5 Star Predictions || Blogmas Day 13

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Seeing as yesterdays post was all about my favourite books of 2017, I thought today would be a very good day to discuss books I haven’t read yet but think will become firm favourites – or 5* reads – in 2018. I’ve seen several people on youtube do this – Mercedes I think was first, but the idea caught on and I thought it would translate well in to a blog post.

A lot of factors make up a 5* book for me, it has to be well written, have a plot that keeps me hooked and have well rounded characters. They’re by no means the only things that makes me give a book 5* – but they do help. Equally, how a book reads influences my rating – books with no chapter breaks, or even paragraph breaks, or just places to generally put the book down and get on with stuff really irk me!

Anyone who follows this blog knows I’m an eclectic reader, and that doesn’t change in the books I feel I’m going to give 5* in 2018! So, let’s discuss.

First up is the classics and to The Master and the Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov. This year I really found a love in Russian literature and I have nothing but high hopes for this book. There are a handful of other books by Russian authors on my TBR but this is the one I really want to get around to, but also have the most anticipation about! Interestingly, the next classic I’m optimistic about is Middlemarch by George Eliot which I read 2 years ago and only gave 3*. I’ve since come to appreciate George Eliot’s writing a lot more and I think that on a re-read this could improve enormously for me. It’s probably weird, for someone to predict that they’ll give a re-read of a lesser liked book 5* – but I’m always erring on the wild side!

As for new releases – I have exceedingly high hopes for Becky Chambers in her next instalment in the Wayfarers series Record of a Spaceborn Few. Both previous instalments in the series were 5* reads for me and I have zero doubt about this one. From what I’ve read it doesn’t follow any of the same characters, but that doesn’t worry me because the previous two books were enchanting, diverse and basically, this is the only book I currently have on preorder and I’m excited. I’m also sure that if the wonderful Ali Smith has a release in 2018 it will rocket to the top of my TBR and be a 5 star read. It has to be said that after reading The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden I’m quite excited about the follow up which is released in January – which the name of escapes me!

More popular fiction, or those books likely to be found on tables in Waterstones, are hard for me to pinpoint as they’re not the sort of books I lean towards but I’d like to finally get around to the two Zadie Smith books I haven’t read yet and the one I’m most optimistic for is NW as one of my friends said I would really enjoy it, so that’s one I’m thinking I may give 5* as I loved White Teeth when I read it years ago.

There are a few short story collections I also have a good feeling about – but short story collections are notoriously hard to give 5* reviews to because often there is just that one story which drags it down! But A Guide to Being Born by Ramona Ausubel has been on my TBR for a very long time and I have such high hopes for it. I also have a very good feeling about The Scent of Cinnamon by Charles Lambert which was published by Salt in 2010 and I recently purchased – the first story, from what I read – was amazing and I don’t know why I haven’t read it yet! Also by Salt is another short story collection that I’ve had for over a year which is New World Fairy Tales by Cassandra Parkin.

I think, for now, that is enough books that I think will be 5*. I have over 200 on my TBR so narrowing it down this far was difficult. I’d love to hear what books you’re feeling really optimistic about in 2018 – and any you think I might enjoy because I always enjoy some recommendations!

Top Ten Tuesday – 10 Favourite Books of 2017 || Blogmas Day 12

It’s Tuesday and that means it’s a top 10 day! Today I’m going to be talking about my 10 favourite books of 2017 – obviously with 2 weeks left to go there is a small chance that this may change (I’m not feeling that’s going to happen though!)

On the whole 2017 has been a mediocre reading year. It’s had very few highs – and those highs haven’t been long-lived or memorable unfortunately! Trying to come up with 10 books which I could consider ‘favourites’ of the year is quite a task – and I really struggled. In the end I surprised myself with how much non-fiction I enjoyed this year.

Without further ado, let’s talk about the books!

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I’ve not included re-reads in this, because I think re-reads are a bit unfair and have an advantage over new reads – I’m already rereading them, I know I love them!

My favourite book of the year – without a shadow of a doubt – is Bleak House. It was one of the first books I read of the year and has stuck with me for the full 12 months, it’s going to be one of my long-time favourites and re-ignited my love of Dickens after a few slightly less than stellar reads!

