Blogger Newbie: Leanne (@ Bookish Revolution ) | 3 books that changed my life

I got an exciting guest post from Leanne over at Bookish Revolution! Let me just give her the word!

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Who Are You?: I’m Leanne, I’m relatively new to the world of book blogging. I’m an avid (but slow!) reader, and I’ll read pretty much anything except romance, which no matter how hard I try I just can’t seem to get into! I also love belly dancing, running and my cat Coconut.

What is your blog about and what are your plans with it?: My blog is about books, but I’m not doing many straightforward reviews. I prefer to look at how books have shaped my view of the world, or how they’ve helped me in some way. I also like to do a light-heartes post once in a while – like pictures of my cat with books!

Why did you start blogging?: I wanted to connect with people and discuss books with them – that’s pretty much it! I also want to improve my writing style and develop my own “voice”. I feel a real sense of accomplishment when I finish a blog post.

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Which books changed your life? Here are 3 of mine

This week I’ve been reflecting on my reading progress for the year. Not just in terms of the number of books I’ve read, but also the quality of those I’ve read and the level of diversity I’ve managed to achieve.

I’ve read some great books this year that have all resonated with me in different ways. That said, with the possible exception of Roxane Gay’s wonderful Difficult Women, which I talked about in an earlier blog post, nothing has jumped out at me yet as a book that I’ll remember for years to come. You know the sort I mean, the book you look at sitting on your shelves and immediately start reminiscing about the time you read it and how it made you feel.  It makes you want to capture that feeling again and again.

Now, I know we’re only in July, so there’s still a few more books left to read before the end of the year. I also recognise that the important books in your life tend to be few and far between, and that’s part of what makes them special – you’d probably be rather emotionally drained if every book you read left you pining so deeply for the experience of reading it again, and sometimes that’s really not what you need from a book anyway.

But it got me thinking about some of the books I’ve read that have had a big impact on me over the years, and some are probably ones you wouldn’t expect! Here are 3 books that, in very different ways, have changed my life.

To Kill A Mockingbird – Harper Lee

To be honest, I can’t remember exactly when I first read Harper Lee’s classic. It wasn’t when I was at secondary school, although I certainly owned a copy at that point – I think I may have been at university before I finally managed to read it.

I could see immediately why it’s such a popular choice on the curriculum in American high schools, and I really hope it still is today. It addresses so many important themes – race relations, gender stereotypes, what it means to have courage and to follow your own moral compass. To have compassion for others who aren’t like you. Things that I think are more relevant today than they ever were.

To Kill A Mockingbird taught me that doing what you think is right isn’t always an easy option – but you should do it anyway. When I re-read this book a couple of years ago, I remember sitting on a bus and reading the end of a particular chapter – and having to close the book for a second so I could hug it. I never do that.

Health at Every Size: The Surprising Truth About Your Weight – Linda Bacon

And now for something completely different!

I first read this book about 4 years ago, after having a conversation with a work colleague on the bus home. I’d been going to Slimming World for about a year by that point, and I’d never really considered any other viewpoint than the one espoused by pretty much everybody, from doctors to friends – being fat is unhealthy, and you’re only going to be happy if you can get thin and stay thin.

Oh, how the science in this book completely changed my perspective.

I’ve never been happy with my body. I come from a family where dieting is the norm, and being fat is just not something that is acceptable. This book helped me move away from the diet mentality – and consequently away from low self-esteem. Until I read this book, I hadn’t realized how much of my self-esteem was wrapped up in trying to attain a socially-acceptable body (or how much emotional energy I was expending trying to do it). I’m not only happier because of this book, I’m healthier – I don’t obsess about eating, but I’m still able to make food and exercise choices that help me maintain my well-being and a healthy lifestyle, as opposed to the constant weight cycling and “all-or-nothing” approach to healthy eating that I had before. It also got me into reading other books about the obsession with the obesity “crisis”, as well as size-acceptance movements and intuitive eating.

I have a lot to thank Linda Bacon for – I can’t imagine what my life would be like now if I hadn’t ditched the diets and started living my life.

Kindred – Octavia E. Butler

This is the first book by Octavia E. Butler that I read, and I hope to add more to the list!

I enjoyed this book so much – the plot had me gripped and the nuanced relationships between the characters had me hooked. But these aren’t the reasons it’s important to me.

Kindred made me look at diversity in books in a new light. I’ve felt for a long time that it’s important to read more than just white male authors, who generally don’t experience the barriers to publishing or exposure in the book community that other writers do.

