“The reading of all good books is like conversation with the finest (people) of the past centuries.” – Descartes
March was a good month – I’m really happy with most of the book picks. They have opened my mind to new concepts and topics that I didn’t know much about. That’s the beauty of reading a book to me. Yes, you can read an article to know the salient points of a subject but when you read a book, you immerse yourself in it, then you truly understand the subject. It has made me realise that I should venture into more diverse book genres and topics. I mostly read non-fiction books from Self Help, Finance and Behavioural Economics, but I think the key points could get repetitive after a while. So I think moving forward, my book picks would include at least one book on a more random topic – especially on a particular social issue or trend.
Book Count : 5
BOOK OF THE MONTH: Know my Name by Chanel Miller
An honest and personal account of a Sexual Assault Survivor – the book details Chanel Miller’s experience of being sexually assaulted and her emotional journey in trying to navigate her quest for accountability and the slew of judgments from the public. This is my book of the month because it is such an eye opening read, it will help you truly understand the birth of the ‘Me Too’ movement, how its foundations are made out of a million stories like Chanel’s. Through her journey, we examine the toxic ways in which we as a society judge women – how women are typically held to more unreasonable standards of purity. If a woman was attacked, it’s not uncommon to see comments like “why was she walking alone at night?” “Why did she have so much to drink” “Well she should have known” – the focus of the blame is often the woman itself, and on the flipside we may see sympathy for the man “What a waste of his future all because of a silly mistake”. This book forces one to reckon with the damning narratives we have in our society and the sort of behaviours we endorse through our lack of action.
I have been fortunate in my life, to be out at night and still return home safe. I know I am more privileged than many women out there. The closest scare I’ve had to a physical sexual assault was when I was returning from work late at night (11pm). I had taken the public transport, which meant my car was parked at a barren carpark in a dark train station. As women we are told to keep alert at night when we are alone, talk to no one, make eye contact with no one, hold your phone in case you need to call for help and walk fast. So I did, it did all of the above. I reached my station that night; the station was empty but me and one man. I walked quickly past him, trotting along quickly to my car when I heard him yell at me – “Why you walking so fast?? You scared I’ll rape you?? walk lah, walk !! walk faster!” – This shocked me. I feared for my safety. Who in the right mind would hurl such remarks at a woman late at night. He continued yelling at me as I picked up my pace to my car. When I got into the car safely, I could see him still glaring at me at a distance. As I drove away, I couldn’t help myself and broke down in tears. I felt so vulnerable, so helpless and so fearful of being raped, being attacked or worst, being killed. This is a drop in the ocean of what other women out there face, but it is a taste of what every woman may face at any point in their lives.
I would highly recommend this book. I cannot possibly do it justice with a short review, and it’s best you read it from her own words – so eloquent and so moving. It’s a story of turning pain into power, it tells not only the story of Chanel Miller, but so many other women out there. Meanwhile, I will also link to the powerful statement Chanel made in court.
The most important takeaway from this book is that in a series of sexual assault cases, it’s never just about the perpetrators – it’s about the system and culture that ALLOWS them to do what they do and then struggle to make them accountable. On this note, I recently also watched ‘Athlete A’ – a Netflix Documentary on the sexual abuses made by Larry Nassar. It it really cemented the takeaway.
With that, I will end my review with a quote by Margaret Atwood I once came across : “Men are afraid that women will laugh at them. Women are afraid that men will kill them.”
Other books for the month:
Show Your Work!, by Austin Kleon
Show Your Work! will reshape the way you view the work you put out to the world. Jam packed with life lessons and inspiring quotes, Kleon makes his case on sharing – the route to greater success. I found the writing style to be engaging and quotes to be hard hitting, as I contemplate on the many life lessons within the book. Certainly an important read for all, especially for those with Impostor syndrome. Here are my 5 favourite takeaways from the book.
Why Nations Fail, by Daron Acemoglu & James A. Robinson
This was a really heavy and lengthy read, exploring the origins of Poverty and Prosperity for Countries all around the world. The Author posits extractive political and economic institutions is the root cause of Poverty and failed states, and how Creative Destruction which is part and process of a Nation’s growth will be met with resistance if it’s not aligned with the interests of those in power. The book provides extensive evidence of how these central themes play out in various countries across history. This book would be well suited for those interested in Politics and History.
I personally found some parts of the book pretty dry and was more interested in examples from the recent decades (perhaps I find them more relatable), but overall I found it to be an eye-opening read. Some interesting stories I took away were Argentina’s Corralito scandal where the Government had expropriated 3/4 of people’s savings as a result of worsening Country Debt, how Botswana managed to nationalise precious metals (instead of rights being vested with the tribe), escaping the fate such as Sierra Leone where Diamonds fuel conflict among groups, earning the label ‘Blood Diamond’.
Barefoot Investor, by Scott Pape
A light-hearted take on Finance; how Pape imparts his wisdom is definitely different from other books within this genre. The book breaks down 8 basic steps to financial freedom, with the most notable lesson being how we should bucket our expenses: Blow(what we spend on), Grow (for investing) and Mojo (emergency funds).
However, the reason I only gave this book only 3 stars is because it isn’t very relatable to me. I found the content and examples very centred for Australians and a huge part of the book focuses on home ownership and how to get out of debt, of which it doesn’t really resonate with me at this point. I think this book would better suited for those venturing into Personal Finance for the first time, and hoping to find some guidance and inspiration to get out of debt / own their first home.
The Night Swim, by Megan Goldin
A thriller centered around a rape trial in a small town; we follow the story of Rachel, a famous investigative journalist who is in town, covering the trial for her Crime Podcast. When in town, she receives a slew of mysterious letters – pleas from a fan to relook into a mysterious ‘accident’ of her sister, 25 years back. It’s a gripping read; as readers we follow the grueling journey to uncover what happened in the past, and how the rape trial would play out, as the two cases eventually converge.
Goldin also did a terrific job discussing the themes of justice and problems with the rape culture- on how divisive the subject of rape is in society. In fact, this is the book that got me to read ‘Know My Name’ in the first place, because the way the Rape trial played on pique my interest to know more about this subject and to understand the real life struggles behind the women who were sexually assaulted. I think it’s a great gateway fictional book that all women should read.
The pace of the book keeps you at the edge of your seat as we alternate between Rachel’s POV, the letters and the podcast. I devoured this book in a day. Would recommend !
Year to-date as at Mar’21 Book Count : 14
Check out my other monthly reviews for more suggestions on what books to/not to read 🙂
See you in the next review! xx