Another classic on my list is Crime and Punishment which I am so, so glad I finally read. It was a case of reading the perfect book at the perfect time I think, but in hindsight it would have been a great place to start with Russian literature!

In Order to Live and The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks were the stand out non-fiction for me this year for very different reasons. I read a lot of non-fiction this year, and I enjoyed all of them, but those two were stand outs and books that will stick with me for a long time. Those two books are two that I would encourage anyone to read – they’re stand out and thought provoking.

Mend the Living was my favourite of the Wellcome Prize shortlist and a very, very much deserving winner. I was absolutely elated when it was announced because this book was just incredible. I’ve since recommended it to several people since I read it, it just is a book I can’t forget. If you’re interested in non-fiction, and where it intersects with fiction, reading from The Wellcome Prize shortlist is a really good place to find recommendations (interestingly, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks was nominated when it was released a few years ago!)

What would be a favourites list without a Daphne du Maurier book? Technically it’s a reread, but I genuinely cannot remember a thing from it from my first read which must have been about 10 years ago. So I’m counting it as a first read! It was bloody amazing. Good place to start with du Maurier for sure! Can’t really say too much about it, it’s du Maurier, it was impeccable.

The same logic applies to Ali Smith. Although I read Winter more recently, and loved it even more, Autumn was a grower and a book that I kept thinking about the more the year went on. I’ll have to reread it at some point and pay closer attention to the nuances. But basically I loved it. There.

Stay With Me is on the list because it surprised me. I was sure I wasn’t going to enjoy it and then BAM – I read it to prove a point and hopefully get to write an unpopular opinion and I go and love it! So, sometimes hyped books are as good as the hype says. I read it in one sitting, propped up in a bed in a caravan while it rained. It was incredible.

The last two are a short story collection and a poetry collection – both I did only give 4 stars to but I really enjoyed them both. Kissing the Witch is a surprise entry on this list as I’ve not even reviewed it yet. I went in to it with low expectations and came out of it happily surprised. The last two Emma Donoghue books I’ve read really disappointed me, so I was wary, but this collection lived up to the high praise I’ve heard from people. I absolutely loved it so look out for the review in a few days. The final of my top 10 is You Sad Feminist – which was one of the only poetry collections I read this year and I absolutely loved. Megan Beech is one talented young woman and I can’t wait to see what she does next!

So there we have it, a very disjointed top 10. I’d love to hear what your top books of 2017 have been, and if you’d have as much trouble picking them as I did!

Audiobooks || Blogmas Day 9

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It’s the weekend! And today, I want to have a discussion about audiobooks.

Audiobooks aren’t something I thought I would, at the age of 24, be bowled over by and spend hours on end listening to – but they are. Before I got in to them, I honestly thought the selection was limited, I thought they were something that only blind people, or elderly people enjoyed. How wrong I was! I’ll admit I was ignorant, and I have seen the error of my ways over the last few years (in which audiobooks have become one of my favourite things!)

When I last did blogmas in 2015, audiobooks were something I was very new to and had only listened to a handful of. Two years on, however, it is a completely different story. Over half of the books I have read this year I have listened to some, if not all, of the book. I am someone who happily uses a combination of physical and audiobooks, and if anything it only enhances my reading experience. I have found that audiobooks give me a freedom that I couldn’t otherwise have – I can read and do something else. I can play stupid games on my iPad, I can colour, or more recently I have been wrapping gifts while listening. It means I can still read, I can still get that experience of ‘escaping’ that I get with a book but I can do other things alongside it and I love that.

Compared to a physical book, audiobooks can be quite pricey, but they really don’t have to be. I myself do have an audible subscription (which I love) and I get 2 credits a month to trade in against any of their ever expanding library, and I can purchase additional credits at the cost of £17 for 3 – which when you compare the cost of that to the cost of the audiobook alone is stupidly cheap in many cases. Audible nearly always have deals going too – 2 for 1, or buy 3 audiobooks with cash or credits and get a £10 gift voucher to spend are the most common which I often take advantage of! Not only that but they have an excellent returns policy – if you don’t like a book, or a narrator, or you have technical issues, it can be returned no questions. Obviously it isn’t something to take advantage of, you can’t use the service like a library!

