How to Be a Woman is part conversation on modern feminism, part autobiography of columnist Caitlin Moran. It peaked early for me with her childhood an...moreHow to Be a Woman is part conversation on modern feminism, part autobiography of columnist Caitlin Moran. It peaked early for me with her childhood anecdotes of growing up in Wolverhampton - poor, badly dressed and the oldest of seven children. Her reminiscences on having to wear her mother's hand-me-down underwear and beginning her sexual awakening after borrowing a Jilly Cooper from the library because it had horses on the cover were right on the mark. Once she hit her teenage years and beyond my interest waned a bit, although for the most part it remained amusing throughout. Moran has a commanding, chatty tone that's enjoyable to read, but a bit much for a sustained period - probably more suited to columns than hundreds of pages at a time. It's matey, but veers a bit towards preachy once she gets the feminist bit between her teeth.
Nothing she has to say is particularly ground-breaking. Workplace sexism isn't cool. Everyday sexism isn't cool. Porn shouldn't be the exclusive domain of men. Women shouldn't feel pressured into having cosmetic surgery, wearing uncomfortable heels or spending £600 on handbags. Most of it can be filed under plain common sense. There's a heavy-hitting chapter towards the end on her personal experience of abortion, but most of the preceding events are lightweight fare - palling about with Lady Gaga, clothes shopping, dating etc.
Some parts grated quite a lot. At one point, Moran tells girls to stop "letting the side down" by working as strippers, only to note a few pages later that "between 60 to 80 per cent of strippers come from a background of sexual abuse." So telling them to "get the fuck off the podium" is charming, really. Then there are the chapters on motherhood. She devotes an entire chapter to how it's totally okay to not want to have children, which is great, except it follows a chapter on how the lives of those without children are totally unfulfilled, their achievements and hobbies mere consolation prizes for not being enriched by tiny humans. Then there are her frequent assertions that historically, women have done absolutely nothing of note up until a hundred years ago.
It's a tough one to sum up, because for every place I wound up rolling my eyes, there'd be another that would have me giggling. Overall, I don't think it's substantial enough to recommend either as feminist discourse or an autobiography, but it's an easy enough read, and there are worse ways to kill a few hours. High praise indeed.(less)
What Not to Do is a sequel of sorts to Danny Wallace's Awkward Situations for Men (it was in fact originally titled, and remains entirely the same as...moreWhat Not to Do is a sequel of sorts to Danny Wallace's Awkward Situations for Men (it was in fact originally titled, and remains entirely the same as More Awkward Situations for Men, which has understandably led to some negative reviews from readers who purchased both, believing them to be different entities.) The contents comprises a series of Wallace's columns from ShortList magazine, which are all essentially anecdotes on the sublime social awkwardness that arises in everyday life. If you've ever found yourself in a Mexican stand-off over pressing the button for a lift, or trying to find a polite way to check a cash machine after being told it's out of order - without, of course, implying that the previous user is too dense to understand the operation of said machine, there'll be something for you to relate to here.
I remember being fairly underwhelmed by Awkward Situations for Men, especially after really enjoying Wallace's other books (particularly Yes Man, Friends Like These, and his joint ventures with Dave Gorman). I think at the time it was the structure that put me off - bite-size stories that begin, end and are largely forgotten within a couple of pages made it hard to really get stuck in and engaged. This time around, however, I was after something fairly light to read while on the go, so being able to leaf through a couple of chapters on the bus, over lunch etc. really suited me, and as a result I definitely enjoyed it more.
Most of the stories here raised at least a smile, many a chuckle, and a few outright laughter at 1am which is always a good sign. Wallace has a friendly, conversational tone that it's easy to amble along with. The framing is perhaps a little odd - it begins and ends with Wallace reflecting on life as a new father, and I was briefly worried that the whole book would be an attempt at illuminating insights on parenthood, but save for a few anecdotes on the sublime unfairness of his baby dining on the finest salmon while he and his exhausted wife subsist on Super Noodles, it's not a topic that comes up with any more regularity than his wife, friends or work. If you want a quick, easy read and also happen to be a socially awkward soul, you can't go far wrong here.(less)
Parks and Recreation is an absolutely wonderful little show - hilarious, on-the-nose, with a whole lot of heart. Tie-in book Pawnee: The Greatest Town...moreParks and Recreation is an absolutely wonderful little show - hilarious, on-the-nose, with a whole lot of heart. Tie-in book Pawnee: The Greatest Town in America is lacking in comparison, but still made me laugh obnoxiously loud a good half dozen times. It's ostensibly a history of and guide to the fictional Pawnee, penned by deputy Parks director Leslie Knope (in actuality written by Nate DiMeo and the show's creative team).
