Tuesday, August 11, 2020

What I Read in July

Hey everyone, I'm finally writing this post for all the books I read in July. This is actually my first 'What I Read', but it's a bit of a weird mix of books. Next month's is focused more on novels than anything else, but I thought you'd like to see what kept me occupied for the very long and very boring month of July.

Women & Power - Mary Beard

Beard's work on the history of a woman's place in political, legal and other cultural spheres was a short yet fascinating read. Finished in one sitting, a very nice bubble bath to be exact, 'Women & Power' provided a great introduction to how we view women in positions of power both consciously and subconsciously. For such a short work it provides a variety of historical examples, largely from ancient western societies, and demonstrates how those ideals have passed through to the modern day.

Ms Beard makes no suggestion that this book answers and explains everything, with the ending certainly leaving more to be desired; but cover to cover it is filled with remarkable anecdotes, examples and comparisons that truly make you think more critically about the society we live in, and it's attitude towards women.

Should Ms Beard ever produce a larger piece of work on the subject matter I would see to reading it immediately. Her style of writing is so clean, concise and understandable that anyone wishing to learn more about Western cultural values and discourses would not be dissuaded by her work. A fantastic little book of sociological wisdom that I would recommend to anyone.

The Hitchhiker's Guide to The Galaxy - Douglas Adams

I can already hear the gasps from any devout science-fiction fan that I'm just finishing this series in 2020. In my defence I did read it once when I was a child, and greatly enjoyed it as a matter of fact, but felt I had missed a lot of just what makes this series so good.

For this reason I decided to pick up my copy and start afresh. At the time of writing this, and as the bookmark indicates, I am only through two of the four stories, but how glad I am that I decided to read this again. I won't bore you with a review or synopsis as those can be found in abundance, but what I will say is just how perfect the humour and attention to detail is. This book series can certainly be enjoyed as a child, but I am finding it infinitely more enjoyable as an adult. These books truly are the perfect bit of escapism needed to wind-down at the end of the day.

My Sister, The Serial Killer - Oyinkan Braithwaite

One word for this book: wow. The book is narrated by the thoughts of a girl called Korede as she navigates the frighteningly intense and confusing world of her younger sister, Ayoola, who may or may not have a bit of a habit of murdering her boyfriends. Braithwaite's Lagos-set debut is an absolute page turner, and currently the only fiction book I have finished in one sitting this year as I just could not put it down.

Aside from the obvious theme of well, murder, Braithwaite's novel is a masterfully written mixture of the crime genre, romance, and family sagas. Without wishing to spoil too much, the book does hint at the theme of abuse throughout, with a much more explicit focus on abuse at the end, so a warning there to anyone who may be uncomfortable with reading this.

The matter-of-fact style combined with the immersive imagery makes for a realistic read. You can feel yourself getting frustrated with Korede and the unfair situation she faces, but the tenderness and affection she feels for her sister is beautifully written also. As Korede faces moral conflict and emotional upheaval, so does the reader. 

If I am correct in my assumption that Ayoola is some sort of psychopath or at least experiences psychopathy to a certain degree, I cannot praise Braithwaite highly enough for actually giving a believable reason why Ayoola is this way. Too many a thriller book I have read that centres around twisted individuals but fails to show you how they came to be. Braithwaite masterfully displays how abusive behaviour is passed down through generations and personal experience, and the cold, stunted exterior that such an individual may possess.

Only Ms Braithwaite's first novel, I am so excited to see what is in store from her next.

Girl, Interrupted - Susanna Kaysen

I am still in complete awe of Kaysen's 'Girl, Interrupted'. It is a beautiful and insightful account of living as a young girl with borderline personality disorder. Written as a memoir of Kaysen's own experiences as a young woman entering a psychiatric hospital in the 1960s, this best-selling 1993 biography is a short and sweet story that still remains richly relatable to this day.

Perhaps I am stating the obvious, but this book does deal with themes of self-harm, suicide, abuse, and at one point incestuous relations. The matter of fact style of recounting in this book does not lend these themes any subtlety, so you will be facing these topics head-on should you wish to read it.

That being said, whether you are looking to read it perhaps as someone with BPD, wishing to hear of another's experience with this illness, or simply wishing to gain an insight into the state of mental health beliefs and treatments in the sixties, this book will undoubtedly leave an impression on you. But this impression is a positive one of insight and understanding.

A Short History of Decay - E.M Cioran

I'm honestly not sure what to say about this book other than it was a bloody challenge to read. No stranger to philosophical works/essays (as a philosophy student), I didn't think this collection of nihilistic essays dealing with 20th century topicalities would be a challenge, but it was.

Thankfully, each essay was relatively short, making it easier to read over and over again until I finally understood what the hell he was on about. But the style of writing was dense, intense, and difficult to follow.

Maybe this is more of a me problem, as I have had little experience reading non-fiction of such a style as his, but once I overcame the sheer confusion and what-the-fuck-ness, I did enjoy some of the theories and suggestions made by Cioran.

Certainly one for philsophy fans, but possibly not one for beginners, or beginners to nihilism at least.

Selected Poems - Rilke

This was not a cover-to-cover read like the others works mentioned here, rather just an enjoyable little collection of poems by the Bohemian-Austrian novelist and poet Rilke. As a German student, I chose to focus on many of his poems this month to help get me back into the swing of reading and analysing German. However, for the non-German learners or speakers, this lovely Oxford edition contains the English translation right next to the original poem, which also made for easy translation help whenever I was stuck on a word or phrase.

Rilke's works are a must for any poetry lover, he writes with such beautiful flow and imagery that I feel honoured to be able to understand it and it's pre-translated meanings (as German is filled with words any English translation will struggle to find a direct synonym for). 

His poems are so rich in language and meaning it would be difficult to read this collection from start to finish, without possible failing to truly absorb the meaning of each work. For this reason Rilke's poems are a slow read, but absolutely worth it nonetheless.

Legal Philosophies - J.W Harris (Second Edition)

Okay, this is one of those books where I'm probably going to fail to appeal to a majority, as this book is a collection of essays regarding philosophical legal theories, pretty niche I know. As both a lover of philosophy and law, seeing this book going so cheap on Ebay meant it was purchased, shipped and travelling to my home within the blink of an eye. 

Though there are a few essays that I'm saving for a later date (I will excitedly explain later) this book is just great for any philosophy/law student. Each essay is rich in detail, highly informative, and overall provides great additions to anybody's understanding of legal theory, and how it came to be through these influential thinkers. Said thinkers span a much earlier timeline than you may have first thought, with the earliest legal theory recorded in the book (as far as I'm aware) comes from the 13th century philosophy and theologian, St Thomas Aquinas.

In summary, if you're a nerd that likes academic niches, get this book.

And that's it! All of the books I read in July. I hope you enjoyed this rather random selection of reads, and I look forward to sharing with you my August reads soon.

Take care x



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