Saturday, 29 November 2014

We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

I nearly didn't write about this book because I'm just so overwhelmed by all of the awesome and I didn't know where to start, but then I thought I should even if all I say is 'this book is incredible read it immediately'. I use the word book loosely as it's actually the published version of a TED speech which Adichie gave in December 2012, and I read it as part of last weeks minithon, because at 48 pages it's pretty much the miniest form of literature I possess.

Honestly - this book is incredible, please please please whether you call yourself a feminist or whether you don't or (especially, probably) if you hate people who call themselves feminists or if you're one of those people who thinks feminism is unnecessary please read this. I turned over the corner of nearly every page for quotes I wanted to use when I came to write about it. I can't formulate words to explain how encouraged reading this made me. That there are people who can be so eloquent about something which I struggle (clearly) so hard to vocalise without getting angry, and there are people who can put such a positive and hopeful spin on the shit that women go through. I really loved it, I think it may be my favourite thing I've read all year.

In response to being told she should never call herself a feminist because feminists are women who are unhappy because they can't find husbands, she decides to call herself a 'Happy Feminist', which I like, but then this; "At some point I was a Happy African Feminist Who Does Not Hate Men And Who Likes To Wear Lip Gloss And High Heels For Herself And Not For Men". It's actually ridiculous how many negative connotations people have of the word feminist and how much you (even me, and I'm a white middle class English girl - to some extent people expect us to be feminists) have to justify being one. You know 'I'm a feminist, but not that kind of feminist' - the kind that is angry/doesn't like men/is overly vocal about their beliefs/won't let their colleagues make continual sexist jokes without calling them on it (ok, I am the last kind). Why is it not OK to be a person who thinks that women and men should be equal? And why do people also not understand that wanting women and men to be equal doesn't mean I want to be a man. I don't want us to be the same, I just want men to stop being knobs because they have knobs, basically.

"Gender as it functions today is a grave injustice. I am angry. We should all be angry. Anger has a long history of bringing about positive change." Yes. This.

Oh why why why do we have so many double standards when it comes to raising girls and raising boys? This essay made me think so much about the significance of the role I have bringing up boys. Why do we (as society not personally) teach girls that their entire appearance must be about what makes boys happy but we don't teach boys the same? Why do girls have to constantly think about pleasing boys but nobody bothers to tell the boys that it's equally important for them to impress/respect/whatever girls as well? When the answer to a question is 'because we do' or 'because it just is', then the answer isn't good enough. We need a new one, or we need to change the question.

"Gender matters everywhere in the world. And I would like today to ask that we should begin to dream about and plan for a different world. A fairer world. A world of happier men and happier women who are truer to themselves. And this is how to start: we must raise our daughters differently. We must also raise our sons differently." (p25)

"We make them feel as though by being born female, they are already guilty of something"
This is so painfully true, and so so wrong. I've been thinking so much recently about things which I've always just accepted as being a 'standard' part of being a girl (e.g being groped by random strangers at pubs/clubs) and wondering why the hell we just accept this as a thing which happens. Why the hell is half the population keeping quiet about this shit? Why are we letting assholes tell us they should be able to do and say what they want to us, and around us without our permission just because they always have been able to? Why is this still ok? I sound angry and exactly like the kind of feminist it's socially unacceptable to be now, but I honestly don't care. I am angry about the way our society teaches women to be. It is not right.

I'm going to stop writing now because I could go on and on about this book forever. I'm going to be buying it for everyone I give gifts to for the next while at least, and in case you haven't got it already from reading this, I really really think you should read this.

Final quote
"The problem with gender is that it prescribes how we should be rather than recognizing how we are. Imagine how much happier we would be, how much freer to be our true individual selves, if we didn't have the weight of gender expectations" (p34)

Thursday, 27 November 2014

The Pickwick Papers Week 2: Chapter 12 - 23

I'm just going to come out and say that I've not actually read all of this weeks chapters. In fact I've only read four, which sucks. In my defence I've had a ridiculously busy week - I'm trying to finish off a cardigan, make a load of Christmas presents, sort out house stuff and have driving lessons plus I have my driving theory test next Thursday so I'm stressed with studying for that. Excuses over, I suck, but I'll do my best to catch up for next week!

I've found this weeks chapters a lot harder to get into than last week - chapter twelve took me about three days to read, but once I was past that I started to get back into it. It literally is that there's just so much going on at the moment that I've had no time to stretch out and really get into reading, and reading Dickens takes me a bit of concentration! That said, Jen called it correctly when she said she thought Mr Jingle (Mr Twinkle, Hanna) would be back and I'm intrigued to find out what happens to people who incur the wrath of Mr. Pickwick! I still like the characters and I'm still enjoying the descriptions of countryside (I like countryside, ok guys? I voluntarily moved away from London to live in it, it can hardly come as a surprise) so I'm hoping this section is going to pick up momentum!

