Book challenge 2017 update

Wow! This is not going well! I am learning that I can’t plan my reading very in advance. Too much amazing new shiny stuff catches my eye. Still, I’m reading lots, and I won’t feel bad for reading what I feel like ūüėÄ

The idea behind this reading challenge is detailed here. I read one book off the list over the last three months! Holidays On Ice – David Sedaris. I still want to read more of them – and have copies of quite a few waiting on my bookshelves.

Wonder if I can beat my record over the next three months and maybe read two more? ūüėÄ

Here’s the updated list.

  • The Five People You Meet in Heaven¬†by Mitch Albom
  • ¬†Little Women¬†by Louisa May Alcott
  • The Kitchen Boy¬†by Robert Alexander
  • Brick Lane¬†by Monica Ali¬†¬†
  • Oryx and Crake¬†by Margaret Atwood¬†¬†
  • Emma¬†by Jane Austen¬†¬†
  • Sense and Sensibility¬†by Jane Austen¬†
  • Oracle Night¬†by Paul Auster¬†¬†
  • Fahrenheit 451¬†by Ray Bradbury¬†(review)
  • Jane Eyre¬†by Charlotte Bronte
  • The Master and Margarita¬†by Mikhail Bulgakov¬†¬†
  • The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay¬†by Michael Chabon
  • The Awakening¬†by Kate Chopin¬†(review)
  • The Meaning of Consuelo¬†by Judith Ortiz Cofer
  • Heart of Darkness¬†by Joseph Conrad
  • Fat Land¬†: How Americans Became the Fattest People in the World¬†by Greg Critser
  • Cousin Bette¬†by Honore De Balzac
  • Song of the Simple Truth: The Complete Poems of Julia De Burgos¬†by Julia De Burgos
  • The Red Tent¬†by Anita Diamant¬†¬†
  • David Copperfield¬†by Charles Dickens
  • Crime and Punishment¬†by Fyodor Dostoevsky¬†¬†
  • An American Tragedy¬†by Theodore Dreiser
  • The Bielski Brothers¬†by Peter Duffy
  • The Count of Monte Cristo¬†by Alexandre Dumas
  • Ella Minnow Pea¬†by Mark Dunn¬†
  • The Name of the Rose¬†by Umberto Eco¬†¬†
  • Middlesex¬†by Jeffrey Eugenides
  • The Sound and The Fury¬†by William Faulkner
  • Time and Again¬†by Jack Finney
  • The Great Gatsby¬†by F. Scott Fitzgerald¬†¬†
  • A Passage to India¬†by E.M. Forster
  • Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl¬†by Anne Frank
  • Bee Season¬†by Myla Goldberg
  • Lord of the Flies¬†by William Golding¬†¬†
  • Autobiography of a Face¬†by Lucy Grealy
  • My Life in Orange¬†by Tim Guest
  • The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time¬†by Mark Haddon¬†
  • The Scarlet Letter¬†by Nathaniel Hawthorne
  • Sacred Time¬†by Ursula Hegi
  • The Sun Also Rises¬†by Ernest Hemingway
  • Siddhartha¬†by Hermann Hesse
  • Seabiscuit: An American Legend¬†by Laura Hillenbrand
  • Rescuing Patty Hearst¬†by Virginia Holman
  • A Quiet Storm¬†by Rachel Howzell Hall
  • The Polysyllabic Spree¬†by Nick Hornby¬†(review)
  • Songbook¬†by Nick Hornby
  • The Kite Runner¬†by Khaled Hosseini
  • The Hunchback of Notre Dame¬†by Victor Hugo¬†¬†
  • Brave New World¬†by Aldous Huxley
  • How the Light Gets In¬†by M. J. Hyland
  • The Lottery: And Other Stories¬†by Shirley Jackson
  • Nervous System¬†by Jan Lars Jensen¬†¬†
  • The Metamorphosis¬†by Franz Kafka¬†(review)
  • The Story of My Life¬†by Helen Keller¬†(review)
  • On The Road¬†by Jack Kerouac
  • One Flew Over the Cuckoo‚Äôs Nest¬†by Ken Kesey
  • Flowers for Algernon¬†by Daniel Keyes
  • The Secret Life of Bees¬†by Sue Monk Kidd¬†
  • A Separate Peace¬†by John Knowles
  • Extravagance¬†by Gary Krist
  • The Namesake¬†by Jhumpa Lahiri
  • The Devil in the White City¬†by Erik Larson¬†
  • The Song of Names¬†by Norman Lebrecht
  • The Fortress of Solitude¬†by Jonathan Lethem
