2021 Book Reviews I

Published in Books - 3 mins to read

As it turns out, I’m improbably ahead of my reading goal for the year, having already managed to get 3 books under my belt so far in 2021. Admittedly, they’ve all been shorter than 200 pages, but hey, I needed to get my confidence up…

The more I think about it, the more I think reviewing/criticising media is inherently pretentious (at least for me, as someone with no qualification to do so whatsoever), so I thought I’d keep these reviews short and sweet. You’re welcome.

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

Absolutely eye-opening, powerful and a rousing call-to-action. I wanted to read something focused on race in the UK, given the way that black American history can often dominate the discourse (something the author acknowledges) and I’m glad I chose to read this. It was humbling, there was a huge amount I didn’t know that I should, but I suspect many others would be in the same boat. Mandatory reading for anyone who’s white and lives in Britain or is British in my opinion.

A Happy Death by Albert Camus

An old recommendation from a friend who claimed it changed his life by inspiring him to leave his civil service job in Northern Ireland to go live in Japan, I was pretty excited about this one, and obviously it’s very “me”, by which I mean it’s a pretentious, absurdist classic written by an old white dude. It describes one man’s pursuit of happiness, as he strives to die a happy death, and is of course absurd in places, as is true to Camus' style. I felt a certain amount of kinship with the protagonist who puts a huge amount of effort into trying to be happy but never seems to quite get there, despite often having all one could materially want. I loved the sense of escapism I felt while reading it - I was transported to another place and another time, which is quite refreshing in places and times such as the one we presently inhabit.

The Wisdom of Insecurity by Alan Watts

Another recommendation from a friend who I know reads this blog every day, so I’m hesitant to say this but… this book just didn’t do it for me. I felt like a lot of the points Watts makes were unnecessarily verbose and cyclical, and most of them weren’t really that revelatory either. The state of Western philosophy in the 1950s is pretty jarring, and I struggled to engage with the way the book is so unrepentently for materially well-off white men. Sure, Camus may have done the same thing, but for me The Wisdom of Insecurity has far fewer redeeming features. TL:DR for the whole book; nothing matter, nothing is real, all you have is this moment, you may as well stop worrying about everything and enjoy it.

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