non-fiction

READ THE WORLD – Nepal: Gurkha: Better to Die than Live a Coward by Colour Sergeant Kailash Limbu

A memoir from Colour Sergeant Kailash Limbu on his time in the army, the tough training he went through to become a Gurkha, and what it was like during the thirty one day siege in the town of Now Zad in Helmand, Afghanistan during the summer of 2008.

I hadn’t really heard of the Gurkha’s much, not until when actress and comedian Joanna Lumley became the public face of the campaign to provide all Gurkha veterans who served in the British Army before 1997 the right to settle in Britain, in 2008. This led me to learning more about the Gurkha’s and I was fascinated by how determined and fearless they were.

Colour Sergeant Kailash Limbu’s story definitely puts across what the mentality of the Nepalese soldiers who become Gurkha’s is like. Only a handful who apply each year actually make it through the three stages of the tough selection process to become Gurkha’s and join the British Army. He recounts the things he went through in training and how being a Gurkha, like his grandfather and uncle, was all he ever wanted to be.

The book almost seamlessly goes between Kailash Limbu’s childhood and training to what was happening during the siege in Now Zad at regular intervals. This means that while the parts on the Gurkha selection are no less interesting, they are slower paced compared to the action in Afghanistan. I thought it explained military terminology very well, along with things like Nepal’s caste system. There’s a lot of information to take in really but it’s all pretty easy to understand.

The sections on the siege are tense and compelling. It does a great job of putting you right into the action and how relentless the attacks on the small compound the Gurkha’s were based in. You get to know the men Kailash Limbu fought with and how they do all get scared sometimes but they fight through it and do the job that needs doing.

Gurkha: Better to Die than Live a Coward is a great memoir. It is interesting and exciting and is a great insight into what it means to someone to be a Gurkha and why they are so revered in the military. 4/5.

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REVIEW: Men Explain Things to Me and Other Essays by Rebecca Solnit

A short collection of feminist essays looking at rape culture, family, Virginia Woolf and everything else in between.

In 2008 Rebecca Solnit wrote an essay titled “Men Explain Things to Me” which struck a chord with people. Through other readers sharing their experiences, that essay was the catalyst of the term mansplaining. It’s was an interesting and relatable essay and it was great to see where the phrase mansplaining came from. As Solnit explains “I love it when people explain things to me they know and I’m interested in but don’t yet know; it’s when they explain things to me I know and they don’t that the conversation goes wrong.” I agree with that statement wholeheartedly and that’s what’s so frustrating about mansplaining.

The other essays are pretty good too. Naturally there’s some I like more than others for instance, I didn’t really enjoy the one inspired by Virginia Woolf’s writings as I’ve only read one of her books so don’t have much of a connection to her.

I like how Rebecca Solnit writes and her essays are all accessible, no matter what your background knowledge on the various subjects she talks about. It’s an interesting collection as they’re essays from 2008-2014 so some of the events she talks about I didn’t really remember, while others like the Delhi gang rape in 2012 are still fresh in my mind.

I did enjoy “Pandora’s Box and the Volunteer Police Force.” Written in 2014 it’s all about how feminism and women have got a long way to go but they’ve still made some headway. It’s also about the idea that the Pandora’s Box full of equality for men, women, LGBT+ people and all races has been opened and people won’t be able to stuff those who once were (and in many cases still are) back in a box and away from the general public. I don’t know if I’ve described it very well but I like the idea that the world is becoming a more tolerant place no matter what people may say or do and it can continue to, slowly but surely, get better.

That’s the thing with this collection of essays, like most feminist literature it makes you angry at the injustices in the world but it also offers a spark of hope that things will indeed get better. 4/5.

READ THE WORLD – USA: March Trilogy by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell

march-trilogy-john-lewisMarch is a graphic novel memoir trilogy about the American Civil Rights Movement told from the perspective of John Lewis, a civil rights leader then and now a US Congressman. It charters his early life, the Nashville sit-in movement, the fight for desegregation and actual voting rights and the Selma to Montgomery marches. It follows the successes and the failures and shows the behind the scenes moments of many big events you might have only seen photos of or read about in school.

March is an incredible graphic novel series. It’s bookended by President Obama’s inauguration on 20th January 2009 and has flashbacks to that day throughout the trilogy – it truly highlights how far the Civil Rights Movement has come, but also how much there’s left to improve. It’s something I wasn’t expecting but it was a really lovely touch.