  • Small Island¬†by Andrea Levy
  • Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West¬†by Gregory Maguire
  • A Month Of Sundays¬†by Julie Mars
  • Life of Pi¬†by Yann Martel¬†
  • Property¬†by Valerie Martin
  • The Razor‚Äôs Edge¬†by W. Somerset Maugham
  • The Nanny Diaries¬†by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬†
  • Quattrocento¬†by James McKean
  • Death of a Salesman¬†by Arthur Miller¬†¬†
  • Beloved¬†by Toni Morrison¬†(review)
  • Speak, Memory¬†by Vladimir Nabokov
  • Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books¬†by Azar Nafisi
  • The Time Traveler‚Äôs Wife¬†by Audrey Niffenegger¬†¬†
  • How to Breathe Underwater¬†by Julie Orringer
  • 1984¬†by George Orwell¬†
  • When the Emperor Was Divine¬†by Julie Otsuka
  • Bel Canto¬†by Ann Patchett¬†(review)
  • Truth & Beauty¬†by Ann Patchett
  • The Portable Dorothy Parker¬†by Dorothy Parker
  • My Sister‚Äôs Keeper¬†by Jodi Picoult
  • The Bell Jar¬†by Sylvia Plath¬†¬†
  • Complete Tales & Poems¬†by Edgar Allan Poe
  • The Fountainhead¬†by Ayn Rand
  • Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers¬†by Mary Roach
  • The True and Outstanding Adventures of the Hunt Sisters¬†by Elisabeth Robinson
  • The God of Small Things¬†by Arundhati Roy
  • Empire Falls¬†by Richard Russo
  • The Catcher in the Rye¬†by J.D. Salinger¬†(review)
  • Sybil¬†by Flora Schreiber
  • The Lovely Bones¬†by Alice Sebold
  • Holidays on Ice¬†by David Sedaris (review)
  • Me Talk Pretty One Day¬†by David Sedaris¬†(review)
  • Hamlet¬†by William Shakespeare
  • Pygmalion¬†by George Bernard Shaw
  • Frankenstein¬†by Mary Shelley¬†(review)
  • Unless¬†by Carol Shields
  • Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress¬†by Dai Sijie
  • The Jungle¬†by Upton Sinclair
  • A Tree Grows in Brooklyn¬†by Betty Smith¬†(review)
  • Of Mice and Men¬†by John Steinbeck
  • Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde¬†by Robert Louis Stevenson
  • Uncle Tom‚Äôs Cabin¬†by Harriet Beecher Stowe
  • The Opposite of Fate¬†by Amy Tan
  • Vanity Fair¬†by William Makepeace Thackeray
  • Anna Karenina¬†by Leo Tolstoy¬†¬†
  • A Confederacy of Dunces¬†by John Kennedy Toole
  • The Song Reader¬†by Lisa Tucker
  • The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn¬†by Mark Twain
  • Just a Couple of Days¬†by Tony Vigorito
  • Galapagos¬†by Kurt Vonnegut¬†(review)
  • Ethan Frome¬†by Edith Wharton
  • Night¬†by Elie Wiesel¬†(review)
  • The Picture Of Dorian Gray¬†by Oscar Wilde¬†¬†
  • The Code of the Woosters¬†by P. G. Wodehouse
  • Old School¬†by Tobias Wolff
  • The Shadow of the Wind¬†by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
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Man Booker Prize Shortlist!

It’s Man Booker Prize shortlist day! Woo hoo!

Here’s the short list from the Man Booker Prize website

4321 by Paul Auster (US) (Faber & Faber)
History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund (US) (Weidenfeld & Nicolson)
Exit West by Mohsin Hamid (UK-Pakistan) (Hamish Hamilton)
Elmet by Fiona Mozley (UK) (JM Originals)
Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders (US) (Bloomsbury Publishing)
Autumn by Ali Smith (UK) (Hamish Hamilton)

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Picture of the shortlist from the Man Booker Prize website.  http://themanbookerprize.com/news/man-booker-prize-announces-2017-shortlist

I’m glad to see Lincoln in the Bardo on the list. It’s the only one I’ve read from this list and I loved it (review here). So I’m currently backing this one.