Talking of libraries, most libraries have a selection of audiobooks available as CDs in the physical branches. However, a lesser known secret is OverDrive – a fantastic little app which you can sync your library card to and get access to their digital lending library of eBooks and, you guessed it, Audiobooks!

If you haven’t already taken advantage of the First Free Listen on Audible, I’d highly recommend it. You don’t have to continue with a subscription if you get an audiobook and it isn’t for you, but it’s a really good way to experience a first audiobook without splashing out any money.

Hints & Tips:-
First tip if you’re new to audiobooks definitely pick something that will hold your attention as a first listen. You don’t want to pick a long ass book which is dry as stale bread and sends you to sleep (I’ve picked up my fair share of those, trust me!)

02 - harry potterFor something familiar to most people, you can’t go wrong with the Harry Potter series – any of them. In the UK they’re narrated by Stephen Fry, and I believe over the pond it is Jim Dale. They’re something familiar, something you already know the entire plot of, but in a new way. Listening to the audiobooks for the first time was like reading the books anew for me and really breathed fresh life in to the characters.

Go for a book narrated by the author – this can be fiction or non-fiction but because the book is theirs they read it how it was intended. Some recommendations here would be anything by Neil Gaiman (who is an incredible narrator even if I’m not the biggest fan of his books) or find a celebrity you like and see if they’ve narrated their own autobiography!

Don’t be put off by the speed! A lot of people, when I mention I enjoy audiobooks, say “but they’re so long” – they don’t have to be. Generally speaking 1x speed is too slow for me, but most audiobook apps enable you to speed the narration up. With Audible you can go up to x3 speed meaning that a “30 hour” audiobook is suddenly going to be a much more doable, and less scary, 10 hours. And it isn’t fixed – you can speed up or slow down at any point during a book and that’s great. I started listening at 1.5x speed and now most books I do listen to on 3x speed, so don’t be put off by the ‘length’ of a book – because it’s only as long as you make it, essentially!

If you’re worried about not following it, pick a book that you’ve had on your shelf for a long time and find an audio version of it (just be careful if it’s translated, especially if it’s a classic as there is a lot more room for variation in the translation!). Settle down with a cuppa, and both an audio and physical copy of the book. Find the narration speed that works for you and follow along with the book for a little while. If you’re anything like me, you’ll soon feel you’re absorbing enough of what is being said to go do something else alongside it!

Anyway, this has been a very long post today – I am apparently very passionate about audiobooks! I’d love to hear your opinions on them because I think they are becoming less stigmatised now, and I’d love to hear if you’ve listened to any particularly fantastic books lately as I’m always game for a few recommendations! Equally, if you want a more specific recommendation I’m happy to try and assist.

Happy reading!

Is It Ever Too Early for Feminism? || Blogmas Day 7

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We are 7 days in to this month and on the posting of this I have succeeded in one full week of blogmas! Today is another discussion type post and it is on picking books for children and what a minefield it can be. Also I’ve included a few kids books for children in your life (and also yourself if you want something fun to read!). This one is going to be lengthy, but I think it’s an important topic and I want to hear your opinions on it!

Recently, I had the experience of buying books for a friends daughter and it was a lot tougher than I was expecting. I had no idea that in this day and age, where we live in a (supposedly) equal society that children’s fiction is still so overrun with the age old idea of boys being heroes and girls sitting at home with no ambition waiting for a prince/hero/male to come and rescue them.

I’m not a parent, I have no intention of becoming a parent, and while I only have a small part to play in the childhood of my friends children, I absolutely do not want to reinforce gender stereotypes. I always tell her how smart she is, when we play she can be whoever or whatever she wants to be. I’m not her parent, but I adore her and I don’t want her to grow up with a skewed idea of what women are in society. I see this kid once a month and she is growing in to an amazing little girl – she’s a little firecracker, and bright as a button, and I will always encourage her to be that – but sometimes I worry that society, even in this modern day, will squash her down and shoehorn her in to a box of what she is expected to be by antiquated standards.

I was adamant I wanted to buy my friends daughter books for her 4th birthday as she loves reading. Now she’s starting to sound out words and read herself, I wanted to get her some picture books aimed at the 4-5 age group and it’s a minefield – so many of them are just not something that would build her confidence as a person. Books with female main characters often focus so much on things like beauty and innocence that is it any wonder that, subliminally, children get warped ideas about what they look like from such a young age?

