Non-fiction Roundup: Books read between January 01 and September 01, 2017

While I spend most my time living in other people’s fantasy worlds, sometimes I dabble in the non-fiction. You know, the books that people call you a nerd for reading because it’s a history tome. A rabid fangirl because it’s a biography. An impressionable tool because you’re reading a self-help book.

And in all of those cases, I kindly invite the person judging your reading habits to kiss all of my ass.

Because this is Banned Bitches, bitches. Where book snobs ain’t welcome and we fully acknowledge that the only bad books are the poorly written ones.

And in case you needed to know which ones are poorly written, I invite you to peruse my non-fiction round-up. Please enjoy my collection of the good, the bad, and the please god just make it stop.

In vaguely the order that I read them in, and sort of like a book report. Because it was late Thursday night slash early Friday morning and I realized I hadn’t formatted my post yet. Making it just like my homework when I was in high school.

Go Hawks!

Dodge City: Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterson, and the Wickedest Town in the American West by Tom Clavin

Synopsis: Dodge City, Kansas, is a place of legend. The town that started as a small military site exploded with the coming of the railroad, cattle drives, eager miners, settlers, and various entrepreneurs passing through to populate the expanding West. Before long, Dodge City’s streets were lined with saloons and brothels and its populace was thick with gunmen, horse thieves, and desperadoes of every sort. By the 1870s, Dodge City was known as the most violent and turbulent town in the West.

Enter Wyatt Earp and Bat Masterson. Young and largely self-trained men, the lawmen led the effort that established frontier justice and the rule of law in the American West, and did it in the wickedest place in the United States. When they moved on, Wyatt to Tombstone and Bat to Colorado, a tamed Dodge was left in the hands of Jim Masterson. But before long Wyatt and Bat, each having had a lawman brother killed, returned to that threatened western Kansas town to team up to restore order again in what became known as the Dodge City War before riding off into the sunset.

#1 New York Times bestselling author Tom Clavin’s Dodge City tells the true story of their friendship, romances, gunfights, and adventures, along with the remarkable cast of characters they encountered along the way (including Wild Bill Hickok, Jesse James, Doc Holliday, Buffalo Bill Cody, John Wesley Hardin, Billy the Kid, and Theodore Roosevelt) that has gone largely untold—lost in the haze of Hollywood films and western fiction, until now.

(holy fuck, how long is this synopsis)

Meta Details and Rating:
Source: Netgalley
Format: eBook
Length: 384 pages
Publication Date: February 28, 2017
Trigger Warnings: Racial slurs
Recommended for: using to prop up a wobbly table…
Rating: 📖

Ginny Lurcock’s Thoughts: I requested this one back in the long long ago. I love history and The Wild West so this was sure to be a good time, right?


For starters, I’ve since learned that Wyatt Earp was a con-artist who, among other various nefarious deeds, peddled lies to Hollywood. So this book talking about how totally faboo he  was did not strike a great chord with me from the get go.

Add in the way the book referred to the native population of America (hint: never use the word savage. EVER.) and I just… could not read anymore.

No, bro. Just… no, bro.

A complimentary copy of this book was provided in exchange for a fair and honest review via Netgalley.

The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America’s Shining Women by Kate Moore

Synopsis: The incredible true story of the young women exposed to the “wonder” substance of radium and their brave struggle for justice…

As World War I raged across the globe, hundreds of young women toiled away at the radium-dial factories, where they painted clock faces with a mysterious new substance called radium. Assured by their bosses that the luminous material was safe, the women themselves shone brightly in the dark, covered from head to toe with the glowing dust. With such a coveted job, these “shining girls” were considered the luckiest alive—until they began to fall mysteriously ill. As the fatal poison of the radium took hold, they found themselves embroiled in one of America’s biggest scandals and a groundbreaking battle for workers’ rights.

A rich, historical narrative written in a sparkling voice, The Radium Girls is the first book that fully explores the strength of extraordinary women in the face of almost impossible circumstances and the astonishing legacy they left behind.

Meta Details and Rating:
Source: Netgalley
Format: eBook
Length: 480 pages
Publication Date: May 02, 2017
Trigger Warnings: Graphic descriptions of violent deaths
Recommended for: not the faint of heart
Rating: 📖📖📖

Ginny Lurcock’s Thoughts: This is such an important story. Firstly because it’s a forgotten story. An ignored story. The story of the young women who died gruesome deaths, their bodies literally rotting while they were still alive, callously tossed away by the Radium industry and an uncaring bureaucracy.

