We Should All Be Feminists

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Read 26/02/2017

Rating: 4 stars

This is an essay in book form, a modified version of a TED talk given by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie in 2012. It’s less than 50 pages long, but it packs a punch.

The event at which Adichie was speaking in 2012 aimed to challenge and inspire Africans and friends of Africa to think differently. In Nigerian culture, Adichie’s culture, being a strong independent woman is frowned upon. In her talk, Adichie identifies the different ways in which women are kept down in Nigerian society. I recognised some of those ways in my own culture, despite the fact that women were supposedly emancipated a century ago in Britain. Continue reading

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How Late It Was, How Late

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Read 20/02/2017-26/02/2017

Rating: 4 stars

I decided to buy this after Weezelle mentioned it in her review of Walking The Lights. I put it onto my TBR selection for The Reader’s Room Winter Challenge, and this week it came up.

I loved it from the first page. My brother in law is from just outside Glasgow. He’s not as broad as Sammy, the main character in Kelman’s cautionary tale of life on the blag in Glasgow, but the rhythms of his speech are similar, so I felt at home with the narrative style. The book is a single chapter, a stream of consciousness chronicling of Sammy’s fall one weekend from being a regular petty criminal to becoming a blind petty criminal. Continue reading

Tōnoharu

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Read 19/02/2017 (Parts One and Two originally read in 2010)

Rating: 5 stars

My husband bought me the first two volumes of Tōnoharu for my birthday a few years ago, and I read them ravenously. They are based on the author’s experiences teaching English in Japan, and are full of the melancholy of heading off on an adventure to a country and culture that is alien to your own. I decided to re-read the first two volumes in advance of starting the long awaited final instalment. Continue reading

The Miracle Shed

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Read 14/02/2017-19/02/2017

Rating: 3 stars

Read for The Reader’s Room Winter Challenge.

My husband bought me this book, before I became his wife. He had read it and liked it, and wanted to share it with me. I didn’t get around to reading it at the time. I’m not sure why. Perhaps because there are always other books making their way to the crest of my book pile, pushing short story collections further down.

MacCann was apparently one to watch when this, his debut work, came out. As far as I can tell, he hasn’t published any other books. He’s been more focused on journalism. I read an article he wrote about being an alumnus of Malcolm Bradbury’s Creative Writing course at UEA. MacCann doesn’t seem to be a satisfied customer.

This collection of stories is filled with outsiders, people who internalise their dissatisfaction with life, or who try to numb it in some way. They are almost abstract as characters. MacCann plunges you straight into the heart of a story, without context or exposition. I felt like a voyeur, given a glimpse of these characters’ lives through a crack in a door, or a moment’s eavesdropping on a conversation. Continue reading

On Flirtation

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Read 08/02/2017-13/02/2017

Rating: 2 stars

I’ve had Adam Phillips’ book, On Flirtation, on my bookshelf for more than ten years. I bought it on the recommendation of someone highly inappropriate with whom I was flirting, at a time when someone else was flirting with me and I was flirting with the idea of being a more hedonistic person than had previously been the case.

I enjoy flirting. I like that feeling of uncertainty, the thrill of what might happen, whether it’s stepping too close to the edge of something safely dangerous, or making eyes at someone attractively unattainable. I like the sense that I could become someone different by flirting with possibility, but not having to commit to it. I also like that it ends as soon as it becomes boring, or as soon as something more important takes up your attention.

I started reading On Flirtation for The Reader’s Room Winter Challenge. I was looking forward to it. I expected it to be a book about what flirtation is, why we do it, what its hidden meaning and purpose might be. The opening sentences of the first two paragraphs confirmed what I think about flirting.

The fact that people tend to flirt only with serious things – madness, disaster, other people – and the fact that flirting is a pleasure, makes it a relationship, a way of doing things, worth considering.

Exploiting the ambiguity of promises – the difference, say, between someone being promising and someone making a promise – flirtation has always been the saboteur of a cherished vocabulary of commitment.

Sadly, it didn’t turn out to be a treatise on flirtation. It was more of an exploration of and challenge to psychoanalytic dogma. Not the book I wanted at all. I’d go as far as saying the blurb on the back cover was misleading. Continue reading

The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry

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Read 03/02/2017-08/02/2017

Rating: 3 stars

I like Jon Ronson. I find his journalism slightly whimsical, even though it deals with serious subjects. He’s like Louis Theroux in that respect.

The Psychopath Test starts off funny. Ronson has a wry, self-deprecating, slightly neurotic delivery that brings out a need to laugh at some of the weird things he encounters in the pursuit of his research. It feels incongruous to laugh at times, but it’s human nature to use humour to deal with the strange and perplexing. Continue reading

Yes Please

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Read 30/01/2017-03/02/2017

Rating: 3 stars

This book is wondrously eclectic.

I like Amy Poehler. Or rather, I like Amy Poehler’s performance as Leslie Knope in Parks and Recreation. That’s the only thing I’ve seen her in. I like her in that enough to have bought her autobiography.

When it came up as my next read in The Reader’s Room Winter Challenge, I cheered. Out loud. The house was empty but for me and the cat, so it was okay. I cheered because it had been a bewilderingly frightening weekend of watching and reading the news coming out of America, and I needed a book that would lift my spirits. Continue reading