I ordered 6 books. They are all good uns though! They are:

  • Nina Is Not Ok – Shappi Khorsandi
  • It Only Happens in the Movies – Holly Bourne
  • Moxie – Jennifer Mathieu
  • Hidden Figures – Margot Lee Shetterly
  • Days Without End – Sebastian Barry
  • Scrappy Little Nobody – Anna Kendrick

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I only bought two kindle books on the daily deal:

Seabiscuit – Laura Hillenbrand

The Outsider – Albert Camus.

So really, I did quite well for three weeks. Then just did all by book purchasing in one go! 😀

Books Read

Click for link to the review

Swimming Lessons – Claire Fuller

Home Fire – Kamila Shamsie

Lies We Tell Ourselves – Robin Talley

What Happened – Hillary Rodham Clinton

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks – Rebecca Skloot

Under My Thumb: Songs That Hate Women and the Women That Love Them – ed. by Rhian E Jones.

Bedtime Stories

The Giraffe, The Pelly and Me – Roald Dahl. I’ve never read this one before!

Fantastic Mr Fox – Roald Dahl. Or this one. I read all the longer novels when I was a child (well, all the ones my local library had).

The Magic Faraway Tree – Enid Blyton. My son absolutely loves the adventures of Silky, Moon-face, and the children.

The german book – My daughter is just fascinated by the busy scene pictures in this book. We don’t usually even say the German words – I say the name of an item, and she finds it in the picture.

Stories for Girl – Various vacuous stories about fairies and mermaids mermaid. I didn’t buy this book, and obviously my daughter thinks it’s the best book ever!

Crystallising Chaos – My little pony story. I’ve read this so many times! *despair*

Ten Books I’m Thankful For

I’ve seen a few bloggers take part in this – it is part of The Broke and The Bookish’s top ten tuesdays. The theme is due to it being thanksgiving in the states. There’s a lot more non-fiction in this list than I was expecting before I starting trying to write it.

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Matilda – Roald Dahl. I loved this book when I was a child (along with most other Roald Dahl books). Matilda taught me that reading books is ace and there can be power in thinking and using your brain. I was also a massive library fan so I loved Matilda’s use of the library!

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In Search Of Schrodingers Cat – John Gribbin. This one made me certain I wanted to pursue physics for my degree. Along with A Brief History of Time – Stephen Hawking, and many other popular physics books – I couldn’t read enough of them when I was a teenager.  I don’t read so many now, but still love them when I do (I can’t even remember the last one I read, but I have 5 or 6 on my shelves waiting to be picked up!)

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Captain Corelli’s Mandolin – Louis de Bernieres. I know I’ve mentioned this before, but this novel is the first time I read a book and just wept through the last few pages. It blew my mind to realise a book could emotionally move me like this. I was about 19 when I read it! I’d always been a big reader, but just hadn’t read the right stuff apparently.

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The Demon-Haunted World – Carl Sagan. Here Sagan sets out why more people learning about the scientific method would be better for humanity. People would be better equipped to protect themselves from pseudoscience and fraudsters. I love it and would still recommend everyone buys a copy for a teenager they know, or just anyone who hasn’t read it!

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Surely You’re Joking Mr Feynman – Richard Feynman. This collection of stories about Feynman’s life is full of fun and physics. Feynman is a curious man and his zest for life comes across in every story. It challenged the stereotype of the quiet geek physicist for me.

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The Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck. Another story that I will never forget – especially the incredible final scene. I was so moved by that, and equally shocked. This novel is a moving portrait of human suffering.

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The God Delusion – Richard Dawkins. I’ve always been an atheist as an adult, but The God Delusion really cemented a lot of my ideas. I don’t always agree with Dawkins – especially not in recent years with some of the bobbins he comes out with, especially on twitter. but I adored reading The God Delusion.

