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Daily Archive: 18/12/2021



December 2021



My Year In Books 2021

Written by , Posted in Reviews

I’ve ended my reading year for 2021. And what a year it was!

I love to read. For the last nine years I’ve participated in Cannonball Read, and read at least a book a week each of those years (one year I read 104 books – that’s never happening again). I also love to spend time in independent bookshops, finding treasures I might never have noticed by browsing online. The first big outing my partner and I went on when we felt safe enough to be out in the world during the pandemic was to a bookstore. When I got a promotion last month, my partner gave me a card and treated me to a visit to a bookstore for MORE BOOKS.

I love that some books must be read in one sitting, while others are so heavy they need to be spread out, perhaps with chapters broken up by reading some lighter fare. In my attempts to avoid Amazon for books where possible I ended up ordering a very expensive copy of Lindy West’s ‘Shit, Actually’ from a retailer in the US because it wasn’t available in the UK. Totally worth it. Sometimes I want to read Icelandic mysteries; other times I’m interested in abolitionist writing that tackles some of the most complex issues in society. And sometimes I just want to look at a lot of pictures of abandoned buildings.

I love books.

So, let’s see what I read in 2021:

I read 53 books across 15 genres, with Sociology, Memoir, and Literary fiction in my top three.

68% of the authors I read (where race is known) are white, 15% are Black, and 10% are Asian or Middle Eastern. I read books with authors from 11 countries across all six continents (sorry Antarctica). As usual, I read about twice as much non-fiction as fiction.

I didn’t read any 1-star books, though there were a couple 2-star books. Most were 4-star, and nearly 20% were five star books. My favorites for 2021 are:

Mediocre by Ijeoma Oluo

Say Nothing and Empire of Pain by Patrick Radden Keefe

What We Don’t Talk About When We Talk About Fat by Aubrey Gordon

The Seven Necessary Sins for Women and Girls by Mona Eltahawy

I also got to visit more bookstores this year during that beautiful time in the summer when we were vaccinated and cases were mostly down. Those stores were:

Mr. B.’s Emporium in Bath (where I had an amazing Book Spa experience)

Calton Books in Glasgow

Connolly Books in Dublin

Housmans Bookshop in London

I’ve got a lot of book in my to be read pile, and a lot of time to sit around as I try to keep Omicron away. Happy reading to all!



December 2021



Going Dark by Julia Ebner

Written by , Posted in Reviews

Three Stars

Best for:
Anyone who wants to learn a little bit more about modern-day terrorism and extremism.

In a nutshell:
Author Ebner adopts different identities to explore – online and in person – different extremist groups, from neo-Nazis to ‘trad wives.’

Worth quoting:
“Almost everything is gamified today, and that includes terrorism.”

Why I chose it:
It just sounded interesting.

This book is interesting and deeply disturbing, but it also feels more like it should have been a multi-part investigative magazine series in something like The Atlantic. Ebner does attempt to create a lifecycle across the stories, starting with recruitment, then socialisation, communication, networking, mobilisation, and attack. And I appreciate that she explored many different extremist groups, but I think it would have been a stronger book if there had been aspects of different groups explored in each of the areas. Instead, she does a deeper dive into different groups (two per section, with their own standalone chapters), which doesn’t help much with seeing how the connections work across the same group.

The book ends with some predictions (some of which have more or less already come true) and some suggestions on how to counteract these extremist groups. But given that this book was published just last year, it feels almost sweetly naive in some ways. Not that Ebner herself is naive, but things have gone so bad so quickly – the 6 January insurrection in the US, the vile racist and xenophobic anti-immigrant laws passing in the UK – many of her suggestions seem like too little too late.

Recommend to a Friend / Donate it / Toss it:
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