Books I Read in January, February and March 2019

Some advance reader copies (ARCs) included. They are marked with an *. No affiliate links used. You can read my disclosure policy here.

Books I Read in January, February and March 2019

The alternative title for this blog post is: the one where I remember I’m a book blogger. Between reading slumps and reviewing slumps, I’ve been jotting down notes as I go so here are the books I read during the first three months of the year.

Emergent Strategy: Shaping Change, Changing Worlds by Adrienne Maree Brown

Emergent Strategy is a must read for anyone involved in activism, community organising, and social justice movements. Building on themes explored in Octavia Butler’s science fiction, Adrienne Maree Brown provides us with a toolbox for creating change in ways that are effective for the people involved. Think self-compassion, community care, and being prepared to adapt to changes in circumstances instead of remaining tied to prescriptive rules that are no longer appropriate.

Heartburn by Nora Ephron

When Rachel Samstat finds out her husband is in love with someone else, she is seven months pregnant. The cookbook writer seeks solace in food while she deals with heartbreak.

Heartburn is one of those books I wanted to love more than I actually did. Maybe that’s a sign my expectations were too high, but I kept waiting for something more. More depth, I think. Don’t get me wrong, it’s brilliantly written – particularly the food writing – and full of humour but it didn’t resonate with me the way I’d hoped.

Constellations by Sinéad Gleeson*

Constellations* is the latest in a long line of books by Irish women writers that I struggle to review because I can’t get past screaming “you need to read this immediately” at people. Seriously, go read it. NOW!

Dealing with themes of illness, pain, motherhood, and bodies, Gleeson’s essays are personal, political and cultural. Gleeson writes about her own experiences in the wider context of a changing society, with an eye both on the past and the future.

The Self-Care Project: How to let go of frazzle and make time for you by Jayne Hardy

From the founder of The Blurt Foundation, The Self-Care Project is your one-stop shop if you are looking for an overview of what self-care actually is (spoiler alert: it is just as much about dealing with the laundry you have been avoiding, as it is about relaxing baths and face masks) and why it is important.

Jayne Hardy makes the case that self-care is the best preventative tool we have for ensuring emotional and physical wellbeing. There is nothing groundbreaking in this revelation, but it helps to be reminded from time to time which The Self-Care Project does nicely.  

Handbook for a Post-Roe America by Robin Marty

Handbook for a Post-Roe America is just that, a handbook for reproductive rights and abortion rights activists, organisers and advocates on what to do when Roe v. Wade is overturned. We know that making abortion illegal does not stop people having abortions and this is Robin Marty’s call-to-action for pro-choice advocates to ensure that pregnant people can still access the abortion services they need, whatever the cost.

We’ve Come A Long Way by Migrants and Ethnic-minorities for Reproductive Justice (MERJ)

We’ve Come A Long Way is a collection of testimonials, interviews and research written by migrant women and women from ethnic minorities about their experiences in the lead up to and during the referendum to repeal the eighth amendment to the Irish constitution. These stories need to be told, but are all too often erased from the narrative of campaigning for abortion rights in Ireland.

We’ve Come A Long Way also reminds us that abortion rights are only one aspect of the fight for bodily autonmy.

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

We know from the beginning that Lydia is dead, but Everything I Never Told You is as much about race, class, and family dynamics as it is a crime novel. Set in small town America during the 1970s, Ng’s writing is evocative, subtle, and packed full of tension.

Be with Me Always:Essays by Random Billings Noble*

In Be With Me Always* we are treated to a gorgeous collection of essays which vary in form, but at their heart all explore the various kinds of “hauntings” which impact our lives – relationships, memories, near-death experiences, motherhood – through a literary lens.

Why Social Media is Ruining Your Life by Katherine Ormerod

I picked this up following a recommendation on Instagram, which is probably the most 2019 way to come across a book about why we should use social media less. Social media may not literally be ruining your life, but Katherine Ormerod makes a good case for weighing up the pros and cons rather than continuously consuming mindlessly.

As I mentioned in my newsletter recently, the thing that struck me most about Why Social Media is Ruining Your Life is how almost everyone Ormerod spoke to wanted to spend less time online, but it had become the default way they keep in touch with family and friends so logging off completely wasn’t a practical option. I’m willing to bet their family and friends have similar experiences because what is social media if not a place full of people who wish they could log off!

Follow Me To Ground by Sue Rainsford

I read Follow Me To Ground without knowing much about the plot beforehand. I gathered there were some supernatural or magical realism elements, but that was about it. I won’t give too much away here because I think the not knowing enhances the reading experience.

Ada and her father aren’t like everyone else. People generally avoid them, unless they are in need of healing when necessity outways fear. Soon Ada finds yourself forced to make a decision that will not only change her life, but drastically alter the world around her.

Revolting Prostitutes: The Fight for Sex Workers’ Rights by Molly Smith and Juno Mac

In Revolting Prostitutes, Smith and Mac look at arguments from all sides of the debate around sex work and make a compelling case for decriminalisation being the way to ensure the safety of sex workers. Viewing sex work as work doesn not mean you are saying it is inherently good or bad work. But it is work, so sex workers’ must have rights. Well researched, yet really accessible, Revolting Prostitutes is a book I know I’ll return to again and again.

Out of the Woods by Luke Turner*

Set against the backdrop of Epping Forest, Out of the Woods* is a story about faith, sexuality and their impact on Luke Turner’s life. Turner grew up in a Methodist family, his father was a preacher, which made coming to terms with his bisexuality complicated because the pressure to conform to heteronormative ideals were more pronounced. Out of the Woods* is full of nuance about learning to be yourself, when so much of what that entails seem at odds with each other.

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