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!

Blog: Readers Guilt|| Blogmas Day 22

I haven’t picked a book up for a couple of days and, as someone who talks about reading a lot, this makes me feel guilty. It’s a weird feeling because it’s a completely unfounded notion. Noone is going to penalise me for not reading a book for a few days, noone is judging or actively harassing me but I feel I should be reading when I’m spending my free time doing other stuff. I have two shelves full of books, plus an overspill downstairs. I have so many books that I want to be reading but, right now, I just don’t feel like reading.

I’ve really been enjoying watching TV lately and that’s not a bad thing. I love watching TV, especially with my mum as it’s rare she actually enjoys a show that I do. This past couple of weeks I’ve got my mum hooked on one of my favourite TV shows – Major Crimes. I’ve had a tonne recorded and as she had a day off we genuinely sat and watched 6 episodes pretty much back to back today and it was fantastic. We rarely get to spend time just loafing about watching telly so it’s been really, really great to be able to do that. I also watched The Good Life Christmas special. Twice. 1970s comedy was gold, especially The Good Life, I just love it so very much.

But I have this pressure on me wherein I feel I ought to be reading. The pressure comes from noone but myself, which is why it’s especially annoying, but it’s fuelled by reading goals and targets I set myself. It’s fuelled by watching other people read obscene amounts and wanting to keep up with the best of them. Essentially, I have a reading inferiority complex.

Now, I’ve read 94 books this year and I want to make it to a nice, round 100. Can I do that? I don’t know. But what I do know is that I want to enjoy time with my family, I want to watch TV and make shortbread and sing Christmas songs (badly, I must add, as I currently have the tail end of flu and sound like a 96 year old man with emphysema). What I also know is this pressure I put myself under has me wanting to read less.

So, I’m not reading right now and I’m starting to feel okay about that.

Blog: Trips to the Theatre || Blogmas Day 20

I missed another day because of a migraine. I’m going to forgive myself, I hope you enjoyed the peace and quiet!

So today I’m going to talk about my trips to the theatre this year and trips I hope to take because I’ve really got in to theatre this year, I always enjoyed going to see something or other but I’ve actively tried to go see different things this year and I’ve loved it. Not many people realise that I’m a complete theatre nerd, but along with tea I think theatre goes hand in hand with reading books.

My local theatre used to be pretty poor when it came to touring productions, now it’s attracting a LOT of shows on tour which I’m so grateful for. It only started showing things after Les Mis sold out two weeks and the West End realised that people in Norfolk do want to see shows and the like. It’s a relatively small theatre which limits a lot of the shows we get but what it does get is usually fantastic. Anyway, what I have seen this year is a bit eclectic actually.  Continue reading

Best Books of 2015 || Blogmas Day 15

Somewhat adapted from today’s Top Ten Tuesday topic I want to discuss the best books I’ve read in the year of 2015! This year has been an incredible reading year for me, while not many of these will be a surprise to those of you who have followed my blog over the year I want to just share these books and hopefully inspire one of you to read them.

My love of classics grew exponentially this year and I’m really no longer scared of the epic classic that spans over 800 pages. I started the year reading The Old Curiosity Shop – it was my first Dickens and even now, a year on nearly, it’s still as clear in my mind.

Another epic classic but a bit shorter at just over 600 pages is Moby Dick. It’s one I am so glad I read although it was difficult in parts; I felt I got something out of it. I’m not certain this book would be for everyone but I implore you to just try it because I was dubious about it too but I ended up loving it.

One that will come as no surprise is the epic of all epics, The Count of Monte Cristo, is on this list. This book took me by surprise in the best possible way and I cannot wait to read more Dumas next year. I implore anyone to read this book, I absolutely devoured it and even at over 1200 pages it really didn’t feel very long. That book is a masterpiece and I would really suggest to anyone to give it a try because I really think it has a little bit of something for everyone!

Slightly shorter is The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood. This is the best in the MaddAddam trilogy, in my opinion at least! I couldn’t put this book down and the world that she created was incredible. This was the book I connected with most in the series and I think that this and Oryx and Crake can be read in either order as they are essentially the same story through different eyes. The less I say about MaddAddam the better!

Orlando I read twice in a handful of days. I finished it and went right back to the start. This book connected with me on some emotional level I didn’t know I had. I loved Virginia Woolf already but this only solidified that and put her up there as one of my favourite authors. Woolf can be hard to get in to, but I encourage everyone to try because her work is beautiful. If you want a good place to start, try Flush!

Finally, the only new release of the year, is A Portable Shelter by Kirsty Logan. This is the best short story collection I’ve read in a long time, maybe ever. Each story is linked beautifully by the thread that they’re being told to an unborn child by their mothers. I could easily have read this in one sitting. It’s really hard to find right now as it was a limited run by a small publisher in Scotland but I believe the paperback will be available next year!

