10 Best Books I Read in 2020

Wednesday, 13 January 2021

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I read some great books in 2020, a mixture of fiction and non-fiction, and I even managed to read a few books that weren’t part of my course – I know, what a shocker! I thought I’d share with you some of my favourites from the past year, some you may remember from previous mentions in Monthly Wrap Ups or from my favourite lockdown reads, but some may be completely new to you. Either way, I loved reading all of these books and I think you will too!



1. Out of Office by Fiona Thomas


As a final year student, I’ve been thinking a lot more about life after uni over the past 6 months, and freelancing is an option for me. While it may not be my whole career, I will likely do at least some freelance work and this book is an incredible resource I know I will go back to. It covers everything from getting started, taxes and ensuring you are able to take time off to looking after your mental health and avoiding burnout. Fiona’s writing style is so engaging and easy to read, I got through this quite quickly. Each chapter ends with a checklist of activities, so you know exactly what you need to do in each section. A must read for anyone considering freelancing in any respect! 



2. Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams


Ah, Queenie. This book has honestly seared itself onto my heart forever. It is such a raw story, covering some difficult subjects including miscarriage, sexual assault, poor mental health, misogynoir and more. The character of Queenie feels like a friend. The whole time I just wanted to give her a hug. It’s a very comforting read, especially if you’re going through a rough patch and need reassurance that things will get better. I can’t wait to see what Candice Carty-Williams writes next and hoping to see screen adaptations of this book!


3. 10 Minutes and 38 Seconds in this Strange World by Elif Shafak


This book is frankly heartbreaking. It follows the life of ‘Tequila Leila’, a murdered sex-worker, during 10 minutes and 38 seconds after her death as she lies on the streets of Istanbul and loses consciousness. We see her early childhood and family, meet her five closest friends, and find out how she ended up working in Istanbul. I loved the characters in this book, particularly Leila’s closest friends. It is a story which truly highlights the importance of chosen family. 


4. Daisy Jones & the Six by Taylor Jenkens Reid


This book helped me get out of a bit of a reading slump near the beginning of lockdown, and helped me get through my final assessments for second year. I could barely put it down and got through it in about a day. It’s fair to say it completely took my mind off my assessments and off the pandemic, even if only for a few hours. The characters were interesting and I enjoyed the structure. If you love the drama behind bands like Fleetwood Mac and ABBA, you’ll love this book. An easy uplifting read that will remind you of when we're able to go to concerts and read books on holiday in the sun!


5. Dracula by Bram Stoker


The firs one on my list that I read for my course! I loved the module thi was on so much and probably could have included more books from it to be honest, but I decided on just this one! Most people will have a basic idea of the Dracula story, but I have to admit that I didn’t really know the details until actually reading the book. It’s weird, creepy, sexy, and I really enjoyed (even if the end did drag on a bit). 



6. Animal Farm by George Orwell


I read this at the beginning of lockdown as part of a small book club I started with a student volunteer group I’m involved with. It was a great me thinking about something other than lockdown and uni work, as well as keep myself occupied while I was by myself. Yhis wasn’t the first time I read this book, I read it a couple of years ago, but it was still just as enjoyable and so much to discuss within it. 


7. Trumpet by Jackie Kay


Ugh, this book. I felt this book in my heart. It follows the aftermath of the death of jazz musician, Joss Moody, from the perspectives of those around him – his wife, son, friends, the press and more – as it is revealed that he was trans. Some of the language isn’t what we would use today (it was written in the 90s) and most of that language is used in point-of-view chapters of characters who are quite transphobic or at least are at that point in the story. This book is honestly gorgeous. It’s so filled with love and tenderness and still so sad. I would highly highly recommend!



8. Feminism, Interrupted by Lola Olufemi


I feel like I’ve talked about this book so much already but I’m going to talk about it again. It’s an incredible introduction to intersectional feminism and gives me true hope in the movement and what it can be. This book is concise and accessible but doesn’t compromise on conveying the nuance of the issues at hand. I cannot recommend this book enough. If you are unsure about various issues and want to learn more, please read it. It also makes a great present!