The only other longlist book I’ve read and really, really liked was Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad (Review coming soon). It has won its fair share of awards already, so I suppose it’s nice to give others a go.

I have quite a few of these ready to read (Autumn, History of Wolves, and Elmet I think) so I’ll try and get through them in the next month (spoiler alert: I probably won’t manage many).

Which is your favourite to win?

Book Review: Lincoln in the Bardo – George Saunders

Lincoln In The Bardo is a lovely, interesting, odd book about the transition of Abraham Lincoln’s beloved son, Willie, between the world of the living and the world of the dead. While he is between these worlds – in the Bardo – he meets many of the other inhabitants of this in-between place. Over the course of his first night in the Bardo, his father visits his corpse several times. The backdrop to these events is the American Civil War.

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I listened to an audio book of Lincoln in the Bardo. It starts of as an extremely difficult listen – this could probably be avoided by knowing something about the unusual structure of the book before beginning to listen to it. A lot of the first 15 short chapters are quotes from other sources. My thought process through this hour went something like: What is going on? Are these quotes from real books, or imaginary ones? What even does the phrase ‘op cit’ mean? I’ve heard it 1000 times already and I’m quite worried that something has gone wrong with the audio book and I’m just being read a long list of footnotes.

Once you get into it you realise that all the chapters dealing with the historical setting are presented as a series of quotes from other texts. These make up about a third of the book – there are over 100 chapters in total. Through these we learn about Lincoln and his wife having a state banquet while their beloved son is gravely ill upstairs. We learn about the civil war and about Lincoln as President. In fact, any action that isn’t taking place in the Bardo is presented in this ‘quotes from other sources’ form.

In the Bardo, Willie meets many other ghosts (best word I can think of to describe them!). They change form depending on their feelings and most have an appearance relating to their death, or their opinion of themselves in life. Our main characters are Mr Bevins, a young, gay man who changed his mind during a suicide attempt, but was too late to be saved. He appears as a human with multiple eyes, ears and arms. The number of these changes frequently. We also have Mr Vollman, a man of advancing years who took a younger wife. He was kind to her and expected no intimate relationship, but she fell in love with him over time. She indicated she was ready to consummate their marriage, when he was unfortunately killed before he went to meet her in bed. His form in the Bardo is himself with an overly large engorged member, to put it politely. It’s size changes throughout the book. We find out these facts early on in the book, I’m not giving away any spoilers here.

There are many other residents of the Bardo. They are, to different degrees, confused about their current state. They refer to their coffins as sick-boxes, and many harbour a belief that they will return to their former life. Willie is unusual because, they tell us, most young people go over to the other side very quickly. Willie, 11 years old, resists and this marks him out as unusual.

There are 166 characters in the book and they are all voiced by different actors. The stellar cast is what drew me to the audio book over the print one (Nick Offerman, David Sedaris, Lena Dunham, Ben Stiller, Julianne Moore, Susan Sarandon, Don Cheadle). Though I could only pick out Nick Offerman and David Sedaris as they are Mr Vollman and Mr Bevins. George Saunders voices the third main character The Reverend Everly Thomas. Even though I initially had a difficult time with the audio book, I ended up really glad I had listened to it over reading the print book. I ended up being really helped by recognising characters voices. I would have really struggled to recognise repeat characters if I was just reading it.

In the Bardo, there ends up being a battle of sorts to keep Willie in the Bardo, giving him chance to see his Father again as he visits his body.

I ended up loving Lincoln in the Bardo. It’s an exploration of parental love and grief. It’s about the death of one compared to the death of many (through chapters focussing on events in the civil war). It’s about living a good life, and what that even means. It’s about friendship and death. It’s written beautifully and is so lovely and poetic. Because I was listening to the audio book while driving I couldn’t keep track of my favourite quotes.

The death of one is a tragedy, the death of millions is just a statistic.

Marilyn Manson, The Fight Song.

