*quick note for this post, it’s another from the archives that didn’t make it on time due to illness, please excuse its tardy nature and the discussion of a long list that is now actually a short list (I’ve added a pic of the shortlisted books so you can see what made it!) Ok, off you go…
You are a lucky bunch dear readers. You only have to encounter me when you choose to, you can click on these links if you don’t mind me yapping in your ear for a little while and you can just as easily shut me down and walk away. Those who know me, family and friends, do not have it so easy. The problem is, I really am consumed with books. Recently I was asked what my interests were outside of work (which is 100% book focused) and I replied with reading. They asked for more so I mentioned writing on this very blog about what I have read. Next was the question of what I like to do with my friends, “well, I meet up with my friend Emma and we talk about…books”. Even for keen book readers I realise I can be a bit much but when you love a world, and it is very much a world to me, it is hard not to enthuse about it whenever you have the chance.
To try and ease the pressure on those who may not want to travel in this orbit as much as I do, I surround myself with fellow explorers who are as happy in book sphere as I am. This is mainly on twitter and YouTube/BookTube. There is something endlessly delightful in having a community to sit with as you all wait for the midnight announcement of the Baileys longlist (more of which to come), when usually that feeling of belonging is saved for the like of mass sporting events. Because of keeping in touch with the comings and goings of fellow souls in the book world, I get to see a lot of bookish news, and recently a project caught my eye. Kickstarter projects are really gaining traction now and can be a wonderful way of getting work out there that you want total self control of, regarding both content and how quickly the book finds its way into the hands of the people. I started seeing signs of 404 Ink asking people to get involved with a new book they wanted to put out, a collection of essays by a range of different women, on what it means to be living their experience in the 21st century. This book was to be called ‘Nasty Women’…SIGN ME UP!
Now a little about 404 Ink as I don’t believe I have introduced them on the blog before and they are worth knowing about. They are a shiny and new independent publisher ran by Laura Jones and Heather McDaid. They are publishing both books and a literary magazine that will come out twice a year. They look set to support some really interesting voices that will be fresh and challenging, something I always want to support. Here are some details if you want to check them out as well. They are @404ink on twitter, their website is 404ink.com and if you are feeling really helpful you can hop on over to their patreon account patreon.com/404ink.
Now – to the book. I read it in two sittings, it would have been one but life got in the way as it is want to do *shakes fist*. This collection is stellar. I love reading essays about women making their way in the world you all know this and I did worry that I would be reading some essays with a sense of déjà vu of collections gone past (although that is not to belittle the experiences, the reason these stories get told so often is that it is about time they are taken seriously and listened too). This was never the case, every essay opened my eyes, made me ask questions and appreciate the women who have spoken so honestly about their experience to push us all further in the goal for equality. Themes of violence against women, intersectional feminism, body image, contraception and politics run like a thread throughout the book, universal experiences. These was also hidden delights that I in no way expected, the main one of these being an essay called ‘Foraging and Feminism: Hedge-Witchcraft in the 21st Century’ by Alice Tarbuck, a topic that I have never read about and certainly never considered the feminist implications in but found endlessly fascinating. ‘Hard Dumplings for Visitors’ by Christina Neuwirth had me feeling the woven nature of the story lines of the women in my own family and ‘Fat in Every Language’ by Jonatha Kottler had me nodding in recognition and wanting to highlight sections for future reference (and also thinking, ooh Jona, what an awesome name, if I am ever have a baby girl I will go back to my mental note of that one!).
These voices should always have been heard but at this moment in history it seems even more relevant and their response to shout out loud, get people reading and thinking about these issues deserves praise – and support, so if you can I highly recommend you grab yourself a copy. Nasty Women Unity!
It seems fitting that this post also mentions the recent Baileys Longlist announcement, since we are talking about women kicking ass. The list was announced as International Women’s Day 2017 began in the very early hours. In case you haven’t seen it yet and are interested, here are the contenders, with added passing thoughts from me along the way:
Ayobami Adebayo – Stay With Me
The Power – Naomi Alderman I very much expected this one to feature & see it as a strong contender. Review to be found here on Dog Eared Reads if you want further info!
Hag-Seed – Margaret Atwood The mighty Ms Atwood, who is mentor of Alderman above, I must confess I did not see this one coming.
Little Deaths – Emma Flint
The Mare – Mary Gaitskill
The Dark Circle – Linda Grant
The Lesser Bohemians – Eimear McBride HUGE fan of Eimear McBride & I delighted in this book with more of her raw and innovative style.
Midwinter – Fiona Melrose
The Sport of Kings – C.E. Morgan
The Women Next Door – Yewande Omotoso
The Lonely Hearts Hotel – Heather O’Neill I have heard brilliant things about this from Anna James over at @acaseforbooks, check her out on twitter & YouTube, what she doesn’t know about books isn’t worth knowing
The Essex Serpent – Sarah Perry – It had to be on here, I have yet to meet a reader who hasn’t loved this book
Barkskins – Annie Proulx – a mamouth novel that I haven’t felt an urge to pick up, but wonderful Emma did and I am now wondering if we could peer pressure her into popping onto Dog Eared Reads and doing a guest review for us?!
First Love – Gwendoline Riley
Do Not Say We Have Nothing – Madeleine Thien – I can’t believe I still haven’t got round to this when it has been on my bedside ‘must read soon’ table for so long. I will report back soon.
The Gustav Sonata – Rose Tremain – I haven’t read this yet but I was intrigued by the blurb and listening to an interview about the novel.
NOW – one thing I will say is, why on earth are you all reading my opinions as clearly I know noooothing. I would have put money on some books being on this list in full confidence and are they there? Are they bugger. Now first we have to address what is the TRAVESTY (in my humble opinion) of Autumn by Ali Smith not appearing, to me this makes NO sense as I just think it was a beautifully crafted piece, although to be honest that’s a given when she picks up a pen, so moving, innovative in its immediacy and darn right special. It better be on the Man Booker *shakes fist*.
I also fully expected to see Zadie Smith with Swing Time, Yaa Gyasi with Home Going and Hannah Kent with The Good People on there. What did you guys think of the list? Any disappointing omissions or books you have been cheer leading on there? Let us all know!
*and here is the short list!
As usual drop a line in the comments or over on twitter @dogeared_reads with a shout about what your reading at the moment or just for general chatter, I’ll be about with a cuppa, book and biscuit in hand no doubt, ready to natter back!