Glad to see some of you are enthusiastically enjoying yourselves, it makes me feel a little bit less bad about the ones who enthusiastically aren't! *cough*CharlotteandHanna*cough* :-D

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Nonfiction November Week 4: New to my TBR

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Guys, Nonfiction November has been pretty much the best blog related thing I've done all year. I've loved it and I'm so so sad to see it coming to a close! I've read some brilliant books this month, the most brilliant of which was We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie which I have yet to review but really, read it. I only heard about it through the event and received it as part of the Nonfiction Book Swap I organised this month but it's just so good I don't have words, and so much useful stuff to say on the topic of raising feminists, whether they be male or female.

Other things I read this month are Books, Baguettes & Bedbugs: The Left Bank World of Shakespeare & Co by Jeremy Mercer, Bossypants by Tina Fey, and Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed. I'm also in the middle of Assassination Vacation by Sarah Vowell (my first Sarah Vowell despite having her recommended to me for about three years!) and Enough: Breaking Free from the World of More by John Naish. I'm unlikely to finish either of these before the end of the month, especially with my readalong of The Pickwick Papers now in full swing, but we'll see!

This week, Katie of Doing Dewey asks:
 New to My TBR: It’s been a month full of amazing nonfiction books! Which ones have made it onto your TBR? Be sure to link back to the original blogger who posted about that book!

I honestly can't answer the question for this week, as I now have a nonfiction wishlist which has nearly 60 titles on it, almost all of which are recommendations from this month! What I'm going to do is just list the ten titles I'm really desperate to read as soon as possible. Due to my generally disorganized state I can't actually remember whose recommendation caused which book to be added for most of them so if it was you, I apologise!

Bad Feminist by Roxanne Gay - this has been recommended by so many people now and I really want to read it! It also has the added advantage of contributing towards increasing diversity in my reading.

The World's Strongest Librarian: A Book Lover's Adventure by Josh Hanagame was recommended to me on twitter by Gotham Books and is a memoir about Tourette's, among other things. Sounds interesting!

The Empathy Exams by Leslie Jamison has been recommended by so many people I've lost count! I received this collection of essays on empathy as part of the nonfiction book swap and I'm really excited to start it!

Empty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune by Bill Dedman and Paul Clark Jr has been mentioned by a lot of people this month and sounds like a great book about an interesting subject!

Plug In Drug: Television, Computers & Family Life by Marie Winn was recommended by Ellie (hooray I remembered one!) and is about the effect of television, computers etc on us and especially, as it says in the title, on family life.

Why Have Kids? by Jessica Valenti was on my radar before this month but was recommended in a fantastic post by Shannon. I loved Full Frontal Feminism by the same author and am excited to read the arguments for and against having kids from the perspective of a new mother.

The Hotel on Place Vendome: Life, Death & Betrayal at the Hotel Ritz in Paris by Tilar J. Mazzeo was recommended by Kerry and sound absolutely fascinating! It's about the Ritz during the Second World War and I'm amazed I haven't heard of it before this month as it sounds like just my kind of book.

The Winter of Our Disconnect by Susan Maushart was sent to me as part of the book swap and is about a mother and her three kids who pretty much stop using technology for six months. We've been on a few days screen free (Benji was losing the ability to distinguish between Mario Kart - with somebody else playing and him just watching - and reality and kept throwing things at people.Not behaviour we want to encourage!) and the difference has been noticeable so I'm excited to read this.

The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson was (I think) recommended by Jennifer on twitter and to a Brit who knows next to nothing about American history, it sounds fascinating.

How Star Wars Conquered the Universe: The Past, Present and Future of a Multibillion Dollar Franchise by Chris Taylor has been mentioned by both Kerry and Kim this month and it's Star Wars, how could I not want to read it?

If you'd like to see the full extent of my madness, my Nonfiction Wishlist can be found here

Monday, 24 November 2014

Things Which Have Happened and Things Which Are Happening...

A lot has been happening around here lately. I've blogged twice as much this month as I did last month and more than I have any other month this year, I think. This is primarily down to two things - the genius that is Nonfiction November and the debatable genius of a man named Dickens. The weekly topics plus reviews of the nonfiction I've been reading have kept the blog pretty busy even without the readalong of The Pickwick Papers I'm hosting (we're only in week two, there's still time to join in!) but then to top off the bookish awesomeness there was my first ever minithon yesterday which was absolutely as fantastic as it sounds!

So on the blog November so far has been busy. In real life it's been equally busy! The boys and I have been doing all sorts of Autumn related things such as going on leaf hunts, making crowns and wreaths out of the leaves we have hunted for, painting dark blue paper with glitter paint in readiness for Christmas card making, doing many crafts and activities with pom poms, and having a lot of fun with playdough, water play and various kinds of homemade goop. It's been good.

Ben as the Leaf King

We're still gearing up for moving house - all the paperwork is in the pipeline so we're just waiting now to see what happens. We've sort of been packing boxes here and there just so we're ready when it all does everntually start moving again, keep your fingers crossed for us!

In other news, if you're into Tolkien (who isn't??) there is a signing for Tolkien by Raymond Edwards in London on December 6th. If you're in or able to be in the Victoria area you should definitely try to get to it! I'm unable to make it myself but am buying a copy of the book and very excited to read it as I've read the blurb and first page and it seems like it's going to be great.

