I managed to finish quite a few books before the end of the year and I’m getting behind with my reviews already. It’s not a typical problem that I have but I don’t want to start 2023 with a huge backlog of books to review. So, I’m bringing back an old favourite to get two out of the way at once. As the third book ended up being in my top 5 books of the year, I figure it’s only fair to give it its own post. I’m not sure that I’d have enough to say about the others to warrant a longer post.
How to be Right… in a World Gone Wrong by James O’Brien
I’ve been a fan of James O’Brien for a while now. Particularly after the Brexit referendum in 2016. He is an absolute breath of fresh air in a world of right-wing media nonsense. I think he’s quite a sensible and logical person and I always enjoy listening to him discuss political and social issues with callers to his radio show. A lot of these people tend to disagree with his position but O’Brien has become something of an expert at getting them to see their argument from a different side. This book attempts to show how he manages this.
It is mostly done by asking them to explain their opinions. O’Brien argues that in doing this, they will be forced to see that there is no basis for their bigotry. That there is no evidence other than the inflammatory stories published by billionaires who have a vested in creating tension. It is upon these people that O’Brien focuses the majority of his rage. He doesn’t blame the majority of people he has come up against because they are just jaded and looking for a scapegoat. The perfect foils for media moguls to bend to their will.
The book includes O’Brien’s personal opinions on some of the bigger topics of the day as well as the transcripts of some of the standout phone-ins on his show. Not all of the people he talks to can be reasoned with. Many are steadfast in their belief. However, there are those who do start to rethink things. The people who realise their argument is falling apart when put under the slightest scrutiny. These transcripts are treated as humourous pieces but O’Brien is also careful about how he handles them.
I do think this is a good book and a worthy read. I agree with the majority of O’Brien’s points and I believe that he tackles each subject with care. However, I was expecting to enjoy this more than I did. Maybe it was just too more of the same thing that we’re used to? Maybe if you know O’Brien’s work this is just a bit too familiar? Still, it’s a short read and one that will hopefully get people thinking.
I’m a Fan by Sheena Patel
I was excited to read this book before I bought it. I was even more excited when Foyles named it their Book of the Year. So, I decided that I absolutely had to read it before the end of 2022. I was expecting it to be an easy 5-star rating but I just couldn’t do it. It’s not that I didn’t enjoy it but I felt that there was something lacking. I don’t really know what because I think this is such a fantastic book. It’s just my gut reaction wasn’t what I had hoped for.
This is still a very accomplished and well-written book. It tackles several key topics including race, toxic masculinity, social media and the patriarchy. It’s an exciting read that paints such a vivid picture. I’m a Fan is a modern story that really grasps the current state of affairs. It is relatable and understandable. Yes, it’s possibly rather over-the-top at times but it all comes together to highlight a confident and important voice. Yes, our narrator is messy and complicated but who isn’t? She knows herself and understands her place in the world.
As much as I love the book, I do think it might be slightly too long. I didn’t mind the structure, which is made up of a series of vignettes. It tells the story in a nonlinear way and the narrator often goes off on tangents away from the main story. These tangents were great and gave the author time to include some social commentary. Personally, I felt as though the main story just got a bit too repetitive. We went over the same ground one too many times. Still, a minor quibble in an otherwise very strong novel. This one definitely deserves a reread at some point.