All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Review: All Our Relations by Tanya Talaga

All Our Relations: Finding The Path Forward
Tanya Talaga
House of Anansi Press
2018, 320p
Read via my local library

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}: In this urgent and incisive work, bestselling and award-winning author Tanya Talaga explores the alarming rise of youth suicide in Indigenous communities in Canada and beyond. From Northern Ontario to Nunavut, Norway, Brazil, Australia, and the United States, the Indigenous experience in colonized nations is startlingly similar and deeply disturbing. It is an experience marked by the violent separation of Peoples from the land, the separation of families, and the separation of individuals from traditional ways of life — all of which has culminated in a spiritual separation that has had an enduring impact on generations of Indigenous children.

As a result of this colonial legacy, too many communities today lack access to the basic determinants of health — income, employment, education, a safe environment, health services — leading to a mental health and youth suicide crisis on a global scale. But, Talaga reminds us, First Peoples also share a history of resistance, resilience, and civil rights activism, from the Occupation of Alcatraz led by the Indians of All Tribes, to the Northern Ontario Stirland Lake Quiet Riot, to the Standing Rock protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline, which united Indigenous Nations from across Turtle Island in solidarity.

Based on her Atkinson Fellowship in Public Policy series, All Our Relations is a powerful call for action, justice, and a better, more equitable world for all Indigenous Peoples. 

This is the sort of book that feels like it should be mandatory reading.

It focuses on the higher-than-average rate of suicides amount young, indigenous populations in countries like Australia, Canada, the United States, Brazil and even Finland. Quite a few of those countries have a lot in common in that they were colonised a few hundred years ago and during that colonisation, there was a systematic attempt to wipe out the people that were already living in those lands. Although that didn’t work, they have then been forced onto smaller and smaller parcels of land, had their children removed from their care ostensibly to provide a “better life” which often resulted in episodes of terrible abuse. Then there’s the mental trauma of being removed from their families at young ages, denied their culture, forbidden to speak their languages.

All in all, this behaviour that took place over decades, has created generations of traumatised indigenous families who are exposed to suicide at a young age and those exposed often go on to take their own lives. There are cycles of abuse, alcoholism and drug addiction. Those of indigenous background often have access to subpar health and education, are discriminated against for employment opportunities and are victims of systemic and ingrained racism.

There are a lot of really terrible statistics in this novel (all references cited in the back) and I’m not going to regurgitate them here but it makes for incredibly uncomfortable and devastating reading. I know a little about the atrocities committed in my own country, how those of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island identity have been treated, how in many circumstances, they are still treated. They represent a small, tiny increment of the population but are incarcerated in much higher numbers. They are incarcerated for much less serious crimes and are more likely to die in police custody. There was a Royal Commission into Indigenous deaths in custody established over 30 years ago during which almost 400 recommendations were made. Despite this, little has changed.

A lot of the information concerning other countries was new to me, particularly Canada and Brazil. I had no idea about the boarding schools that were created in Canada (although I have read about ones in the United States before), where children were forced from their families and made attend. These schools were often run by religious groups and the stories about the abuse and treatment of children supposedly in their care are horrific. Likewise I had no idea that hospitals for indigenous people only were established – these did not provide what you might call, exemplary medical care.

It doesn’t really seem a stretch to understand that removing children from their family units and forcing them to deny generations of teachings isn’t in people’s best interests but the colonisers were nothing if not determined to convert indigenous people if they couldn’t wipe them out completely. And that included religious conversion as well, which seems to really have been pushed in a lot of these places – it was often the same here as well, Christians going into Aboriginal camps and trying to convert them by any means necessary. It’s really hard not to resent organised religion when you look at the damage that has been done in so many places – not just these countries but you look at places like large swathes of Africa, the Pacific Islands and who knows where else.

The result of all of this are communities that are suffering. Young people are committing suicide in numbers many times higher in these communities than they do outside of it. It’s children as young as 12, some of them are making pacts in large numbers. I cannot imagine children of this age even knowing how to do such a thing. My oldest child is 12, my youngest is 9. Their contemporaries in these communities are exposed to this knowledge and readily able to replicate it and it’s just so incredibly sad that this is what children feel is an option for them. Mental health treatment seems so under resourced in so many areas, even when it’s identified that individuals need help, often it’s just simply not available. There needs to be a lot more funnelled into it, made a priority, especially in areas where people are most vulnerable. This book talks of elders and qualified people in communities begging for assistance, especially in Canada. The author is Canadian so that’s a lot of the focus, but the problems in other countries help solidify the issues and basically support the hypothesis on the long term causes.

Eye-opening, informative and distressing but written without being trauma porn.

