Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Review: Only the Animals, by Ceridwen Dovey

There's a quote by Robin Williams' character in the movie August Rush which is, 'You know what music is? God's little reminder that there's something else besides us in the universe; harmonic connection between all living beings, everywhere, even the stars.' I came across this quote accidentally after reading Dovey's Only the Animals, and when I read it I thought it encapsulated how I felt about the book perfectly: it's a beautiful reminder that there is a connection between all things in this world which should be celebrated more.

Only the Animals is written from the perspective of animals who have been killed as a result of human conflict throughout the twentieth century; ranging from World Wars I and II to the Cold War to the 2006 bombing of Beirut. The animals, who each have a chapter devoted to them, also pay tribute to writers who wrote about animals in their career; from Leo Tolstoy to Virginia Wolf to Sylvia Plath. The result is an intricately woven collection of stories which are part imaginative mastery and part a timely reminder that humans have much to learn from animals.

It's this latter point that has pleasantly surprised me the more I read stories centred around animals (Martel's Life of Pi and Beatrice and Virgil are others). And the reason for this, which Dovey cleverly includes in her own book, is that there is sometimes 'no way [for humans] to say what...[should be said]...except by making that animal speak for them.' 

Thus on a number of occasions while reading this book, I was awed by the sheer power of the perspective an animal  provided. And while a human could just as easily have said these words, there's something curious and enigmatic about why they were particularly powerful because they were uttered by an animal. It's these sorts thoughts which Only the Animals spurred for me that I really loved.

I'll indulge myself now and add in my favourite quote from the book, which, once you've read it, may ironically not resonate with you at all. This quote is spoken by a turtle who grows up living with the Tolstoy family in Russia, is shipped to the UK to live with Viriginia Wolf, and finally ends up involved in the Space Race in the USA. Here the turtle is reflecting on the time he has spent discussing books with Tolstoy's daughter:

'I am aware that one person's insights and epiphanies from unique reading journeys are not always interesting to another, just as other people's tales about their travels mostly inspire boredom. I've wondered why this is for humans, and I've decided it has something to do with the perceived alchemical magic of the discoveries that books (or travel) enable: they are utterly private and idiosyncratic, and, to the person undergoing them, feel ordained, auspicious, designed especially for them at that particular moment in their lives. In a century during which many people have lost the religious framework of fatalism, it seems books have become signs to interpret and follow - this book has come into my life for a reason, the author is speaking to me and to me alone. And this, in a strange way, leads to people becoming evangelical about books. You must read this, they preach, forgetting that it was the way they stumbled serendipitously upon the book - finding it abandoned on the seat of a couch, or dusty in the attic, or neglected in a dark stack in the library - that was partially responsible for its powers.'

As I've already alluded to, this quote may not resonate with you at all, and I can appreciate the irony of it being used in a book review; after all the latter is a forum used to recommend books to you, which the turtle suggests is meaningless to everyone but the reader. Nevertheless, for me it captures the philosophical nature of the book and how well Dovey writes. And, fortunately for the reader, there's many more such thought-provoking quotes within her book.

Regardless of how you feel about book reviews, Only the Animals is an absolute treasure of a book to read and it will undoubtedly take you on an incredibly unique and enchanting reading journey.

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Review: One More Thing, by B.J. Novak

Sometimes I have bizarre dreams. Like the one where a guinea pig came to my workplace and started rollerskating down our corridor (don't worry, he was safe because he wore a helmet and elbow pads). Or the one where I was an astronaut being shot into outer space, though I was so scared during lift off that I passed out for most of the trip and only came to when I returned to Earth, only remembering the part where I got to push the big red 'take-off' button (that bit was thrilling). Or the one where Brad Pitt sat next to me at a show we were both at and when I accidentally bumped his knee I casually said 'excuse me' as if he was just a normal person even though I was totally excited that I was sitting next to Brad Pitt and had just brushed his knee (I played it so cool).

Well, One More Thing is kind of like these dreams of mine in that their content is quite random and will catch you off-guard, except it'll probably entertain you more. It's a collection of short stories written by B.J. Novak, the American actor, stand-up comedian, screenwriter, author, and director, who is most widely known for writing, co-executive producing and acting in The Office. The stories range from the re-telling of well-known tales (such as the story of a re-match between the tortoise and the hare) to original Novak-ian stories.

If you want to be highly amused and simultaneously have your appropriateness boundaries tested, then this is the perfect book for you. Take, for example, the story of the lady who goes on a date with a warlord. In it, the lady casually asks the warlord what's involved with being a warlord, and the warlord casually discusses how his job entails the occasional rape and murder of innocent civilians. While I'm open to hearing different perspectives of people offered in books, the casual off-handed way these serious topics are handled in this particular story really shocked me. But not in a way that made me want to stop reading the book (though I did consider it); rather I was impressed with Novak's gutsiness at writing about such taboo topics in the ways he does.

But it's not all 'let's push the boundaries and see how far I can test readers' reading; there are some really heartwarming stories in it too. Like the story of a man who dies and is reunited with his already deceased wife in heaven. The reunited couple fall in love all over again and go on some amazing adventures together, all of which take place in heaven. How lovely is that!?

One More Thing a great book for that friend who likes weird, twisted things, and/or the friend who likes to be challenged with the types of stories they read. The stories are not only entertaining because of their content, but also because of the way Novak has told them, with plenty of clever wordplay in it too.

It's bizarre, it's strange, it's very entertaining and it's definitely worth a read if anything I've just mentioned has intrigued you. DO IT.

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

My favourite books of 2014

Wow 2014 was big year for reading. It was a year that I intentionally decided to read more books written by women, and a year that I unintentionally read more non-fiction books than I have ever before. It was a year of reading lots of very top-notch books, which made narrowing this list down quite tough (technically I didn't need to narrow it down because there're no rules that say I have to have 5 books on this list; after all, I get to make up the rules. But 5 seems like the right number for this sort of thing, so I'm going to honour that feeling by only listing that number of books). So here's my list, this time in no particular order:

Only the Animals by Ceridwen Dovey

This is a book which I haven't fully reviewed on my blog yet, but I will be in the very near future because it was just so magical (I have since reviewed it here). I liken it to Yann Martel's Life of Pi not only because animals feature very heavily in it, but also because it's philosophical, highly imaginative and so beautifully told that it'll just take your breath away. It's a collection of short stories told from the perspective of deceased animals who have had some sort of connection with major historical events in the 20th century. It won the inaugural Readings New Australian Writing award this year and for very good reason. If you think that stories told from animal perspectives aren't for you then think again; this book deserves a chance.

