You know in Clueless, when Tai’s amidst her very 90s makeover, and Cher says that as well as the clothes and makeup and workout and hair they’re gonna start reading one non-schoolbook a week?
Well I used to be such a prolific reader. I’m not kidding, I inhaled books. I once had a two week streak of going to the library daily for a new book during school. The last time I visited my grandparents I read 8 books in 6 days.
But with work and my dissertation and now my blog, all I seem to read is uni-related. I keep saying I’ll read more in the summer, when I have time. But even with work, dissertation and the blog I can find time for Netflix- so if I trade out those hours I can definitely read more. I caught up with an old friend and fellow bookworm this week and he reminded me not to lose those bits of myself. We used to hang out by sitting on opposite ends of the sofa reading and I still have the books he bought me. Sometimes, you outgrow old friends, but sometimes they take you back to something you’ve lost.
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Hence, bookclub. Now if you’re thinking I’m a clothes horse and should stay in my lane- I make my own lane, and you’re welcome to skip this post to see me in a pretty dress. Even though I love fashion, I am way more than pretty pictures and pretty skirts and for a blog to be ‘me’ it needs to be a little more, well, me.
I’m not quite aiming for a book a week, right now I’ll be happy with three non-uni books a month, here’s my first months pickings…
- Mad Girl by Bryony Gordon
- The Gender Games by Juno Dawson
- The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat by Oliver Sacks
I love books with a social challenge or consciousness which made me choose the first two, and the latter I decided upon after it was recommended to me by a lady from my church who suffers with face blindness.
This book changed my life. Never before have I read such an honest, funny and real account of living with mental illness. The author writes about her struggles with OCD, drug addiction and anorexia. I have a decent understanding of anorexia, but didn’t realise, until reading this, how little I knew about OCD. I’d only seen the ‘need to clean things lots’ OCD and Bryony writes about her compulsive belief that she had AIDS and how detrimental that was to her life, amongst many other things I’d never seen in the media before.
The tone of the book was amazing. Consistently addressing the reader, funny and cringey, it was like a long talk with a good friend. The narrative was controlled but not manipulated. The author was clear: this book contained plenty of sad things but it was not a sad book. It wouldn’t wallow in the pity of mental-illness or incapabilities we can feel, it wouldn’t confuse what role the illness plays. One of my favourite bits is how she gives a name to her OCD, she personifies it and separates that voice from her own.
This book made me cry, it made me laugh, it made me learn and it made me feel positive and inspired. When you have a mental illness that isn’t going to go away, so many people let that define their character and accept that they’re limited. Gordon feels everything but hasn’t let anything stop her. The tagline ‘a happy life with a mixed-up mind’ is perfect. I actually grabbed this book on a whim in the supermarket because the title (and bright cover) caught my attention.
One of my favourite quotes-
‘We both know that looking ‘well’ is a euphemism for piling on the pounds. But I’m done with living in a twisted world where looking gaunt and ill is celebrated. I’m done with treating myself badly to make myself look good.’
The Gender Games
The Gender Games was another book that I loved the tone of. The funny asterisks, the pop culture references and the honesty. Particularly if you’re British I don’t think you could help but find this book charming. That is, if you come to it with an open mind.
One of Juno’s best qualities as an author is her knowledge of language, experience and limitations. Juno puts bluntly that she cannot speak for the experience of disabled trans people, trans men and trans people of colour, she owns her own voice and experience with confidence but never tries to put said experience on others. This humility and honesty makes her so likeable. So often people take up a mic for the voiceless and bulldoze on others’ experience. She also negotiates the minefield of language around LGBTQ+ people with care given to the pain that a lot of words have linked to them.
The content is also amazing. In addition to being personal, it’s also, objectively, solid. Dawson writes about the difference between sex and gender, and the characteristics and expectations put on all of us since birth because of gender. All of these characteristics have downsides- women’s emotions being seen as hysterical and men being taught to be stoic and ultimately prompts a lot of thought about how we treat people, particularly children, and how we should allow people to express themselves. Gender isn’t the problem of the author it’s the society-created manifestation that screws us all out of opportunities.
I’d heard amazing things about this book- and am now keen to read her first novel- and sought it out in the bookstore. I had a bit of hesitation around it, as from some trans* friends I’ve seen the difficulty of not having rolemodels or a media that uses the language that describes you. But ultimately, again, I walked away feeling inspired- and I already have three people I’m desperate to lend it to.
Another quote I really enjoyed:
‘How often, when we tell children they are ‘being good’ do we mean they are blindly conforming?’
The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat
This book is a distinctly different style from the other two. Dr Sacks recounts several tales of fascinating and confusing neurological disorders. It is, less accessible than the prior two books, it requires more concentration and the introduction and preface are full of medical terms that you may require a dictionary for.
The heart of the book however, the stories of the patients are easier to read linguistically. The experiences of said patients are somewhat confusing, these are not the ‘struggling with memory as I age’ stories we may be familiar with. These are distinctive neurological disorders.
From a medical perspective, Oliver Sacks hones into a most important and encouraging point. That for many years such people were considered unintelligent or backwards, when in fact they were brilliant, intelligent people with specific needs and shortcomings. This concept is familiar in so many ways. For years, until things were diagnosed or understood people’s illness or disabilities had horrible and short conclusions drawn. For some diagnoses this has changed- we’ve begun to understand some differences in the brain- but for others, particularly rare disorders, we are often damaging in our cluelessness.
I would not have picked this book up by myself. As I mentioned earlier, a lovely lady I know struggles with partial face blindness and recommended it to me, then, when I saw it in a book shop I had to grab it. Medical jargon aside, this book made my world bigger, made me see and consider more, it may take a while for me to re-read it, but it was a fascinating read.
“If we wish to know about a man, we ask ‘what is his story–his real, inmost story?’–for each of us is a biography, a story. Each of us is a singular narrative, which is constructed, continually, unconsciously, by, through, and in us–through our perceptions, our feelings, our thoughts, our actions; and, not least, our discourse, our spoken narrations. Biologically, physiologically, we are not so different from each other; historically, as narratives–we are each of us unique.”
That’s it for this months book club, let me know if you’ve read any of these- or have any recommendations for me!
As always, I’ll keep you updated on my life!