Hello Moonlings! I hope you are all well, and 2020 is treating you kindly. I had some inspiration to make a YouTube video talking about 3 books I read in 2019 that really challenged me.
The first one I had read before, but many aeons ago when I had only started university. The second I had wanted to read one of that nature but hadn’t yet. Finally “Dirt to Soil” was a wonderfully accurate gift from Le’Boo last Christmas. He is excellent at surprising me with books.
I hope you enjoy the video and let me know if you read certain books to challenge yourself! I am on GoodReads so feel free to join me over there.
“The Forest People.” – Colin Turnbull
“Against Empathy.” – Paul Bloom
I have not reviewed this on my GoodReads. I did only give it 4/5 stars, but I explain that in the video.
“Dirt to Soil.” – Gabe Brown
“Everyone needs to read this book. Not just farmers, or ranchers but every human. We all eat, and our choices on which food we buy may mean the life or death of our Earth.” – My GoodReads review
Are you a fellow book worm? Do you love the smell of books? Or the sensation of words filtering through your brain, constructing stories about far off places, and exotic people? Then you have clicked on the right post!
I’ve read 30 books this year and rated 10 of those books 5 out of 5 on Goodreads. I have listed them below in order of preference, but let us remember, they are all excellent for their own reasons.
*There are no spoilers, this is a spoiler-free post! Enjoy my friends*
10. “Sourcery” – Terry Pratchett
Look we don’t even need to have a discussion here. Terry Pratchett is a beloved author for so many reasons. He is a hero in the writing community. You cannot read his books without being both touched and entertained. Seriously there is a joke on every page, with his humour being a mixture of complete silliness and intellectualism.
This book picks up with Rincewind the wizard whom we left back in book two “The Light Fantastic.” Rincewind is as reluctant as ever to be the hero, yet cannot stop his fate of becoming paramount to the survival of the Discworld.
Why couldn’t he have stayed at home, on his tiny cot, with the luggage snoozing in the wardrobe?
As far as debuts go, this is up there with the greats for me. I am a poetry fanatic, and very sensitive about its conjuncture. This wonderfully cathartic, yet tragic piece of work filled the gaps of my broken heart, as she waxed about pain, love, life, and the pursuit of elusive joy.
The work is divided into five parts, each a protective canopy over its subject matter. Beginning with “Screaming Numbness” we are treated to exquisitely painful lyrics about suffering and mental illness.
We press on into the pages of “Love & Loss” as she tells her tales from the world of love. As humans, we are never free from pain. We are allowed moments of beauty as a reprieve between the senseless chaos of the universe.
When the flushes of pain and joy are over we are treated to poems about the “Day and Night.” Her suffering mind remembers these times so vividly, and her fascination of the night sky appeals to fellow insomniac in me.
Life is a dazzling series of confusion and clarity. Mirza’s section, “C’est La Vie” has some hard truths about the world we try to live in. When I read these lines they ignite in me my own fears, wonders, and imagination.
The final section “Random Thoughts,” is just that, and we see the author grappling with the suffering of now, hopefully, one day leading to the freedom of tomorrow. Out of struggle, so will the time of quiet victory, and self-assurance be born. Where those of us with kindness, walk alongside those of difficult persuasions. She closes the collection strong leaving us both elated with hope, and sturdy with solidarity. Please buy this poetry collection, it is too exquisite to remain unread.
8. “The Secret Life Chimneys” – Agatha Christie
When I was a child I spent hours of my life watching Hercule Poirot shows with my mother. She has always loved Agatha Christie so recently I asked her what her favourite was and it wasn’t what I expected.
She choose “The Secret of Chimneys” and it is a laugh riot throughout. It does not take itself too seriously, although there is a dead man in the study. There are strong females, silly fathers and a cast of characters you cannot help but love.
7. “To The Women” – Scarlett Curtis
This collection of letters changed the game for me. I thought of all the women who have come before me, those I’ve known personally, and those who have fought on the front lines. When I say I cried in traffic. I genuinely did with one of the letters. The women wrote to her mother who was no longer with her. I ran home and hugged my mother.
6. “A Game Of Thrones” – George RR Martin
When the HBO show ended, I (and probably millions of others), went back to the books for solace and comfort. You cannot deny the character power of George RR Martin’s books. Although we are still two books short of a completed series, and Martin isn’t exactly a spring chicken, I live in hope that the story will conclude in an elegant threading of all storylines.
