Some advance reader copies (ARCs) included. They are marked with an *. No affiliate links used. You can read my disclosure policy here.
In keeping with recent months; grief, mental illness and witches are still the main focus of my reading. Judging by my to-read piles the same themes will also appear next month. If you’ve got any recommendations send them my way!
Daddy Issues by Katherine Angel
Daddy Issues is a thought-provoking essay exploring the intersections of fatherhood and feminism, especially post the Me Too movement. Daddy issues are framed as a moral failing of the women deemed to have them, rather than holding men to account for the ways they traumatise their daughters.
Through a pop culture lens, Katherine Angel asks us to think about what the father-daughter relationship is like today and how it impacts women and society as a whole.
Everybody died, so I got a dog by Emily Dean
Growing up Emily Dean always wanted a dog, but she knew her family weren’t the dog having kind. Their lives were too chaotic. “Dog families” are predictable and dependable, while Dean’s parents were anything but.
The title Everybody died, so I got a dog gives you an idea of how Dean’s life turns out. What it doesn’t tell you is that Dean writes about her relationships with her sister, mother and father and their subsequent deaths in relatively quick succession with humour and grace.
Trainwreck by Sady Doyle
What do Mary Wollstonecraft, Charlotte Brontë, Billie Holiday, Sylvia Plath, Whitney Houston, Amy Wineshouse, and Britney Spears have in common? They’ve all been deemed trainwrecks in the sexist way we judge women for their actions when similar actions by men barely raise an eyebrow.
Sady Doyle unpacks the misogyny behind the idea that women must be perfect and the fact that women who step outside these unrealistic expectations are dismissed as ‘trainwrecks’ or ‘crazy’. Trainwreck is an excellent reminder for why we still need feminism.
Things I Don’t Want to Know by Deborah Levy
The essays in Deborah Levy’s Things I Don’t Want to Know deal with themes of writing, womanhood, motherhood and identity. Levy takes aim at George Orwell’s Why I Write essay, first published in 1946, and drags it into the 21st century through a feminist lens.
These essays are expertly crafted and a joy to read.
The Cost of Living by Deborah Levy
The follow-up to Things I Don’t Want to Know, The Cost of Living spans a period of significant change for Deborah Levy; the end of her marriage, the death of her mother and the process of rebuilding her life as a mother and writer.
Levy’s writing is insightful and I already know this is a collection I’ll revisit many times.
Minor Monuments by Ian Maleney
I bought Minor Monuments a few months ago, but didn’t start reading it until I saw Ian Maleney speak at an event during Listowel Writers’ Week. This collection of essays, stemming from Maleney’s grandfather having Alzheimer’s disease, explores memory, family and what we mean when we talk about home.
These essays are so devastatingly beautiful I took a break between reading each one. I wanted time to sit with them before moving on to the next.
A Half Baked Idea by Olivia Potts*
When her mother died Olivia Potts turned to baking. By her own admission she wasn’t particularly good at it, but it quickly became a respite from grief and her job as a barrister. So, she quit her job and enrolled at Le Cordon Bleu.
Interspersed with recipes that will have you running to your own kitchen, A Half Baked Idea* is heart-warming memoir about grief, changing career, falling in love and the power of food.
No Big Deal by Bethany Rutter*
Emily Dean is an outgoing 17 year-old trying to balance school, friendships and having a crush on Joe with society’s disapproval of her body. Emily is fat, a fact she is more than OK with but those around her see weight loss as a goal she should aim for. Emily has no interest in propping up the diet industry, which makes her relationship with her mother complicated because she is searching for the diet that will change her life.
No Big Deal* is the type of YA book I wish I read when I was a teenager; smart, funny and uncompromising. Instead I’ll settle for pressing it into the hands of my friends who are parents and insisting they pass it on to their children.
The Center Cannot Hold by Elyn R. Saks
Elyn Saks is a professor at the University of Southern California Gould School of Law. She also lives with schizophrenia.
When her symptoms began in childhood, Saks did her best to hide them. She wasn’t diagnosed until she had a psychotic episode while at university in England, which saw her hospitalised. Following her return to the US to study at Yale Law School, she relapsed. This time, Saks was placed in restraints and force-fed antipsychotic medication.
The stark contrast in the care she received in the US versus the UK led her to focus her career on the intersections of the law with the human rights of mentally ill people.
Schizophrenia is frequently left out of the conversations surrounding mental illness because it is seen as too complicated to deal with, so The Center Cannot Hold gives a voice to experiences so often ignored. Saks does acknowledge her privilege throughout the book and speaks about the fact that her story is not the same as other people’s experience of living with schizophrenia.
Perfectly Preventable Deaths by Deirdre Sullivan
Perfectly Preventable Deaths by Deirdre Sullivan is an engrossing witchy tale about connection, familial bonds, secrets, queerness, and what it’s like to be a teenage girl in a small town dealing (or not dealing) with the shadow of bodies found in the nearby mountains.
When 15 year-old Madeline and Catlin move to Ballyfran, with their mother and step-father, they are unsure what to expect. It soon becomes apparent that the town is full of secrets. As Catlin quickly falls in love with a local boy, Madeline has more than a few misgivings.
Can their sisterly bond withstand the strange forces at play in Ballyfran?
The Collected Schizophrenias by Esmé Weijun Wang
The Collected Schizophrenias is a collection of essays about Esmé Weijun Wang’s experience of living with schizoaffective disorder, bipolar type and a commentary on the continued stigmatisation of the “collected schizophrenias”.
Wang writes about her diagnosis of schizoaffective disorder (bipolar type), involuntary hospitalisation, differing opinions among the medical community as to whether schizophrenia is a single diagnosis or a collection of similar mental illnesses, how schizophrenia is portrayed in pop culture, and dealing with PTSD and Lyme disease honestly and sensitively.
The Beauty Myth by Naomi Wolf
It is easy to see why The Beauty Myth became a feminist classic, but is also very much of its time —the 1990s—the conversations I find myself having about the beauty industry and the objectiification of women are much more nuanced.
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