Yes, I know. It’s a great song though and this concept is beautifully explored in Lincoln In The Bardo by Lincoln having to deal with the death of his beloved child at the same time as having to make decisions about the civil war that result in many, many deaths.

I have to be honest, a cursory look at my Learned League stats will tell you I have awful knowledge of american history. It’s currently my worst category and I have only 3/35 questions correct on this topic. It shouldn’t be a surprise to find that my knowledge of Abraham Lincoln extends from this:

to

It’s probably not supposed to be what you get from Lincoln In The Bardo, but I really enjoyed learning more about Lincoln.

Lincoln In The Bardo is primarily occupied by death, yet I found it to be an uplifting read. It’s partly historically educating, quite funny, sad, hopeful, and a beautiful read. I would be interested to hear how anyone got on with reading the print book, over listening to the audio book?

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! ūüėČ

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) РGeorge 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?!

 

Book Review: Hope in the Dark – Rebecca Solnit

The back of the book blurb says:

At a time when political, environmental and social gloom can seem overpowering, this remarkable work offers a lucid, affirmative and well-argued case for hope.

I’m already sold. Politics – mental. Check! Environmental predictions – dire. Check! Social issues – overwhelming. Triple check! I need this book right now. And I absolutely loved it. I’ve struggled to get this review written because I have felt like I’m not capable of conveying how brilliant it is. It’s made me feel hopeful about the future and like I can make a difference to the world. That’s some achievement for a book that’s only 142 pages long.

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That brew is perfect. Anyone who might make me a cup of tea in the future, please take note. 

I read most of Hope In The Dark during the week when we had actual white supremacist Nazis marching in Charlottesville. Donald Trump is the President of the United States. I still can’t see, hear, or read that without doing a huge internal WTF? They are fracking a few miles away from my house. People in positions of power are denying climate change. We are exiting the EU. And the Conservatives are in power a-frigging-gain. It’s ALL TOO MUCH. and that’s not even the half of it.

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Rebecca Solnit. Picture from https://umpsychogeography.wordpress.com/the-writer-as-walker/rebecca-solnit/

Hope In The Dark is a collection of 21 short essays. It was was written in 2004 in the wake of the second election of President Bush. Rebecca Solnit is American and so American politics are important to the book, but it covers global issues. The copy I read is a 2016 update and has a new foreward, a new afterward, and two new essays concerning 2009 and 2014. It falls cliffhangingly short of a Donald Trump presidency!

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The dark in the title of the book is the future. The dark is the unknown. It’s not that its dark and terrible, it’s just unknown. As she points out in the book, in the 1980s we couldn’t have predicted the internet in 20 years time, for example. We never know the future and so we can’t predict how our efforts will affect it. We should do things we believe are right, we should have hope that they can affect the future positively because they might, and probably will. In Hope in the Dark, Rebecca Solnit gives us examples of when small acts of activism, that may have felt hopeless to the people involved at the time, have gone on to influence great changes in the world. Hope In The Dark is a call to arms to be more politically active and more engaged. It’s clear about how even small acts can have great effects.

Hope is an embrace of the unknown and the unknowable, an alternative to the certainty of both optimists and pessimists. Optimists think it will all be fine without our involvement; pessimists take the opposite position; both excuse themselves from acting. It’s the belief that what we do matters even though how and when it may matter, who and what we may impact, are not things we can know beforehand. We may not, in fact, know them afterward either, but they all matter all the same, and history is full of people whose influence was most powerful after they were gone.

 

The right and left of politics both come in for criticism. The right for getting their followers to focus on the wrong problem. i.e. countryside dwellers being most afraid of terrorism and crime even though statistically they are least likely to be affected. The left get it in the neck for focusing singularly on the biggest issues and therefore becoming so full of despair there is inaction. This criticism of the left was really useful to me. I’m good at seeing what the right do wrong already ūüôā

Forgive me for not giving the full context of this next quote, but I love the phrasing:

the despairing were deeply attached to their despair, so much so I came to refer to my project as stealing the teddy bear of despair from the loving arms of the left.

