I can hardly believe it’s July already, last month went by in a blur filled with amazing books, podcasts and music, but my favourite has to be Michaela Coel’s new tv drama I May Destroy You. It left me speechless too many times to count and was just amazing really. I wish I could make everyone watch it. The conversations around consent in all its forms were weaved throughout with such depth but yet just enough lightness and all that while being not in the least bit preachy. In only 12 episodes the show managed to cover so many different topics and most importantly, the nuances within them. Really highlighting all the different systems we face due to all our unique intersecting identities, showing that finding someone to blame for all the bad isn’t as simple as it first appears. I thought Coel did a really brilliant job of exploring how life goes on after a traumatic event and the ways in which such an event can continue to affect you in the joyous moments, the sad, and even the mundane. It felt like a piece of work which was a bit too perfect to be exist but it makes me feel a whole lot better about the world that it does. Back to the books though, I was a bit slow getting into my reading this month but I was speeding through during our short spell of good weather as all I ever want to do is read in the sun. Without further a do, let’s get into what I’ve been reading this month.
First up, Bernardine Evaristo’s Girl, Woman, Other, which is far too good for me to do any sort of justice. I’m not a big re-reader of books, but honestly this book was so full of life in only 400 or so pages that I feel like one read isn’t enough to take all that brilliance in. The book covers a different character’s life in each chapter (12 in total) and yet within such a small length of time Evaristo manages to give such a well rounded view that no character feels at all lacking. It truly left me feeling like I’d read a whole book on each character. Characters from other chapters pop up throughout and all of them are a little bit entangled in some way which is always fun to notice and pick up on when you notice someone you already know, or realise how it’s all linked. It all comes to a conclusion in the final chapter “The After Party” which just seemed like the perfect goodbye to all the characters you get to know while reading. All this wonderful writing and characterisation is enough that everyone should want to read it, but there’s also the diversity, with so many different life experiences, incidents, and people it felt real and fresh and also left me with even more of a longing for stories about people from all walks of life. It also left me feeling a bit extra miffed that Evaristo had to share the Booker prize as the book is so rich it really should have won on its own. Anyway in case it wasn’t obvious, I loved it.
This next book, Evidence of the Affair by Taylor Jenkins Reid is more of a short story than a book at around only 100 pages long and is available on kindle or audible. I read it in one sitting in the bath as a Goodreads review recommended, although I didn’t listen to Fleetwood Mac while doing so, purely because I wouldn’t be able to concentrate as at all other times I’d love a bit of Stevie. It was a really satisfying little read and I always enjoy the impact of reading a book in one sitting (although I don’t manage that very often). I won’t say too much as the title speaks for itself, but the story is told through letters between a woman who finds out her husband is having an affair and the man who’s wife her husband is having an affair with. It’s an interesting layout and one that still manages to invoke a real sense of care for the characters in less than 100 pages. Which is testament to Jenkins Reid’s writing, which I knew I already adored from The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, however I haven’t read Daisy Jones and The Six as I just wasn’t sure about the style of story telling but since abstract styles seem to be the writers strong point I might give it a go. If you’ve read that book, do let me know what you thought of it!
Next up, one of my favourite books of the year, Women Don’t Owe You Pretty by Florence Given. I did a full post on this which you can read here, but all I’ll say is it’s absolutely bangin’ in every way, and EVERYONE should read it.
I just knew, from reading the premise alone, that Hazel Hayes’ Out of Love was gonna mess me up, and it was done with so much warmth, wit and honest observations that it was even more heartbreaking and brilliant than I could’ve imagined. I read it pretty quickly as the love story told in reverse and the depth of the characters and their lives was enough to draw anyone right in with the need to know more. There was many a moment where a single line would leave me stunned and I’d just have to close the book and take it in for a minute. Seeing their love from the blossoming romance of their first few meetings after knowing how it ends was a real kick in the teeth, but perfect for anyone who likes to skip to the last chapter. I really enjoy books that work through snapshots of a life, showing the amazing moments and the completely ordinary, similar in that vein to David Nicholls’ One Day and maybe even Sally Rooney’s Normal People, strangely all three books are likely to leave you in tears as well. But it’s so much more than the heartbreak, I’d really recommend it as an engrossing piece of fiction, a perfectly sized chunk of life to jump into.