The view of females in children’s books is something that is so dated and antiquated that I found myself getting frustrated – not only did I not want to impart that oh-so-gentle misogyny on to my friends 4 year old, I didn’t want it to then become okay for my friends 1 year old son when he inevitably read the same books in a couple of years. I wanted him to have positive representations of females too. If there is one thing I’m certain of it’s that the books you read when you’re first starting out stick with you – the stories, the underlying messages they have a profound impact.

So, on my mission to find Good Representation of Women In Children’s Fiction I found these two gems (below) and when I read them I could have cried. I was elated, because not only are they kickass girls, there’s representation of race, gender, and they’re not just ‘girls books’ – I know my friends son will get just as much out of them as her daughter. I certainly enjoyed them when I proof read them and I’d highly recommend them for any child in your life because they’re fantastic!

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I recently read an article which said something along the lines of 50-something % of children’s books have male protagonists, only 20-something % have female protagonists. The reason being a girl will read a ‘boys’ book, whereas a boy is unlikely to read a ‘girly’ book – there shouldn’t be genders in literature at any age in my opinion, but kids books are reinforcing stereotypes of men having all the action and girls having quiet, homey stories. Even books with animals as protagonists have primarily males at the core of them. Boys need feminism as much as girls do – male characters who cook, clean, are sole parents, are scared or cry – from my memory those things rarely happen in children’s books and that needs to change.

On to the topic of the day which is “is it ever too early to introduce a child to feminism?” – my answer is no. It doesn’t have to be shoved down a child’s throat, it can be subtle, but just simple things like books with female protagonists who don’t sit around and wait for a prince can have a huge impact on a child – male or female – and the same for male characters who aren’t always the hero.

My friends children are lucky – they have incredible parents who encourage them to be whoever and whatever they want to be, even at the ages of 4 and 1. They’re going to grow up to be wonderful human beings because their parents treat them equally and will teach both of them to respect themselves and other people, regardless of gender. I’m not trying to condition my friends daughter in to a “militant” feminist, she is only 4 after all, but I want her to see that she can be the superhero in her own story if she wants to be.

Harry Potter Spells Tag || Blogmas Day 4

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Happy Monday readers, today is a bit of a cop out in that I’m doing a tag post – I love book tags, I love how creative so many of them are and how they make me think differently about books I have read, and also drive up a discussion about them. Today I’m doing the Harry Potter Spells Tag. I discovered this purely by accident when googling “book tags” and really liked the idea of it (I found it here – and the original tag video is no longer available). So without further ado, on to the books.

Expecto Patronum:- childhood book connected to good memories
For me this is actually quite difficult as I have so many good memories associated with books and my family reading to me. But, oddly enough the one book that stands out to me is an old, abridged anthology of books that my grandma had in her cupboard!  I don’t remember a huge amount about it, but I remember curling up with my grandma and she’d read to me from this anthology, and it was always Gulliver’s Travels that I asked for! I’ve no idea what happened to this anthology of abridged stories but I know I need to read Gulliver’s Travels in full!

Expelliarmus:- a book that took you by surprise
For this I have to go with Orlando. Before I read it, I knew I loved Virginia Woolf but this book just solidified it for me. It is one of the few books that when I finished it, I went right back to the start and underlined all the sections I loved. I had no idea how much it would impact me.

Priori Incantatem:- the last book you read
The last book I read in full was Winter by Ali Smith. I’ve since picked up (and thrown back down) Sealskin by Su Bristow (look forward to that review!)

Alohamora:- a book that introduced you to a genre you had not considered before
The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet – this could also have been my answer for a book that took me by surprise but I think it fits best here as it really opened my eyes to what Science Fiction could be. Since I read this book I’ve definitely branched out and actively searched out more sci-fi – I’m less scared of it now!

Ridikkulus:- a funny book you’ve read
I don’t often read funny books, it has to be said, but those I do read which make me actively laugh tend to be books by comedians. Susan Calman’s book, while quite a heavy topic, actively made me laugh because I related to it. I also loved Sarah Millican’s recent book! Fiction doesn’t tend to make me laugh much, interestingly enough.

