I seem to have been on a bit of a non-fiction spree recently, particularly in regards to female memoirs, so I thought I’d group together some mini reviews of my favourites!
Ctrl Alt Delete: How I Grew Up Online by Emma Gannon
“We obsessively document our lives on social media because the experience itself is now not enough. We basically live face down in pixels and post whatever is in our heads, whenever we want, without a second thought…There are even people in the world who say the word ‘hashtag’ out loud.”
It’s actually been a while since I read Ctrl Alt Delete, but I didn’t want to end up not reviewing it, because it really was a great book! It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of Emma Gannon’s ‘Ctrl Alt Delete’ podcast, and this is basically the book version of it, only here she’s discussing her own relationship with the internet, instead of interviewing someone else about theirs.
The book takes us chronologically through Emma’s online life, starting with the early days of her learning to photoshop her profile pictures to impress boys on MSN messenger, to her starting a blog and making a career online, with a whole lot of digital friendships, internet dates and cybersex along the way.
I already knew from reading Emma’s blog that I liked her style of writing, but reading this book only consolidated that. She has a super fun, chatty style that anyone who listens to her podcast will recognise, and it really suited the subject matter. Also, as someone who is similar in age to Emma, I could really relate to her story, and her references to things like MSN and MySpace gave me those warm, nostalgic feelings for my youth, as I grew up alongside the World Wide Web.
But the thing I liked most about this book was that it wasn’t just a collection of anecdotes about what it was like growing up alongside the internet: Emma Gannon offers some really wonderful insights into the way our lives have been affected by our relationship to the internet, in both positive and negative ways. If you’ve ever felt insecure because of other people’s ‘perfect lives’ as curated on Instagram, or been the victim of a troll or cyberbullying, or felt less alone because of someone somewhere across the world reaching out and befriending you, then you’ll be able to relate to this book, and I really do recommend it!
Mad Girl: A Happy Life With A Mixed Up Mind by Bryony Gordon
“Your parents warn you about the monsters you might encounter in dark alleyways, but they never warn you about the monsters you might find in your own mind, the ones that taunt and trouble you, and make you question yourself to your very core.”
Mad Girl is the brutally (and beautifully) honest memoir of successful British journalist, Bryony Gordon, about her life with OCD, depression, bulimia and drug addiction. I first became aware of this book when it was chosen for the 2017 Richard and Judy Book Club and it started cropping up literally everywhere, and I can see why. It’s an incredibly inspiring, yet heart-wrenching book, and opens so many doors in regards to discussing mental health honestly and openly.
In fact I really do have to applaud Bryony’s bravery in writing such a frank and personal book. Still to this day there’s so much stigma surrounding mental illness, and I think there’s so many people out there who stand to benefit from others sharing their stories like this, and letting them know that they’re not alone, and that there’s light at the end of the tunnel.
I especially like that whilst the topic matter is serious, Bryony infuses her writing with such personality and humour that it’s an incredibly enjoyable as well as informative read, and in a lot of ways it feels like having a chat with a friend. The book doesn’t gloss over anything, and doesn’t give you any kind of false happy ending where she’s magically cured of her OCD and depression, but gives a raw, honest and relatable account of her ongoing struggles, and I think the world needs more books like this.
Moranifesto by Caitlin Moran
“These days, if your child announced that they wanted to be a politician most people would react as if they had come down to the breakfast table and said, ‘Mother, Father – I’ve decided to become a massive pervert.”
A couple of years ago I read and loved Caitlin Moran’s How To Be A Woman, and have been meaning to read more of her writing ever since. Moranifesto seemed to be a good place to start, as a collection of her columns on topics ranging from feminism and politics, to Benedict Cumberbatch, hipsters and tights.
One thing that’s definitely clear through this book is that Caitlin Moran is a phenomenal writer. She could literally make some of the dullest and most inconsequential subjects hilariously funny and interesting (her piece on printers, or ‘motherbeeping hate units,’ for example!), yet at the same time she handles serious topics sensitively and thoughtfully, and makes well thought out arguments about current and political issues.
I also find her to be a lot more relatable than a lot of other journalists, thanks to her working class upbringing, and I always enjoy her anecdotes about her childhood growing up as one of eight in Wolverhampton.
However, one criticism I do have of this book is that it does seem slightly dated, and in the future I can only see it becoming more so. Because it’s a collection of columns, a lot of them are very time specific, so there’s a lot of stuff about the Olympics in London and the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, which happened back in 2012, and so literally feels like ancient history now. There’s also a lot of stuff that I think wouldn’t interest non-British readers, as Caitlin talks extensively about the British political landscape and the British welfare system. On the whole though I really did enjoy this book, and because of the breadth of topics covered, I think there’s something for everyone in Moranifesto!
So have you read any of these books? What did you think? Have you any other non-fiction recommendations?