Consent Awakening.

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Of all the many things still wrong in Western societies, public attitude to sexual consent is something that manages to disproportionately shock me everytime.
I cannot believe that in the year 2017, the concept of marital rape is still denied by some people; that laws like this one in North Carolina still exist and that there are people who think that joking about non-consensual sex is ‘just boy talk’.

So although I’d like to believe the following is common sense, here’s the definition I like to keep in mind: if someone involved did not explicitly consent, you’re having non-consensual sex.
It’s not that hard, is it? Feels like the kind of thing you could teach every kid without much strain. Maybe, like, mention it in sex ed? Well, I don’t know about where you’re from, but where I go to school, nobody taught me the basics of rape or not-rape.

Which is what I believe desperately needs to happen. Until that is mandatory, though, can we please at least try not to glorify rape??
Cause yes, that’s something that happened. In 10th grade German class, our curriculum includes reading the 19th century play ‘Frühlings Erwachen’ (‘Spring Awakening’) by Frank Wedekind.
Now, don’t get me wrong. That’s a great play and I massively enjoyed studying it. It shows the sexual awakening of a group of teenagers in late 19th century Germany and very openly critizises the sexual education and taboos of its time. We talked in detail about how that lack of open conversation caused the tragic results shown in the play, and most of the discussions we had in class were liberal and brilliant.

Which is why the following shocked me so much. In our final exam, we were given a scene in which two of the characters have sex, initiated by the male character who has managed to educate himself quite well, while the female character is simply clueless. She excessively protests the act, but is ignored by him.
Asked in our exam to judge whether the scene portrays a rape situation, I relativised this definition with circumstances, but insisted that sexual relations in which one partner protests verbally cannot be called anything else, even if she ‘did want it too’.

I got detracted points for an interpretation mistake. Given hints in other scenes that she did enjoy and want it too, I was supposed to classify the scene as consensual. Which the rest of my course did.

This is not me whining about a grade. I have discussed that intensely with the respective teacher; the only thing we could agree on being that we disagree.
This is me telling you how fifteen people went out of that German class having learned that no can also mean I secretly want this just as much, don’t you mind my protesting. That’s shit, man.

I genuinely believe that a critical approach to literature cannot just consist of contextualising it historically and socially to explain character’s behaviour. Keeping in mind problematic attitudes on sexuality and gender in many renowned classics, we have to keep applying contemporary thought and not excuse everything as ‘of its time’.

Our norms and morals aren’t a thing taught from textbooks in one specific class. They have to be the framework of everything we’re taught – which is why revolutionising the way we talk about sex has to happen in biology class, but it cannot stop there!

Doubleplusungood – 1984 by George Orwell

I do regularly write for my school newspaper, and recently I drew up an article on 1984 by George Orwell. To cure my blogging slump, I’ve now translated that article into English with some minor changes and decided to share it with you. Do enjoy.

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The Second World War had just ended when in 1949, George Orwell published his last novel. In a world crumbling of post-war-atmosphere and a dawning Cold War, Orwell tried a look at the year 1984, distant future to him. Considering the world around him, it’s no wonder that got rather pessimistic.

In his worldwide renowned dystopia, Orwell conjures a world separated into three superstates instead of numerous smaller ones; Oceania, Eurasia and Eastasia. The three are constantly at war, a war whose fronts and alliances are as changeable as it’s goal is unclear.

Through the eyes of his protagonist Winston Smith, Orwell describes life in Oceania, the allegory of a totalitarian state. Every aspect of everyday life is meticulously controlled by “The Party”, lead by the mysterious “Big Brother”.

This Big Brother and the regularly cited sentence “big brother is watching you” have found their way not only into reality television, but also political debates.

After all, Orwell confronts the reader with the perfect surveillance state. Omnipresent, so-called telescreens watch the civilians at all times, from waking up to going to bed, while sleeping, eating, dressing, working and even spending their scarce freetime. Even critical thoughts concerning the political system are condemned as crimes (“crimethink”) and the Party is working at establishing a new language (“Newspeak”), that makes them literally impossible.

Winston, employed at the “Ministry of Truth”, describes his surroundings with mild disgust, but also the knowledge of absolute powerlessness. Only slowly does he find ways of silent resistance, for example by documenting the actual course of events in a diary. And then, he meets Julia, with whom he starts an affair. Bolder and bolder they try to find niches in a system of absolute control.

