January ’17 Wrap-Up

Books Bought:

  • The No Spend Year – Michelle McGagh
  • Unf*ck Your Habitat – Rachel Hoffman
  • The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • Tender is the Night – F. Scott Fitzgerald

Books Read:

  • The Wangs vs. The World – Jade Chang
  • The Museum of Me – Emma Lewis
  • The No Spend Year – Michelle McGagh
  • The Rest of Us Just Live Here – Patrick Ness
  • The Good Immigrant – Various
  • When Breath Becomes Air – Paul Kalanithi

The year started off strong, with me blasting through three books in as many days at the start of January. But like any reading marathon, it wasn’t set to last – I had a 72 hour open exam at the end of the first week, and with university, societies, and work every weekend kicking back in, I landed right back in a reading slump. I really struggled to get through any other books, having to physically force myself to sit and read (which probably meant I didn’t enjoy very many of the books as much as I would have, either). That being said I’ve definitely found some new favourites already in 2017! May possibly have to re-read them when I’m in a better mood, though.

The Wangs vs. The World is a novel about the fall of Charles Wang, self made cosmetics millionaire turned bankrupt father during the 2008 economic crash. Packing himself, his morally dubious second wife, insta-famous daughter, and wannabe stand-up comic son into a tiny vintage car, they travel across the country to visit the oldest sibling, a failed contemporary artist hiding out in upstate New York, and from there attempt to reclaim forgotten family land from the Chinese communist government. This book was essentially Little Miss Sunshine but amped all the way up – there was a lot more tragedy, introspection, and detestable characters than I was expecting, but Jade Chang’s writing lands you your own place in this crazy, dysfunctional family.

The Museum of Me is actually a children’s picture book, all about the different kinds of museums that you can visit, and how your own belongings and interests create a ‘Museum of Me’. Simple but adorable art style, and a great message about why children should be getting excited about museums, it was a nice quick read to put me in a better mood.

The No Spend Year is a book, following up from a string of Guardian articles, about a woman who spends no money other than on absolute essentials (food, household bills, rent) for 12 months. No meals out, no haircuts, no new clothes, and no transport other than her bike and her own two feet. The book was brutally honest about what worked for her and what didn’t, tips for entertaining yourself for free, and how she (slightly illegally) managed to go on holiday for free – minus the cost of one portion of chips. A great book with practical tips on how to spend less but still live well, and something that I’ve kept thinking about long after I put the book down.

The Rest of Us Just Live Here was my first ever Patrick Ness book, and one that’s been on my TBR for well over a year. I was really excited about the concept – a group of teenagers attempting to live a normal life while the ‘chosen ones’ run around and get the high school blown up – but I felt as though it fell a bit short. It was great having main characters with mental illnesses and a POC love interest, but I didn’t feel as though the characters or personal conflicts were particularly exciting. After reading a few other reviews apparently many people thought the same, and Ness’s other books far outstrip this one, so I’ll be picking up something else by him in the near future.

The Good Immigrant is a collection of essays by a range of British BAME writers and comedians about what it means to be a first or second generation immigrant in the UK today. With all of the conversations about race in the current media revolving around America and Black Lives Matter, it was great to get an insight on how minorities feel about my own country, as white Brits tend to have the self-congratulatory habit of saying ‘Well at least we’re not America!’. Insightful and varied, it reminded me about how much further we have left to go, and how as a white ally I must help to raise the voices of minorities, not speak over them with my own interpretation.

When Breath Becomes Air is one you have probably all heard of – a memoir of a neurosurgeon with a masters in literature who is diagnosed with aggressive lung cancer. A short but heartbreaking book, the author discusses how his relationship with patients changed, how his priorities were altered, and how literature helped him through such a difficult time. The author died before the publication of this book, and the final chapter is written by his wife.

Which books did you kick off the new year with?

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