The time of year is upon us, the time to reflect, to think about what we’ve achieved and to look to the future.
As is customary, I’ve given some thought to the books I’ve read over the year. In the spirit of sharing the love, here are some of my top reads from 2014. If you haven’t read them yet, go out and grab your copies. Some of these are not fiction. Some of them are. The one thing they all have in common is that they’ve shifted my perspective in one way or another.
Here’s to another year of great reads!
How to be a Woman – Caitlin Moran
Now and again a book comes along that is genius. Why? Because it speaks to a generation. Possibly best described as a series of autobiographical essays, Caitlin Moran takes us into the world that women generally keep private – from our sexual selves to families, friendships to relationship. I loved this book. In fact, there aren’t quite the right words, or volume of them, to describe it. If a miracle should ever happen and we have kids, I’ll be making sure they read this when they are old enough – male or female. Love, love, love,love, love it.
How to Build a Girl – Caitlin Moran
Woo hoo, another one from CM. I was going to add Moranthology as well but thought it might become too much (to hell with it, buy Moranthology too – a collection of her Times columns with extra narrative). THIS IS NOT AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL. Only we all know that is sort of is – the general principles of real life apply with hefty dollops of fictionalisation, some extra scenes and the introduction of an anti hero, anti-pop star that she has an enormous crush on. UK women of our age will be able to relate to those awkward years when you are trying to form your personality, attempting to build your external image. Should you fancy Johnny Marr or Morrissey? Smiths or the Cure? Taping the charts on a Sunday, fingers poised to hit the record/stop buttons at EXACTLY the right moment. Eating chunks of mild cheddar – because that’s all you got, none of this fancy extra mature stuff back then. Much like ‘How to Be a Woman’ this had me in tears with laughter, as well as thinking, “yep, been there sister.” The embarrassment of escapades in my youth hurtled through my mind and my 40 year old self can now look back at those things with fondness. They’re now good anecdotes which I’ll probably hide from my husband forever, but secretly tell the miraculous/imaginary daughter that we may/may not ever have. I could tell them to our female cat but she’s a bit senile and generally grumpy. She won’t care.
Not That Kind of Girl – Lena Dunham
Lena, Lena, Lena, what a stir you have created with this book. Twitter is awash with trolling and negativity at a level that’s not been since Judy Finnigan suggested on Loose Women that some types of rapes are okay. I came to the Lena-Love party pretty late, having been completely unaware of Girls – okay, well not unaware, I just hadn’t watched it. Stuck for something on TV, I recently watched every season back to back, then picked up the book. Personally, I think the controversial sections in this book (an essay on date rape, and some tenuous suggestions that Lena is a child molester – I must have blinked and missed those bits by the way) are hugely overegged in the media. As always, I suspect that many detractors haven’t read it. But we are all entitled to our opinions and there’s no judgement here – I’m even wearing my “look, no judgy” face and waving my hands in surrender. Personally, I loved this. Okay, it’s a little stream of consciousness in places, but that’s the point isn’t it? If I were to sit down and write all the lessons to my 21 year old self, it would be a total brain dump, wrangled together into buckets of “it’s sort of about this.”
Living Dolls: The Return of Sexism – Natasha Walters
A cringe worthy, provocative, brilliant text on the over-sexualising of girls, that angered, saddened me and gave me a few light bulb moments in the process. A terrible indictment of the world that young women find themselves thrust into, where the fastest way to get attention is to engage in porn-like stunts in nightclubs. It raises some interesting questions about how the sexual liberation of women has almost come full circle, with girls feeling that they are empowered, but perhaps just being taken advantage of, the “oh, but I want to do it, I like to take my boobies out in a bar for a free pitcher of beer, ” mentality. Well sister, men aren’t getting their tittles out for a free Bud. How equal is that? But all is not lost, there’s some powerful young voices coming through. There is hope!
Midlife Crisis at 30: How the Stakes Have Changed for a New Generation – Lia Macko and Kerry Rubin
A great piece of analysis with interviews with women from all stratas, times of life and careers. What is the legacy of trailblazing feminism? The world has told women we can have it all. We’ve tried. We are trying. But the world has yet to keep pace. Biologically women are finding that they can’t have kids at the exact time they’ve prepared for. Doing everything in the right order and then finding that your body is telling you that you should had kids ten years ago -it’s a cruel joke. It’s a modern dilemma and an issue for men and women. Equality is for everyone. It’s not until we make some major cultural changes, including supporting men more in the workplace, empowering them to take time off for example, that we’ll achieve real change. All great points made in this book. Feminism isn’t just for women. The problems created by gender inequality are everyones issues, not just women. Everyone is missing out. I love that sentiment.
30 Day Novel – Tara Maya
Woah, I hear you shout. No more lefty liberalism? You’ve put your bra back on Treharne! Look, it can’t all be world altering rhetoric you know. This is a book which I think all new writers, or those who are a bit scatty with planning – like me, should have in their toolkit. It literally changed the way I write, allowing me to admit I have a problem and go out and buy some post it notes, markers and do some detailed planning – the type that doesn’t just happen in my head.
&Deceived – LA Starkey
Oooh, I didn’t see that coming.
Course you did. If you are a regular visitor to my blog, you’ll have followed Laurie Starkey’s journey into publication too. I met her by pure chance on Twitter and have been actively following her since. I’ve been lucky enough to interview her, she’s popped over for a guest post and I’ve read the first two books in her Soul Keepers Series, Deceived and Destroyed. The third, Descent, is out in the New Year, although they’ll all be republished by BookTrope (yey, a publisher has picked her up!).
So why is this first book in my top reads of the year? Because it’s the first young adult book I’ve loved, really loved. It has a sassy heroine who takes no messing about and who, rather than fawning over some airhead, is pursued by two Greek gods. Yep. Not your average high school romance. She has urges. She has backchat. She has issues. Loved it.
Anything that takes me away from my preferred genres deserves a shout out in my proverbial book.
That’s not to say I haven’t read lots of other awesome books this year, by lots of great authors. I couldn’t list them all here… okay, I’ll try. Check these writers out!
I’ve run out of steam, sorry…. To follow what I’m reading and reviewing, then follow me on Goodreads
Reviews also appear on Amazon.com and/or Amazon.co.uk