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)
This was a pleasant enough read, but a bit too technical to sustain my interest throughout. The sections that focussed on Kirkman, Darabont, the chara...moreThis was a pleasant enough read, but a bit too technical to sustain my interest throughout. The sections that focussed on Kirkman, Darabont, the characters and cast were enormously interesting, but I think the book was hampered by Ruditis' selection of principal interviewees. Of the cast members, only DeMunn, Yeun and Riggs have a voice here. The crew are by far the most predominant, and while, yes, it is interesting to read about Nicotero creating zombies, I'm just not sure I was ever this interested in the scoring, visual effects, post-production process etc. It's the insights into the characters' psyches, the development of the comic and the transition into the TV series that really interested me, and compared to the bulk of the book - which focusses on the technical process - they're a bit lacking. Still, it was enjoyable enough to dip into here and there before bed each night, if not a compelling can't-put-down read. I'm sure there's something to relish here for most avid fans, if not the casual viewer. I'd like to read something similar on season two, but given the veil of secrecy that descended over Darabont's departure, it's sadly hard to imagine that working.(less)
This was okay. I read it for a research project, so I was really hoping for a lot more behind-the-scenes information than there was. The majority of t...moreThis was okay. I read it for a research project, so I was really hoping for a lot more behind-the-scenes information than there was. The majority of the book consists of year-by-year recounts of storylines, interspersed with sections on short character profiles. It might make a nice coffee table book for an uber fan, but there's not a great deal of depth. Even in the longest backstage section, the focus is on obvious details like how little time off the actors have, and how all their wardrobes and make-up are from the high street... not Earth-shattering stuff. Still, my disappointment is based on my erroneous preconception of what this book was about. If I'd come to it wanting to read twenty years worth of EastEnders plots (not sure why I would have, but still...) it would have been perfectly serviceable. (less)
There isn't a single person I wouldn't recommend this book to. Barbara Demick is a journalist for the LA Times, assigned to Korea. Over a number of ye...moreThere isn't a single person I wouldn't recommend this book to. Barbara Demick is a journalist for the LA Times, assigned to Korea. Over a number of years, she's interviewed a hundred people who have defected from North to South Korea. Nothing to Envy tells six of their stories, accompanied by a history of North Korea from the country's split to present day. This book is immensely readable, and those unaccustomed to non-fiction shouldn't be deterred. Given how little about North Korea is taught in our schools or reported on our news, this was an absolute eye-opener for me, and there were places where it almost read like fiction, because it was so hard to accept that this is really happening now.
My only criticisms are trivial - Demick repeats herself on minor points from time to time, and some of the biographies are more fleshed out than others. Mi-ran and Jun-sang, sweethearts who defect separately and reunite too late to have a future together are very well represented, as is Mrs Song, a housewife who for many years is loyal to the regime. Her rebellious daughter Oak-Hee receives considerably less page time, as do Dr. Kim, a doctor who eventually makes the heartbreaking discovery that Chinese dogs are fed better than North Korean doctors, and Kim Hyuck, whose father places him in an orphanage as a teenager because he can no longer care for him. The stories told here are immensely powerful and haunting. Although these people all eventually escape to South Korea, most find it difficult to adjust, and must live with the guilt of knowing that their defections have led their families to hardships or even labour camps. This has been an absolute eye-opener for me, and I hope it will only be the start of my reading on North Korea.(less)
I liked this just a touch more than The Writer's Tale. No scripts are included in full, so it feels less unbalanced, and RTD isn't quite as irritating...moreI liked this just a touch more than The Writer's Tale. No scripts are included in full, so it feels less unbalanced, and RTD isn't quite as irritating, and doesn't salivate over Russell Tovey quite as much. I really liked the insight into the development of Tennant's final episodes, particularly the plots and casting that could have been. A good read for any fan, if you can tune out RTD's background whining.(less)
I read this for a research project, expecting it to be dull and dry. I'm not really an autobiography person - I'm just not interested in most celebrit...moreI read this for a research project, expecting it to be dull and dry. I'm not really an autobiography person - I'm just not interested in most celebrities, though I do make rare exceptions for comedians, like Peter Kay and Frankie Boyle. So I was really pleasantly surprised by 50 Years.
Bill Roache doesn't go into much detail on his family life or the pre-Coronation Street years, but I'm willing to bet that it's Corrie most readers are interested in. What unfolds is a warm, affectionate memoir, told by the one man best placed to chronicle the Street. There's not much in the way of salacious gossip or on-set scandal, but honestly, I don't know that I'd be too keen on reading this man's dirty secrets, when he's clearly ashamed of and repentant for his mistakes in the 1960s. The closest to real drama is probably when he recounts how Pat Phoenix stopped speaking to him for two years over a scripting dispute. Blimey!
There are also tragic interludes - the death of his daughter at just 18 months old, and later the loss of his beloved second wife. I really felt for him. Though he does repeat himself from time to time, there's plenty to hold interest. I'm probably a touch too young to remember the time he sued The Sun for libel, but what an interesting story that made! For those more interested in his personal life and spiritual beliefs, he also wrote a 2008 autobiography, Soul on the Street. I have a copy of that, too, but I think this was the tome for me.
I got some funny looks from my family while reading this, but honestly, I really did enjoy it. Quite delightful. 8/10.(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)
I was pretty disappointed with this. The parts about development and storylining of Doctor Who were really interesting - exactly the sort of behind-th...moreI was pretty disappointed with this. The parts about development and storylining of Doctor Who were really interesting - exactly the sort of behind-the-scenes insights I'd been hoping for. Sadly, they were few and far between. The vast bulk of the book comprised Russell T Davies moaning about how hard it is being a writer, and salivating over Russell Tovey. It's actually pretty weird how much he goes on and on about the incidental character Midshipman Frame, who had, what, four minutes of screen time? Just because he fancied the actor. I did enjoy Benjamin Cook's replies to his emails, which were couched in nicer language, but essentially asking throughout '"Russell, why are you being such a prick?".
The book felt really padded out, too. Four scripts were included in full, though two of Russell's scripts from the series were missed out entirely, with the emails just alluding to them. It made the content feel really unbalanced. If they'd just included the pertinent parts of each script, the size of the book would have been much less monstrous. Russell's little illustrations were very amusing - I didn't know he was an artist, too - but on the whole I felt let down. 5/10.(less)