Put the Book Back on the Shelf (5)

Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race, Reni Eddo-Lodge

This was a very enlightening read, and one I would recommend to everyone. It’s not ‘for’ me as a white person, but it clarified a lot of things and I think it’s important to consume media that isn’t necessarily comfortable without centering yourself in those discussions. A lot of things I’ve read about race and racism has been written from an American perspective, and so I found it useful to read a UK perspective because there are two very different things that people tend to say, both of which are distinctly unhelpful – ‘racism doesn’t exist here’ or ‘everything can be applied exactly the same’.

This is a shorter review than most because I’m very aware that this isn’t about me looking ‘woke’, but do read this if you haven’t already.

The Glass Woman, Caroline Lea

I didn’t really enjoy this book. When I bought it, it sounded exactly like the kind of thing I like – historical fiction, set in Iceland, women as central characters. Despite that I never managed to get into it and it hasn’t stayed with me – I struggled to care about the characters and I was really just reading to finish it off and move on to the next book.

The Argonauts, Maggie Nelson

I’m still not quite sure how to feel or respond to this book – there was a lot I liked about it but I wasn’t convinced about things like the (presumably intentional) lack of structure. It came across as a book which thought it was a lot more clever than it actually was. Parts of it were interesting though, but I think it might be one I need to either read again or think about a lot more before I can draw an actual conclusion!

The Light Fantastic, Terry Pratchett

Much like the Colour of Magic, which this is the sequel to, I really enjoyed reading this – it was funny and light hearted, providing a good change and break from some of the more serious books I’ve been reading lately.

Beneath the Skin: Great Writers on the Body, various authors

I’m not a scientist at all, so I appreciated this book for being a collection of personal experiences about the body. We tend not to think much about bodies until they go wrong, which is probably why I have spent most of the last two years thinking about the body. People who are more scientifically minded might find it a bit basic and I wish it had gone a little bit further into how different bodies are treated and represented ( that is, trans bodies, women, disabled bodies and the bodies of people of colour in particular) but generally it was an interesting idea – and the chapter on brains and neurosurgery wasn’t about cancer for once!

The Silent Companions, Laura Purcell

Again, my reaction to this book was mixed. I found it quite difficult to concentrate on but I was feeling pretty tired while reading it, so it’s entirely possible that was why! It has a gorgeous cover, and I really liked the premise — I didn’t find it as creepy as the reviews suggest, though, and while I’m grateful for disability rep I personally wasn’t convinced by the execution of it. Generally though, I did enjoy this read, even if it wasn’t exactly what I expected.

White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk about Racism, Robin DiAngelo

There were bits of this I found really helpful and other bits which were less so. It’s written from a UK perspective and is by and for white people, and does a good job at explaining complicated terminology. It felt a little bit like preaching to the choir though, and took such efforts to be careful with what it was saying that it came across as overly cautious at points. It also didn’t go into the intersection of race and other oppressions much – I’d have liked to see Robin’s thoughts on how race intersects with gender, with disability and with queerness in particular. Personally I preferred Reni Eddo-Lodge’s book, but lots of the negative reviews complaining about this prove the need for it.

Ancillary Sword, Ann Leckie

I almost enjoyed this as much as the first in the trilogy, Ancillary Justice, which is high praise indeed. The world that Ann Leckie has created is captivating and complex without being overly clever and complicated for the sake of it. It also features A LOT of tea – if you played the equivalent of the Withnail and I drinking game, you’d probably have a caffeine overdose about forty pages in!

The Only Story, Julian Barnes

I had a mixed reaction to this book – mostly it was what I was expecting, that is, a well written but slightly pretentious novel. I liked the reflection on the nature of storytelling and memory, but none of the characters felt very real to me, or like people I would want to know in real life. The book is split into three parts and I enjoyed the first one much more – the second in particular felt much more tropey and suffered a lot more from thinking it was cleverer than it was. Having said that though, I did mostly enjoy reading it.

Running total: 50/130 (it’s a good thing I upped my target, as I have now reached my original one!)


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