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Back to School Reading List | Autumn 2017

As I’m writing this, I have one week until I go back to sixth form, and when this post publishes, it’ll be one day (aaaahhh!) I’m sort of dreading starting year 13, especially after a really great summer. I’ve done so many cool things but now I’m preparing to return to a non-existent social life and even more academic pressure than I’ve ever had before.

Sooo, how am I gonna cope with that? BOOKS!

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This blog post is a list of all of the books I hope to read in the (little) free time I have during my first school term.

Disclaimer: I will probably not read all of these books during my first term back. I’m going to be so busy. But the IDEA of reading them is comforting to me, so this post is still valid, right? Without further ado, here’s the five books I’d like to read:

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Haddon Hall: Where David Invented Bowie by Néjib

My dad picked up a copy of this graphic novel, but I had to steal it from him! It’s a portrait of David Bowie’s life, right at the start of his career, documenting his time in Haddon Hall. I’m local to Beckenham and this place Bowie used to live, so I thought it would be a really interesting read. The cover is so vibrant!

Awkward and Definition: The High School Chronicles by Ariel Schrag

I purchased Likewise, another graphic novel by Schrag, before realising I didn’t own the precious books in the series. This graphic novel collects the first two memoirs she wrote, whilst still in high school. I’ve read so many fantastic reviews of this relatable and quirky memoir series, so I’m really eager to start it. And what better time to read it than my last year at school?

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Hollow City by Ransom Riggs

adored Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, the original book and the film. It’s probably one of my all-time favourite YA books. Despite having first read Miss Peregrine’s a while ago, I’ve never gotten around to its sequel. I’m putting this at the top of my TBR pile as I think it’ll be the perfect book for escapism on study breaks.

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Post Truth: The New War on Truth and How to Fight Back by Matthew D’ancona

One of my new resolutions is to read more non-fiction; more specifically about politics and society. It’s hard to stay away from the news in the current political climate, but so-called “fake news” has become so common that it’s difficult to know when and how to respond. I’m hoping to learn a lot from this!

They Can’t Kill Us All by Wesley Lowery

I’ve read so much about Black Lives Matter, but only in small snippets across social media. I’ve wanted to educate myself more about the situation of police brutality in America, so this book has been on my radar for the past few months. The writer is a journalist, who reported on related events over a number of years. This is going to be a very hard-hitting read, but I know it’ll also give me much more insight into an important movement.


 

So, those are the books I’m planning on reading in Autumn! Have you read any? What’s on your own reading list? Leave a comment 🙂

Book Review · mini reviews

Mini Reviews: Man Up and Queer

My aim this year is to read more non-fiction – I started off the year with two great reads from Icon Books, which were both related to topics I study in school (being a sociology and media student). It’s been a while between reading these and writing about my thoughts, so enjoy these mini reviews!

Man Up by Jack Urwin

Published 2nd June 2016 by Icon Books.

29611402Goodreads Synopsis: Jack Urwin’s father died just before he turned 10. Being male, he never really learned to talk about this with any kind of sincerity. His grief stayed with him through his teens, slowly becoming depression.
Now 24 and a journalist whose recent Vice article A Stiff Upper Lip is Killing British Men – described as ‘fabulous’ by Irvine Welsh – became a viral sensation, Urwin explores what it means to be a man now.
He traces crises of masculinity from our grandfathers’ inability to deal with the horrors of war, to the mob mentality of football terraces or Fight Club, and the disturbing rise of mental health problems among men today.

My Review: Do you ever read something, and even before you’ve finished, you want to yell about it from the rooftops and push it into everyone’s hands? Well, that’s how I was with Man Up. This title is absolutely fantastic.

The social construct of masculinity is something that’s interested me a lot, as someone who is dedicated to discussing issues about gender and equality. It’s very hard to talk about, especially when there’s so much misinformation about the topic, and how it intersects with feminism (heads up: feminism is about gender equality. It requires focus on all genders). This is where Urwin’s book comes in; books like this are rare.

