Books I read in June 2021

Pandora’s Jar by Natalie Haynes (physical book, new read)

‘’In Pandora’s Jar: Women in the Greek Myths, Natalie Haynes redresses imbalance. Taking Pandora and her jar (the box came later) as the starting point, she puts the women of the Greek myths on equal footing with the menfolk. After millennia of stories telling of gods and men, be they Zeus or Agamemnon, Paris or Odysseus, Oedipus or Jason, the voices that sing from these pages are those of Hera, Athena and Artemis, and of Clytemnestra, Jocasta, Eurydice and Penelope.’’ (Pandora’s Jar synopsis)

I’ve previously read some of Haynes myth retellings and was sad to feel a bit detached whilst reading. I did, however, still want to read this book and I’m so glad I did because I really loved it, I think it could be in my favourites of the year! 😊 It felt to me like reading a podcast which I loved, it was easy to read, well written and always interesting. I love learning more through books and feel excited when I start to retain more knowledge about the many (MANY) characters in mythology, and it was great to learn more in this book, particularly about the amazons- I’d previously only really known a little about Penthesilea’s death and taken the rest from Wonder Woman- and Medea, who’s story is so horrifying and interesting. I also enjoyed Haynes references to pop culture throughout as they never felt like too much or brought me out of the book- I’d really recommend listening to Lemonade whilst reading Medea’s chapter! This book has intrigued me to read more non-fiction about these myths from different perspectives, please let me know if you’ve read any good books in this category!

Witches, Warriors, Women: Mythology’s Fiercest Females, written by Kate Hodges and illustrated by Harriot Lee Merrion (physical book, new read)

‘’From feminist fairies to bloodsucking temptresses, half-human harpies and protective Vodou goddesses, these are women who go beyond long-haired, smiling stereotypes. Their stories are so powerful, so entrancing, that they have survived for millennia. Lovingly retold and updated, Kate Hodges places each heroine, rebel and provocateur fimly at the centre of their own narrative. Players include:Bewitching, banished Circe, an introvert famed and feared for her transfigurative powers. The righteous Furies, defiantly unrepentant about their dedication to justice. Fun-loving Ame-no-Uzume who makes quarrelling friends laugh and terrifies monsters by flashing at them. The fateful Morai sisters who spin a complex web of birth, life and death.’’ (Witches synopsis)

This was my second mythology-based non-fiction book of the month, and it filled with short, illustrated character accounts. I bought this online from Edinburgh’s social justice book shop ‘Lighthouse’ after reading about the racially charged and homophobic abuse staff were dealing with, resulting in the shop temporarily closing; if you can, please support their shop! I enjoyed this book and the accompanying illustrations, although they weren’t my personal art style, I prefer really bright colours and patterns. It wasn’t my favourite book of the month, however, it was an interesting read and it was good to learn more about Scottish myths! I’d like to continue to learn about Celtic and Scottish mythology. 😊

Theogony and Works and Days by Hesiod (physical books, new reads)

‘’Hesiod belongs to the transitional period in Greek civilization between the oral tradition and the introduction of a written alphabet. His two major surviving works, the Theogony and the Works and Days, address the divine and the mundane, respectively. The Theogony traces the origins of the Greek gods and recounts the events surrounding the crowning of Zeus as their king. A manual of moral instruction in verse, the Works and Days was addressed to farmers and peasants.’’ (Theogony & Works and Days synopsis)

I do not know how I ended up owning this, which means I probably borrowed/stole it from my sister who has a random assortment of books from her literature degree haha. I tend not to like plays unless watching them as a play, especially those written long ago as the writing can frazzle my brain a bit. However, I was on a mythology binge and this was in my flat so here we are. These plays are so famous and studied so often that I know they are important, however, I am not their target reader and I found them very, very boring so I’m just going to leave this here.

Song of Achilles and Circe by Madeline Miller (physical books, rereads)

My last blog post is basically a love letter rambling about these books, so I won’t go into them here but I’d be thankful for anyone who’d like to read that post or comment your own thoughts about these books on it 😊

My Policeman by Bethan Roberts (physical book, new reads)

‘’It is in 1950’s Brighton that Marion first catches sight of Tom. He teaches her to swim, gently guiding her through the water in the shadow of the city’s famous pier and Marion is smitten–determined her love alone will be enough for them both. A few years later near the Brighton Museum, Patrick meets Tom. Patrick is besotted, and opens Tom’s eyes to a glamorous, sophisticated new world of art, travel, and beauty. Tom is their policeman, and in this age it is safer for him to marry Marion and meet Patrick in secret. The two lovers must share him, until one of them breaks and three lives are destroyed.’’ (My Policeman synopsis)

I loved the idea of this book, and I was very intrigued to read it. Sadly, I didn’t find this book very interesting, and it was quite a challenge to get through. This led me to think about this is more detail as I eventually dnf’d ‘The Paying Guests’ earlier this year as well as reading but feeling bored and disappointed by ‘Carol’. All three of these books are set in the early/middle 1900’s, and all three are centred around gay/bi characters. I’ve loved books set in this type period before, for example, ‘The Crimson Petal and the White’ which is one of my favourites. When reflecting on why I loved this as opposed to the others, I concluded that Crimson Petal is so vivid, passionately written and features dimensional characters. It also features themes that were particularly taboo for this time period, for example, prostitution, but Faber did not shy away from these themes and instead brought them to life, vividly highlighting the hardships and impact on the characters wellbeing. The other books I’ve mentioned, including My Policeman felt flat in comparison. I think the nature of this conservative time period can often mean that the characters can be written in a way which feels stilted. This works well in reflecting the constraints of the time, however, can- for me- make the reading experience feel flat and a bit glum. I think this explains why I am often disappointed by historical fiction set in this time period. Interestingly (to me, probably not to anyone else because I’m just rambling hahaha), I don’t feel this way whilst watching historical fiction of this time period. I love Downton Abbey and Titanic, for example, so it maybe that my imagination is lacking when reading.

