Six books the library nabbed for me (and why I’m reading them)

I must have gone a bit mad a couple of weeks ago. While I don’t remember it, proof of this flaky episode was a series of library notifications delivered to my inbox last week alerting me that a(nother) book I’d requested was waiting for collection – six in total! I felt a bit overwhelmed after the visit to the library; I could only just carry all the books home.

Here’s a run-down of the six books I’ve now added to my (literally) towering book pile and why they’re there.

12 days, 4 books and a beach

Melbourne is in the depths of winter. It’s a little different to Glasgow winters – where I would look desperately at the day’s forecast and plead that the top temperature rise above 0 degrees – but it can be quite chilly.  Sometimes I have to wear gloves, as well as a scarf and coat. To escape this dreariness, me and my little family recently headed north to Queensland, like the humpback whales, for 12 days of excessive frolicking, lounging, eating and of course, reading.

On this holiday I read 4 totally different books:  Phone, Our Women Our Ways Our World, The Essex Serpent and The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly. Here’s a short review of each (and some gratuitous beach photos).

Resistance and Remembrance: Us Women, Our Ways, Our World

I had always thought, erroneously it turns out, that protests against Australia Day were a relatively new phenomenon. Yet since 1938 protesters have marched against the 25th of January being an Australian national holiday because it ‘celebrates’ Europeans landing on this continent. Known as the Day of Mourning, this 1930s protest was one of the first major civil rights gatherings in the world.

The genesis of NAIDOC (National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee) week lies in the Day of Mourning, but unlike this earlier day of commiseration, NAIDOC week now is a series of celebratory events. It’s this approach – one of recognition and remembrance, as well as resistance – that Us Women, Our Ways, Our World takes to investigating the lived experience of Aboriginal women, through fourteen different pieces of writing. It seems fitting to take a closer look at this book during NAIDOC week.

Six Degrees of Separation – from picnicking to murdering

It’s time for #6degrees! Adapting the idea the idea that everyone in the world is separated from everyone else by just six links, Kate W (one of my favourite bloggers) hosts a #6degrees meme for bookish types.

Every month, a book is chosen as a starting point and then it’s up to us readers to link it to six other books to form a kind of chain. It’s all a bit random, as the links between books can be as estoteric as you like – it’s fun to see where things take you.

At the starting block this month is Picnic at Hanging Rock by Joan Lindsay. In the first year of high school, my best friend was obsessed with this book. She would become emotionally unstable, in a way that only a thirteen year old can, if anyone hinted the book wasn’t based on real events.

Pompous and Ponderous yet Pretty Persuasive: When Nietzsche Wept

In the dark days of my youth, I trained to be a lawyer. As far as I’m concerned my brain is naturally inclined to be, and then was further pummelled into being linear, logical and only marginally creative.  For these reasons, when I have to contemplate the universe (by, for instance, trying to understand the relative size of the earth compared to the observable universe or the gravitational force of black holes) or when I have to ponder existential and philosophical conundrums, my brain really hurts. Give me the legal complexities of a snail at the bottom of a ginger beer bottle any day*.

So it was with some anxiety that I began reading When Nietzsche Wept by Irvin D. Yalom, M.D.  In addition to the intellectual title and the sombre bookcover, the author photo on the back of the book suggests a man not to be meddled with. He is clearly VERY SMART. Look at this:

Positioned alongside this imposing photo, the blurb tells us that Irvin D. Yalom M.D. is no less than a Professor Emeritus of Psychiatry at Stanford University.

Consequently, as I turned to chapter one I was fearful for my lawyerly brain.  How much existential grappling would this book demand? Would I survive the plunge into the (for me) unchartered realms of philosophy? Who was Nietzsche anyway?

Happily I can report that my brain and I survived When Nietzsche Wept. Although I didn’t necessarily enjoy this book I am glad I read it.