It's a free event, but if you'd like to buy a book you need to call ahead and reserve a copy, as it's not a giant bookshop! The books will be sold at the discounted price of £22.50 instead of the usual £25 so I'd go for it if I were you! Details below:

Saturday December 6th, 1-3pm
CTS Bookshop, Westminster Cathedral Plaza, Victoria (less than five minutes walk from Victoria Station)
020 7834 1363

We've all been a bit snuffly round the edges the past few days and today was just a horrendous day of whining and shouting and Benji walking into/falling off things a really ridiculous amount. I'm hoping that the rest of the week will be better! Look out for the last Nonfiction November post coming in the next few days, and of course more Dickens on Thursday! Loving being back into blogging again!

Saturday, 22 November 2014

My First Minithon!

I am so ridiculously excited that I've finally managed to notice that this was happening before it happened, as opposed to usually, when I notice it's happening two hours before it ends and am jealous of everybody's mini snacks!

In case you don't know about minithon, Tika is hosting it so check out her post for details, but it generally involves reading mini things, eating mini snacks and having mini chats (mostly on twitter). It always seems like awesome fun and I'm really excited to be joining in this time! As it runs from 4pm UK time till midnight, I should be able to join in with a large chunk of it, although sporadically until about 7.30pm due to small male children of my acquaintance...

I am buying my mini snacks this morning (whenever I try to write snack I write 'snake'. Should I be worried?) so I don't have pictures as yet but I'm planning on mini cheddars, mini muffins, grapes (which are just mini by definition) and possibly some kind of mini biscuits (maybe chocolate digestives, we shall see). Oh, plus the awesome looking pizza flavoured Pringles stix which Nahree sent me, thankyooooou! :-)

I have a little pile of books and while I'm obviously not going to get through all of them it would be kind of cool to read a bit from all of them! Also I'd like to say, hooray for the Nonfiction November book swap, which delivered the only legitimately mini book on this stack to me yesterday and I'm planning to kick off with it!

We Should All Be Feminists and We Have Always Lived in the Castle are both mini because of their lack of pages. Primo Levi's The Periodic Table is mini by virtue of being short stories, and The Pickwick Papers is, clearly, not at all mini but I have to keep reading occasional chapters or there's no way I'll get through twelve chapters this week, so it's mini by virtue of me only reading a little bit of it!

Apologies for the truly shocking photography - my phones camera hates me. My laptop is also working ridiculously slowly this week and yesterday our broadband refused to let us play iPlayer through the Wii like we usually do thus rendering us solely reliant on DVDs. It's not been a good week, technology wise, bring on 4pm! I'm saving Finding Nemo till then in the hopes it'll distract Benji so I can read a bit without him noticing. Great mothering, right?


OK so my TV as babysitter related plans worked pretty well and I managed to get about halfway through We Should All be Feminists before I had to go and make dinner and put kids to bed. As you will all know through my excessive whining on twitter, Ben was pretty congested last night and kept waking up, which put a bit of a dent in things and sent me running to bed an hour before the end of the readathon, but despite all that I maanged to read all 48 pages of We Should All be Feminists, 42 of We Have Always Lived in the Castle (which is awesome so far and really mysterious and creepy. Love it) and a couple of pages of The Pickwick Papers. Overall I'm pretty impressed! I'm also very excited about the amount of people I've influenced to read We Should All Be Feminists and have been finishing off my mini snacks all day today. Minithon wins. I will definitely be back for the next one!

Friday, 21 November 2014

Nonfiction November Week 3: Diversity in Nonfiction

This week's topic for Nonfiction November (already the third week, I can't believe it) is diversity and is hosted by Becca of I'm Lost in Books. She asks

Diversity and Nonfiction: What does “diversity” in books mean to you? Does it refer to book’s location or subject matter? Or is it the author’s nationality or background? What countries/cultures do you tend to enjoy or read about most in your nonfiction? What countries/cultures would you like nonfiction recommendations for? What kind of books besides different cultures do you think of as books of diversity?

I've been thinking a lot about diversity recently, ever since I discovered various videos (including Book Riot's) on the subject and generally thinking that while I buy quite a bit of diverse fiction I don't ever actually read it, and my reading of diverse nonfiction is pretty much limited to... Iranian authors?

An important part of diversity for me is the author being from a different culture or background than myself (i.e not white British/American), although that's not the only important factor. Even if a book is written by a white British or American author but is about their experience of something I'm unlikely to ever experience then that, to me, is diversity in reading. The idea of the word diversity in my understanding is that not everything you're reading is the same; that you can have different 'experiences' and find out about a vast array of things through your reading. If that is from the point of view of somebody who has a completely different worldview from me, so much the better but it's not the only requirement.

That said, as previously mentioned, the only nonfiction I can remember reading by authors who would qualify as being from diverse backgrounds is Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi and Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi, so clearly I need to expand my horizons wider than just Iran! If you're looking for quality Iranian nonfiction though I can recommend both of those titles highly!

So far all three (four if you count Assassination Vacation, which I'm currently reading) of the books I've read as part of Nonfiction November have been written by white people - a white Canadian man, and three white American women. So basically I suck at reading (or even owning I think!) nonfiction titles by people of colour. I need some recommendations please! In terms of particular subject matter, I'm honestly open to trying anything if it's well written and is going to give me some new knowledge!

