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Fiction-Non-Fiction, Economics Edition

Hi Virtually Readers! Uni has started again for me properly and I am extremely busy and trying to figure out how to keep fitting Virtually Read into my life. I’m also panicked that I’m going to stop loving reading somehow, but that seems stupid, right? Does anyone else ever feel that way? I wrote an article about how to read and study at the same time and feel like a bit of a hypocrite because I’m not very good at following this advice. Anyway, I’ve been thinking lots about the economy because it matters a lot and also needs a total restructure because capitalism really sucks (this is what you learn at university). I like to read economics books because I feel like that helps me to understand the financial system better. So this edition of Fiction-Non-Fiction recommendations is themed around the economy!

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Sacred EconomicsTess of the Road

Okay, full disclosure: I’m not actually done reading Sacred Economics. I’m about a third of the way through. It’s a book about why the economy is broken, and how it is set up in systems which perpetuates injustice and inequality. Beyond that, Sacred Economics is a book about healing the economy, understanding it enough to actually change it. I don’t know enough about policy to understand how these concepts could translate, but I really appreciate this visionary book. Tess of the Road is on the surface a very different book. But like the global economic system, Tess is shattered in hidden and blatant ways. The novel is about her quest for something larger and more mysterious–something underneath–an embodiment of the principles of the world and the way they exist. I reckon it pairs beautifully with Sacred Economics.

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Talking to My Daughter About the EconomyThe Islands at the End of the World

Talking With My Daughter About the Economy is an excellent, readable primer on fundamental principles that govern economics. If you’rs a bit intimidated by learning about the economy, I hightly recommend it. To be honest the ‘talking to my daughter’ aspect of the book was somewhat contrived in a ‘now child listen to my wisdom and I will contextualise it by entioning your iPad’ sort of way. Still, it’s a good idea. The Islands At the End of the World is similarly centred on a father daughter relationship, where a father and daughter are navigating a broen world made more frightening by their inadequacies. Together, with resoucefulness and vision, they can understand why they are so lost. Again, it sort of matches on a deepre level.

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No LogoTheir Fractured Light

Naomi Klein is a bit of a legend, and references to this tome, which I read ages ago but should probably read again, are all over the place in my reading for an Advertising critique paper I’m doing. In this book and This Changes Everything (also a great economics book!) she details some of the ways that the global economy is injust, particularly in the context of large corporations. Their Fractured Light is also about confronting massive corporations, from within and without, and seeking justice. It uses an astonishing range of characters to examine different responses to inequality. It’s also a fabulous adventure story.

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Naked EconomicsSpinning Silver

I read Naked Economics a few years ago when I was just reading non-fiction for Lent (this year I’m mostly vegan). Now I read HEAPS of non-fiction. I don’t really agree with the premise of Naked Economics; it’s very much a status-quo, liberalism-inspired approach to the economy (does anyone else find it confusing that liberal politicians don’t follow policies of economic liberalisation?). Charles Wheelan places far too much faith in the power of the trickle-down effect, for instance. Nevertheless, it’s important and useful to know how people with different economic opinions than me justify that position. Spinning Silver is a stellar book, and has a character who is venal and money focused. But as a compassionate writer, Naomi Novik gives Miriam the context to explain how she became that way, and the book is all about how money matters and how different people understand it.

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Doughnut EconomicsStation Eleven

Doughnut Economics, like Sacred Economics, is an invitation to reimagine the economy. It goes beyond identifying problems, and is quite data driven (compared to Sacred Economics, which is heavily philosophical). I really enjoyed it–although I don’t really know what I can do as a non-economics student who does not make policy. The principles of Doughnut Economics is that the systems of the world–social and cultural systems, ecological systems, climate systems, and of course financial systems, are deeply intertwined. Station Eleven demonstrates the same thing, by showing how interconnected different aspects of the world are, and what happens when they’re broken (The World Without Us is a non-fictional approach to the same thing). If you long to understand the world as interconnected in fragile and resilient ways, you’ll love both of these books.

do you understand economics? do you want to? and have you read any of these books?

book review · books · features · lists · shanti

Fiction-Non Fiction: Language

I have decided, in my finite knowledge and wisdom, to turn fiction-non-fiction recommendations into a series. This is mostly because I realized that I have been reading some non fiction books which group nicely into categories and non-fiction is AMAZING and somewhat underappreciated, I feel, in my blogging community. So over the next few months there will be a couple of these posts, once I figure out all of the groupings. There’s going to be a post about genetics books, nature writing books, semi-funny memoirs, economics possibly…it’s a series in development (if you have suggestions, please let me know!)

