I only read three books in February, but two of them were pretty long so I actually read more pages than average, I think. All in all not a bad month for books:
Being Mortal by Atul Gawande (non-fiction)
This is a book about care as people age or become terminally ill, the limits of medicine and medical professionals, and what having a ‘good death’ might mean. It doesn’t really offer any answers, but does lay out the problems in the way we currently deal with things, particularly in our lack of communication with each other about what we want, and how far we’ve gone from true ‘assisted living’ to something that just has that name, but isn’t. Though it wasn’t discussed at all, what the book made me think about was also the lack of adequate care for young disabled people who need, for example, personal care. They often end up on wards or in care homes for older people, which are already lacking in true assisted living support and even more inappropriate for young people than they already are for older people. Gawande is an engaging writer, and a doctor willing to criticise his own practise as well as medicine and care as a whole. I would have preferred a bit of a deeper dive into policy and how that’s affected social care and the treatment of terminal illness within medicine, and some sections could have been edited a bit more because it felt like a long-form essay that had been padded out at times. But still worth a read if death, ageing, and end-of-life care interests you. And it needs to interest more people if anything is going to change on individual or wider level.
Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy (novel, Russian in translation)
This didn’t quite do it for me because, though I loved some parts, I felt pretty meh about others. It was surprisingly easy to read and breezed through it fairly quickly considering its length, and the characters are complex and contradictory in a way I love. But I didn’t love it in the way I was expecting. Full review here.
Black and British: A Forgotten History by David Olusoga (non-fiction)
In my history lessons at school, we did a (very) little about the slave trade, glimpsed at the black civil rights movement in America, and then the rest of history was pretty much all white. This book, which is also a BBC series, goes some way to filling in a few of my gaps. Starting with evidence of black Romans buried in York, it moves through time to almost the present day. Obviously, there’s only so much it can cover in 600 pages, and there are only 100-ish pages dedicated to history post-WWI. But I think it’s a good thing to come away feeling like there should be more – because there should be. Black British history isn’t a separate entity; it is British history. And this is an interesting and engaging account of some of that history, with some great photos in my edition too. This is my pick of the month by far.