2015 Reading Challenge – February Update

2015 is the year of reading challenges. You can have a look at my bookish goals for the year here.  

As Goodreads kindly informs me, I’m 3 books behind schedule in my goal of reading 150 books this year. I’m not too (just a very tiny bit!) cut up over that, to be honest, because it’s a slightly ridiculous goal. But I’ve fallen way behind on my 2015 Reading Challenge mostly because I just haven’t been paying attention.

1) One children’s book by an Indian author every month:

Raja Raja and the Swapped Sacks by Natasha Sharma

Being Boys by Various Authors

6) A Young Adult book:

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

18) 10 books from my Goodreads To-Read list:

Who Could That Be At This Hour? by Lemony Snicket

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Here’s hoping March has some better numbers!


Long Reads Pick of the Week: The Secret History of Same-Sex Marriage

Since I spend so much time reading long-form non-fiction online, I’m going to link to my favourite one every week for anyone who’s interested in similar reading.

Same-sex marriage seems like a quintessentially 21st-century issue. In fact such formal unions have a long and fascinating history. You can read the full story here.

460x420 SARAH TANAT-JONES for REVIEW 150115 same sex marriage web

If we conceive of marriage as the long-term, exclusive cohabitation and sexual union of two people, then, in the Christian west at least, few male couples would qualify before the dawn of the 20th century. In fact, for the last 400 years, the practice of same-sex marriage has been largely the preserve of women.

To begin with, this was a secretive and punishable matter. In medieval and Renaissance Europe, it was often not even possible for two women to live together independently: households were supposed to be headed by men. Yet we know of a few 16th-century cases of women who disguised themselves as men and lived in marriage with other women. After 1600, as the Dutch scholars Rudolf Dekker and Lotte van de Pol discovered, examples of such “female husbands” become much easier to find, especially in England, Germany and Holland.

In Amsterdam in 1641, the middle-aged widow Trijntje Barents fell in love with 27-year-old Hendrickje Lamberts. Some time into their affair, Hendrickje began to dress as a man. This improved their sex life, Barents later confessed – from then on, the younger woman “sometimes had carnal knowledge of her two or three times a night, just as her late husband had – yes, and sometimes more arduous than he”. They were a settled couple, who wished they could legally marry. Other Dutch couples did just that. In the 1680s, Cornelia Gerritse van Breugel disguised herself as a man in order to wed her long-time lover, Elisabeth Boleyn, in an Amsterdam church. They were only found out years later, when Cornelia tired of wearing men’s clothes.

Such cases were even more common in 18th-century England. In the early 1730s, when both were in their late teens, Mary East and her girlfriend decided to move to London and make a life together as husband and wife. Mary put on male clothes and turned herself into “James How”. The two of them became successful publicans and pillars of their East End community. Everyone presumed they were married. Over the years, James was elected to almost every parish office: s/he served as the foreman of juries, on the night watch, as overseer of the poor. For more than three decades, they kept their secret, and lived as a married couple.

The Secret History of Same-Sex Marriage by Faramerz Dabhoiwala


Mac Barnett: Why a good book is a secret door

“My job is that I lie to children. But they’re honest lies. I write children’s books.”

– Mac Barnett

The delightful and funny Mac Barnett (I have to look up his books ASAP) discusses the relationship between fiction and the real world. Among other things, he talks about:

  • Telling stories to 4-year-olds about how he spied for the Queen of England on weekends
  • How to construct elaborate melon-based lies for children to discover
  • Pet blue whales and the kids who own them
  • Strange fascinating shops that hide the doorway to unexpected worlds. For example, a pirate supply store that sells everything a pirate would ever need; and the Echo Park Time Travel Mart with the motto “Whenever you are, we’re already then.”

All of which connects to the importance of wholly immersing ourselves in fiction in the best possible way. You just have to watch the video to grasp this utterly fantastic idea.

You can’t find the seams in the fiction. It’s like a little bit of fiction has colonised the real world.

– Mac Barnett