Social commentary and think pieces

30 April 2020

The last 6 books I read

Notes To Self - Emilie Pine   5/5

Notes To Self is a collection of essays by Irish academic Emilie Pine. In six essays she lays bare the most difficult periods of her life - caring for her alcoholic father, the childhood pain of her parents separation, her unbounded teenage years, infertility and sexual violence - allowing her, ultimately, to let go.
She looks back on these moments of her life with a perspective that one can only access retrospectively, making the essays all the more reflective, thoughtful and honest. Pine manages to balance the complex feelings with accessible writing, allowing the reader to relate and take reassurance from her perspective. It was honest and fiercely feminist, and undoubtedly one of the best essay books I have ever read.

"Men got promoted ahead of women because they, of course, were bold, daring, uncompromising ; all those coded ways of saying men didn't need to bother about being likeable because they were too busy being powerful." - This Is Not On The Exam

"I can try to have a baby and I can fail every month and be unhappy. Or I can not try to have a baby and not fail every month. The number of children I have had remains the same, a big fat zero." - From the baby years.

Exposure - Oliva Sudjic   3/5

Exposure is an essay on "the anxiety epidemic, auto fiction and internet feminism."
Sudjic writes of the dangers female artists face when exposing themselves, drawing on her own experiences as well as the experiences of others such as Rachel Cusk and Elena Ferrante. During which she writes of the danger that comes from society's tendency to dismiss the female narrative, considering it far less "universal" than that of the male narrative - "Male readers, however, often seem to baulk at the prospect of entering the mind of a female protagonist... women, by contrast, are conditioned to accept a male narrator at the controls and to accept the male intrusion and colonisation of their minds."

She also writes with eloquence on the harsh realities of Anxiety - "anxiety makes me feel as if I have two selves, the real me and the anxious one" - whilst not failing to to critique social media and the impact it has on the anxiety epidemic, writing of the dangers of celebrity endorsement when it comes to mental health.

Talking To Strangers - Malcom Gladwell   4/5

In Talking To Strangers, Malcom Gladwell challenges the human default to truth - the assumption that people are being truthful until they have enough doubts to believe otherwise.
Gladwell asks why we so often get people wrong, and through a series of fascinating historical events and infamous legal cases (Amanda Knox, Emily Doe, etc), he makes the reader painfully aware of the detrimental impacts human psychology can have on us, especially those who don't conform to societal norms.
Why do we assume someone is deceiving us if they are behaving abnormally? Why do we so often ignore red flags, and warning signs, favouring what we want to believe; that what we are told is the truth? Gladwell speaks of the dangers of defaulting to truth whilst exploring the darker side of human nature and the impacts our hardwired psychology can have.

I would highly recommend this. Its fascinating and one of the best books I think I've ever read.

Salvador - Joan Didion    3/5

In Salvador, Joan Didion trains a merciless eye on the terror she witnesses in El Salvador, 1982, at the height of a terrible civil war. Didion reports on what she sees, from battlefields to body dumps, from interviews with corrupt government officials and puppet presidents, all the while learning the truly Salvadorian meaning of the verb 'to disappear.'
Salvador has no records. How many people are living or dead,  they don't know, and who those people are they're even less aware. In Salvador, Didion looks at why this is and learns the danger of simply living in the midst of this war.
In an unflinchingly honest account of her experiences. Didion never sways from the truth - despite the Salvadorian governments desperation to shape her approach to telling such a tale. No matter how gruesome, her words are honest, making it all the more hard-hitting in fact. Its fascinating. I would recommend it.

"Its quite impossible to deny the artistic brilliance of her reportage. Didion brings El Salvador to life so that it ends up invading our flesh." - The New York Times.

When God Was A Rabbit - Sarah Winman    5/5

When God Was A Rabbit is a difficult book to describe. Its hard to give much away without spoiling the plot. In all, its incredibly ordinary, which subsequently is what makes it such a heart-warming story.
The book follows Eleanor; a kooky and inquisitive girl with a pet rabbit called God, from her birth to her late twenties, documenting her life in England in the 1960s and 70's, and New York in the aftermath of 9/11. Most importantly, though, it documents her intense and loving relationship with her older brother, Joe, and her fascination and love for her best friend, Jenny Penny.
The characters are kooky and entirely likeable in a way I've never seen before in a novel. Eleanor's inquisitive nature is endearing and her basic philosophical yet entirely complex questions - "why do good things happen to bad people?" - and the imaginary voice she uses for her pet rabbit, God, will make you fall in love with her and her family. Its the most beautiful novel I have ever read. Its essential that you read it.

Sweet Sorrow - David Nicholls     5/5

Sweet Sorrow follows Charlie Lewis, a sixteen year old boy who's just finished his GCSE's and is looking at a long, empty summer stretching out ahead of him. He feels lost and unsure of what he wants from his future, especially as problems at home have resulted in him failing most of his exams.
Then he meets Fran Fisher; a bubbly, kind and confident girl who allows Charlie to feel hopeful about life beyond school again. But, in order to see Fran, Charlie must join a theatre company in its production of Romeo and Juliet, where Fran plays the leading role. Its not Charlie's scene at all and he feels shy and out of depth but persists in order to see Fran, and ultimately gets a lot out of the experience.
Sweet Sorrow is written from Charlie's perspective, as he looks back on that life changing summer and coming of age love, in his adult years.

Last summer I read One Day, also by David Nicholls, and it quickly became my favourite book of all time. So, when reading Sweet Sorrow I was constantly asking myself; is it as good as One Day?
I don't think it is. It was a brilliant book, I really enjoyed it and would definitely recommend it, but it lacked the same magic that One Day had, which surprised me as I expected to find the subject matter in Sweet Sorrow far more relatable than that of One Day.
The last chapter - Curtain Call - was my favourite. It had a reflective nature and managed to put the entirety of the story into perspective, through hindsight, finishing the story with a true sense of completion. It acknowledged that first love doesn't last. There was no sugar coating of that reality, which was refreshing. That chapter, I think, was on parr with One Day. The rest of the book wasn't as good. Though I would still highly recommend you read it. Its a beautiful story.



  1. Ohhh there are so many amazing recommendations here so thank you! I've been reading so much more since quarantine :) x

    Grace ||

  2. Nice reads, ...keep sharing

  3. Thank you for these recommendations.


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