Orwell’s novel isn’t comfortable. It’s captivating, but also aggrieving, so terrifying the society he creates, so total the powerlessness of the individual.

Still, “1984” is more than worth the read. Not only is it gripping to the last page, it also palpably illustrates, why it is so important to defend freedom and privacy against pretended safety in times of terrorism and mass data collection. Because total surveillance would be disastrous for all of us. Or, to say it in Newspeak, doubleplusungood.

The Unchangeable Spots of Leopards – Kristopher Jansma

This is an incredibly hard one to review. The more time passes since my reading of The Unchangeable Spots of Leopards by Kristopher Jansma, the less I like it…?

Let’s start with a brief synopsis, because this is not one all over the book community. In fact, I’ve only seen Olive from bookolive talk about it, but she just sold it so damn well that, on coming across it at my local library, I couldn’t help my curiosity.

This novel follows an unnamed narrator and his quest to write a novel while maintaining relationships of some sorts with his best friend Julian McGann and his crush-hookup-maybe-slightly-manic-pixie-dreamgirl-but-also-friend-I-suppose-does-anyone-actually-like-her Evelyn. It jumps place a lot as the narrator travels around the world, always tormented by the absence of his literary success (or literally anything that would merit his life, as he just floats through abscure countries earning his living, drinking and not letting go of the two single-most pretentious people ever to enter a book, Julian and Evelyn).

It’s weird, but you’ll quickly see that plot isn’t really the dealbreaker here anyways. What this is marketed as really effectively is

1) brilliant literary writing and
2) a tour-de-force of unreliable narration.

So let’s talk about those.

1) The writing. I went into this the way I always do when I expect a book to be exquisitely written: ready to savor every syllable. And I wouldn’t say that was completely misplaced, because Jansma without a doubt put a lot of thought into the word-composing.
It’s just not a brilliant success in moments where I can literally feel him yield a sentence in form. There’s loads of bits where I forgot his presence and genuinely liked the writing, but when I didn’t, it really pissed me off.

Still I was ready to label it fairly well-written until I read the very last few pages, which just felt crude and badly crafted and really pulled down my impression of the entire thing. Also, I’m not sure how much of that is conscious but whenever there’s excerpts of what the characters in the novel have written (yes, I know, talking about it twists your perception) it’s just shit. Like hands down complete rubbish.

2) The unreliable narrator-ism. I WAS SO DISAPPOINTED BY THIS.
Everyone just kept talking about the narrator’s constant lies and blending fiction and fact and I was so ready to have my mind messed with by him. He just didn’t.
Yes, the way he creates fiction was fascinating to put into relation with what you’re told and what is implied, but I wanted moments of complete mind-blown-overwhelmed-being and just kept waiting.

So yes, this didn’t give me everything I wanted from it. Or really, anything I wanted from it. Still, I wouldn’t say it was terrible or I dragged through it. I just kept waiting for more, and maybe that made me miss the brilliant implications, but I just thought it was an okay-done super weird (in a fun-there’s jungles and palaces and ice and drugs and Russian fishing huts in it-way) but slightly overambitious novel composition with a shit ending. Not really bad, because great bits, but not great either, because really bad bits.

Reading Bingo 2017

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So, you might’ve noticed there’s no post of Reading Resolutions or big plans for the year beside my (very chill) TBR. That’s because, while I love challenging myself, all I want this year’s reading to be is enjoyable and pressure-free.
I’ve got a lot of stuff going on in school right now, and there’s just more than enough pressure happening without me contributing to it further. And while I massively enjoyed #bustlereads last year, especially in November it stressed me out a lot because not only did I want to finish all tasks, but I wanted to do it in time for bookmas and loads of reviews.
While that kind of pressure might work for some, it doesn’t for me and makes reading, my literal favourite thing to do, a task I have to force myself to.

That’s why I didn’t want to do any fancy reading challenges for 2017. Until I wrote my wrap-up post for bustlereads and realised how many great books I discovered by doing it. So I decided, to keep it stressfree, to make my own reading challenge just for myself. Enter Reading Bingo 2017.

I called it that because in my reading diary, I drew a bingo field to mark my finished challenges in, inspired by the Diversity Bingo currently making its rounds on the internet. Here, however, I’ll only give you the prompts I ended up using.
I’m basically trying to challenge myself a bit to not fall asleep in my comfort zone, but very much adjusted all the tasks to fit my interests and what I’d like to personally achieve. Some may seem ridiculous, but I really feel this will just serve as a reminder to not get too comfortable, without stressing myself too much, because reading is my comfort place after all and I really need it right now.