This is hard for me to admit, but reading this book made me realize that I’d been making assumptions about black writers and writing that really weren’t true. Embarrassingly, I’d never heard of a science fiction book written by a black person, never mind a black woman, and this had never occurred to me as odd. I’m cringing as I write this, because it all seems completely ridiculous to me that I could ever have thought this way.

I’d never really considered that black writers who get publicity in the UK tend to be writing about particular subjects such as slavery, or the political situation in Nigeria, themes that you’d probably expect black writers to explore. There is nothing wrong with this – I’ve read some brilliant books on these topics. But I think it does lead to black writers getting pigeonholed, because the reading public is often only showcased a particular sort of writing. I think this can often be true for writers from other backgrounds too. I’m sure it’s not an accident that science fiction is overwhelmingly white, and male. Even though Kindred is widely dubbed a classic, and isn’t a new book, I’d never heard of it. I know it deals with slavery and race relations, but I’d never seen them approached in this way.

As I said, I loved this book, but it also raised some questions about diversifying my reading that made me feel uncomfortable. I’m glad about that. It made me realise that, if I was going to make sure that diversifying my reading didn’t turn into a tokenistic gesture, I needed to make an effort to find authors from black and minority ethnic backgrounds other than those established enough to be getting a lot of publicity, or those writing in mainstream genres that tend to have big marketing budgets. It’ll need a bit more effort, but I think it’ll be worth it. There are so many books by a diverse range of writers out there that we don’t get to hear about because of the barrier such writers face, and I’d like to help remedy that if it’s possible.

So, there you have my 3 life-changing books – which books are important to you?

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If you enjoyed this post, make sure to follow Leanne on her blog, twitter, litsy (@LeanneAslin) and/or instagram! Which book(s) changed your life?

Discussion: How Diverse Do I Actually Read & How To Read More Diverse?

You all know how much I value diversity in a book and if you didn’t know that yet: hi, you must be new here. I’m Lia and I am an advocate of diversity in books. Nice to meet you.

Over the past half year, I’ve set myself the goal to read more diversely and keep track of how diverse I read. Half a year has passed and now I think it’s time to check my progress!

Some Stats

I’ve been keeping track using a 5-star system, rating each book based on POC, LGBT+, disability, minority and non-western setting. Each book could get a score of 0 or 1 (sometimes 0.5) on each of the criteria. Let’s take a look at how often I gave the books I read a star (or point) for each criterion! I added some examples of books I read this half of the year with representation.

POC: 53.2%

It turns out that in over 50% of the books I’ve read a character, main or (major) side, is of colour! Most of these were side characters.

LGBT+: 44.9%

I also read a lot of LGBT+ books with characters ranging from gay, lesbian, bisexual, pansexual, transgender, non-binary, intersexual and asexual.

 

Disability: 33.8%

Disabilities were a little rarer, mostly these were characters suffering from mental disorders and characters with minor disabilities such as a limb. Some examples of disabilities/disorders I’ve read about: anxiety, deafness, blindness, ASD, muteness, eating disorders, depression.

 

Minority: 14.4%

Minorities turn out to be a very vague term. I used this mainly for books that contained a character with a semi-rare decent or religion. Examples are Native American or other indigenous people and Jewish or other religious people.

 

Non-Western: 0.05%

Non-western was the hardest for me, I read mostly books that are set in the US/Europe because most of the books I read are written by American or European authors. I read no books that were set in non-Western countries but I gave some half-stars for books set in a non-Western fantasy world.

Overall: 73.8%

If we combine all the ratings, I found that almost 3 out of 4 books I read contain some sort of diversity. Not all of them to the same degree, but I am really happy with this number. On average, the books I read got 1.5 stars, which is decent.

My rating system

After half a year I’ve grown to realize that it isn’t as simple as a rating, because sometimes a book is really diverse in the way that it really talks about one “thing” extensively. For example, None of the Above, which is about a girl who finds out she’s intersex. I would say this book is very diverse because it is about intersexuality and how she deals with this, with the prejudices and discrimination that comes with it and everything surrounding this issue. However, if you would rate this with my scale, it would only get 1 star. And it deserves more. There are so many books like that, that deserve more than the 1 or 2 stars they would get with my system.

So I’ve decided to not include a rating like this in every review anymore (not that I was very consistent anyway). I will keep track of it and I will usually discuss the diversity of the book if applicable, but I won’t rate it anymore from now on.