(I’m choosing not to rate this but I think it’s the sort of book everyone should read and try to understand).

Book #70 of 2021

All Our Relations was read as part of my participation in the 2021 NonFiction Reader Challenge, hosted by Shelleyrae @ Book’d Out. It’s the 4th book read for the challenge and will be used to check off the prompt of Indigenous cultures.

1. Biography

2. Travel

3. Self-help

4. Essay Collection

5. Disease

6. Oceanography 

7. Hobbies

8. Indigenous Cultures

9. Food

10. Wartime Experiences

11. Inventions

12. Published in 2021

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Review: Around The World In 80 Trains by Monisha Rajesh

Around The World In 80 Trains
Monisha Rajesh
Bloomsbury
336, 2019
Read via my local library

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}: When Monisha Rajesh announced plans to circumnavigate the globe in eighty train journeys, she was met with wide-eyed disbelief. But it wasn’t long before she was carefully plotting a route that would cover 45,000 miles – almost twice the circumference of the earth – coasting along the world’s most remarkable railways; from the cloud-skimming heights of Tibet’s Qinghai railway to silk-sheeted splendour on the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express.

Packing up her rucksack – and her fiancé, Jem – Monisha embarks on an unforgettable adventure that will take her from London’s St Pancras station to the vast expanses of Russia and Mongolia, North Korea, Canada, Kazakhstan, and beyond. The ensuing journey is one of constant movement and mayhem, as the pair strike up friendships and swap stories with the hilarious, irksome and ultimately endearing travellers they meet on board, all while taking in some of the earth’s most breathtaking views.

From the author of Around India in 80 Trains comes another witty and irreverent look at the world and a celebration of the glory of train travel. Monisha offers a wonderfully vivid account of life, history and culture in a book that will make you laugh out loud – and reflect on what it means to be a global citizen – as you whirl around the world in its pages.

This was another book I specifically chose for the 2021 Read NonFiction Challenge, hosted by Shelleyrae @ Book’d Out. I also really like trains – I’ve caught the train between Melbourne and Sydney and also used the train that runs between Sydney and Brisbane to get from both Sydney and Newcastle to where my parents live. I would love to take the Ghan, a train that runs straight up the middle of Australia from Adelaide to Darwin. I’d also like to take the Indian-Pacific, which runs east/west across the country from Sydney to Perth. However, train travel is very expensive and these are luxury do-if-you-win-Lotto type of things. There are numerous train journeys overseas that sound really interesting too, so I thought this book would be a lot of fun.

The title is a bit misleading, as there are huge portions of the world that Monisha and her fiancé Jem do not visit, including most of the Southern Hemisphere: anywhere in Africa, Australia, South America etc as well as the Middle East are not represented here but there are quite decent portions of Europe, Russia, Asia, Canada and America. It also includes the pretty surprising North Korea, which does allow tourists to travel around the country by train, but only as part of a specific tour group and they are kept mostly away from the North Korean public.

I’m the first to admit that I’m not particularly adventurous – I don’t like ‘roughing it’ and I have pretty specific dietary restrictions that mean a lot of options are removed for me so travelling as Monisha does is something I enjoy reading about but wouldn’t particularly be able to do myself! A large portion of the trains are not exactly luxurious (it seems for one they are booked onto the wrong train, the ‘locals’ Trans-Siberian rather than the one the tourists use) but they enjoy this experience, even if some of the parts it comes with (like not the cleanest of amenities) are worthy of complaint.

There are parts I enjoyed about this much more than others: I think some of the train trip through Russia, especially around Lake Baikal, was interesting and I also enjoyed Canada (but honestly, expected much more description) and found journeys into places like North Korea and Tibet as well as the portion in China where the Uyghurs are really good also as it made Monisha reflect on her contributions towards the oppression of peoples by giving money and touring, gawking at locals like animals in a zoo. She has the opportunity to talk to people, get their opinions (such as the half Tibetan, half Hans Chinese woman in Tibet) and experience the way they’ve been raised, versus what we on the outside are being told. She’s welcomed by several in Tibet because although born in Britain, she’s of Indian heritage and Tibetans are grateful for the Indians who shelter their Dalai Lama, who has been unable to return to Tibet since the 1950s. I also really enjoyed the travel through Kazakhstan, which is a country that has interested me since I read On The Trail Of Genghis Khan by Tim Cope.