My next bit of non fiction, which I listened to on audible, was Slay In Your Lane by Yomi Adegoke and Elizabeth Uviebinené. I’d already been listening to their new podcast of the same name (and loving it) and had been meaning to get round to the book for a while so thought it would be a good one to listen to. With the tagline “The Black Girl Bible”, I was of course informed of a lot of new things before even beginning to learn about them, both due to me being white but also just from the fact I don’t live and work near the social hub that is London but instead rural Scotland, and I imagine growing up Black in the country could require a whole other bible. In just one (8 hour long audio) book they managed to cover such a range of topics with interviews from women from all areas of work and points in life, covering everything from growing up, education, the workplace, relationships and remembering to take care of yourself. It’s crazy to think how much of a gap in the market there is for books like this given the great number of books out there on existing and thriving as a white woman. I loved the writing style of both women, as they managed to go over all the statistics and facts, and then analyse all of it while never losing the readers attention. It felt thorough and thoughtful and was filled to the brim with conversation starters that everyone needs to think about in the discussion around race and women.
After reading Holly Jackson’s first novel (which I talked about in my May books) I had to get my hands on the sequel Good Girl, Bad blood. Just like the first it was another perfect YA mystery, a genre which I hadn’t read much from in a while but recently seem to be rather enjoying for some good escapism. The book follows on from the aftermath of the teen sleuth, Pippa Fitz-Amobi, solving the town’s murder case. Pippa has started a true-crime podcast (which would be why there are earphones on the cover which with my eyesight I thought was rope) following the trial of the previous case but it’s not long before there’s a missing person case she has to grapple with taking on, especially given its close to home. It’s full of leads, suspicions and plenty of twists and turns and as always, the perfect big reveal. There isn’t really much else I can say without spoiling it, but man it’s just a really fun enticing read.
The last book I read in June was Hood Feminism by Mikki Kendall. I’ve had this book on my to read list for a while and I’m glad I managed to buy it before it sold out in a lot of places. It’s certainly not a book to rush through, more one to read chapter by chapter and digest in between because boy is there a lot to take in and think about more deeply. The quote on the cover from Elizabeth Gilbert that “[her] wish is that every white woman who calls herself a feminist will read this book”, sums up the absolute necessity of this book given that so many white feminists think of themselves as progressive and aware without actually listening to the people they claim to care about. Something that I’ve seen a lot online recently (I’m looking at a certain female Labour MP in the UK that I had such high hopes for) that is doing a hell of a lot more harm than good and yet is so easy to fix if everyone was just willing to take a step back, listen, and preferably read books like this one. I honestly don’t know if I’ve ever came out of a book feeling like I’ve gained quite so much newfound knowledge, understanding and just downright horror at many of the stats and stories. Kendall really highlights the fact that any issue facing women, is an issue feminism must be fighting for, which seems obvious but yet is so rarely put into practice. One such example being that the same outrage we feel at new abortion restrictions in an American state needs to be applied to the hunger crisis that disproportionately affects Black women in the US. This book can open so many minds, just gotta get it into everyone’s hands.
So that’s my wrap up for June, a tad late I must say since we’re already half way through July as I fell behind on my writing for a few weeks, but I made it eventually. I’ve got some posts in the works for the coming weeks that I’m enjoying writing, including which podcasts I’m listening to at the moment and some great paperback recommendations for what’s left of summer, so hopefully I can get back into the flow of writing again. I’m now going to go get stuck into Pandora Sykes’ new book How do we know we’re doing it right?, and there’s a lot of other preorders been arriving this month so I’ve got lots to look forward to. Hope you all have a great reading week too!