Until then I continue to read. I am on book three right now, immersed in the Song of Ice & Fire before it all went wrong.
5. “The Clan Of The Cave Bear” – Jean M. Auel
This book set in the prehistory of humankind kicked off a series that eventually disappointed me. Following the life of a young girl who is orphaned at five years old, she is taken in by the people of the Clan. Ayla is blonde and blue-eyed and appears ugly to the Clan who are dark and ancient.
There is love, loss and learning. I recommend reading the first book, but if you are short of time, do not worry about the rest. You will be disappointed. I rated the final book 1 out of 5 on Goodreads. A sad end to an epic series.
4. “The Handmaid’s Tale” – Margaret Atwood
I wanted to read this for a long time, and I finally got around to it this year. Even though it was written in 1985, (listen I wasn’t born until 1990!). So this book really affected me. It reminded me that no matter how far we have come, empires slip into dark ages.
It has happened over centuries countless times. It happened to the ancient Egyptian empire twice! With a racist, misogynistic president in the United States, the anti-immigration rhetoric in the United Kingdom, and the complete and utter media silence on what’s happening in Sudan, I realise we are never too far from chaos.
Do yourself a favour and read this book. I won’t tell you anything about it.
3. “The Hunger” – Alma Katsu
This semi-historical horror novel is on plenty of top ten modern horror novels for a reason. Set during the mass migration to the American West, the wagon train known as the Donner party encounters the horrors of hunger, disease and some unknown abomination.
As you jump between perspectives you understand the paranoia of the wide-open desert, the futility of money when there is no food to be bought, and the hidden secrets people keep close to their chest, in hopes they will never be discovered.
When you pick up this book, you will need to put it down on occasion, because it will disturb you. It won’t be long before you pick it up again, to see if you can understand the reasoning for the horror.
2. “The Witchcraft of Salem Village” – Shirley Jackson
I adore Shirley Jackson, and even though The Haunting of Hill House is cited as her best novel, I would argue it is only a small insight into her genius. My favourite of hers is “We Have Always Lived In A Castle.”
When I realised that Jackson had written a semi-historical version of the events that occurred in the now abandoned Salem village, I couldn’t help myself. This is an excellent yet frightening account.
1. The History Of Ancient Egypt – Bob Brier
Ever since I was a child I have idealised ancient Egypt in my head. I would read any books about it I could get my hands on. Fascinated by the hieroglyphs, mummification and papyrus, I imagined what life was like in times more ancient than my young mind could conceive.
My mother got me a beautiful book one Christmas that was tactile and interactive. There were real letters from Egyptologists, explanations about the Rosetta stone, and tutorials on their engravings.
The earliest settlers in the Nile valley was 700,000 years ago, and it wasn’t until 70,000 years ago that they even started using hand tools. Brier’s account brings us through the first settlers through 3000 years of history, all the way to the last Pharoh of Egypt Cleopatra.
I loved this. I listened to it on audiobook from Audible over a month and Bob Brier’s storytelling is superb. If you love ancient Egyptian history, you need to experience this.
Hello, fellow bookworms! I see you there. 😉 In this post, I would like to talk about my Goodreads challenge along with the female authors I’ve read since January. I won’t be necessarily reviewing the books because I don’t want to spoil any of them on you, but I will be talking about how they affected me.
I set myself a goal of 80 non-work related books to read this year. If you’re on Goodreads why not come join me on my quest. How many have you pledged? Here is a link to my profile:
So far I’ve accomplished 52 of the total 80 which is 65%. As you can see from this very hi-tech screen grab below.
As part of this challenge, I want at least half of those 80 books to be from female authors. Although I have read many female authors in my time, I wanted to make a conscious effort to give equal support to both male and female authors this year.
The following 20 books I’m going to discuss are from female authors I’ve read this year. Seeing as I’ve already read 52 books and only 20 of them are female authors, I’ve some catching up to do.
Let me know in the comments below if you love/hate any of these books and why? Maybe one of these are on your ‘to be read’ list. Let’s have a chat. Ok let us not waste any more time, we begin.