But there were other parts of the story where I felt I got bogged down in names of cities and towns and trains and where it felt infinitely less interesting. The part journeying through America was disappointing and although I enjoyed what there was described of Canada, I thought it could’ve gone much deeper. Parts of the journey get glossed over and look, they spent seven months doing this, I know you cannot expect descriptions of every single thing they see but I could’ve done with less about the sitting around reading or talking about how cramped the bunks were, which got a bit tedious around the time they got to double digits in number of trains taken. The part on Japan and the railroad was a nice inclusion of history and it’s balanced out by the horror of speaking to the daughter of a survivor of both bombs. Japan also provides a nice contrast because their trains are renowned world-wide for being highly efficient, running on time to the second as well as being immaculately clean and tidy and populated by polite travellers.

I know that separating this into stories focusing on each area doesn’t have the same ring to it, but I felt like it might’ve been an idea so that it didn’t feel like so much of a blur. I only just finished this and I’m struggling to recall what happened where. It was however, a nice way to read about places I’ll never actually visit, particularly North Korea. Even though I understood the author’s conflict about it, it was incredibly interesting to get a glimpse of such a closed country.

I’d definitely read Rajesh’s other book, Around India In 80 Trains which I feel might be a little more cohesive as it is at least, confined to the one country.

7/10

Book #59 of 2021

Around The World In 80 Trains counts towards my participation in the 2021 NonFiction Reader Challenge, hosted by Shelleyrae @ Book’d Out. It’s the third book I’ve read so far and I’m using it to tick off the category of Travel.

1. Biography

2. Travel

3. Self-help

4. Essay Collection

5. Disease

6. Oceanography 

7. Hobbies

8. Indigenous Cultures

9. Food

10. Wartime Experiences

11. Inventions

12. Published in 2021

Despite getting off to a bit of a late start in this challenge, I’m doing pretty well now! I’ve read 3/6 books as I chose the middle level but like last year, if I get that completed I will do my best to complete as many of the 12 prompts as I can.

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Library Haul March 2021

I’ve been living in my current suburb for almost 11 years now and one thing I’ve always loved about this area is the local library. When I moved here, I think there were 2 or 3 branches. There are now five. All the branches are very popular and the library does really well with providing access to a wide range of materials. For most of last year, all of the branches were closed. You could still get books but you couldn’t return them, so chances are even though you could request books and have them delivered, if someone had the book you wanted, they would end up being able to keep it for up to or a bit more than, six months. But now, finally, all the branches are open again! Borrowing is back to the normal length of time. You can go in and browse!

I actually had probably not browsed the shelves, in years. I would request things, go in and pick them up when they were ready and that was it. But because I couldn’t browse for almost a year, when the library reopened again, it was one of the things I really wanted to do! It felt like such a long time since I’d wandered the shelves and picked some random books for myself! I also had finished my March TBR so it felt like a good time to add some new books in!

Everything I currently have checked out! From the top:

The Book Of Hygge by Louisa Thomsen Brits. I’ve already read this – just another little book on the Danish way of life that is hygge. I enjoyed this, it was a lot deeper about the Danish culture than the other book I read on hygge.

All Our Relations by Tania Talaga. This was specifically picked up for my 2021 NonFiction Reader Challenge, for the topic Indigenous Cultures. I saw it in one of the suggestion posts that Shelleyrae, the host of the challenge, puts up to help people with books that fit each of the prompts. This is about the alarming rise of youth suicide in native communities, from Canada, to Australia, to Brazil, to Norway and the United States. Probably going to be quite harrowing. This could also fit for my 2021 Reading Women Challenge for the prompt “non-fiction focused on social justice”.

The Hygge Holiday by Rosie Blake. Requested during my early hygge stage. This is a fiction book, a romance and it sounds cute. One for a day when I want a cosy read to curl up with under a blanket. Are hygge books actually hygge? I asked that question in the review of the first book on hygge that I read and it still applies.

The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna. I’ve heard amazing things about this and the cover is so stunning. I’m looking forward to it – it’s a YA about a society where your blood type determines your social hierarchy. Main character Deka’s blood runs gold, which is an ‘impure’ colour and the consequences for having such a colour are grim. Deke faces a choice to either stay and accept her fate or join an army of girls just like her.

Beach Read by Emily Henry. Requested this about a year ago, just got it. I’ve already listened to this on audiobook but I picked up this anyway when it came in, I’ll probably read it again because I loved this so much.

Voices In The Ocean by Susan Casey. Also chosen for the 2021 NonFiction Reader Challenge, for the prompt of oceanography. This book was also a suggestion in one of Shelleyrae’s posts and it’s about dolphins. How could you not adore dolphins? They might be my second favourite ocean-dwelling animal (penguins are first of course). This might also fit for my 2021 Reading Women Challenge for a prompt “about the natural world”.