Urwin himself has felt the impact of masculinity; his father suffered in silence with an illness, and the writer himself struggled to cope with this because boys aren’t encouraged to be open about their feelings. Following the writer’s viral VICE article, this book explores gender in great depth, from historical events that have constructed how we view masculinity today, to the issue of male mental health and the alarming rates of men committing suicide. Books like this, topics like this, are more important ever, and I know Man Up will help to open up a conversation about it.

Urwin’s writing is what makes this book so memorable. He writes so clearly about such a complex issue, with a hint of wit sometimes and the right emotions in all the right places. This book is so accessible; it can be read and understood by people without much prior knowledge of the topic of gender, and that’s why I’m so grateful for it. I’ll be recommending this endlessly, in the hopes it encourages readers of all genders to become more engaged in the conversation.

My Rating:

five

Queer: A Graphic History by Meg-John Barker and Julia Scheele

Published 8th September 2016 by Icon Books.

28957268Goodreads Synopsis: From identity politics and gender roles to privilege and exclusion, Queer explores how we came to view sex, gender and sexuality in the ways that we do; how these ideas get tangled up with our culture and our understanding of biology, psychology and sexology; and how these views have been disputed and challenged.
Along the way we look at key landmarks which shift our perspective of what’s ‘normal’ – Alfred Kinsey’s view of sexuality as a spectrum, Judith Butler’s view of gendered behaviour as a performance, the play Wicked, or moments in Casino Royale when we’re invited to view James Bond with the kind of desiring gaze usually directed at female bodies in mainstream media.

My Review: I absolutely adored this! I own a few Graphic Guides on my A Level subjects, and haven’t actually gotten around to them yet – but Queer went to the top of my to-read pile as soon as I knew about it. I’m currently studying sociology, and I’m really interested in learning about sociological theories – queer theory is totally overlooked in my school’s course, which is saddening. I was really excited to use this as some wider reading, and it was such a brilliant read!

It’s so easy to devour this in one sitting, but I think I need to re-read it to fully digest all of the information that’s packed into it. The graphic element of it kept me engaged and interested with every chapter; the illustrations are fantastic, often witty, always useful in providing visuals for theories. Queer explores many key theorists and concepts across history, in great detail, despite sections being quite brief. I didn’t actually realise how fact-heavy this would be, and I’ll admit I didn’t take in as much as I thought I would – but that’s why I’m really looking forward to reading this again. It’s also a fantastic resource for, well, all things queer. I’m excited to use it as a reference in the future, as I’m hoping to write an extended project on queer theory next year.

My Rating:

four

I received both books from the publisher. In no way at all did this affect my thoughts.

 

Book Review

Book Review: Mind Your Head by Juno Dawson

Published 16th January 2016 by Hot Key Books.

27799078Goodreads Synopsis: We all have a mind, so we all need to take care of our mental health as much as we need to take care of our physical health. And the first step is being able to talk about our mental health. Juno Dawson leads the way with this frank, factual and funny book, with added information and support from clinical psychologist Dr Olivia Hewitt. Covering topics from anxiety and depression to addiction, self-harm and personality disorders, Juno and Olivia talk clearly and supportively about a range of issues facing young people’s mental health – whether fleeting or long-term – and how to manage them, with real-life stories from young people around the world. With witty illustrations from Gemma Correll.

My Review: It’s been fantastic to see that, over recent years, YA fiction has been increasingly representative of different mental health issues – and it was even more fantastic to see that a new, non-fiction book about it was coming out. Not only that, but Juno Dawson was writing it – arguably one of the best, versatile voices in YA fiction and non-fiction right now. I was over the moon when I received a copy!

Much like This Book is Gay, Mind Your Head is written equal part serious and witty. Juno is so great at making really important topics so easy to read for many audiences. Mind Your Head is a book you could devour in a night or so – I found all of the information in there incredibly useful and informative. It’s so brilliant that, despite not being an incredibly long book, Mind Your Head takes time to explore many different types of mental health issues and causes.

