Tuesday 30 January 2018

Devouring Books: Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly

I went to see Hidden Figures when it came out last year, because I'm not stupid, and I was charmed by how dramatic they made maths (I love maths) and, of course, pleased that the stories we never get to hear, those of black women, were finally being told. As soon as I realised it was a book I wanted to read it, because did I want more dramatic maths in my life? Of course I did!

Unsurprisingly, the books has way less drama, but in many ways it's more interesting than the film. It reflects their actual lives in ways the film does not always, and makes it clear that their work lives at NASA were just that, work, and not their whole lives. There is also a lot less bothering with white people in the book, which is absolutely a plus- the movie has Kevin Costner being all annoyed with separate bathrooms, and Kirsten Dunst being a bitch, whereas the book has no mention of anything like this which makes me side-eye pretty hard at the movie, if I'm honest.

Hidden Figures, rather, combines and intersects the lives of black women working at NASA at a time where, just outside the Virginian HQ of the organisation, they weren't seen as fit to mix with white people. Their children weren't allowed to go to the same schools as the white children, they weren't allowed to sit with the white people on buses, you get the idea. This book is really great at pointing out the discrepancy, and as it has a wider range than the movie, it also takes a look at, for example, black men starting work as engineers at NASA and being fucked with by prejudiced white men, something which the women, being somewhat below the contempt of the (white) men, didn't have to deal with. They were disadvantaged in other ways, of course, but it was interesting to see an extra level of horrible things that people had to deal with because of, you know, something as obviously integral and important as skin colour (eye roll to death).

These women, though. Damn. So much smarter than I could hope to be, and amazing at maths, it's both uplifting to realise that they got to be a part of space travel (and, before that, developing planes) and depressing to realise that, for all that they achieved, there were probably millions of bright and talented girls who just didn't get the chance to use their intellects in such a way. For that matter, there are women who worked for NASA who still didn't get to achieve their full potential, by being excluded from being engineers and by never being acknowledged in reports, even though they did a lot of important calculations to make sure that things worked. If you really think about it, the fact that these women are only acknowledged now, 50 years after their work, says a lot and makes Hidden Figures really the perfect title for the book. I'm glad we have Lee Shetterly to show them to us.

On the whole though, this book is quite uplifting because yay excellent women achieving things! If it made me angry, it also made me happy because look at all the amazing things women can do, and just imagine what else we could do. I'll bet it's a lot.  

Sunday 28 January 2018

Sunday Sundries

Am I... Becoming a lifestyle blogger? Or am I just too lazy to write things about books now? Either one could be true, but it's Sunday, I'm here, let's talk about my week!

Let's see. Tuesday was, as mentioned last week, was my boyfriend's birthday, and I managed to see him for a couple of hours, within which TWO KINDS of cake (pan and red velvet) were consumed and cards were opened, and then I sadly went to work and basically saw him again on Thursday night because yeah this is our life. In the meantime, though, I made yet another cake so basically I've been very healthy this week...

And then yesterday we had a wander round London- our initial goal was to get free doughnuts from our most favourite doughnut place (they were opening in a new location) but we left late and the queue was psychotic, so instead we went to get burgers and wander round Camden and generally enjoy the crowds and cold weather and drizzle and haha I hate going anywhere in the winter, and London on weekends so what even were we doing?

Oh, that's right. Doughnuts.

Paid for, but worth it.

Apart from eating all the food... I went to a couple of films after work this week because I'm really trying to make the most of my limitless membership while there are actual good films out (Oscar season, ya dig?). I'm thinking I'm going to do a monthly round up of films at some point here (which I've said before, but I am properly keeping track now and it's going to be good!) but let's just say that Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri was really moving but not as good as I wanted it to be, and The Post was honestly one of the dullest movies I've seen, and if Meryl Streep wasn't there, it would be hugely missable, to be honest. Fortunately, Meryl makes everything better, but STILL.

Work is still slooooowly coming to its inevitable conclusion (I can't wait until next week when I can tell you it's all over!) but this week wasn't so bad- Thursday the system we use was down so I couldn't do anything (wink) and Friday I was off anyway, so just had the first half of the week to struggle through. I also went to my new department's weekly meeting on Wednesday (they invited me... I didn't just creepily show up...) and many many things were said which went over my head, which gave me about a 10 minute crisis of confidence (I don't know anything! But I know things in my current job! Change is scary!) until I realised that it still seems like it's going to be better than my current job because, well, everything is. So I think I'm going to be ok. We shall see, I guess.