Night Games by Anna Krien 

Another award winner, this time being the 2014 William Hill Sports Book of the Year award, Night Games carefully and intelligently follows the rape trial of a young AFL footballer and the politics and issues associated and raised with the trial. It provided me with a new insight to football culture, and while it didn't necessarily make me respect the culture of the game any more than I did previously, it helped me gain a broader perspective of the world that people heavily involved in the AFL come from. This book is a must read for anyone interested in the AFL and how women fit (or more often don't fit) into its culture.

Ducks on the Pond by Anne Summers

While this book's a bit of an oldie, it's definitely a goodie and by far my favourite autobiography I read this year. Reading Summers' autobiography felt like time-travelling to me: back to an Australia that was both full of hope and optimism following the second world war, but one that was also oppressive and sceptical of change. And Summers was right there in the middle of it all, protesting the Vietnam War, opening women's refuges with friends (funds which were raised by selling marijuana mind you - so badass) and fighting for women's rights. It's a captivating Australian story that should be known by many more Australians, so I suggest you go read it now.

A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing by Eimar McBride 

One of the most powerful and challenging fiction books I've read in a long time, A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing is the compelling story of a sister and brother's relationship and the fractured lives that they lead. Their fractured lives are cleverly reflected in the fragmented and stilted language which McBride uses throughout the story, making it an incredibly unique and remarkable reading experience. This book has won a couple of awards, the inaugural Goldsmiths Prize in 2013 and the 2014 Bailey's Women's Prize for Fiction.

Bewitched and Bedevilled edited by Samantha Trenoweth

This collection of essays critiques and reflects on Julia Gillard's term as Australia's first female Prime Minister and her treatment by the public, her colleagues and the media. The contributors range from politicians (Tanya Plibersek) to journalists (Tracy Spicer) to some of Australia's finest writers (Clementine Ford, Emma Maguire). When I went to pick it up just now, I couldn't believe how light it was because it has made such a huge and lasting impression on me, thus I was expecting it to be much heavier than it was. It's a must read for anyone interested in current Australian politics and how feminist issues relate to them.

Special mentions

Ok I couldn't quite leave this post without mentioning the following books, if only it's just their titles. After all I don't want a repeat of last year where I didn't mention a book and ended up thinking about adding it to My Favourite Books of 2013 post for a whole year. That was exhausting. So even though these books didn't quite make my top 5, they deserve a special mention because they were particularly great:

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Oh Christmas tree, oh christmas tree: 10 of the best book Christmas trees

I love Christmas and I love books. So what better way to celebrate the glory of the two than to bring them together to create...wait for Christmas trees! Who knew they were a thing?

Here are a few of my favourites that I stumbled across recently - I still can't believe it took me so long to find them!

Which of these is your favourite? Which of these will you be re-creating at home? Or do you have your own unique version you'll be making?

Monday, 1 December 2014

Review: Sweet Poison, by David Gillespie

Sweet Poison: Why Sugar Makes Us Fat is an investigation into why societies in Australia, the USA and the UK have become as unhealthy as they have. After all, our bodies have been designed after millions of years of evolution to control our energy intake so that we can function optimally. Yet, more and more people are becoming and remaining overweight and unhealthy, with their bodies no longer able to function as optimally as they once could. What has caused this obesity epidemic?

This is the question David Gillespie explores in Sweet Poison, which was inspired by his own personal experience of finding himself 40kg overweight despite having tried, and failed, many diets. After much research, Gillespie's answer to this question lies with sugar; specifically fructose which is a component of sugar. Gillespie's conclusion is that we are simply consuming far too much fructose, which is converted to circulating fat, causing many of the cardio-vascular diseases (CVDs) which people are becoming more and more diagnosed with.

How has this happened? Gillespie explains by saying,
'[F]ructose bypasses all of our appetite-control systems and jumps a critical step in our metabolism that would ordinarily stop our arteries from filling up with circulating fat. Eating fat still puts fat in our arteries, but we have a built-in control to stop us eating too much fat. No such control exists for fructose.'
Sounds too simple to be true? Well, admittedly I'm not a biology or digestion expert, but Gillespie's preceding chapters detail how fructose molecules end up bypassing the controls which tell our brain that we have had enough to eat.

The exception to this rule is when fructose is present in forms which contain fibre, such as whole pieces of fruit. Fibre lets our brains know that we are eating food, so you usually don't end up eating the food containing it in excess. Therefore it's important for fruit to be eaten in the forms it comes in, rather than in juiced versions, so that we don't consume it in excess. Otherwise it just ends up bypassing our controls which tell us we are full.

For example, while most people feel satisfied after eating one apple, they can easily drink one glass of juice (or more) since the latter contains much less fibre than what the former does. One glass of apple juice is the equivalent of four apples, thus containing four times the amount of fructose your body should consume at the one time. The excess fructose ends up being converted to circulating fat, making our blood more sticky and hence our bodies more susceptible to CVDs if such habits are continually repeated over time. So while you may feel healthy by drinking a glass of fruit juice, the reality is that you are probably consuming more fructose than your body needs, making it a less healthy alternative than what you may have originally thought.

This last point is also important as Gillespie emphasises that your body can't actually tell the difference between fructose that comes from fruit and fructose that comes in other forms (such as food containing table sugar). So, even if you do manage to eat four whole apples in a day, your body won't necessarily benefit from it as that excess sugar will simply be converted to circulating fat anyway. Therefore there really is no such thing as good sugar. Unfortunately there are no requirements for food labels to specify the amount of fructose contained in items of food, making it even more difficult for people to know how much they are consuming to better control their intake. Fortunately Gillespie provides some handy advice to help with this.

Gillespie also goes into the history of sugar production and the subsequent diet-related diseases that have evolved in the past 60-odd years. He delves into the dangers of consuming artificial sweeteners, many of which may be legal in some countries (like the US) but illegal in others (like the UK). He also points out the irony of governments investing millions of dollars in managing the effects of over-consuming fructose, instead of investing in the causes of the health issues in the first place. As Gillespie mentions, CVD prevention isn't particularly sexy for marketers to get onto the bandwagon of. But hey, if more awareness was able to be made about the dangers of smoking, then maybe there's hope for us yet with fructose.

