So, let’s be honest, I’m probably not realistically going to make it to reading 50 books in 2017, but I’m going to continue this anyways (obvs) and see how far I get. 🙃 As you’ll notice, I’ve read a lot of short books this month (nonetheless proper books, mind!), so here’s what I think of them, no spoilers…
#29: This Modern Love by Will Darbyshire
They say, “don’t judge a book by its cover,” but just from seeing the aesthetically-pleasing, minimalistic design of it, along with the fact that it’s written by one of my favourite YouTubers, Will Darbyshire, was enough to make me want to read This Modern Love!
Although this book is comparatively short and spaced-out, with many (beautiful) pictures as well, the amount of emotions and feelings expressed about love during the beginning, middle and end of a relationship are nonetheless extremely powerful!
Another thing I love about this book is that it’s crowdsourced, and has taken submissions from people of different ages, from all walks of life, living across 98 countries of the world. What I found particularly unique was the subtlety of leaving all original spelling/grammar in the individual letters which made up this book – regardless of whether or not they were strictly correct. For me, it added an extra rawness to the emotions conveyed.
#30: Germany – Memories of a Nation by Neil MacGregor
Germany: Memories of a Nation by Neil MacGregor is certainly a thought-provoking and enlightening read. The book explores the story of Germany, all the way from the days of Charlemagne, the first Holy Roman Emperor, to almost present-day (it was first published in 2014). MacGregor does this through examining various places and artefacts relevant to each section as the book progresses, such as paintings, maps, books, monuments, pottery, pieces of jewellery and so on. The book also includes first-hand accounts from historians and people who have lived through a certain period (if it’s more contemporary, within living memory). Interestingly, this book is written not necessarily in chronological order, but is ordered into 6 main sections, each about different aspects of how Germany has become the nation it is today.
Personally, I really enjoyed the book and I feel as though this has certainly increased my interest in Germany and its relationship with its surrounding countries in Europe and beyond – I feel as though in many ways it has in fact raised more questions for me about Germany for me than it has answered! But that’s definitely what a good book is supposed to do, right?!
#31: How Much Land Does A Man Need? by Leo Tolstoy
So I decided to read this book recently not only because it’s nice and short (hahah!) but also because it’s written by Leo Tolstoy, author of that reeeeeeally long book called War & Peace (which I’m determined to read one day!), who was a Russian writer during the nineteenth century. For part of my History A level, I’m studying Tsarist and Communist Russia, the former largely concerning this time period, so I thought it would be interesting to read some fiction set in this time and place, especially from the point of view of a peasant family, as peasants made up as much as 90% of Russia’s population when it was still a feudal society in the nineteenth century. It was also interesting to read two stories written and set in nineteenth-century Russia, one being secular and the other having a strongly religious element, as the particular edition of the book I was reading (Penguin Classics) also had What Men Live By, another short story by Tolstoy, based around some verses of 1 John.
As my BIRTM blog posts so far have probably suggested, the fiction I tend to read is largely YA, so this book by Tolstoy makes quite a contrast to this. To be honest, I didn’t really know what to think of these two stories, but at least I had some background knowledge of the context in which they were written, prior to reading them! 🙃
#32: Animal Farm by George Orwell
As this book is one of the most well-known and esteemed books in twentieth century English literature, by many people’s standards, I thought it was about time I read it for myself! What’s more, as I’m studying some Russian history at school, it really fits in with this: Orwell wrote it as a satirical reaction to the Russian Revolution and all that was going on there subsequently. Really, the rest of the world knew little about it at the time, or at least, in places like Great Britain where Orwell spent much of his time, people thought they knew more than they actually did. Much of Orwell’s motivation to write this can be said to be his desire to inform westerners of the raw truth as it was, not just in British terms (to make it easier to comprehend), even if it was just through a huge metaphor of an Animal Farm.
As I was reading Animal Farm, especially at the beginning, I couldn’t help but feel that much of this can be interpreted as being in support of veganism (even though vegetarianism in the western world, let alone veganism, was basically unheard of at the time). A quote concerning this which particularly stood out to me was, “Man is the only creature that consumes without producing”. So, was Orwell trying to make a point with this, or was he just simply trying to just see the world from an animal’s perspective?
I’m definitely glad I’ve read Animal Farm now, as it’s given me rather an unusual viewpoint of how Western Europe viewed Russia, one of Britain’s WWII allies and part of the Triple Entente towards the end of the Second World War, before the cold war emerged. I would recommend this book, not just because it’s a classic, but also because it’s quite interesting to try and work out which character represents whom in real life, in the context of Russia!
#33: My Story – Blitz (A Wartime Girl’s Diary 1940-1941) by Vince Cross
I’ve actually had this book for years (it’s a Scholastic children’s book!) but I’d never got around to reading it until now, oops! Even though this is a fictional book, and not an actual diary of a girl who lived through WWII, it was nonetheless extremely well-written, descriptive and clearly researched, offering a valuable insight into what life was like for ordinary civilians in London during the Blitz. I also found this book pretty relatable if I’m honest – probably something to do with the fact that the majority of it’s set in Lewisham in SE London, where I used to live, and the main character, Edie, is just slightly older than I was when I moved out, age 11.
I found this book nostalgic (yep, I’m aware it’s a weird thing for a teenager in 2017 to say!), not only because it kept making references to familiar places I grew up with, but it also took me back to my days of year 4 history in primary school (so ages 8 and 9). It really reinforced for me how much of a struggle the world wars (and obviously all wars, for that matter), are and have been for all those involved, no matter what age or occupation, and of course, how crucial it is for the whole of humanity to establish positive relations so that history does not repeat itself again in this way…
See you soon,