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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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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*

The ‘How I Choose My Books’ Tag

Thanks to Stephanie’s Novel Fiction for tagging me in The ‘How I Choose My Books’ Tag. I’ve never done one of these before but like the questions here and well, I’m done for the summer at work now so I have time! Let’s go!

  1. Find a book on your shelves or ereader with a blue cover. What made you want to pick up this book? 

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The Golden Compass (aka Northern Lights) by Philip Pullman. Book 1 of the His Dark Materials trilogy. The box set I have of this trilogy is goorrrgeeeooouueess. It’s been a long time since I read these (over 10 years) and I’m thinking a re-read should happen soon.

2. Think of a book you didn’t expect to enjoy, but did. Why did you read it in the first place? 

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This is quite difficult because I’m quite a good judge of if I’m going to like a book or not. That’s maybe quite weird?! I’ve really struggled to find one I thought I wouldn’t like, but really did. The best example I can think of is Gone Girl – Gillian Flynn. I read this because lots of people in my book club raved about it. I had somehow remained spoiler free even though I read it after the film came out! Because of all the hype I expected it to be a bit rubbish (sorry!) but I loved it. AND I loved the film.

3. Stand in front of your bookshelf with your eyes closed and pick up a book at random. How did you discover this book? 

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I read a lot of popular science books as a teenager. This would have been new when I bought it so I probably picked it up in a bookshop deal. It’s about how great science is. It’s about how understanding science can increase your sense of imagination and wonder, rather than destroying them.

4. Pick a book that someone personally recommended to you. What did you think of it?

The Game of Thrones series. This was recommended to me and I hadn’t even heard of it! (It was way pre-TV show becoming a huge thing). I started reading and then read the whole series in six weeks. I just couldn’t stop reading them. Then I discovered the rest of the series hasn’t been written yet.

 

I now basically try to read anything this friend recommends!

5. Pick a book that you discovered through YouTube / book blogs. Did it live up to the hype? 

This one’s a little bit tricky because I don’t use youtube for book reviews. I get most of my recommendations from twitter or articles on books. So I’m going for The Good Immigrant ed. by Nikesh Shukla.

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I became aware of this book when it started popping up on loads of Xmas book recommendation lists last year. I finally got round to reading it earlier this year and I loved it.  It also introduced me to some poets and writers I didn’t know about. One of the best books I’ve read this year.

6. Find a book on your shelves or ereader with a one-word title. What drew you to this book?

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Emma – Jane Austen. I read quite a few Jane Austen books all in a row once. I see the BBC Big Read sticker on this so I must have read them in 2003 in an attempt to read more of the novels I felt I *should* have read. I loved Emma, more than Pride and Prejudice. I really liked Persuasion too. I can’t actually remember which one I like most out of Emma and Persuasion.

Looking at the top 200 in the Big Read I have now read 44 of them and loads of the books I have sat around waiting to read are in there too. Not made too much progress since 2003! Oh dear!

7. What book did you discover through a film / TV adaptation?

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Girl with a Pearl Earring – Tracy Chevalier. I watched and really enjoyed the film. So I read the book and it is fantastic. The only other example I could find where I’ve watched a film or TV programme then read the book is the entire Sharpe series. 😀

8. Think of your all-time favourite book/s. When did you read these and why did you pick them up in the first place?

For me, this means books I read a long time ago and they have stayed with me for various reasons. I have recently read lots of books that I have utterly loved, but I feel like ‘all-time favourites have added longevity! I’ll pick my top five.

Making New Friends – Jane Carruth

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I loved this book as a child. I still have it! The main squirrel is new in town and scared. He gets sent on a playdate and is terrified, but is basically forced to play with the other squirrels, then he has fun. All is well.

In Search of Schrodinger’s Cat – John Gribbin.

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The book that got me really hooked on physics. This book blew my mind when I read it during my A levels. It’s the story of quantum mechanics. What it is, it’s historical development, and what experiments have been carried out to verify it. The original is from 1985 and I must have read it in 1997. At the time I read a lot of popular science physics books and they cemented for me that I wanted to study physics at university. I could easily have put A Brief History of Time, Stephen Hawking, in here.

The Demon Haunted World – Carl Sagan.