Much of this may sound like doom and gloom, but I found it all fascinating. While many of the bio-chemical reactions Gillespie goes through went over my head, his discussion is still engaging and intriguing enough to sustain even the most biology-phobic of people.

At the same time I think it's important not to consider the messages of this book in isolation from other good nutritional information we are already aware of. Particularly as Gillespie pretty much promises that if you give up fructose then you will be guaranteed to lose weight. In fact, that was one of my biggest criticisms of the book - Gillespie's overemphasis on losing weight, rather than placing more focus on an overall healthy diet so that your body is healthy and so that you can live a good quality of life. Thus Gillespie's denunciation of exercise and lack of emphasis on other healthy eating habits really bothered me.

Nevertheless, if you take Gillespie's advice as less of a prescriptive diet guaranteed to make you lose weight, and more of an interesting perspective into an area of your diet you may have been neglecting then I think you'll get a lot out of it. Happy healthier eating!

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Very funny memoirs that I recommend you read right now

Recently there's been an upsurge in memoir writing. Everyone seems to be writing them these days. And as with any upsurge in trends, there're those who criticise them. In the case of memoirs, there's those who think they're pointless, self-indulgent tales of b-grade people adding little value to the lives of those reading them. Subsequently this lessens the quality and legitimacy of the memoir as a literary genre, which tends to irritate book snobs.

My main response to those views are that if you get irritated by the person whose memoir you've just picked up, then don't read it. It's really that simple. I'm aware that this goes against the title of this post, but I would seriously consider this option at risk of you spending a very angry few days fuming that you're reading a book about a person who gets up your nose. While this option does not guarantee the quality of the memoir you're going to read, it's a step in the right direction.

This is where I fortunately come in. Because I can almost guarantee that you'll be highly entertained by the below reads, particularly if you enjoy female comedy memoirs. Even if you're not entirely familiar with Kaling, Fey or Lawson's work, that doesn't really matter because all three memoirs are highly entertaining in their own right. But maybe not if any of these people make you want to rip your eyeballs out (refer to paragraph 2). In that case move on to a different post.

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (and other concerns), by Mindy Kaling

This was the first book I completely read on my phone as an e-book. I have a feeling Mindy would admire that, which is why I've included this information. But she would also hate that I'm drawing attention away from her memoir, so I'll respectfully stop talking about the fact that I read 487 pages on a 5cm x 10cm screen and continue with my thoughts on the book.

This memoir was laugh out loud funny on so many occasions, particularly because of Kaling's ability to squeeze in hilarious comments in the middle of her anecdotes, catching me pleasantly off-guard each and every time. And yes I realise Kaling is a comedian, and therefore you would probably expect this in a memoir that is written by her. But she does it so effortlessly and amusingly that it never got old and made me chuckle almost every time.

In amongst Kaling's hilarious quips and self-deprecating anecdotes, there's also a clear message that it's OK to be nerdy/quiet/ambitious/awkward. This may sound like a cliche message, but it's one that is so important in the ever-increasing perfection-seeking world we are living in. So kudos to you Kaling.

I promise Mindy hasn't paid me to write this review.

Bossypants, by Tina Fey 

I have one confession I must get out of the way before going on to discuss this book. And that is that I put off reading it for quite a while because the cover of it scared me. Those arms are just way too big for Tina Fey's face, and I'm still struggling to deal with that. I hate the fact that I feel this way, but I do. I hope I haven't offended anyone with big arms.

Fortunately when you read a book, you don't need to look at the cover of it all too often. Especially if it's a soft back, like this one was. Therefore I was able to conveniently fold the whole cover over itself so that I didn't have to look at it at all while reading the book. Which made for a much more pleasant reading experience.

Now that I've got that off my chest, I can continue talking about Bossypants, which was thoroughly entertaining and made me respect Tina Fey so much more than I did before reading it. Fey's memoir captures how all-encompassing working in the television industry is; how much one has to sacrifice if you're going to succeed in that industry; and how resilient you need to be to get through the crap times. But Fey shows us that it is all possible and has been worth it for her.

The book itself reads as if it's a conversation between Tina and you, except that you don't really get to talk. But if you're like me and you don't enjoy talking to people you don't know, then that suits just fine. My only qualm with Bossypants was that sometimes the passages read a bit awkwardly, but I can forgive Tina for that due to her witty funniness.

Let's Pretend This Never Happened, by Jenny Lawson

Welcome to the crazy-whacky-bonkers world of Jenny Lawson, best known for her award winning and very successful blog The Bloggess.

This was such a bizarre yet hilarious read, causing me to laugh out loud on many occasions next to strangers on trams who would shuffle uncomfortably when this happened. In fact, I don't think I've ever read a book that was so consistently funny. And what's even better is that most of the anecdotes in it are based on true stories. So the crazy/whacky/bonkers stuff written in it actually happened in real life.

Sometimes this meant that I had to take a break from the book just to give my brain some time to comprehend (and recover) from everything that it had just read. So reading the book was exhausting at times, but in a good way (kind of like exercise. And yes, if you're wondering whether I'm likening reading this book to doing an exertive workout, the answer is I sure am and you're welcome for this handy tip that is bound to keep you a lot less sweaty than what doing exercise would).

The best analogy I can come up with for reading this book is that it's like shrinking into a miniature person, crawling inside of Lawson's head, and having a crazy-ass kaleidoscopic party together with all of her fantastically erratic thoughts. Especially because Lawson's writing is so vivid and ebullient (thanks Lena Dunham); taking you on many unexpected and ludicrous tangents along the way. For example, it led me to: Googling whether raccoons wash lots (they do if they think it's food); learning about artificial cow insemination; Googling what bobcats look like; considering whether I should get a taxidermied animal as a household decoration; and being almost convinced that a zombie apocalypse could happen.

Yet subtly woven through Lawson's outrageous story is also the message that no matter how different you or your family are, that's ok, because you don't have to fit in. In fact, being different is fabulously glorified in this book. This, along with everything else I've just mentioned, makes it a bloody good book.

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Review: Not That Kind of Girl, by Lena Dunham

I'm feeling a bit conflicted about this book. Because I divulged it in 2.5 days. I devoured it like a kid who really likes cake eats cake, except I’m a young adult and the book was only visually consumed. I would have read it quicker except that I had other commitments to attend to, such as work, sleeping and eating. All of this would lead you to think that it's a bloody good book.