Reading Bingo 2017 challenges:

x  Read a Shakespeare Play: The Tempest – William Shakespeare

o  Read a Collection of Poetry.

x  Read a Hyped Book You Wouldn’t Normally Read: The Power – Naomi Alderman

x  Read a Book in French: Le Petit Prince – Antoine de Saint-Éxupery

x  Reread a Book: Franny & Zooey – J.D. Salinger

x  Read a Collection of Short Stories: You Can’t Keep a Good Woman Down – Alice Walker

x  Read a Book by John Steinbeck: East of Eden – John Steinbeck

o  Read a Book Set In An African Country. (obviously #ownvoices)

o  Read a Book Set In An Asian Country. (again, definitely #ownvoices)

o  Read a Book You’ve Never Heard Of.

x  Read a Collection of Essays: Bad Feminist – Roxane Gay

o  Reread a Book You’ve Read in 2017.

x  Read a Book Over 500 pages: Middlemarch – George Eliot

x  Read a Book That Intimidates You: Dubliners – James Joyce

x  Read a Play NOT by Shakespeare: Nathan the Wise – Gotthold Ephraim Lessing

o  Read a Man Booker Winner.

o  Read a Non-Fiction by Someone You Don’t Agree With.

I’ll try to, once again, do reviews on as many as possible and document my progress on the blog. I hope you’re as excited as I am about this, because I honestly think it’s exactly right for me right now…

Merken

Merken

GONE: The Last Days of The New Yorker – Renata Adler

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Well, look. If it isn’t me getting my shit together and actually doing reviews throughout the year, not just panicking for the last twenty days. Fun, isn’t it?

We’ve gathered here today to talk about Gone: The Last Days of The New Yorker by Renata Adler. I’ll quickly give you my reasons for picking this up, to help you understand my opinions:
I really like The New Yorker. I’ve actually never bought a copy, because I’m a broke student and it’s really overly expensive in Germany, but I enjoy the articles I can read online and what is uploaded to Instagram, and I definitely feel the special position it still holds for a lot of people in the realm of magazine publications.
In addition, I’m also generally extremely interested in journalism and media and love reading about the industry.

So, when I randomly came across this book in my library, having never heard of it, I just picked it up on a whim, ready to be surprised.

What I wanted from this was a piece of the magazine’s history told by someone who was there and knows how to write a good piece of non-fiction, because that has obviously been Renata Adler’s job for years. Maybe some analysis on why, as she obviously states, the magazine is slowly dying.
I got a bit of both. But prevalently, this was a mix of Adler writing her autobiography and getting even with literally everyone that’s ever worked for The New Yorker.

While she does start with some general reflections on how the magazine got to the special position it once held in the publishing world, and how it lost that again, she quickly gets into pages over pages of (about equally in-depth) analysis of books some of her colleagues have written on the magazine, showing up all the aspects in which they are obviously blatantly wrong and bad writing in addition.

This opening then leads into an endless array of personal anecdotes, all resulting to a few simple truths:
Renata Adler is the epitome of the adamant, competent journalist. She could have left The New Yorker numerous times for easier positions at other publications. But, mostly, she didn’t. Because Renata is loyal, she’s steadfast, she’s got ideals.
That’s why everyone that doesn’t get completely roasted in this book gave a lot on her opinion. Of course, she was always ready to produce some brilliant advice.
She was friends with some really famous writers. They really valued her opinion, too.
Everyone in journalism is really fake. You’ll never know if they actually like you. Renata Adler, of course, sees right through it.
Editors are absolute assholes. They just love to annoy writers.
The New Yorker was better in the past. As was, of course, everything.

So yes, I really don’t think you need to read this book. It has some interesting things I didn’t know about publishing and The New Yorker in particular, and other than a lot of other reviewers, I actually enjoy Adler’s writing style.
Hadn’t I grown to not particularly like her, I might’ve been inclined to pick up some of her less personal texts, because I definitely think she’s a good writer. Still, having made my way through Gone, I really don’t want to spend any more time in her head right now…

books i want to read in 2017.

