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Reading

Books I’ve read in 2022 (Part 1)

Collage of all 10 book covers featured in blog post

Considering we’re more than a third of the way through the year, I’ve not read nearly as many books as I would have liked.

But I thought I’d do a roundup of all the books I have read so far this year and share some quick thoughts.

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Reading

Thoughts and quotes from Sally Rooney’s “Beautiful World, Where Are You?”

Hardback cover of Sally Rooney's "Beautiful World, Where Are You?"

Last week, I finished Sally Rooney’s third novel Beautiful World, Where Are You? I can’t say I loved it like I did Normal People — one of my favourite books of 2020 — but I still enjoyed this follow-up.

Rooney can transform even the most mundane of human interactions into engaging prose, whilst also making her characters feel like real people with frustrating but compelling flaws.  

However, it wasn’t the relationships that most gripped me in this book, it was the emails protagonists Alice and Eileen exchanged every other chapter. Their emails are treated like the modern-day equivalent of letters that they are, and within them the two women discuss politics, religion, societal issues, among other things.

Whilst character interactions outside of these emails also pose interesting questions, I felt the real meat of the novel was in these emails.

So I decided to pull out 5 key points, with quotes, and share them here.

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Reading

10 thoughts on “All the Birds in the Sky” by Charlie Jane Anders

Paperback cover of Charlie Jane Anders' novel All the Birds in the Sky.

Earlier this month, I re-read All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders, which I enjoyed so much more on a second reading. I’ve wanted to talk more about it since, however, I’ve never really gelled with any book review approach I’ve previously taken.

An idea then came to me: what if I wrote my thoughts as a listicle? In my newsletter, I list 10 things I want to share from the past two weeks — mimicking Austin Kleon’s newsletter. So I thought I’d try using the same structure for a book review.

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Reading

Reading goals (2022)

Outline of a bookshelf in the page of a journal. Shelves outlined in sharpie, books outlined in a black pen, the space above the books shaded in with a pencil.

The above image is a bookshelf I drew in my journal last year, filled with the books I want to get through in 2022. It’s by no means a rigid reading list, and there are books I missed that I really want to read.

No matter how many times I design a reading plan, I can never stick to it. But regardless of how different my year in books may look by year’s end, my actual reading goal differs from the challenge I’ve set myself every other year.

Ordinarily, much like many booklovers, my reading goal is a set number of books to read within 12 months that I declare on Goodreads. This number is mostly arbitrary, high enough to push me to read if I get behind but low enough that I always hit my target. It’s never really been a challenge, and I’ve been content with that.

However, this year, I decided a challenge was necessary to achieve one specific reading goal I always set myself but never manage to complete.

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Reading

We All Hear Stories in the Dark: “a modern day Arabian Nights, mixed up with playing a game”

Paperback set for Robert Shearman’s We All Hear Stories in the Dark

In Robert Shearman’s three-tome short story collection We All Hear Stories in the Dark, an idea is proposed: you can read every work of literature ever published in three weeks — but you have to read them in the right order. An absurdist idea, for sure, but it builds the foundation of an interesting premise.

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Reading

My favourite books of 2021

Collage of book covers for 12 of the listed 20 books in this post.

I read 45 books this year and started a 46th on Christmas Day. Out of all those books, there was not a single one I’d call a bad read. Thus, narrowing down a list of favourites from this year wasn’t easy.

In the end, after much deliberation, I settled on the 20 listed below. So here are my favourite reads of 2021, listed in the order that I read them:

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Reading

Reviewing Tim Kreider’s “We Learn Nothing”

We Learn Nothing paperback cover, published by Simon & Schuster (2013)

Tim Kreider is a cartoonist and essayist who was a regular contributor to the New York Times. I’ve previously referenced his article “I Am a Meme Now”, which I absolutely adored. It was that essay that prompted me to buy this collection. It features a number of his excellent sketches, too.

Overall, some essays were incredibly powerful, and I’ll 100% read them again and again. Whilst others were middling, and a few even left a rather bad taste in my mouth. Yet I must have enjoyed this book a great deal to write a review this long!

To review the book, I thought I’d highlight six (out of 15) essays that perfectly encapsulate my thoughts about the book as a whole.

***

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Reading

Five newsletters I like

I’ll be launching my own email newsletter very soon, and so I thought I’d take this opportunity to share five newsletters I regularly read and enjoy.

Assuming you’re like me and you check your email inbox at least once per day, newsletters can be a great way to follow the work of your favourite content creators. There’s no interference from an algorithm that causes you to miss the latest update. Instead, you’ve invited your favourite creator into your inbox.

Email newsletters come in many forms. Some are similar to blogs, focusing on a particular theme or subject matter and writing content centred around it. Whilst mine will be a curated newsletter. What this means is that it will feature a collection of links and general info all in one place with the aim of sending you to other pages on the web.

The following five fall into one of these two categories:

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Reading

Reading lists and red flag books

A red flag over the front covers of six books (from left to right): The Millionaire Next Door, Atlas Shrugged, Zero to One, Can't Hurt Me, Think and Grow Rich, and How to Win Friends and Influence People.

If you invite me round your house and you have a bookshelf, I’m going to have a nose. Wherever there’s books, I want to know what’s there—even if I know I’ll never read anything of what’s on the shelf.

Perhaps that’s why I also love a good online reading list. Whether it’s a blog post or a Twitter thread or even a video, I’ll stop and read/listen.

So when I stumbled upon Brian Feroldi’s thread of 20 books that should be read again and again (back in early July), I stopped my mindless Twitter-binge and had a scroll. My reaction was much the same as everyone else: a feeling of despair at the soullessness of such a list.

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Reading

The male gaze is inverted in Eliza Clark’s compelling book “Boy Parts”

I got handsy. It’s hard to just look, isn’t it? It’s hard to look, and not touch, not squeeze, or prod, or squash all that soft, private skin they show me.

It takes a compelling book to compel me to write about it. But that’s exactly what Eliza Clark’s Boy Parts is, a compulsive read that gripped my attention so successfully my eyes did not glaze over a single word. When I’d turned the last page, I craved more.

Boy Parts paperback cover, published by Influx Press (2020)

Through the eyes of the protagonist, Irina Sturges, we get a subversive take on the male gaze. A photographer who specialises in—shall we say revealing—photos of men, the male flesh is for Irina to scrutinise.

Whether we’re knowingly aware or not, we are well-acquainted with the male gaze in our media and literature. For those unclear as to what the male gaze refers to, Wikipedia defines the male gaze as:

[The] act of depicting women and the world, in the visual arts and in literature, from a masculine, heterosexual perspective that presents and represents women as sexual objects for the pleasure of the heterosexual male viewer.

The unique lens of Irina Sturges gives us a story where men are objects. It pushes us to think about the way women have been framed in our media for decades. But the narrative is more than just an inverted gaze, it’s a story where we can never be sure of reality. Victim blaming and gaslighting galore, Irina’s world is tinged by trauma and the lines between pain and pleasure are blurred. Told predominantly through her voice, whether we are meant to sympathise with Irina is a decision best left to the reader.