At the same time I was left slightly underwhelmed by the end of it. This, I want to clarify, had nothing to do with some of the absurd criticisms the book has received in recent weeks which are deliberately inflammatory and have taken Dunham's comments in her book completely out of context*. I read the book before any of them were made. It's just that it didn't completely kick goals for me.

Not That Kind of Girl is a memoir written by Lena Dunham, the 28 year old writer, director, screenwriter, producer, actress and feminist who has taken the United States by storm. Recently Dunham is most known for writing, directing, producing and acting in the HBO series Girls. Dunham, as well as her work, often polarises people, but I like that about someone - it's generally these people who make you really consider and evaluate where you stand on certain issues due to their lack of conventionality. This book is no exception, as I have alluded to already.

The personal essays in it range from Dunham's love life, to her rejection of school from a young age, to her transition to college and the harsh (and disappointing) realisation that life doesn't really get that much clearer as you get older. Dunham’s writing is so lively and so addictive that you just feel like you’re having a very entertaining one-way conversation with her. I was also particularly impressed with her use of vocabulary, which may sound strange, but I learnt some very neat new words which I had to Google and have included in the image here >>.

At times Dunham's reflections did have the sort of depth I was hoping for as well. Like what it's like to publicly share her body (which, on many occasions, is nude) with millions of others; living with high levels of anxiety; and how to 'play along' and be taken seriously in Hollywood without compromising your values. Then there is Dunham's account of being taken advantage of sexually and the awful confusion and disgust that follows. While I'm not an expert on commenting on such horrific experiences, I do think it's brave of Dunham to give a voice to them.

So then, what more was I after? For me, the book still lacked an element of depth I was hoping to get from it, and perhaps that's due to my own misaligned expectations. Yes, it did reveal lots about Dunham, which you would naturally expect from a memoir. But I think I was hoping for more broader feminist issues to be discussed in more detail in Not That Kind of Girl, particularly for someone with the sorts of experiences Dunham has had as a young woman in Hollywood. But maybe it's unfair of me to have put so much pressure on this book. Who knows?

All in all Not That Kind of Girl is still a book I would recommend fans of Dunham to read, particularly if you enjoy Girls and the character of Hannah Horvath, who Dunham plays in it. It's a funny, unapologetic and perceptive read, and offers a great insight into navigating the confusing world that Dunham's lived in.

And if you're wondering whether Anastacia's 2000 smash hit Not That Kind of Girl got stuck in my head each time I thought of this book, my answer is that yes, yes it did. I've been generous enough to include the song below so that you too can make the same association with it and enjoy the glory of the song while you're thinking of Dunham's book. I hope that neither Lena or Anastacia mind.

*I haven't included the link to the comments because I don't want to bias your reading of the book.

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

It's my birthday and I'll eat book-themed cakes if I want to

To celebrate the fact that Julia Blogs Books has lasted one whole year, and to help you work out which cake you should make me to celebrate, I've compiled a collection of flippin' awesome book-themed cakes. I've also provided suggestions as to the category the cakes fall into in case that helps you decide which one to choose. You're welcome.

1.  The cute-as-a-button cakes

I love these because they combine some of my favourite things into one edible delight - cupcakes shaped like teacups with a book on top. Just to clarify, I don't actually drink tea with cream and miniature books on top - I'm lactose intolerant. Also, actual miniature books would probably break my teeth. So if you select these, I would like the edible variety on top thanks. With lactose-free cream.

2. The I-could-totally-imagine-sitting-down-to-a-fancy-cup-of-tea-with-this-book-themed-cake cake

So classy, so chic. As the name suggests, this cake should also be served with tea in a fancy china teacup. As well as lace doilies on the table to complete the picture. Although I will definitely get crumbs (and possibly splashes of fancy tea) over the doilies so I do apologise for the mess in advance. I'm sure you'll understand.

3. The book-themed cakes for indecisive people

Remember how I've said that some books are so good that I just want to eat them? Well, it looks like this is the perfect alternative, especially for an indecisive person like me. 

4. The prankster cake

If this cake was given to me I would walk right up to it and to try pick up the book I was most interested in - probably Jane Eyre because I still haven't read it. I know, I can't believe I just admitted I haven't read Jane Eyre yet either, but it's true. Please stop judging me. Anyway, after attempting to pick up the faux book, I would end up with cake all over my hands and you would be angry with me because I'd have just ruined all of your hard work and there'd be a big chunk of cake missing and I probably won't have washed my hands so no one else would want to eat it. So perhaps this isn't the book-themed cake you should organise for me. Though I'd still be grateful if you did.

5. The nostalgic cake

This cake just makes me so happy.

6. The how-do-people-even-come-up-with-these-ideas cake

This is pretty freakin cool. Especially if the desk and lamps are edible too - shotgun those.

7. The ok-I-get-it-you-can-make-a-really-fancy-cake cake

The creme de la creme of book-themed cakes - it's ridiculously impressive, right? I'd be so chuffed if you thought I was worthy of receiving this cake that I'd feel eternally indebted to you. But that's not a feeling I'm entirely comfortable with, so perhaps we could avoid it altogether by you just choosing a less fancy cake to begin with you show off.

8. The failed attempt

Ok but I didn't mean for you to get me a cake so unimpressive that it's the laughing stock of all book-themed cakes. That's not very nice. But I give you points for trying. Only just. 

9. The I'm-pretty-sure-this-isn't-book-themed-but-maybe-it-is-so-I'll-give-it-the-benefit-of-the-doubt cake

This image came up when I was searching for book-themed cakes. I really want to work out what relevance it has to book-themed cakes because there has to have been one for it to show up in the search. Especially because no other cooked turkey pictures came up. All I've got at the moment is that perhaps it's based on a book about a turkey. A turkey who tries to escape his impending death by rounding up all the other farm animals and sabotaging their slaughter but isn't successful and ends up on his ranch's family dinner table that night - kind of like Babe but with a bad ending. What a depressing book; what sicko would want to immortalise that through cake? Nevertheless if that is the story it is commemorating, I feel conflicted about whether or not I would eat it since I am vegetarian, but if it was actually cake inside then I think I would. On the other hand, if it would just be a ploy to trick me into eating meat then I would be very unhappy and disappointed with you, you sick sick person.