I can never fault Juno’s writing – she’s just perfect at writing anything for teenagers, no matter the genre or topic. With any similar sorts of books to this, I’d expect the information to be quite bombarding or written in a very straight-to-the-point detached style – but this book is nothing like that! The topics covered in this book are very serious and are rightly treated so – but Juno is so good at making reading about these things so engaging and accessible.

I think the input from clinical psychologist Dr Olivia Hewitt was really great! Her writing can be found in small extracts across the book, describing some details in a more in-depth style.

And, of course, I can’t not mention Gemma Correll. I adore her illustrations, as they’re all over the internet and are a fantastic addition to Being a Girl, another Hot Key non-fiction title. They’re just so funny and are a great addition to the book.

Overall, Mind Your Head is awesome – it’s a really well written, much needed book for all ages, and an important, informative book whether you are experiencing and mental health issues, or want to learn more. The book and its contents are presented in an engaign, visual way, with varied formats, visuals and illustrations. Definitely recommended. What can’t Juno write?! 🙂

My Rating:

four

I received a copy of Mind Your Head from the publisher, in exchange for a review. In no way at all did this affect my thoughts.

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Mini Reviews: Being a Girl and Almost Grace

Both reviews I’ve put together in this post are out from Hot Key Books! I received both at the bloggers brunch a couple of months ago, and they’re really great. I decided to do a mini-reviews post for these two, as they’re both quite short – and though one is fiction and one non-fiction, they’re both about growing and being a teenage girl – or on the brink of adulthood.

Being A Girl by Hayley Long, published by Hot Key Books. 24917649Goodreads Synopsis: Being a girl is not all sugar and spice. How can you possibly survive school and even think about talking to your crush when you have spots in places you didn’t even know you had, your boobs are too big (or too small) and the friend drama is off the charts? Luckily, bestselling YA author and sixth-form teacher Hayley Long provides a straight-talking guide to puberty – from cattiness to kisses, and everything in between. With witty black-and-white illustrations by Gemma Correll throughout, BEING A GIRL tells you everything you need to know about surviving puberty, in an honest and humorous way. My Review: I’ve read and loved some of Hayley Long’s fantastically funny fiction books before, so as soon as I’d heard that Being A Girl (a companion to Being A Boy by James Dawson) was to be written by her, I was really interested in reading it! She’s the perfect writer for a book all about growing up and, well, being a girl. Being A Girl is split into lots of informative and useful chapters, and Hayley’s writing spruces up even the worst bits with humour that will make you giggle out loud. My favourite part? Herstory! A whole chapter dedicated to some of the most important women in history! I loved reading it. Also, of course, the icing on the cake is Gemma Corrells’ illustrations: I love her work so much, as I’ve seen a lot of it in the internet. (sidenote: I want this shirt more than anything right now) Her drawing style is the perfect accompaniment to the writing. I really recommend Being A Girl – whether you’re a girl, boy, young or old. My Rating:

Almost Grace by Rosie Rowell, published by Hot Key Books.

24917629Goodreads Synopsis: Grace and her Cape Town friends are renting a house on the coast – after exams it’s their rite of passage into adulthood. Yet ‘maturity’ means different things to each of them. Brett and Louisa have plans – university, travelling – but Grace is uncertain of her future. Anxiety drives her to take control of whatever she can, starting with her own body, and it is starting to worry those around her.