Sonorous:- a book you think everybody should know about
I love a lesser known book – but for this one I’m actually going to go with a short story collection and that is A Portable Shelter by Kirsty Logan. Kirsty is a wonderful, wonderful author and I can’t wait for her new novel next year – but this collection is small but perfect and now it is more widely available (the original print run was quite limited) I’d recommend anyone pick this up for a cozy afternoon with a blanket and a hot drink!

Obliviate:- a book or spoiler you would like to forget having read
When you read my review of Sealskin you will understand why that is my answer! I wish I could take back the 30 minutes I spend listening to this book before I DNF’d it.

Imperio:- a book you had to read for school
I read several books for school – I loved reading books for school, but I was a nerd! I think I have to give a special mention to Macbeth though – mainly because when I first read an extract from it I was about 11 or 12, and my teacher was adamant I would enjoy it. I loved this teacher, and I think I owe everything I’ve achieved to what she taught me. But she was right, I loved that extract from Macbeth and to this day it remains my favourite Shakespeare play. Interestingly I actually had to read it for my drama class, not English.

Crucio:- a book that was painful to read
Oh gosh. I think this honour has to go to Stardust. I found it so difficult to read, and the plot was so flimsy and it actually enraged me at points. It was a shame because I wanted to love it so much!

Avada Kadavra:- a book that could kill
This one is a hard one, given that it is one that is to be interpreted as the blogger wishes. And for this I’m actually going to take it as a book that is so heavy it could kill someone if used as a weapon. And that is The Count of Monte Cristo. At over 1200 pages it was both an incredible book, and a beast that I absolutely could not carry around with me. There are several books of this length I have read, and enjoyed, but it’s Monte Cristo which I think would be the most apt to be used to kill a person!

So, that’s it! This was so much fun to do and, if it looks fun to you, feel free to do it yourself. Alternatively feel free to comment and discuss because I’d love to hear your thoughts on this tag.

Thanks for reading!

May Wrap Up

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It’s been a very long time since I read enough in a month to warrant a wrap up – but being off work sick for the majority of the month has meant that I’ve got a lot more reading than usual under my belt. Books are the only thing that have kept me sane this month, so I thought it a good time to reinstate wrap-ups. I’m hoping they’ll become a regular thing again, because I do have a very nice spreadsheet with lots of data on, and it seems a shame not to share it!

So, this month I read a total of 19 things – which is insane. It doubled my total books read this year. 10 of them were graphic novels – I read Volumes 1-4 of Lumberjanes and also started reading the Marvel interpretations/graphic novels of The Wizard of Oz. I found they’ve been a really good distraction on bad days when I can’t focus on too many words or big plots but still want to feel like I’ve been achieving something. I’m still not sure if I’m going to do full reviews of graphic novels, or wait until I’ve finished a bulk of them and do more mass-reviewing. Let me know what you think would be best!

Of the 11 other books, it was a really good mix between literary fiction, short stories, non fiction, classics, and even a couple of kids books! I really enjoyed everything I read this month aside from The Seamstress and the Wind. My average rating was a whopping 3.7 – and as someone who is an eternal 3* reviewer that was quite impressive for me (taking out the graphic novels it’s 3.6 average). As for pages, I read a massive 4658 – which for me is boggling. The last time I read that much was July 2015 (according to my spreadsheet) – given the place I was in then compared to now, I don’t know how I’ve done it!

My favourite books this month, by country miles, were My Cousin Rachel and Crime and Punishment. I really can’t wait for next month for more du Maurier and also starting another Russian behemoth of a book – War and Peace. I can’t wait to get started on that tomorrow for the readalong that Ange & Yamini are hosting (Goodreads group can be found here with links to all the information).

Next month is looking to be another tough one – I’m still not back at work, I’m still signed off but I’m looking at maybe doing a phased return, which would be a much better balance for me all things considered. I’ve got a lot of life-things happening next month – my baby sister is 21, I’m going on holiday at the end of the month, and I am HOPEFULLY getting a tattoo (health permitting!)

I’m not going to do a TBR, because alongside War and Peace I have no idea what I’ll be reading. I will however probably do a holiday TBR closer to the event!

I hope you all have had a wonderful May & that your June is full of sunshine and books.

Thanks for reading!