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Today, quite a chunk into this year already, I present to you the books I really want to get to this year, just because they excite me a lot. Still, I don’t think anyone’s surprised to hear I haven’t picked up one of them so far… let’s hope I make this the year of actually reading books I think could be new favourites. Because everything else is just plain ridiculous, right?

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The Establishment by Owen Jones. This is a non-fiction book by Owen Jones, british Journalist occasionally to be found in the Guardian, and apparently he writes about what he defines as the British political establishment and how they’ve affected recent events in the UK. (Not that recent though. It was written and published in that wonderful ancient  world where we didn’t have Brexit…). I have an embarissingly bad understanding of British politics, but this sounds like a wonderful book and I love Owen Jones’ reporting on YouTube, so that’s good.

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The Tidal Zone by Sarah Moss. So yeah, I haven’t read this yet. I don’t know what I’ve been doing this year, but I’m so picking this up like this month because I’m so looking forward to reading this. In case you’ve been living under a rock for the past twelve months, this is a novel about a teenage girl just collapsing in school and whatever family dynamics follow, it’s supposed to deal with grief and the writing is apparently spectacular. I can’t wait.

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Dead Souls by Nikolai Gogol. I’ve read half of Dead Souls over a year ago now and absolutely loved it, but for some reason put it down and just forgot to read on. I’ve been looking forward to restarting it ever since I noticed it, and it’s definitely happening this year. It’s a wonderfully funny, weirdly twisted book and the intentions of the main character (who is buying up dead souls, peasants who’ve died, to be recorded as working for him) are a mystery that definitely keeps you hooked, which makes it even weirder I ever put it down.

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Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates. I know relatively little about this and want to keep it that way, but I do know that it’s about a married couple and feeling stuck in a life situation, and apparently it’s written quite brilliantly and absolutely affecting, so that should be good. Also, gorgeous cover, right?

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the accidental by Ali Smith. I’ve read one Ali Smith-novel this year and really enjoyed her writing style, so when I found this in a second-hand store in Dublin for real cheap I just thought I’d get it. It’s the book of hers I’ve heard mentioned most, and the premise sounds fascinating: stranger coming into a family holiday home and just starting to live there, being questioned by none of the inhabitants because they all assume she knows someone…

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Hacker, Hoaxer, Whistleblower, Spy by Gabriella Coleman. Yet another non-fiction, and this one’s on Anonymous which absolutely fascinates me. Also, this is relevant for that ever present massive paper I’m writing for my leaving level exams… so yep, definitely gonna get to that.

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Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut. I just cannot wait to try some Kurt Vonnegut, I feel like I’m going to really enjoy his writing. This is the one I randomly picked up to try, because I wanted to be a special little snowflake and not start with Slaughter-house Five.

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Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys.This has all the makings for a new favourite of mine, it’s loosely based on Jane Eyre, set in the Caribbean, and supposed to be written very beautifully and special. Quite excited.

So there you go, some books that’ll hopefully make some appearances on this blog over the next few months, because my not picking up books I’m super.excited about is getting ridiculous. Wish me luck.

best books of 2016.

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Finally, the post we’ve all been waiting for. The absolute climax of great literature, without further ado: my favourite books I’ve read in 2016. I have them roughly sorted by how much I love them, leading up to my favourite book of the year…

While this is the absolute best of the best, I wouldn’t want to not at least mention the books that almost made this list, and probably would have had I had a less amazing reading year: honorary mentions include Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë, Animal Farm by George Orwell, The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens, Room by the wonderful Emma Donoghue and The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters.

And now, into the one’s that made it. Drumroll and excited atmosphere please.

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Arcadia by Iain Pears. Just a huge, epic time travel parallel universe spy love adventure story of worldbuilding and slowly interweaving, this is. Intrigued yet?
Not at all, what I’d normally read but absolutely wonderful and a total escape from reality. I read this during a summer holiday trip and had so much time to just get lost and appreciate the slow building and the gorgeous story.

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The Group by Mary McCarthy. This is set in 1930s New York and follows a handful of recent university graduates struggle with settling down and finding their space in life. It’s a bit the Bell Jar really, not quite as well written but quite as feminist.
I loved the frankness and I loved the ambition to portray more than one experience, and while not all narrators were equally strong, I still enjoyed it a lot.

