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Hola readers!! I keep meaning to put together a list of 52 books to read this year and then talk to you guys about each one as I read them, but I decided it might be easier to break it down into what I’m reading by month instead!

– The Handmaid’s Tale –

The Handmaid’s Tale is my joint favourite book of all time, the other title holder being Rebecca. They are both striking horror stories from a woman’s perspective, and the other thing they have in common is that in both novels, we never find out the name of the narrator/protagonist, both their identities are obliterated by the men in their lives.

The Handmaid’s Tale is a story set in a dystopian alternate present in the United States. As a result of various exaggerated but real factors, such as a declining birth rate, an explosion of sexually transmitted diseases, and a perceived breakdown in family values and morality, the government has been overthrown by a totalitarian group calling themselves the Sons of Jacob. Overnight, women are stripped of their rights, drugged, brainwashed, and then forced into servitude in order to produce babies in an attempt to reverse the declining birth rate.

The book follows the account of Offred, a normal woman who becomes a handmaid. What’s most striking about the book is how relatable her account is – and I think that’s because the themes of coping with loss and grief are universal ones, no matter what the cirumstances.

In short, a stunning, absorbing, compelling and beautifully written book that everyone should read!

In defense of food

This is just a brilliant book which everyone should read and should probably be taught in schools! I’d recommend it wholeheartedly. It explores the way we in the modern world eat, how food has become marketed and ‘improved’ and the affects that all of this has on our bodies. However, this isn’t a hectoring book but one which calmly and simply lays out the facts and leaves you to draw your own conclusions. Some of the key take outs are –

  1. Eat Food – One of the most interesting sections is on new/improved food substitutes such as margarine – thought at the time to be a fabulous new health food to save us from evil butter. We now know that not only is fat not the dietary evil it was once thought, but that its far far better to eat butter than a substitute packed full of trans fats and chemical additives.
  2. Don’t eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn’t recognise as food – your
    never cooked with guar gum, carrageenan, mono- and diglycerides, hydrolyzed vegetable protein, modified food starch, soy lecithin and any number of other ingredients found in processed food. Neither should you.
  3. If you can’t pronounce it, don’t eat it – check the label.
  4. You are what your food eats too – This one is close to home for those who lived through the BSE outbreak in the UK and affects anyone who eats any animals, from fish (where mercury and other harmful chemicals accumulate through the food chain to the person at the top – you) to beef (where cattle are increasingly being fed on corn instead of grass, enabling it to fatten up more quickly, but causing unsettling changes to the meat and making it ever less healthy).

The Time Traveller’s Guide to Medieval England

I borrowed this book from Nial (thanks Nial!) after spying it looking interesting on his bookshelves. It’s absolutely fascinating, and turns history into something to be lived rather than explained in a rather boring fashion. A flabergasting fact for you – between 1300 and 1400, the population of England dropped from 5 million to 2.5 million as a result of a ceaseless wave of plague outbreaks. It must have felt like the end of the world.

– The Sisters Brothers –

Before I read this book, I assumed it was some kind of a family melodrama about the brothers of some sisters (I can’t help it if my brain thinks this way!). In reality, its a modern take on a western, featuring Charlie and Eli Sisters as the feared Sisters Brothers, a couple of hitmen for hire making their way to California, and towards a turning point in both their lives. It’s funny (in a black humour kind of way), as well as being touching and sweet and a little gross if you’re squeamish (I AM, especially where animals are involved).

What books have you read lately? Please make me some recommendations!