9. Sex Ed by Ruby Rare


This book is incredible, and I have raved about it to so many people. Aside from looking amazing and having gorgeous illustrations, it contains the sex education we all deserve to have had at school. Ruby Rare covers everything from wanking and sex toys to how a sex drive actually works and the effects of sexual trauma. I just want everyone to read this! And yes, that does mean I will happily lend my copy to anyone I know in real life (if I haven’t offered to already!). 



10. Quite by Claudia Winkleman


This was one of the last books I read in 2020 and I really enjoyed it. I laughed a fair bit and I found it really enjoyable! It’s not what I would call a memoir, it’s more, well, Claudia Winkleman’s guide to life! From the importance of eyeliner, to how to know when a partner isn’t right for you, to the reasons you should love the Tube, there’s so much packed in here. For me, it was something light and fun that could distract me after a busy day and was a book I couldn’t put down!

 

I’m always looking for new things to read – even if I don’t necessarily have the time to read them – so please let me know some of your recommendations!




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5 Reasons You May Not Be Able to Use a Menstrual Cup (and Why That's Okay) | #ACupaDay

Friday, 8 January 2021

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Trigger warning: sexual assault, FGM 


 

Menstrual cups are brilliant, but they’re not for everyone. Mine suits me really well, but different bodies, different life experiences, and different preferences, means that menstrual cups don’t suit everyone. 

 

1. Vaginismus

 

Vaginismus is a condition which causes the vaginal walls to close and prevent foreign objects from entering. This can often occur with people who are survivors of sexual assault, but can also have no specific cause. Most often it is caused by something mentally.  Whatever the cause, it does mean that penetration of the vagina (by tampons, menstrual cups, fingers, sex toys, penises, etc.) can become impossible in some cases (although levels vary between each person).

 

From what I’ve seen (based on others’ experiences), the series Sex Education seems to do quite a good job of representing it. Even seeing representation on TV and film is incredibly rare – I think the only other place I’d heard it mentioned was YouTube (big up Rowan Ellis and Hannah Witton for that). It’s something that affects a lot more people than you’d necessarily think based on how much it’s talked about. 

 

2. It may be triggering

 

For anyone with sexual trauma in their past (whatever that may be), anything around the vulva, particularly involving inserting something into the vagina, has the potential to be triggering. Similarly, FGM survivors may also feel very uncomfortable using products like menstrual cups and may also be physically unable to use them as they would cause significant pain and discomfort. 

 

Whatever someone’s history, we all need to do what is best for our own wellbeing, and both our physical and mental health.


3. A disability may prevent you from being able to insert and remove it properly

 

Let’s be real, even if you’re fully able-bodied they can be tricky to insert if you’re just starting out. Occasionally, I have times when I need to readjust mine several times, and that’s as someone who has used menstrual cups for over 3 years. For many people with mobility issues, issues with their hands, backs, etc. (I’m sure there’s many ways this could be affected) menstrual cups will just be impossible to use. There are other sustainable alternatives, such as period pants, but as I mention in my review of my first pair, they are currently still quite expensive so levels of accessibility intersect and become complicate depending on both your physical body and your financial circumstances. 


4. You may really like the type of period product

 

In this case, I would still encourage you to look at the ways you can make that product less wasteful (if you’re in the position to do so). If tampons are your thing, perhaps consider a reusable applicator (if you like using applicators at all) and organic tampons such as the one sold by OHNE and TOTM. As from being better for the environment, these are also much better for your vagina as it significantly reduces the number of chemicals present. The same goes for pads – see if there’s something organic or reusable you like!


5. You just may not like them!

 

For whatever reason, you may not get on with menstrual cups. They may just not suit our body, you may not like the idea of them. That’s okay. Our bodies prefer different things, and hey! It’s your vagina, you get to decide what goes in it. If you’ve tried menstrual cups before but didn’t get on with them, I presume you want to have a less wasteful and plastic-filled period, and if you do that’s great. There are lots of alternatives to menstrual cups if you want to have a sustainable period, which I discuss in a previous blog post, and hopefully one of those can be useful to you.


Whatever menstrual product someone chooses to use, they should not be shamed or be pressured into using a particular type. As I mentioned, we are all different and different things suit our bodies. 



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