When Grace meets Spook – an older, nomadic surfer – their attraction is instant and his relaxed familiarity and assured confidence catch her off-guard. Can she allow herself to lose control, and fall in love? My Review: I really enjoyed Rosie Rowell’s debut novel, Leopold Blue, and wasn’t aware that more of her work was releasing soon until a Hot Key Books brunch. I was lucky enough to get a copy, which I raced through in an evening! Rowell’s second novel is set also in South Africa, with yet even more unforgettable teenage characters. Grace was really likeable and it’s evident that she is suffering from an eating disorder, which as far as I remember, isn’t actually name specifically in the story.t. I’m really liking the fact that so many books on these topics are coming out at the moment – they’re eye opening, and so well written. Though I think Leopold Blue is my favourite Rosie Rowell book still, Almost Grace is still definitely worth a read – it’s the perfect, short-ish read to take on a holiday this summer! The story is really gripping, with a great ending. My Rating: 

I received copies of Being A Girl and Almost Grace from the publisher, in exchange for a review. In no way at all did this affect my thoughts.

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THE TOUR IN BETWEEN: Guest post – Nancy Tucker’s Recommended Reads

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A little while ago on The Bibliomaniac I reviewed The Time in Between – a moving, honest memoir of the author’s teenage years as she developed – and began to recover from – anorexia and bulimia nervosa. I loved the book so much – despite it not being my ‘usual’ genre of book, I wholeheartedly recommend it to everyone. I’m very excited today to be a part of The Tour in Between – the blog tour to celebrate to celebrate the book.

Read on to hear Nancy Tucker, author, speak about her five recommended reads on eating disorders and mental health.

Nancy with her bookMy Top Five Eating Disorder/Mental Health Memoirs

I am half-proud, half-ashamed of the fact that I have in my possession (read: under my bed) a library of eating disorder-related literature so comprehensive my medical student best friend took to borrowing from it when completing the Psychology modules on her course. Amongst this massive collection a good chunk are memoirs, and amongst the memoirs a decidedly smaller chunk are actually pretty decent reads, and amongst the decent memoirs I think the five below are genuinely meaningful, interesting, well-crafted books.

  1. Wasted – Marya Hornbacher

I wasn’t going to include this one initially, partly because it’s already so widely recognised it feels almost superfluous to mention it again, and partly because it’s so widely acknowledged to be the sort of material eating disorder sufferers use as ‘thinspiration’ (Hornbacher discloses her weight and the number of calories she is consuming at pretty much every opportunity, and her descriptions of her illness are horrifying in their honesty and graphic detail). But then I was flicking through it for the hundredth time, and realised for the hundredth time that it is the sort of book it is all but impossible to flick through, because the writing is so searingly brilliant one is immediately sucked in. The way Hornbacher describes anorexia and bulimia is gruesome, dark and messy, and makes for uncomfortable reading at points, but eating disorders are gruesome, dark and messy, and to write about them in a way that evokes anything other than discomfort would be somehow wrong.

  1. Something Spectacular – Greta Gleissner

This is the book I want to shove in the face of anyone who suggests that bulimia is ‘less serious’ than anorexia. Gleissner’s account of the way in which her compulsion to binge and purge drove her to steal from her loved ones, leave a string of jobs in quick succession and ultimately admit herself to a rehabilitation facility is a terrifying glimpse into the nightmare of bulimia. This book also does a fantastic job of exploring the dichotomy between the face eating disorder sufferers tend to show to the outside world – competent, successful, ‘sorted’ – and the reality of their inner selves – tortured, tormented, broken.

3.Unbearable Lightness – Portia de Rossi

I think it’s possible that part of the reason why I liked this book so much was how pleasantly surprised I was to like it at all, it being a ‘celebrity ED memoir’ – a genre which Nikki Grahame taught me to treat with extreme caution. But, even discarding that bias, I think this is a really well-written, touching and interesting account, not just of eating disorders but of their interplay with both fame and sexuality.

  1. Insatiable – Erica Rivera

This book is both excruciating and achingly admirable in its tackling of what remains something of a taboo: how an active eating disorder sufferer can manage – or fail to manage – the task of parenting. Rivera is touchingly honest in her account of how her anorexia and bulimia took her away, emotionally and physically, from her young daughters, and at times it is painful to read of the neglect these children suffered as a result of their mother’s sickness. But Rivera writes with skill, precision and self-effacing humour, which prevents the narrative from feeling heavy-going.