And that is about everything that's happened to me all week. Pretty average, I know, except for that damn doughnut. This week is all about getting through and doing as much as I can to tie up loose ends from current job, and possibly another cinema trip because, you know, fun stuff! I hope you all have excellent weeks, and tell me the things you're doing! I care!

Sunday 21 January 2018

Sunday Sundries

*Tries to be cool about making it back here for another Sunday post*
Aw yeah, look at me go.

Let's see, how was my week. I started it off feeling weirdly extra-tired and slightly headache-y, which developed into a fully blown migraine by Wednesday, so I had to leave work early and essentially lay down until, well, Saturday, so that was not very fun. I am feeling better now, which is good, but it was still not a fun way to spend half a week!

On the plus side, my blog birthday was this week, and it made me feel all good and smiley about blogging again. It was also my cousin's birthday yesterday, so today I got to hang out with my family, which ALSO made me feel all good and smiley, so yay for people! In other selfish-people-born-in-January news, it's my boyfriend's birthday this week, and because he's working lates and I'm working, you know, daytime hours, I'll get to see him for a grand total of about an hour in the morning, so I'm taking Friday off (his weekends are also Fridays and Saturdays, SIGH) to hang out with him cause, you know, birthdays are important!

Because I have nothing really to talk about, let's do the thing with the things I'm doing now, yeah? Good.

I Have Been...

I did miss one day of writing prompts this week because, you know, migraine, but I did manage to catch up by doing two yesterday, which made me feel full of achievement and joy and stuff. I'm still really enjoying pushing myself to write every day, and finding little pockets of time to fit it in- obviously some days I'm more engaged than others, but that's true for everything, every day.

I definitely read more this week than someone with a migraine should, but what can you do, I can't fight these disturbing instincts I have. I finished Sleeping Beauties and Hidden Figures this week, and this morning I was reading The Little Book of Hygge, which did itself feel very Hygge as I was tucked up in bed at the same time.

I have, in recent months, upped the number of podcasts I actively listen to from one (The Babysitters Club Club) to THREE (My Dad Wrote A Porno and Thirst Aid Kit) and I am really loving them. I'm still really just creeping my way through them because (I tell myself) I have no time to listen to podcasts but they are fab. My Dad Wrote A Porno (in case you didn't know) is literally a son and his friends reading their way through his dad's terrible terrible porn novels, and Thirst Aid Kit is the excellent Bim Adewunmi and Nichole Perkins and they talk about desire and pop culture and basically about men they fancy in a really fun and smart way. I can't recommend it enough, to be honest.

I went to see Coco yesterday and it was so excellent and moving and I cried like a baby for the last 10 minutes or so which is how I knew I was watching a Pixar film. I am keeping a list of all the films I watch this year, you know, for funsies, so I might do blog posts about that, but the chances are also good that I won't. I am also currently watching Gilmore Girls because, you know, default mode.

Since I just secured a new job, I feel like I'm not really looking for anything right now, but am just feeling generally contented in my life and whatnot. It's a nice feeling to just be floating along for now, since this year seems like it's going to be kiiiind of manic.

Having just read Hidden Figures I've been learning a lot about the US space programme, and it has made me feel like I should probably read more non-fiction about things I don't really know anything about because learning new things is fun and good. Basically.

I'm still feeling a bit sleepy and ugh from being off work this past week, but I'm hoping that jumping back into it tomorrow will make/force me to feel better!

3 weekends in a row in London, the bookshop crawl, and THE BLOODY END OF MY JOB. 4 weeks has never felt so long, I swear.

For spring to hurry up and get here, and for the ability to pull my finger out to get a holiday booked with my fella. We will sort it!

Spending time with my family and any and all bonus extra time I get to spend with my boyfriend. People are cool, hey?

Wasn't that very exciting and enlightening?! I am going to the movies twice this week because Oscar season = taking advantage of my Odeon Limitless membership, and with my day off on Friday, I don't think it's going to be so bad (she says). I hope you all have fabulous weeks, my little pretties.

Thursday 18 January 2018

A Very Merry Blog Birthday To Meeeeeeeeee

Oh yes, that's right. Devouring Texts is 7 years old today! I don't have too much to say about it, to be honest, but have I ever forgotten a blog birthday? Check the archives, no I have not, so there you go.

I don't really have any deep or profound thoughts to share, and it's been a long time since my blog has been the centre of my life, which is a good thing, I think, but it's still an important place to me, and still somewhere I meander off to every so often to share my thoughts and feels and the like. I think it's a very good thing for everyone to have a place like that, even though it doesn't have to be a whole place, I think, it can just be a person.