Book number 1: ‘The Bell Jar’ – Sylvia Plath
As far back as secondary school (high school for my American friends), I’ve loved the poetry of Sylvia Plath. Her melancholy resonated with miserable teenage Jenni. At Christmas I received her only novel as a gift from my parents and proceeded to read it on the 1st of January. What an interesting way to start this year of books. Although it was a compelling read, I still feel her poetry is superior. It’s essential reading for anyone suffering from bipolar disorder, and although it’s not necessarily autobiographical, there are many parallels to Plath’s own life.
Book number 2: ‘Talking As Fast As I Can’ – Lauren Graham
I have mentioned before on this blog that I have an Audible account. It allowed me to listen to several of these books in the voice of their author. As a huge Gilmore Girls fan, I knew that this book would be best consumed audibly and I was correct. Graham does talk fast, but she keeps a sensible pace so you enjoy full extent of her funny anecdotal life.
Book number 3: ‘How To Be A Bawse’ – Lilly Singh
If you don’t know who Lilly Singh is, I’m really sorry. Here is her YouTube channel. Go ahead and subscribe. I’ll wait…
…done? Did you watch a video or two? I know she’s great, you’re welcome. Now back to her book. There are so many self-help/ motivational books out there. This is one of the good ones. Honestly, she not only deals with the ins and outs of being a Bawse, but she explicitly explains her experiences with depression.
You also get the added bonus of it not only being read in the author’s voice but with some surprise guests. It’s an inspirational read.
Book number 4: ‘Americanah’ – Chimananda Ngozi Adichie
I thought this novel was phenomenal. I was a fan of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie from her speech “We Should All Be Feminists,” so I wanted to give one of her novels a try. Although this one isn’t read by the author herself, it’s beautifully narrated by the talented Adjoa Andoh who brings the different accents to life. It was highly rated on Audible and I wasn’t disappointed. It’s an exquisitely winding love story between Nigeria and the United States of America. Treat yourself with this yarn.
Book number 5: ‘Wishful Drinking’ – Carrie Fisher
When I heard the news that we lost Carrie Fisher, I was devastated. I am such a huge Star Wars fan, and she was one of the first examples of a strong female character that I remember. Along with being such a wonderful personality, she’s also an excellent writer. Her voice (both literary and physical) is so unique. She finds the funny in both the darkness and the light of life. I don’t even have to individually single out any of her books because they are all awesome.
Book number 6: ‘The Princess Diarist’ – Carrie Fisher
Speaking of Carrie Fisher did I mentioned that I love her? In this audiobook, you also get a section narrated by her daughter Billie Lourd.
Book number 7: ‘Furiously Happy’ – Jenny Lawson
This book has been on so many “10 books to read if you suffer from depression,” or “15 books by female authors,” or “books by online personalities,” that I had to bite the bullet and get it. While the cover is exceptionally attractive and draws you in even before you open the book, the contents are even crazier. It will make you laugh I promise, you’ll be so annoying you’ll want to read sections of it out loud to the person next to you (sorry Le Boo!). If you haven’t heard of her you can check her out here:
Rose McGowan has been such a controversial figure, and part of me really wonders how would she be received if she were a man. I am a fan of her hubris, I think she genuinely is brave when you account for all she’s been through. This book is an eye-opener and at times very distressing. The story of her struggle began way before her rape. She has been homeless, she grew up in a cult, and her home life, in general, was very tumultuous.
If you haven’t yet, read this book. Or listen to it on Audible. (I’m not sponsored by Audible by the way, I really wish I was though!)
Book number 9: ‘The Great Gasbag’ – Joy Behar
This book was a bit of light reading between books with a heavier subject. I’m a huge fan of The View which Joy Behar calls her home. Whoopi Goldberg is my Queen. Behar is the only remaining original panel member and she is not winding down. This book may be humorous, but she knows her stuff. Read it for a laugh or read it for the political facts. Either way, you’ll get what you came for.
Book number 10: ‘Repeal The 8th’ – Una Mullally
This was a tough read in the lead up to the referendum. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, you can read my post about it:
This book is a collection of essays, personal stories, and poetry. It made me cry like a small child. It made me angry and see red. It also showed me the value of my vote. I was voting, not only for myself but for all the women that came before and all those who would come after. It was just downright powerful.
