December has rolled round and with it prime reading opportunities. For this is the time of year when you can one-hundred-percent justify spending hours curled up on the sofa reading to your hearts content. I actually do this all year round, but I feel like it's especially legitimate over Christmas. What better way to recuperate after all the festive partying. It's also the time of year where a few gifts will probably be coming your way and who doesn't love the gift of a good book.
Of all my book posts, this month's post is probably the one I'm most excited to write. I have five book recommendations for you and they are all well worth a read (or a listen in the case of one). Over the past few weeks, I've travelled to America and to Spain, so that has meant lots of reading opporutnities in airports, on flights and even on a sun lounger. And as I'm a nervous flier, it's a testament to a few of these books that I forgot all about being on a flight when I was reading them. This month, you will find a mix of fiction, memoir and essay. These books have humour, happiness, sadness, social commentary and much, much more.
And in case you are new here, if you are looking for books to buy this Christmas for yourself or as gifts, just click here for the full round up of all my recommended reads for the year. Every month I post about four or five books that are all worth reading. Some are better than others and some are more impactful than others, but all of them I enjoyed.
As for this month, keep scrolling for December's book recommendations and as usual, if you have read any of these books, let me know what you thought in the comments box below x
Becoming by Michelle Obama
This book was one of two purchases I made in New York. Forget about jeans and make up, the first thing on my list was Michelle Obama's new book. I feel nervous when it comes to much-hyped books and famous authors. I fear that the reading of the book will disappoint and come as an anti-climax. But the former first lady's memoir does more than live up to the hype. It exceeds it. This is one of my books of the year. I love it so much. I could not put it down and I know I will re-read it again and again.
This is Michelle's own story from her childhood, her education, meeting her husband, having her children, being cast into politics, her life in the White House and her life after it. I laughed and I cried reading this book and I want everyone to read it immediately.... so I can chat about it with you all.
I felt so many emotions reading Becoming, It's funny at times and incredibly sad at other times. I cried when Michelle decribes her father's early death from multiple scleroisis. It's serious at times; especially when Michelle describes the weight of responsbility that goes with life at the Whitehouse. At times, I felt nervous. Perhaps when comparisons could be drawn with how Trump treats the office of President and how serious both Michelle and Barack Obama took their time in the White House.
Reading this book, I'm constantly struck by how smart she is and just what a good person she is. How seriously she took her role in policitics and how she balanced the commiments of being first lady with those of being a good mother. She is someone who loves her family very much, but cares deeply about others and took her role as first lady very seriously. While the book is very much about Michelle Obama, it does offer glimpses of Barack Obama and life in the Whitehouse. Into what it was like on the campaign trail and to how election nights and conventions work, all of which I found fascinating.
This is one book that you will want on your coffee table this Christmas and I'm kinda jealous of the treat that awaits those of you who haven't read it yet. A great Christmas gift to give to anyone in your life.
This Will Only Hurt a Little by Busy Phillipps
First of all, I'm biased when it comes to this book. I love Busy Philipps. I started following her on Instagram a year ago and now I'm pretty much obsessed with her. I never really understood grown women "fan-girling" over celebs and then rushing out to buy their books... Until now. Now I totally get it. When Busy Philipps wrote a book, it was always going to feature on an Honest Project reading list.
This book is candid. And I mean proper candid. Not the insta-contrived candid that's everywhere now. Busy has worked in show biz since she was a teenager and she shares it all in her book. From growing up in Arizona, her relationships, being raped at the age of fourteen, having an abortion while still at school to her relationships with her co-stars and to how women are treated in Hollywood. Busy Philipps does not hold back. And everything is told in an authentic and often amusing way.
When you are reading this book, you feel like Busy is your friend. Like she is telling you a story while you guys are hanging out. Everything feels real. Have you every watched a film or read a book, where you find yourself stopping every couple of minutes to google things. This was me reading this book. I never knew she co-wrote Blades of Glory. Cue me googling random stuff about the other writers. She writes about how awful she felt at the permier. Cue me googling pictures of her from the permier. She talks about her friendship with Michelle Williams. Again more googling for pictures of Michelle and Busy together. Yeap totally obsessed.
This is a really easy book to read. Maybe because it's written in a way that feels like Busy is one of your good mates.
Notes to Self by Emilie Pine
I started reading this book in the airport on my way to New York and had it pretty much finished by the time we arrived in JFK. It's a short book and each essay propels you to read the next and before long you will have read all six. And this is another read that I have Instagram to thank for. It kept popping up on Insta-stories, always with an endorsement.
The book is a collection of six personal essays from Emilie Pine. The first addresses her relationship with her alcoholic father and examines the complexity of loving someone who is an addict. The other essays recount the author's stuggle to conceive and the pain of her miscarraige, her parents' separation, the author's wild teenage years living in London; her drug taking and her rape as a teenager, her struggle with self image and her experience of misogney in the work place. Very often she explores things that women are usually encouraged to remain silent about from mensturation and body hair to fertility and childlessness.
