Wednesday 25 November 2015

Nonfiction November Mini Reviews

This month I have read so much more than I expected to. So far I've finished six books and am in the middle of five more, at least one of which I am likely to finish before the month is up! I wanted to talk about four of them here (This New Noise I've already reviewed and I'll be posting about I Am Malala tomorrow).

Image result for very good livesI wanted to briefly mention J. K Rowling's Very Good Lives, which is the book version of a talk she gave at Harvard. It's pretty much just inspiring words; she talks about not being afraid to fail and how much you can learn from things which seem unrelated to the thing that you actually want to do. I picked it up because of a recommendation from Brona of Brona's Books and I'm glad I did. It was a very quick, really pretty little book. It wasn't the most inspiring 'book of a talk' that I've read, but it's hard to beat We Should All be Feminists, and it was inspiring, easy reading.

How to Be a Heroine (Or What I've learned from reading too much) by Samantha Ellis had been on my TBR for years, so when I stumbled across it in the library I couldn't resist. I think I should preface this section by saying that I am going to relate Little Women to my own life waaaay too much and get upset and shouty so feel free to skip to the next book where I'll be nice and calm again! Theoretically, I enjoyed this book. Each chapter is about a different heroine as Ellis re-reads her favourite books from throughout her life, and she loved a lot of the heroines that I loved and she made a lot of valid points, but overall I left the book feeling a little disappointed. This was for two major reasons. The first is that I felt that every chapter was very similar. Each would start with all the things she had loved about a heroine, but as it progressed she would start to talk about how revisiting them had made her hate them or doubt them and honestly by the end of it her disillusionment with everything literary that I love kind of made me hate her the book.

Image result for how to be a heroine
The second reason I didn't love it like I thought I would is purely due to a different of opinion. Ellis is firmly in the 'Jo should have married Laurie' camp, to which I say no, no, no!! I have never and will never agree with this, they would have been the worst couple ever. Just so bad. I do agree with some of her other points, although I seriously think people in general should calm down about Jo going off to look after kids and temporarily stopping writing. It happens, it's life, it was (mostly) her choice so I never saw it as being anti feminist or a betrayal of herself and honestly it pisses me off when people go on about it. When you're 16 you plan to do a lot of things and if you fall in love, have kids and don't do what you've planned that shouldn't mean you've ruined your life (or the story). I feel strongly about this because I have done this so when people bitch about her I feel like it's a personal attack. I fully understand this to be crazy, but it's probably something you should know, dear blog readers, if we're going to remain friends.

And rant over. Aside from that, there were large parts I did enjoy and some that made me chuckle and I really did like learning a little about Iraqi Jewish culture and families, so if you don't have my insane issues surrounding Little Women you'll probably really enjoy it.

Image result for finding home emily duganAnother book I read this month which made me have all the feelings (in a totally different way to How to be a Heroine) was Finding Home by Emily Dugan, which I mentioned in my recent post about Icon Books. In it Dugan interviews various migrants living in Britain who have come from all around the world for many different reasons. Some are asylum seekers, some Easter Europeans who came here to work, Some are here because their religion or sexuality means they would be killed in their own countries, some came to study, and some came for economic reasons, but all came for a better life. Besides what the media tells us I had very little personal understanding of the migrant situation before I read this and I would really strongly recommend reading it to anyone at all who wants to understand even a little about what could prompt you to leave often very highly skiilled jobs to come and be a cleaner here. What would it mean to have your life at risk in a country you love? what could prompt you to leave your baby son behind in another country while you came to look for work? How would it feel to be forced into a sham marriage, to be in constant fear of attack and then to escape to another country and have them disbelieve your story?

There is so much diversity in this book. It is told through the individual stories of vastly different people in different situations and it is one of the most powerful, affecting, motivating books that I've read this year. Every time I think about how the government is ruining our country I will think about the people who are so much worse off than me. It makes me want to do something to help, and books that motivate are the best kind.

Image result for displacement: a travelogueThe final book I want to mention is much lighter. Displacement: A Travelogue by Lucy Knisley is her second graphic travelogue, but I haven't read the first yet. This one is lovely though. It's about how she got roped into accompanying her grandparents on a cruise. Her grandmother has alzheimers and her grandfather incontinence problems. She is in her 20s and hasn't been in a situation like this before. It's a really sweet look at the relationship between Knisley and her grandparents and between youth and age, but also the way her whole family interacts with each other, and it made me think a lot about making the most of the time we have with the people we love, and also how much of the older generation's incredible history and family stories are lost if we don't take the time to listen to them and pass them on.

Apologies for the ranting going on on the blog lately, I don't know what's come over me. Probably the awfulness of Moby Dick leaking out and contaminating everything it touched!


  1. What a great list, Bex! I'm glad to hear that you enjoyed Very Good Lives; I've been wondering about that one because I'm a huge J.K. Rowling fan. Finding Home sounds excellent, and very timely; I think it also works well with I Am Malala! I'll look forward to your post tomorrow!

  2. I'm intrigued with Displacement - I want to pick it up soon! I also enjoyed Very Good Lives!

  3. I didn't agree with a lot of what Samantha Ellis said in her book (I'm with you about Jo and Laurie), but I still enjoyed reading it. I liked seeing how she made connections between literature and her life, even though they were not the connections I would make. I can understand your reservations though.

  4. Wow. That is quite an eclectic list! Had no idea of the J.K. Rowling--must check it out! And thanks to you I already have Finding Home on my TBR list.

  5. Ha! Just read your rant on How to Be a Heroine!! I love it! The point of feminism is that females have CHOICES from among ALL OPTIONS, not that we must conform to any one life pattern! I'm totally with you on that!!

  6. How To Be a Heroine is a book I should enjoy in theory too, but based on your review, I think I'll pass. I don't think I could find reading about someone else's disillusionment very enjoyable!