I do feel very passionately about reading books by authors of colour and from cultures where they are less likely to be published as I believe that in publishing, as in the world in general, the way to become the best person you can be and have the best experience of society is through an exposure to many different cultures, experiences and worldviews. Help me out with your best recommendations everyone!

Thursday, 20 November 2014

The Pickwick Papers, Week One

The first eleven chapters of The Pickwick Papers are done, and frankly I'm amazing I finished them in time considering I only remembered that the readalong I'm hosting was starting when I read Ellie's post about it. Major fail, but since then I've been doing well with it!

Because this is a readalong post it will probably contain spoilers.

So I love this book. It's probably not going to go on my favourite books of the year or anything but after the experience of last years' A Tale of Two cities readalong (which wasn't that bad at the time - I quite enjoyed the book - but remembering it feels painful) my expectations were low, so I've been pleasantly surprised.

As people have said, the first chapter was difficult. I'll be honest and say I kind of skim read it with a sinking feeling because this book is really long and if it had all been like chapter one I think I would have been calling the readalong off. Thankfully it got a lot better and I really do love the characters, they're so... interested and indignant that I pretty much just want to hug them (especially Pickwick) all the time. I feel like this probably isn't a normal reaction, but bless them they can't even ride horses properly! I was actually in fits of hysteria during the bit where Mr Winkle is riding his horse sideways up the road. I think Rhys was quite concerned about my sanity, we had a whole conversation about how comfortable (or uncomfortable as the case may be) I am being the kind of person who has hysterics over Dickens novels...

Although it really does have no sense of any eventual destination, due to the lack of an actual plot, it's kind of just ambling along from one ridiculous thing to the next (getting caught up in military re-enactments, having a picnic in a carriage with a boy who keeps falling asleep, accidentally getting shot in the arm, a wild chase to rescue a random woman from being taken advantage of) and it's just quite easy and lovely.

It being Nonfiction November, I'm reading a couple of other things as well, so my head isn't totally full of Dickens at the moment, but I am finding Pickwick a really immersive experience. I find this with Dickens in general usually, I'm not sure what it is but something about his writing just makes me feel very much as if I've fallen headfirst into the world he's writing about. I think it helps that so far the whole experience has been set in Kent where I'm currently living, and so when he was talking about Rochester I had it in my head as I'm fairly familiar with the area. Coincidentally I think that's also what made me like all the mist last year, because it was surrounding the coach to Dover and so it felt familar. I like familiarity in writing sometimes, it feels comforting, and especially when it's familiarity from over a century and a half ago!

I will admit I got a little bit annoyed with the whole Rachael/Tupman/Jingle thing. I know this will make me sound like a cynic and absolutely doesn't parr up with my own experiences, but I was a bit sighing and eye rolling when Tupman decided he loved her after five minutes, and I was even more sighing and eye rolling when she ran off with Jingle without even slightly questioning his motives. Clearly she didn't love either of them and was just sick of all the men preferring her nieces. To be honest if I'd been her brother I probably just would have left her to it - if she's still silly enough to run off with the first man who asks her at her age, let her get on with it.

Ostensibly the point of the book is for them to collect these observations which keep appearing throughout the novel, but I'm not sure what I think about them to be honest. They seem a little bit random, but they don't particularly detract from the story so I'm willing to let them go for now and see what happens as we progress!

Don't forget to link up your week one posts below and use #dickensindecember to chat about it on twitter!

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Nonfiction Reviews: Bossypants by Tina Fey & Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed

Both of these books were seriously hyped and I've heard fantastic things about them, and while I really enjoyed them both (Bossypants made me laugh out loud several times and Tiny Beautiful Things actually made me cry!) I don't have a massive amount to say about either of them except that if you haven't read them yet you probably should. If you want to read either of them and are willing to pay postage I'm happy to send you my copies, just leave me a comment!

This isn't going to be a review so much as a list of quotes. Enjoy.


"Almost everyone first realised they were becoming a grown woman when some dude did something nasty to them" - I hate that this is so true. It's what I've been reading about again and again in Everyday Sexism (which I'm finding so hard to read emotionally that I'm having to take it back to the library unfinished. It'll go back on my wishlist so I can read it more slowly) and although all of the points made in this book aren't about stupid shit people expect just because you're a woman, a lot of them are.  

"It is impressively arrogant to conclude that just because you don't like something, it is empirically not good. I don't like Chinese food, but I don't write articles trying to prove it doesn't exist." - in regards to men who think women just 'aren't funny'. Please please please can people stop thinking things don't exist/aren't true just because they don't believe in/like them? It's just ridiculous and I come across this in some forms most days. It angers me. Tina Fey's writing, however, does a good job of calming me down.

I don't have a direct quote, but I loved the bit where she talked about her experience of breastfeeding, because her experience was my experience with Ben. So often I hear people talking about how 'easy' breastfeeding is and I just want to scream at them, and she beautifully acknowledges that it can be horrible and difficult and sometimes totally impossible and also that medical professionals can be totally patronizing assholes about it. Apparently this post is bringing out the more colourful language!