The author is deeply honest about her own personal experiences. In one essay, she charts her experience with pregnancy and miscarriage in an Irish hospital system operating under the confines of the Eight Amendment. Strikingly the author talks about her awareness that her body was no longer private and it is in these writings that we fully appreciate the impact of the legislation on women and their bodies.
The essays are frank and honest, addressing topics that for many years and still to this day are not talked about in Ireland, yet topics that so many of us are familiar with and struggle with. This book is personal but in writing about her own deeply personal and private experiences of these common topics, you can't help but feel that the readers who are going through similar experiences may just well feel less alone in their struggles.
I think people will read this book and identify with parts of it and that this might be painful. But I also think it's important and it will help people them. I hope people read this book. It's an important book for both women and men to read.
Milkman by Anna Burns
Anna Burns won the 2018 Man Booker Prize for this novel and if I'm honest I feel like I liked the book, but was quite frustrated by it at the same time. The first thing I need to do is tell you that I found it incredibly difficult to read. Not because of the subject matter but because how it's written isn't a good fit for my style of reading. I'm an impatient reader, usually speeding through books. However, this book requires time to read, if that makes sense. At times it feels the words are a stream of consciousness where the narrator starts a story and then goes off on a tangent for quite some time before coming back to what she originally started writing about. I felt myself constantly re-reading parts as I felt like I may have missed the progression of the story.
Anyway, I wondered was I alone in this and then I saw online that someone else had felt the same and resorted to the audio verson to finish the book. I did likewise and was so happy I did. It's brilliantly narrated and the tone and pace of the narration makes the consumption of this book much easier as an audio book in my opinion. So my recommendation to you is to either read it patiently, giving yourself plenty of time or else to opt for the audio version from the start.
Milkman tells the story of an 18-year-old girl living in an unnamed place, that we believe to be Belfast. She attracts the attention of an older married man called Milkman. He is a senior paramilitary figure who is notorious in the area. The rumour mill goes into overdrive and before long the local gossips have them in a relationship. The truth is that she isn't involved with thim, but rather he has marked her as his property in a creepy and threatening way. She endures his unwanted attention, afraid to challenge him because of his paramiliary status.
This is a dark and strange novel about the Northern Ireland conflict. No places or characters are named in this book. The narrator is known as "middle sister". Other characters are "maybe boyfriend, "first sister", "third brother-in-law", etc. On one hand, this makes the book difficult to read but on the other hand it adds to the creepiness and sinister element of the book. There isn't a plot so much to this book. Rather, it's an insight what life is like for a young 18-year-old girl living in in a conflict zone, full of suspicion and tension, who ultimately just wants to mind her own business and do her own thing.
Heartland by Sarah Smarsh
Heartland is described as a "memoir of working hard and being broke in the richest country on earth". It also comes with the promise that, if you liked Hillbilly Elegy and Educated, you will like this book. The publishers, Scribe Publications contacted me and asked me if I would like to read it and to be honest this kind of book is right up my street. I love memoirs and I especially love ones that serve as a social commentary on society, in this case on American society.
Sarah Smarsh is a fifth-generation Kansan, of a working class family who ultimately chased an education and is now a successful journalist. The book is written as an address to her imagined daugther which makes it tender and also extremely readable. So much so that I read it in one sitting today. I had intended to read it a few weeks ago and include it in this month's recommendations, but with travelling a lot in November and with being caught up with other books, I didn't get a chance to read it until now. From the very first page, it's a book that brings you along and before you know it, you will be finished it. That's why, I'm thinking this is a good one for a Christmas afternoon where you want a few hours to yourself with a good book.
The author is a frequest speaker on economic inequality and really that and the class divide that exists in America is what this book is about. We are so used to hearing about the American Dream and America being the land of opportunity if you are willing to work hard. This American Dream is built on a belief that hard work and a little know-how is all that a person needs to get ahead. In Heartland, the author exposes the falsehood that is the American Dream, becuase for all the emphasis on hard work, the idea that it always pays off is just wrong. She writes "being as we got up before dawn to do chores and didn't quit until after dark, it was plain that the problem with our outcomes wasn't lack of hard work".
The book examines how commodity markets, big business, government policy and Wall Street have a direct impact on the lives of hard working Americans, yet for many of them these instititions are so far away and impentrable that the working American is powerless to influence them. The book gives an insight into how poor Americans are often the Americans that work hardest, but yet have endure the direct effect of a wide range of economic policies from welfare cuts, to housing, from health insurance privatisation to eductaion cutbacks while being powerless to influence them. She expolores how many Americans in poverty and in hard labour jobs actually vote against their own interests. How the people who work hardest are often the people who can't afford basic healthcare and are termed the "needy" and presumed lazy. To this end, she explores how different work is assigned different value and in particular how extremely hard labour is under valued.
Heartland is a rebuke to any view that poor America has brought their hardship on themselves through lazienss or a lack of hard work. A book that anyone who has any interest in American life should read.