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Riders – Jilly Cooper. This book is in here because I’ve found that knowledge of Rupert Campbell-Black and co. is a helpful female bonding experience. This saucy tale is also a great read. I’ve read the whole series. and would quite like to know other authors who write a good story with some rude bits. *rubs thighs* 😀

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Delusions of Gender – Cordelia Fine (review and review!). I picked this up because I wanted to understand more about how I could help the girls I teach have more confidence with their physics and maths ability. As well as helping me with this, it also told me so much about myself. Particularly the description of girls who like maths and science, and how often they reject traditional female stereotype characteristics. It’s much more complex than I can suggest in one sentence, but essentially I read loads of it mouth agape reading about myself. My daughter was also a toddler when I read Delusions of Gender, and there is a whole section on gender and children. Living with my pink princess walking stereotype it really helped me. I am not a pink princess type of person (huge understatement) and I really have struggled to have a daughter who is girly to the extreme. I loved every minute of reading Delusions.

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I could easily link reading Delusions of Gender with a sort of feminist reawakening I’ve had in the last few years. I could also have put How to be a Woman – Caitlin Moran – accessible, funny feminism, or Rebecca Solnit’s Men Explain Things to Me (review). All brilliant books that I wish I could remember word for word to recite to people.

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Hope In The Dark – Rebecca Solnit (review). I’ve chosen this Solnit book because I feel like this one has educated me about activism. It’s a beautiful book that sets out hope as being essential. It details how small acts of activism have inspired huge political, environmental, and social changes.

It was nice looking back at books that have really meant a lot to me over the years. Let’s hear yours!

 

Books Bought and Read October 2017

I’ve just gone crazy this month. Prepare yourselves!

Ad Astra: An Illustrated Guide to Leaving the Planet – Dallas Campbell. I actually bought this book a few months ago on preorder, but I didn’t get my hands on it until October 5th! It’s so beautiful.

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Kindle sale:

  • Spectacles – Sue Perkins
  • Lessons I’ve Learned – Davina McCall
  • Not That Kind of Girl: A Young Woman Tells You What She’s “Learned” – Lena Dunham
  • The God of Small Things – Arundhati Roy
  • Fates and Furies – Lauren Groff
  • Jonathan Livingston Seagull: A Story – Richard Bach, Russell Munson.

To be honest, I could have bought easily double this. There was loads of books in the current sale that I would quite like to read. I tried to only buy a few, and so did quite well. The first three are all autobiographies of interesting women. I have noticed that I read biographies of men predominantly, and want to address this imbalance! The last three are all on my ‘really want’ list, so I got them!

Then it was Book Shop Day so I visited my local YMCA charity shop and came home with:

  • Is it Just Me? – Miranda Hart
  • Salmon Fishing in the Yemen – Paul Torday
  • A Most Wanted Man – John le Carre
  • The Paying Guests – Sarah Waters

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Then something triggered a Rebecca Solnit spree and I ended up with :

A Field Guide to Getting Lost

The Mother of All Questions: Further Feminisms.

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Pachinko – Min Jin Lee. Another kindle book at a nice price.

Next I needed the November and December book club books:

  • Lies We Tell Ourselves – Robin Talley
  • The Trouble With Goats and Sheep – Joanna Cannon. (Note to self: this is not The Men Who Stare at Goats, which I thought it was for a few days after it was chosen.)

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and finally, I decided I needed more poetry in my life after reading The Jeanette Winterson book, so I bought Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur.

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Books Read:

click for links to my reviews.

Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? – Jeanette Winterson

History of Wolves – Emily Fridlund

Alias Grace – Margaret Atwood

Autumn – Ali Smith

Bedtime Stories

Folk of the Faraway Tree – Enid Blyton

A German Picture Book.

Bit of a repetitive month at bed times this month!

 

 

Books Bought and Read – September 2017

Overall a slow month for reading. New term at school though, and littlest starting school, so it was always going to be a struggle to fit it in. Still bought a bazillion books though…

Books Bought

A Girl Is a Half-formed Thing – Eimear McBride. Finally got a copy of this. It’s been hovering near the top of my ‘must be read’ list for a few years, and now I actually have a copy I will get around to it probably sooner! I finally bought it after hearing it be praised on the Bookshambles podcast – source of lots of my book purchases!

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The Sun is also a Star – Nicola Yoon. Kindle bargain and I’ve heard good things about it.

Oxfam books visit. Can’t leave without a handful of them! This was my birthday visit too. I got:

  • The Perks of Being a Wallflower – Steven Chbosky
  • The Earthsea Quartet – Ursula Le Guin
  • Wide Sargasso Sea – Jean Rhys
  • Einstein Dreams – Alan Lightman

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Now for a trio of physics books, because I needed to buy a prize for a poster competition I ran at work.

