Featured

The Best of 2021 – Part 2

A little late, but still relevant nevertheless:

Here’s the second half of my favourite reads from 2021.

Cockroaches by Jo Nesbø

The second in Nesbø’s Harry Hole series Cockroaches was packed full of twists and turns that made it incredibly hard to put down. This is a really well-constructed mystery crime novel and a great addition to the series that makes me just want to read more. Hole is the troubled protagonist dealing with his own personal demons whilst trying to uncover a politically sensitive murder, the plot is perfectly complex yet easy to follow.

I would highly recommend Nesbø to any crime thriller fans.

Find the first in the series here

Queer Intentions by Amelia Abraham

Abraham takes you on a journey (hence the title) in Queer Intentions through the different cultural arguments within the LGBTQ+ community around the world. The book really highlights the stark lack of LGBTQ+ representation in the media because so many of the conversations we hear include heterosexual voices meaning that we lose the depth of the community. I didn’t realise that I had such a one-dimensional view of LGBTQ+ issues and history, I had subconsciously painted all members of the community with the same brush of views (apologies for that strangled metaphor), when there are in fact, of course, incredibly in-depth and varied opinions within the community on topics such as marriage and pride.

This book will certainly broaden your understanding of LGBTQ+ culture and Abraham is such a skilled interviewer and writer that this is all imparted effortlessly.

Begin your journey now

Three Women by Lisa Taddeo

What can I say about Three Women? I absolutely loved it! Taddeo tells the story of her three subjects with great respect, but also with the most elegant writing. Three Women explores female relationships with sex and how these can be either liberating or damaging depending on their circumstances. While each biography is very different I think they all highlight how women’s thoughts and feelings are often not prioritised when it comes to sex, whether they be incredibly confident about their desires or the victims of sexual predators.

A truly liberating read that I will recommend to everyone!

Get your copy here

So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo

Natives by Akala featured in the first half of my ‘Best of 2021’ guide and So You Want to Talk About Race for me is the American equivalent. Oluo shares her own experiences as a child, an adult and a parent facing racism at school, in the workplace and online. These anecdotes are followed by Oluo explaining why common misunderstandings about anti-racism and damaging views about POC are not only ill-founded but ingrained in our society. This is all backed up with easy to interpret stats that show the true impact systemic racism has upon America.

This is a fundamental read, even if you are not American. As British citizens, we often try to hide behind the fact that we think race relations are so much worse in America so we don’t have to worry. Whether or not you believe the UK has a better relationship with race than the US or not, this is no excuse to ignore important books such as this.

Order yours here

The Binding by Bridget Collins

I am certain that I have found a new favourite author in Bridget Collins after reading The Binding. I was initially pulled in by the concept of memories being bound in books and how this would change the way society works, but very quickly I was drawn into the romance of the plot and fell in love with the characters and their relationship. Coming from someone who is not normally a romance novel fan, this is saying a lot! I wanted the book to just keep going because I enjoyed it so much so I cannot wait to pick up Collins’ next book.

Collins creates a unique world that asks the question of how we deal with trauma and bad memories, is it best to forget and move on or should we confront our past. Obviously, there isn’t one correct answer, but this is a really intriguing exploration of the arguments.

The perfect match for romance fans or those wishing to dip their toes into the romance genre. Find your match here

Honourable mention also goes out to Circe by Madeline Miller, Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart, Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo and The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky all of which I listened to via BorrowBox and absolutely loved.

Have you read any of these? What did you think of them and what would some of your suggestions be for best of 2021?

Featured

Introduction

Enter Stage Left

“Everything starts somewhere, though many physicists disagree. But people have always been dimly aware of the problem with the start of things. They wonder how the snowplough driver gets to work, or how the makers of dictionaries look up the spelling of words.”

— Terry Pratchett

In a bid to expand my reading base I am starting this blog to encourage myself to not only read more, but to explore what it is I love about certain books and discover new authors and genres.

