I’ve decided to stop rating books out of 5. I think it’s making me over-think books and is actually encouraging me to have more negative opinions, because if a book that I loved doesn’t have all the right components then it’s not a 5-star read and it’s therefore not as good as I thought it was. But then, if I thought it was good then it was good, so I’m going to stop doing it. Does that make sense?
Well, it does to me, even if it doesn’t to Tennant, so here are the books I read in December.
1. The Stepford Wives by Ira Levin.
I really enjoyed this one. It’s a science-fiction novel about men who, disconcerted by their wives’ independent thinking, have systematically replaced all the women of the town with robots who look exactly like them but want to do nothing except domestic duties. Our main character, Joanna, moves to Stepford and is immediately disgusted by the lack of feminism in the place. She makes friends with two women who think like she does, but then, overnight, they change and want to stay in and clean the house all day like the rest of the Stepford wives.
I watched the film version of this years ago and the book was very different. I enjoyed the film too, but it was more of a comedy and had a happy ending, whereas the book is, although funny in places, much more bleak and makes a stronger comment on society and sexism.
2. The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka.
The Metamorphosis is about a man who wakes up one day to find that he’s transformed into a giant cockroach. (Well, actually, it just says ‘an enormous vermin’, and we know it’s some kind of insect rather than furry vermin because it talks about his armoured body. But people seem to have just decided that it’s a cockroach, since that’s what you always see on the covers for this novella.
The premise sounds ridiculous but it’s actually quite interesting. It looks at the way the different family members treat the protagonist once he has transformed, and I found it really interesting how his immediate concern was how his family were going to make money without him, rather than how he was going to turn back into a human.
3. The Secret of Nightingale Wood by Lucy Strange.
It took me a couple of tries to properly get into this book, but I finally managed it in December and, by the time I’d got to the end, I was really glad I’d bought it. I think, if this book had been around when I was a child, I would have fallen in love with it.
It’s about a young girl called Henry who has lost her brother in a fire and whose mother is very sick – presumably depression, though it’s never outrightly stated. She moves to a new house with her family and meets her mother’s new doctor, who wants to move her to an asylum to try out new experimental treatments. Henry takes it upon herself, quest-style, to save her mother and restore her family – as much as she can – to the way it was before her brother died.
4. The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman.
I’m pretty sure I was meant to read this at uni, but didn’t… oops!
I sort of enjoyed it, but think I would have liked it a lot more if I had read and discussed it at uni (like I was supposed to). I think with the classics, a lot of my enjoyment comes from that close analysis and hearing other people’s thoughts on what the author was trying to achieve.
It’s written in the form of a diary, showing the way that a woman suffering from mental health issues is treated by her husband. He dismisses her illness as ‘a hysterical tendency’, and slowly our protagonist descends into madness, becoming obsessed with the yellow wallpaper in her room and imagining she can see similarly oppressed women trapped behind it.
5. Wenceslas by Carol Ann Duffy.
I bought this ages ago for 50p and was saving it for Christmas. It’s a cute little illustrated book with just one poem in it – Duffy’s retelling of the story of King Wenceslas.
Carol Ann Duffy used to be one of my favourite poets, but I’ve kind of forgotten her over the years. I definitely want to buy more of her work and start reading her again.
6. One by Sarah Crossan.
This is actually a novel written in the form of poetry, so if you’re looking for a quick read, give it a go! It’s pretty cheap in the Kindle store at the moment too.
I did like it, and thought it was very unique – I’ve never read any YA poetry before. If you’re into YA books then I’d definitely recommend this as a gateway into poetry. It’s about conjoined twins going to school for the first time and struggling with the fact that one of them is falling in love, before finding out that, due to failing organs, they may have to undergo the extremely risky operation to be separated from each other.
7. Girl Up by Laura Bates.
#bookwormproblems – I wanted to buy the physical copy of this but it’s stupidly bigger than all my other paperbacks, so I put it back and bought the ebook version instead.
The ebook version was also only £1.99 so really it was the most sensible way to go. Except I still really want the physical version on my shelf… #morebookwormproblems #firstworldproblems
This is a book for teens and young adults about feminism, and how to navigate things such as puberty, your first time having sex, sexist uniform policies, street harassment and so on. I loved it, and found it to be an extremely accessible non-fiction book. It has been criticised for not being ‘angry’ enough, but to me, that’s why it’s so effective. It doesn’t feel like it has a political agenda, and it doesn’t feel like you’re being pushed towards thinking a certain way. It just explains that it’s not right for women to be treated as second-class citizens, and offers idea as to what we can personally do about it.
I want this to be handed out to girls and boys at school. It’s encouraged me to try to be more active in terms of my own beliefs about gender – I’m trying to be more careful about the language I use when talking about men and women, and try to call out people on sexist ‘jokes’ (I go back to work tomorrow in a rather male-orientated office so we’ll see how many times I have to call people out this week), and I’m also going to write to my local MP about getting something on the school curriculum – teaching primary school-age children about consent, for instance.
8. Through the Woods by Emily Carroll.
I’m usually so bad at finishing short story collections, but this one is only five stories long and it’s written as a graphic novel – so it was perfect for me!
It’s actually really scary. The stories are fairytale-esque and very creepy. The endings are also NOT happy – the monster is always still there, gone for now but not forever, just waiting for the right moment to come back and ruin everything…
It was bloody good, and beautifully illustrated. I’d definitely recommend it as a gift for any of your book-loving friends or family members.
All in all, December was a good month for me in terms of reading. I read several books that I really enjoyed, and re-read some Harry Potter too, which always makes me happy.
Thanks for stopping by!