UK Beauty and Lifestyle Blog

January 18, 2014

What I Read: January

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In case you didn't already know, when I'm not blogging I'm working towards an MA in English Literature (more specifically in 'Critical and Cultural Theory'). What this means is that when I'm not reading blogs I'm reading books - and lots of them! As this is, and has been for many many years, such a passion of mine I thought I would integrate my two interests a little bit and do a monthly feature on some of the books I read each month, most likely focusing on my favourites among what I've read. I personally really enjoy reading posts like these on other people's blogs and I'm going to do these posts as 'extras' so they won't substitute for beauty posts but will slot into my blog's current schedule which means that you'll essentially just get an extra blog post from me each month. Today I'm going to be talking about three novels and two short stories.

Nervous Conditions - Tsitsi Dangarembga

Nervous Conditions is a captivating novel narrated from the perspective of a young girl, Tambudzai, growing up in Rhodesia (now known as Zimbabwe) in the 1960s. From its first sentence, 'I was not sorry when my brother died', the reader is made fully aware that this is not going to be a simple read. Instead, we are slowly drawn into an examination of the life, expectations and disappointments of one extended family. What Nervous Conditions particularly offers us is an insight into the lives, and the mentalities, of Rhodesian women living in a colonial and post-colonial context. I found the novel profoundly engaging because it troubled me. The characters are complex and they are slowly built up into engaging, realistic figures whose futures which beyond the realm of the novel piqued my curiosity. I found that I raced through the book because it was a pleasure to read and I would highly recommend it. [8/10]

'The Last Question' in The Complete Stories Volume 1 -  Isaac Asimov
Asimov is an author of numerous science fiction novels but if you're short on time then his short stories make for very enjoyable reads. 'The Last Question' is Asimov's self-professed favourite and I can see why. It's quite a short read and it is very easy to get in to - the plot moves across time and, with it, people, tracing a question which seems to be on everyone's mind. The genius of this short story lies in its conclusion, it is simple a brilliant concept and I have to admit that it left me chuckling. This can be easily found online for free, I googled the title and read it in PDF format.  [10/10]

'I Have No Mouth And I Must Scream' in The Harlan Ellison Collection -  Harlan Ellison
I think the best word to describe this short story is dark. It's an imaginative take on what the future might look like if machines not only 'took over' but if they destroyed almost everything and everyone. The story is about the last few humans left alive and the endless, torturous games they're forced to play by the supercomputer that took over. It isn't going to be to everyone's taste but I thought it was powerfully written and very affecting. Again, this is easily available online which is where I read it. [8/10]

Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell
The beefiest book that I read this month and possibly the most interesting. Cloud Atlas is a novel that spans time, place and genre. It features several story lines that are all separate but are still somehow interconnected. It took me a while to get into it but once I'd read the first 200 pages something just clicked and the rest of the novel flew by. It's a very exciting read and at times I found it incredibly hard to put down. This was a book choice very outside of my comfort zone but I'm thoroughly glad that I gave it a chance because it didn't disappoint. I'm now keen to read more from David Mitchell and if you've read any of his other novels I'd love some recommendations. [8/10]

Disgrace - J.M. Coetzee
Disgrace has slowly become one of my favourite books. I read it as part of one of my MA courses and I've actually enjoyed it so much that I'm writing about it for one of my large pieces of coursework that's due in January. It's set in South Africa and it follows the life of a University professor, David Lurie, who exploits his position and has an affair with a student. What follows is a slow disintegration of the life he knew, a relocation and a very poignant look into the tensions present in post-aparheid South African society. The story itself is profoundly moving because characters don't make the decisions that you'd want them to. Disgrace is a novel that defies the readers hopes and expectations which makes it challenging to enjoy reading but it does leave you deeply involved in the story. I've read it numerous times and the novel's conclusion is no less powerful now than it was the first time I encountered it. Disgrace is definitely worth picking up and giving a go. [9/10]

That conclude's this month's "What I Read" but I'd love to hear any feedback you might have on this post and on posts of this kind. I'd also love to know if you've ready anything that I mentioned in today's post?



  1. This is a great post as I am always on the look out for book recommendations. Will look out for Disgrace. x

  2. this is such a great post! I am actually planning something similar, since I also run a book blog and want to share some of the books I'm reading on my beauty/life type blog as well. sadly I have only finished one book so far in January so it is off to a bad start, but I have high hope for the rest of the year! I haven't read anything by Coetzee yet but have heard great things and will have to pick up Disgrace at some point :)

  3. I love reading book reviews to get ideas for new books. I've just started reading A song of ice and fire and am enjoying it so much, a little bit of a lighter read than your books I think!


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