Summer reading recommendations

 

With a second summer holiday season in a row dominated by staycations or in-country breaks, the escape to another world via a book takes on a new resonance. Welcome to our traditional summer run-down of some of the latest books the Obelisk team have been reading, ready for you to pick up ahead of your break.

The detective novel

The Whole Truth, Cara Hunter, Penguin, April 2021

You can’t have summer holiday reading without a detective novel. The Whole Truth is the fifth book in Hunter’s DI Fawley series, set in an Oxford that has moved on a bit since Morse. If you’re new to the series, the book happily stands alone, though it does link back to earlier events in the series and you can tell that the central characters have been developed over previous titles (and we’re sure that we’ll see them make it to TV sooner rather than later). Two things set this series apart; the strong emphasis on police procedure, which has clearly been well-researched, and the use of SMS messages, social media snippets and press commentary to bring the action to life and add to the drama. It’s an easy read and perfect for a summer afternoon in a comfy chair.

The non-fiction

The Authority Gap: Why women are still taken less seriously than men and what we can do about it
Mary Ann Sieghart, Doubleday, July 2021

At 384 pages, this one is going to take up some space but it’s absolutely packed with facts and stats that will have you reeling…and raging. For example, over just one weekend campaigner Caroline Criado Perez received enough rape and death threats to fill 300 A4 pages. Why? Because she started a campaign to feature women on UK banknotes. Women in the UK carry out 60% more unpaid labour – due to caring responsibilities – than men. In the US, women hold just 38% of management positions, even in female-dominated fields. More powerful than the statistics though are the powerful anecdotes that the author has collated from leaders such as Cherie Blair, Baroness Hale, Helle Thorning-Schmidt, Janet Yellen and many more. To hear these women talking with such openness about being judged for their appearance, having their competence underestimated (or “manderestimated”) or being held to a higher standard than their male counterparts is at once shocking, dispiriting and curiously inspiring. They are evidence that the bias and sexism that seeks to shut women out, seemingly now more than ever, can be overcome. There’s still so much hard work to do in our professions, schools and in our own behaviour to get there, and the book closes with a practical action plan.

The Insta-friendly poems

What kind of woman: Poems, Kate Baer, Harper Perennial, November 2020

Warning: you will want to quote these to your friends. Kate Baer’s poems at their best cut right into shared experiences of motherhood and female friendship with such accuracy, it’s almost as though she has read your mind.

One of the most powerful in the collection, Motherload, opens: 

“She keeps an office in her sternum, the flat /bone in the center of her chest, with all its/ urgent papers, vast appointments, lists of minor things.”

These poems unashamedly explore the realities of women’s lives and bodies, sometimes in painful detail. They capture the endless obligations that enmesh women, our deepest fears and our greatest joys.

The Oldie-but-goodie

The Vanity Fair Diaries, 1983-1992, Tina Brown, W&N, November 2017

As we still reel from the impact of the pandemic on our major cities, where better to escape to than New York in the Eighties? Drawn from the diaries she kept at the time, Tina Brown transports her readers with brutal honesty to the froth and the fury of her time at Conde Nast, resurrecting Vanity Fair magazine. Packed with celebrities, producers, star journalists and the mega-rich (you will want your phone handy to Google their backstories), this book is a backstage pass to a unique moment in history. Peppered with irreverent asides, and tales of backstabbing galore, it’s a real romp of a read. It is also surprisingly touching, as the author takes us inside her mistakes as well as her triumphs, alongside her constant sense of being torn between her career and her family, the pain of losing her second baby and her worry over her parents’ old age. It is this contrast between the public and the private, the excitement and the intimacy, that keeps us coming back to this one again and again.

The Latest from The Next 100 Years

In Her Words, edited by D. Denis-Smith and A. Van De Casteele, Scala, July 2021

We can’t not mention the newest book from the team at our charity partners The Next 100 Years, In Her Words. Featuring photography and commentary captured by the project’s pioneering project to document the changing face of law, this is a unique reflection of the profession today and women lawyers’ hopes for the future. Order here and support the campaign’s future projects.

Inspiration and relaxation for all this summer

 

If you look closely at the authors selected, you’ll notice that they are almost all women. This is a conscious decision. When researching The Authority Gap, Sieghart, in partnership with Nielsen, found that of the readers of the the top 10 selling women authors, only 19% were men. Readers of the top 10 selling men were split more evenly, 45% women to 55% men. We hope our selection helps our male readers to discover some new voices and provides inspiration for all.

 

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