So for the first time since I started my blog, which was almost a year ago, I actually read all of the books I planned to read in the month! I think this is because I decided what to read before the month started and consciously chose to be realistic about the time I have available to read. In fairness I had also read half of one of these books last year, but we’ll ignore that… I see so many people getting through 10+ books each month and just wonder where people find the time, but I’ve never been a fast reader and if I tried to be I wouldn’t enjoy myself as much so I’m choosing to be proud of my 4 books this January!
No Logo by Naomi Klein
I originally ordered this from my local library pre COVID lockdown after reading @nonfictionmillenial’s suggestions for some excellent female authored non-fiction books and did actually receive it from the library several months later, when they were able to do some home deliveries. This was around the time that I was moving into my flat so with everything else going on I got about three quarters of the way through it before I had to return it, but fortunately @nonficitionmillenial lent me her copy.
This book is jam packed full of case studies, statistics and first hand accounts of the impact increased marketing had on companies, consumers, factories and the people within them as well as the environment. Klein eloquently includes all of these issues alongside each other because they do not impact one sector of society over another, they simultaneously effect multiple sectors. I learnt a great deal about the way marketing works to draw the consumer in and could easily see how this has worked on me in the past. I was also confronted with some uncomfortable truths about the true cost of the clothes we buy and the brands we buy into, whether this be the exploitation of BIPOC communities to make brands look “hip” and “cool” or the exploitation of workers (often underage) in other countries to manufacture garments for next to nothing so that more money can be spent on advertising.
Klein pulls together a concise reflection of how advertising has evolved in recent history and then continues to closely analyse the huge expansion of marketing budgets in the 1990s. This book made me really want to start researching again, like I did during my degree, simply because the sheer amount of work and knowledge compiled in No Logo is outstanding. Lots of non-fiction books I read are wonderful, but this is truly a learning tool. I would highly recommend taking your time to read this as there is a lot to take in and process, but the result is eye opening. It shows just how much power brands hold today and as a result how much power we have as consumers to demand better. If politicians won’t change policy because, as it stands, brands are thriving, which feeds taxes, then to see change, we as consumers can chose carefully who we are happy to buy from. Soon politicians and brands alike will have to sit up and notice that we won’t stand for human exploitation or environmental destruction in the name of consumerism.
Conclusion: It is easy to see why No Logo is held in such high esteem, it is expertly researched and eloquently written. Due to the vast amount of case studies included it would have been easy for this book to seem non sequential and confusing, but Klein has built a solid structure supported by a wealth of knowledge and wonderful writing. If you occasionally buy from brand giants like Starbucks and Nike, or are a self-confessed brand-oholic I would really recommend reading this. You’ll feel like you should have already realised much of what Klein writes about, but like me, I think you will also be surprised, by some of the connections she makes between us buying a coffee or a new pair of trainers and the cost that that has on society.
Me and White Supremacy by Layla F. Saad
I think like a lot of people, I heard about Me and White Supremacy a while ago and kept telling myself, I’ll buy that soon, but kept putting it off because I knew it would mean confronting things about myself that I do not like. Finally in November last year I actually purchased it alongside a ticket to an online interview with Saad that included a copy of her Guided Journal. I found the interview really informative and I’m really glad that I watched it before reading as lots of the points Saad and her interviewer, Florence Given, mentioned did happen to me while reading so I was in a better position to deal with them.
Me and White Supremacy is a 28 day challenge to examine how you, the reader, are contributing to white supremacy through many different avenues, some subconscious and some conscious. The idea being that only by first confronting these issues within yourself are you able to understand how urgent the work is and how you as an individual can contribute to effective change rather than performative allyship.
Before starting this challenge I had contradicting thoughts, part of me thought, well I already know racism is bad and that all white people contribute to white supremacy so what more am I going to learn about myself, but the other half knew that I was using this as an excuse not to confront the parts of myself that contribute to this system and put that entirely on other people. I only mention this because I imagine it’s how a lot of white people feel when they are confronted with the idea that they are part of the problem and I urge you to push past this and pick up the book!
I found the break down of topics by day and grouped by week really effective, as at the end of each week I was able to summarise what I had learnt clearly and the next week continue building on that. I’m also really glad that I had the Guided Journal to use alongside Me and White Supremacy as it pushed me to analyse my thoughts and actions much more deeply, working to fill the page each time rather than come up with one point and move on. The way Saad has structured and written this book is expert, you can tell that there has been a lot of research and testing involved in building the challenge because it works. She pushes you to not be easy on yourself while pointing out that the goal is not just feel bad about your contribution to white supremacy, but to use the understanding you build of it to act against it for the benefit of BIPOC, not to make yourself feel good.
Conclusion: If you are white you need to read this book! I’m tempted to leave it there, but I will also say, Saad has done an amazing job of pulling this work together and it is our responsibility to read it, but then also to carry on that work. The work is not over once you put the book down, it has only just begun.
Percy Jackson and the Battle of the Labyrinth by Rick Riordan
After reading two very educational reads I wanted to pick up something lighthearted so that I could return, refreshed and ready to learn in February. I’ve had this series for a good few years, but only committed to reading it last year during lockdown and so far I am really enjoying it.
In the fourth instalment of the Percy Jackson series Rick Riordan tells the tale of the ever increasing danger of an attack on Camp Half Blood by the Titans and the race to stop them using the ancient labyrinth built by Daedalus to infiltrate camp. As with the rest of the series, Riordan does an excellent job of weaving in Greek myths, Gods and Goddesses into the plot resulting in a reasonably short story being filled with complexity and a satisfying arc.
Although this is a series made for an audience younger than the fantasy tales I am used to, there is still plenty of compelling content and I’m looking forward to completing the series. With each instalment I read I am also more excited about the upcoming TV series which I hope will be aimed at a slightly older audience.
Conclusion: I imagine this would be a great book for parents to read to their children as it is age appropriate, but still has lots of twists and turns to keep the parents interested. If you are interested in Greek mythology or just looking for a fun and incredibly easy to read series I would definitely recommend this one.
Have you read any of these? What did you think? And if not what did you read in January that you would recommend? Let me know in the comments!