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)


  1. You read so much good stuff this year! I’m quite impressed. You and I didn’t’ have a lot of reading overlap in 2017, but I also thought Manhattan Beach was a very good read, and HUNGER is at the top of my list for backlist reads, just as soon as I get some vacation time. She’s amazing. I got to hear her speak on two different occasions in 2017 and she was great both times.

  2. Love the visual recap! Thanks for reminding me that Stephen King is THE BEST and I need to read more from him this year.

  3. Love the pics at the bottom with fav books by month and I maaaaaay steal that idea (fully crediting you, of course)

    Also I very much want to read Hunger (cos Gay is amazing) and also very much do not want to read Hunger (gang rape) so. But still the fact that you read it all in one sitting tips it slightly towards the "I should read" list