Travel has re-introduced me to the love of a good book. It beats technology hands down. You don’t need to charge it. It is mostly waterproof. It’s cheap. You don’t need headphones. And it takes you away to faraway places immediately.
But if you’re splashing our thirty dollars on a recent release, you want it to be good.
I have read a few books lately (and a very expensive magazine) and so I thought I’d let you in on my honest opinions about whether the read is worth it. Here’s my first installment. Hold onto your armchairs!
How To Be Famous – Caitlin Moran (Penguin)
I am a diehard Moran fan. I dream about her sometimes. She’s my arch-angel fairy godmother bringing feminist wisdom on my life. I’d probably marry her (if she’d have me).
I knew I’d like ‘How To Be Famous’, Moran’s follow up to ‘How To Be A Girl’. It is a fictionalization of her life and as such is packed full of Moran like wit. I was excited to read it but didn’t start properly until I was in London because I wanted to fully melt into the 1990’s London Moran depicts so artfully. Her observations through the eyes of Johanna Morrigan are wry, funny and often very accurate. In particular, her observations about sex, and the ability to have enjoyable sex (funny sex in particular) are spot on.
However, some parts of this book felt a bit re-hashed and I wondered whether Moran’s work would benefit from mixing up her narrative arc and experimenting something not based on her own experiences which we know largely from her feminist manifesto ‘How To Be A Woman’ (her best work still). I love her telling of her own life, but I feel like it has been thrashed a bit, like Jamie Oliver pizza base.
I did enjoy the vast majority of this book, especially re: bad-ass singer and friend of Johanna Suzanne Banks, who eventually shows her about the power of exercise to get high, and how the patriarchy are screwing them. Moran also uses Johanna to make many salient points about slut shaming, the de-valuation of female fans in a male dominated industry and re-inventing yourself to achieve your desires. However, the John Kite narrative felt long winded and predictable. It would be great to see what Moran has up her sleeve next, but nevertheless this is indispensable for fans of Moran.
I also adored that you could download a mix tape, and that the book looks like a cassette. Genius!
Journey to Health – Simone Anderson
Where I couldn’t get into ‘How To Be A Girl’ when I was tired and stressed by work, I devoured this book by New Zealand influencer and content creator Simone Anderson in a weekend. While I can’t say that this is Dostoevsky, I really enjoyed it and felt like it was very honest and well-constructed. It’s no wonder that it had ended up being a NZ chart topper. It’s a lovely, sweet and caramel lolly that just goes for long enough and delivers on the easy, enjoyable read it promises. I really enjoyed this book.
Where I did wonder whether we were hearing the entirely honest story was towards the end when Anderson explained how she started to build up her social media empire onto YouTube and begin working with brands. While I do believe that she wasn’t aware of her own value (as she’s mentioned this in the past) I did wonder whether she’s a bit more clued up than she lets on around expansion into different media and catching brands attention. Nevertheless, whether she did or didn’t wasn’t really too important.
I felt like I had a great respect for what Anderson had been through and the pain that some of her surgeries entailed. She has, no doubt, been very, very lucky, but she’s also tried to stay true to herself and seen opportunities when they have come up. She’s a genuinely nice person (based on a 30 second conversation we had at the New Zealand Social Media Awards more than a year ago) and I think, more than some people in the Kiwi blogosphere, Simone deserves every success that comes her way.
This magazine was something I felt like I should like, and again, I really wanted to like. It looks excellent on a coffee table and has lots of local cool girls singing its praises as a publication. It seems like it was made for me.
In its favour, it is an intelligent woman’s magazine which shows older women on its cover and looks very luxurious and bold.
However, that’s where my pro’s end.
This magazine costs a whopping $51 to buy. I repeat, $51!!! That is far more than a book or a typical airfreight magazine. I just can’t understand the price on any level.
I would say over seventy percent of it is also advertising. I felt that the journalism was a bit bland, and I didn’t love the editorial spreads. So while many have sung the praises of The Gentlewoman as the millennial magazine for a new generation, I feel like a lot of this could be cover-appeal and hype. I wouldn’t buy this again. I just think it is too expensive for how many ads there are in there. I’d rather buy English Vogue or Tatler.
This is New Zealand
This Is New Zealand explores the role art has played in asserting and questioning notions of national identity. It considers how our country has represented itself, and what those representations have included and excluded. It takes a critical look at the stories we have told ourselves—and the stories we have told others—about who we are.
I enjoyed this book as an accurate reflection of the recent City Gallery exhibition. It includes gorgeous full colour imagery of the pieces in the exhibition and a host of well-constructed art essays: Peter Alsop and Emil McAvoy, Anthony Byrt, Howard Greive, Rebecca Rice, Damian Skinner, and Jo Smith and Ocean Mercier all write on topics including ‘New Zealand on message’, ‘craft as soft diplomacy’, and the ‘fantasy of a free-market utopia’. If you are an art history geek, this is a great addition to the bookcase.