Continue reading “Fiction-Non Fiction: Language”

book review · shanti

Our Year Of Maybe

Our Year of Maybe is an astonishingly subtle book. It’s about a toxic, codependent relationship, and what it means to be attached to another person, and the effect that can have on you. I loved Rachel Lynn Solomon’s first book, You’ll Miss Me When I’m Gone, and after reading Marie’s interview with Rachel Lynn Solomon, I knew that I had to read this too. It was just as emotional and deep and clever and authentic.

Continue reading “Our Year Of Maybe”

book review · books · discussions · features · shanti

‘Tis the Season of Rereading Strange The Dreamer

Welcome back to ‘Tis the Season of Rereading, people! I’m back where it all began (at least, this series) in India with wintry air and slow internt and a lot of gladness. It’s approprading and reviewing one of my favourite books of this year–Strange the Dreamer, and its sequel, Muse of Nightmares.

Continue reading “‘Tis the Season of Rereading Strange The Dreamer”

books · features · lists · shanti

Non-Fiction Fiction Pairings

I am growing to love non-fiction. I know that not everyone reads non-fiction, which is fine, but if you don’t have much idea where to start, I thought I’d do a post pairing books popular in the blogosphere with some non-fiction books I love. If you recognise these books, or think you’d enjoy them, then definitely see if you can pick a copy up. I’ve tried to group books that are similar in content and tone, even if they come at it from totally different angles.

Continue reading “Non-Fiction Fiction Pairings”

book review · books · shanti

I Was Born For This

Hi Virtually Readers! I like to escape to other places, though I’m not good at doing it. I like books and cake and essays and blogging. I have never gotten deep into a fandom—I think you need a tumblr account for that—but I would still call myself a fan of many things. And I Was Born for This is a book about fandom. While I don’t see myself in the obsessive fandom that Angel has for The Ark, I still loved how Oseman writes about obsession and immersion in other people’s lives. After all, that’s why I read. (a copy of this book was provided for review by Harper Collins New Zealand, which was nice of them, but it has not impacted my thoughts because I knew I was gonna love it)

Continue reading “I Was Born For This”

book review · books · shanti · Uncategorized

8 Reasons to read Ashbury/Brookfield

Hi Virtually Readers! A few months ago I was deep in some corner of the internet (aren’t we all) and found all these posts on inside a dog that Jaclyn Moriarty had written AGES ago, about her Ashbury/Brookfield books, a series of contemporary novels told entirely in found documents. They’re more companion novels, btw, rather than sequels. And I read the series over then next few months, finishing in September, and I loved them all. The books are Feeling Sorry for Celia, Finding Cassie Crazy, The Betrayal of Bindy Mackenzie, and Dreaming of Amelia (except I got confused and read Amelia before Bindy). Those links, by the way, go to my reviews. I loved the series, and now I’m going to give you some reasons to read it.

One, the books are all hilarious.

Because it’s told in documents, there are all different styles of writing to differentiate the characters. One character, Emily, is prone to malpropism (I shall rain over everyone). Another character thinks she’s really smart, and it shows hilariously in the writing. Then there are fake court summonings (SO FUNNY) and drunk blogging. Not to mention the situations the character get into which are funny…one character is hilariously convinced that there is a ghost and another runs away to the circus.

Two, they’re all mysteries.

Now I’m an idiot and it took until the fourth book for me to figure out that all the books were mysteries. I actually really liked this though; it’s a sign that the mystery is well incorporated into the novel, and the focus stays on the characters.

Three, melodrama

All of the characters are teenagers, and like teenagers are wont too, tend to exaggerate their own circumstances to be a little more important and life changing than they really are. (especially Emily. Oh Emily, how I love you) But there are just enough instances where something ~creepy~ is actually happening that you can’t quite be sure.

Four, friendship

There are so many strong female friendships; and even just friendships in general. Finding Cassie Crazy and Dreaming of Amelia especially focus on a trio of girls, Cassie, Emily, and Lydia, and they are very funny and very supportive and generally excellent. And Amelia and Riley are very good friends to each other, and I love that Ernst is friends with Bindy (also a bit of shipping there tbh), and also all the boys in Finding Cassie Crazy are great (except for some of them). I liked Seb particularly.

Five, creative and quirky documents

Remember the fake court summonings I mentioned up above? Well, they’re part of the documents that make up the story. It’s a lot like Illuminae, but less pretty. There are also these excellent messages from various ‘societies’ in the first book which help us get into Elizabeth, the main characters head. In every book except The Betrayal of Bindy Mackenzie, you don’t know why the docements have been found and collected; but they’re there, and they’re wonderful, and you just enjoy it.