Discussion: Graphic Novels & Stepping Outside a Comfort Zone

Okay, so a bit of a chance of pace from my more recent posts which have been predominantly reviews (being off work sick has some benefits in that I have been reading prolifically for the first time in ages). Today I want to talk about Graphic Novels.

Graphic novels are something that I never thought were for me. I was never a big comic book reader as a kid and as a result of me never being in to this style of reading; I truly believed that graphic novels were not going to be for me. I had this perception, quite naively, that they weren’t going to be something worth the time or the effort. I can appreciate good art, but I love a good story, and that’s something I honestly believed I was not going to get from a graphic novel.

Anyway, the crux of this is that they especially weren’t something I was willing to spend money on.

Cut to the present day – Amazon Prime recently added a new feature to the ever growing list of benefits included with the subscription. This feature, Prime Reading, has a couple of hundred books available to borrow from their library – and it included graphic novels. I saw this as a perfect opportunity to give a graphic novel a go. I understand that on an iPad it’s going to be hugely different to reading a physical copy, but actually it’s a lot more convenient for someone like me who can’t get to the library easily!

I downloaded the first volume of Lumberjanes. Lumberjanes is a graphic novel I’d heard of, and interested me more than many of the others available on a number of levels – artwork, characters, and everyone I’d seen talk about it enjoyed it.

I loved it. I absolutely bloody loved it. I sat there, I laughed out loud, read it in one sitting, and proceeded to buy the next 3 volumes. And also Nimona. 

I don’t think I’m ever going to be someone who will talk about them a lot, I probably won’t ever own physical copies as I’m quite happy reading them on ComiXology on my iPad. I understand how/why it’s fantastic to read a physical copy, but for me they’re just too space-consuming and actually I really loved the concept of zooming in on sections and really appreciating the art – as for me that’s probably a bigger component of a graphic novel than the story line!

Ultimately I surprised myself at how much I did enjoy reading a graphic novel, and I can’t wait to read more of them.

How about you, dear readers, do you like graphic novels? dislike them? Never tried them? Discuss because I’d really like to get a conversation going on this!

As always, thanks for reading!

Discussion: Wellcome Book Prize 2017

I had intended for this to be a post before the winner was announced – however, that plan got put on the backburner and here I am now, 45 minutes after the winner was announced, a little in shock. It’s the most wonderful kind of shock because I am so, so happy with which book has been named the winner.

To warn you, this is a 500 word ramble.

In case you haven’t seen who won – I’m about to spoil it for you. It was Mend the Living by Maylis de Kerangal. This has made Wellcome Prize history as it’s the first book to have been translated and won, which is incredible – and honestly a testament to the translation skill. In a prize shortlist which was so diverse, fiction and non fiction, men and women, the possibility of a posthumous award, the outcome of a translated book winning – honestly it’s boggling how wonderfully diverse the shortlist was and I really, really love that this book won.

Mend the Living didn’t shout like some books do, it was more quiet in what it was putting across. It’s one that the more I’ve thought about since I finished it 2 weeks ago, the more I’ve loved it – to the point that I actually changed my rating on goodreads and bumped this up to a 5* book. It was quiet in both the way it was written, and also the media surrounding it – a lot of focus was on When Breath Becomes Air and The Tidal Zone. The hard science in The Gene and I Contain Multitudes was overwhelming and impressive, and I enjoyed both those books.

For me, the two it came down to were How to Survive a Plague and Mend the Living – out of the two the better book won in my opinion. They were both a lot less publicised, somewhat pushed to the back of the tables in my local bookshops, they were definitely not talked about enough. I actually had a conversation with a few of the booksellers in my local Waterstones, and told them that out of the entire shortlist Mend the Living was the one I would say ‘read’ – and a couple of them did.

I’m quite sad I didn’t put a prediction post up – because I would so love to have been right before the event (it’s all very well and good saying I TOLD YOU SO, but when there’s no evidence to back it up it’s not nearly as impressive!)

Seriously folks, read this book. It’s incredible and it really won’t disappoint. It’s a very, very worthy winner and I will be thrusting it in to several people’s hands in the near future. I hope that several more of her books are translated in to English because I would so, so love to see what else this woman can write.

If you can’t tell, I’m very happy.

