January 2017

Brrr! January has been the perfect month for cosy reading, and although I didn’t read a huge number of books, I read a nice mix of fiction and non-fiction. Here are all of the things I read in January:

1.The Good Immigrant – edited by Nikesh Shukla

My first read of the year (and my non-fiction pick for January) was The Good Immigrant, which is a crowd-funded collection of essays, edited by Nikesh Shukla and containing the accounts and experiences of BAME (Black Asian Minority Ethnic) residents in the UK. I found the essays gave a perspective into British life and race in a way which I hadn’t previously come across, although I have studied race issues in the US in depth. Some essays resonated with me more than others – Wearing Where You’re At (Immigration and UK fashion) by Sabrina Mahfouz and Shade by Salena Godden both stood out as particularly relevant. I think this collection is a must-read for anyone living in the UK today with a desire to learn more about minority groups.

Goodreads Rating: 4 stars

2. Rebecca – Daphne Du Maurier

I picked up Rebecca as my ‘classic’ for this month (as I’m also allowing modern classics to count towards my ‘one classic a month’ resolution) after I’d heard lots of rave reviews. The story is mostly set in a Cornish country manor and is written from the point of view of a young woman (we never know her first name) who has recently married a rich older man, Maxim de Winter, shortly after the death of his first wife, Rebecca. The story is beautifully written, and I enjoyed the twists and turns it took. Although I enjoyed reading it once I picked it up, it took my a while to read which is why I gave it four as opposed to five stars.

Goodreads Rating: 4 stars

3. When Breath Becomes Air – Paul Kalanithi

I saw this in the supermarket and decided to pick it up having heard it was a particularly moving real-life account. Published posthumously, Kalanithi was a prominent neurosurgeon who discovered he had cancer at a young age, and decided to write about the process. Although I liked his writing style and his reference to literature throughout, this book was just too visceral for me and I found the passages about death particularly difficult to read. I think this book would also be  very disturbing for someone to read who has experienced cancer, and it left me with mixed feelings overall.

Goodreads Rating: 3 stars

4. Homegoing – Yaa Gyasi

I started my ‘Diverse-athon’ reading a little bit early as I was desperate to read Homegoing, a brand new release which has already had lots of praise. The book is about two sisters and their stories passed down through generations, with one side of the family in Africa and the other in America. I genuinely enjoyed each and every story, although I think the chapter I found most captivating was H, about serving time with a chain gang. This chapter made me desperately want to read The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead! I didn’t find myself wanting to go back to any story but instead enjoyed the intended journey immensely.

Goodreads Rating: 5 stars

5. Station Eleven – Emily St John Mandel

After reading The Girl With All The Gifts last year, I really wanted to read some more sci-fi/apocalyptic fiction. The story flips between two different time frames, with part of the story set pre-apocalypse and the rest set post-apocalypse, 20 years ahead. It follows the main character Kirsten and her roles in both worlds, first as a child actress then as part of the Travelling Symphony. I found that the links between the characters in the pre-apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic worlds was cleverly done, especially regarding the Station 11 comics. I felt that there were a few loose ends in the story however, and that the first character we are introduced to is not developed enough.

Goodreads Rating: 4 stars

6. The Morning They Came For Us: Dispatches From Syria – Janine Di Giovanni

This book has been described as a hugely relevant read for those interested in learning more about the current situation in Syria and the larger Middle East region. As Di Giovanni is a war correspondent and journalist, this makes me wonder if this determined the layout of the book, as she writes about the trips she made in chronological order. Personally, I would have preferred it to be organised chronologically, as it felt disjointed at times and the same themes occurred multiple times throughout. I still feel that it is an important book, but could have been organised in a different way.

Goodreads Rating: 3 stars

Roll on February – with half term ahead I hope to get lots of reading done!

Happy Reading, Beth

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