Looking back over this month’s reading, I think there’s a common theme among all of the titles: that through resilience and self-examination humans can endure hardship. Whether these experiences come through the death of a loved one, the solo trek across a desert or unpacking the mysteries within our brains we can learn so much about our nature.
I think it’s fair to say that Tracks by Robyn Davidson has an important place in Australian text history. Forty years after her mammoth crossing of half of the continent with a few camels and a dog, and attracting such media attention in the process, says a lot about what women were perceived to be capable of and defying archaic, even sexist, expectations. This is why I’m glad she went into so much detail in the first third of the book as she documents her preparation to go on the journey. It makes the reader appreciate just how arduous – emotionally and physically – it was going to be. Inspiring.
If you’ve ever watched Joe Biden in an interview, you’ll probably be familiar with his easy, natural, expansive ways of telling a story and the case is the same in Promise Me, Dad. It’s not very often I read a text and can absolutely hear the author’s voice in my ear. It was almost uncanny. This is a lovely, touching book about the final months of his son Beau’s life, as Biden was also winding up his time as vice president and deciding whether or not to run for president in the 2016 elections. I had to imagine the kind of grace someone would need to have to handle that stress, let alone fielding phone calls from embattled and endangered world leaders needing help. He goes into a little detail about the US political system, but not in a way that totally loses someone quite unfamiliar with it (like I am). I finished missing him and President Obama even more than I already do.
The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion is a memoir but feels like much more than that. It has a mercurial quality, shifting back and forth in time effortlessly, in a way that isn’t jolting and the reader can keep up with – that’s hard to do, but Didion is a master of the craft. The book accounts of her first year of being a widow, while also caring for her very ill, hospitalised daughter, Quintana. (The tragedy only got worse, for Quintana died shortly before its publication.)
I’m only part of the way through The River of Consciousness by Oliver Sacks. This was his final book before his death and although many of the essays have been published previously, I am coming to them all with fresh, eager eyes. What a treat – and what a talent we’ve lost.
Bad Girls of Fashion by Jennifer Croll and illustrated by Ada Buchholc. is my final pick for this month. I borrowed it from the library in case Keira was interested (she wasn’t) and whether or not it might inspire an article idea (it did). I got a great introduction to some topics I – regrettably – need even more education on, like riot grrrl culture and the pussy riots. The inclusion of new icons like Rihanna and Tavi Gevinson was also a nice touch. I did spot a factual error – Cher won her best actress Oscar in 1988, not 1990 as the text stated. I know some people will argue it isn’t a big deal, but those kinds of details matter to me. The illustrations are great – bright and bold.
What are you reading this month?