Books at the moment - Including The F Word Review

Right now I have a few books on the go (because, you know, that's just how I am).

The ones I am reading right now are:

The F Word by Lily Pebbles

I'm almost finished this one.
Lily isn't a writer. But the points she makes about friendship are so extremely important (and especially important to me personally right now) that maybe the writing doesn't matter.
I've watched Lily's YouTube / blog 'content' (I hate that word) for a long time now. Sometimes I am not really sure why. It's very womens'-magazine-y and usually about her favourite lipsticks or whatever. I think it's very easy to just watch these videos out of a general - very basic human - thing of being nosy. Sometimes I think we all just like the voyeurism of it all, or maybe it's the escapism, or maybe it's the aspirational-life-style thing. I know that the topics of the videos are a bit trite and it doesn't really sit well with the way I see myself: as educated, politically interested and aware, interested in a wide range of things, and not a massively girly girly girl.
Now, of course people should be allowed to like pink lipstick YouTube videos if that's what they want to watch, but it's a choice made within the context of years of oppression and an expectation that this is the sort of thing that women SHOULD like. Anyway, I digress. This is another blog post (I will try to write something more coherent on this later in April).

The point is that the world of the YouTube beauty blogger/vlogger is a strange one, and not necessarily one which I would say is full of deep wisdom.
That said, this book (written by one of these aforementioned beauty bloggers) is full of very important observations on female friendship.

Nobody teaches you HOW to be a friend. You don't get sat down with a 'how to' manual. It's something that you slowly work out for yourself, or that family / other friends guide you through.

This book said some things which should be obvious, but aren't, or maybe I hadn't really properly thought about before.
It was like listening to a very wise maternal-ish-person/older sister/older colleague over a cup of tea - and although I was not on board with ALL of the advice, most of the points made total sense to me. To read a whole book which valued female friendship, and looked at the ways that friendships work and the ways that you can nurture them, gave friendship in itself a kind of gravity. It gave me some sort of feeling of 'yes, this is an important thing, yes I do deserve to have friends, yes I should put effort into friendships just as much as I am putting effort into work or study, and it's not a 'treat' or something trivial to have friends: it is an important and essential part of what it means to be human'.

However, there are added complications to friend-making / maintaining right now - for everyone.
One of the things is the obvious: internet friends vs real life.
Interacting with friends online is a genuinely tricky thing to navigate, and has changed the way that we 'practice' friendship. Sometimes it is very easy to just watch people's Instagram Stories or Snapchats or posts online, and feel that you know what they are doing. But you haven't actually interacted or caught up with them, and it's probably not the full story anyway. Sometimes the public-ness of an Instagram post / seeing your friend do all these things that look very cool and exciting can even make you feel a little awkward or intimidated about making contact at all. Maybe it looks like they already have lots of friends or other places to be, and they wouldn't even have time for you anyway.
This book acknowledges this, and although sometimes I find it a bit clunky (like: 'now here's the internet bit!') and I wonder whether this was a deliberate decision by the publisher/editor, it is still an important thing to talk about. I really liked how honest Lily was, because a large proportion of the social-media-based worries or thoughts she had, I think are quite relatable and universal.

The book seems to be aimed at women in their mid twenties to perhaps early forties (?), and this is the precise age of women who may have semi-grown-up with the internet, but not entirely. We have known life pre-social-media, and now our friends are perhaps getting married or having kids, and this is all happening against the backdrop of the internet. It's difficult to know the right etiquette.
Even without the whole internet stuff, it's a difficult time anyway. You grow apart from people, they go their separate ways, people have kids... How do you keep your friends or allow the friendships to evolve? It's easy to get lazy with friendships or not prioritise them, especially when your mind is on your career or your relationship or whatever.
Especially for those in their twenties, this is the first generation that are potentially going to be earning less than their parents. The nice neat life trajectory of school-university-grad job-engaged-move in-kids-new house etc has been somewhat disrupted for a huge number of people. The number of people I know personally who are having to move back in with their parents, and away from their university / college friends, and feeling lonely and in a job which they could have done pre-uni - is huge. I think having a book that looks at friendship as an important thing to have in your life whatever you are going through, and even when your friends are all taking different paths - is a very important thing right now.

Lily comes across as a slightly perfectionistic / neurotic 'Monica'-type friend, so at times I found it hard to relate. In a way though, I think in order to be a 'good friend', you need to add in the occasional 'Monica' tendency. Some of the most loyal friends or the ones I have kept in touch with most, have been a bit like that. They are maybe quite unlikely friends for me, but they make a point of checking in with me, or make an effort to meet up and to listen. Sometimes they are annoyingly persistent, but at least I know that they are there for me, for when I am ready to meet up.
To not treat friendships as something casual and passing and impulsive, but also as deliberate acts. A contact which you are a purposefully maintaining with people who mean something to you. That's something I am learning, and this book helped to solidify for me.

It's not a sophisticated book, and at times paragraphs feel out of place, or there are parts which feel extremely childish or forced. Sometimes I was reminded of reading those girls magazines you used to get in the 90s/00s like Girl Talk or Go Girl or whatever, where you did quizzes and read the agony aunt columns. There wasn't Google then, or at least I wouldn't have had access to it anyway - so these magazines were the wisdom source. This book had a similar feeling - it was strangely comforting and genuinely helpful, but sometimes jarring and cringey with the little pictures which were annotated with fake 'handwriting' font.