  1. Get Me Out of Here – Rachel Reiland

Though this book does explore a little of the author’s struggle with anorexia, it is primarily a memoir of borderline personality disorder, and of the intensive psychotherapy Reiland undertook in order to bring her disorder under control. The level of self-disclosure in the book is admirable, offering a comprehensive insight into one of today’s most widely misunderstood mental illnesses, and the writing is masterful. I also really enjoyed the way in which this book explored therapy and the therapeutic relationship in such detail, as I think this is an aspect of mental health which lay people can find difficult to grasp, unable to quite understand the dually intimate and professional nature of the relationship between client and therapist.

Triggering aside – because I think, to a certain extent, one has to take responsibility for knowing oneself well enough to know whether material of this nature is likely to cause one problems or not, and making the decision as to whether or not one reads books of this nature based on that self-knowledge – I would wholeheartedly recommend all of these books to eating disorder sufferers, but also to those with no personal experience of mental illness, as I think the snapshot each one offers into being at war with one’s own mind is valuable, and sharp and important.

Thank you to Nancy for the guest post and for the amazing Stevie @ Icon Books for inviting me to take part in the blog tour! The Time in Between is in bookshops now – and you can enter a Goodreads Giveaway for the book here! Do check out the other stops on the book tour – either by searching the blog names on the tour banner above or using #thetourinbetween.

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Book Review: The Time in Between by Nancy Tucker

Published 2nd April 2015 by Icon Books.

23315461Goodreads Synopsis: When Nancy Tucker was eight years old, her class had to write about what they wanted in life. She thought, and thought, and then, though she didn’t know why, she wrote: ‘I want to be thin.’

Over the next twelve years, she developed anorexia nervosa, was hospitalised, and finally swung the other way towards bulimia nervosa. She left school, rejoined school; went in and out of therapy; ebbed in and out of life. From the bleak reality of a body breaking down to the electric mental highs of starvation, hers has been a life held in thrall by food.

Told with remarkable insight, dark humour and acute intelligence, The Time in Between is a profound, important window into the workings of an unquiet mind – a Wasted for the 21st century.

My Review: Upon starting this book I was trying to think of two things. One; if I had actually read an autobiography before, and two; if I had read a book on a mental health issue like anorexia. I couldn’t think of anything, so The Time in Between was completely new territory to me. I was very nervous to start it though also incredibly interested to read an account of an issue that’s really prevalent today, yet never fully talked about.

Nancy Tucker developed anorexia in her early teens and The Time in Between is her story, from late childhood to adulthood. It recounts all the terrifying moments where she was admitted to hospitals, and how anorexia and bulimia affected her so dangerously over her life, as well as family and friends impacts, and growing up in general.

The Time in Between discusses some very sensitive topics, but talks about them fearlessly. There are chapters, many chapters, that hit the reader hard, but that raw emotion Tucker has conveyed makes The Time in Between all the more unforgettable.

I can’t fault Nancy’s writing: It’s stunning, and I loved how parts of the book were written in different styles: from mock guides for how to care for sufferers, laced with dark humour; to movie-style transcripts of pivotal scenes in Nancy’s life. She writes so openly, not covering up any experiences, and that makes her book feel so honest. I wish more books about similar topics were written this way: In fiction and non-fiction.

Overall, I cannot recommend The Time in Between enough; to those who want to read a powerful and moving autobiography; to those who need something to relate to; and everyone in-between. I haven’t read anything like it before, and I doubt I will ever find something similar: this book just stands out. It’s simultaneously a shining example of evocative writing, and a uniquely honest memoir about mental health, and above all, hope. It was just extraordinary!

My Rating:

five

I received a copy of The Time in Between from the publisher, in exchange for a review. In no way at all did this affect my thoughts.

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Book Review: So Jealous X by Tegan and Sara Quin & Emy Storey

(^plus many other contributors!)