So there we have it – my favourite books of 2015, or my stand out books at the very least! Tomorrow is a top 5 Wednesday and Thursday will be a review all being well. If you have any ideas I’d like to have some inspiration because I’m really running out of them…!

Books My Sister Has Bought Me || Blogmas Day 14

One thing I love about my sister is she has a beautiful taste in books and is normally drawn in by a beautiful cover. My sister is one of the most creative people I know, her own artwork is incredible and because she’s so artistic I think she has more appreciation for the artwork that goes in to a book than the words in the pages. Naturally, because of her appreciation for a beautiful book she has given me some corkers over the years.

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There are many more, I am sure, but these are the ones she has gifted me in the recent years… and she wanted to take the picture so included an apple. Because that’s how my sister rolls.

The Penguin editions speak for themselves. She tends to treat me to one of those a year but likes to find other beautiful books for me to have on my shelves. She also bought both The Bone Clocks and The Book of Strange New Things for me which are incredibly beautiful covers.

However, the two books I want to look at more are Black Beauty and Harry Potter Page to Screen.

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5 Reading Goals for 2016 || Blogmas Day 13

In August 2014 I set myself a list of goals to work towards – they were all casual goals that didn’t really have any time limit on them, but were more personal goals I wanted to achieve with my reading. The full post can be found here but the main goals were set monthly TBRs, read more classics, read more diversely, rejoin a book club and for a lot of them I succeeded. I just feel that 18 months on I should set myself some new reading goals for the year ahead!

  1. Read 52 Books – I’m going to lower my goodreads reading goal this coming year. Between my final semester at university and planning to start teacher training in September, I want to just aim to read a book a week. I’ll have time in the Summer to read as much as I want (I hope!) but I’m a girl who likes to meet targets so in setting the goal lower, I’m more likely to hit it!
  2. Read More Classics – I’ve been really hitting this one but I want to explore classics further and challenge myself more. My classics collection has grown exponentially over the last year and I really want to just get through them. I’m wanting to read more Dickens, finish Charlotte Bronte’s bibliography… heck, I’d actually like to read War and Peace next year!
  3. TBRs – Aiming for one book a week, I do want to continue with a monthly TBR for at least the near future. I will be posting, in the near future, a list of 12 books I want to read in 2016 and will aim to read one of them a month but I realise that if my reading drops significantly if I start teaching then a monthly TBR isn’t really practical, a TBR with one book on it is pretty dull!
  4. Read More Non-Fiction – I’ve really enjoyed non-fiction this year and really want to continue reading more of it, or rather listening to it. Audiobooks I’ve found are incredible for non-fiction!
  5. Actually Join a Book Club – I still haven’t joined a real book club. I really need to do this. Graduating in the Summer I’m going to need something to fulfil my social needs and I want to find a good book club! It’s just finding the confidence to do that which is proving difficult!

So there you have it, five goals for 2016 reading. I’m not being nearly as ambitious as I usually am but if I give myself targets, I always want to exceed them so in setting reasonable goals, whatever I achieve above them I will be pleased with! Do you set yourself reading goals? If you do are they monthly or yearly?

The Books that Made Me || Blogmas Day 10

So this is somewhat inspired by three sources, there is Cinzia’s (C.A. DuBois) video, Lauren’s (Reads and Daydreams) Bookish Beginnings tag and also Jen’s (JenVCampbell) tag called The Time and Place tag. Now, I wanted to do Jen’s tag desperately but I just don’t think of enough books to warrant it so I combined it with Lauren’s and threw in a bit of Cinzia and… came up with this today. So it’s a bit ad-lib and somewhat hurried but hopefully not lacking in content.

I’m going to share with you a few stories about my relationship with books and books that shaped me in one way or another. I’ve split it in to 6 categories and hopefully it makes some sense!

Tomorrow I will hopefully do a real tag and then Saturday will be a review all being well!

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Blog: Teas Are a Few of My Favourite Things || Blogmas Day 8

“You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.”

– CS Lewis

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I love tea and I think that this is a trait that goes beautifully alongside being a bibliophile. However, I really do not like plain English breakfast, I actually detest black tea, but I love green tea and herbal tea and I just want to share my love a little bit. I have always detested tea but when I became ill, my mother being a bit of a hippy told me to give herbal tea a shot, she herself detests them but I actually really fell in love with them a little bit. It was a hot drink that I enjoyed and that in itself was a novelty.

I used to be a Twinings devotee but now I’m not so much, I’ll still buy a Twinings product if it’s on offer but, on the whole, I prefer other brands now and I just want to talk about my love of tea and smaller tea brands because I feel they don’t get as much love.

So this is pretty much a post about my enormous, and still growing, tea collection. If you’re looking for whether you should put the milk in first or whatever, this is not the post for you. However if you want to hear pros and cons comparing loose leaf and the teabag and read a post soliloquising about favourite brands this is just what you were looking for!

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