I want to say it shows how far we’ve come as a society, but we still have people working in dangerous and untenable conditions that go largely ignored. The coal industry comes to mind. (I’m very vocally against the coal industry, FYI.) Jobs that harbor potentially deadly conditions for their laborers where the corporations and people in charge get richer and richer.

And richer.

While entire communities suffer and die.

So yes, this book is incredibly important. It reminds us, in graphic detail, where we came from while also warning us to remain vigilant against industries that seek profits over people’s lives. Industries that are unwilling to help the people they made sick. Industries that seek to hide their deadly impact on people’s lives.

Horrifying, but vastly important, this book is nearly a must read. If only it hadn’t devoted so many pages to how infinitely lovely and vivacious the “girls” were before their poisoning. It shouldn’t have mattered how attractive they were before their jaws rotted out of their skulls. It shouldn’t matter how lively they were or how active their social lives were. Their marital status, their children, how often they went dancing…

The first death recorded in the book was at the end of a long and horrible illness, her throat dissolved, hemorrhaged, and she drowned in her own blood. No one deserves that.

Plus the repeated use of the word “girl” in reference to the women involved is patronizing and made me feel like a cat being pet backward.

A complimentary copy of this book was provided in exchange for a fair and honest review via Netgalley.

Living Like Audrey: Life Lessons from the Fairest Lady of All by Victoria Loustalot

Synopsis: Living Like Audrey is a captivating and insightful look at an iconic woman who was an inspiration to many and whose style, personality, and uniqueness inspires generation after generation. Victoria Loustalot (author of This Is How You Say Goodbye) offers a fresh spin on what made Audrey Hepburn so popular on film and off, what she had to say about life and living it fully, and why we still have such a strong emotional connection with her. With seldom-seen photos and quotes from Audrey and those who loved her throughout, Living Like Audrey turns the spotlight on this remarkable woman’s defining characteristics and contains lessons on how we all can be a little “more Audrey” in our daily lives.

Meta Details and Rating:
Source: Netgalley
Format: eBook
Length: 208 pages
Publication Date:
Trigger Warnings:
Recommended for:
Rating: 📖

Ginny Lurcock’s Thoughts: At first I just considered this an excuse to fangirl over Audrey Hepburn, but as I spoke to a friend who’s a fan of Audrey and read another of her biographies I realized the disservice this book does Audrey. It never goes in depth into the tragedies and hardships of her lives. The things that made her who she was. The events that made it so miraculous that she was as graceful and poised as she was.

That’s what I’d love to know. How she managed to be such an icon in the face of such personal tragedy and adversity.

So while the book is chock full of wonderful pictures and cute anecdotes, I’d only recommend it for fans who want a sterilized version of her life.

A complimentary copy of this book was provided in exchange for a fair and honest review via Netgalley.

Jane Austen at Home: A Biography by Lucy Worsley

Synopsis: On the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen’s death, historian Lucy Worsley leads us into the rooms from which our best-loved novelist quietly changed the world.

This new telling of the story of Jane’s life shows us how and why she lived as she did, examining the places and spaces that mattered to her. It wasn’t all country houses and ballrooms, but a life that was often a painful struggle. Jane famously lived a ‘life without incident’, but with new research and insights, Lucy Worsley reveals a passionate woman who fought for her freedom. A woman who far from being a lonely spinster, in fact, had at least five marriage prospects, but who in the end refused to settle for anything less than Mr Darcy.

Meta Details and Rating:
Source: Netgalley
Format: eBook
Length: 400 pages
Publication Date: May 18, 2017
Recommended for: history buffs and Austen fans.
Rating: 📖📖📖📖📖

Ginny Lurcock’s Thoughts: Yeah, yeah… don’t compare books. Blah, blah, blah… Here’s the thing, though, much like “Living Like Audrey,” “Jane Austen at Home” includes a fair bit of fangirling. The author even admits in the introductory text that she’s an Austen fangirl and that this text is her interpretation of letters and other historical documents. That she tried to find her own Jane and this book is the result.