I have a place and quite a few persons now, which I think makes me very lucky.

As promised, I really am trying to be a consistent-ish blogger, and please see how I keep coming back weekly, even if I haven't posted a book review all year! So many excellent things in my life have come from blogging, and I like to think that if I keep plugging away, what other excellent things might arise? And, if nothing else, the thing that arises is happiness and enjoyment of just writing a few bits and pieces, which is good enough for me.

So, 7 years. A ridiculous length of time to do anything, really, but I'm very happy to have been here, and I'm happy you've all been here too.

Sunday 14 January 2018

Sunday Sundries

What is this?! Some kind of consistency?! Witchcraft!

That's correct, I am here, without a clear aim but with some kind of urge to really honestly and truly make blogging a habit (again), to some degree! Just look at me go! If only I had an interesting life to tell you all about, everything would be fine.

Let's see... I handed in my notice at work, which means that I'm basically just waiting out the time I have left there until I can finally leave and move on to a better place *dramatic face work*. It's always a bit of a strange time, I guess, since there's a limit to how much I can care about things, but I still have to care about things because otherwise, to be frank, they just won't get done. But anyway, I'm just doing my time, keeping my head down, and hoping it goes quickly.

Outside of work, I've been trying to use my time as effectively as possible, and it's actually going quite well. This is kiiiiind of a new year thing I guess, but I'm trying to ignore that and genuinely just make changes to my life slowly and steadily. This all sounds really dramatic, when all I'm really talking about is like, trying to do yoga as soon as I come in from work, instead of putting it off and just not doing it, and reading instead of watching TV, and doing my writing prompt every single damn day.

I have been doing my writing prompt every single damn day, by the way, with varying degrees of engagement and success. By which I mean, some nights I have basically no time or energy to do it (see: Thursday night when I got in at about 11pm, or Friday night when I had a few glasses of wine after work) but I still get something down, and it's really starting to feel less like a chore, and just a fun thing to look forward to after work (I KNOW). This was really the point of the writing prompts (for me, anyway) so I'm pretty pleased with the results thus far!

As for reading, I have been doing some but probably less than usual because of the aforementioned other activities. I say this mainly because I have only finished two books this year BUT I keep forgetting that the main reason for this is because I'm reading a 700+ page Stephen and Owen King behemoth which makes me feel like NOTHING IS ACHIEVED. Is reading all about achievement? Not even a little, and I would do well to remember that while I constantly ignore all of my giant books so I can read three smaller ones instead. Like, seriously, that's a problem for me and I need to fix it.

But anyway. Working on it by reading giant book so everything is going to be fine. Plus, this weekend, I found Simpsons Chess in a charity shop, so everything really is going to be fine!
See what I mean about no clear aim? But hey, we got through it relatively unscathed, right? I hope you all had excellent weeks and weekends, and let's face the new week with courage and dignity and whatnot...

Sunday 7 January 2018

Sunday Sundries

That's right, I'm really really trying to bring blogging back. Make things habits and all that jazz...

This week, I'm not entirely sure I woke up at all. Sort of sleepwalked through work and tried not to make weird decisions or break things, and in that I was pretty successful! It was remarkable only in two ways- first I had to train a new person which is one of my least favourite things, but was actually fine, albeit a little bit, well, exhausting; but secondly, I GOT A NEW JOB, which is great and means that my time teaching people things and also being taken advantage of are soon to end (for a bit, until I've learnt my new job, I am sure).

Some notes on the new job though- it's in a different department at my current workplace and is actually just one door down from my current office, so when I start I imagine I will sail straight past the right door about 80% of the time because that's just what I'm like as a person. I had my interview for it just before Christmas, and then things were a bit up in the air over the Christmas break which meant there was just a teensy part of me that didn't quite relax, so if nothing else I'm relieved to know what kind of work I'll be doing this year! And, obviously, that it went the way I wanted it to!

That's just work though, and if I'm completely honest, I think of work as a means to an end rather than as my everything. It pays the bills but my interests lie in other places that don't earn money *looks lovingly at blog* *and books* *etc*. My best friend and I have been sending each other writing prompts every day in an attempt to improve our writing and think more creatively and all of that sort of good stuff, and although I thought it was going to be a new year thing for a couple of days, it's still going and I realise it's only been a week BUT STILL. It takes 3 weeks to form a habit, so no matter how tired I am, I'm doing this writing thing, dammit.