Review: Headstrong: 52 Women Who Changed Science and the World – Rachel Swaby

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Rating – 5*

I saw this book pop up in a magazine (Royal Society of Chemistry magazine) quite a while ago, since then it was on my radar. I knew it was a book that I wanted to, an needed to, own. Eventually, I decided enough was enough and it was about time to pick it up, I just waited until the right point to read it. A point when I needed motivation, inspiration, I needed to remind myself why I do what I do and this book, oh this book did just that. This book is amazing. These women, all 52 of them, were incredible. They make me proud to be a scientist, to follow the path that they essentially paved for me and my female friends to be able to do what we do! They gave us access. Every single woman featured in this book is a superhero and I wouldn’t be doing what I do without them.

This book was born from the author reading an obituary in the newspaper. Yvonne Brill made a “mean beef stroganoff”, she was a wife, a mother and there was over half a page of column dedicated to her. Why? She was an incredible rocket scientist. A rocket scientist who developed technology still used by NASA today (hydrazine jet propulsion if anyone cares!). And all the New York Times cared about was her “mean beef stroganoff”, that was more important than the work she did for over 50 years. After reading this, Rachel Swaby decided enough was enough and it was about time people heard about the amazing women who have changed science (and coincidentally, the world) but are little heard about, some even forgotten entirely from scientific circles (never mind the general public!).

There are women in medicine, biological sciences, environmental sciences, chemistry, physics, engineering, and mathematics who have been overwritten in history. Some names remain, most people know who Marie Curie was, but her daughter Irene was equally as incredible and also won a Nobel prize to go with her mothers two. Many people have heard of Ada Lovelace and Florence Nightingale. But there are so many more amazing women out there; Rosalind Franklin identified the signature double helix of DNA. Lise Meitner discovered nuclear fission. Dorothy Hodgkin discovered the structure of Vitamin B12. Inge Lehmann discovered the inner core of the Earth. Virginia Apgar developed the APGAR test which has saved countless of newborn babies. Helen Taussig revolutionised heart surgery. Alice Ball was a black woman in her twenties who treated leprosy. All of these women are incredible, inspiring too. And while they only get three or four pages each, their intelligence and determination comes across so clearly. I wish, oh I wish, I could have some of these women round for dinner and just thank them, talk to them, have some of their insight because they’re incredible.

These women inspire me. Everyone should know about these women. This book is something special, it has it’s faults, the writing is a bit questionable, and jumbled, at times but the reasoning behind this book and the overall presentation is faultless. I would love more on each of these women, but the idea of reading about one woman a week for a year that is put forward in the introduction I think is great for the non-specialist or the person who just wants to read about an awesome woman once a week! I devoured it in under a week, I read a couple of sections a day (the book is split in to seven scientific disciplines).

This is by no means a book for scientists only. This is a book that, I feel, could benefit anyone. If I had known about these women earlier on in my life it would have probably sparked my interest in science sooner! 

Naturally, this is a book about science and women and it is awesome. It was a 5* book before I opened it, if I’m entirely honest. How could it be anything else?

Blog: The Pain of the Reading Slump

I’m in a reading slump. I genuinely can’t remember the last time I had such a big slump. Even when I last posted about being in a slump (December) I still managed to read 9 books in that month. Granted, they were primarily rereads but I still managed to read 9 books! I haven’t even finished one book this month, granted I am reading Les Misérables but a huge, beastly book isn’t normally something that deters me and it still isn’t, I’m really enjoying it but… I’m just not in the mood to read, even though I want to be reading and it’s frustrating. It seems as though those two feelings conflict but they really don’t, I want to read I just don’t feel like it…

I feel pressure to read sometimes, the pressure comes only from myself, but I feel if I’m not reading I’m not producing content for this blog, and that makes me sad because I love this blog. I love writing posts, interacting with those of you who read it and not being able to do that because I’m not doing anything to write about is getting me down.

The main issue I have is I don’t feel I’ve achieved anything. Nothing. I don’t feel I’ve made any significant headway on anything else, least of all my dissertation or any coursework, I’ve not even been watching TV. I just don’t understand where my time has been going or what I’ve been doing with it. I have nothing to show for it.

Gah. I’m feeling really zapped right now. That could also be antibiotics talking as I’m doped up to my eyeballs, but alas. Normal business shall resume soon, I just needed to get this off of my chest!