• Bella Rawson

Book Round Up: Sharing Opinions on the Internet

Now in its third year, Bella's Yearly Book Recommendation Snapchat/Instagram Story Extravaganza (rolls off the tongue right?) has this year migrated to the blog. For those unfamiliar, my mates get a wonderful carousel of a stupid number of book recommendations on the last day of the year - ones that I've read throughout the year, loved, and feel the need to talk about endlessly.


I've got the impression that not everyone loves clicking through 100+ snaps every year so I'm changing up the format and making a blog post that is both considerably shorter and more categorised, as well as paired down and more realistic to what most people read in a year (As a side note, my total number of books this year is sitting at 182 thanks to a pandemic, rediscovering my library, and furlough money - what's yours?) Chances are, this is less likely to get me muted, and more likely to increase traffic to my blog, which is just a win in every sense.


With five categories and too many sub-genres to count, this is my finest work yet. Sit back, relax, and get ready for a yearly summary like no other...




Young Adult Fiction


Chain of Gold - Cassandra Clare

Lets face it, the year Clare doesn't get a mention is a bad year. With five brand new, sexy, Edwardian Shadowhunters, when this came out in March it was gone within a day and I'm now in love with Matthew Fairchild. If you've never read the Shadowhunters series before, fair warning: there's some issues to think critically about, but you'd struggle to find a young adult series with more representation, action, and making out than this.


https://www.cassandraclare.com/

https://shadowhunters.com/



A Heart so Fierce and Broken - Bridgit Kemmerer

Having found Kemmerer's books when Riya and I were going through our 'fall in love with every bloke in a book' phase, her new series was never going to be anything less than a slam dunk in my opinion. This is the second book (the first is A Curse So Dark and Lonely) and follows Rhen as he discovers who he is, attempts to take over a kingdom, and pisses off his best friend. Excellent reading, if I do say so myself.


https://brigidkemmerer.com/




Yes, No, Maybe So - Aisha Saeed, Becky Albertalli

Oh how I wish this had existed in 2016. Describing politics, culture, and relationships, there's no way you can finish this book without either a) crying or b) having hope. Given that it's YA there's the usual teenage angst (always a bonus) but it harks back to when Clinton lost and the Wotsit won to remind us that hope isn't lost until the world's imploded. And at that point you probably don't care anyway.


https://aishasaeed.com/

https://beckyalbertalli.com/


Image Credit: 2020. Yes No Maybe So By Becky Albertalli And Aisha Saeed. [image] Available at: <https://www.google.com/url?sa=i&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.amazon.co.uk%2FYes-No-Maybe-Becky-Albertalli%2Fdp%2F1471184668&psig=AOvVaw3Mtb5FVwUilfjlHoSsDDJE&ust=1609503429898000&source=images&cd=vfe&ved=0CAMQjB1qFwoTCMDP8tmZ-O0CFQAAAAAdAAAAABAD> [Accessed 31 December 2020].


The Places I've Cried in Public - Holly Bourne

*Trigger Warnings: abusive relationship, coercive control, r*pe*


I don't think there's a subject Bourne's afraid to cover, which is why she's one of my favourite authors of all time. Following a teenage girl who just experienced her first relationship, the book tells the story of how what seemed like a safe environment rapidly turned dangerous and violent, as she looks back over her experience. I've included trigger warnings because this book doesn't shy away from diving into the emotional aspects, and as a former youth charity worker Bourne is a passionate advocate for women and mental health, putting her in the best position to write the book.


https://hollybourne.co.uk/


Image Credit: 2020. The Places I've Cried In Public, By Holly Bourne. [image] Available at: <https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/44004352-the-places-i-ve-cried-in-public> [Accessed 31 December 2020].


Half Bad - Sally Green

I accidentally bought the second book, Half Wild, five years ago, and upon realising that it was actually the sequel, it had sat collecting dust on my book shelf until finally I shifted my arse and bought Half Bad. An excellent decision, and one you should make too. If you want an escape into action, magic, and fantasy land (and to just generally forget that 2020 existed) this is the book for you.


https://www.penguin.co.uk/authors/108/108845/sally-green.html





Adult Fiction


Flat Share - Beth O'Leary

Do you like tooth-rotting, bitter sweet, all consuming romantic fluff between two awkward people? Yes, me too, hence why this book tops the adult fiction section. Sharing a bed with a bloke you've never met is totally normal in this universe, as Tiffy and Leon work opposite shifts (nights and days) and never see each other. Somehow, they manage to fall in love, and it's all very sweet and romantic and exactly what you need to pretend that 2020 wasn't the dumpsterfire it really was. (Side note: it's also great to re-read after a breakup to really sob your heart out to. Fixes everything, promise x)


https://www.betholearyauthor.com/




20,000 Leagues Under the Sea - Jules Verne

I think the last time I included a book older than 1900 on this list was way back when the list first started (2017 for those of you who prefer to block out this yearly round up). Maybe that's because I generally prefer modern writing or I just don't pick them up as much, but if you're like me and like science, action, and a bit of adventure, then this is probably one you should think about reading. (For the feminists amongst us, prepare to roll your eyes at comments throughout, although Verne is generally pretty good at avoiding it. Bad with women in real life? It's a strong possibility.)