 

Atonement by Ian McEwan. This one was quite early in the year, but I can still evoke the feeling of not being able to put this down and having my mind blown by the way it wrapped up. There’s a lot of gruesome war stuff going down in this novel, and yet WWII is at best a backdrop, it feels like a side narrative the characters can’t help but go down, quite fitting really, having the war just cut into their lives and the previously built up drama. And there is a lot of non-war drama in this. And gorgeous language. And that freakin’ ENDING.

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Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi. I realise I spend way too much time talking about this book, but it’s just so me. It’s a memoir set in Iran and talking about a feminist book club, linking politics and literature. It’s absolutely gorgeous in every conceivable way, except it’s merciless spoiling of classic books perhaps, and I can’t wait to read more about Iran. Also, I reviewed it here.

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The Catcher in the Rye by J.D.Salinger. I do just love me some Salinger. While I’m pretty sure I prefer the Glass-family books of his, Catcher in the Rye is a classic for a reason and I just love his writing. This novel has such a distinct voice and Holden is a wonderfully unreliable narrator, it just makes me happy and fuzzy with Salinger-nostalgia already. And it hasn’t even been a year.

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The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon. Very big book. Very very great book. This is a gigantic, ambitious, engrossing novel set in New York during World War II and following two cousins creating a comic superhero. It’s brilliant and beautifully written, it’s about creating to cope and coping to create and I loved it so much.

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The virgin suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides. This must be one of the most deliciously written books I remember reading this year, and while the themes and the story didn’t blow me away AS much as other books on this list, boy did the language make up for that. Every single sentence was a pleasure and it’s one of those books mockingly floating around your brain when you try to put words into sentences, but also sparking a wonderful ambition of wanting to handle language the way Eugenides can.

So, let’s get into my favourite four and also the books I couldn’t possibly rank anymore. They’re all works of brilliance alike.

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To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee. Without a spark of doubt up there in my favourite books of all time. I just reread it and genuinely think it’ll just keep getting better and better. I could really feel how every chapter, every sentence, every word was important and in the right place, and the voice and the setting just make me so happy (in a not-romanticising-a-shit-time-full-of-racists-way!), as do the characters, as does the pacing and the writing. So. damn. good.

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Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. Again, can’t wait to reread this (very likely this year), it made me read all of the old classics and yet it stands undefeated in its brilliance. I can’t describe how much I enjoyed this, again, literally everything felt right. The story was so well-constructed, the writing was beautiful and the gothic elements made it all the better. Such a wonderful classic.

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Franny and Zooey by J.D.Salinger. Definitely my favourite Salinger so far. His writing, especially when stripped of Holden Caulfield’s incessant swearing, just makes me so happy right now. I love the Glass-family setting, the themes in this (especially in Franny. God, that’s one brilliant story.), and yes, I freakin’ love Salinger.

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The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath. Now, I said I can’t rank, and yet looking back on my 2016-self, this was (and is) probably my absolute number one book I’ve loved this year. I just can’t get over anything this novel did, it’s so heartbreaking with great stuff on gender and mental health and writing, it once again has that mid-20th-century-East-Coast-setting that I can’t seem to get over (refer to Franny & Zooey, Kavalier & Clay, Catcher in the Rye and The Group for confirmation of secret obsession), writing that felt tailored to my taste and just some brilliant novel-doing.

So there you go. Quite classics-heavy, I’m aware, but that just reflects my reading choices this year, really, and maybe the fact that books and authors are in the literary canon for a reason… To an even better reading year 2017, and if everything falls apart, to rereading this list a million times.

#bustlereads wrap-up

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So yes, bookmas is quite over and has spectacularly failed towards the end. I can only very lamely blame my falling ill unexpectedly (obviously, how else?) and being too consumed by coughing and sleeping to blog. Catching up now, guys, catching up.

So here we are. Probably the biggest thing I tackled last year in the reading department – #bustlereads, a reading challenge promoting diversity and female writers and that just resonated with me when I came across it early last year (this is the original post introducing the challenge).

Now, almost twelve months later, I’ve completed it proudly and am ready to bring you a gigantic masterpost of all the books I counted towards it. When planning bookmas last december, I decided to write a review on as many of them as I could, on the one hand to get myself to write some more posts on single books and on the other hand to prevent this post to grow into an uncontrollable monster of experiences, surprises and ever repeating recollections. That’s why I kept the reviewing extremely brief here and went all out on the self-promoting links to my reviews. Enjoy.