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Reading some of Hope In The Dark at Bluedot Festival 

The stories covered are global and I read a lot of Hope learning about world issues from the last 20 years that I either didn’t know anything about, or only had vague knowledge of. I’m deliberately not going into too much detail here, because I want you to go and read it for yourself! I could never do it justice here.

… hope is not like a lottery ticket you can sit on the sofa and clutch , feeling lucky. I say it because hope is an ax you break down doors with in an emergency; because hope should shove you out the door, because it will take everything you have to steer the future away from endless war, from the annihilation of the earth’s treasures and the grinding down of the poor and marginal. Hope just means another world might be possible, not promised, not guaranteed. Hope calls for action; action is impossible without hope.

I’ve concentrated so far on the political aspects of Hope In The Dark, but the environmental parts rang true for me as well. I’m concerned about climate change and our global response to it, and it’s heartening to read about some environmental successes around the world. There is a fracking site a few miles from my house and this is a massive concern. Reading about some successful American campaigns against fracking was really encouraging.

It’s always too soon to go home.

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Yes, a fish finger butty. Food of the Gods. 

I badly want to read an update written even more recently with Rebecca Solnit’s take on the Trump presidency. In fact, maybe that exists out there somewhere… *checks internet and wins*. I’m going to see her talk at Manchester Literature Festival in October and I can not wait. Her new book on feminism has just been released – The Mother Of All Questions: Further Feminisms, a follow up to Men Explain Things To Me (my review here. Guess what I LOVED THAT TOO).

Resistance is first of all a matter of principle and a way to live, to make yourself one small republic of unconquered spirit.

Thank God Rebecca Solnit is a prolific writer because I just want to read everything she’s written. I saw this on Caroline Criado-Perez‘s twitter and I totally agree!

 

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This is the sort of book that I wished I had an extra secret higher level of recommendation to give it. I LOVED it. It’s exactly what you need if you feel despair with current politics, current environmental issues, or social issues (i.e. everyone, surely?!?) Please read it!!!!

We are not who we were not very long ago.

 

Summer Book Challenge wrap up! #20booksofsummer

How did I do?

I struggled to get through my books in August, but almost managed it – getting up to nineteen books altogether. I was totally on track, but I had a close family bereavement at the end of July and this has been very difficult to deal with. So I’m really very happy with how I got on overall. I thought about squeezing in a really short book on the last day, but I just didn’t have the energy. I’m also a few books behind with my reviews, but I’m sure I’ll get back on track soon.

Throughout this challenge I’ve definitely had it reinforced to me that I can not plan what I will read very far in advance! There is just no point. I need to read what I feel like reading at the time.

Here’s my list of twenty books I originally planned to read, with the books I actually read in red. Any that were in addition to the original list of 20 are added beyond book twenty. So I ended up reading twelve that weren’t on my original list, and only seven I planned to back in May.

  1. The Essex Serpent ‚Äď Sarah Perry¬†(review)
  2. Everything I Never Told You ‚Äď Celeste Ng¬†(review)
  3. Reservoir 13 ‚Äď Jon McGregor¬†(review)
  4. the Invisible Man ‚Äď Ralph Ellison
  5. Hope in the Dark ‚Äď Rebecca Solnit
  6. Men Explain Things to Me ‚Äď Rebecca Solnit¬†(review)
  7. Nobody Told Me ‚Äď Holly McNish
  8. Dear Fatty ‚Äď Dawn French
  9. Oryx and Crake ‚Äď Margaret Atwood
  10. The Power ‚Äď Naomi Alderman¬†(review)
  11. The Lottery (and other stories) ‚Äď Shirley Jackson
  12. Half of a Yellow Sun¬†‚Äď Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  13. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks ‚Äď Rebecca Skloot
  14. The Jungle ‚Äď Upton Sinclair
  15. A Quiet Storm ‚Äď Rachel Howzell Hall
  16. How to Build a Girl ‚Äď Caitlin Moran
  17. The Road ‚Äď Cormac McCarthy
  18. The Girl of Ink and Stars ‚Äď Kiran Millwood Hargrave¬†(review)
  19. Wonder ‚Äď RJ Palacio
  20. The Color Purple ‚Äď Alice Walker
  21. Queen of Spades ‚Äď Michael Shou-Yung Shum
  22. Living the Dream ‚Äď Lauren Berry¬†(review)
  23. Inferior ‚Äď Angela Saini¬†(review)
  24. Holidays On Ice ‚Äď David Sedaris¬†(review)
  25. The Unseen ‚Äď Roy Jacobsen¬†(review)
  26. Nasty Women ‚Äď 404Ink¬†(review)
  27. All Grown Up ‚Äď Jami Attenberg¬†(review)
  28. Anger Is An Energy ‚Äď John Lydon¬†(review)
  29. The Seed Collectors – Scarlett Thomas (review)
  30. How Hard Can Love Be? – Holly Bourne (review)
  31. Lincoln In The Bardo – George Saunders (review)
  32. The Beautiful Bureaucrat – Helen Philips