Unlike Audrey, this book is amazing. Just incredible. Chock full of details and with a unique look on the reality of life for women in Regency Era England. Combine this book with
“Unmentionable: The Victorian Lady’s Guide to Sex, Marriage, and Manners” by Therese Oneill and you’ve got a Christmas gift any history and romance buff would freak out over.

And this is very much a hint. Please, someone, buy me these books for Christmas. Preferably in hardcover so I can stroke their spines lovingly from time to time…

I got off track somewhere…

Back to “Jane Austen at Home”

This book is full of facts and information without being dry or tedious. The author has included a plethora of footnotes supporting her research. It was an informative and fascinating read and I really do look forward to getting a hardcover copy that I can page through from time to time at my leisure later. Well done, Ms. Worsley.

A complimentary copy of this book was provided in exchange for a fair and honest review via Netgalley.

The Worrier’s Guide to the End of the World: Surviving a So-Called Spiritual Journey through India, Italy, and Beyond by Torre DeRoche

Synopsis: Torre DeRoche is grieving the loss of the two most important men in her life–the partner of nine years who she’s just broken up with, and her father, who’s just passed away–when she crosses paths with Masha, a woman who has put her marriage on hold to pursue a dream of walking the world in order to try and make sense of it. When Masha invites Torre to join her on a pilgrimage in India, Torre embarks on a journey both physical and spiritual.

It’s an uncertain route full of danger–pollution, wild dogs, snakes, and men–but if they can survive uninjured the duo hope they’ll absorb wisdom by osmosis and end the journey as two women who are fit, fearless, and ready to save the world. But nothing these two unlikely adventurers encounter is quite as terrifying as being 30-something women who have no clue about anything anymore.

Meta Details and Rating:
Source: Netgalley
Format: eBook
Length: 288 pages
Publication Date: September 5, 2017
Trigger Warnings: medication shaming, grief, depression, anxiety
Recommended for: …let’s pretend I removed this field.
Rating: 📖

Ginny Lurcock’s Thoughts: Hello, my name is Ginny, and I compare books to each other. There, I’ve taken my first step to acknowledging my problem and that’s as far as I’m going. Thank you for joining me for this momentous occasion, now let me compare this book to another I read this year…

Earlier this year I read “All Over The Place.” You won’t find my review for this title anywhere, though, because I had a real crisis while reading it. You see, every so often it was actually pretty offensive, and in those moments I couldn’t forget the book was written by a white girl with a rich husband who was able to quit her job and write a travel blog full time. She was able to take that risk, and I can barely risk checking twitter at work. And while she talks about how money didn’t save them from nearly falling apart or illness… it’s hard to read without feeling the entitlement and getting bitter and jealous.

When I started “The Worrier’s Guide to the End of the World: Surviving a So-Called Spiritual Journey through India, Italy, and Beyond” by Torre DeRoche (holy fuck, white girls, the titles of your books) and discovered that this was written by the white daughter of a famous director of cult classics who moved to Australia I was concerned. When the intro included some misogynistic comments, I was very concerned. When her anxiety ran the risk of triggering my own, I almost put the book down.

But I continued because I like to give a book until 25% before I rage quit (whenever possible) and discovered that this book was actually pretty endearing. Torre (and her friend Masha) experienced some incredible moments and I’d go so far to say they were unbelievable if not for the fact that I’ve totally had some of those moments.

There was laughter, there was fear, there was learning to trust yourself again in the wake of personal tragedy (or perhaps you never had in the first place.) And I was so ready to write a favorable review. So ready. Sure, I still had those moments where I was flushed with rage because I have never been able to take a journey around the world, but I made my choices. I am living the life I choose to live. One without risk. And it’s all well and good for me to be bitter about it now that I have concrete responsibilities (a child) but I wouldn’t change that for all the pilgrimages in the world.

I had moved past being a hater.

I was ready to loudly exclaim that outside of the “what kind of entitled white girl bullshit” moments, though, and the occasional “oh my god, you can’t use ableist slurs anymore…” the book was great. That it was a well-written journey, both physically and emotionally with mental illness in the face of major emotional upheaval (the loss of a father and end of a relationship.)