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Review: Rudd, Gillard and Beyond, by Troy Bramston

I'll be the first to admit that this was a strange choice of book for me. But recently I've become quite interested in the Labor Party; a sentence I never thought I would utter due to my previous lack of interest in politics. In recent years that interest has been sparked, so here I am now writing this review.

Bramston's book is a short novella focusing on the last few months of the Labor Party prior to its 2013 election loss. As well as analysing the reasons for the ALPs demise, it posits some bigger-picture issues, such as the fact that the Labor Party was once 'the engine room of national renewal, the generators of change, the pioneers of reform.' Thus Bramston asks, what happened to stifle this?

Bramston outlines some key reasons for Labor's fall from grace, with Rudd and Gillard being the main focus. Bramston's view is that the Rudd-Gillard government was weakened by internal squabbling, little collective approach to decision-making and a failure to communicate a compelling story. Therefore Bramston's view is that the ALP is faced with the current challenges: it is beset with leadership anxiety, an identity crisis, and is no longer representative of the community. These are key points that the current Labor party must focus and improve on if it's to win the trust of voters again.

Bramston's book also paints Rudd as an uncontrollable egotistic leader. While these qualities of Rudd's have become more widely known since the ALPs 2013 election loss, I was still baffled by how out-of-control his behaviours were. One example Bramston gives is of Rudd changing his mind on policies in the minutes before announcing them to press without any prior consultation from anyone. Bramston includes the account of one campaigner from this time who states that 'people literally looked at each other and said, "What the fuck...?"' in response to Rudd's actions. It's outrageous to think that such erratic behaviour was evident in a political campaign from our prime minister.

What I disliked about this book is how unfairly scathing Bramston is towards Gillard, particularly on the back of discussing Rudd's aforementioned farcical behaviour. Yes, Gillard wasn't perfect. But Bramston goes so far as to say that Gillard had little to do with the policies Labor implemented during her prime-ministership, which is quite ludicrous when one of her biggest talents was her ability to negotiate deals with other MPs to get 561 bills passed through the parliament - an impressive feat for a minority government.

Despite this weakness, a strength of the book is the inclusion of interviews with the late Gough Whitlam, Bob Hawke and Paul Keating. Their comments on the Labor Party both past and present provide engaging retrospective insights which for the most part compliment the arguments Bramston posits in his book. Keating summarises the recent troubles Labor has found itself in well when he states, 'Good intentions are simply never enough. Governments must have good intention with the facilitation.' It's the latter that the ALP has been lacking in recent times.

This book didn't convince me to run out and become a member of the ALP, and I'm fairly confident this was not Bramston's intention. Instead it is a blunt, unapologetic critique of the bizarre events that led up to and shaped the fate of the Labor Party in the 2013 election. While there's a lot of work for the ALP to reinstate itself as the progressive party it once was, Bramston outlines a number of suggestions to combat this, making it a great pocket-sized chronicle for anyone wanting to know more about the current ALP.

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Review: Ducks on the Pond, by Anne Summers

I recently read an interview by Eleanor Catton, Booker Prize winning author of The Luminaries. In the interview, Catton explains the uniqueness of novels compared to other art-forms, saying that when you read a good novel, your mind and body become so wholeheartedly drawn into it that the experience is an all-encompassing one for the reader. Nothing going on around you matters, and you want to do all you can to stay in and continue experiencing the world that's being presented to you by the author.

This all-encompassing phenomenon is one I'm familiar with. And it's one that I experienced while reading Anne Summers' remarkable autobiography, Ducks on the Pond. For those of you who don't know, Summers is an esteemed Australian writer and journalist, best known for her involvement in feminist writing, editing and publishing; including The Misogyny Factor. It was actually after reading The Misogyny Factor that I wanted to learn more about Summers, and this is how I came across Ducks on the Pond. And it didn't disappoint. Set from Summers' birth in 1945 up until 1976, I felt like I was completely transported into her world and living a double life while reading it. 

Now you may be thinking - 30 years, that's an awfully short span for an interesting autobiography. Right? Wrong. Summers' numerous achievements during that relatively short amount of time is positively astounding. From becoming heavily involved in the Australian Women's Movement in the 1970s, to opening one of the first women's-only refuges in Australia, to publishing her first book (the controversially titled Damned Whores and God's Police), it's hard to believe that Summers achieved all that she did in that little time.

However, it wasn't an easy journey. Summers' recounts growing up in the oppressively conservative era of the 1950s, where 'there were only three things a woman could do: get married and have kids, become a nun or end up an old spinster' (p.69). She details the disillusion of having to select a pathway based on these rigid archetypes, as well as the various conflicts she faced when she did not meet the expectations of her strongly Catholic family. Summers eventually left home to pursue a more liberating life, facing many challenges along the way in a world which did not support independent women. 

But while Summers did face some tough, and at times distressing, challenges, she also recounts the happier times, such as what it was like growing up during the thrilling 1960s. This was one of my favourite sections of the book, namely because the 1960s is one of my favourite eras of history, and one which I would have loved to have grown up in myself. Reading Summers' vivid accounts of going to the concerts of Bob Dylan and first discovering the music of The Beatles, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin and Jim Morrison and the Doors was riveting - as if I had stepped back in time and was reliving it all with her. Summers captures the novelty and excitement of this era brilliantly, building up to the new ways society would re-think the social roles of men and women in the coming decade, where, to paraphrase Bob Dylan, the times they were a changin'.

Still, Summers doesn't try to gloss over how difficult it was to instigate change during this time. In this way Ducks on the Pond shed a new light on this era for me, by detailing how difficult it was for people to make changes. It can often be easy to get caught up in the excitement of the 1970s and how much change was happening then, while forgetting that there was still plenty of strong resistance against the causes people were fighting for. Nevertheless, reading about the sheer resilience and admirable persistence of Summers and her allies was inspiring and fascinating, making me question just how much effort people are willing to go to nowadays to protest against unjust causes. 

Overall Ducks on the Pond is the extraordinary story of how one woman refused to let the cultural and social boundaries of the time dictate what she could achieve. For it was Summers' firm belief in the right for women to be the subjects of their own lives which was the driving force behind so many of her actions. Summers herself realises how fortunate her life has been, largely attributing it to the power of education in freeing her. For, with education Summers says, 'I learned it was possible to have big dreams and bold ambitions. I could make my own life, and I would' (p.143). It's a fascinating, inspiring and powerful account of growing up in mid-century modern Australia, and is an Australian Story that deserves to be more widely read.