Book Number 11: ‘A Line Made By Walking’ – Sara Blaume
I’ve spoken about my mental illness here in the past 6 months and any story that continues the conversation is worth reading. This story is set in Ireland, following an artist struggling to cope with her mental health issues. The story has the added dimension of being both unique and uncomfortably familiar at the same time. The images painted by the author are still stuck in my mind, and the cover of this book drew me in inexplicably. It’s also nice to support Irish authors when possible.
Book Number 12: ‘The History of Bees’ – Maja Lunde
Heard of this book before? Always meant to give it a read? Well, get on it because it’s fantastic. If you’re like me and you’re worried about the bees (I’m not crazy they help grow our food), this book will reinforce you, while frightening those who are unaware of the dangers in a dwindling bee population.
An intermingling tale of three parts, Lunde manages to both connect people who have never met while demonstrating their utterly alien experiences. The narrators are all terribly flawed so that we feel at home with them, and by the end, you’ll be trembling with worry about our little fuzzy friends.
Book Number 13: ‘Swing Time’ – Zadie Smith
Although college and the books I read back then feels like many eons ago (I did only graduate from my Bachelors in 2010), I distinctly remember a novel called ‘White Teeth’ by Zadie Smith. I hadn’t read anything else of hers since and I was in Waterstones one day perusing when this bright yellow book caught my eye. Sure enough, it was Zadie Smith. I’d always promised I would read more of her but never got around to it. I decided to buy it there and then, and she’s still got it.
Book Number 14: ‘Grace’s Guide’ – Grace Helbig
Grace Helbig has a lifestyle/comedy YouTube channel whose brand is socially awkward. Although her YouTube content appeals to the painfully bumbling teenager girl inside, I was actually disappointed by this book. She seemed to get this book deal when many YouTubers were also getting book deals because of their online clout with young audiences. The novelty of this novel falls short, and while you might get more of an insight into the person behind Grace Helbig, you will get nothing but recycled life advice from this. (Sorry Grace!)
Book Number 15: ‘No Seriously… I’m kidding’ – Ellen DeGeneres
This book is worth more than the €1 I paid for it in a second-hand shop. It was a lovely light companion for awhile between otherwise serious life times. Also, who doesn’t love Ellen?
Book Number 16: ‘Wicca Starter Kit’ – Lisa Chamberlain
This book, and the next were research for something I’m writing. I was surprised at the many misconceptions I had about Wicca, and I found these books useful in my own life. As someone who likes to experience slowly and deliberately, this book came through with many basic tools to survive in a modern world. When you feel as though you’re completely out of touch with nature and your own natural bodily rhythms these paradigms will help.
Book Number 17: ‘Witchcraft Theory & Practice’ – Ly De Angeles
As I said this book was also for research purposes. It turned out to be a bargain for the €1 I paid in a second-hand shop. (I love thrifting books). This book, unlike the last one, is more explicit in its explanations, recommendations, and value. Wicca and witchcraft have been attached to women for millennia. It is your due diligence as a feminist to understand it’s history.
Book Number 18: ‘Nefertiti’ – Joyce Tyldesley
Simply put Tyldesley has an insanely impressive repertoire of writings and books on the subject of ancient Egypt. Although she has books which are concerned with the civilization as a whole, she is also known for books like this one, which are biographies of those long dead. You’ll get the idea from the full title, ‘Nefertiti: Unlocking The Mystery Surrounding Egypt’s Most Famous And Beautiful Queen.‘ If you want to get an idea about what Nefertiti was like, outside of her famous Berlin Bust (pictured on the novel’s cover), you can read this book.
Book Number 19: ‘You Can’t Fix Stupid’ – Terry & Linda Jameson
This is another fun book, that I read in a day. I actually took it with me when I was getting one of my tattoos. I kept chuckling and moving much the chagrin of my tattoo artist. If you know anything about the Psychic Twins you’ll enjoy this book, if you don’t you’ll still enjoy it.
They recently started a YouTube channel in which they discuss many interesting things, while also collabing with many other established YouTubers. I enjoyed this book, and you really can’t fix stupid. Have a look at their channel:
Finally as with the other Joyce Tyldesley book on this list, ‘Hatchepsut: The Female Pharaoh.’ is an intense read. I credit the depth of the characterisation to Tyldesley’s extensive archaeological fieldwork experience.