The Incendiaries by R.O. Kwon. Randomly picked this one up off the display shelf while I was browsing. It’s about a cult, North Korea, two young adults that meet at University, a bit of terrorism. Seems interesting.

The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration In The Age Of Colourblindness by Michelle Alexander. This was specifically requested for my 2021 Reading Women Challenge for the “non-fiction focused on social justice” prompt but it also fits “about incarceration” should I choose to read my other book listed above for that first prompt. I really want to read this.

The Tiniest House Of Time by Sreedhevi Iyer. One of the protagonists is a grandmother, so might fit the prompt “protagonist older than 50” for my 2021 Reading Women Challenge. There seems to be two women protagonists, not sure if it’s dominated by one or equal split, probably have to read it to see.

Beartown and Us Against You by Fredrik Backman. I’ve never read Fredrik Backman, although I have heard some amazing things about his books. I picked up Us Against You on a whim from the display shelf and just scanned the inside blurb and it was about ice hockey. I love ice hockey! So I grabbed it – only to be told by my friend Rach that it’s actually a sequel to another book. So I had to request Beartown, the first book and luckily, my library had a copy available at another branch that I was able to pick up a day or so later. I’m really keen to read both of these!

The Wasp And The Orchid by Danielle Clode. This is a biography I picked up in that section at the library after browsing the shelves searching for something that wasn’t an autobiography or memoir. I picked this up specifically for the 2021 Read NonFiction Challenge, because one of the prompts is biography. This is about Edith Coleman, an Australian naturalist who solved an “orchid pollination” problem that even Darwin could not. I’m intrigued by this.

If you’ve read any of these, let me know! Help me decide which order to prioritise them in!

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Review: Decluttering At The Speed Of Life (Audiobook) by Dana K. White

Decluttering At The Speed Of Life: Winning Your Never-Ending Battle With Stuff
Dana K. White
Thomas Nelson/Audible Audio
2018, 6hrs 6min
Narrated by the author
Listened to via my local library/Borrow Box

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

You don’t have to live overwhelmed by stuff–you can get rid of clutter for good!

While the world seems to be in love with the idea of tiny houses and minimalism, many of us simply can’t purge it all and start from nothing. Yet a home with too much stuff is a home that is difficult to maintain, so where do we begin? Add in paralyzing emotional attachments and constant life challenges, and it can feel almost impossible to make real decluttering progress.

In Decluttering at the Speed of Life, decluttering expert and author Dana White identifies the mind-sets and emotional challenges that make it difficult to declutter. Then, in her signature humorous approach, she provides workable solutions to break through these struggles and get clutter out–for good!

But more than simply offering strategies, Dana dives deep into how to implement them, no matter the reader’s clutter level or emotional resistance to decluttering. She helps identify procrasticlutter–the stuff that will get done eventually so it doesn’t seem urgent–as well as how to make progress when there’s no time to declutter.

Sections of the book include:
Why You Need This Book (You Know Why)
Your Unique Home
Decluttering in the Midst of Real Life
Change Your Mind, Change Your Home
Breaking Through Your Decluttering Delusions
Working It Out Room by Room
Helping Others Declutter
Real Life Goes On (and On)

As long as we’re living and breathing, new clutter will appear. The good news is that decluttering can get easier, become more natural, and require significantly fewer hours, less emotional bandwidth, and little to no sweat to keep going.

One of the categories for my 2021 Read Non Fiction Challenge, was self-help. I was looking for a new audiobook as I’d finished my previous one and I thought maybe listening to something non-fiction might be a good idea. That would help me kickstart that challenge and I’d really enjoyed the other non-fiction audiobook I listened to this year (A Life On Our Planet by David Attenborough) but the few I’d listened to since then had all been fiction. Scrolling the non-fiction section on the app my library uses to loan out eBooks and audiobooks, I came across this and thought, okay, I think this is for me.

I’ve never been one of those people with a pristine, tidy house. My house is (generally) clean. With a cat I have to vacuum at least every second day and it’s probably better if I do it every day, so I tend to just do that. I do bathrooms and floors weekly, but I can never seem to really get my house tidy. There’s always things lying around, on the floor, on bookshelves (things that are not books), on the dining room table, the kitchen bench, etc. I always admire those people where you walk into their home and you don’t see their stuff. Where is it though? Do they just not have any? Or are they so ruthlessly organised that everything has a place tucked out of sight.