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Review: Destroying the Joint, edited by Jane Caro

The catalyst for the collection of essays that is Destroying the Joint: Why Women Have to Change the World was a comment made in 2012 by a male radio shock jock. I'm not going to mention his name - even though some of you may already know it - but I will tell you about the comment since it did set the context for this book. 

The comment was made in relation to the then Prime Minister Julia Gillard's intentions to donate money to women in the Pacific for the development of their leadership skills. This shock jock claimed that women were doing enough damage in the world already - specifically naming ex-Victorian Police Commissioner Christine Nixon and lord mayor of Sydney Clover Moore as examples - so surely we needn't be giving more leadership opportunities to women. In fact, women were doing so much damage in the world that they were 'destroying the joint', thus laying fame to this phrase. 

A cheeky tweet by Jane Caro in response to this shock jock's comment - 'Got time on my hands tonight so thought I'd come up with new ways to destroy the joint, being a woman and all. Ideas welcome.' - led to an unprecedented national response from women who were very much angry/disgusted/exasperated that such comments were (and still are) being made about them publicly in 2012. The women involved decided to unite, and so the Destroy the Joint campaign was born.

Thus the essays in Destroying the Joint are in response to this very notion of women 'destroying the joint'. They provide a variety of angles on this idea, such as whether or not women are actually in 'the joint'; whose joint it is that we are/are not destroying; who has a right to say whether or not we are destroying the joint; and, if we accept that we are destroying the joint - as this doesn't have to be a negative thing - whether or not we should take more pride of destroying it.

Written from political, social, environmental, creative, educational and disability perspectives, Destroying the Joint provides a variety of lenses through which this issue can be viewed through, as well as how it relates to wider feminist issues. The way the essays are written make it very accessible for those curious to learn more about feminism and it's vast scope. For me, they provided a solid introduction into avenues of feminism I'd like to pursue further.

I guess my next question with a book like this is how to keep the conversation going? And how do we start including people that might not normally pick up a book like this so that they can enter and be part of this conversation? Because I believe that's so important if we do want more action to take place to help feminist messages spread and start having more of an impact on everyday life for women and men. Now, I don't quite know the answer to this question I have posed, but I do know that I want to keep engaging in these issues and conversations so that change can become more of a reality.

I'll finish off by including some cracking quotes from the contributors to Destroying the Joint so that you can get a taste of this fantastic collection of essays. 

Michelle Law:
'Being a feminist is not about despising men, or overtaking them...Feminism is about despising an idea. And the idea is that women are unequal to men. It is that they deserve or should expect the kind of sexism, misogyny and mistreatment that they receive. It is that any women who rejects this treatment will be met with aggressive, irrational and sometimes unintelligible scorn. When we are destroying the joint, we are calling out sexism and misogyny.'

Catherine Deveney:
'The truth is, there is not one feminism, but many feminisms. And just because you are pro woman does not mean you are anti men. I think one of the main reasons I am a feminist is because I love boys and men so much and I have hated the way society has expected them to live, love and be. Feminism is not anti men. It's anti arseholes, misogynists, pricks, creeps, thugs and bigots.'

Senator Penny Wong
'We live in the same Australia, we share many values, but our experiences and therefore our perceptions of reality can be so different. If we are to understand across these differences, we have to be capable of more than tolerance. We have to try to imagine another's experience and to do so with imagination, compassion and respect.'

Overall, Destroying the Joint is very much an informative, refreshing and entertaining insight into current Australian feminism and one which I very much recommend.

Want more?

Keep engaged in the conversation by following the Destroy the Joint community on Facebook or Twitter.

I've also recently discovered Cherchez la Femme, a fantastically entertaining and engaging feminist podcast that I also highly recommend you check out.

Monday, 14 July 2014

Review: A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing, by Eimear McBride

Wow. I'm stumped. Speechless. Lost for words. Except I want to, need to, write some in this space. So that I can share this unique book with you.

Adjectives that come to mind are: startling; intense; jagged; brutal; unapologetic; transfixing; haunting; poetic; beautiful; brilliant. I've not read a book that has made me feel so dazed yet so powerfully moved after reading it as A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing has.

It's the story of a girl, her brother, love, abuse, and everything else that happens along the way. The way that Eimear McBride tells this story is astounding, as she goes beyond conventional language structures to do so. And McBride does so so exquisitely, taking the reader on one hell of a ride.

That's all I'm going to say. Because that's all that needs to be said.

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Review: Night Games, by Anna Krien

I have to admit, football is not my favourite topic to talk about, let alone read about. But in saying that, the particular culture it tends to promote - that being a highly masculine world where players are given an almost god-like status - is still one that I find somewhat fascinating, perplexing and at times disturbing. So when I discovered Anna Krien's Night Games, I was hoping to get an insight into these issues of sex, power and sport that have intrigued me.

Night Games follows a rape trial involving the Collingwood Football Club in the aftermath of the 2010 Grand Final against St. Kilda. Krien uses this trial as a lens to explore society's attitudes towards rape; gender and power imbalances in male-dominated sports; and how problematic it is that these attitudes remain accepted in everyday culture. It's like Krien has held up a giant mirror panel through which the trial is originally refelcted in, dropped it so it shatters, and then we the readers are left to pick up the pieces and put it back together again. Though each time we pick up a piece, our own images are reflected in the pieces themselves, reminding us that our own ideas and experiences will always influence how we view particular scenarios. The glass piece itself is never perfectly whole again either - lines from where the pieces join up are still evident so that the original scenario can never be viewed in the same way again; and some of the pieces have gone missing so that we can never truly know the full story. 