I have also been trying to get back into yoga but got slightly derailed this week by a horrible journey home from work- it's still on my mind to do it though, so watch this space (for when I tell you more, week by week, that I haven't done any yoga).

I moved in September last year (I probably briefly mentioned it but eh, who can remember?) and one of the excellent side effects of this is that my bedside table is now a little bookcase. This is partially a money saving option (my previous bedside table was a chest of drawers- but like a big one that you put all your clothes in) and partially a thing where there wasn't really any other space for the little bookcase. Either way, it's worked out great for me because I get to make a pile o'books to read imminently and instead of them just forming a big, dangerous pile on the floor, I put them on my bookcase and just take them out as I want.

The other two shelves have books and comics that I want near me at all times, but that's neither here nor there (except it is here and they are near me and I love them.

And here is the stack for the next... little bit of time, pre-shelving:
 So little colour in the spines...
Just to pick a few out, I really want to read The Dud Avocado because Greta Gerwig is my current obsession and I read something about it being a big inspirational book for her, so SOLD. Dorothy Parker is my favourite wit that I have actually read none of, so I'm trying to rectify that, and I have had Talk Talk by T C Boyle for approximately forever- I keep buying his books because I read The Tortilla Curtain once and it was great, but never reading them, so I'm trying to rectify that. Also Margaret Atwood is Margaret Atwood, and if Alias Grace is good then I can watch the TV show which is great because I think Anna Paquin is excellent.

And also I guess some other books I want to read and stuff.

Not pictured are my challenge book for the month (Hidden Figures) and the book I'm actually currently reading- the behemoth that is Sleeping Beauties by Stephen and Owen King, and which, as soon as I leave the house, will not be my sole read anymore because woahhhh I like having a functioning spine, thank you.

Now tell me everything- how have you been? Did you sleepwalk through the week too? (Tell me it's not just me!) How about these books, huh? Huh? 

Tuesday 2 January 2018

A Challenging 2018

What is this madness, three posts in three days?! It must be a new year or something or other. 

The title of this post refers not to my life challenges for 2018 (but, for reals, I have 3 family weddings to attend and no doubt do things for so there are many challenges ahead!) but reading challenges! Of which I want to do literally one, so I guess a reading challenge is what I should have said but never mind. 

When I first started blogging, I signed up for a load of challenges at the start of the year and got burnt out and bored and basically just rebellious within about a month or so. This kind of defeated the object so I stopped signing up for things, and have pretty much just been doing RIP each year (which isn't a challenge for me at all, really!) and reading all the Stephen King. Now that I have read all the Stephen King, and in an attempt to get me blogging semi-not-never again, here is my newest challenge:

The deal with this challenge is basically that I asked on twitter for a pretty low key reading challenge that didn't involve reading, like, 52 books in a year, because of my general lack of commitment to being told what to read in any way. Elena suggested this challenge, and when I checked it out it sounded PERFECT.  It's just one book a month for the year, and each category is so broad, it's almost not a challenge at all except it is so it's all good! I feel like I might decide at the start of each month what to read for the challenge, so let's start that this month!

The prompt for January is:

Diversify your reading- Kick the reading year off right and shake things up. Read a book with a character (or written by an author) of a race, religion, or sexual orientation other than your own.

See what I mean about it being pretty broad?! Realistically I'd actually like to read a lot of books fitting that description, but the specific book I'm picking for it issssss:

Hidden Figures! Ostensibly because, ya know, I really really liked the film, but also because it's about three women facing racism and sexism and it seems like a good way to read widely. It's also written by a black lady, which doesn't hurt.

My aim for this challenge is pretty much to review each book I read for it, even if I review nothing else all year (which is NOT my aim, I should add, but could easily happen because me). So watch this space if you really want to know about Hidden Figures. And join meeee cause this challenge feels fun already!

Monday 1 January 2018

Things I Read In December

Happy New Year! Happy two posts in two days! Happy lots of things!

Even though I pretend it means nothing to me, I actually like new years. I always feel fresher and a little cleansed on the first day of a new year, even though nothing has really changed. My body always seems to feel like it has, and that's good enough for me. I don't really believe in making new years resolutions, but I do believe in living each day to the fullest, whatever that means for that specific day, and I do pledge to do more of that in the new year.