Read A Book Written By A Woman Under 25

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Sense and Sensibility apparently Jane Austen’s first novel and published when she was extremely young. You can kind of tell, but it’s lovely and cosy and Austen and I’m so excited to read more of hers. Full review here.

Read A Book About Non-Western History

I really wanted to complete this task extra-super proper because I was looking so forward to it. I really wanted to read something on the Chinese Cultural Revolution… but then, the year just flew by and I ended up slightly cheating this category. We’re counting The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende here, because although it is a novel, it heavily draws from actual Chilean history… full review here.

Read A Book Of Essays

I was looking forward to this category so much, and I was even more excited to get James Baldwin’s Notes Of A Native Son from the library. It’s a collection of essays on being a black man in the United States, and I wanted to be blown away by it so badly. I just didn’t know what even happened, and have decided to not write a full review because it was just a weird reading experience of feeling overwhelmed, but just not impressed. I suspect it’s a great book, but we didn’t click at all and I can’t help feeling that’s my fault.

Read A Book About An Indigenous Culture

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Well, this isn’t really about an indigenous culture, but I think I should get some extra credit for super inclusive comprehensiveness, right? The No-Nonsense Guide to Indigenous Peoples by Lotte Hughes is a very short, but very good introduction to indigenous cultures, historic as well as contemporary, and a perfect pick for the uneducated white girl I am. Full review here.

Read A Book Before You See The Movie

I always do this. Literally always. I’d never watch a film if I was planning on reading the book in the future, that’s just not how my input works. However, for this particular task in this particular challenge I chose Perfume: The Story of a Murderer by Patrick Süskind.
I read and analysed this in school for German class, and to conclude the unit on the book, our teacher watched the 2006 film with us. I’d recommend both, but the book is definitely very superior. I love it way too much considering I got graded on analysing it…

Read A YA Book By An Author Of Colour

This is one of the reasons I’m glad I did this challenge. I would never have discovered How It Went Down by Kekla Magoon without it, having only found it after some extensive internet research, and I absolutely adored it. It’s a book about a black teenager getting shot by a white man and everyone trying to figure out what really happened, to piece together the whole story. It’s gorgeous and contemporary, but very readable, and I did a full review of it here.

Read A Book Set In The Middle East

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A book you’re probably sick of hearing about by now, but I just love it way too much. Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi is a memoir by a English literature scholar living in Iran before, during and after the Islamic Revolution who founded a book club with some of her female students to read and discuss Western works of literature. It’s absolutely brilliant, and fully dissected here.

Read A Book About Women In War

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I found it so hard to find a book for this category, so I ended up just asking my mother and she recommended this as an okay, fun read – a novel set post WWII, but handling events during the German occupation of the Channel Islands and features a lot of female characters, so I decided it’d work. Ended up liking it, but feeling no need to keep or recommend it… full review here.

Read A Graphic Novel Written By A Woman

For this I picked up The Three Incestuous Sisters by Audrey Niffenegger. This is literally the only graphic novel I’ve read this year, although I generally really enjoy them… this one though, I just didn’t love it. While I could appreciate the art, it wasn’t really my style and the story didn’t give me anything, either, so all in all, just a really disappointing read.

Read A Book About An Immigrant Or Refugee To The U.S.

I loved this challenge, and I absolutely loved the book I chose to pick up: The Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka. If I can make you pick up only one book from this list, it would probably have to be this one. It’s about Japanese picture brides coming to the US in the early 20th century, and manages to show the progress of their lifes in a very beautiful, unusual voice – it’s just gorgeous and poetic and I loved it.

Read A Children’s Book Aloud

I did this loads during my internship in a local kindergarten, and got really nostalgic for my own childhood. It’s just so lovely to read out to people who can’t yet read themselves – with the risk of being cheesy, it’s like recruiting future readers.

Reread Your Favourite Book From Your Childhood

This was so hard to choose, I’ve got an abundance of wonderful childhood favourites on my shelves. In the end, however, I went with The Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken. This is without a doubt the warmest, cosiest book ever, despite some terrible stuff happening. I honestly don’t think there’ll ever be a time in my life when this won’t make me happy…

Read A Memoir By Someone Who Identifies as LGBTQIA

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Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal by Jeanette Winterson isn’t really your typical memoir. It honestly felt unlike anything else I’ve ever read. While it of course talks about her discovering her sexuality and her (very Christian) mother throwing her out of the house as a consequence, it’s also about class in 70s Northern England, it’s about home and identity and how the two are linked and books, always books, as an inevitable part of her life story. I massively enjoyed it, and reviewed it in full here.