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I have so much love for this book. When I was younger, early to mid teens, I toyed with pseudo-science. I wondered if aliens had really visited us and considered conspiracy theories. I didn’t really know what homeopathy was. This book was exactly what I needed to clear all this up! It’s a love letter to the scientific method and argues for people to use more skeptical and critical thinking.

Captain Corelli’s Mandolin – Louis de Bernieres.

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I didn’t really realise until this book that you can be emotionally moved so much by a book. I cried through the last few pages and a whole new level of books was opened up to me. I even used the (cheesey) love extract as a reading at my wedding!

V for Vendetta – Alan Moore.

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Another whole genre opened up to me reading this. This fits into the ‘recommended by a friend’ category and the ‘what book did you think you wouldn’t like and actually loved’ category. I didn’t realise before reading this that a graphic novel could build up the same type of world that you get from a novel.

I’m not going to tag anyone here. If you fancy having a go at this tag, please consider yourself tagged and if you decide to make a post, make sure to pingback your answers to me, so I can see them! 😀

Thanks for reading 😀

 

Book Review: Holidays On Ice – David Sedaris

All the stories in this collection have a Xmas, Halloween, or Easter connection in them somewhere. There are some real gems, especially where Sedaris is writing as himself. The stories where he is writing pure fiction often fall a little flat, though I enjoyed Front Row Center with Thaddeus Bristol, where school Xmas plays are reviewed as serious theatre. All the stories are veerrrrryyyyy dark, which you’d hopefully expect if you know David Sedaris at all. His fiction stories are ultra dark. We’re talking vantablack

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I listened to this audiobook and it’s the perfect way to experience  David Sedaris because you get so much from the way he tells a story. There were parts of it where I was cackling like a witch on my commute to work. This was mostly during 6-8 Black Men, a tale about the Dutch Xmas story. It’s one of the final few stories and these last few seem to have been added to the audio book at a later date because they aren’t listed as being in the original, and I think I’ve heard them on the radio before too. Jesus Shaves (also in Me Talk Pretty One Day) is similarly about trying to explain the Easter story during a beginners french class.

Originally published in 1997, re-released in 2008, there’s been plenty of time to add them. It feels like they have been added because the original stories are not that great. Dinah, the Christmas Whore is the stand out from the original stories, and unsurprisingly, is written from his point of view. It’s about his sister Lisa taking him out on a late night mission to rescue a prostitute from her abusive boyfriend. With hilarious consequences!!!!

I have neglected to talk about the main story that the book opens with SantaLand Diaries. An account of a 33 year old David’s stint as a Christmas Elf at Macy’s. So good. We all know that these stories of David’s life are not all 100% factual, and hopefully you all don’t care either!

This is my second Sedaris of the year. I read Me Talk Pretty One Day earlier in the year. I’m quite sure I’m going to read all his books, and I have kindle versions of the others already. The only question now is, do I read them, or find the audiobooks?!?

Book Review: American Gods – Neil Gaiman

I went into this book with sky high expectations and I liked it, but wish my expectations had been toned down before I gave it a go. I’ve never read any Neil Gaiman before, but knew of his work and his status as a cult author. I was recommended American Gods by a friend, and know a few people who ‘completely love it’. Still, it’s been sat waiting for me to start it, on my kindle, for more than a few years. I finally got around to it because I keep seeing trailers to the new TV series popping up on Facebook and twitter, and I needed to read it before this spoilered the book too much. Looks great btw… will definitely be watching 🙂

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We meet Shadow as a convict waiting to be released after a three year prison sentence. He’s kept his head down in prison and just can’t wait to go back to his life with his adored wife, Laura. He is let out unexpectedly early (during his final week). Unfortunately this is because Laura has died in a car accident. On his way home he is badgered and persuaded into taking a job with a strange, tricksy man who turns out the be the American embodiment of the Norse god Odin, called Wednesday in our story.  Shadow is pulled into this world where gods exist amongst people and their health depends on how much the people in that country worship them. Times aren’t great for the old gods, but new gods, those of fast food and television, are strong. Wednesday is trying to rally the old gods to fight a war against the new ones.

What follows is a glimpse into the lives of many of these gods; a road trip around the fantastic road side attractions of middle america; a visit to some small towns; mysteries that must be solved; deals and cons and magic coin tricks; visits to other worlds; oh, and his dead wife lending a helping hand every now and then. I’ve not even started to scratch the surface here with the plot. It’s expansive. But then there are over 600 pages in which the story is told.