The house I live in now is pretty terrible for storage. It’s the story with most rental houses, to be honest. This house has a small kitchen with a lack of enough storage for the things that are owned and consumed by a family living in a 4-BR home. There’s one linen cupboard in an awkward space. When I was younger, mess didn’t bother me. But the older I get, the more it does, honestly. I just want to look around the room and not see….things. My kids’ shoes after they came home from school and just inexplicably removed them in the middle of the room. The pair of socks I took off when I got hot when the day warmed up (I’m as much to blame as everyone, I know this!). I also want to declutter our house, get rid of the things we do not use, do not need and are just taking up space. Space that could be better dedicated to thing we do use and need.

My biggest problem with decluttering is that….I’m really bad at letting go of things in case I need them one day. Even though there are things that I haven’t worn in years, haven’t used in forever, forget I have, don’t remember buying, etc. This book does really help with methods to just start with trash/rubbish and throw it out immediately. Then do the easy stuff by returning things that do not belong to where they do. If there’s no obvious space for them, you ask yourself two questions, which should help you decide if you keep it or declutter it. And then look at the stuff that is harder/you need to think about. There’s some good advice about how your home is a container and everything in it, also containers of various sizes. Your kitchen is a container and if what you have doesn’t fit, you need to throw things you don’t love out until what you have does fit. Same with your wardrobe, bathroom cabinet, etc. I need to start looking at things that way. Also starting at your front door and looking at your house like it’s not yours. Like you’re walking into someone else’s house. What do you see? What would you think if you walked into someone else’s house and saw this? Also I put off decluttering for a long time because all the donation places were closed. This book is very blunt about getting things out of your house as quickly as possible. Not leaving them in bags in the garage, because that’s just the same mess in a different spot. That is something I need to really consider: setting aside a few days to go through the entire house, getting rid of rubbish (stuff like broken toys etc) and then digging into the stuff I can donate like toys, books, clothes. And getting it out of my house that day. I’m probably going to need a skip bin for this exercise. And I need to realise that I can get by with less than what I think I need. I don’t need 5 (or however many) sets of winter sheets, even though I like them all. My laundry cupboard is a certain size and I need to remember that!

I’m kind of excited to do this. But now I just need to get my husband on board and he’s even worse at throwing things out than I am. Maybe I should get him to listen to this book. It’s really repetitive but it’s the repetition that helps, actually. The author says by the time you’re finished the questions and routines will be ingrained and I think she’s right.

I actually found this a lot more useful than I thought I would. Now I just need to do it and I should set myself an accountability date.

7/10

Book #41 of 2021

Decluttering At The Speed Of Life is the first book read for the 2021 NonFiction Reader Challenge. I’m using it to tick off the category of Self-help

1. Biography

2. Travel

3. Self-help

4. Essay Collection

5. Disease

6. Oceanography

7. Hobbies

8. Indigenous Cultures

9. Food

10. Wartime Experiences

11. Inventions

12. Published in 2021

1/6 books complete. Yay for progress!

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Looking Forward to 2021: Reading Challenges Part 1

I think most of us are going to be happy to leave 2020 behind. As bad as it’s been as a year overall, I can’t deny that it’s been great for my reading. I’ve read a lot of books this year (comes from having little else to do, as we Victorians spent a large amount of time in lockdown) and I’ve also done a lot of reading for challenges, stretching myself and reading things that I might not normally pick up.

One of the challenges I did this year was the 2020 Non Fiction Reader Challenge, hosted by Shelleyrae @ Book’d Out, which I really enjoyed. And Shelleyrae has just announced that it will be back in 2021, so that’s going to be the first challenge I sign up for.

The challenge runs all year long and the idea is the read non-fiction books that fit into the following categories:

1. Biography

2. Travel

3. Self-help

4. Essay Collection

5. Disease

6. Oceanography

7. Hobbies

8. Indigenous Cultures

9. Food

10. Wartime Experiences

11. Inventions

12. Published in 2021

And there are three levels of participation:

Nonfiction Nipper : Read 3 books, from any category

Nonfiction Nibbler : Read 6 books, from any category

Nonfiction Know-It-All : Read 12 books, one for each category

This year I chose the middle category and then ended up upgrading to the hardest category. I’m at 11 books read, 1 still to go so next year I’m going to do pretty much the same thing – start out as a Nonfiction Nibbler and aim to read books that fit into 6 of the categories and if I feel I’m going well and I have time, I’ll upgrade to try and finish each of the categories.

I’m excited about some of the categories here – I feel travel might be big, because let’s face it, no one has been anywhere in a while. Oceanography sounds fascinating and Indigenous cultures as well. I feel as though 2020 has given us plenty towards the disease category and then to lighten things up a bit, you can try food. Seems like a good, well rounded challenge and I’m excited!

Thanks to Shelleyrae for hosting again and if you’re interested, you can find more information here on her blog.

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