John Lewis tells his story and his experiences in the Civil Rights movement with a lot of honesty. He says what he thinks about people like Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, JFK, Robert Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson as well as many other people that may not be as well-known names. He says the good and the bad and doesn’t lie if he had opposing views to someone else, even if it was another of the “Big Six” Civil Rights Leaders. The thing that got me about Lewis was, he never seems to give up hope in people and that they have the capacity to change their views. He sees it happen and is nearly always positive that the protests he, and so many other people, are a part of will bring a better future. It’s truly admirable.

I found March tough to read some times. The first two books I read in the same day but the third one took me longer. I’d often get frustrated with how people were so blind and ignorant and what black people in America had to go through in the sixties so I’d have to put it down for a while before carrying on reading. Also, each book was longer than the one before it which probably contributed to how long it took me to read them. That being said, the series benefits when you read each book one after the other as they are all a part of a bigger and wider story.

The art in March is great because it’s all black and white which really helps add to the emotion of some of the situations, especially when there’s a single page or a double page of artwork. I think this memoir of the Civil Rights Movement works so well in graphic novel form because you can see people’s reactions to things or you can see someone get hit by the police and it makes it more real and tangible.

March is an important and brilliant read. The art works so well with the story and it’s the kind of story that everyone one can read, no matter their age. If you have an interest in African-American history, or just American history in general, then I highly recommend March5/5.

REVIEW: #GirlBoss by Sophia Amoruso

girlboosThe first thing Sophia Amoruso sold online was a stolen book. Most of her teenage years she spent dumpster diving and hitchhiking. When she needed medical insurance she found a stable but easy job where she would mess around on the internet and found the world of eBay where she decided to sell vintage clothes. Eight years later she is the founder, CEO, and Creative Director of Nasty Gal, a $100 million plus online fashion retailer with more than 350 employees. #GirlBoss is not only about Sophia’s story and how she started and ran a successful business, but it’s about what it means to be successful and how anyone can succeed if they just take a look at themselves and work out what they want.

#GirlBoss was a really interesting book, mainly because Sophia’s teenage years were definitely unusual and she’s very honest about it. She did some reckless and illegal things that she doesn’t necessarily apologise for but she also doesn’t celebrate them either – it’s just what she did. It’s interesting to see how a business like Nasty Gal can grow from eBay to its own independent entity. Seeing how Sophia figures things out as she went along but always keeping the same core values and aims was encouraging.

While I have never studied business, nor been interested in attempting to start my own business, I could still follow the smatterings of technical jargon throughout the book. It also helped that while #GirlBoss is about a very successful business woman, it is also mainly about how to become a successful person in any career path you might choose, or in life in general. There’s interview tips and what not to include in a cover letter but there’s also tips on how to save money and how to feel more confident in yourself through your clothes. So, things to help in the world of work and in day to day life.

#GirlBoss is a funny and informative read that really makes you want to try hard in all you do. 4/5.

REVIEW: The Good Immigrant edited by Nikesh Shukla

the-good-immigrantWhat’s it like to live in a country that doesn’t trust you and doesn’t want you unless you win an Olympic gold medal or a national baking competition? It’s this question that The Good Immigrant goes about trying to answer. This collection of essays from twenty-one black, Asian and minority ethnic voices in Britain today, explores what it means to be an immigrant or a child of an immigrant in the UK.

The Good Immigrant is an important book. Each essay is only around ten pages long and they are all very different in how they talk about race in Britain. Some essays are anecdotal while some are more fact-based, some are humorous as the authors attitude and voice shines through while others are more distant and to the point. Naturally I enjoyed some essays more than others, some pulled me in quicker and shared the same humour as myself, but they were all interesting and enlightening in different ways.

The writers in The Good Immigrant are from a range of backgrounds and careers, there’s actors like Riz Ahmed, whose essay “Airports and Auditions” can actually be read on The Guardian’s website and I really would recommend it, and there’s comedians and journalists and writers and teachers and poets and they all have something to say.

The writing in The Good Immigrant is honest and heartfelt. It shines a light what it’s like being a person of colour in Britain today, especially when you don’t fit into societies neat categories and have to tick “Other” on application forms more often than not. The Good Immigrant can be a tough read if you don’t want to see societies differences – it’s quite easy for us Brits to say “oh we’re not as bad as America” but we really do have our own set of problems that we should face up to.

My favourite essays were Ahmed’s “Airports and Auditions”, Bim Adewunmi’s essay “What We Talk About When We Talk About Tokenism” which is about representation in popular culture, Inua Ellams’ essay “Cutting Through (On Black Barbershops and Masculinity” whose title speaks for itself but it is a really interesting look at barbershops in Britain and in various countries in Africa, and “Is Nish Kumar a Confused Muslim?” by Nish Kumar who talked about how his image got turned into a meme.

