Friday 1 December 2017

Things I Read In November

IT IS DECEMBER AKA THE MOST WONDERFUL TIME OF THE YEAR! (I'm a little bit into Christmas, can you tell?) Before delving into December and Christmas wonder though, let's talk about November! November was a mixture of a whole load of hard work, very very necessarily lazy weekends and then a much needed holiday spent basically sitting and knitting and buying Christmas things. The last two days of the month, however, I've been off work sick because URGH stuffed up head and sore throat and I just cannot. I haven't been reading much because urgh head but I have watched a whole load of Gilmore Girls and I'm finally watching The OA (IT IS SO COULD, how have I not watched this earlier, I love Brit Marling!)

Anyway. It hasn't been a super eventful month, and evidently not much blogging has happened, but that's ok, I was just preparing myself for CHRISTMAS MONTH. Let's see what I read in the meantime.

Fat Is A Feminist Issue by Susie Orbach
I went into this expecting a feminist text, and instead I got... Not that. I don't really know how to feel about this book, because it seems like in the 70s/80s, it was probably revolutionary to people that emotions affect your eating (the book mostly looks at solving compulsive eating) but now it really just... isn't. This book also suffers from age, in the sense that self acceptance is such a thing now that the feminist issue IS this book, rather than the way the book approaches the topic. I also only read the first part of the book, as the second part is more of a self help guide to overeaters, which I didn't really feel the need for, personally. For me, fat absolutely is a feminist issue, but not in the way Orbach identifies it, and dammit I want to read the ACTUAL way in which fat is a feminist issue. Someone write THAT book, please.

Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan
This book is not A Visit From The Goon Squad, nor, I think, should it be expected to be. This book is, however, the only Egan book other than Goon Squad that I could actually see myself reading again at some point. This is very strange because it's a work of historical fiction (!!!) but it is also the story of a young woman who becomes the first female diver during WWII as well as so many other interlinking, awesome things. I was so enthusiastic about this 400+ page hardback that I carried it around with me and actually missed a bus stop once because I was so busy being absorbed by the world of the story. That is pretty much the reason I read, so yeah, you could say that I liked this book.

Bright Lights Big City by Jay McInerney
This book has a great title, but unfortunately that's pretty much the best thing about it. Firstly, it's written in the second person (EYEROLL). Secondly, the 'you' that you're supposed to be is a whiny, entitled (I assume) white man who has a pretty good job that he just can't get his shit together to actually do. I found it really hard to empathise with his self-pitying, self-sabotaging bullshit, and even though there's a pretext for all of his behaviour that you discover at the end, it was too little too late for me to actually care.

The Universe Versus Alex Woods by Gavin Extence
I was surprised by The Universe Versus Alex Woods, because I wasn't that into it until about 60% through when things took a turn for the assisted suicide and I remembered how much I support that and how emotional old men make me and yeah, it's kind of good, I guess. It's narrated by the titular Alex Woods, who I didn't really like as a character (he's described at some point as being older than his years in intelligence and younger emotionally/in life skills which is pretty much it but I found it annoying because... why?) but I enjoyed his friendships and relationships and generally being in his world. It's not a book I'm going to keep and cherish forever, but I liked it a whole bunch.

I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
I have had Maya Angelou's 6 part biography for the longest time, but have only ever read this, the first book of the collection. I started reading this because, after starting My Struggle by Karl Ove Knaussgard, I feel as though I shouldn't be reading the 'struggles' of a middle class white man before I read about the actual struggles of an African-American woman. Maya has too much grit and class to describe her life as a struggle, though, and even though her childhood was filled with the unimaginable, there is always a sense of positivity to her writing that probably buoyed her through her life. This is one of the last books I read before starting blogging, and it's just as good as I remember- so honest and heartbreaking and the writing is just so good. It's in required reading territory, so if you haven't read it yet, I don't know what you're waiting for.

Gather Together In My Name by Maya Angelou
And so, for reals, I have a goal to finish all 6 parts of Angelou's life story before the end of the year. This is the second part of her life story, and it feels unflinchingly honest, even when it doesn't show Maya in the best possible light. She technically runs a whorehouse, and becomes a prostitute herself to 'save her man' (ick), so you see what I mean by unflinchingly honest. The only thing that is maybe surprising about this book is that Angelou doesn't really ascribe any judgment to some of her more questionable choices, but I guess it's not so surprising when you think of one of her most famous quotations: "I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better.' Maybe judging her past seems pointless when it involves a teenager's decisions, and it's interesting to me in a sense that maybe we shouldn't judge ourselves and our pasts at all, but in fact we should all just 'do better'.

And that was November. I've been working pretty hard at trying to finish Little Women, but that's going to have to be a thing I read in December, along with, I hope, the rest of Angelou's biography. Other than that, I hope that Book Riot are going to have a brand new literary advent calendar for me to enjoy this year, and if not, I shall just have to read A Christmas Carol and watch Elf a whole load of times. What are your December plans, reading or otherwise?


  1. HI! Excellent reading month - impressive selection! I read a ton of books in November and genre-wise was all over the place. I will also watch Elf and eat various foods drowning in maple syrup. Maybe we can watch it at the same time and live tweet it!

  2. Hey there! Commenting on your blog for the first time.I agree we need an actual book on how fat is a feminist subject. Hunger by Roxane Gay does come somewhere close to this subject but not exactly there. Excellent book nonetheless!
    As for December plans, I am in the middle of Pachinko as well as Homegoing (I am promiscuous with my books); and loving both of them so very much that I don't want them to end!

  3. Manhattan Beach was SOOOOOO good! I also loved it.

    I hope you’re enjoying all of your Christmas preps for this most wonderful time of year -- as for me, retail is stressing me out! :-)