Stasiland

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Read 15/11/2020-23/11/2020

Rating 5 stars

Stasiland has the subtitle Stories from Behind the Berlin Wall. In it, Anna Funder shares the experiences of a number of East Germans to build a picture of life under an oppressive regime. Her interviewees range from people who tried to escape, people separated arbitrarily from family overnight, and people who worked for the Stasi. There are amazing people between these pages who survived unimaginable horrors, and there are also the people who supported the use of those horrors. I found it a very moving book. Continue reading

The Girl with the Louding Voice

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Read 09/10/2020-15/10/2020

Rating 5 stars

Abi Daré’s first novel is set in Nigeria and views that country’s patriarchal society through the eyes of a teenage girl who wants something better for herself. It’s a sassy, political, heartwarming story that gripped me with its heart stopping moments and its message of hope. Continue reading

Unbowed: One woman’s story

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Read 27/07/2020-13/08/2020

Rating 3 stars

Book 9 in my 10 Books of Summer reading challenge, a substitution in the original list.

Unbowed is the memoir of Nobel Peace Prize laureate Wangari Muta Maathai. This remarkable Kenyan woman was a child during the period of the British war against the Kikuyu people. She became a scientist, educated in Kenya, the US and Germany. She joined the environmental movement and campaigned for the re-establishment of forest in Kenya and fairer representation of women in agricultural production. She was a powerful advocate for democracy in Kenya. Her ideologies put her in conflict with Daniel Arup Moi’s government, and placed her life in danger. She was the first African woman to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. This is what I gleaned from Maathai’s Wikipedia entry, after my best friend sent me a card printed by her sister, one in a series of inspirational women she had designed. Continue reading

Common People: An Anthology of Working Class Writers

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Read 07/06/2020-14/06/2020

Rating 4 stars

Book 2 in my 10 Books of Summer reading challenge.

Common People is a book I pledged for on Unbound in 2018. It grew from a radio documentary by Kit de Waal called “Where Are All the Working Class Writers?“, broadcast on BBC Radio 4 in November 2017.

As well as securing high profile, established authors like Malorie Blackman, Louise Doughty, Lisa McInerney and Anita Sethi, de Waal as editor commissioned a search through regional writer development agencies for new working class voices to be included in the anthology. Continue reading

The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House

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Read 03/06/2020-07/06/2020

Rating 5 stars

Book 1 in my 10 Books of Summer reading challenge.

I put The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House on my list of books for the 20 Books of Summer reading challenge because I’ve owned it since November 2018 and made a couple of attempts to read it, both times putting it down after a couple of pages because it felt too much. The current protests against the brutal treatment of black people by police and society in general made me get over myself.

This pocket sized volume of 50 pages packs a punch. It brings together five essays by Audre Lorde that are a call to dig deep, find our passion, harness our anger and make a permanent, radical change to the assumptions that underpin the world we live in. These essays highlight sexism, racism and homophobia and underline their intersectionality. Continue reading

Mad Men Carousel: the Complete Critical Companion

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Read 07/05/2020-16/05/2020

Rating 4 stars

Matt Zoller Seitz is a TV and film critic. I have his book The Wes Anderson Collection, which is based on a five part video essay Wes Anderson: The Substance of Style and explores in depth the themes and subtexts of Anderson’s films up to Moonrise Kingdom. It’s a great book and I was happy when Mr Hicks bought me Seitz’s Mad Men Carousel for Xmas 2015.

I’ve watched Mad Men since it was first shown in the UK on BBC4 back in 2008. Continue reading

His Bloody Project: Documents relating to the case of Roderick Macrae

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Read 26/04/2020-03/05/2020

Rating 3 stars

I’ve had Graeme Macrae Burnet’s book hanging around on my Kindle for three or so years. A friend’s recent review of Burnet’s debut novel reminded me that I hadn’t got round to reading His Bloody Project.

I was in the mood for some historical fiction after the last book I read, so I charged up my neglected Kindle and opened His Bloody Project up. Continue reading

The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion

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Read 26/01/2020-14/02/2020

Rating 3 stars

Jonathan Haidt wrote The Righteous Mind in 2012, four years before many of us finally became aware that the political world had tilted on its axis and everything we thought we understood about the democratic process had unravelled. Haidt, it’s true, had pinpointed the change as starting in the 1990s, but for many of us, 2016 was Year Zero. Continue reading