How you can read more diverse

  1. Be aware of the topic: Great, you’re on the right track already! If you’re reading this post, you’re clearly interested in diversity and reading more diversely.
  2. Keep track: This really helped me, after each book I read, I thought about the diverse representation and jotted it down somewhere (or just made a mental note).
  3. Keep an open mind: If you’re open to reading about topics that are further from your comfort zone, you might get surprised with what you find! I wasn’t used to reading about diverse characters before because I didn’t explore other characters than characters that were alike me.
  4. Set yourself goals: or just note type of characters or settings you want to read about. If you set yourself the goal to read at least (idk) 10 diverse books over the summer, you get more motivated to do so. Diversity bingos or something alike are a great resource.
  5. Go out and look for diverse books: there are plenty of lists people made about diverse books you might want to read. I made one myself, you can check it out here, you can also just look up all the books I mentioned/showed above!
  6. Make it more of a priority: it’s just a small decision but it changes your entire way of reading!
  7. Have fun! That is, of course, the most important 😀

I hope you thought this was interesting! Did you read a lot of diverse books? Is diversity important to you as a reader? Any recommendations?

Discussion: Why I don’t read books written in my native language

As you might know, English is not my native language. In fact, I have lived in the Netherlands (almost) my entire life and grew up speaking Dutch. I wanted to explain why I am not reading (more) books written by Dutch authors. Just to clarify, I do read books in Dutch, occasionally, but those are translated works, usually translated from English.

When I was young I read only in Dutch, of which I think mainly were books written by Dutch authors. There were plenty of great Dutch authors who wrote wonderful children’s books. Even in my early teen years, there was quite a large amount of books I could choose from, but as I grew older, I had grown to dislike them. Series I loved by authors as Carrie Slee and Francine Oomen (two big writers at that time) were starting to annoy me. They repeated the same things, with annoyingly irresponsible main characters, supposedly relatable moments and topics I was no longer interested in. It felt like at that time, all the books in the teen-genre (YA was not yet a thing back then) were about loverboys, teen pregnancies, and related topics. I was not interested in those topics anymore. However, there was not much else to choose from at my library.

In my high school Dutch class, I also had to read Dutch books (obviously) and of the 12 I read, I enjoyed maybe 3. I felt the same way about these adult books as I felt about the teen books. They repeated the same tropes and annoying characters. I felt like every single Dutch adult literary book was about a middle-aged man with drugs/alcohol/women/criminal issues. And I hated those characters so much. Of course, I am not saying that every book was about those topics, but that was what it felt like.

After being “forced” to read all those horrible books and after having failed to find any enjoyable teen book written in my native language, I just sort of gave up on it altogether. I discovered bookish tumblr and found so many enjoyable books written in English. In that same period, my library started having a YA section! Oh, how happy I was to discover this new genre, with interesting books about other topics! I quit reading books by authors I read before all-together. Trust me, I tried reading several books by Dutch writers later on, but I just couldn’t stand it anymore.

I read translated books, because those were the only ones my library had to offer and my English was quite honestly bad at best. I had never been good at English and I was pretty close to failing my English exams. Therefore I started practicing, at any opportunity I got. Over the years I have gotten better and better, due to the fact that I almost exclusively read in English and watch a lot of English tv shows, and now I am pretty much fluent. So for me, there is not really a point to reading books in Dutch anymore, when English is just as easy. 

Of course, I believe that there are great Dutch books out there, but since I’ve grown to dislike them so much in my youth, I don’t feel the urge to try anymore. You could say every book I read has a three-stare star rating to begin with, and stars can be retracted and added when pleased. The Dutch books, however, would start off with a zero-star rating, which would make it much harder to please me. It would be very hard to make me excited about a Dutch book and I would just assume it wasn’t good, just because my expectations are so low.

Does anyone else have this problem? That a genre or just books in your native language in general, have been ruined for you? Do you read in your native language? Or outside your native language?

P.S. I also strongly dislike every Dutch movie/tv series before having even watched it, this might be related???

The best reads of September

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best-reads

As I did last month, I will award three prizes to books with the categories “the most original”, “the most addictive” and “the most surprising”

The most original

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This book was really interesting, because of the world it is set in. It is very extreme and it is intriguing to see how people would act in a world so different from our own.

The most addictive (and most surprising)

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I read this book in a really short time and every time I put it away I just had to continue. I just couldn’t sleep until I finished this book. I did not know what book to award the most surprising category to, so I choose this book again. Simply because I didn’t expect to enjoy this book as much as I did.

What is your most original, addictive and surprising read last month?