My absolute favourite is the page of 'me time' activities every mum can do to get some time for herself. I think I may have actually shed a tear or two from laughing so hard at the truth of it. Rhys just looked at me like I was a lunatic, but I'm sure that there will be some mothers reading this who will relate. Some examples of things you can do to get some time to yourself: "Say you're going to look for the diaper creme, then go into your child's room and just stand there until your spouse comes in and curtly says "What are you doing?". Stand over the sink and eat the rest of your child's dinner while he or she pulls at your pant leg asking for it back. Try to establish that you're the only one in your family allowed to go to the post office." I'm giggling again and I really don't know why except that it's just silly the lengths you have to go to to get five minutes to yourself sometimes.

Bossypants was hilarious and empowering and all those things which are good. It was also interesting, because it turns out Tina Fey is an interesting woman. So yes, you should probably read it.

Tiny Beautiful Things 

So the first thing I've learned about this book, apart from the fact that everybody in the whole world has been talking about how beautiful and amazing it is for many, many months, is that the US cover is a lot less pretty than the UK one, of which I obviously don't have a picture because, let's face it, I'm me.

In case you've missed the hype surrounding this book, Tiny Beautiful Things is a collection of the columns Cheryl Strayed wrote as the agony aunt Sugar for The columns are about pretty much everything and her advice is awesome. My favourite thing about it is that she's sympathetic and comforting while not allowing anybody to ever wallow or feel sorry for themselves. Nine times out of ten her advice amounts to 'get up and get on with it', but phrased much more nicely. And every answer that she gives is based in her own experience, which is fantastic.

I turned the edges of a lot of pages but when it comes down to it there's not much more that I can say about it except that it's beautiful and brilliant and will probably make you laugh and cry and feel some big truths about life and probably eventually make you feel better about the world, because there can be such compassion in it. Also it reminded me that some people are really, seriously, stupid, and that automatically made me feel better about myself..

Sunday, 16 November 2014

The Pickwick Papers Readalong: Intro

So I pretty much totally suck. I was meant to post this on Thursday but then I went away for the weekend without realising I hadn't even written it and now I'm kind of hurriedly scrabbling something together so I can get it kicked off and get reading! 

In case anybody doesn't know, The Pickwick Papers was Dickens' first novel published when he was just 24, which pretty much confirms my status as an underachiever (I've always suspected it since Keira Knightley was only the year above me at my primary school and look what's she's achieved...), it has been made into two silent films, a radio play, a 'proper' film (one with sound), and an opera which is pretty impressive for a novel which, according to Wikipedia, basically has no actual plotline. We shall see. 

Because I'm rubbish and rushed for time and need to get on with reading I'm going to link you to Ellie's fantastic intro post - thanks Ellie! And stick a linky here so you can link up your intro posts if you've written one! See you back here on Thursday when I will have actually written a post about the first few chapters, I promise!

If you'd like to sign up and read with us, join in here. Schedule for the readalong is here

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Nonfiction November Week 2: Become/Ask the Expert

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So far Nonfiction November has been absolutely incredible - I'm on my third book of the month which is totally unheard of for me lately. Although I've been reading, I've been barely finishing one a month so I'm absolutely astounded! It's really helping me to get my blogging mojo back as well, and of course greatly expanding my TBR! I'm helping that by organising a nonfiction book swap which you can still sign up for till midnight tomorrow, details are here.

This weeks topic is Be/Become/Ask the Expert and is hosted by Leslie of Regular Rumination so head over there to find out more!

I thought for quite a long time about what to post about this week and came to the conclusion that I don't really read enough nonfiction to be the expert in anything. I read quite a bit about fairytales for my dissertation, but that was a while ago now and to be honest I don't remember a lot of the nonfiction sources I used. If it were fiction we were after the list would be endless! Aside from that, my nonfiction is quite memoir - based and fairly scattered in terms of subject, so I thought I'd go for an area I'd like to become much  more knowledgeable about and also ask if anybody has any recommendations for me in this area. The only problem is that I don't really know what to call it...

After we moved to the countryside from London four years ago I became very interested in the concept of self-sufficiency and am very interested in the idea of growing our own fruit and veg, keeping hens, bees, etc and also knowing exactly where our food comes from. I love to eat local produce as much as we can afford, which is definitely not as much as I'd like! My list is inspired by Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver, which really just kickstarted the whole dream again for me. So I don't know what you'd call that becoming the expert on... food roots? self sufficiency? Anyway, here's my list!

The Onmivore's Dilemma: a Natural History of Four Meals by Michael Pollan

This sounds fascinating as it's about the provenance of our food and what is good for us and what isn't. Exactly my cup of tea.

Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer

Looks at the stories we tell ourselves in order to justify eating meat. I'm a big believer in being honest with yourself about why you're doing things so I think this will be great.I got it from the library a little while ago but was really not in a nonfiction mood and ended up taking it back having only read a few pages. I've heard great things about it though so I'm looking forward to it!

Plenty: One Man, One Woman, and a Raucous Year of Eating Locally by Alisa Smith and J.B Mackinnon

This is about living for a year on food which is produced within a 100 mile radius of where you live and it sounds like it would really inspire me. Being from the UK I'm more likely to think of 'local produce' as being from within a 20-30 mile radius, but either way it sounds fun!