I’ve really enjoyed this challenge. It’s motivated me to get through a few more books than I otherwise might have. I’m sure I’ll do something similar next year!

Rebellion Punk Festival, Blackpool, 2017

This year was the first time I’d attended Rebellion Punk Festival in quite a number of years. I attended every one of the first 10 festivals. It’s had a number of name changes over the years: Holidays In The Sun, and Wasted. It’s also changed places between Blackpool and Morecambe several times. I was 16 at the first one in 1996. Since then I’ve been to a few, but I haven’t been for about 8 years or so, until this year. I’ve fancied going back for a few years, and the addition of Slaves to the line up is what really convinced me this was the right year.

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a helpful sign

I approached it with caution because there’s a huge danger that this sort of festival is nothing more than a nostalgia fest with bands playing a set they perfected in 1978 and haven’t changed a note of since. That’s clearly quite unfair of me… but it’s not far wrong for some bands. And this is fine, if you want the nostalgia hit, the few days journey back to your youth. You can definitely get that experience here. With 5 stages , 4 full days of gigs, and most bands getting from 20 – 40 minutes a set, there’s a LOT of music to be heard. If you want your rebellion to be shouty, white, bald men in their 50s, you can probably get through the weekend seeing nothing but this. This is what I very much want to avoid. If that’s your thing – go enjoy, and have a great time!

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Shouty, feminist, hardcore punk from Petrol Girls. Brilliant. Note sequin shorts.

 

So, I approached Rebellion with caution. And when I say caution, I mean with extreme levels of preparation that involved highlighters and codes. I prepared well and consequently had a Rebellion festival full of diverse, new, exciting bands. Bands full of women too. It was great!

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Poly-esters. A great group from Blackpool.

So what did I do? Firstly I made a spotify playlist with every band I could find that were playing the festival. A few issues:

  • some I couldn’t find on spotify at all (lots of quite small bands on the introducing stage),
  • some have a common band name and I couldn’t identify the correct band. Bands: name yourselves to avoid this! it’s really frustrating to want to listen to you but being unable to because of your common name.
  • some I just got wrong – seemed clear when I suddenly got rap or dance music.
    I listened to this for a few weeks and identified some must-see bands that I liked the sound of.
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Some morris dancers enjoying the sunshine.

I then looked up every band to just have a look at them, make sure I’d go the correct band and make sure they were on my playlist. I was looking for bands I liked the sound of, and I was also looking for any female musicians (I’d covered female singers in my first ¬†listen through the playlist). I was also looking for any BAME musicians. Is this weird? No, it’s really not. I love punk, but punk is so very white and male. I want to support women and BAME artists. I want to make sure I’m there giving them more of a crowd, loving what I hear, and helping them progress higher up the billing so more people hear them. (I’ve looked at my sexist listening habits before – here, have a look.)

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Youth Man

When you do an analysis like this it’s quite shocking how most women in bands are billed in the first half of the day i.e. not headliners. And the number of BAME artists is embarrassing. Or it should be embarrassing, but you get the feeling a lot of people don’t think about it or don’t care.

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A pathological level of planning. ¬†Don’t worry, I put the graveyard picture on facebook ūüėČ

Now based on my knowledge about the bands and having listened to as many as I could, I identified bands I had to see, and ones I wouldn’t mind seeing. Because of my criteria a lot of the bands I wanted to see were on early afternoon, which is also great because you see loads of awesome bands, then can relax a bit and have a bit of a party without having to be Schedule Girl (yes, I mean you can have a few drinks). This may, or may not, be evidenced here:

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Me and Caz. I’m trying to get my eye make up in the photo.

