This July, our librarian Rachel has created a delicious blend of book choices, including a dollop of feminism, a squeeze of sexuality and a slice of serial killer. Mix together with families torn apart by war, throw in a dash of artificial intelligence and you’re done! A fresh batch of perfectly baked book reviews. Enjoy!
Top non-fiction: The Guilty Feminist: From Our Noble Goals To Our Worst Hypocrisies by Deborah Frances-White
“I’m a feminist, but sometimes my life doesn’t pass the bechdel test”.
From the success of the Guilty Feminist Podcast, now comes the brilliant book by Deborah Frances-White; an eloquent, funny, honest and accessible take on feminism in the modern world. Deborah brilliantly provides the absolute beginner on the history of feminism and how we got to where we are today, as well as tackling the issues women from across the world are still battling with. However, this book also recognises and celebrates the hypocrisies that co-exist alongside it.
Ever felt like you believe in equal rights for women but you’re not a good enough feminist because you like to wear makeup and shave your legs? Deborah shows us that feminism is not a rigid set of rules but a collective voice for meaningful change.
Top fiction: The Bee Keeper Of Aleppo by Christy Lefteri
Recently featured on BBC Radio 2 as part of Jo Whiley’s Book Club, The Beekeeper Of Aleppo tells the story of a Syrian family torn apart by war. After witnessing horrendous atrocities and suffering terrible illness, they must make a perilous journey across Turkey and Greece to seek refuge in Britain.
The book, written by Christy Lefteri, was inspired by the author’s time volunteering at a Unicef-supported refugee centre in Athens. Lefteri said that she wanted to give a voice and a story to the people she met to illustrate to the world the families behind the photographs.
A thought-provoking, incredibly moving and vital book which humanises the suffering and despair of refugees featured too frequently in the news.
Top audio book: My Sister, The Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite
Shortlisted for the 2019 Women’s Prize for Fiction this dark comic novel, set in Lagos, tells the tale of two sisters, Korede who is quiet and efficient, and Ayoola who is free-spirited and impulsive. What makes this relationship challenging is the number of murdered boyfriends Korede has had to clear up for her sister. Family comes first for Korede, that is until Ayoola takes a special interest in a man Korede has long been in love with.
A funny, clever, satirical novel brought to life by the fantastic narration from Weruche Opia, whose wonderful telling of this story brings the heart of Nigeria into your home.
Top children’s book: My Brother’s Name Is Jessica by John Boyne
John Boyne’s ability to add humour to controversial and sensitive topics does not disappoint in his recent book for teens. Told through the eyes of the younger brother, the story of a boy who believes he is a girl is current, honest and witty. The confusion the 10 year old brother feels is believable, as is the denial and anger from the parents. To add to the complexity of the situation, Jessica’s mother is running for Prime Minister and having a trans child does not sit well with her public image.
From comparing her son’s confession to a confession or murder, to brilliantly scripted conversations with local constituents about Brexit, the humour in this book does not take away from the seriousness and sensitivity of transgender as it could easily have done, but instead normalises and contextualises the fluidity of gender in modern society whilst highlighting its ongoing conflict with traditional values, especially in our politics.
A laugh-out-load, beautiful and important book to be enjoyed by adults and teens alike.
Librarian’s choice: Frankissstein: A Love Story by Jeanette Winterson
After seeing Jeanette Winterson talk about this book at this year’s Charleston Literature Festival, I was keen to read the whole story. Her novel, a retelling of Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein, warns us of the future we are leaping into with advances in technology and more specifically Artificial Intelligence.
What happens to women in a world coded mainly by men? What happens to humans when artificial intelligence surpasses our own and no longer needs us to create life? The interweaving of the past and the future reminds the reader of the lessons and monsters created in history, which are quick to be forgotten and repeated in today’s word.
If you weren’t worried about AI before, this brilliant novel will soon have you reading up on the subject with a new found urgency.