That's what reading Night Games is like, with Krien highlighting how fragmentary trials, particularly rape ones, can be, and how many shades of grey are involved with trying to understand the act of rape itself and the actions of the people directly involved. It's what I most enjoyed about reading Night Games, with the shades of grey Krien gutsily explores extending to attitudes towards sex and power in sport. It's very risky territory and Krien is very aware of this herself, stating, 'You've got the rapist or the liar...and by trying to seek out a shade of grey I'm protecting one of them' (p.258). She goes on to state:
'It is as if there's a fear that venturing into a grey area to discuss the complexities of consent and rape will unravel some forty years of feminist spadework, that people will be unnecessarily confused by any such discussion. But surely feminism isn't that fragile. And isn't it obvious that people are already confused? For despite the law being clear on the definition of consent, neither the police nor the public prosecutors seem to have much faith in a jury's ability to convict in certain cases, even if they do satisfy the legal criteria.' (p.259)

Thus, this very issue of how to delve into these shades of grey is a central theme of Night Games. The issues that unravel are many, including, but not limited to ideas that:

  • Thinking a women is asking for it when drunk can be just as bad as thinking all footballers are badly behaved jocks and potential rapists. 
  • AFL is one of the few male-only sports codes in the world that boast a large proportion of female supporters. Yet the gender and power imbalances are still so vast. Why? 
  • Are football 'groupies' complicit in promoting rape culture? Or are they examples of sexually empowered women?
  • Boys, as well as women, are used, abused and discarded in football, though obviously in very different ways.

Krien is so well read and justifies the positions she offers with such clarity and conviction that as a reader you feel that she is representing the issues in a very fair and honest manner.

Night Games, as Krien states towards the end of the book, is not anti-sport. After all, not all footballers, let alone sportsmen, treat the people they interact with poorly. But what needs to change is the 'men who use sport as power and the people - teammates, fans, coaches clubs, doctors, police, journalists, groupies - who let them do whatever they want.' Night Games is one gripping insight into this complex, multifaceted world, and has allowed me to begin seeing the shades of grey where I once didn't. 

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Review: The Stupid Country: How Australia is Dismantling Public Education, by Chris Bonnor and Jane Caro

Why are private schools called 'private' when they receive substantial government funding? Why are public schools considered the lesser option out of private and faith-based schools? Which types of schools deserve government funding the most? What are the consequences if some sectors receive more government funding than others? These are the sorts of questions raised in Chris Bonnor and Jano Caro's provocatively titled, The Stupid Country: How Australia is Dismantling Public Education.

Bonnor and Caro's main concern with Australia's current education system is that we are perpetuating social and class divisions through our current arrangement of schools. For, Australia has the highest funded, but least regulated private school systems in the world. This is placing increased pressures on the public school sector, which is highly regulated yet is struggling to keep up with policy demands and the ability to cater to the diverse needs of students enrolled in them. Bonnor and Caro propose that our system is so unsustainable that more and more public schools will be forced to close down in the coming years, meaning that free access to education will become less and less available. Is this the sort of future we want for our country?

Before unpacking this idea further, Bonnor and Caro explore how Australia has come to this predicament. They suggest that an unwarranted hysteria has been created about the quality of Australia's education system, which actually isn't as bad as it's been made out to be. However, politicians and the media have incessantly played on the fears and anxieties of parents, who are made to feel increasingly uneasy about their role as caregivers and the security of their children's futures. These fears are so influential that just as 'you can't hear terrorism without thinking war, you can't hear public schools without thinking they need to be fixed' (p.44). All the while, the private school and faith-based sectors continue to flourish. 

Federal politicians in particular have been adding fuel to the fire of debates regarding who most deserves federal school funding, often defending their financial support of private schools (public schools are state funded). John Howard's encouragement for schools to be free markets - where parents are entitled to choose where to send their children based on whether they're willing or able to pay school fees - and the supposed lack of values prevalent in public schools sewed the seeds for the current generation of parents concerned about how to ensure the best futures for their children.

But is it really that bad if parents who can afford to send their children to private schools do? Absolutely, Bonnor and Caro argue. After all, a successful and prosperous society relies on all citizens having access to quality learning, as well as learning how to live and work alongside a diverse range of people. Public schools help this cause as they 'build the social capital and the social bridging that keeps our society and communities together, and create a stable and prosperous society' (p.224). As Bonnor and Caro point out, this is why the public education system was created in the first place - to ensure that everyone had equal access to quality education, no matter what their personal circumstances were. '[T]hey are the best way we have found to help overcome the inevitable inequalities that are visited upon all of us at birth' (p.168). Unfortunately our governments don't seem to support these same values.

Not only is the deterioration of our public education system bad for the fair and cohesive development of a nation, but Bonnor and Caro also suggest that it is a poor economic choice for parents to send their children to private schools. Interestingly, they claim that private schools don't actually offer students any advantages in terms of achieving high results compared to if the same student attended a less prestigious school. While comparisons of end-of-school results may cause people to argue otherwise, the fact of the matter is that there will always be different trends in results of private vs. public schools when the former hand-picks students and/or has students attending the school from (generally) more privileged backgrounds. They also site research which claims that high-achieving students aren't actually that disadvantaged from being in classes with lower-achieving students, whereas there are many benefits of the latter being in environments with the former. The perks of private schools simply tend to appease the anxieties of parents wanting to send their students to a school with a particular reputation and a particular demographic of students, rather than having any definitive benefits for student outcomes.

The issue with all of this isn't that private and faith-based schools exist in the first place, because they do and they are here to stay. The issue is the social divisions they are creating, which is all funded by the public purse. Neither private schools, the people that work there, nor the parents who send their children there are necessarily to blame for our unravelling education system. Rather, it's our governments and politicians who have a lot to answer for, as they have continued with this unsustainable model. For, as Bonnor and Caro point out, 'Governments should be making sure that public schools are so well resourced that there is no need for parents to feel they must sacrifice their time, energy or standard of living to access decent education' (pp.116-117). Unfortunately this hasn't been the case.

Therefore the purpose of this book is not to pit each system of schooling against each other. Instead it unpacks the myths and sheds light on the issues which have become highly politicised by the media, so that Australians can start an informed dialogue regarding how we can improve our education system. Given that the most successful education systems in the world are cooperative, rather than competitive in nature, these are the models we should look for inspiration. For, the latter is proving to be detrimental for the success of our students and nation as a whole.

Overall, The Stupid Country is a highly insightful exploration of how Australia's education system has become what it is today and the consequences of these decisions. I've only just scratched the surface of the many compelling issues raised in the book, which itself is only an introduction to them. Thus The Stupid Country is a very important read if we are to understand what changes should be made to better our education system, so that Australia does not become the stupid country.

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Review: The Misogyny Factor, by Anne Summers

The 1970s were an extraordinary time for women. Finally, they were speaking out and taking action for matters that were specific and important to women; letting society know that how they were being treated was not ok. 

