Trouble always befalls me when I am trying to choose a book (or ten) to take to book club. First world problems at its finest. This month’s theme was non-fiction; I had the world to choose from, but I had to choose just one. Or two.
Thankfully there were only four that night, so we could talk (rant) for much longer about our books.
R begun with Periodic Tales: The Curious Lives of the Elements – a book I have tried (and failed) to read, but I will pick it up again. We like to make deals: if you read a book of my choice, I’ll read a book of your choice.
Anyway, it is a book that looks at the the elements and their curious lives: how they fit into pop-culture, history, art, and our daily lives. The book muses on how gold is only valuable because humans have assigned it value, neon’s relationship to Vegas, the aluminium plates that Napoleon ate off, and how Agatha Christie has inspired murders all over the world.
His second book was Meme Wars, a depressing yet interesting look at the economy and our approach to it. Part text book, part magazine, part activist tool-kit. It discusses how pollution and the destruction of the environment makes a country’s GDP grow, and therefore makes said country more powerful. Why then do we all think economic growth is a good thing if it’s actually ruining our lives?
My shortlist of books included Rookie Magazine, Bad Feminist, We Should All Be Feminists, A Field Guide to Getting Lost, Wreck this Journal, How to be Alone, and M Train. I ultimately decided on Women in Clothes and Just Kids.
Women in Clothes is one of my favourite books. I love clothes so much – everything about them, the fabrics, colours, feel, smell. I used to feel vain and ashamed about how much I time (and money) I spent on thinking about clothes. But this book made me realize that clothes are such an essential part of everyone’s lives and especially for women, clothes are a way to project, protect, and be political. Clothes and the one I choose allow me to show parts of my personality; a form of expression. This book has been my bible in becoming more aware of where my clothes come from. This year I have begun to make more conscious and ethical choices in what I wear; I should not be sacrificing lives and well-being just to look good.
And Patti Smith, who’s relationship is clothes closely mirrors my own, is the writer of my second book – Just Kids. A memoir of her time in New York with Robert Mapplethorpe. It is a perfect look at the romantic life of poor artists – scavenging for food, making money on the streets, creating art of poetry out of anything they can find. Robert and Patti are the ultimate example of soul mates; of a life lived with unconditional love for each other, as lovers, friends, care givers, and peers.
The Secret Life of Salvador Dalí by Dalí himself was B’s first pick. A book that is not quite non-fiction because of it’s gross lies and fictionalized account of Dalí’s life – but what more do you expect from the surrealist artist? The book’s play on fact and fiction is the ultimate work of surreal art forcing readers to be coming to their own conclusions on what is true and what is false.
B’s second book was The Communist Manifesto, initially one that he was wary of because of the implications and taboo surrounding it. But, in it’s purest form, the manifesto is a brilliant little read. It has so much to say on education and class. A document that needs to be read separate from its incriminating context.
Unlike the rest of us, T had self control and only had one book. Picked up during a slightly tipsy bookstore binge buy (it happens to the best of us), Hiroshima is a journalistic approach to the devastation that followed the atomic bombing. The author focuses on six men and women who were affected by the bombs. Each person is seen as an individual who had to live with the aftermath, as opposed to just being a mere number among the statistics. These were real people who’s lives were destroyed, every single person who makes up those statistics have their own stories that deserve to be told, yet the history books make them anonymous. Originally published in The New Yorker this book forces readers to take stock and see the faces of those who’s stories have been forgotten.