This November has pretty much been characterised for me by reading on-the-go—and not always exactly as intended. Reading on my long-haul plane ride to the US was ideal—but then there was the time I was so engrossed in Little Women that I went north instead of south on the Victoria line and ended up in Finsbury Park before I even realised. Even worse was the time I took a three-hour ferry-and-train combo from the Isle of Wight, before discovering I had left behind the sole copy of the annotated manuscript I was due to hand in at 5pm that afternoon. Yeah, there was a bit of extra travelling involved in that cock-up. So it’s lucky I’ve had such brilliant books on hand to keep me company!
Little Women, Louisa May Alcott
It took a bit of warming up, but I did eventually fall for this book. Funnily enough, the thing that really tipped me over was the same thing that most people despise: the fact that Jo married the dull-as-dishwater Professor Bhaer instead of the just-plain-dishy Laurie. Read my full “Bhaer versus Laurie” Little Women review here.
Not That Kind of Girl, Lena Dunham
Lena Dunham’s a tricky one, isn’t she? I want to like her, and I do admire the way she doesn’t allow herself to be judged in all the ways women usually are—but then she goes ahead and judges other women instead. I read this one with my blogger friend Tara from Cattitude & Co, so our full review on why we found Not That Kind of Girl problematic is up on her site now. Check it out!
Year of Yes, Shonda Rhimes
Year of Yes was everything that Not That Kind of Girl wasn’t. Shonda Rhimes managed to embody the self-esteem and empowerment that I was looking for in Dunham’s debut, but with a lot more self-awareness. It’s not terribly well written, which would usually be a huge turn-off for me, but I can pretty much forgive Shonda Rhimes anything. Read my full Year of Yes review here.
Bridget Jones’s Diary, Helen Fielding
I’ve watched the movie of Bridget Jones’s Diary approximately 387 times, but I’d never actually read the book before this month. And you know what? I loved it. I was wary going in, due to the claims that it was horribly anti-feminist, but I can now firmly say that I disagree (other than one rather problematic section in which Bridget talks about feeling like a “real woman” due to being fertile). I always hate the suggestion that feminism only has room for one type of woman. Bridget may be boy-obsessed and looks-obsessed, but she’s also an independent, sexually liberated career-woman—and why can’t she be both? And yes, her running weight tally is horribly depressing (especially because at her heaviest, Bridget is still significantly under my dream weight, and at her lightest she weighs roughly what I did as a skinny 16-year-old), but it’s a pretty accurate commentary of how a lot of women are pressured into feeling. Best of all, Bridget Jones declares herself a feminist, and in my book calling yourself a feminist is pretty much all that’s needed to join the club.
Still working on:
November, Sean O’Brien
Despite being an English nerd at school, I never really got into poetry—aside from a Frank O’Hara poem or two, of course. But recently I’ve been getting excited by poets like Musa Okwonga, so I think it’s time for me to give this art form another go.
The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter, Carson McCullers
I’ve been reading this novel very slowly in the background of all the other books I’m racing through, which gives me a chance to recover from the emotional overload it inspires in me whenever I pick it up.
Only Ever Yours, Louise O’Neill
I’ve been meaning to get round to this book ever since I read O’Neill’s Asking for It last month—and so far it’s every bit as powerful as I expected. Louise O’Neill really is one of the most important feminist authors writing today.