(lol, if he has a website he was a geezer ahead of his time)



Pretending - Holly Bourne

*Trigger Warnings: gaslighting, coercive control, r*pe*


So good she gets two entries on this list, Bourne's Pretending isn't really intended for my age range (think more like late twenties/early thirties dating crisis times). But it's still full of femisim, laughs, and attractive blokes being dick heads. I listened to this on audio book - I KNOW - so my recommendation is definitely to listen to it in that form, but again I've included trigger warnings because the book explores several themes that you may prefer to avoid.


https://hollybourne.co.uk/


Image Credit: https://www.google.com/url?sa=i&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.amazon.co.uk%2FThis-What-You-Want%2Fdp%2F1473668131&psig=AOvVaw0nGeXhZYfBVUcpXO10VUyE&ust=1609503837404000&source=images&cd=vfe&ved=0CAMQjB1qFwoTCOicgZeb-O0CFQAAAAAdAAAAABAD


Girl, Woman, Other - Bernardine Evaristo

Evaristo won the 2019 Booker Prize for this, and I know exactly why. If you buy any book off this list, make it this one - it's powerful, cutting, and will make you rexamine half the things you thought you knew about being a modern woman and twist them on their heads. I hasten to add it's not just a book for women either, because whilst its central characters are primarily black, British women, the themes are wide and varying including racism, LGBT+, misogyny, and what it means to be a person.


https://bevaristo.com/





Feminism


The Power of Rude - Rebecca Reid

Published just this year, I heard about Reid through Twitter (if you're not following me, why not? You're missing out.) We're taught, as women, from an incredibly young age to never be rude. Except, when you think about it, the stuff society, our parents, and our cultues ingrain in us are rude aren't actually 'rude' when they're done by men. No matter how you identify, this book will take you on a wild ride from start to finish, expose biases you never realised you had, and teach you that everything society tells women is, basically, wrong. F*ck the patriarchy and all that.


https://twitter.com/RebeccaCNReid?ref_src=twsrc%5Egoogle%7Ctwcamp%5Eserp%7Ctwgr%5Eauthor




How the Pill Changes Everything: Your Brain on Birth Control - Dr Sarah E. Hill

If you're a woman on birth control, considering going on birth control, have come off birth control or anything in between, please PLEASE read this. Whilst the book focuses on the experience of cis, heterosexual women, it makes an incredible point about the science of the pill and specifically how it affects our brains. It's also worth pointing out that this is the only book I've read on the subject that doesn't take an overall stance: it is neither pro pill nor anti pill, and it shows. However you identify, for the love of god READ IT (men, this includes you too! You'd be surprised but the pill's existence is changing you as well, and it's fascinating.)


https://www.sarahehill.com/




Everywoman - Jess Phillips MP

I adore Jess Phillips. Okay, so you might disagree with her politics. I'm quite clearly a lefty though, so whilst I don't support all her policies, I do agree with most of them - just felt it was important to point that out. That said, Phillips has campaigned for years against domestic violence and promoted women's rights throughout her career, both before becoming an MP and during her time in Parliament. It's not perfect, I take issue with some of the stuff she says, but it tells stories of what led her to her activism, everyday sexism, and what we can all do to make the world a better place for women.


https://www.jessphillips.net/



Invisible Women - Caroline Criado-Perez

Did you know women are 47% more likely to be seriously injured in a car accident? Or that, globally, 75% of unpaid work (child care, looking after parents etc) is done by women? Neither did I, but we should. In an incredibly eye opening book, Criado-Perez presents an insane amount of facts, figures, and data that'll make your eyes water from their beauty. Not only is there a wage gap, but there's a data gap, and women are suffering because of it - for the first time, we can see why.


https://carolinecriadoperez.com/





We Should All Be Feminists - Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

It wouldn't be a list of feminist literature recommendations without this. Having read this for the first time four years ago, I've re-read it pretty much every year since, and every time I do I get something new out of it. It's a book-length essay, so perfect length for those of you who actually have a degree to be getting on with unlike me who clearly spends all her time reading, and it discusses how feminism fits into the 21st century, and the changes that it has undergone/should undergo in the future in order to make it more inclusive and representative of the modern world.


https://www.chimamanda.com/


Image Credit: https://www.google.com/url?sa=i&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.amazon.co.uk%2FWe-Should-All-Be-Feminists%2Fdp%2F0008115273&psig=AOvVaw1o7nSgn1Fm1GSlkyrws2Rl&ust=1609504078158000&source=images&cd=vfe&ved=0CAMQjB1qFwoTCPDo6Ymc-O0CFQAAAAAdAAAAABAD


