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Commitment to reduce the TBR stack…? What commitment?

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The Gin Closet by Leslie Jamison

Some time ago, a friend recommended Leslie Jamison’s The Empathy Exams, sure I would like it. She was right – it’s a book that I still think about. The same friend recently lent me The Gin Closet, Jamison’s debut novel – how could I not want to read it with a title as good as that?!

The Gin Closet focuses on two characters – Tilly (Matilda), a woman who has lived hard, is estranged from her family and crippled by her alcohol addiction; and Stella, Tilly’s niece, who learns of Tilly’s existence when her grandmother dies.

“Matilda could be an actress by now, or a poet or a waitress or a bank teller or simply a suburban mother, quietly stupendous.” Continue reading

Best Books for 2015

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It’s that time of year, the time when I remind people of all the books that I’ve been pushing on them over the last twelve months. The first nine are in no particular order: Continue reading

Reading Challenges 2015

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Every year I say I’m not going to do reading challenges and then I do. Why? I like a list. I like a reason to look through lists. I like discovering books that I might have otherwise overlooked.

I participated in five reading challenges this year and completed all of them. Continue reading

Finished the Summer Reading Challenge on a strong note

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Today marks the end of the 20 Books of Summer reading challenge, hosted by Cathy at 746 Books. After a slow start, I romped it in with days to spare, although haven’t written detailed reviews of my final two books – Our Endless Numbered Days by Claire Fuller and Whiskey and Charlie by Annabel Smith. It was a strong finish. Continue reading

The Empathy Exams by Leslie Jamison

There are some books that are self-indulgent and boring – such as Eat, Pray, Love – and some that are self-indulgent and really interesting – such as The Empathy Exams by Leslie Jamison.

The book is a collection of essays around the topic of empathy (how we feel and express it). It’s been marked as a ‘get out the violins’-privileged-well-educated-white-person moans about aspects of their life. And yes, the title essay, The Empathy Exams, could stray into that territory. But that’s not all there is to the book.

“Empathy isn’t just listening, it’s asking the questions whose answers need to be listened to. Empathy requires inquiry as much as imagination. Empathy requires knowing you know nothing. Empathy means acknowledging a horizon of context that extends perpetually beyond what you can see. Empathy means realizing no trauma has discrete edges.” Continue reading

Six Degrees of Separation – from The Paying Guests to Anna Karenina

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It’s six degrees of separation for books. Created by Emma Chapman and Annabel Smith. Check out the rules if you want to play along.

This month the chain begins with The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters. It appeared in my round-up of the best books for 2014, as did The Empathy Exams by Leslie Jamison. Continue reading