It was a non-fiction kind of month for me. I’d been swallowed up by the His Dark Materials trilogy so I think my inner reader was rebelling. Two of this week’s books did not already have a coveted place on my to-read list, but instead caught my eye at the time. Sometimes spontaneity is the only way! Plus, my mental health took a downturn lately so I was drawn to related topics. Anyway, March’s books were:
- The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman
- A Mindfulness Guide for the Frazzled by Ruby Wax
- The Brain: A Story of You by David Eagleman
- A History of Britain in 21 Women by Jenni Murray
The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman
“When you choose one way out of many, all the ways you don’t take are snuffed out like candles, as if they’d never existed.”
I was toying with whether to even bother reading the last of this trilogy because The Subtle Knife was pretty damn disappointing. But I like to see things through so I committed and, to be fair on the trilogy, I’m glad I did.
This was my favourite out of the three books. I have my criticisms naturally, but I did enjoy it. It was faster paced than the other two, making it easier to digest. Unlike the others, this one also made me think a bit more. I loved how when Will is using the knife, he has to practice mindfulness. As someone who practices this, it really interested me that in order for him to succeed, he had to accept his emotions about his mother, rather than run away with them or push them away. Will was clearly before his time.
The ending did disappoint me though. Mainly because it was a bit of an anti-climax, plus I really didn’t want Lyra and Will to fall in love. I really liked their friendship, and I was rooting for a solid opposite sex couple whose connection was purely platonic. But at least Pan’s final shape was perfect.
A Mindfulness Guide to the Frazzled by Ruby Wax
“Let’s make one thing clear: we’re not just addicted to drugs, sex or alcohol, we can also get addicted to our thoughts and feelings of panic, anxiety and despair.”
I learnt so much from this book. I’ve always been keen to learn more about how depression/stress actually affects the biology of the brain – and wow, did it fascinate and scare me. At one point I was like, “well my brain must be so damaged and I’m almost definitely going to die young”. But then she explained neuroplasticity and the positive biological effects that mindfulness can have on your brain. I learnt that my amygdala is a super-charged little shit with too much power. But I also learnt that I can change that.
Simply put, mindfulness is flipping hard. I have in the past and continue to practice it, but I’m still a massive amateur. But the way that Ruby Wax explains the benefits of it in this book was pretty damn convincing. I try to do it in almost every situation I find myself in because I know and have experienced the success of it.
We should be teaching children from the get-go how to train their brain in this way so they’re equipped with the skills when they need it. Everyone should have this skill, mentally ill or not. This book is well worth a read.
The Brain: The Story of You by David Eagleman
“Neurally speaking, who you are depends on where you’ve been. Your brain is a relentless shape-shifter, constantly rewriting its own circuitry”.
I have to confess, this was an audiobook and I did zone out sometimes, but I liked what I paid attention to!
I decided to read this because I was so interested in neuroscience after reading A Mindfulness Guide to the Frazzled. I don’t know why we aren’t told more about the science of the brain and mental illness when someone is diagnosed because, for me, it really helped to appease my guilt at having depression.
I’ve never been a science person. I’ve always leant over to the humanities, plus we so often get told in school that you have to be one or the other, rather than enjoying both. So I disliked learning science, but as an adult, I’m fascinated. The brain is amazing. It pretty unbelievable that it can do what it does constantly, no wonder it has some flaws sometimes.
If I hadn’t already learnt a little about the brain from Ruby Wax’s book before reading this, I think I would have struggled to enjoy it without keeping absolutely focused. But it was pretty accessible for the lay-man like me; so much so, that I think I’ll look for other books about the Brain and science in the near future.
A History of Britain in 21 Women by Jenni Murray
” Britain has been defined by its conflicts, its conquests, its men, and its monarchs. To say that it’s high time that it was defined by its women falls some way short of an understatement.”
How I haven’t heard of this book before, I do not know. This is so up my street! Half of the women featured in this book I’d heard of, the other half I hadn’t, either way, it was wonderful and features one of the most powerful pieces of writing I have ever experienced; Fanny Burney’s re-counting of her mastectomy.
This book needs to be on every little girl’s bookshelf. When I read books like this, I become so obviously aware of the lack of women role models I had as a child. Boys should also learn about these amazing women; just as little girls learn so much about successful men. But it’s not the same; young women need inspiration and idols to look up to and follow. All of these women were badasses who kicked butt. And I loved it.
I would have picked a few different people, but this wasn’t my book, it was Jenni Murray’s. I personally would have added: Mary Shelley, author of Frankenstein and child of Mary Wollstonecraft and William Godwin, Bernadette Devlin, Irish MP at 21 who I studied for my degree and personally inspires me to commit to my beliefs and values, and fictional character Leslie Knope from Park & Rec because if you’ve seen it, you know why and if you haven’t cancel your plans.
But that’s the point really, every girl should have a selection of amazing women who inspire them to reach their potential and they should be able to find them before they’re in their early twenties and go searching. The answer? Put this book on the curriculum.
Apologies for the lateness of this review, you’ll understand why if you read my latest mental health entry. Expect, a bit of sex and dystopia next month. As always, keep up-to-date with my readings on social media! (Links below 👇👇👇👇👇)
Happy reading! 📚☕️