Read A Work Of Post-Apocalyptic Fiction Written By A Woman

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Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel is one of the books I never ever would have read without this challenge because postapocalyptic fiction isn’t my genre at all. And yet, I’m so glad I’ve read it. It’s about a flu pandemic and the world it leaves behind, jumps time a lot and tals about civilisation, art and living in an extremely interesting way. Definitely made me think, and write a review here.

Read A Feminist Sci-Fi Novel

For this, I went with Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood. Again, Science Fiction isn’t what I normally read at all, and with this more than Station Eleven, I was kind of reminded why I don’t, but I could appreciate its brilliance nonetheless. I’m sure most readers would like this much more than I do, and I already enjoyed it massively – it was just too much in its genre for me to absolutely adore. Still, the post-pandemic world, the narrative jumping and the feminist tones have me not hesitating to recommend this to loads of people. Reviewed here.

Read The First Book In A Series You’ve Never Read

Basically, I just avoid series. I don’t really like them, they don’t give me anything I can’t find in standalones, and often they take away from my enjoyment because they split up the story or stretch it out too much. That’s why I went for a very loose series, and read Carry On, Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse. This collection of short anecdotes about shallow, but hilarious young Bertie Wooster and his valet Jeeves charmed me, but didn’t give me as much as I’d hoped. Long monologue explaining my mixed feelings here.

Read A Book Set In Africa, By An Author From Africa

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This I should do much more. It’s ridiculous how little writers from African countries I’ve read, and I’m going to make myself pick up more (hopefully), because it’s such an interesting experience to explore a culture I tend to be shamefully ignorant about. We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo was a great start for that project, because it really rubs your privilege and ignorance in your face in a way that doesn’t make you hate the writer… I agree that it was overstuffed with themes at times, but it did great at the immigration narrative and exploring identity and home in a very fascinating way. Reviewed here.

Read A Translated Book

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For this, I went with Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter, a childhood and adolescence memoir by the brilliant Simone de Beauvoir. This, I loved because it combined feminism, existentialism and growing up in a very fascinating way, and while it didn’t speak to me personally as much as I’d hoped, I still really enjoyed it. Full review here.

Read A Contemporary Collection Of Poetry

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Search Party by George The Poet was a gorgeous christmas present 2015, and after reading it with massive enjoyment last year, I was (and am) so excited to read more poetry. Hasn’t happened, hopefully will, until then, this is a marvellous book of spoken word poetry about social justice issues, race and growing up which I gushingly reviewed here.

Read A Book By A Modernist Woman Writer

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Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf. This one, I was just planning to pick up some time in my life. And then, I just spontaneously did it and enjoyed it very much…
I find it really hard to talk about this book because I just don’t feel as if I completely got it, so it definitely made its way onto my reread-list already. What this did give me however, the stream of consciousness-writing style and the motives and the 1920s London setting, I absolutely adored. Full review here.

Merken

Merken

Merken

Merken

The Year-End Book Superlative Tag 2016

So, I’m obviously failing bookmas, but there is a massive, lifedraining cold to blame that has made me unable to do anything but drink tea, sleep and read for the past few days. Now, however, I’ve temporarily pulled myself up and opened my laptop for a quick tag: The Year-End Book Superlative Tag or my reading list as a yearbook, created by the wonderful Olive. Enjoy.

Most likely to be in the movies: The book that would make the best film.

I’ve got to be extremely egoistic here and say The Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken, a super sweet childhood favourite. It’s probably not the one best suited for cinematic reappraisal, but I just want a cosy comfort film of this so badly and I think this could become one of the classic christmas time films they air each year because there’s nothing like a lovely snowy british story to curl up with a cup of tea in front of.

Alternate answer: Much Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare. Can someone make an over-the-top pompously modernised film version of this with an excessively equipped mask ball finale for me please?

Biggest drama queen/king: The most (overly) dramatic book or character.

I’m sorry to bring him up again, but A Comedy of Errors by William Shakepeare. Oh my f**k this play is so past everything sane. It would literally take like ten seconds to just clear up the whole thing but NO, everyone just keeps running around getting more and more caught up in the most unnecessary, ridiculous plot ever. I love it.

Best dressed: The book with the best cover.