Firstly, though, a recap of December reads. I also thought that, as it's an end of year thing, I'd pick my favourite book from each month of last year, just for the funsies. But first, the things I read in December:
Singin' and Swingin' and Gettin' Merry Like Christmas, The Heart of a Woman, All God's Children Need Travelling Shoes and A Song Flung Up To Heaven by Maya Angelou
I should probably look at the individual merits of each of these books, but, you know, I only have one more day off work and I really don't want to be blogging ALL day. These remaining books in Angelou's biography (which, if you'll recall, were basically the only books I wanted to finish in December!) span her tour with Porgy and Bess, her second marriage, her time spent living in Africa, and her time back in America, including the deaths of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr.

There's a fairly common consensus that I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings is the best of the 6 books that make up Angelou's memoirs, and I would agree but I also wouldn't have missed these books for anything. Angelou's life sounds complex and difficult and exciting but more than anything just completely human and relatable. These books cover the time from Angelou's childhood to when she was 40 and asked to write her memoirs, and I'd give anything to read her account of her remaining 46 years. I pretty much read these because I was considering reading all of the books of My Struggle (which I will still read, don't get me wrong) but thought I should probably read the actual struggles of a black woman than the travails of a middle class white man, and boy do I not regret that decision. Get your hands on these, read and live and learn. It's what Maya would want.

Harry Potter: Magical Places from the Films by Jody Revenson
Not pictured, because I borrowed this from my buddy at work, and I'm not even sure if I should review it because, like, it's kind of a coffee table book? Regardless, here I go- This is a very good coffee table book, and if you're into the Harry Potter films, boy are you going to want to read more about the locations and whatnot. I am not into the films which fully explains why I have been on the studio tour four times (oh, Laura...) but I still found this very pretty to look at, even if I feel as though I am getting a little bit of Harry Potter (movie!) fatigue, if I'm completely honest. Still, a very well put together coffee table book, and definitely worth borrowing from a colleague if not spending what I'm sure was a huge amount of money on.

Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body by Roxane Gay
I got this book for Christmas and read the whole thing on December 27th. I didn't read the whole thing because it was exactly a pleasure to read, but more because I physically couldn't stop reading, couldn't stop enjoying Gay's prose even as I was reading all of the horrible things that have been done to her. Hunger is a memoir (obviously) of Gay's relationship to her body (also probably obviously) and of the horrible divide that happened when she was gang raped aged 12, which she refers to as before and after she was broken. Gay writes about so many things in this book- the desire to make herself large so as to be unattractive, and so undamaged by, men, the self-sabotage and panic that arises from losing weight, the paradox of being a feminist and wanting to not be ashamed for taking up space, but being ashamed anyway but also unable to change anything. Or, not everything.

I love Gay's writing (and am now finally knuckling down to Bad Feminist because she is so good), and I especially loved her almost disclaimer at the start of the book- that something terrible happened to her, but she hasn't really talked/written about it because she doesn't want to be defined by the thing that happened to her because she just has so much more to say that isn't related. At the same time, though, Gay takes the steps to realise that although she won't be defined by it, it has shaped a lot of her life, and you have already realised before she says it at the end of the book, that writing it has been like a kind of therapy for her. Facing demons and releasing them, and all of that good stuff. Read it in a day, would happily read it again today, this is really very very excellent writing.

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
I love this book, and I love that it's my book that closes off the year. I was reading this all through November and December (which is to say, not reading it), I think partially in preparation for the Little Women miniseries that I watched 10 minutes of and had to turn off, but mostly just because, I really love Little Women. I understand, fully, that it's problematic, but I think what you have to understand is that I don't care. I read Little Women for the first time as a pre-teen, so it's not even a book anymore so much as a part of me; the characters aren't so much characters as my own family, my four sisters I can visit at any time. I realise that this is very non-literary critical of me (did I ever mention why I'm not an actual academic..?) but, once again, I don't care. Little Women is life, and I love it as much now as ever.

And that was December. I read a lot more than I was expecting too because of christmas things, and so I consider it a complete success. I also consider it a complete success because I only read books by women (and nearly all by non-white women) so long may that continue!

BONUS: My favourite books of the year, by month:

Real Artists have Day Jobs - Sara Benincasa

The Vegetarian - Han King


Chavs - Owen Jones

11.22.63 - Stephen King

If This Is A Woman - Sarah Helm

Miss Buncle's Book - D E Stevenson

On Beauty - Zadie Smith

My Struggle I: A Death in the Family - Karl Ove Knaussgard

The Talented Mr Ripley - Patricia Highsmith

The Sun and Her Flowers - Rupi Kaur

Manhattan Beach - Jennifer Egan

Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body by Roxane Gay (duh)