Fast-forward forty years later to 2012. Australia has its first female Prime Minister, a female Governor General, as well as a number of female MPs. While this progress is something to be proud of to some extent, how far has Australia really succeeded in terms of women's issues since the 1970s? That's the question Summers explores in The Misogyny Factor.

Summers begins with the matter-of-fact statement that despite the aforementioned 'achievements' of women, the state of women's affairs in Australia is little to gloat about. Sure, more women are in positions of leadership than ever before, but to what extent does that reflect society's acceptance and support of women in these positions? Just how inclusive is Australian society of women, particularly in terms of workplace involvement?

Not very, argues Summers. After all women's workforce participation, disparities in pay, the little number of women in senior company positions (which in Australia happen to be some of the lowest in the developed world for ASX listed companies), and domestic violence are all still issues affecting women despite four decades of attempts for change. In other words, the misogyny factor, which is the 'set of attitudes and entrenched practices that are embedded in most of our major institutions...that stand in the way of women being included, treated equally and accorded equally,' needs to be overcome. Importantly Summers notes that the misogyny factor is not only perpetuated by men, but by women as well. 

For example, Australia's childcare system isn't particularly accommodating to women, who tend to be the main carers for their children. In fact, it's as good as disapproving of working mothers. Why else is there no alignment between work, family and schools, not to mention a lack of affordability and accessibility, for families needing to send their children to child care? Unlike in countries like France, whose child care services are state regulated and tend to be close to schools where siblings might attend so that mothers don't have to drive across suburbs to pick up their children from various locations.

In terms of equal pay, the lifetime earning prospects of women who have spent years at university is still significantly less than men who have spent the same amount of years at university. This was one of the most shockingly pertinent points for me as a young woman, particularly when Summers states that, 'simply being a women is the major contributing factor to the [pay] gap in Australia, accounting for 60 per cent of the difference between women's and men's earnings.' To put those percentages into direct monetary figures, NSW male law graduates earned $70,300 in 2009, as opposed to the significantly lower figure of $63,500 that female law graduates earned with the same qualifications. How is this still happening in 21st-century Australia?

Summers discusses a myriad of other ways that women are excluded from full and equal participation in Australian economic and public life: if women do poorly in their job, the whole sex shares the blame; if women on Boards decide to make changes they are disliked; and if women are in positions of leadership, they are likely to have gotten there by behaving like men (which is hardly the point). Summers asks why can't the army - an organisation that orders to kill - order to not sexually attack its female members? And then there's Summers' discussion of Julia Gillard's prime ministership, and the many ways she was subject to sexual discrimination, sexual harassment and bullying. All of these points, and many more, make for an incredibly engaging read. 

If the economic potential of women was properly unlocked by appropriate support from local, state and national levels, it would have substantially positive effects on Australia's economy. If this also happened globally, then the effects on the global economy would be astronomical. In fact, 'the Economist points out that the increase in the employment of women in developed countries during the past decade has added more to global growth than China has, and that's a lot.' Hillary Clinton mentioned this at the 2011 APEC Women and the Economy Summit - facts that you can't feel anything but baffled by. And yet, for some reason, little is being done to continue unlocking the economic potential of women. Why on earth is this the case?

Summers doesn't necessarily offer any clear-cut solutions to these issues, for they are understandably too complex to be discussed within the 160-odd pages of this book. What Summers does do is offer a rational, intellectual discussion of where things have gone wrong, where proposed changes should start, and why it is so important for these changes to happen. This frank, unapologetic book is a must read for anybody curious about the issues facing women in contemporary Australian society, and it'll surely leave you wanting to know more, as it has for me.

Want More?

The Wheeler Centre recently held a session called 'Women at Work' - another insightful discussion about women's opportunities in the workforce. Listen to it here.

Wednesday, 30 April 2014

5 ways I know I'm reading a bloody* good book

Working out the difference between an 'I-don't-regret-the-time-I-spent-reading-that' type of book and an 'oh-my-gosh-wow-I'm-going-to-treasure-that-forever' type can be difficult. Or, more accurately, books that fall closer to the latter's end of the spectrum - and which therefore could be classified as bloody good - can be tricky to confidently ascertain. For, how can you be really sure that a book deserves such an esteemed reputation? 

After much research and consideration, I have compiled a foolproof checklist to use when determining whether a book truly belongs on the OMGWIGTTTF scale. I hope it'll be of as much assistance to you as it'll be for me. Here we go.

5. I'll want to hold it lots.
Just like some children take a beloved toy with them everywhere they go, I'll do the same with a bloody good book. It's partly because I'm trying to absorb the book's bloody goodness as much as possible. And partly because I want to show it off. It's more than that too, I just can't articulate it all in this small space. All I know is that if I can't be reading it, holding it is enough to keep me happy.

4. I'll become a little bit obsessed about it.
If you see me using a computer or spending lots of time on my iPhone while I'm reading a bloody good book, then you can be pretty certain I'm finding out whatever I can about it. I'll want to know when the book came out, what people thought of it, whether any films have been made about it, and what different cover designs exist for it. That's only the beginning. Sadly I don't have a particularly good ability to remember much of the facts I do learn, but I really enjoy them at the time.

3. I'll read during any spare minute I've got.
That's right. I'll read while I'm walking to walk. I'll read instead of watching a TV show I really enjoy. I'll even read in the shower (that's not true, but if it were possible I would). The only way to tear myself away from the bloody good book is during non-negotiable parts of my day, such as work or eating dinner. Otherwise my eyes are glued to the book.

2. I'll read past my bedtime.
Now I know what you're thinking: all avid readers will read past their bedtimes. Right? Wrong! There's nothing more I like than getting a good night's sleep; and often a book won't even keep me from achieving this. But if it's a bloody good book, I will most definitely read past my bed time. I'll even look forward to doing so, convincing myself that the grumps which will manifest themselves in me come morning-time will be highly worth it. Now that's a bloody good book.

1. I'll eat the book.
I won't. But if I could I probably would. That's how highly I admire a bloody good book. Isn't that what happens when people really really like something - they just want to devour it? Like that saying, 'it looks good enough to eat'? Well, with bloody good books, I feel like they're good enough to eat. And I would if I ate books. Which I don't. 

* I was hesitant to use the word 'bloody' initially - it can sound quite vulgar. However, after much thought and deliberation (you could even say too much thought and deliberation), and when used in the passionate, Australian sense that I wanted to use it in, it was actually the only word that properly captured the essence of what I'm describing. 

Read more: