Bump in the Book Buying Ban Road…

At the beginning of the year, I started my book buying semi-ban where I have to read 5 books before I buy 1 new one and, sadly, this month I’ve faltered… Basically, I “earned” the right (from myself) to buy 1 new book and instead I bought 3. Oops…

In all honest, though, I’m happy I’ve been sticking to it fairly well and have gone as long as I have without any upsets. I’ve basically knocked off 10 books I already owned (which is one third of what I own). I’m not beating myself up too badly though because I really wanted the ones I picked up and I’m only two books over what I should be. And I’m not throwing the challenge out of the window at all. I’m just going to continue with it going forward.

But, if you’re curious, here’s what I got:

Capitalist Realism: Is There No Alternative? by Mark Fisher (Zero Books)

Are Prisons Obsolete? by Angela Y Davis (Seven Stories Press)

Rules for Revolutionaries: How Big Organizing Can Change Everything by Becky Bond & Zack Exley (Chelsea Green Publishing)

I’m halfway through Capitalist Realism and find it interesting, but not necessarily a quick read for me despite its small size. I wouldn’t call it a super difficult read necessarily, but it does require your attention and it occasionally references things which, if you don’t know about them, make understanding less straightforward. I’ve also found that the language is sometimes more convoluted than it needs to be. I very much feel like its audience is the academic and already initiated. It’s a real shame because, the content which would benefit the masses to be aware of, is not as engaging or accessible as it could be to capture the attentions of most people in a way that is not difficult to understand.

I thumbed quickly through Rules for Revolutionaries in Waterstones before buying it and found it to be written in a more consistently accessible and engaging way so I think it’ll be a faster read and possibly one I could recommend more freely to a wider range of people who won’t need to do lots of pre-reading of other things to understand what’s being presented.

I’m excited to get to Are Prisons Obsolete? too since I’ve heard so many good things about Angela Y Davis, but I get the impression the style will be a little more (semi-)academic like Capitalist Realism and will require more attention than more pop-politics books.

It seems I’ve been going non-fiction crazy recently. The last 5 books I’ve read have been non-fiction and my reading interest still seems to be in that vein at the moment so I guess I’m having a “Non-Fiction Springtime” or something.

How are your book goals going? And what do you do when you have a hiccup along the road (continue as normal or just give it up)?

Happy Bank Holiday/Easter Monday reading! 😉

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March 2017 Update

It’s been a hot minute! We’ve both been super busy here at Bitches HQ. But as I listen to Kory Stamper talk about the definitions for “bitch” in her new book Word by Word (which is a super enjoyable read for a logophile, by the way), I realised we’ve been neglecting the blog a bit while getting caught up in things.

Well, to fill you in a little bit on where I’ve been: I recently did a personal comic for Buzzfeed that I’m very proud of and which has been surprisingly well received. (P.S. Claire is the friend featured at the beginning in the first and second panels.)

I’ve also been working on various other illustration projects that I’m really excited about while adjusting to a new card designer job role at Hallmark. And, two weeks ago, my boyfriend and I did a road trip across the country to visit a friend for a few days which was fun but also exhausting.

In Reading News:

While all of the stuff I’m doing has been happening, I have read exactly zero books. Or, to be more accurate, I have finished exactly zero books, but really I haven’t read much in general either so it would be ridiculous to expect myself to have finished anything.

I’m still grappling with whether to include French books in my “read 5 books I own before buying 1 new one” book buying challenge or not. I want to encourage myself to continue progressing with my French while not over-stuffing my shelves with more than I can realistically chew at a time. That said, I do currently own two classic French books already (one of which I’m currently reading) and there is a lot of online content to read already…But…let’s be real, that doesn’t quite feel the same, does it? At any rate, I’ve earned one new book recently anyway and I’ve noticed that I feel so much more precious about my book purchases these days because of my challenge. (That’s saying a lot because I’ve always been very particular about my book purchases…as I am with all my purchases in life in general.)

I’ve read my “currently reading” list down from about 10 books to 2 (then back up to the current 4, but I’m a day away from finishing one of those so let’s just call it 3), but that’s somehow giving me anxiety about wanting to (a) keep it down while simultaneously wanting to (b) start more books regardless of what I have or haven’t finished yet. I’ve also culled my “to read” list down to 208 books which gives me enormous satisfaction (and I check it regularly for more that I can cull). It gives me a great sense of control and manageability even though I know this idea to be wholly nonsensical.

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The Guilt of Donating Unread Books

So far I’m only one book away from being able to buy my second new book of the year and my challenge has got me really thinking about the unread books I own. Does it still excite me to pick them up? Does it intimidate me? How much do I really want to read them?

Last night I decided that I’ll be donating The Coma by Alex Garland despite never having read it because I’ve had it for eight years now, carried it from house to house to house (it has lived in five different houses) and it just became one of the books I felt guilty about letting go, but not one I was excited to read. I felt like I should keep it because I was interested in it once and because it might have interesting things to say… But I don’t think those are good enough reasons to keep things any more. Especially not when there are sooo many more books I’m wanting to add to my TBR every day.

I don’t often give away books I haven’t read yet (especially ones I bought!) because it feels wasteful, but is it really worth the guilt and effort to keep and read them if I’ve identified that I’m just not interested any more? I don’t think so.

All of that to say, my challenge has given me renewed confidence to be more honest about where I want to spend my time. There are many books on my shelf that deserve my time, but there are definitely a few that just snuck in there when I wasn’t paying close enough attention and I fully intend to route them out! It feels really relieving to let The Coma go and there are a few more books I’m considering getting rid of too… For now, I’m just going to keep picking up my unreads until I come across another one that I’m not too bothered about. If it doesn’t make the cut, so be it.

Have you ever looked through your books and realised there are books in there you’re just not fussed about any more? How do you deal with them? Do you just keep them in hopes you’ll eventually get excited about them again in future or chuck ’em?

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French TBR (with English Editions)

So far this year I’m doing well reading French books. I thought it would be one of the more difficult bookish resolutions I set for myself but it’s actually proven to be totally doable with my trusty dictionary on standby. It feels super empowering somehow (as silly as that may sound) and I’ve already started debating whether or not I should exclude French books from my book buying ban… (I’m just so excited about developing my French reading skills!) So here’s a look at some books I’ve been thinking about ordering from the Waterstones Marketplace. If you like the sound of them but don’t speak French, do not fret! They are all available in English.

• • •

L’Étranger

L'etranger, the stranger, albert camus, existentialism, surrealism, french, français, classic

On top of just reading three French books, I also had a loose idea that I wanted to read a classic, a contemporary novel and a comic to get a variety of registers, vocabulary and language. Curiously, classics sometimes seem a little easier to get to grips with than contemporary novels. The language feels simpler and more direct, and the ‘odd’/old conventions are fewer than you’d think. This is true of English classics too: they’re far more approachable than you’d think. That said, Camus generally seems to explore weighty ideas and, having read The Myth of Sisyphus (in English!), I think this might actually turn out to be one of the more difficult classics that makes everyone think all classics are intimidating…
From what I understand, Camus is generally all about putting his average joe characters into absurd situations (a bit like Kafka but perhaps with less surrealism and more existentialism?). I don’t know the ins and outs of this story other than the main character becomes somehow embroiled in a murder which turns out to be less than straightforward.
English edition: The Stranger

• • •

Aya de Yopougon (tome 1)

Aya, Yop City, Marguerite Abouet, Ivory Coast, bande dessinee, comic, french, français, Clément Oubrerie, AfricanI really enjoy the look and feel of this comic (or “bande dessinée“) and I find the story and characters super fun! The series follows 19-year-old Aya and the shenanigans of the characters in her neighbourhood of Yopougon in the Ivory Coast. It’s super refreshing seeing African stories that are fun and interesting where the drama isn’t heart-wrenching and the stakes aren’t so dire as the kinds of socio-politically charged stories that usually come to mind when I think of African literature.
I actually read the second volume of this in English already because it wasn’t clear to me which volume was which… So I’ve decided I will pick up the first volume in French, but I’m not sure if afterwards I will skip the second and buy the third or buy the second in French and possibly sell my English version of the second book or what. I’m also interested in picking up Abouet’s other comic series, Akissi in french (of which I already own and enjoyed the first book in English).
English edition: Aya

• • •

Métaphysique des tubes

Amelie Nothomb, Metaphysique des tubes, the Character of Rain, french, françaisLast month I finished reading Amélie Nothomb’s Une forme de vie which I picked up at random from the Waterstones foreign language section just because it was French and it was short. I had so much fun reading it that I decided to look into more of Nothomb’s novels (all or most of which have been translated into English I think). She has an off-kilter sense of humour that really works for me and the premise for her novels all seem to intriguing and her writing feels slightly autobiographical in some small way that makes it feel very genuine. She has written at least one novel per year since she started her career at the age of 26 (she is now 51) so I have a lot to choose from.
Apparently the Japanese believe that all children are gods until their third birthday when they become normal boring humans like the rest of us. Métaphyisiques des tubes is the inner narrative of one of those little gods (who is well aware she is a god) from the age of two and a half up to her third birthday. The transitions, it seems, is not easy.
English edition: The Character of Rain

• • •

 

I’m trying not to break my book buying ban because I still feel like I have too many unread books that deserve some dedicated time! But these are really tempting, sitting pretty in my virtual shopping basket as soon as I’m ready to hit “checkout” 😉

 

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Independent, (Mostly) Non-Fiction Publishers

Recently I’ve been really craving some good ol’ socio-political non-fiction! And, on the hunt for in-depth answers to a lot of questions, I’ve found a few promising independent publishers whose catalogues are FULL of books I want to read. Here are some that I will be turning to for their non-fiction offerings.

• • •

Verso

Verso Books is the largest independent, radical publishing house in the English-speaking world, publishing one hundred books a year.

I’m proud to say that I got Claire into Verso (to be fair, with their catalogue and her interest in sociological discourse, it wasn’t hard…). They are a non-fiction publisher and they have a loads of reading list where they put together a selection of books on a certain topic, such as the one featured below…

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They often seem to have good deals on (90% off ebooks and 50% off hard copies at Christmas making some books cost £1 or less, for example).

• • •

Zed Books

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• Zed is a platform for marginalised voices across the globe.
• It publishes content for an international audience of thoughtful and engaged readers and thinkers.
• It publishes a variety of content, from general interest books to highly specialised scholarly research.
• Established in 1976, it is the world’s largest English-language publishing collective.
• Zed’s content and its business model are unique.
• It’s a non-hierarchical collective, owned and managed by its workers.

Zed’s catalogue seems to involve a wide variety of authors/perspectives. Non-fiction is very clearly their focus, but they do have a (very) small fiction section too. Their books seem very “global”, not focussed simply on philosophical questions for the developed world, and also LGBTQ+ conscious.

• • •

Haymarket Books

Haymarket Books is a radical, independent, nonprofit book publisher based in Chicago.

Our mission is to publish books that contribute to struggles for social and economic justice. We strive to make our books a vibrant and organic part of social movements and the education and development of a critical, engaged, international left.

Even though I’d heard of this publisher before, I’d never really looked into them properly until I noticed that they publish Angela Y Davis’ Freedom Is A Constant Struggle which is on my TBR list. I think of them as a non-fiction publisher, but it’s possible they also publish fiction. Their home page shares something in common with Verso..

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Hmm.. There seems to be a theme coming from well-informed publishers concerning current affairs…

• • •

Who are some of your favourite independent publishers?

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The First Book Purchase of 2017

I have finished my first lot of five books from my shelves.

 

So now I can buy 1 new book. YAY! But I’m totally stuck and not sure what to get! I actually feel super aware of my own shelves now and might just pick up another book from my own shelves before I decide on what new book to buy, but here are some books I was thinking about buying (poetry and non-fiction feature heavily):

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Jean (Jean’s Bookish Thoughts) always speaks very highly of Benjamin Zephaniah and I think she’s called him her favourite poet. Although I’m no poetry buff, I’ve been trying to explore poetry a little bit more and thought I’d start with this little book.

 

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I suppose the title is intriguing enough, but this is a book of prose poetry set in a society where gender roles are reversed and when boys reach maturity they grow wings, at which point the women in society begin to objectify them.

🙂

 

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A little book of French alliteration poems? It sounds fun and doesn’t seem terribly difficult.

 

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I’ve had my eye on this series for a while now and, having read the whole of Miss Pas Touche in French, I’m feeling excited by the same team. I’ve heard this one is clever and the victim of the story is not always a terribly lovely person. I love complex characters. They make the story more real and interesting. And, of course, the illustration is just so beautiful.

 

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A neurosurgeon gets diagnosed with (terminal?) lung cancer and this is his story of going from being the doctor to the patient. Kalanithi died in 2015. I’m sure this will be both interesting and very sad, and I’ve heard nothing but praise for it.

 

Which one would you go for?

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Claire: Plans for 2017

2017 

So what’s the plan for 2017?

This year I want to be as feminist as fuck.

The past has been a bit rough on me, 2014 was the year of graduating with my MSc and not flunking, 2015 to finding a damn job, 2016 to keeping the job. So what is 2017? It is the year to win. I won’t be lazy and I won’t do shit I don’t want to do anymore.

  1. Read my own goddamn books and TBR. Yes, you heard me say it, I’m imposing a book buying ban where I won’t spend my own money on books (this creates a bit of a loophole where I can spend other people’s money, like vouchers, but it won’t be my own money so I count it).
  2. Read whatever the hell I want, when I want to
  3. Listen to 5 audiobooks a year (I’ve gotten super into audiobooks in 2016 and want to keep it up).
  4. Try and read more nonfiction, especially feminist nonfiction (so if I have to give it a number I’ll give it 5, nonfiction, any kind of nonfiction)

• • •

I think this is doable, 4 goals, what say you?

What are your 2017 goals?

xx Claire

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Claire: My 2016 in Review

2016claire

My Year In Books

• • •

Goodreads Challenge

Goodreads goal of 50: I read 58 books.

• • •

My resolutions:

  1. Read at least 96 books, novellas, short stories, manga and graphic novels. Failed
  2. Read up to 5 translated works. Failed
  3. Read a book based in or by an author from every continent. Failed
  4. Read all the dragons. At least 5 books on magical creatures! Exceeded
  5. Read at least 10 nonfiction works (max of 2 biographies/memoirs).  Failed
  6. Read 10 books from my physical TBR.  Failed
  7. Read at least 10 books from my Goodreads TBR. Failed
  8. Read from at least 5 different fiction genres (my picks: Fantasy, World Literature, Historical Fiction, Classic, YA or Thriller/Mystery). Exceeded 
  9. Reread 2 book series.Exceeded
  10. 10% of reads should be written by POC authors or with POC main characters. Exceeded
  11. 10% of reads should be written by LGBTQIA authors or include LGBTQIA characters (that have more than 1 line and aren’t token characters).  Failed
  12. Read at least 1 book that explores neurodiversity and 1 that explores disabilities/being differently abled.  Failed
  13. Purchase 1 book per month maximum (I don’t have to but I’m trying to focus on purchasing books I’ll really like versus on a whim).  Failed

• • •

Stats

I failed this year on a lot of my goals. I’m not upset about it really, it  was a shit year for reading. I had was lazy and had too many goals so in the end I committed to nothing and that being said, I don’t feel bad at all about it.

I did, however, start some good things like watch a ton of films thanks to my Cineworld card and become an audiobook addict.

• • •

Book of the my Year

 Favourite Four (physical books):

Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg

Nimona by Noelle Stevenson

Bitch Planet, Vol. 1: Extraordinary Machine by Kelly Sue DeConnick

In Real Life by Cory Doctorow, Jen Wang (Goodreads Author) (Illustrations)

 Favourite Three (audio books):

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, Book 1 UNABRIDGED By J.K. Rowling, Narrated By Stephen Fry

Sabriel UNABRIDGED By Garth Nix, Narrated By Tim Curry

The Fellowship of the Ring: The Lord of the Rings, Book 1 UNABRIDGED By J. R. R. Tolkien, Narrated By Rob Inglis

 Favourite Two (digital books):

Before I Go to Sleep by S.J. Watson

The Woodcutter by Kate Danley

So, how was your 2016?

xx Claire

Posted in Lists, Reading Challenges | Tagged | 4 Comments