Like most things in the month, my reading in July took a bit of a dip. I read three books. To be fair, they were all rather dense and not fast reads, sooooooooo. Excuses excuses.
Vagina: A New Biography, Naomi Wolf
I picked this one up on YouTube recommendation. It is a non-fiction exploration of the brain-vagina connection and the discoveries and abuses both have received over the years.
Of the three parts of the book, part two was my favorite. Part one focused on Wolf’s personal journey with some health problems that led to her investigating the nerve connections between the reproductive organs and the brain. As someone who has taken Anatomy & Physiology in college, her wonderment came off as “well duh” to me–but I also tried to remember as a anthropologist/history professor, it was new to her.
Part two was a survey of how female sexuality has been viewed around the world and throughout history. Now, I’ve read a fair number of books on the history of sexology, and so some of it was review, but she included stories from Eastern/South American cultures as well, something often overlooked in other texts. This section was worth the price of admission alone–which in my case was nothing because libraries are gold.
Part three tied things together, but was too far-reaching in its conclusions for me to seriously reconsider the world and my body. Wolf had a healthy sense of skepticism when talking to some New-Agey sex workers, which I appreciate, but overall the book jumped to a few too many conclusions to beat out (heh) BONK by Mary Roach as my favorite science-of-sexuality book. I do, however, think people should read it, as it’s a good jumping-off point for important discussions about sexuality, feminism, and sexual health.
The Improbability of Love, Hannah Rothschild
This one’s a BookTube recommendation that I probably would never have picked up otherwise. It’s a twisty, quirky tale of the European art scene, involving a lost painting, a realistic love story, and a host of colorful art dealers. I don’t have much to say about it-it was funny in spots and had some fun characters, but the pacing was off and the ending was a bit too pat for my tastes.
The Traitor Baru Cormorant, Seth Dickinson
Does a book count as fantasy if there’s no magic? What about if it’s set in a alternate world like ours, but in the past?
About 1/3 of the way into TRAITOR I decided it was a cross between GAME OF THRONES and Orwell’s 1984, and that decision turned out to be prescient in more ways than one. Though there’s much less, say, sexual violence than GOT, this is a very dark book. Title character Baru is in many ways the villain of the story, slowly losing her morals and ‘goodness’ the further into the plots and schemes she goes. Everything the readers think they know about the story is upended at the close, and Baru deserves a slow clap for her ruthlessness and dedication to becoming an overlord.
Also–this story receives the award for Most Realistic Head Injury in a Genre Book. One character gets clobbered with a mace (or something) near the end and is not ok. No Hollywood knockouts here.