The Way We Eat: Why Our Food Choices Matter by Peter Singer and Jim Mason

A look at the ethics behind the food we eat, this sounds like an interesting read and addresses a lot of concepts I feel strongly about, for example that animals should not have to suffer because we want to eat meat. Just for the record, I am a meat eater but try to be a discerning one.

Just Food: Where Locavores Get it Wrong and How We Can Truly Eat Responsibly by James E. McWilliams

Examines the myth and misinformation surrounding eating locally. This sounds like it would be a good book to counterbalance some of the other titles on this list and make sure I don't get too carried away in seeing things in black and white when they aren't necessarily.

Radical Homemakers: Reclaiming Domesticity from a Consumer Culture by Shannon Hayes

I'm quite a domestic person, in as much as, I do a lot of other stuff and have a lot of other hobbies but at the end of the day I really enjoy homemaking and domesticity and yes I do often feel guilty about it which is stupid. I feel like being good at or enjoying domesticity shouldn't be something you need to apologise for,whether you're a man or a woman, as long as it's your choice and not something you're pushed into and I think this book will be right up my street. It sounds fantastic.

So that's my list. Please throw recommendations at me if you have any however loosely related to the topic!

Saturday, 8 November 2014

The Pickwick Papers Readalong Schedule Or, The Year of the Grass* is Coming!

It finally occurred to me that if this thing is starting later this month I'd probably better sit down with it and actually work out some kind of schedule! The only thing I would like to say aside from that is please remember this is Dickens and don't give up when he's been describing grass or trees or the smoke for twelve pages. It will get better, I firmly believe this based on all my past experience of Dickens. Also, if it's awful, by the time we're done it will be Christmas and therefore time to watch the Muppets in their most excellent rendition of A Christmas Carol, and we all know how good that is, so stick with it or no Muppets for you!

If you haven't yet signed up and would like to (because my pep talk above was obviously just that great), you can do that here.

Soooo here's the plan! I think we should post weekly on Thursdays, because it's near the end of the week but on Friday and Saturday nights people who don't have tiny kids and no babysitters like to go out and probably don't want to be writing blog posts about the twelve chapters of descriptions of nature they've read that week. See how I'm lovely to you? That means we'll finish by December 18th, in time for previously mentioned Muppet watching...

13th November - I will post an introductiony kind of thing, by which time I will have found out some exciting stuff about the book to make everyone raring to go. And also just to remind you all it's starting!

Week 1 - 20th November - Chapters 1 - end of 11

Week 2 - 27th November - Chapter 12 - end of 23

Week 3 - 4th December - Chapter 24 - end of 34

Week 4 - 11th December - Chapter 35 - end of 47

Week 5 - 18th December - Chapter 48 - end

For now I'm going to ignore the fact that I have hand cramp from flicking through the pages and say that I am actually very excited to start reading! I really like this yearly Dickens thing and I'm excited to finally find out what Pickwick is about! If you want to talk about it on twitter use #dickensindecember (yes, I know it's starting in November. Sshhh).

* reference to a comment made on the sign up post :-)

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Books, Baguettes & Bedbugs: The Left Bank World of Shakespeare & Co by Jeremy Mercer

Nonfiction November has made me post more than I've posted in a week for a long, long time. If you don't know what I'm talking about go and have a browse through Kim's post and some of the others linked up, I promise you'll find some great recommendations!

I have a confession to make. I went to Paris, and having not read this book, I was unaware of the existence of Shakespeare and Company and therefore neglected to visit it. Having read this book I am now kicking myself harder than I've ever kicked myself before! 

Ellie recommended Books, Baguettes & Bedbugs to me at least two years ago and I've had it on my shelf longer than that because I'd vaguely heard something about Shakespeare and Company being an amazing place and then saw it in a charity shop and look at that cover, who could resist? But despite the cover it took me ages (and even a couple of false starts) to get into it, but I am so so glad that I've finally read it. As I finished it I went and found a pen to put my name in the front of it. It's a keeper and it's going on my list of favourite books of this year and you should all read it immediately. 

It's difficult to put my finger on what I liked so much about it, except to say that Mercer's own story is pretty engrossing and the way that he interweaves it with the story of the bookshop and its founder, George Whitman, is pretty great. Although it sets itself up to be all about the bookshop and books it's really more about the people than about the shop itself, although I do now know a hell of a lot more about the history of the shop than I previously did! 

Books, Baguettes & Bedbugs starts with Mercer running away from a pretty awful situation in Canada to Paris. He doesn't have much money and after a few weeks he stumbles upon the bookshop totally by chance and discovers that the eccentric owner allows writers to stay there free of charge, and so, of course, he goes and gets himself a room! From then on in it's pretty much a look at some of the people staying in the bookshop with him and the effects of living in such conditions interspersed with the story of George and the founding of the bookshop. 

I loved the motto 'Be kind to strangers, lest they're angles in disguise' which is central to the idea of letting random strangers stay in your house for as long as they like and I find it amazing that in a world which can be so cynical and frankly depressing there is still this kind of hope and trust in people to be found. 