As my blog name suggests, however, I will also be writing about the other great passion in my life – Theatre. I count myself lucky to have parents that have taken me to shows for as long as I can remember, but now I want to explore even more of what the theatre world has to offer.

The goal for 2020 is to write at least one post a month on a book and a play each so I guess I better get started!

The Best of 2021 – Part 1

Possible Christmas Gift Ideas

Somehow it’s December again and we’re all contemplating the joy of seeing our families and friends once more for the festive season (that is if Boris doesn’t cancel everything again at the last minute). So for now let’s just pretend everything will go according to plan and that we can go home, eat far too much food and collectively not laugh at terrible cracker jokes. But December doesn’t just mean Christmas, it means the end of another year and time to reflect. So here’s a little list of my favourite reads from the year, that, if you choose to, can also be used as a little Christmas gift guide for your book-loving acquaintances.

Me and White Supremacy by Layla F. Saad

This book made me face some uncomfortable truths about my subconscious and conscious thoughts on race. I, like many others, want to believe that I am a good person and not part of the problem, but Saad made me realise that this is a major part of the problem. Anti-racism is not about me and it’s not a job that will ever be done, it’s not a list of books you can tick off but a constant effort to counter the anti-racist nature of our society. Saad does an amazing job of turning a hugely complex subject into daily reflections that are easy to follow if hard to face.

At first glance, you might not consider this a giftable book due to the serious nature of its content and the fact that by gifting it you are essentially saying that the receiver needs to re-review their relationship with race, but that’s the point! We all need to reassess how we talk, think and act regarding race. Basically, the more people that read this book the better. It may be uncomfortable to have open conversations with your family and friends about this topic, but giving them this book to start with may be a great gateway to future discussions.

Buy it here
And for younger readers, there is now a YA edition

A Life on Our Planet by David Attenborough

Attenborough lays out the facts on climate change in easy to understand irrefutable chapters, discussing land, sea and air, what we’re doing wrong, but more importantly how there is still hope. The climate crisis is one of the biggest issues, if not the biggest, we currently face and we are running out of time, this book is a great introduction to the science around climate change and a reminder of what we are fighting for. Reading A Life on Our Planet had a significant impact on my life. After watching the documentary and reading Attenborough’s deeper arguments I couldn’t ignore the fact that there was something very simple in my life that I could change for the benefit of the planet. I have drastically cut down the amount of meat I eat and essentially now only eat it when I go out for dinner (but not every time).

Ideal for nature-loving book readers, but also for anyone that has ever enjoyed a David Attenborough documentary, part autobiography, part criticism this is an enjoyable and highly educational read that I hope you decide to pick up.

Find it here

Natives by Akala

A fantastic combination of autobiography and polemic, in Natives Akala breaks down all of the stereotypical arguments casual racists use to defend themselves and attack POC. The type of comments you know in your heart are wrong but aren’t always quite sure how to confront. His use of statistics and personal anecdotes beautifully compliment each other, making his writing not only easy to understand but incredibly memorable.

A clear choice for fans of Akala and his music, but there are also plenty of sporting and political references in here that I thought my dad would appreciate too, so by no means a book only for the younger generation.

Get your copy here

The Light Fantastic by Terry Pratchett

The second of the Discworld series, The Light Fantastic is wonderfully funny, charming and odd all at the same time. I completely lost myself within the world and was overjoyed to be immersed once again in the magical mystery of Pratchett’s mind.

Part two in a series probably isn’t the best gift, so if they haven’t read any Discworld maybe go back to The Colour of Magic or try any other of the many wonderful works that Pratchett has written.

Explore Pratchett’s collection here

This is Going to Hurt by Adam Kay

Laugh out loud funny, Kay’s diary entries as a Junior Doctor are some of the most bizarre, disgusting and hilarious anecdotes I’ve ever read. Whilst reading, I would constantly interrupt my partner to repeat aloud what I had just read, mostly to a response of laughter but occasionally horror. The book also has a serious message about the stress that our health care system is under and does an excellent job of giving the reader an insight into the life of those that work every day to keep us alive.

Excellent for fans of comedy and the slightly gross as it will undoubtedly make them laugh and wince at the same time! However, I would not recommend you buy this for anyone who is pregnant as the majority of the stories are about giving birth, Kay was an Obs and Gynae doctor, and probably won’t give a mother to be a lot of comfort.

Click here to get yourself a copy

Noughts & Crosses by Malorie Blackman

I came to Noughts and Crosses a lot later than everyone else and after reading it I can certainly see why it has been so popular all these years. Blackman flips the switch on race in a dystopian world where POC are the ruling class and white people are treated as second class citizens. She eloquently highlights all of the injustices we as white people don’t seem to be able to recognise through our white gaze in a wonderfully written YA novel that is exciting and surprising.

A great pick for teenagers and adults who love YA dystopia and for newfound fans following the TV series released last year. Plus if they really like it you’ll have four more Christmases sorted with the rest of the series.

Start the series here

They Called Us Enemy by George Takei

Japanese internment is not a period of history that I knew a great deal about before picking up this graphic novel. Originally I bought They Called Us Enemy for my partner as a present. After he read it and raved about it I couldn’t not read it myself. As a history student, I was made to study the world wars over and over again, so I was incredibly surprised when I realised we had never covered the atrocities that happened to Japanese Americans during WWII. This graphic novel is beautifully illustrated and filled with heart and emotion. You have the advantage of seeing both through George’s eyes as a child and also his retrospective views of what happened, making the story wonderfully well rounded and reflective.

If you know any Star Trek fans then this is an easy choice, but equally, this book would be great for history lovers like me and graphic novel enthusiasts looking for less of the supernatural and more of a human feel.

Pick up yours here

If you found this little guide useful keep a lookout for part 2 in the next few days. I’d love to hear if you decide to pick up any of these, for yourself or as presents, or if you’ve already read them let me know what you thought.

Diary #6 – P.S. I Love Audiobooks

So the reading drought continues, I am picking my books up, just not for very long each time. However, I have zoomed through three audiobooks all of which I loved!

I’m still over the moon that I have discovered BorrowBox, in the past couple of weeks I have listened to The Perks of Begin a Wallflower, P.S. I Love You, and The Beekeeper of Aleppo. I’ve only seen the trailer for The Perks of Being a Wallflower and that was years ago, so I went in blind and really loved it! I think if I’d read about it before I would have worried it would be a cringey, angsty teenage tale, but it was so sensitively written and felt realistic. Sometimes with teenage novels I find tacky or sensational scenes are added for dramatic effect and end up taking away from the real drama in adolescent life. I enjoyed returning to teenage life through the eyes of Charlie and following him on his journey through high school, meeting new friends, falling in love, reading voraciously and dealing with anxiety.

The slow build of the story really made me feel like I was going along the journey with Charlie and I was pleasantly surprised with how emotionally connected I become with the characters. This was helped significantly by the wonderful reading of Noah Galvin. It’s not a big drama story line, although there are definitely unexpected twists and turns, just beautiful emotional writing that I think almost anyone could connect with. I really appreciated the unpredictability of the book in the sense that it did not follow any of the stereotypes teenage novels normally do, it felt refreshing and real which is what made it so special. I’m looking forward to seeing if the movie lives up to the book!

P.S. I Love You is a book that I have seen the film adaptation of so I was incredibly surprised to find that in the book the story is set entirely in Ireland rather than New York. I’m not normal a romance novel fan, but knowing the premise of the book I was excited to listen to it and I really enjoyed it! The story is so beautiful and moves between being hilariously funny and sorrowfully sad effortlessly. I just thoroughly enjoyed listening to the story, and even though I knew lots of the major plot points I still found it surprising and engaging. The best part about the whole book is definitely the way Holly’s character is written. She’s flawed, but brave, sad but funny and completely relatable.

I’m not really sure what else to say about it except that I loved it, it’s just a good solid book that I would highly recommend. I was also intrigued by the extra chapter at the end, the beginning of the follow up novel, which I did not know existed so I’ll definitely be looking that up in the near future.

Last but not least, The Beekeeper of Aleppo. I’d seen this book around a lot but actually didn’t know anything about it except for it being the story of an asylum seeker. The plot follows the journey of Nuri and his wife Afra, escaping Aleppo, the city they once loved, that has since been destroyed by war. I thought the book did an excellent job making the lives of refugees relatable as we often only see attention grabbing headlines and statistics not the personal stories of those escaping war and terror. Although not written by a refugee you can tell that the author, Christy Lefteri, has spent time with many refugees, listening to their stories and feeling compelled to bring their struggles to the attention of the public.

I realised recently, when listening to the podcast About Race with Reni Eddo-Lodge (which you can read more about here) that I had come to a subconscious conclusion that refugees were poor people needing aid rather than a wide range of individuals, many with highly respected jobs that had been forced to leave their country under unimaginable circumstances. The Beekeeper of Aleppo similarly reinforces the humanity behind these individuals and makes it so crystal clear that anyone could be a refugee, it just so happens that I was not born in a country that is currently at war. For this reason I think the book is a must read/listen to. It is an example of why fiction is so important in widening our horizons, helping us to understand each other and unlearning some of the prejudices we have been taught.

I would probably recommend reading this as opposed to listening to it though, as the story does jump backwards and forwards in time which I think would have been clearer on the page and slightly easier to follow. I did however thoroughly enjoy listening to it and the narration was outstanding.

Have you read or listened to any of these? What did you think and what audiobooks would you recommend I listen to next?

Diary #5 – Under Circe’s Spell

I made a new discovery this week, BorrowBox, the audiobook lending service, which I’m hoping will help me get through my INSANELY huge TBR. I also visited the National Theatre for the first time in what feels like forever to see Under Milk Wood. I still haven’t finished any physical books and to be honest went through a bit of a reading slump, but listening to audiobooks has definitely helped.

Because I am due to start working in the office again soon, two days a week, I decided to look into Audible. I can now walk to work so can no longer read on the commute, that’s not a complaint by the way, I’m very happy about not having to cram myself onto sweaty humid trains anymore. So I thought my walk would be an excellent opportunity to listen to either books I don’t have with me in the flat or those I don’t own at all. For some reason I was under the illusion that Audible was like the Netflix of audiobooks, I did not realise that for £7.99 a month you get just one audiobook. You do get to keep it forever, but this just didn’t seem like a good fit for me. I remembered my friend telling me that the library offers audiobook loans online and you can borrow 7 at a time and return them as soon as you’re done with them to get more. I had a look into it and couldn’t believe how many recent titles were available, well a lot of them were on loan, but you get what I mean!

I couldn’t wait to start listening and chose Circe by Madeline Miller for my first listen. I absolutely raced through it in a couple of days. I was completely captivated by the beautiful writing and the wonderful way in which the story was brought to life my Perdita Weeks. Circe’s story is not one I was familiar with apart from in Percy Jackson so it was lovely to hear a new (to me) Greek story that weaved in and out of the ones I was more familiar with. It was also obviously incredibly refreshing to hear these tales from a female perspective!

Next up is The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky which I am actually already over half way through!

Thursday June 24th:

I still can’t quite believe that it’s possible to visit the theatre again so I was beyond excited to go to the National Theatre to see Under Milk Wood on Thursday. There was of course a little bit of COVID protocol, but it was over quickly and being inside the building felt wonderful.

I’ve not read any Dylan Thomas so all I knew to expect was a story about a sleepy Welsh village with the main role being played by Micheal Sheen. I enjoyed the show, but if I’m completely honest I felt it was somewhat lost on me. There were some beautiful passages of language and lots of jokes and brought everyone to laughter, but the nature of the story requires constant attention which I found quite difficult to maintain. This in part was due to a positive reason, there was always something happening on stage with the supporting cast, either those that were involved in the present action or those in the background extending their characters. This made for a wonderfully rich visual, especially considering the stage was circular with no major set pieces, but it meant I was constantly distracted from the main story.

I can almost hear Thomas fans yelling at me through the screen, to which I will say I am definitely still interested in reading Under Milk Wood as I think I’ll get more out of it this way. Also I’d like to add that I don’t think this is down to anything being done badly and I did still really enjoyed myself, I just wished there had been pauses and changes in pace that would have helped me to keep up with the story.

The acting was wonderful, each character completely defined with characteristics and costume, supported by a deceptively simple set of tables and chairs that were wheeled on and off stage with secret hinges that turned an empty desk into a fully laid dinning table. Although it may not have been one of my favourite plays of all time I still thoroughly enjoyed myself and it was wonderful to be back in front of a stage again.

Have you been back to the theatre yet? What have you seen and would you recommend it?

Diary #4 – Books and Booked

I didn’t manage to finish any books this week and quite frankly got into a bit of a slump with reading. I don’t know if it was the weather turning dull or that fact that I have a few more plans now, but my reading time definitely fell dramatically. Having said that when I did return to my books I was welcomed back with interesting and engaging writing. Oh and I got my first COVID vaccine so I’m pretty happy about that!

Reading Update:

I’m still reading Queer Intentions and A Bite of the Apple, both of which I am enjoying for different reasons. Queer Intentions is easily one of the best pieces of written evidence for why representation is so important. I consider myself to be reasonably aware of LGBTQ+ issues, but in this book Abraham interviews and talks to so many different members of the community that I am discovering a lot of things I have never considered. For example: how Ru Paul’s Drag Race has both a positive and negative effect on Drag by bringing it into the mainstream and both sides of the argument on whether Pride should be just one event or lots of smaller ones to represent the different parts of the community. First hand accounts are always so valuable and this book is packed with them. I’m loving it so far and am always excited to pick it up.

A Bite of the Apple is also interesting for it’s first hand accounts, this time on working for Virago when the company started out and watching it progress. It really sounds like a turning point in women’s literature, one which I was not massively aware of. Goodings mentions many of the books that got them started and afforded them continual success, many of which I have to admit I have not heard of, but it’s making me very excited to explore their modern classics collection in the near future.

Other News:

I’m also positively ecstatic about the fact I managed to book tickets for Joe Lycett’s new stand up tour!! It’s not until next year, but I’m already looking forward to it. I received tickets to his last tour as a birthday present and I think it’s one of my favourite ever comedy shows so here’s hoping this one is as good if not better!

Neither book nor theatre related, but I finally finished The Legend of Zelda Link’s Awakening on Nintendo Switch yesterday, which I’m very happy about. It’s by no means the best Zelda game I’ve played (which is obviously Minish Cap) but it was nice and nostalgic, plus now I’ve finished it I can exchange it in for a new game, but what to buy?

Are you a gamer? What are some of your favourite games? Old or new, I’m open to suggestions!

Diary #3 – A Delivery from Egypt

This week I finished a book and started a new one, whilst enjoying the glorious sunshine, that conveniently disappeared every time I went to the park… I also booked tickets for a show I have wanted to see for ages so am incredibly excited!

Reading Update:

I finally finished Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy – you can see my mini review on my Instagram – in the end I did enjoy it but it was a bit of a disappointment for me considering how famous it is.

I also started A Bite of the Apple, a part memoir, part history of the publishing house Virago by Lennie Goodings. I’m only 30 pages in, so I don’t have a huge opinion on it yet, but I’m very interested to hear about the journey of what is now such a huge publisher, and I always love a good memoir!

Book Post:

I’ve not bought any new books in quite a long time, as I have about a zillion already on my physical TBR, but this week I treated myself to some I’ve wanted for a while:

Hood Feminism by Mikki Kendall , I’ve seen lots of great reviews on this and most of my feminism reading has unfortunately been based solely around white women so I wanted to get this as a start to expanding my reading on the topic

Big Sister Little Sister Red Sister by Jung ChangWild Swans is one of my all time favourite books so I’m excited to read another of Chang’s books

Detransition, Baby by Torrey Peters – Longlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction this year, as soon as I heard about the plot and how lots of trans readers were saying how refreshing it was to hear this type of story written by a trans author, I immediately wanted to read it

Saturday June 12th:

After a day out in China Town eating murger soup from Murger and drinking a delicious crème brûlée bubble tea from Machi Machi, I booked tickets to see The Prince of Egypt at the Dominion Theatre later this summer. The Prince of Egypt was one of my favourite animated films growing up, my brother and I watched the VHS more times than I can remember, so I’m so excited to go to see the musical!

Have you made any new or secondhand book purchases recently? What were they and what made you want to buy them?

Diary #2 – The Show Intends to Go On

Somehow it is already June and, rejoice, the sunshine has finally appeared. I finished a book, started a new one whilst buying and borrowing a lot more! I also saw some wonderful live performances and booked to see another, so all in all, a good week.

Thursday 3rd June:

I finished The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society just before bed. I have previously said that I only thought I enjoyed it because it was light relief from Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, but after not being able to put it down for the last third I decided I was wrong. It’s a really joyful read, put together beautifully. I really appreciated how each letter (the book is comprised solely of letters) was like one piece of a puzzle that when combined all fit perfectly together, nothing missing and no excess. I was also very grateful for the notes at the end by both authors, I was intrigued as to how the story was written between two and to learn that Shaffer became ill shortly before completing the novel, was very sad, but it demonstrates both how trusting and wonderful the relationship between herself and her niece Barrows was for her to pass over her creation.

A day later I also watched the movie adaptation which was good, but I found the characters less lovable. I completely understand why some of the editorial decisions were made, such as removing certain characters and speeding up the plot by having Juliet arrive much more quickly into Guernsey, but a lot of the character development was lost meaning I didn’t feel anywhere near as connected with them. Still worth a watch though as it made me cry, which I think is generally a sign of a decent film.

General Reading Update:

I’m still going with Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, and am delighted to say I’m enjoying it so much more than I was before! I feel like the plot now makes a lot more sense to me as some action is playing out rather than being retold so I can follow it a lot more easily. Still a way to go, but I no longer dread picking it up!

Monday June 7th:

I started reading Queer Intentions by Amelia Abraham, I bought it a month or two ago and Pride Month seemed as good a time as any to start it. So far I’ve only read the introduction and the first chapter, but I’m already really enjoying the narrative style. Abraham is a journalist and this autobiographical journey is told through her interactions with others which I really like. I look forward to seeing what the rest of the book has to offer and learning more about LGBTQ+ culture.

In the evening I also enjoyed, one day late, the live performance of The Show Must Go On a showcase of lots of the West End’s best shows aiming to raise money for The Theatre Support Fund, which has been helping those in the theatre industry during lockdown. It was so lovely to be back in the world of musicals again with some amazing performances, my favourites being:

– ‘You’ll Be Back’ from Hamilton performed by Trevor Dion Nicholas
– ‘The Winner Takes It All’ from Mamma Mia! performed by Mazz Murray
– ‘You and Me (But Mostly Me)’ from The Book of Mormon performed by Dom Simpson and Tom Xander
– ‘Bring Him Home’ from Les Misérables performed by John Owen-Jones
– ‘When You Believe’ from The Prince of Egypt performed by Alexia Khadime and Christine Allado

You can still catch the whole show on YouTube for free here! If you do enjoy it please consider donating to The Theatre Support Fund or buying some of their amazing merchandise as the arts have had it really tough during the pandemic with little or no support from the government.

Have you booked to see and shows yet? If so what are you going to see or what have you seen already?

Diary #1 – Flying to Guernsey in Search of a Tailor

Seeing as I’ve been pretty terrible at keeping up to date with monthly wrap ups I thought I’d give myself a challenge to write shorter but more frequent updates in the form of a diary, which will include what I’ve read, what I’ve been to see at the theatre and anything else significant that I think you might like to hear about. Hope you enjoy!

Monday 24th May:

I went to Bridge Theatre, my first trip back to the stage after the latest lockdown, to see Flight. Based on a novel it tells the story of two orphaned brothers travelling across Europe in hopes of reaching London.

We were escorted inside and guided to our own individual private booth, very COVID appropriate, where you sit in front of a giant carousel, bare with me, which contains hundreds on miniature scenes. As the show starts the carousel begins to turn and the scenes are lit up one by one with the story playing through your headphones to tell you the brothers’ arduous tale.

This was such an original concept and beautiful told story , I would highly recommend that you grab a ticket while you still can. I don’t want to give too much away but the variety of effects used on the different scenes combined with the narrative and sounds effects was really wonderful. I’ve always had a fascination for miniature models and this show elegantly displays the versatility that they have for storytelling.

Showing at Bridge Theatre until 6th June 2021, get your tickets here!

Reading Update:

So last week I was lucky enough to visit the Lake District, which besides the beautiful walks and views meant two long train journeys, perfect for reading! However, I am struggling through Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, which I have still not finished, so I didn’t make much progress. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society did offer some light relief though. I’m quite enjoying it, but I don’t know if that’s mainly because comparatively I am really not enjoying Tinker Tailor

Have you read Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy? Did you enjoy it? And more importantly did you understand it?

Natives by Akala – Book Review

I’d seen this book all over Bookstagram and a few of my friends had also read and recommended it to me so it was definitely on my “to buy next” list. I was, therefore, delighted when my boyfriend bought me Natives for Christmas! He knew I wanted to read more about the history of race in the UK so he asked a few friends about what they would suggest and this was their first choice.

The best thing about Natives, in my opinion, is how Akala beautifully mixes a traditional memoir with various essays on political and social history in the UK. As the reader you are guided back and forth between anecdotes and discussions on major historical events and social studies. All of this is done seamlessly and makes it so much more memorable and easy to discuss with others.

Akala tackles subjects such as black on black crime and systemic racism within education, amongst many others. His patient tone and expert use of research combined with his own experiences as a POC helps you unpack these topics. Before reading you probably knew that the term “black on black crime” was itself perpetuating racism, but you probably couldn’t eloquently explain why. After reading Natives you know that statistically the majority of violent crime in the UK is white on white, but because we are conditioned to see the world through a lens that filters out whiteness as a race, white on white violence never becomes about race. We should not need these things explained to us, but nevertheless Akala painstakingly lays out all of the information for us so that the facts are inescapable.

Having heard Akala speak publicly it is clear to see that he is not only passionate about this subject, but that he also knows it inside out. When confronted with intentionally antagonising questions, *cough cough* Piers Morgan, Akala is gracious, but powerful, he knows what he is talking about and breaks it down so that it is impossible to not understand, it then just becomes a case of if the listener is open minded or not. All of this knowledge and passion is clearly evident in Akala’s writing and consequently I have now converted back to note taking whilst reading non-fiction books, as there is so much to learn from this book I needed to process it properly.

Conclusion: This book is an exceptional tool for educating yourself on the topic of race and its history within the UK and I am incredibly grateful for it, we shouldn’t need it, but unfortunately we do. We shouldn’t need POC to still be educating us on why and how we live in a systemically racist country, but after the release of the UK Government’s Race Report last week it’s clear that we are still woefully denying our contribution to the continued prejudices in our own country and communities. Therefore, I would urge you to pick up this book and absorb it. There are lots of great references to historical events, ones that your parents will remember, making it easier to chat to then about race, and plenty of statistical evidence that our country does not favour those that are not white, stats you can bring up next time someone says they don’t think white privileged exists. Please read.

Rating: ★★★★★

What books have opened your eyes to the issue of racism? I’d love to hear your recommendations!

A Life on Our Planet by David Attenborough – Book Review

Before even watching the documentary last year I knew I wanted to read this. I’m a big Attenborough fan so naturally was drawn to it and any book that can guide us to avoiding climate disaster is a must read in my opinion. I received the book as a Christmas present from my parents and it immediately bumped almost everything on my TBR!

So what’s it all about and why should you read it if you’ve already watched the documentary? (If you haven’t watched the documentary, please pause reading this, add it to your watch list and return.)

As can be expected with all written companions to TV shows, the book goes into much more detail than the documentary whilst following the same clear path. To begin the book follows Attenborough’s journey from a child interested in fossils all the way to the eminent TV presenter he is today, along the way showing how the earth has been severely impacted by human behaviour in the space of just one lifetime, all be it an extraordinary one.

Part 2 then succinctly explains what we can expect from the rest of the 21st century if we continue on our current trajectory. This includes rising temperatures, which will cause sea level to rise and displace many communities, whilst also making some places uninhabitable from the heat and consequently an increase in forest fires. On top of this species will become extinct, from coral reefs to pollinators, both of which are vital to our ecosystem. More topically, there is a growing likelihood that there will be more pandemics like COVID-19 and worse. This all paints a pretty bleak picture and while I was reading this section I did feel a lot of despair, but as Attenborough explains, we are in a wonderful position to change all of this, because for the first time in history we know what we are doing wrong, how that will affect us, and most importantly what we can do to turn things around before it is too late.

The penultimate section digs deeper into these solutions discussing the rewilding of land and sea; reassessing our measures of success; converting to clean energy; using less space to allow more room for nature to recover; planning for peak human and building more balanced lives, because what is good for nature is also good for us. Just like the documentary the book uses lots of existing examples, such as the world’s largest solar farm in Morocco and no-fish zones in Palau, to display how these changes are not only possible, but hugely successful.

To conclude the message is, that we should be cautiously hopefully, the solutions are not waiting to be found, we already know what they are, we just need to implement them. However, the caveat on this hope is that it cannot be just a handful of countries who act, this must be a global effort. We in the UK are by no means leaders in this field, so it’s not a case of moaning about other countries not getting involved. Tell your MP that we don’t only need change, but that you want it. The bigger the public movement for climate action the more pressure there will be on the government to act, and not just to do the bare minimum, but to make it part of their manifestos and campaigns.

Conclusion: READ THIS BOOK! Apologies for the all caps, but this is an issue that effects each and everyone of us and we have about 9 years to make a difference. The more we know and talk about this subject to our friends and family, the more people will care about it and make changes in their lives too. Even more importantly, this will build public awareness to the point where governments can no longer ignore the crisis we face. I hope you enjoy reading this book, learning about nature and all that it does for us and I hope that it inspires you to make the changes you are able to in your lives to build this movement and bring about the change that we so desperately need.

I realise the above sounds a little preachy so I would like to add that I am by no means perfect, I am relatively new to this area of reading, but what I have learnt in this short space of time is the urgency needed in this fight. As is so often quoted on social media “we don’t need a handful of people being perfectly sustainable, we need millions of people doing it imperfectly.” Each change you make, no matter how small will make a difference and in the long run make it easier for others to make these changes too. You don’t need to commit to going vegan overnight or move to the country and only eat the veg that you grow (although this does sound lovely), just try one thing at a time, switch your light bulbs to L.E.D. ones or try non dairy milk in your tea, it might not feel like much, but it all makes a difference.

Rating: ★★★★★

Have you read A Life on Our Planet? If so what did you think? I’d love to hear your thoughts and if the book prompted you to make any changes in your life. Even if you haven’t read the book do you have any tips on sustainable swaps? Let me know below!