He laid his hand on the cover of the book, gently, as though reluctant to disturb the rest of the sleeping lives interred there.Diana Gabaldon, Voyager
I have a complicated relationship with reading these days. It used to be that I would spend hours curled up on the couch with a good read, often finishing several books a week without even sparing a thought for how much I could have accomplished in that time I devoted to losing myself in the written word.
Lately, however, this seems to be a harder practice to justify. Whether this is because I’m now a mother with a very busy and curious little one to raise or simply because adulthood comes with a million tiny yet important responsibilities that seem to need attention with alarming consistency, I’m not entirely sure.
The result, regardless of the reason, is that I spend so much of my time gazing longingly at my to be read pile without picking a single one up, or feverishly adding tantalizing new books to my Goodreads “Want To Read” designation at a pace that defies the possibility of ever getting through them all.
I feel like the description written by Gabaldon describes my current relationship with books perfectly: it’s almost as if I don’t feel as if I can devote the time they deserve to fully delve into their intricacies and so instead I give them their space, waiting for a day when I can truly appreciate the twists and turns of the lives held within their pages.
This is something I need to work on, I know, but I thought it might explain why so much of my monthly reading roundup is made up of articles and blogs instead of books.
And so, without further preamble, here are the articles, blogs and very few books that I read this month!
The secret deportations: how Britain betrayed the chinese men who served the country in the war. by dan hancox
History is a subject which has fascinated me as far back as I can remember. When I was in grade school, I went through many phases of historical interest but the one that really stands out to me is my obsession with Ancient Egypt. Every two weeks or so, we would head to the library as a family and I would take out as many books as my parents (or the library…) would let me and devour all the delicious details about perfumed wax cones, mummification and polytheistic worship rituals. Now, as an adult, history is still my bread and butter and I like nothing more to learn about new people, places and events; even if some of the things I learn are heartbreaking. This was certainly the case with this article: a moment in history I knew nothing about but clearly deserves to be more widely known than it is. It is a long read, I’ll admit, but I flew through it in what seemed like no time at all. I have a lot more reading to do to fully understand what happened here but if you, like me, are a lover of history and understanding the global human experience then give this a read. You won’t regret it!
[Accounts] Of home visits from covert special branch officers, to seize the deported men’s documents, as if to erase any record of them. As if the children themselves were not a record.Dan Hancox
Without books, we would not have made it: valeria Luiselli on the power of fiction
Though, as mentioned before, it has not been a stellar year in terms of volume of books read thus far, I still have found so much solace in fiction. With my limited time in early motherhood, I have discovered a strange comfort in carefully over-filling my To Read list on Goodreads, excited at the thought that I’ll never be mindlessly scrolling through my library app looking for my next read again. In this article, Luiselli beautifully puts into words why fiction holds such a large space in my heart, not only during a global pandemic, and why it truly matters to humanity as a whole. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to crack open a new book!
Each time, we found solace in the companions that live in our bookshelves.Valeria Luiselli
Why every single statue should come down, by gary younge
What a fascinating look at the complex issue of historical statues. In an age where people on the left of society especially are (rightfully in my humble opinion) calling for statues of figures such as Stonewall Jackson and Cecil Rhodes to be taken down, Younge argues convincingly for why we should maybe quit the practice of erecting statues to historical figures in the first place. He makes some excellent points about their lack of either beauty or usefulness and why they do not contribute at all to a clearer understanding of the nuances of history. More pointedly, he suggests that this tendency to credit individuals for historical change is misguided at best and dishonest at worst. If you have the time, give this a read. Younge makes some interesting arguments and, honestly, I’m starting to see his point of view as a way out of the morass we currently find ourselves in.