Six, compelling characters

Sometimes with document based stories, it’s hard to connect to the characters, but Jaclyn Moriarty is so clever that this never happens. I especialy connected with Bindy Mackenzie and Elizabeth Clarry, in the first and third books, which are more centred on one person. The honesty of the stories, the issues the characters have, and the way that the documents they leave can and simeltaneously cannot account for their lives; somehow, it works, and all the characters are just so true to life.

Seven, surprises

I often guess plots, but Moriarty consistently surprised me. I never knew what to expect and quite what each clue added up to, and that made such a nice change. The endings are a little ridiculous, but still perfect.

Eight, ALL CAPS.

There are a lot of ALL CAPS as emphasis in the book. Very relatable if you’re a book blogger.

I do actually have some critiques of these books, which you can see in my reviews. Overall, though, they’re very clever, very enjoyable, and very funny and I think more people need to read them so go forth and do likewise.

Have you read any of these books? And what’s your favourite document based book? let me know in the comments!

 

books · features · shanti

8 Reasons to read The Spinster Club

Hi Virtually Readers! I know that tomorrow is Christmas, but I felt like posting anyway. Now, this isn’t *really* holiday themed, but I figure that the story of Christmas is about equality—God coming to be at the same level of humans. But even if you don’t celebrate, you probably want to read the Spinster trilogy by Holly Bourne. It’s a really intense, wonderful series of books about a group of feminists and their struggles and triumphs in love and life. While definitely not for younger readers, this series (though I have to admit that I haven’t read …And a Happy New Year? Yet—hopefully soon) is empowering and delightful for anybody who believes in feminism. Why should you read it? Here are some reasons.

(Reviews: Am I Normal Yet? | How Hard Can Love Be? | What’s a Girl Gotta Do? )

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-Holly Bourne gets it

I know, a lot of authors *get* it. But while I am very different to the girls in these books, I just felt totally understood by Bourne’s portrayal of how it is to be a teenage girl—the mix of emotions, the friendships, the balance of school and fun. One part which felt particularly relevant was where Lottie is harassed by guys on the street. I live in a pretty sexist country, and I totally empathized with the mix of feelings that Lottie had, based on my own experience.

“Do you ever worry you’re being a teenager wrong?” -Am I Normal Yet?

“I didn’t trust me to work it out. I just messed everything up, like I had now.”- How Hard Can Love Be?

-They’re funny

Laughing is important. There are lots of hilarious moments in these stories, which will definitely entertain you.

“Do you think it’s all part of inequality’s plan? To mess us about lovewise so we’re too busy waiting for text messages to burn our bras and run for Prime Minister?”- Am I Normal Yet?

“Children were so ungrateful in real life. In stories, if you do a good deed for a kid, they’re all beamy, covered in chimney smoke, and say stuff like “Why, thank you Mister Scrooge, God bless ya”. But in real life they just whinged and nothing you did was ever enough.”

-They’re British

If you ever get sick of American books, this is for you. The characters use lots of British slang and  Amber actually visits America in How Hard Can Love Be, and basically makes fun of every contemporary YA stereotype ever, and critques the university system and Barack Obama. Also A-Levels and ‘college’ and all that.

-There is so much friendship

Friendship is pretty dang important, and these books are all about friendship. The three girls form a Spinster Club to support each other and talk about feminist issues, and I just love how their relationship was portrayed.

-Feminism is discussed in a realistic, honest way

There are so few explicitly feminist novels, and I really loved that all three of these books, especially What’s a Girl Gotta Do?, talked about women’s rights and inequality and making a change, and how to make a change. But at the same time, the story showed the double standards are inevitable, and judgment will happen, and no one is perfect, and it felt very realistic. I just loved this, because I talk about feminism all the time. Take an example from a few days ago. I was at a party, and talking about the Thinking Out Loud music video. I said something along the lines of “It really annoys me how to be considered attractive the woman has to wear a really revealing dress and jump around dancing while the man just stands there wearing a nice suit.” The guy next to me was like “Gosh Shanti, I think you’re overanalyzing it”—but I wasn’t, because sexism is just that insidious, and Holly Bourne shows how all these tiny things add up and up and up (like a pyramid).

“Fighting any harm is worthy. […] I realized that it takes a great deal more courage to fight for yourself than to fight for others. To confront your own pain, rather than everyone else’s.” -What’s a Girl Gotta Do?

“ ‘Feminism? There’s a test for that?” Would I pass? I quickly scanned my thoughts and feelings to check them for feminismness. The pay gaph makes me cross, and yet I wear make-up.”- Am I Normal Yet?

-The writing is really dialogue based

The writing is really engaging, snappy, and fits in with the characters. The dialogue feels really true to life and that makes these books enjoyable to read.

“ ‘You need to learn that every time you get to speak, doesn’t mean you get to monologue.’

‘But I’m so very good at it,’ I wailed.” -What’s a Girl Gotta Do?