In reflecting back, I also feel like I struggled with these books due to the exploration of life as an LGBT person in the early-middle 1900’s. I am always looking for LGBT representation and I appreciate that these stories reflect the risk, stress, homophobia and taboo surrounding being gay. I am thankful that these authors choose to write inclusively. I think, however, I’ve read enough depressing LGBT stories now that I just want to read happy or at least more positive depictions of gay relationships. I think in coming to accept my own sexuality, I already deal with internalised homophobia and feel the weight of current LGBT issues. Reading about them is therefore quite draining and weighs on me, although I acknowledge that it’s so important. I’m therefore going to avoid LGBT accounts in historical fiction for a while, and I’d love if you could comment any positive, happy LGBT books which you have read. 😊 (Sorry, I did not plan for such a tangent here haha!) Ps. I do think Harry Styles is a great choice, and think he has the charisma to play the character well in the film adaptation!

Everyday Activism: How to Change the World in Five Minutes, One Hour or a day by Rachel England (physical book, new read)

‘’This inspiring, easy-to-use guide will help kickstart any activist’s journey. From supporting independent businesses and amplifying marginalised voices, to community gardening and giving to a food bank, there’s something you can do to make a positive change – whether you have a day, an hour, or just five minutes to spare.’’ (Everyday Activism synopsis)

I found this by chance is a bookshop this month and read it in one sitting; this is an easy read with some interesting, positive reflections and ideas for activism. Some are common sense, but all were interesting and very achievable small ways to make a difference. I’m sure there are more advanced or nuanced books of this genre, as well as some books on activism which are far more diverse. I’d love to read these in the future and try to actively work to make positive change, but this book was an interesting starting point! 😊

Thank you for reading, especially as I accidentally rambled lots haha! I’d love any recommendations based on the books I’ve been reading, and I’d love to know what you have been reading recently. I hope you’re well! 😊

Books I own and haven’t read yet (please help haha)

Over the past year I’ve actually done really well in my goal to read lots of new books and try to read lots of the books on my shelves (giving away the ones I don’t like). I have a bad habit of buying books- I do try to buy lots from charity shops- and whilst I read roughly 100 books a year, I LOVE the comfort and experiencing of rereading, so it can take me a long time to get round to all of my new books. I’d love to end 2020 with some reading highs (given the riot that the year has been otherwise hahaha), so I’m going to list the books that I own and haven’t read yet and I’d love your opinions on what books I should priories. 😊 Please, please let me know if you’ve read any of these and why you’d recommend them (or why you absolutely hated them). I have 20 books left to read to reach my yearly goal! (I’ve made the books that I’m currently most interested in reading bold).

  1. N-W- Zadie Smith
  2. Blonde Roots- Bernardine Evaristo
  3. The Remains of the Day- Kazuo Ishaguro
  4. The Mothers- Brit Bennett
  5. Calypso- David Sedaris
  6. The Sellout- Paul Beatty
  7. Northern Lights- Philip Pullman
  8. The Book of Dust- Philip Pullman
  9. Morbid Relations- Jonathan Whitelaw
  10. Theology and Works and Days- Hesiod
  11. The White Boy Shuffle- Paul Beatty
  12. Percy Jackson and the Last Olympian- Rick Riordan
  13. The Book of Strange Things- Michel Faber
  14. Under the Skin- Michel Faber
  15. The Republic- Plato
  16. Jesus: A Life- A. N. Wilson

Books that I’ve owned for at least a year (some are honestly 5+ years old hahaha):

17. George Harrison: Behind the locked door- Graeme Thomson

18. The Light Between Oceans- M L Steadman

19. The Wasp Factory- Iain Banks

20. The Understudy- David Nicholls

21. Lanark- Alasdair Gray

22. Them- Jon Ronson

23. The Trial- Franz Kafka

24. Being Elvis- Ray Connolly

25. The Post Birthday World- Lionel Shriver

26. The Secret Garden- Francis Hodgson Burnett

27. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo- Stieg Larsson

28. Horns- Joe Hill

29. I am the Messenger- Markus Zusak

30. School Daze- Elaine McGeachy

31. The White Queen- Philippa Gregory

32. The Lost Books of the Odyssey- Zachary Mason

33. The Bluest Eye- Toni Morrison

34. The Miniaturist- Jessie Burton

35. David Bowie: A Life- Dylan Jones

36. The Lie Tree- Frances Hardinge

37. Casting Off- Elizabeth Jane Howard

38. All the Light We Cannot See- Anthony Doerr

39. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy- Douglas Adams

40. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest- Ken Kensey

41. Not the Life Imagined- Anne Pettigrew

42. Utopia for Realists- Rutger Bregman

43. American Gods- Neil Gaiman

44. The Elephant Keeper- Christopher Nicholson

45. The Complete Grimm’s Fairy Tales- The Brothers Grimm

Oh dear, 45 hahaha. Although it was genuinely about 100 a couple of years ago. There are some on the list that I really should just give away, but I’m quite the hoarder and don’t want to miss out on a potentially interesting read. Also, I’ll definitely take into account any comments, but I’m such a mood reader so please, please don’t be offended if I end up reading completely different books haha! Also, I rarely know anything about authors so please let me know if any are a bit dodgy/controversial for any reason. I hope you’re well and have read great books so far this year! 😊