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

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

Howards End is on the Landing

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Read 28/01/2017-30/01/2017

Rating: 3 stars

My husband bought me this memoir about reading for Christmas. I haven’t yet read any of Susan Hill’s novels, so I had no expectations. At the start of the book, Hill is looking for a book on her many bookshelves. As she tracks it down, she discovers that she has possibly 200 books that she hasn’t read. She also rediscovers books that she’d like to re-read. She decides to spend a year not buying new books and repossessing the books she already owns. Continue reading

The Big Midweek: Life Inside the Fall

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Read 02/12/2016-09/12/2016

Rating: 5 stars

From Albert Camus’s The Fall to the autobiography of a man who spent 18 years as a member of the band named after that book.

The book begins in 1973. Even though for most of that year I was only two years old, Steve Hanley describes the Manchester I remember from my childhood. The weird pet shops on Tib Street. The fact that the Northern Quarter wasn’t. It was just Tib Street and Band on the Wall. The rest was run down and called Smithfield. You only went to Tib Street for Army & Navy surplus, bootleg recordings, second hand tapes, and lizards. Even into the 80s.

Hanley spins a good tale. There’s no embellishment. His writing voice is as frank and deadpan as the way most of us speak round here. It helps with accepting the more bizarre elements of his story as truth. Continue reading

Just Kids

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Read 11/10/2016-23/10/2016

Rating: 4 stars

I admire Patti Smith as an artist. I love her albums Horses and Easter, and her collaboration with REM on the song E-bow The Letter. I didn’t know much about her as a person, other than impressions from articles she’s written and interviews with her in the press. I had a picture of her as difficult. Reading this book has changed that picture. Continue reading

By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept

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Read 10/09/2016-11/09/2016

Rating: 4 stars

I bought this recently after looking for poems set in Grand Central Station. It came up as a prose poem and its subject matter intrigued me.

This, from Yann Martel’s foreword, encapsulates the book:

This is a book about one creature’s obdurate desire to love and be loved, no matter what. Smart was lucid, resilient, hardworking, and responsible in her love-madness.

Elizabeth Smart was in London and picked up a book of George Barker’s poems. She fell in love with his words, so the story goes, but more than that. She decided she was in love with him and needed to meet him. Smart felt awakened by Barker’s poems. It took her three years to engineer a meeting with him. Her memoir of their love, a mix of long form poetry and sanguine reflection, begins with that meeting.

I was expecting gushing romance, a whirlwind of passion, something that would wrench my heart and take my breath away. Instead I found a still small voice of calm. Continue reading