For someone who works in publishing, I feel like I don’t read nearly enough. And I big reason for that is…TV (yeah, you knew where I was going with this). But it’s also that I don’t go to bed early enough and spend more time on the train to work on Facebook than reading. In the last week I’ve tried very hard to get to bed earlier and read in bed and either read or listen to a podcast on the train. I’m a bit afraid to even guess at how much time I spend on Facebook during a normal week. I’d guess it’s at least a couple hours a day when you add it all up…breaks at work, on the train, after work, etc.
Anyway, the point is, trying to cut down on TV and Facebook has allowed me to finish not one, but two books this week: New York Times Bestseller Born a Crime by Trevor Noah and Philippa Gregory’s The Taming of the Queen. Reading is a huge stress-reliever for me, as it allows me to enter another world and forget about my own for a while. It’s also has the potential to be very educational and mind-broadening, depending on the type of book. This is why I’ve been trying to add more non-fiction books to my TBR lists.
In case you’ve never heard of Trevor Noah, he’s the host of The Daily Show. He’s incredibly funny and smart, and I have to say it…insanely attractive. He’s originally from South Africa and Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood is set during and after apartheid. I picked up this book because I love Noah’s take on American politics, and his view as an “outsider” is typically biting and eye-opening. I went into reading this book not knowing anything about his background, and his story is heart-wrenching and empowering. He discusses how he was an outsider wherever he was, including with his own parents (due to him being half black and half white in a time and place that didn’t accept or understand it). If he was with his mother and saw a policeman approaching, she would have to pretend like she didn’t know him. And he barely knew his father for similar reasons. It was, at times, hard to read, but Noah always came through with his signature humor. I can’t recommend it enough, whether you’re a fan of his or even if this is your first introduction to him.
Here’s a summary from Amazon:
“Trevor Noah’s unlikely path from apartheid South Africa to the desk of The Daily Show began with a criminal act: his birth. Trevor was born to a white Swiss father and a black Xhosa mother at a time when such a union was punishable by five years in prison. Living proof of his parents’ indiscretion, Trevor was kept mostly indoors for the earliest years of his life, bound by the extreme and often absurd measures his mother took to hide him from a government that could, at any moment, steal him away. Finally liberated by the end of South Africa’s tyrannical white rule, Trevor and his mother set forth on a grand adventure, living openly and freely and embracing the opportunities won by a centuries-long struggle.
Born a Crime is the story of a mischievous young boy who grows into a restless young man as he struggles to find himself in a world where he was never supposed to exist. It is also the story of that young man’s relationship with his fearless, rebellious, and fervently religious mother—his teammate, a woman determined to save her son from the cycle of poverty, violence, and abuse that would ultimately threaten her own life.
The stories collected here are by turns hilarious, dramatic, and deeply affecting. Whether subsisting on caterpillars for dinner during hard times, being thrown from a moving car during an attempted kidnapping, or just trying to survive the life-and-death pitfalls of dating in high school, Trevor illuminates his curious world with an incisive wit and unflinching honesty. His stories weave together to form a moving and searingly funny portrait of a boy making his way through a damaged world in a dangerous time, armed only with a keen sense of humor and a mother’s unconventional, unconditional love.”
The New York Times also has a great review here.
I’ve always been a huge fan of Philippa Gregory and historical fiction in general. I love anything to do with royal families like the Tudors, the Ptolemies, etc. I’ve been reading Gregory’s books since I can remember, and she’s definitely my favorite historical fiction writer. The Taming of the Queen is about King Henry VIII’s final queen: Kateryn Parr. It’s a heartrending story because she is in love with another man but knows she can’t refuse the king. And it follows Henry’s steady descent into what one can only describe as madness. With lots of drama and risqué moments, this book does not disappoint.
Amazon’s description reads:
“Kateryn Parr, a thirty-year-old widow in a secret affair with a new lover, has no choice when a man old enough to be her father who has buried four wives—King Henry VIII—commands her to marry him.
Kateryn has no doubt about the danger she faces: the previous queen lasted sixteen months, the one before barely half a year. But Henry adores his new bride and Kateryn’s trust in him grows as she unites the royal family, creates a radical study circle at the heart of the court, and rules the kingdom as Regent.
But is this enough to keep her safe? A leader of religious reform and the first woman to publish in English, Kateryn stands out as an independent woman with a mind of her own. But she cannot save the Protestants, under threat for their faith, and Henry’s dangerous gaze turns on her. The traditional churchmen and rivals for power accuse her of heresy—the punishment is death by fire and the king’s name is on the warrant…
From the bestselling author who has illuminated all of Henry’s queens comes a deeply intimate portrayal of the last: a woman who longed for passion, power, and education at the court of a medieval killer.”
The Queen’s Fool is next on my list from Gregory.
I’m also currently reading Jane Steele, which is a reimagining of one of my favorite books: Jane Eyre. I found the concept very intriguing–Jane kills the people who torment her. Instead of accepting that she is “wicked,” she becomes what they accuse her of. I’m only about a third of the way through, but so far it is intriguing and fairly well written. It’s not a hard read, and if you’re a fan of retellings of classics, you may find this enjoyable.
What’s on your TBR list?
What are you reading right now?
What’s your favorite non-fiction book?