10 Books Reading Challenge

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That’s right everyone, I have met my Goodreads reading goal for 2017! We are two months into the year and I’ve already hit that coveted goal, so why bother reading any more for the next ten months? Bring on the TV binge watching.

I know that last year when I changed my Goodreads reading goal to 10 books I had a few questions about why I’d set my challenge to such a ‘low’ target. Since this is a number I have decided to stick with I thought I might address the issue of ‘why’ in a wee blog post.

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100 Women Writers

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I think it’s fair to say that the vast majority of lists, especially from mainstream outlets, suggesting ‘100 Books You Should Have Read in Your Lifetime’ are dominated by male authors. Fantastic authors with great books, sure, but nevertheless unrepresentative of the population makeup. My mum and I have a penchant for scrolling through these lists together and seeing how many of the books on it we have read – my mum in particular likes to set herself the goal of reading as many of these books as possible. More often than not, however, we despair at the overwhelming gender bias they present. Even when I sought out specifically female focused lists of ‘100 Authors You Must Read’ they did not offer 100 female authors but 100 books by female authors many of which were written by the same authors.

This is in no way due to a lack of phenomenal women writers to chose from. As fantastic as Jane Austen is (you will see her featured here) there are many more women writers out there. So I have decided to curate my own list of ‘100 Women Writers I Need To Read In My Lifetime’. The women on this list go as far back as antiquity and as far forward as the 21st century. They have been pulled from the suggestions on the standard ‘100 Books To Read’ lists, my own experience with women writers who have made important contributions to literature and recommendations from my mum (with a few adages from friends). Each and every one deserves to be on this list but it didn’t take long for me to realise 100 was a very small number; this list is, therefore, by no means exhaustive.

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The Hunger Games the 2nd Time Around

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Over the span of the last week, I have re-read Suzanne Collins’ entire Hunger Games trilogy for the second time and what an adventure it has been. I originally read the trilogy shortly after the first film was released on DVD and I watched it one night not expecting much but coming away thoroughly surprised and impressed. After that I just had to read the books; I had to know what happened to Katniss, Peeta & the rest of the citizens of Panem. So I delved in with the first book in the series only to learn so much more than the film had shared with me and continued to zoom through books two and three. I was honestly shocked by how these books actually managed to successfully live up to the hype I had been hearing from left, right and centre; just based on past experience.

Now, four years on, I decided it was time to re-read the series for the first time. I am an avid re-reader as much as I am an avid reader. If life is proving stressful there is nothing I find more soothing than to return to a story that brought me joy the first time around and re-emerse myself in its pages. The re-read often provides with me with as equally an exciting journey as the original read, a return to old emotions and the discovery of new. The Hunger Games did not disappoint. Everything I enjoyed about the series the first time around was waiting for me and something extra too.

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It Begins With Picture Books

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Books provide so many things, at different times and for different people. More often than not, however, they expand our world. They introduce to new places, and people, and ideas. They develope our vocabulary and show us how to use language in new and exciting ways. They make us consider ourselves and the people around us. They inspire and give us hope.

One of the most wonderful things my parents gave to me was the joy of reading. This simple passion has taken me to so many places, metaphorically and literally, that I may never have gone if it were not for them. And it all started with picture books. I was lucky that amongst my children’s picture books were insights into different cultures from my own, varied characters of different races, sexualities and backgrounds and introductions to difficult but important topics; I’m certain I’m a better person for it.

I was thinking about this most recently because of two books that came through my letter box (OK the postie had to ring the doorbell). These are truly beautiful books: beautiful ideas, beautiful words and beautiful images. They break down prejudices, open up the reader’s mind and potentially make some feel a little less alone. For that reason I had to share them with you all in someway or another.

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Books that made me | The Argonautica

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The Argonautica; Jason and the Golden Fleece; Jason and the Argonauts; apparently the book with a million names, by Apollonius of Rhodes (can we also acknowledge that he wasn’t even from Rhodes).

So, because who cares about chronology lets jump many years into the future for my next ‘Books that made me’ instalment: from secondary school the early years to university the early years. This book first entered my life in January of 2012 – recently enough that I can be that specific. It was one of the three set texts for my Classical Literature course in the 2nd term of my 2nd year at university. The course itself was all about Ancient Epic and featured along side The Argonautica Homer’s Iliad and Virgil’s Aeneid. Neither of which quite did it for me in the way Apollonius’ work did.

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Books that made me | The Penelopiad

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The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood

What can I say about this book that I haven’t said before? Probably nothing so that’s why I’m going to start at the beginning and probably repeat some things that the 3 people who have actually watched every single one of my YouTube videos will have heard before.

This post is not a book review per say but the first in a series of posts sharing with you the ‘books that made me’; this is to say the books that have stuck with me since the day I read them, that have had an impact on the decisions I have made, the way I perceive the world and the person I am today, big or small. You can assume that I recommend each and everyone of these books before I say anything else and what I’d like to do here is just give some context to what that book has meant to me in my life.

So back to The Penelopiad.

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Naked Women Sell Things…

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Above you will bare witness to but a small selection of the titles published by Hard Case Crimes and their rather ‘stimulating’ cover designs. And it is their covers that are the topic of this post. Other than their retro feel and bold type-face there is one thing in particular that appears to bind each of these covers together, regardless of the plot or author, and, it seems silly for me to have to point this out, that is the adornment of an either scantily clad or entirely naked woman on each.

Now, I feel like it won’t come as a surprise to most of you that these covers make me a little uncomfortable. My first exposure to these cover designs was with an advanced readers’ copy of Joyland by Stephen King very kindly sent to me by the publishers who knew I was interested in reading some of King’s work. I cannot tell you that I was not a little shocked by the cover, which bore a women all but naked except for a cleverly positioned towel. Not  aware of the rest of this line’s cover designs I took it to be a cover carefully chosen for this book, which fitted with the plot and although seemingly objectified women’s bodies had another purpose unbeknownst to me. When I first saw these covers in a group such as this, however, I had to check my calendar. It is 2016 right? OK, so it may not have been 2016 for long but regardless, it is the 21st century.

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