This book was such an amazing pick for my first book for Nonfiction November - it must have been, I only finished it yesterday and here I am already writing a review about it! It's propelled me to keep on in my nonfiction reading and I've picked up Tina Fey's Bossypants to read next and am loving it! 

If you didn't see, I'm also organising a simple nonfiction only book swap - you sign up, I match you up with someone, you buy them a book and send it to them. Details here.

If you want a book which will make you hopeful and happy and excited about the prospect of travelling, read this. 

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Nonfiction November: My Year in Nonfiction

nonfiction november 2014

I haven't done this week's prompt before now because I didn't really think I had a year in nonfiction, besides Delancey: A Man, A Woman, A Restaurant, A Marriage by Molly Wizenberg, which I just finished, but then I thought a bit about it. I've not really kept track of my reading properly this year as I stopped using Goodreads, and I'm seriously regretting that now that the End of Year surveys are coming around and I have absolutely no clue what I've read, but looking at my favourite books from this year there is one volume of nonfiction on there, and I remember at least three others, plus a couple which I'm not 100% sure whether they were this year or last year. I think the main problem is that I have a huge problem with finishing nonfiction, particularly parenting books but also other things. I just get easily distracted from nonfiction, I'm not sure why. That said, it's not been the case at all with my first pick for Nonfiction November, Books, Baguettes & Bedbugs: The Left Bank World of Shakespeare & Co. by Jeremy Mercer, which I haven't been able to put down, it's absolutely fascinating!

Anyway, all that said I'm going to try to answer Kim's prompts! 

Your Year in Nonfiction: Take a look back at your year of nonfiction and reflect on the following questions – What was your favorite nonfiction read of the year? What nonfiction book have you recommended the most? What is one topic or type of nonfiction you haven’t read enough of yet? What are you hoping to get out of participating in Nonfiction November?
My favourite nonfiction read of the year is a tie between Simplicity Parenting: Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier and More Secure Kids by Kim John Payne and Lisa M. Ross, and Travels with Charley by John Steinbeck, which is also the nonfiction book I've recommended most. In all honesty I finished it and immediately shoved it into the hands of my unsuspecting sister, who happened to be staying with us at the time. She devoured it and then passed it on to another of our sisters and I only got it back a couple of months ago! It's an awesome book because it's both really like and really unlike Steinbeck's other writing (East of Eden and The Grapes of Wrath being all I've read to compare it to so far!). Basically he's kept all the stuff that makes him great and lost all the bits which bore people, and because the book is just him and his dog, Charley, travelling across America in a van it's full of loads of brilliant, beautiful and well-expressed observations and basically designed to make those of us Brits to whom American road-tripping is the pinnacle of all daydreams fall in love with it.  

Simplicity Parenting I personally found brilliant because it's had such an impact on the way that I think about parenting. At the time that I read it I was totally overwhelmed by the sheer amount of stuff we have in our house and the pressure I felt to be constantly doing lots of different activities with my kids all the time to make sure they are learning everything they 'should' be. At first I was sceptical about the idea of taking away most of the toys in the house and scheduling way less of my children's time (my husband was even more so!) but the day after I finished the book I sneakily took about half of the toys out of the toy box and hid them and my son didn't even notice. The next week I halved them again, and again, he didn't notice. Now we have a much smaller collection of things he actually plays with and his attention is way more focused. It's amazing. Such is the power of nonfiction!

As for topics of nonfiction I've not read enough of yet, the list is pretty endless! In terms of what I've read this year, of a grand total of six that I can remember, one was a foodie graphic novel (Relish by Lucy Knisley), one a parenting book (previously mentioned), three memoirs (Wishful Drinking by Carrie Fisher, Travels with Charley & Delancey) and one a collection of essays (At Large and At Small by Anne Fadiman). I got and returned to the library before I could start it Mary Roach's Packing for Mars, but I still really want to read some Mary Roach as I keep hearing great things! So in terms of what I need to read more of.... science, history (especially anything from outside the UK or even within the UK that's not the Tudors, the Victorians and both world wars), feminism, social justice type things. Basically anything that's not travel, memoirs or a book about books! What recommendations do you have for me? 

By participating in Nonfiction November I'm hoping to motivate myself to read more nonfiction (already started!), get some awesome recommendations (also already happening!) and chat with some great bloggers plus organising a fantastic nonfiction book swap :-) Come and sign up if you haven't already, details are here

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Nonfiction Book Swap!

nonfiction november 2014

A couple of days ago I posted about my participation in Nonfiction November and because I'm obviously a crazy person, I then decided that despite not being quite done with the Halloween Ninja Book Swap yet, I'd quite like to organise a Nonfiction only swap on my own to tie in with the event. I tweeted about it and got quite a bit of response, and the lovely hosts of the event (Kim, Leslie, Rebecca and Katie) have since given the idea the thumbs up so here we are!

