Some Advance Reader Copies (ARCs) included. They are marked with an asterisk *. No affiliate links used. You can read my full disclosure policy here.
My reading has been sporadic recently so I have, once again, combined multiple months into one quick-fire reviews round-up. Here are the books I read during July and August.
Real Artists Have Day Jobs: And Other Awesome Things They Don’t Teach You in School by Sara Benincasa
Real Artists Have Day Jobs is a collection of essays that thoroughly debunks the romantic ideal of “the artist”.*Spoiler alert* being creative doesn’t necessarily pay the bills, which is frustrating but an important important reminder nonetheless.
Covering everything from finding your muse to Sara Benincasa’s own experience with mental ill-health, these essays are smart, funny and touching.
A Ladder to the Sky by John Boyne*
Maurice Swift is an aspiring writer who jumps at the opportunity to become novelist Erich Ackerman’s personal assistant. Intent on doing whatever it takes to succeed as an author, Swift has something of a talent for inhabiting other people’s stories without much thought for the consequences.
A Ladder to the Sky* is a captivating read about obsession, betrayal and the lengths some people will go to in order to keep their “good name”.
We Are Young by Cat Clarke*
When Evan’s step-brother Lewis is the only survivor of a car crash, the media is quick to blame him for everything. Something doesn’t add up for Evan and as she tries to figure out what really happened that night, she finds herself confronting things she didn’t expect to.
We Are Young* is a thoroughly readable YA novel that doesn’t feel too “issue-y” despite dealing with suicide, mental ill-health, and emotional abuse.
This Really Isn’t About You by Jean Hannah Edelstein*
I’m not sure when I first came across Jean Hannah Edelstein’s writing, although I suspect it was thanks to Twitter. What I do remember is reading as much of Edelstein’s work as I could and immediately signing up to her newsletter Thread.
It’s 2014 and Jean Hannah Edelstein has moved back to the US, after years spent abroad, because her father has terminal cancer. Shortly after her return, he dies. In the midst of her grief, Edelstein is faced with the possibility that she may have inherited a gene that makes her more susceptible to cancer and the decision of whether or not to find out for sure.
This Really Isn’t About You* is a tender and poignant memoir about family, dating and grief. Go read it and then enjoy catching up with Edelstein’s Guardian column.
The Dead Girls by Derek Flynn
Returning to the world of John Ryan, The Dead Girls sees the (now) ex-cop working as a private detective. Taking on the case of missing girl, John Ryan soon connects her disappearance to a series of missing and murdered young women across the country.
While Derek Flynn’s debut Broken Falls was a slow-burner, The Dead Girls is much more action packed without compromising on the character development. I look forward to seeing what happens next for John Ryan!
Fight Like A Girl by Clementine Ford*
Clementine Ford is angry. She isn’t afraid to express it and Fight Like A Girl* sets out the reasons you should be angry too. If you aren’t already raging, that is.
Fight Like A Girl* explores Ford’s journey into feminism starting with her “I’m not a feminist, but” phase. Something I can relate to, a lot, and explored in my essay about why I am a feminist.
Unlike other feminist non-fiction books I’ve read, Ford acknowledges the limitations of her experiences as a white, middle-class cisgender woman when it comes to intersectionality. This shouldn’t be refreshing, but it is. Acknowledging your privilege in certain areas while discussing your difficulties in others should be the baseline for everyone.
If you enjoy a good feminist rant, this is the book for you!
We Wish To Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families by Philip Gourevitch
How do you review a book about genocide? Do you judge it on the level of detail included or the writing style? Maybe you look for some sense of “balance”, except when it comes to genocide there is no such thing as balance; there are those who were hunted and those who did the hunting.
We Wish To Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families is a confronting look at the conditions that led to the murder of (an estimated) 800,000 people from the Tutsi minority by the Hutu majority government over the course of 100 days in 1994. That this is not an easy book to read, subject wise, is exactly why you should read it.
In America: Tales from Trump Country by Caitríona Perry
As RTÉ’s Washington Correspondent from 2013 to 2017, Caitríona Perry is well versed in US politics. In America: Tales from Trump Country is as the title suggests a look behind the headlines into the reasons why ordinary Americans voted for Trump. I found it fascinating and frustrating in equal measure.
Remember This When You’re Sad by Maggy van Eijk
Part memoir and part practical advice for coping with various aspects of mental ill-health, Remember This When You’re Sad is full of honesty, humour and pragmatism. Maggy van Eijk writes about issues that are so often overlooked even within in mental health circles.
The Girl Who Smiled Beads by Clemantine Wamariya
I spoke about The Girl Who Smiled Beads by Clemantine Wamariya in my 5 Memoirs To Read This Summer article over on Bean Magazine. It is a devastating, yet hopeful, look at what it means to be a refugee and the power of education.
Educated by Tara Westover
Educated also made an appearance on my 5 Memoirs To Read This Summer list. It’s a powerful story about accepting and overcoming a traumatic upbringing, finding solace in education and redefining yourself.
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