Bad Feminist - Roxane Gay

If there's one person I recommend you follow on Twitter, it's Roxane Gay. Having first found her a few years ago, it bizarrely took me until now to buy her infamous book. A collection of essays, the book explores being a feminist whilst loving things that seem to be at odds with the core ideology. It discusses why this is totally okay, how feminism is often self-limiting, and why the perfect 'feminist' can never exist. Basically, if you're like me and constantly worrying you're not doing everything in your power to dismantle the patriarchy, you can relax and read this book instead - you're doing fine.


https://roxanegay.com/


Image Credit: https://www.google.com/url?sa=i&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.amazon.com%2FBad-Feminist-Essays-Roxane-Gay%2Fdp%2F0062282719&psig=AOvVaw1tB1GMPjbgZTMOk76stZum&ust=1609504148432000&source=images&cd=vfe&ved=0CAMQjB1qFwoTCJDJmKuc-O0CFQAAAAAdAAAAABAD


Science


Homo Deus - Yuval Noah Harari

I think it's important to point out that Harari has faced an increasing amount of critcism for his works being 'infotainment' as opposed to serious contributions to his field. However, as an outsider to the world of Big History and its academics, the book is an interesting ride through the abilities of humans and how our evolution has contributed to what we do everyday. It's an interesting, thoughtful piece of writing that whilst clearly critiqued by academics who know their shit (aka not me) is still definitely one to stick on your to be read list.


https://www.ynharari.com/




Silent Spring - Rachel Carson

The book for biologists, Silent Spring was ahead of its time. Looking at the effects of chemicals used on our foods to increase yield, prevent crop death, and encourage the agri-revolution, it's maybe not one to read if you can't deal with chemical formulas all over the place. But it's still targeted for the masses, and you absolutely don't have to be a STEM student to understand it - Carson's work changed history and shone a light on the effects of chemicals on our food, making it vital reading for everyone.


https://www.rachelcarson.org/




Bad Pharma - Ben Goldacre

I'm pretty late to the party on this one, but if you don't come away from this book with a healthy hatred for pharmaceutical companies, can you even call yourself a socialist? This book revealed the sneaky tactics of Big Pharma companies, and the shoddy research that goes on to promote drugs to make a profit. If you're planning on going into any field of healthcare, are interested in chemistry/research, or just really want to get pissed off at a faceless company, this absolutely has to be top of your reading list for 2021.


https://www.badscience.net/about-dr-ben-goldacre/





Random


Fake Law - The Secret Barrister

As an absolute sucker for loop holes and conspiracy theories (in another life I'd have been a lawyer), this book was exactly what I needed.The Secret Barrister does an excellent job of explaining why that horrendous figure you saw in The Daily Mail actually has nothing to do with giving criminals fifty grand, and everything to do with justice. There's enough fake news on Twitter to make even the smartest minds question fact, but Fake Law takes this to a whole new level and explores just how badly our justice system has suffered at the hands of misinformation.


https://thesecretbarrister.com/




The Undercover Economist - Tim Harford

So being honest, if it hadn't been for the pandemic and being completely bored out of my mind (also why I took up running, but that's another story) I would never have picked up this book. For starters, it has the word 'economy' in the title, and I cannot be arsed with having an annoying, white man, mansplain stuff to me. However, I was pleasantly surprised - whilst Harford may indeed be a white man, he was far from annoying, and, dare I say it, may have sparked my interest in economics? I'm not switching my degree any time soon, but if you want an easy to understand introduction to the subject, with as little talking-down and eye rolling moments as possible, you're not getting a better option than this. (I realise this is far from the 'glowing' review that he probably deserves, but I'm tired and honestly read this back in April, so as much as I enjoyed it and 100% recommend, I had to Google to remember what it even looks like).


https://timharford.com/




So, there we have it folks! 2020's book round up of the year, featuring 20 books I have absolutely no authority to speak on, but that I choose to do so anyway because I'm opinionated.


This year has sucked for so, so many people, and my heart goes out to everyone who feels pretty shit. It has been indescribably horrific for so many, and I feel extraordinarily lucky to have been able to find some solace, as per usual, in an unholy amount of books. The reason I haven't included any links to buy these books is I know this year has taken a financial toll on so many, and so if you know me in real life and want to read any of these, then shoot me a message and I'll send you my copy. In addition, many libraries are still open, and will allow you to order pretty much any book you would like completely for free, so that you can read it at your leisure. I neglected mine for way too long, but they're amazing places - go use it!


I hope you all had a wonderful Hanukkah/Christmas/Kwanzaa/whatever it is you celebrate at this time of year - and if you don't celebrate anything, then I hope you've enjoyed some time off :) With any luck, 2021 will be a whole lot better (and for once in my life I might read fewer books?!?)


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