July books

Last month I struggled to read much and did most of my reading in chunks of time when I suddenly got in the mood rather than spread out everyday like I usually do, that being said, I read some fantastic books when I managed so let’s get into it.

The first book this month was Something to Talk About by Meryl Wilsner, a fun romance between a Hollywood icon and her assistant that kicks off when a rumour starts to spread about them being a couple that ends up being not quite so much of a rumour after all. As the tabloids spread more stories it starts to have more of an impact on their work relationship and friendship as they begin to wonder about the other person’s feelings as well as their own. There’s lots of will they, won’t they and assuming how the other person feels then questioning those assumptions with a heck of a lot of miscommunication (as always). Although it wasn’t the most flirty, or well, overly romantic romance novel I’ve ever read I still found it to be a lovely light read which managed to dive into a few darker topics but remained amusing and sweet.

Next I read My Name Is Why by Lemn Sissay, a much heavier book than the last, but nonetheless beautiful. It covers the story of Sissay’s life within the British care system, one that he didn’t even fully understand until he eventually got a hold of all the documents on him and how he got there years later. The book takes us alongside him- with excerpts from the documents alongside his writing- as he finds out all these new details including his own name, what happened to his biological mother and the many, many injustices and cruelties he faced eventually leading to the system imprisoning him. The book explores many questions around race and family, really highlighting the amazing outlet which creativity is and ultimately the strength and determination of Sissay. The writing is vivid, moving and altogether hopeful, as although I felt angry reading many parts, no matter the atrocities the young Sissay faced, he always found the light.

My favourite read this month had to be The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, a truly unmissable book which I so wish was required reading in schools instead of books like Lord of the Flies which I really don’t think can help humanity much. This edition has a snazzy yellow sprayed edge and the abbreviation for the title, THUG, on the spine which is in reference to Tupac’s point that THUG LIFE stands for ‘The Hate You Give Little Infants Fucks Everyone’ (something I had no idea he’d said even though in my teens I had the rather unoriginal poster of him above my bed with his thug life tattoo visible, a fake fan, I know) which is a central message in the book but even more prevalent in the world right now. The book centres around Starr, who near the beginning of the book witness’ a police officer shooting and killing her childhood friend, a young Black boy, who supposedly has a gun which is in fact a hair brush. The story then follows the aftermath of this for Starr and the surrounding Black community. This book is the exact reason why folk shouldn’t knock YA because it’s absolutely astounding, covers so many much needed topics, is super readable and I honestly couldn’t fault a single thing about it.

Then I read my much anticipated read of the month, How Do We Know We’re Doing It Right? And Other Essays On Modern Life by Pandora Sykes. The book contains 8 essays covering everything from wellness and fast fashion to authenticity and the new culture of being constantly on. While reading it felt like Sykes had taken many of the little nagging thoughts on the modern world and in particular the digital age from inside my head, put them down on paper and then thoroughly (and I mean thoroughly) analysed them with her own musings and research, plus facts and stats, to basically give me even more to think about. And yet it was still a great comfort, I think in part due to the warmth and thoughtfulness of Sykes’ personality that shone through her generous writing. I loved the writing on the problem with empathy and the call for, what the psychologist Paul Bloom calls, radical compassion which felt very apt, as it’s put in the book, “compassion is objective and allows decisions to be made with a level of remove, rather than from within the eye of the storm”. The book left me with lots to unpack and think over about both our collective consciousness and also the way I’ve been living my own life in this divisive digital world.

And lastly, The Dutch House by Ann Patchett which as you can see has the most gorgeous cover and matching sprayed edge. The book follows two siblings as they go through life forever looking back at their childhood and in particular their attachment to the crazily beautiful house they grew up in. It takes an interesting look at how people can remember the same experiences differently, especially the difference that time makes through intriguing time jumps which, although very different to most, were not at all jarring and didn’t remove me from the story. I thought the writing in this book was so all consuming and absorbing, just like the relationships within it, and although it wasn’t my favourite or most enjoyable read, it left me with such a heavy weighted feeling, particularly like I needed to lie down for a while, that is testament to the skill of Patchett in what I’d say is a pretty masterful piece of storytelling.

I’m looking forward to getting back into reading a bit more this month, as I know I always feel far better when I make time for reading and prioritise it. Now I’m going to get back to reading more of Matt Haig’s beautiful new book The Midnight Library from the comfort of my bath. I hope you have a lovely sunny August, well, what’s left of it anyway!

—T

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