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Is this the essence of gorgeous book design or what? It’s my Vintage Classics edition of Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë. Not only is it literally the most aesthetic thing (the picture, apparently, is a painting called Pteris Viscosa by Philip Taaffe), but it’s also SO FLOPPY and the most satisfying material. Genuinely the best piece of book curation I know.

Most creative: The book with the most unique plot, characters or structure.

That would be The Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka. This one is about Japanese picture brides coming to the US in early 20th century, and it’s written in a collective we-voice of all of them relating their collective experience but still recounting single experiences. It’s extremely weird and wonderful, very poetic and well worth a read.

Most popular: The book with the most ratings on Goodreads.

Without a doubt To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee. Obvious really, considering probably every single American student had to read it at least once for school and additionally taking into account it’s endless brilliance.

Most likely to succeed: The book that is going to be appreciated for many years to come.

I honestly think MAUS part one and two have already reached a status of modern classicness. They’re graphic novels about a Jewish family during World War II, but also the artist Art Spiegelman talking to his father about their family history and the relationship they share. It’s hands down a brilliant book on WWII and I’d hope that it will be cherished for generations…

Class clown: The book that made you laugh.

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Definitely Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens. It took me comparably long to read this, but I loved every second, I enjoyed his humour massively and indoubtedly laughed out loud more than once with this. It’s wonderful….

Most improved: The book that started off slow, but really picked up.

I honestly feel like the first few pages of The Great Gatsby by F.Scott Fitzgerald make a lot of people put it down again, it certainly had me give up once as a fourteen-year-old, but once you’ve gotten started, it’s definitely deservedly one of the Great American novels. Just getting over the start, I felt, was surprisingly hard.

Cutest couple: The cutest couple in a book.

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I’m terrible with names, but let’s just say I don’t want to spoil anyone… I was properly charmed with the relationship Rosie found in Anterworld at the end of Arcadia by Iain Pears, but generally, I’m not one to get excited by fictional romances. Sorry.

Biggest heart breaker: The book that broke your heart.

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The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath is brilliant and beautiful, but it’s also very tear-inducing and around the middle of it I was quite ruffled by it.
Still, it was sad in the most beautiful way imaginable.

So that’s that, let’s see if and how I’ll check back in with you this year or if we’re starting anew with 2017…

We Need New Names – NoViolet Bulawayo

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Here we are then for the last #bustlereads review, and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t getting sentimental…
We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo was that book I squeezed in mid-december because I needed to finish the challenge. That’s why I read it in German – that’s what they had at the library at the time.

We Need New Names starts by following the life of ten-year-old Darling and her group of friends in Zimbabwe where they steal guavas to still their hunger and try to hold back memories of their life before they lost everything and moved to a village of makeshift huts. There’s obsessive priests, there’s boredom and hunger and illness and sexual abuse, but there’s also political change and hope and community.

After half the book a big chance offers itself to Darling: leaving her prospectless life and move to the US with her aunt. That’s what happens, and that’s where the book now moves: a story of immigration, of home and foreign culture, of disillusionment and disappointment.

That’s basically the two things this novel’s trying to do. You could probably ask if one needs both in one book, but I thought that rather worked. She obviously tried to squeeze a lot into one book, and I see how that would annoy you. I didn’t mind though.
What didn’t work for me was one chapter in this book near the end, dropping the direct, childlike voice of the rest of the book for a few pages of almost poetic thoughts on immigration and the experience of people out of African countries immigrating to the US and the racism and hopelessness they encounter, which wasn’t bad but just felt too separate from the novel’s voice to fit in naturally.

Still, all in all I enjoyed this book and thought it told me things I should already know. I enjoyed the immigration narrative, and really think it can’t be overexplored in our current political situation.
What I also liked, and please hear me out because this sounds extremely weird, was whenever there was white people in this novel. I think Bulawayo did a great job at depicting all shades of white ignorance and the way people volunteers from western countries who come to African countries to do good have an extremely distorted, privileged experience of living there and how poverty and the continent as a whole get romanticized and patronised in the Western eye.
That gets even worse in the United States-based half of the book, the questions and presumptions Darling faces seem completely ridiculous but taking a step back you can see how ordinary and everyday they are.

That’s what I enjoyed most about this book and why I want people to read it. It does a great job at uncomfortably treading on Western privilege, and that’s something I’m sure we all need to be reminded of. A lot.