This isn’t the kind of book that I usually review – despite being generally dedicated to YA, I couldn’t not review this, even though it’s non-fiction & music. It’s safe to say I’m a Tegan and Sara obsessive. I totally do not have a dedicated Tumblr ahem. So… this post doesn’t quite fit my blog demographic but I need to fangirl. Pls excuse my bad photos.

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sojealousx.com description: It was nearly a year ago when we started talking about how to celebrate the 10th anniversary of So Jealous. We all agreed we needed to put together something really special; an extensive look back at a record that changed our sound and the course of our career.

We’re re-releasing the record and packaging it with our live DVD, “It’s Not Fun, Don’t Do It!”, as well as a 22-track bonus CD containing b-sides, previously unreleased demos, and new remixes of our favourite songs from the record.

The three discs will be bound into a beautiful hard cover book that contains over 100 pages covering every memorable So Jealous moment we could recall, along with personal accounts from the plethora of characters involved in recording, releasing, marketing, and touring the record. Not to mention tons of never-before-seen photos, many from our own personal albums.

My Review: I’ve been a Tegan and Sara fan since mid-last year, when I discovered them: So I’m not a long-time fan, as many are. However, I think I was nearly as excited as most long-time fans when I found out about So Jealous X: The tenth anniversary re-release & book, celebrating my favourite album of theirs.

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I love So Jealous, the album, because of its indie-rock feel and the beautiful lyrics. I practically begged my parents for a pre-order of So Jealous X... My little fangirl heart died a little when I opened it on Christmas.

The book is just so gorgeous to look at. I’m a big fan of Emy Storey, Tegan and Sara’s artist, who had so much input on the layout of the book. The look and feel of So Jealous X is just amazing. It feels like a very personal scrapbook made at the time; I loved leafing through all of the dreamy-looking polaroids and funny candid shots from backstage on tour!

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So Jealous X is a complete, and brilliant, archive of everything So Jealous-era. There’s so much more than I thought would be in there: I was expecting the book to be some pages of song lyrics, some photos of behind the scenes production… And So Jealous X does include that… along with poster artwork, and merchandise archives, and music video storyboards, and press shot outtakes, and brilliant anecdotes, and even more.

I enjoyed everything. I would totally buy more Tegan and Sara books – maybe on the tenth anniversaries of their albums post-So-Jealous, there’ll be more?;D

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The writing was so fantastic: I loved reading Tegan and Sara’s introductions to the book (They were so nostalgic and wistful-sounding) and especially loved all of the inputs from band members like Ted Gowans, guitarist. It was so fascinating to read how important So Jealous was to Tegan and Sara – their accounts shows how pivotal the album was.

On Christmas day, I intended to read just the intros by the twins, and ended up sitting and reading the entire book in one go. And I’ve reread many parts since. Reading about the whole band’s experiences and memories – from Tegan and Sara themselves, to managers and art directors – makes you feel like you were there with them.

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Also, it’s not just the book that’s beautiful – this goes a lot off topic from a book review, but the book does come with SO Jealous, the album, plus the DVD from the era “It’s Not Fun, Don’t Do It!” and a bonus CD of remixes and covers and demos of songs from So Jealous. The DVD made me laugh wayyyy too much, and the bonus audio that had never been heard before was so mind-blowingly awesome. I really liked the covers of Tegan and Sara songs included – my favourite has to be the screamo-ish So Jealous rendition by the Cancer Bats. I haven’t stopped listening to it!

Overall, I couldn’t have loved So Jealous X more. I love how personal So Jealous X feels to fans – with a whole, colour book, containing so many experiences and recounts and photos, along with two album’s worth of songs and a DVD, it’s so much more than just a re-release. Though quite a bit of money, I really recommend it if you’re a fan of the Quin twins, or if you’re looking for a crazy, amazing new band to discover. 😀 // End fangirling.

My Rating:

five

I received So Jealous X as a Christmas present!