Category Archives: non-fiction

QI: The Third Book of General Ignorance

I have already read and reviewed a QI book here, so I’ll keep this review short. Even though it has been a while since I read the last one, I think there was a better job done. The quotes didn’t feel as forced and as it was a bigger book, there was more detail in the answers. The positives are the same. These improvements make the book 8/10 instead of about 7.2/10.

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Girls Will Be Girls: Dressing Up, Playing Parts and Daring to Act Differently

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The fiercest new voice of feminism – Emer O’Toole is the perfect mix of Caitlin Moran, Germaine Greer and Lena Dunham.

Emer O’Toole once caused a media sensation by growing her body hair and singing ‘Get Your Pits Out For The Lads’ on national TV. You might think she’s crazy – but she has lessons for us all. Protesting against the ‘makey-uppy-bulls**t’ of gender conditioning, Emer takes us on a hilarious, honest and probing journey through her life – from cross-dressing and head shaving, to pube growing and full-body waxing – exploring the performance of femininity to which we are confined.

Funny, provocative and underpinned with rigorous academic intelligence, this book shows us why and how we should all begin gently to break out of gender stereotypes. Read this book, open up your mind and, hopefully, free your body. GIRLS WILL BE GIRLS is a must-read wake-up call for all young women (and men)

After reading this book, one question came to mind; do we still live in such a sexist world that the arguments in this book are ‘controversial’ or even ‘new’? I did enjoy O’Toole’s way of relating the issues to her own world, but there was nothing in this book that I haven’t read, heard about or even thought of before. However, it is still a good book for those who are embarking on the scary world of feminism for the first time.

Each topic is a simple one that many women experience on a constant basis; from body hair to the roles around the house. Even if you don’t relate to every single experience, there would probably be one that feels close to home for you. I mean, I don’t have sex so I cannot relate to the concept of male not considering the female’s pleasure during intimacy, I am sure it is an issue that many others can face. There is a reason each chapter is in the book, and I hope it will make at least one person reconsider aspects of their life.

My favourite part of the book is when O’Toole examines a discussion that took place when she was in her teenage years and made an argument that sexism wasn’t an issue anymore. Just be including this scene, she explores how sexual equality is a complicated issue and thoughts can change as we mature. I believe in the good of people. Most people aren’t strongly sexist and think men are far superior to women. We just live in a society where it’s easy to slip into the roles that are expected from us.

There is still a comedic sense to the book. In one section, O’Toole actually uses a direct blog post from a few years and it includes a vernacular that I can only laugh at. This break from the seriousness of the discussion is essential to remind us that we are still talking about a pretty good society compared to others. We’re not talking about a lot of horrific exceptionally sexist situations, but that doesn’t mean the residue of patriarchy has disappeared.

One idea that I found fascinating is that O’Toole is more critical on female authors than she is of male authors. It is the one point where I had to stop and think. Do I do that? Am I like her and think that men are so much smarter than me that I can’t possibly compete with them intellectually but I have a chance with women? I like to think not, but it is something I will need to consider in the future.

Even though I thoroughly enjoyed the book, it didn’t really change the way I viewed life, so I’ll give it 8/10.

The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat

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The Man Who Mistook his Wife for a Hat is such an eye catching title. As soon as I heard it a few years ago, it placed itself firmly on my ‘To read’ list. I finally got around to reading Oliver Sack’s famous book this year and I have to say, I’m a little disappointed. What I expected to be a mesmerising series of neurological illnesses and explanations turned into basic reflections of the author that were void of either information or sense of importance. There were a few sections, however, that were surprisingly poignant. Many of us believe that just because someone is different, they have a deficit and this one trait consumes their entire being. Slowly and peacefully, he encourages to question this notion, which is the one thing that saves this book.

Overall, the book is rather dry. We read about people with autistic savants, major memory issues (such as Korsakov), proprioception problems and agnosia. It’s funny but the main issue I have with the book is that the way these concepts were presented. They were either too dull or too brief for me, but I ended up not really understanding them. The only thing I remember is that when in doubt, it’s an issue with the temporal lobe. As I struggled with understanding these concepts, it made me question whether the target audience were professions (in which case the information was too brief and superficial) or the average Joe like me (in which case there was not enough). Even though the focus was on how it affected the people, losing a strong understanding of what they are going through lessens the impact.

There is a sense of realism with the patients, but there was also something a little off. The relationship between them and Oliver Sacks was a bit stinted. Even in instances where they communicated such as with the twins, I felt like he was trying too much for the sake of his reputation instead of being genuine. It’s hard to pinpoint the exact reason for this, but something just felt a little clinical throughout the story (which is off for a clinical tales, right?). Perhaps it was the dialogue that was included which didn’t seem natural. It felt like they were saying what Sacks wanted them to say instead of what they really said. Most of the styles of speech were similar to one another, which shouldn’t happen as the individuals were so different.

The way the individuals are presented, however, is nice. Sacks emphasises the point that just because their brain may not function the same way as you or me, it doesn’t mean that they are defected. He even explicitly defends this belief, which is important for many of us to hear every once in a while. This becomes a focus in a chapter discussing how people start hearing music and it can even be a good thing. Honestly, the section about an Irish woman was the most touching part and if anything, I recommend you read that essay. This theme does occur in many other essays, but the one with the music highlights it perfectly.

Even though I don’t love this book or even like it that much, I really do appreciate it. It brings a sense of humanity to what many people may consider problems. I might not have a better understanding of some of the disabilities than when I started, but I’m sure others will get more out of the book depending on their current knowledge. However, some sections are a bit dry, so focus on reading essays instead of the book. Even if you just read two or three parts of the book, it can lead to a better understanding of the individuals who have a neurological issue. 6.8/10

Question: What is the best the best book you have read that explains certain disabilities?