Wow, it’s taken me a long time to finish 5 books! I started reading many duds (not listed here) that I just couldn’t finish, despite trying hard, and these duds slowed me down. At least the below books which I did finish were pretty good overall.
My rating system:
10 – life-changing, an all-time favorite
5 - average for what I read
1 – terrible; why did I finish it?
Un/Masked: Memoirs of a Guerilla Girl on Tour by Donna Kaz – As the subtitle says, this is a memoir by a woman who was and is very active with the Guerrilla Girls. It’s a blend of the personal and political – the sexism that female artists face as well as Kaz’s own personal struggles (abusive relationship with a famous actor and her own confidence issues in her acting and playwriting). It’s a good book, if a bit choppy at times. (Fun fact: I never knew the origins of the gorilla masks that they wear. The author tells us that one of their early members misunderstood “guerilla” as “gorilla”, was charged with going to the store and buying masks, and there you go). Grade: 6
Dear Ijeawele, Or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – I wasn’t sure if I should include this or not because it’s only 64 pages long. Sixty-four small pages. But it’s good, so here it is. The author was asked by a friend how to raise her newborn daughter as a feminist. The book includes her fifteen suggestions, and they are excellent. You know, I’ve been a feminist as long as I can remember, but I always can find more to learn. Sometimes it’s good just to get reminders too, and also Adichie’s writing is great. (Paraphrasing, but ‘in our culture, women are encouraged to look sexy but not be sexual’). Grade: 8
Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell – First published in 1960, this book is young adult historical fiction based on a true story. History tells us that a group of Native Americans lived on a small island off of California for a long time before a group of Russians and Aleuts mostly wiped them out circa 1850. Not long afterwards, a group of Christian missionaries came to collect the survivors and bring them to California, but for reasons unknown, one woman was left behind and she lived alone on the island for about 20 years (until another ship of white people came to get her). So this is the author’s attempt to imagine her life during her solo years. I know that the folks at Bitch Media would object to a white dude born in the 1890s trying to write a Native American woman’s story. I liked the book a lot though. I thought it imagined her life well and it really drew me in. At times I wanted a bit more emotional depth to it; a few events happen and I don’t think O’Dell really draws down into his character’s soul enough to explore her feelings. Grade: 6
You Can Buy Happiness (And It’s Cheap) by Tammy Strobel – This was a nice book. For me, it was a good refresher and reminder on many of my already-existing beliefs. Like how possessions don’t make us happy, it’s good to minimize, live not just within your means but under your means, etc. I liked that each chapter ended with “micro actions” you can take. The book was nothing shocking but I did like the stories of other people who have made positive changes in their lives. Grade: 6
Idiot Brain by Dean Burnett – A book about the workings of the brain, with lots of clear examples and written by a guy who dabbles in stand-up comedy – so the book is often funny, too. The brain really is a wonder. As the author tells us, it messes with memories, it jumps at shadows, its screws with our sleeping, it convinces us we’re brilliant when we’re not – and that’s all when it’s working properly. Grade: 6