  • Seven Brief Lessons on Physics – Carlo Rovelli
  • Storm in a Teacup – Helen Czerski 
  • Forces of Nature – Brian Cox and Andrew Cohen. 

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Ended up giving Storm in a Teacup away because it’s the one I most want to read myself. Of course, I now need to buy it gain so I can read it…

The Secret Pilgrim – John Le Carre. kindle deal and bought due to my extremely long term plan to read all of his books. I know own 5 times more than I have ever read. It’s going great!

Books Read

Click for links to reviews.

Believe Me: A Memoir of Love, Death, and Jazz Chickens – Eddie Izzard.

The Underground Railroad – Colson Whitehead.

See I said it was a slow one!

Bedtime Stories

Tried to get my oldest child (age 7) to have something newer and more exciting to read at bedtime, but he insists on us read the Faraway Tree books again! He just loves them. Saucepan Man and all that.

The Enchanted Wood – Enid Blyton

Folk of The Faraway Tree – Enid Blyton

Also with the small one:

A German picture book that we have to look at all the pictures in. OMG.

Books Bought and Read – August 2017

A slow month for buying and reading. I thought I’d be able to read loads in the Summer holiday, but of course that hasn’t really happened! Children needed entertaining. Pfft! 😉

Books Bought

Norse Mythology – Neil Gaiman (127p kindle deal). I wanted a paper version of this, but the kindle deal was too great a bargain to miss.

Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal – Jeanette Winterson. In October I’m going to see Jeanette Winterson interviewing Rebecca Solnit as part of the Manchester Literature Festival. I haven’t read anything by Jeanette Winterson and saw a recommendation for this.

Antigone – Sophocles (Penguin Little Black Classic). I am going to read a book soon (Home Fires – Kamila Shamsie) that I read is based on Antigone. I don’t know this story so thought I’d better start here!

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Alias Grace – Margaret Atwood. This is a book club choice for October. Huge so need to make sure I start early.

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Watch out! 3 paperbooks for £10 deal:

The Hate You Give – Angie Thomas. My good friend Clancy, book recommender extrodinairre, told me to read this. I’d already heard great things about it, so I am!

The Girl With All the Gifts – M. R. Carey. I tried to watch the film, but it was TOO SCARY. So Clancy appears to tell me the book is great! So I’d rather tackle the book again than the film – which looked great, if you are less of a wimp than me (not difficult) you should watch it!

A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms (Song of Ice & Fire Prequel) – George R.R. Martin. I read and loved the Whole Song of Fire and Ice books. Funnily enogh it was Clancy who recommended these to me too!!!!

and I also bought:

Staring At The Sun: Being at peace with your own mortality: Overcoming the Dread of Death – Irvin Yalom. I’ve had an awful time this month. I remembered I heard them talking about this on A Good Read and thought it might be a good time to read it myself.

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Finally, I preordered a book that looks AMAZING, out in October:

Ad Astra: An Illustrated Guide To Leaving The Planet – Dallas Campbell

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Books Read

Click for a link to the review, if it exists!

Lincoln In The Bardo – George Saunders

The Beautiful Bureaucrat – Helen Philips

Hope In The Dark – Rebecca Solnit

How Hard Can Love Be? – Holly Bourne

The Seed Collectors – Scarlett Thomas

 

Bedtime Stories

Boy – Roald Dahl. Wow, I’ve never read this before.I wasn’t sure how my son would like it as it’s a collection of stories from Roald Dahl’s childhood. He seems to like it though. Probably helped by our visit to the Roald Dahl museum in Great Missenden early on in the month. I  cried my eyes out during the one where he talks about the last phone call he had with his mother, where she knew she was going to die, but he didn’t.

Rosie Revere Engineer – Andrea Beaty. The same night I read the chapter of Boy that made me sob. My daughter chose this book and I can’t get through this one without welling up! I love love love this book.

Bedtime Stories for Girls – Like the evil twin of the nice books I buy. Daughter obviously loves it.

The Scarecrow’s Hat – Ken Brown. 

5 minute Christmas Stories. We’ve read these for a whole week now every night. How seasonal?!