What was the result? My Rebellion was all about Girls and Glitter and Sequins and (most importantly) new and diverse, brilliant music. I’m going to highlight a few stand out acts.

The Tuts are a fun, political, intelligent, poppy punk band. I adored watching them really early on the first day. Their lead singer was wearing what looked like a sequined ice dancers costume. The drummer had a fluffy pink outfit. Frankly punk rock could do with more sequined clothes and fluffy outfits.

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The Tuts. Fantastic and great of you like your punk with added pop!

Petrol Girls were another band I was very much looking forward to. I first heard about them when I was reading Nasty Women by 404Ink (link to review). Ren Aldridge, the singer from Petrol Girls writes one of the essays – one of my favourites – about gendered violence in punk. Loved them. They are shouty, feminist, political, activists, and sound great. You will get a bit of a talking to in between songs about important issues, and I love them even more for this. To take their platform and use it as they want. Excellent!

Youth Man remind me a bit of Death From Above 1979. They are probably the least stereotypical punk band I have seen at the festival and they were noisy and brilliant.

Slaves were spectacular. I heard a lot of people grumbling and worrying about Slaves headlining in the Friday night spot. There was much concern about there only being two of them. How will they ‘fill the stage’? With their energetic awesomeness of course! I told everyone they should put their worries aside and go and see them, though I was secretly hoping that everyone would give it a miss and I would have them all to myself… I think the real issue for a lot of people was that Slaves are relatively unknown in the world of punk, and that caused unease. The next day I spoke to so many of these worriers who were blown away by Slaves set. Epic.

I enjoyed the Blink-182 like pop punk of Fat Randall, who had travelled from Dubai. Scumbrians on the introducing stage delivered an energetic blast of hardcore punk to a packed room. Also on the Introducing Stage were Pizza Tramp. I mean, I’m sold on the name already. They were funny AND good, and so blinking fast. The room was full and I was glad I bought a tshirt before their set because the merch stand was heaving afterwards. They did one song five times. Five times, but it was ok because it lasted about thirty seconds.

Final shout out to Screech Bats. I saw some of their set and they win the award for Band I Most Want To Be In. They were all dressed in black, with tattoos, amazing make up, and they were just so punk rock glamorous.

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Slaves did not disappoint.

I missed a lot of bands I would quite like to have seen – this is the nature of having fun at a festival! I was gutted to miss The Kenneths. They were on super early one day and I just didn’t realise how early until it was too late.

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Lovely Blackpool. May have forgotten to mention it’s my home town!

I had a lovely time at Rebellion. It landed just after I’d had a huge bereavement and so I was very worried I wouldn’t get through the whole weekend. I was prepared to leave if I needed to (and I did miss the Sunday evening) but actually it was a welcome escape from the general state of my head at that time. I would definitely recommend a visit if you like the genre, and if you just want a big nostalgia experience then you can do that too, there’s a Rebellion Festival for everyone!

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Frankly rocking my Sleaford Mods tshirt. They would make a great headliner for next year Rebellion! I’m so punk rock with my tomato and avocado toast in a lovely cafe: Shaw’s on Clifton St. Best cafe in Blackpool that I’ve ever been to!

 

Full list of bands I saw:

  • The Soap Girls
  • The Tuts
  • Army of Skanks
  • Pears
  • Revolt-chix
  • Evil Blizzard
  • The Jellycats
  • Rubella Ballet
  • Teenage Bottlerocket
  • The Pukes
  • Poly-esters
  • Brains All Gone
  • Screech Bats
  • The Featherz
  • Youth Man
  • Petrol Girls
  • Fat Randall
  • Frank Carter and the Rattlesnakes
  • Real McKenzies
  • Slaves
  • Radical Dance Faction
  • Citizen Fish
  • Anger Flares
  • Duncan Reid and the Big Heads
  • Scream
  • Angelic Upstarts
  • Jordan (interview)
  • Buzzbomb
  • Headstone Horrors
  • Pete Bentham and the Dinner Ladies
  • The Franklys
  • Scumbrians
  • Band For Disease Control and Prevention
  • Pizzatramp
  • The Creepshow