I did really enjoy this book and I would recommend squeezing it in before the TV series starts. It has a great mix of many levels of story. There’s enough to keep you interested over the 600+ pages. There’s so much that when some threads are tied up at the end, I’d forgotten they were a thread that needed tidying up. I was glad to be given that jolt of ‘oh yes! That happened, didn’t it!’. There’s a satisfying end point, and yet you feel like the whole story might not quite be done with.

I lived in Chicago for several, wonderful years in my early to mid 20s. I took many road trips to different places. Saw so many places that reminded me of the locations in American Gods. In honour of America and it’s gods that are worshipped, here is me at Graceland (12 years ago. eek!) 🙂

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Thank you very much.

Family Film Time – February 2017

Every week we have enforced family film watching time. Its partly to try and have a couple of hours down time, partly to be able to share our love of film with our kids, partly to have a tradition we hopefully will continue in the future. We take turns to pick. The participants are currently 38, 37, 6 and 4.

Hotel Transylvania

This was my choice and it is a great film. There are a couple of scary bits (when Dracula gets a bit worked up and does a scary face). I was a bit concerned the 4 year old might not like that, but she was fine.

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Dracula has set up a hotel for all the supernatural creatures safely away from humans. Then a back packer stumbles upon the hotel and wants to stay…

Dracula also has a daughter, Mavis, he is desperately trying to protect from the world. She is getting older and wants some independence. This is also the story of them adjusting to their new relationship. I loved the character of Mavis, and overall really enjoyed this film.

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Explorers

This is our childhood nostalgia film for the month 😀 Not mine, I’d never seen it before. It was enough for me that it has a very young Ethan Hawke and River Phoenix in. So cute! It’s the debut film for both of them.

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The plot is that these teenage inventors build a spaceship and explore space, encountering aliens. The internet tells me there were big production troubles with the film and it was rushed to be finished. You can tell! It starts off with so much promise, then just goes a bit crazy towards the end.

I’ll be honest though, I fell asleep just as they had discovered how to make an unlimited source of oxygen, then when I woke, there were these crazy, vagina faced, aliens everywhere.

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Hotel for dogs

I went into this with quite low expectations, and then I LOVED IT!

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There are orphans, cute dogs, amazing gadgets, evil foster parents, sweet romance, and a very silly plot. What more could you want?  This film was universally loved by all of us (and we don’t even really like dogs in real life 🙂 ) It even made me cry at the end – a sure sign that I have actually really enjoyed a film and have got emotionally invested.

As a superb bonus, there is a big action sequence in the middle with an amazing Tim Armstrong song accompanying it. Heaven.

Pokemon – Hoopa and the Clash of Ages

I tried to follow the plot, really I did. In fact, I think I was the only one left watching it at the end. Two other family members were snoozing, including the 6 year old who chose this film. There were murmurings of ‘I know how it ends… I’ve seen it before’.

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I really would only really recommend this if you are already heavily invested in the world of Pokemon 🙂

Book review: Fahrenheit 451 – Ray Bradbury

Oh wow, I loved this book. Unbelievable that it was published in 1953, it felt like it could have been written last year. It’s also written in beautiful poetic prose.

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reading at my desk at work.

Guy Montag is a fireman. Firemen set fires in this dystopian future where books are banned. If books are discovered, the firemen are sent in to find them and burn them.

The population are kept busy with frivolous soaps and constant meaningless, shallow entertainment. To think deeply is not ok. When recounting their society’s history, it is said:

‘the word “intellectual”, of course,  became the swear word it deserved to be’

There was a race to make everyone feel like no one was their intellectual superior, and books were banned before they knew it.

Guy begins to realise he is unhappy with his life. He is utterly disconnected from his wife. A war is going on for reasons he can’t recall. He remembers dimly knowing that firemen used to put out fires, not start them…

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It’s scary how current this all feels. Attacks on facts and science and intellectualism seem to be rife in politics, especially in America. I know I’ve been shocked by political events this last year (Brexit, Trump, ffs! ) and perhaps I’m realising how much of an echo chamber I exist in.

This book read like a warning that we could all do with. I urge you to read it if you haven’t already.