Hello! It’s me, the worst blogger in the world!! Hope you’re doing well! Readingwise, 2017 has been a good year for me, and I thought I’d pop in and share some of my favourite books of the year so far. Which I guess is nearly over anyway (and thank goodness for that – I’m ready for Christmas and I’m ready for new things in 2018).
Anyway, here are my top picks, in no particular order. I’ll try not to be too spoilery.
Take Courage: Anne Brontë and the art of life by Samantha Ellis
As a big fan of biographies (especially those of the historic female kind), I adored this one about Anne, the forgotten Brontë sister. Samantha Ellis does a wonderful job of piecing together the story of her life and framing it around her relationships with others. This is a much-needed update and revision of previous work on the elusive Anne (which is often dismissive and sometimes harsh), and it strikes a nice balance between being academic and actually enjoyable. It’s definitely got me keen to delve into Anne’s novels as well, which I hadn’t really considered before as I didn’t know much about them.
The Power by Naomi Alderman
In Alderman’s universe, teenage girls are suddenly gifted with the power to hurt and even kill anyone who touches them. Almost overnight, human society undergoes a complete reversal as women are suddenly the ones with the power. It’s a fascinating story that had me cheering on the downtrodden female characters finally freed from oppression – until about halfway through, when things start to turn sour and we (re)learn that, inevitably, power corrupts whoever is wielding it. The book could probably be shorter – it gets a little slow in the middle – but it’s definitely worth trudging through to get to the killer ending. There’s a really interesting summary and interview with the author here too.
Girls will be Girls by Emer O’Toole
This is gender studies 101! If you’re finding yourself a bit confused by the different perspectives on gender and femininity you’re suddenly seeing online, this is the perfect book to get back to basics. Emer O’Toole does a really good job of breaking it down in an accessible way, and I love how she provides practical (and sometimes, dare I say it – fun) suggestions on exploring the way we perform gender. I think it’s critical we bring topics such as this one “down” from high-level academic theory and make them accessible without oversimplifying them, and this is something Emer O’Toole does very successfully. Read this one to learn, re-evaluate AND be entertained.
The Invisible Woman by Claire Tomalin
Another historic biography – of sorts. This is the fascinating story of Nelly Ternan, Charles Dickens’ mistress and sort-of-homewrecker. It’s one of the most interesting biographies I’ve read, because absolutely nothing written by Nelly herself has actually survived until the present day (read: everything written by Nelly herself was destroyed before the present day). Claire Tomalin manages to trace the outline of her life through sources from others, and yet she herself remains a mysterious silhouette. She lived a life that was so shaped by circumstance, in which her own choices were so drastically limited, that it’s really very difficult to get a view of who she really was. I ripped through this one in a couple of days – it’s a fascinating study of history’s erasure of women, and it provides a very different perspective on Dickens himself as well.
So these are my top four. I’d love to hear what you loved reading in 2017! Leave a comment and let’s talk books!