Statues are not history; they represent historical figures. They may have been set up to mark a person’s historical contribution, but they are not themselves history. If you take down Nelson Mandela’s bust on London’s South Bank, you do not erase the history of the anti-apartheid struggle.Gary Younge
overconsumption and the environment: should we all stop shopping? by Jamie waters
This was such a refreshing piece to read at an important junction in my life. When you have kids, consumption tends to ramp up exponentially as you collect furniture, clothes, toys and necessities destined to be used briefly and roughly, often so roughly as to not be passed down to future children. So much of the items meant for kids are built cheaply, more likely to break in a few months than to become a beloved heirloom. Reading this article could not have come at a better time. It is possible to collect higher quality goods which can serve multiple children before being packed away for future grandkids or donated to others looking to avoid the plethora of plastic paraphernalia. It take a bit of saving and planning to be able to afford them but once purchased, you will likely never need to replace them. I know this is something I need to get better at, I have very much fallen deeper into the fast economy during this pandemic. I would like to find my way out of it before my overconsumption habits are passed on to our kids…
Talking to somebody working in corporate America versus somebody who’s been practising voluntary simplicity for three decades is night and day, in terms of the kind of human being they are. It makes you want to be the voluntary simplicity person very much. They make time for people and have more depth and generosity of spirit. At times, it did feel like I was talking to a more evolved being.JB MacKinnon
neuroscientist karl deisseroth: ‘coronavirus has changed us all’, by richard godwin
An excellent look at the possible long-term effects of the pandemic on our mental health. I know I have definitely noticed a shift in my social interactions. I’m not as good at listening, I’m defensive and short-tempered. As Deisseroth says, human interactions are immensely complicated and due to the very necessary social isolation we have been undertaking, we are all out of practice. Remember to give yourself and others grace and patience as things start to open up: even if we are physically healthy, I don’t think any of us are making it out of this mentally unscathed.
Unquestionably we’re going to suffer a tsunami of mental health issues as a result of the pandemic, but in the long run I hope that accessibility of mental health care will be greatly enhanced by what we’ve gone through. If there is a silver lining, that might be it.Karl Deisseroth
‘It is obscene’: chiamanda ngozi adichie pens blistering essay against social media sanctimony
If you are anything like me and tired of the intense polarization of social media, please read this article and take comfort in the fact that you are in no way alone. Social media has brought us the possibility of so much connection and broadening of our life experiences but what it seems to be used for more and more is to ‘cancel’ anyone who either inadvertently insults someone or even just those who apparently aren’t using their platform to adequately support every single call of injustice in existence. I have certainly had the experience the author describes of reading my posts over and over to try and make sure they can’t be taken the wrong way before posting them…and inevitably someone still gets offended. This is getting ridiculous. Can’t we recognize each other as fellow humans and come to realize that the vast majority of humans are good, kind, thoughtful people? If something someone writes offends you…try and remember what they were writing was not meant for you personally. And as long as it is not overtly hateful…let it go. I will add also, as a disclaimer, that even if you do not appreciate with the opinion of the author that got her in trouble in the first place (and I’m not sure that I do), her larger comments about the problematic nature of social media’s tendency towards sanctimony still hold water.
What matters is not goodness but the appearance of goodness. We are no longer human beings. We are now angels jostling to out-angel one another. God help us. It is obscene.Chiamanda Ngozi
easter for sadists, part 2 by lucy grove-jones of silence killed the dinosaurs
This woman’s art is just the best. She has gone through SO MUCH in the last few years, do read her blog to find out more, but through it all she has maintained her beautiful sense of humour. I am always super excited to see she has a new comic out. Give this one a read if you’re looking for a laugh!
As I melted in disbelief and anger, I was already brainstorming how to twist the tragedy not only into the next phase of the Cunning Plan, but figuratively into him like a sharp, stabby—and again completely figurative—revenge knife.Lucy Grove-Jones
Pepper, by carrot on the dihedral
Oh my heart. This was so beautifully written but so hard to read. For anyone who has ever lost a beloved pet, these words will likely resonate with you. Honour your emotional response, if you choose to read this farewell, and remember all those lovely creatures who have walked with us in this life. I miss them all.
But tomorrow I have to wake up without a cold wet nose bopping me on the cheek, and I don’t know how to do that?Carrot
As mentioned in previous blogs, my reading habits have been all over the place these past few months. My husband keeps suggesting that maybe I take a break from reading all the articles and focus what attention span I do have for reading on books.
He’s got a point.
But, for now, I’m at least happy to report that I did indeed finish a book this month!
Perhaps because I had made a commitment to the author to have it read and reviewed by a certain date, and perhaps because it was significantly shorter than The Fiery Cross, I finished reading it in two days. And it felt SO good.
The book was Rise of a Champion by Clara C. Johnson and you can read my review of it on Goodreads here. It was perhaps not the best book I have read this year so far but the story was compelling enough to keep me reading almost non-stop for two evenings straight! And that is saying something.
Other than completing this novel, I have both finished listening to The Help and almost finished listening to Becoming while also making progress on both The Fiery Cross and Ramses so there is certainly hope to finish my 21 books by the end of the year.
Hopefully by the end of the summer I can build up the stamina to not just long to delve into the deep and welcoming world of literature but actually find myself lost in it once more.
Wish me luck!
And, as always, do let me know if you read anything above or if you have read anything else that particularly struck you. I’m always looking for recommendations.
Keep reading! And, remember, life is beautiful.