In 2021, I set myself the goal of reading more and of reading more widely. To help me with accountability, I started sharing short reviews on Instagram and, later, here on the blog. However, these reviews turned into so much more than a record of what I had read, that I decided to continue doing it.
19th book of 2021 – “Daisy Jones & the Six” by Taylor Jenkins Reid
This book was highly recommended by @jozeeebo. It’s a sex, drugs and rock’n’roll tale of the 7 musicians, in the 1970s, written in a very unusual style: it’s written as a series of interview excerpts, where the various characters retell they trajectory, their struggles and why they broke up at the height of popularity. As one (negative) review of this book said “It’s all tell, and no show”. Personally, I thought that this was a fun, original way of telling the story . But I can see how some might find the style frustrating.
I particularly liked the scenes where the characters present very different accounts of the same event. I also like that the book has a number of very strong female characters. And I also liked the songs’ lyrics at the end. Though, I found it confusing that Camilla had various lines in the book, given what happens at the end of the book.
I completely fell for the author’s note at the start of the book, and spent a good time trying to remember this band. Spoiler alert: it’s a fictional band.
20th book of 2021 – “Girl, Woman, Other” by Bernardine Evaristo
This was my second attempt at reading this book. In the first one, I was reading a library electronic copy, and I ran out of time with 3 chapters to go. As the book was selected for my secret reading club, I had another go at reading it. And I am so, so happy that I did, because those final chapters (chapters 12 & 13, plus the epilogue) really bring it all together. The epilogue, in particular, is ace!
It is a bit tricky to get into the book because the writing doesn’t follow standard punctuation. Plus, each chapter focuses on a different character (12 in total). Moreover, even though all chapters are told in the 3rd person, each has a slightly different feel (context, pace, and even writing style). So, every time you start a new chapter, you have a slight dissonance. But that challenge is also part of the book’s charm.
While following these 12 characters, we grapple with issues of race, racism, class, classism, poverty, privilege, sexuality, gender identity, abusive relationships, friendship, family, inter-generational relationships, grit… and many others. And because the stories of all characters are intertwined, we get different perspectives on the same issue – all of them incomplete, but each one right from that characters perspective (e.g., Carole vs Shirley’s view on the former’s academic success).
I loved this book!
21st book of 2021 – “Stumbling on Happiness” by Daniel Gilbert
Never before have humans had so much choice (e.g. what job to do, whom to partner with, whether to have children). This should mean that we can construct a future that will make us blissfully happy. However, that promise (being blissfully happy) doesn’t materialise because it is very difficult for humans to imagine what will make them happy in the future, due to perception limitations, and various cognitive basis. The book explores at length what these perception and cognitive biases are, and how they influence our ability to imagine the future. Gilbert uses numerous anecdotes to illustrate the fallacies, and draws on studies from psychology to make the point.
It’s an OK book. It has an interesting message, but is a bit repetitive (from about halfway, I skipped various lines at a time and still managed to get the gist of each section). If you are short of time and want to give this one a miss, you can watch his Ted talk instead.
Which books have caught your attention, lately?