In some ways, Lily came across as quite sheltered or perhaps just lucky, in that she was able to keep close friends with those who she met when they were very young, but she also seemed to not allow friends to move on or change. This determined sense of loyalty sometimes felt quite childish and I remember the whole section about one of her friends moving abroad and how betrayed she felt about this - it just seemed a little bit like the version of friendship I had aged 5.

But for me personally, (having had quite a confused friendship path with a great deal of difficulties along the way)  a very straightforward and uncomplicated look at 'how to be a friend 101' was maybe just what I needed.

Some elements of the book are tackled in a very cringey on-the-nose way - but I haven't seen anybody try to discuss these issues at all in terms of female friendship specifically. So maybe it doesn't matter how she has written about these things, but the fact that it has been written about at all.

(NB - I may update this after I finish the book, in case there are any huge things to mention from the last few chapters) 

Parallel Text Short Stories in Spanish

So I'm trying to learn Spanish. I don't know how helpful it is in terms of, like, jobs (because there are plenty of humans out there who can speak English and Spanish fluently), but it might be helpful in basic communication. I'm planning go to back to Central America soon, and I am going to Spain in April - so it would be cool to be able to have some proper chats in Spanish. This book is pretty cool because it has Spanish on one page and English on the other, so you can have a go at understanding the Spanish and when you get stuck, have a look at the English. It means that I go through this verrrrrry slowly, but I think it is helping. Maybe. A bit. If anyone has Spanish learning tips or ideas for resources, please do let me know. I am using DuoLingo and listening to the Coffee Break Spanish podcast by RadioLingua occasionally. I remember before I really liked the TeachYourself range - I actually learned quite a bit of Norwegian through it, so I might give it a go on the Spanish version. I probably need to just sit down and try to memorise verbs etc, because I think there's only so much you can do through sort-of soaking it up sub-consciously (listening to Spanish in the background etc).

Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury

This was lent to me by my friend Zoe, and it's just so beautifully written. She told me at the time that it's perfect for that Autumn-y feeling weather - and she is absolutely right. I started reading it around October or November, but now it's March. I have been quite rubbish (correction: I am usually quite rubbish) at sticking with books, and not getting distracted. I'm going to try to just finish this so that I can return it to her. So far, every sentence is exquisite - you want to savour the words and let them wash over you. It's highly imaginative (according to me) and a classic (according to my mum).

44 Charles Street by Danielle Steel

This was lent to me by my sister as a 'light' / 'magazine-y' read. I started reading this on the train down to Oxford the other week and it was nice in a way. Like reading a Haribo. But some of it was so absurdly bad in the way it was written, like - WOW - really so cliched. I found myself almost hiding the cover while I read it on the train, it just seemed so incredibly low brow. I don't really sympathise with or relate to the main character and find it all a bit ridiculous. Complete rich people problems and it's quite annoying to read at times. HOWEVER. I have continued to read it. I think it's a bit like when you read these magazines like 'Hello' or 'Reveal' or whatever. You know it's all pretty silly, but there is something quite light and escapism-y about the whole thing. So I will try to finish this, I think it's probably nice for me to read something which isn't serious for once.

Books that I have just got / about to start reading:

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

This was recommended by Zadie Smith when I went to see her at the Edinburgh International Book Festival in 2017. Therefore I HAVE to read it.

Why I'm No Longer Talking To White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge 

So many people talking about this one...

Television Was A Baby Crawling Toward That Death Chamber by Allen Ginsberg

This was part of the Penguin Modern small £1 book range (in a nice light teal / aqua / cyan colour). It's a collection of poems and I thought it might be a nice thing to dip into. I feel I haven't really read much Beat poetry, and this might be a non-intimidating introduction.

Why I am Not Going To Buy A Computer by Wendell Berry

Another one of those pretty Penguin Modern £1 ones. It just looked like an interesting title - especially given that it was written in the 1980s but seems just as relevant now.

The Secret of Chimneys by Agatha Christie

This was lent to me by my friend Morag for my journey home from London. I do love a bit of 'cosy crime' (although I do realise some people get annoyed by this term - but you know what I mean). I love all the Poirots and stuff like that. I recently went to see the new film of Murder on the Orient Express and it was really good, and I am definitely in the mood for reading a bit more Agatha Christie.

I have just finished:

I have just finished Swing Time by Zadie Smith and it was honestly one of the best books I have ever read. Spanning female friendships, mother-daughter relationships, growing up in London, diaspora / ethnicity / exploring roots, and the injustices of life.

You can also find me on GoodReads.

Any recommendations are ALWAYS welcome!

P.S. I'm thinking of joining a book group so if you have any tips for finding book groups or any Edinburgh-specific book club recommendations - that would be fantastic! (Feel free to Tweet or Instagram message me!)

P.P.S I am going to try to blog every Wednesday, Friday and Sunday (at least I will try to stick to this in April) - so keep an eye out on those days. The best way to stay updated is probably to like my Facebook page where I will post each new blog.

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