Reading Round Up: January & February Part 1

I feel a little silly starting this in March seeing as I’ve read some stonkingly good stuff in the last few months so I’ll include some highlights over the next few weeks.

Audre Lorde – Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches

I have to admit that when I moved to London, my reading horizons expanded broadly – partly due to the friends I was making, partly due to it being that time in my life where I realised I knew nothing about a lot. So I decided to read some more PoC (people of colour) feminist writing. Last June when I was in the ~mist of depression~ I could barely do anything except read Maya Angelou’s entire back catalogue and during that time I realised that I wasn’t reading enough theory or enough by WoC (women of colour). Then I got invited to a gift swap themed around Audre Lorde’s birthday and basically I then had no excuse.

The essays in this book are varied – ranging from her trip to Russia in the 1970s to critical responses to other parts of the feminist movement. I love Lorde’s voice and couldn’t get enough of reading her every word. I thoroughly believe she is an essential voice to listen to. I still can’t decide what my favourite bit is, so will take it for a second read at some point this year. If you have a favourite Audre Lorde quote, tell me in the comments.

You can buy Audre Lorde’s books on Wordery (where I bought my copy and they were really nice about it being bent).

No trigger warnings as far as I remember but she certainly references rape and domestic violence as acts against women. If you disagree, please let me know in the comments so I can amend.

Margaret Atwood – The Handmaid’s Tale

I can recall other people casually mentioning they had read this as their GCSE work and had heard rumours that it was a good book, but it had always sat on my list of “I’ll buy it one day” next to Oranges are not the Only Fruit. What a mistake to make and boy do I wish I had read this as a teenage girl. Luckily enough, the lovely people at Prudence and the Crow, a surprise vintage book gift-box service, sent me it as my first book, remarking that they had held onto it awaiting someone who wanted to read feminist speculative fiction. Guess what I requested guys?

The unknown named author, renamed Offred, gives an insight into this future dystopia where, in the aftermath of mysterious toxic fallout, reproductively capable women are raised up, and other, sinisterly titled “unwomen” are discarded to the colonies. It’s a unashamedly grim book, I’m not going to lie to you. Atwood builds the world of the Republic of Gilead around you – a terrifying world that you realise could easily only be a few steps away from what we have now. That, for me, is the scariest bit of it. How possible it could all be.

As for Prudence and the Crow, I really like their idea of hand picking a book for you based on your likes and dislikes, and being able to interact with them on Twitter to tell them your thoughts on the book. They always manage to find really lovely old covers and even make you a little sleeve to keep your vintage book safe when you are trotting around. I’m currently reusing my first one for my Penguin 80 for 80 books. Also check out their instagram!

You can buy Margaret Atwood books from most retailers; how about this excellent hard back edition from Waterstones. Trigger warning for sexual violence/coercion/rape.

George Eliot – Silas Marner

Another book that was a GCSE staple that passed me by. I absolutely whipped through Silas Marner, and considered ordering the rest of George Eliot’s, or rather Mary Ann Evans’, back catalogue. Not only was it my first experience with Eliot, but it was the first time I’ve read an account of a sympathetic character with seizures in fiction. I didn’t know about this facet of the book when I picked it up, but Silas’ silent staring moments where time slips by is so close to my own experiences. Luckily, no one has done me any wrongs during these episodes, more than I can say for Silas. It’s a really great story of bad (also rich) people getting their comeuppance and good people being rewarded by karma eventually – who doesn’t love that?

My copy is from the Penguin English Library series, which includes 100 of the best English novels, all reasonably priced with a jazzy, waxy-textured cover (honestly it feels better than it sounds). I recall nothing that requires a trigger warning.