The Good Immigrant is an important and timely book. It doesn’t necessarily have all the answers but that’s not what it set out to do. It’s an honest look at people of colour in Britain today and how their thoughts and views are just as contradictory as anyone else’s, and they should be listened to and valued, not just when they’ve done something extraordinary to impress the nation. 5/5.

Non Fiction November TBR

Non-Fiction November is a readathon/challenge hosted by NonFicBooks and ABookOlive over on YouTube. The point of the challenge (as the name of it suggests) is to read more nonfiction books during November than you would normally read in a month. So if you normally read a couple of nonfiction books a month, try reading three, and if you never read nonfiction just try and make the time to read at least one nonfiction book.

I go through phases of reading nonfiction; I suppose I usually end up reading a couple of nonfiction books a year and it depends what books have grabbed my attention.

There are four challenges for this readathon, they are basically four words and you can interpret them however you wish. The words are; New, Controversial, Important and Fascinating. They are broad categories and they can be combined so you don’t have to read one book per challenge word.

When I looked at my bookshelves I actually only have a few non-fiction books that are unread – well I have like four autobiographies but besides from that I don’t have a lot of non-fiction. I could have easily made up my TBR with autobiographies of actors and comedians but I decided to try and keep it a bit eclectic. So the books I have on my TBR for Nonfiction November are:

nonfiction-november-tbr

The Good Immigrant edited by Nikesh Shukla which is a collection of essays from British people of colour about what living in modern in Britain is like. I already started this book when I got it at the end of September but I’ve only read a few of the essays and would really like to finish as I’ve found it very interesting. As it’s a new release it fits the New challenge and I’d also say it is an Important book, especially for someone like me who is a young white person in Britain so I can learn more about my country and how it treats people of colour.

#Girlboss by Sophia Amoruso. This book has been on my shelves for over a year and it’s from the Founder, CEO, and Creative Director of Nasty Gal, an online retailer that draws A-List publicity. It’s all about women in business and how to channel your passion and hard work while keeping your insecurities from getting in your way. This would fill the Fascinating category as while I’m not really a business-minded person I do find it interesting reading about women in traditionally male-dominated areas and how they succeed.

The Life and Loves of a He Devil by Graham Norton. This is a memoir from Graham Norton who is an Irish television and radio presenter and host of the hugely popular and amazing The Graham Norton Show. I love his humour and his show, I’ve actually been to the recordings of his show twice, so I think his memoir should be equally hilarious. I don’t think this fits any of the challenge words but that’s OK.

So those are the three books I’d like to read for NonFiction November 2016. Really as long as I read one nonfiction book in November I’ll be happy, especially as I spent most of this month in a reading slump. Also in the latter half of November is the TomeTopple readathon which’ll hopefully be taking part in soon – my TBR post for that will be up in the next couple of weeks.

Are you going to be taking part in Nonfiction November? The hashtag to use on all social media channels is #NonfictionNovember2016 and there’s a Goodreads group as well.

The Harry Potter Spells Book Tag

Here is the first tag I’ve done in 2016. I wasn’t tagged or anything but I saw this one on Charlotte Bibliophile‘s blog and it looked like fun.

Accio – an upcoming release you wish you could get your hands on right now
The City of Mirrors by Justin Cronin
This is the third book in a trilogy that I love! It’s a dystopian with vampire like creatures and the military and groups of people trying to survive and it’s so good! It’s out in June and I can’t wait to see how it all finishes!

Alohomora – a favourite series starter
Eragon by Christopher Paolini
I love this series and Eragon does such a great job in setting everything up. It builds the world and introduces all the main players – it’s perfect!

Cheering Charm – a book that gave you the warm fuzzies
Can You Keep a Secret? by Sophie Kinsella
This is a total comfort read. I love the characters, the love interest and the humour. It’s just sch a fun, quick and comforting read.

Aguamenti – a book that made you ugly cry
The Bridge in the Clouds by William Corlett
This is the last book in the series and I cried so much at the end. I was pretty young at the time, and I think it was one of the first books that made me cry.

Expecto Patronum – a bookish hero or heroine you want around to protect you in real life
Arya from The Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paolini
Arya is a warrior elf! She is more than a match for just about anyone, she’s good with a sword and she’s smart too. I’d totally put my life in her hands. (more…)