-Nuances and complexities.

With all the issues that The Spinster Club deals with—feminism, mental helath issues, friendship, family, growing up, the media—there are shades and levels of complexity which make them so much richer, and just like real life. Nothing is simple, and these stories reflect that.

-They’re all out now!

You don’t have to wait for the rest of the books to come out.

What’s your favourite feminist book? Are you going to read these ones? Tell me in the comments! Also, have an amazing Christmas, even if the day isn’t a particularly special one for you.

books · shanti

Middle grade book recommendations

There are those days that happen to the best of us. The days when you don’t want to read an existential, angsty YA novel. You want to read something cute, and interesting and short and fun. Those are the days when you read middle grade novel, which means it’s geared towards 9-13 year olds. But it can be hard to know what MG to read when you haven’t been following trends for a while. These are some of my favourite MG books and why I like them.

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From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. This book has a lot of things going for it. Firstly, it’s set in a museum. (You may not know this, but I ADORE museums. Museums are amazing) It also features a fabulous sibling relationship. It’s set in 1960’s New York and the author does such a great job of bringing the setting to life. Claudia and Jamie’s amateur sleuthing and associated adventures will probably delight you. Read this if you want a story of siblings running away to an awesome place and having adventures there.

The True Meaning of Smekday. This book is honestly one of my favourite books of all time. It is hilarious, it has some awesome discussions of the role of race, there are aliens and Cats and Fake- Disney world and alien technology. It also uses a variety of formats—as well as your traditional prose, you have ‘photos’, pictures and comics which is fun. And did I mention it was hilarious? Read this if you want a fabulous story of a girl and her cat and her alien having to defeat the other aliens and find her mother.

Artemis Fowl: The Artemis Fowl series is almost a YA crossover, but when it’s starts it’s all middle grade. Artemis is a genius whose father has gone missing and his mother is seriously depressed. So he launches on the obvious course of action—along with his bodyguard, catch a fairy and ransom it for gold to use on a rescue mission. Artemis Fowl (the book) has one of the most perfect blends of science/technology and magic that I’ve ever seen, and it’s hilarious and it’s set in Ireland. Read it for a story of adventure, the definition of evil and flautulent dwarves.

Percy Jackson: You probably saw this one coming. It has sarcasm and myths and adventure and travel enough to satisfy anyone. The whole series is really fun, but start off with the first book to be introduced to Percy’s world. Read for a story of gods and evil and flying running shoes. ( I swear it makes sense)

Anne of Green Gables. Classic books for the win! Anne of Green Gables is a very character oriented story about a red-headed orphan who is taken into a home who thought she was a boy (it was the fault of bureaucracy) She is passionate and more than a little melodramatic, which gets her into all sorts of scrapes, but ultimately Anne is a story of finding friends and family where you thought you had none. It’s also hilarious, has lots of classic book references, and has an enchanting setting in Prince Edward Island. I read Anne many times through my childhood, and I’m thinking I might need to reread (out of curiosity, would anyone be interested in buddy reading with me? Or else I could convince Shar to do it…) Read Anne of Green Gables for a story about friendship, forgiveness and melodrama that is hilarious an amazing.

George: This is definitely the most recently published book on this list, and I only read it two days ago. George is perfect for when you’re feeling sad and need a quick read to cheer you up—it was only 90 pages in my ebook version. George uses some of the stereotypes of a middle grade novel—the school bully, the older and wiser brother, the single mum, the kind yet stern principal—to defy the biggest stereotype and tell the story of Melissa, a young woman who knows that know matter what the world and her body tells her, she’s really a girl. Melissa/George really wants to play Charlotte (from Charlotte’s Web­) in the play and with the help of the people around her (as well as some people who don’t help) she attempts to reach her dreams of performing. Even if you’re uncomfortable with the idea of transgender people, George is a well written and ultimately uplifting addition to the middle grade genre. I really enjoyed it. Read George for a beautiful tale of overcoming struggles and stereotypes, friendship, and finding belonging.

The Mysterious Benedict Society. For a middle grade book, it was on the longer side, but it’s really fun. It tells the story of four resourceful kids, all with different skills, who have to go to a mysterious school on an island at the bequest of an old man, to defeat the terrible things happening on an island. This book has lots of puzzle to it, and Kate is my favourite, but each character (Sticky, Constance, Kate and Reynie) has an interesting backstory and adds something to the team. I loved their adventures. Maybe as an older reader, you’ll spot some of the plot twists, but that doesn’t prevent The Mysterious… from being a bundle of fun. Read this if you like adventure and mystery and friendship all working together to defeat evil.

So what are some of your favourite books from when you were younger? Have you read any of these? Tell me in the comments!