Monday 2 March 2020

Books I Read in February

I liked keeping track of the books I read last month so this is now officially an ongoing thing. I still have plenty of books to get through, so my hope is that I will make it through February without buying any new books. This is tough though because I do love to buy books. This post contains affiliate links, you won't be charged any extra if you choose to use any of these links to purchase your books, but I will get a teeny tiny sum each time you do.

Here are my February reads listed in the order I read them:

If you're a fan of feminist dystopian literature, then this book is a must-read. It's set in the US, under a strict Christian government who want women to stay home and run their homes without complaint. There's a word quota and women and girls are only allowed a limited number of words per day. The book launches straight into this dystopian world and, at first, I found it difficult to enjoy. It made me feel stressed and anxious whenever I was reading it until I got into the story. Then I loved it. I stayed up very late last night because I wanted to know what happened and I didn't want to have to stop reading. 

The Milkman
by Anna Burns
This book took me quite a while to read. It's set in Ireland during the troubles and is the story of a young woman and how she fits within the community. The writing style is unusual and it took me a really long time to get into. I was probably way past the halfway mark before I found myself committing to the stories and the characters. This book won The Booker Prize in 2018, so it's obviously well-loved, but I found it a slog at first. By the end, I was hooked, but getting into it felt a little too much like hard work for me. 

The Salt Path
by Raynor Winn
I loved this book. I think everybody should read it. Laurie read it last year and loved it, so it's been sat on my reading pile for quite a while. When I eventually picked it up, he said he wasn't sure I would like it. He was wrong. It's such a good read. It's about a middle-aged couple who lose everything and then decide to walk the South West Coast Path which stretches for 630 miles. 

They have no home to go back to and very little money to survive on. It's not fiction, this is a memoir, and it's utterly inspiring. I can't even imagine having the strength of character to do something so physically challenging while trying to deal with all of those emotions and grief. I loved following Ray and Moth's adventures as they walked all those miles. I cried when the book ended because I was sad it was over (I am pregnant though, so not of rational mind). You should definitely read this book (and then let me know what you think). 

Madd Addam
by Margaret Atwood
Madd Addam is the final book in Atwood's Oryx & Crake Trilogy. I read the first two books last year. I had perhaps left it a little too long before starting the third because I found I'd forgotten who everyone was when I first started reading. I really loved this trilogy, it was everything you would hope for from Atwood. The future she created was horrifying and terrifying and worryingly possible. The trilogy is dark and twisted, as Atwood's best books always are. If you're a fan of Margaret Atwood, this trilogy is definitely worth getting lost in. 

Catching Babies
by Sheena Byrom 
Pregnancy is finally starting to dictate my reading choices. I've had this book for a while after finding it in a charity shop. I like Sheena Byrom a lot. She's a midwife who has focused her career on facilitating women-centred care. And she's from Clitheroe so she sounds like all my mum's family. This book is written as though Sheena Byrom is sat with you telling you the story of her life. 

Sheena started her midwifery training in the 1970s and it was fascinating to hear about how much birth has changed since then. Luckily, the days of shaves, enemas and routine episiotomies are behind us, though there is still work to be done. Sheena is now retired, but I follow her adventures on Instagram and she is always speaking at conferences and midwifery events around the world. I loved reading about her work with teenage mums in Blackburn, and about the first water birth she ever attended and hearing her tales about challenging the systems and procedures in her workplaces. 

This book was never going to win any awards for best writing (it's ghostwritten and really does feel like a chat over a cup of tea), but it's a fascinating read. I really loved learning about Sheena's work and how she managed to influence local midwifery practices. It's inspiring to hear that one small cog can influence the direction of the machine.

Gotta Get Theroux This
by Louis Theroux

Firstly, I did not read this book, I listened to it on Audible which feels like cheating (I don't know why). But listening to books like this on Audible is excellent because the author narrates them. Louis Theroux is much funnier than me and he can pronounce all of the words in his book (I probably couldn't). Also, he does a lot of accents and voices, so I feel like he is probably gifted at reading bedtime stories. In particular, I loved his impressions of Christine Hamilton and of his wife during arguments. 

The memoir follows Louis's life and career. I liked learning about Louis' life and listening to the chapters about his work reminded me of the programmes I had seen. It was interesting hearing how he fell into his line of work and how he struggled with imposter syndrome and often lacked confidence in himself. I used to watch the Weird Weekends documentaries back when I lived in Bristol in my early 20s, so listening to him discuss those shows made me feel nostalgic for those times. 

The End We Start From
by Megan Hunger
This book has been sitting on my 'to read' shelf for quite some time. My friend bought it me based solely on the cover (it was very pretty). I let Ebony choose which book I should read next and she selected this one (again, based solely on the cover). It's a short book, I read it in an evening, but I really enjoyed it.

The writing style is quite unusual, instead of chapters filled with details, the book consists of snippets of information. The story follows a new family as they flee from a large-scale flood and the resulting chaos in London. The narrator tells us more about her newborn baby than she does about the events happening around her, as though focusing on her new role is helping her to ignore the danger surrounding her. 

I really liked the unusual writing style and the way this story is told. It could have been a longer and more detailed book, but I loved that it wasn't. 

Barrel Fever
by David Sedaris
I like David Sedaris a lot, I haven't ever come across a book of his that I haven't enjoyed. His books are usually about his life, they are collections of funny stories dating all the way back to his childhood. His writing is concise and witty and never fails to make me laugh. Barrel Fever is slightly different from his other books, this is a collection of short stories and a section of essays about his life. The short stories are funny and brilliant, I think my favourite was the homophobia newsletter. I also loved the essays about his life, particularly the Santaland Diaries about his time working as a holiday elf. 

The Deepest Breath
by Meg Grehan
I had a hospital appointment one day and because I couldn't follow it with cakes, I followed it with books. Laurie and I went to Waterstones and bought a book each and chose one for Ebony and one for Ember. This was the book we chose for Ebony. It's about an 11-year-old girl figuring out that she likes girls, and it's beautiful. It's written in such a lovely style, it's really easy to read. I read it straight away and cried my eyes out. Same-sex relationships are underrepresented in children's books, tv and films. I am yet to see same-sex characters falling in love in a children's film or tv show (if you've found one, send me a recommendation). 

It's insanely depressing that it has taken until 2020 for a book like this to exist. But, it's perfect and beautifully written and I hope that every school library in the country has a copy. You should all buy this for your children (and your school libraries). 

Tin Man
by Sarah Winman
I found this book in a charity shop a while ago and gave it to Laurie as a gift (last of the big spenders). He finally read it and insisted that I read it, too, because he loved it so much. I read it in two sitting and can see why he liked it so much. It's emotional and heartbreaking and it made me cry more than once. I loved the characters and trying to figure out what they all meant to one another. I'm now keen to read some of Winman's other books. 

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