It's a little bizarre in that it really does capture Amy Poehler's Leslie extremely well in places, and yet I absolutely can't believe this is the same book Leslie wrote in the context of the show. In a bid to include the other characters, each is ascribed a feature section which, while entertaining, would never have made it past Leslie's stringent quality control (Really, I love Jean-Ralphio, but a guide to Pawnee's clubs rated by most bangable women? Leslie Knope would never.) Also, while we regularly see elements of Pawnee that are less than wonderful - eg. its genocidal origins - the dearth of scandal presented here makes Leslie's unwavering pride in her hometown veer from endearing to maniacally naive.
That said, certain sections brought me unmitigated joy, particularly the dossier on Pawnee's raccoon infestation and the feature on the years the town was run by a cult who worshipped the six-tentacled lizard god Zorp. I'd definitely recommend it to fully-fledged Parks devotees, but it's not essential reading for the casual viewer.(less)
This book was entirely lightweight and vacuous, but fun nonetheless. I had a month to read it for my book club, but got through it within a few days....moreThis book was entirely lightweight and vacuous, but fun nonetheless. I had a month to read it for my book club, but got through it within a few days. It's an easy page turner, albeit one with very few likeable characters beyond the narrator. Snobs follows Edith, a fairly wealthy estate agent from London, as she marries into a minor aristocratic family. From first to last it sends up those pretentious folk whose self-worth is defined by social climbing, and does so fairly wittily. It's not a laugh-out-loud book, but it is roundly amusing, if overdone in places. My one substantial niggle was the periods of time skipped. One moment Edith and Charles had been on a single date, the next they were engaged. It made it difficult to gauge the passage of time, so when it was mentioned that they'd been married for two years, I could hardly reconcile that with what had passed and it pulled me right out of the moment. I wouldn't recommend it to anyone hoping for hilarity or an in-depth examination of England's social hierarchy, but as fluffy chick lit, I've read a heck of a lot worse.(less)
I bought this for my eight-year-old brother for Christmas, and decided to read it before wrapping it. It's cute! Well, as cute as any book aimed at li...moreI bought this for my eight-year-old brother for Christmas, and decided to read it before wrapping it. It's cute! Well, as cute as any book aimed at little boys can be. It was pretty amusing, I liked the line art, and overall it was a nice way to spend an hour. The main character is a bit of a jerk at times, but I used to love books about ~how unfaaaair~ grown-ups were, and happy-clappy 'let's all be friends!' endings felt super patronising, so I'm sure I'd have dug this as a kid. I just hope Charlie likes it!(less)
The adherence to the characters' voices was excellent here, but some of the content was fairly tedious. Enjoyable enough as a quick read, but not a pa...moreThe adherence to the characters' voices was excellent here, but some of the content was fairly tedious. Enjoyable enough as a quick read, but not a patch on the TV series.(less)
I went to visit my little brothers last week, and my eight-year-old brother Charlie had a couple of Simpsons comics on loan from the library. We took...moreI went to visit my little brothers last week, and my eight-year-old brother Charlie had a couple of Simpsons comics on loan from the library. We took one each, giggled over some of the strips together, and spent a very pleasant afternoon in Springfield. This isn't something I'd ever have read of my own volition, but I expect I'll have happy memories of that afternoon for a while to come. The Simpsons translates well to comic form, and while not every story is a winner (the long segment in space was frankly dull), if you like the TV show, there's plenty to like here.(less)
Although Screen Burn did contain a decent number of laugh-out-loud moments, the sheer volume of it - spanning five years of Brooker's Guardian columns...moreAlthough Screen Burn did contain a decent number of laugh-out-loud moments, the sheer volume of it - spanning five years of Brooker's Guardian columns - meant that the end product was sadly mediocre. By and large, his columns are all pretty much the same. TV spews out a ludicrous show, and Brooker angrily criticises it at length, employing a staggering range of metaphors and similies that eventually become meaningless through sheer number. Rinse, wash, repeat. These are not bad columns in and of themselves, but crowded together here, they all blend into one hazy, forgettable rant. Yes, there's a lot of crap on TV. Yes, we should all have better things to do than submit to it. But I spent quite a lot of Screen Burn musing on the fact that I really had better things to do than read it, which is pretty damning. I'd recommend this as a bathroom book more than anything - something to dip into for a few minutes, then put down for a few days, so the overall effect is more diluted and enjoyable as a result. Because it definitely is funny in places... it just suffers from the transition to book format.(less)