This was a stellar year for bookworms. Both the non-fiction and fiction categories had some corkers, and as a lot of people have imminent feet-up time on their hands, I thought I’d compile a shortlist of my favourite books for you to sink your teeth into.
- Ikigai by Hector Garcia and Francesc Miralles. 2018 felt like the year of Japan, and that isn’t just because it was the year that I visited. Japan-themed books, events, and words seemed to seep into the British consciousness this year more than any before, and Ikigai was part of that zeitgeist. This small but perfectly formed book outlines that Japanese concept of living out our true purpose, AKA ikigai (iki meaning life, and kai meaning the realisations of one’s hopes and dreams). It’s a timely reminder to check our ladder is up against the right wall, especially as we’re approaching a new year.
- The Descent of Man by Grayson Perry. I’m a huge Grayson Perry fan, and another big theme for 2018 was gender equality, so this book made it to the top of my list. It’s one that I think everyone should read and would enjoy. If it were up to me, it would be on the school curriculum. Perry travels around the UK asking men about their views on masculinity and makes a strong case for its abolition. If you’ve never seen any of his TV series, then it makes a good accompaniment to this book, especially if you’re not British and don’t really understand our particular brand of masculinity and the weird nuances of our menfolk. This explains everything.
3. How Not to Die by Dr Michael Greger. Another theme for 2018 was veganism (yay!) and although I love all things vegan, whether they be cookbooks or blogs, rarely is there a medically based piece of literature that you can count on to give you the facts and figures you require. Dr Michael Greger fills this gap beautifully. His book outlines all the ways food can help prevent or even reverse disease, and argues a strong case for eating a plant-based diet. Ingredients like turmeric, tofu, broccoli, mushrooms and soya get discussed, but so do coffee, kidney beans and apples. Greger outlines what he calls his Daily Dozen – the foods that he makes sure he eats each day. What I love about this book is that everything is backed up with rigorous research and scientific data, so there’s no arguing with its validity (and many people will try and argue with you if you stop eating meat, I promise). If you’re looking to lose weight, fight an illness, or just to get a bit healthier, you can’t go wrong with this book. He has an accompanying recipe book and a website too, if you’re more of a YouTubey type person.
4. The Power by Naomi Alderman. I was a bit late to the Power party, but finally got around to reading it this year, and was very glad I did. It goes hand in hand with everything that’s floating around the ether right now – feminism, politics, gender equality and relationships. I had the joy of hearing Naomi Alderman talk at Latitude festival in 2017, and, when asked about her life as a writer and feminist, she said that she’s a huge advocate of women’s rights and the empowerment of girls. If you liked the Handmaid’s Tale then you’ll enjoy The Power as it’s set in an alternative world/dystopia, where women possess the power to kill. It looks at what the women do with this power, and how men react to it. The book took a bit of getting into, if I’m honest, and it was much darker than I thought it would be, but it’s one of those stories that grows on you, and needs to be read in context, in other words now.
5. Work Like A Woman by Mary Portas. I know this is another feminist-themed tome, but I sort of feel like society had it coming. For too long has this stuff been hush-hush, so it doesn’t surprise me that now the seal has burst we’re now experiencing a torrent of feminist/equality stories, podcasts and films. In the same year that Feminists Don’t Wear Pink and Mary Beard’s brilliant Women & Power made bestseller lists, retail expert Mary Portas’s book adds a slightly different slant to the narrative – namely, that women work differently to men. This should come as no surprise to most people, and yet walk into any work environment in 2018 and you’d be forgiven for thinking that things haven’t moved on since the ’80s. Mary talks frankly about how she used to have to “act like a man” in order to survive the cut-throat world of business, retail and fashion. But she could just as easily have been talking about the law, medicine, education, film, journalism, sport, finance, or so many other industries. Women DO work differently to men, and it’s about time everyone fessed up to this fact and then breathed a big sigh of relief. We all need to make room for each other and draw on each other’s strengths rather than forcing everyone to be the square peg in the round hole. Society will be a lot healthier for it.