Those who have participated in Ninja swaps before, this is not a ninja swap. The idea for this swap is purely that you make a wishlist that's nonfiction only, then sign up by filling in the google form below, I will partner you up with somebody and pass along their email address. You will then email them to get their wishlist & postage details. Then you go buy them a book (or two if you're feeling rich/generous) and either post it to them (if you're shopping in a real life bookshop) or have it sent directly to them (if you're shopping online). Sound simple? Hopefully it will be!

My major thought for this was that I have so much nonfiction on my wishlist and I think generally it scares people off so I never actually get given any of it! Also it's only the first week of Nonfiction November and I've already added so many great titles to my list so it would be fantastic to spread the nonfiction love by gifting each other some great books :-) Come and join in! I'll give you until next Wednesday 12th November to sign up! Any questions feel free to ask in the comments or tweet me (@fairybookgirl or @NinjaBookSwap)

Top Ten Books I Want to Reread

I love the prompt for this week's Top Ten Tuesday! I love rereading and I don't do it anywhere near enough because of all the awesome new stuff I have to read, but there's something so comforting about revisiting a story and characters you already know. I tend to do it when things in life are a little bit unpredictable or I'm having a crappy time. Books which are way overdue for a reread make up most of my 'keeper shelf' (actually five shelves) so there's definitely a few more than ten. For the purposes of this exercise I'm going to stick with books I've only read once but would love to reread in the not too distant future!

1. Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen - Food, magic, and a great love story, what's not to love? Also the sequel to it, First Frost is out in January so I should reread before I start on this one!

2. American Gods by Neil Gaiman - I first read this when I was in a book group during university and haven't read it since. I remember enjoying it but since then I've come across a lot of people who didn't and so I'd like to reread it just to give myself a clearer idea of it really.

3. The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfeld - I remember reading it and absolutely loving it but don't really remember what it was about except that it was book related I think? Anyway, it's been sat firmly on my bookshelf for a year or two so it's due a reread I think!

4. The Secret History by Donna Tartt - Read for the first time aged 16 and really really enjoyed it but haven't read it since then. I have The Goldfinch sitting on my shelf looking at me, and I sort of feel like I might like to reread The Secret History first...

5. Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood - Ah this book. This book was what got me hooked on Margaret Atwood. I remember the vague plot but no detail and it's one of those reading experiences where I can remember exactly how the book made me feel after I finished it, therefore I want to read it again.

6. Wild by Cheryl Strayed - I only read this last year (I think) but enjoyed it so much. Strayed's writing is beautiful and empowering and made me think about doing crazy things I wouldn't ever practically be able to do. I might reread this again this winter actually.

7. All the things by Rainbow Rowell - Because how could I possibly pick one? I could maybe do without a Landline reread because I only read it a couple of months ago and it's my fourth favourite of her four books, but Eleanor and Park, Attachments and Fangirl definitely need to be reread, just as soon as I get them back off my various sisters...

8. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz - I read this a while back because my sister told me it was fantastic and I seriously owe her for introducing me to Junot Diaz. Earlier this year I read This Is How You Lose Her and haven't been that impressed with a collection of short stories in a while, so I used my birthday gift cards to buy his first novel, Drown and I'm going to get to that soon. After I do I think I'll immediately read Oscar Wao because I really don't remember details and I don't think I paid as much attention as I should have!

9, Maine by Courtney J. Sullivan - I read Commencement and The Engagements by the same author and they were ok, but Maine was incredible. I'm not sure if it was the setting, the characters or the writing but I feel like probably a combination of all of them and it's one of my favourite books of the past couple of years. Overdue for a reread.

10. The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro - I love Ishiguro's writing, it's just beautiful, and The Remains of the Day was the first of his books that I read way back in uni. I haven't read anything by him for a while now and I really feel like I need to revisit this one to remind me how great he is.

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Nonfiction November!

cork w books

Last year I was an avid reader of other people's Nonfiction November posts and added a fair few nonfiction titles to my wishlist, but didn't take part as such, so when I heard it was back this year I decided to jump on the bandwagon! Nonfiction November is hosted by Kim of Sophisticated Dorkiness, Leslie of Regular Rumination, Katie of Doing Dewey and Rebecca of I'm Lost in Books and is a chance to celebrate some awesome nonfiction during November. Every week there is a different nonfiction topic you can post about, hosted by a different host. Alternatively (or as well!) you can just read and post about nonfiction. That's what I'm planning to do, as I've already been foiled in my attempt to talk about this week's subject (Your Year in Nonfiction) by not having kept track of what I've read this year at all. 

I will probably take part in some of the future weeks subjects, but for now I've pulled out a few of the books I'm most looking forward to reading from my nonfiction bookcase. I have three shelves full of nonfiction and I don't read anywhere near enough! I already have quite a lot going on this month so I'm not sure how many I'll get around to actually reading, but these are my most anticipated:

Books Baguettes & Bedbugs: The Left Bank World of Shakespeare & Co. - Jeremy Mercer

Bossypants - Tina Fey

Assassination Vacation - Sarah Vowell

Lady Sings the Blues - Billie Holiday 

Tiny Beautiful Things - Cheryl Strayed

I've already started Books Baguettes & Bedbugs and I'm really not sure how I've not read it before! It's lovely and I'm really enjoying it! What should I read next? And what great nonfiction can you recommend to me?