Then I got to the bit about the medications to handle crushing depression:

My husband avoided getting medication for so long because of sentiments like this. Until we almost separated because of it. I avoided medication for so long because of sentiments like this. Until all I was doing was going to work and sleeping. People die because of sentiments like this.

And I just cannot…

I gave this book a chance, despite my concern that it was written by a privileged white girl, and I should not have. I should have stuck with my gut and given up in the intro. At least then I wouldn’t feel so utterly betrayed…

A complimentary copy of this book was provided in exchange for a fair and honest review via Netgalley.

As a bonus, I’ve included my never before released review of “All Over the Place” by Geraldine DeRuiter.

All Over the Place: Adventures in Travel, True Love, and Petty Theft by Geraldine DeRuiter

Synopsis: Some people are meant to travel the globe, to unwrap its secrets and share them with the world. And some people have no sense of direction, are terrified of pigeons, and get motion sickness from tying their shoes. These people are meant to stay home and eat nachos.
Geraldine DeRuiter is the latter. But she won’t let that stop her.
Hilarious, irreverent, and heartfelt, All Over the Place chronicles the years Geraldine spent traveling the world after getting laid off from a job she loved. Those years taught her a great number of things, though the ability to read a map was not one of them. She has only a vague idea of where Russia is, but she now understands her Russian father better than ever before. She learned that what she thought was her mother’s functional insanity was actually an equally incurable condition called “being Italian.” She learned what it’s like to travel the world with someone you already know and love–how that person can help you make sense of things and make far-off places feel like home. She learned about unemployment and brain tumors, lost luggage and lost opportunities, and just getting lost in countless terminals and cabs and hotel lobbies across the globe. And she learned that sometimes you can find yourself exactly where you need to be–even if you aren’t quite sure where you are.

Meta Details and Rating:
Source: Netgalley
Format: eBook
Length: 288 pages
Publication Date: May 02, 2017
Trigger Warnings: I don’t remember. I read this in April…
Recommended for: April was a long time ago, y’all…
Rating: 📖📖📖

Ginny Lurcock’s Thoughts: All Over the Place is funny as fuck. I honestly and truly enjoyed the title. It felt so similar to experiences that my family or I would’ve encountered while traveling that it felt like validation. And the anxiety! Oh my god. I’m flying to Florida in five weeks and I nearly packed our bags this weekend “just to see.”

I’m not sure what I would have seen, and odds are those bags would’ve stayed packed until the trip itself, but…

Listen, my neurosis aside… this book was hilarious and engaging. Humor that spoke to me (poop and fart jokes… it was poop and fart jokes) mixed with an obvious and all-encompassing love for her husband. It felt like my story. In fact, I resonated so much with this book I plan on bringing a copy as a host gift for my sister-in-law who we’re actually visiting in Florida in five weeks.

There were a few sticky bits though.

Occasionally the author punches down and makes some vaguely offensive jokes. And in those moments (and a few others) it’s hard to forget that this is a white girl with a rich husband who was able to quit her job and write a travel blog full time. She was able to take that risk, and I can barely risk checking twitter at work…

She does talk about the stress put on her marriage by her husband’s high-stress job. That he’s a self-made man. That having money didn’t save them from personal tragedy and illness… but… well occasionally I suffer from jealousy. Occasionally I’m a hater. I’m trying hard to overcome it, but the urge to judge someone I view as having more than me is still there. Lurking in the back of my head.

Which is why nothing I say in this review holds water. At this point, I don’t even know if I’m judging it too harshly because of that kneejerk reaction while finishing up the book late at night and already mildly depressed, or if I’m giving her a pass where she doesn’t deserve one. I wouldn’t have wasted my time writing the review (and the time you just spent reading it) had I not gotten it from Netgalley. I would’ve recommended the book to friends and talked about it once they were done.

But I did get it from Netgalley. So I do have to say something. And here it is, my summary.

Aside from bouts of privilege and occasionally punching down, All Over the Place is a wonderfully written:

Love letter to the author’s husband
Chronicle of anxiety
Struggles of traveling with mental illness
An ode to giving context to family members through changing your perspective.

If that sounds like something you’re into, check it out from your local library. I’d love to discuss it with you once you’ve finished. (Note: except that I forgot most of this book since April… so I’ll need to be prompted.)

A complimentary copy of this book was provided in exchange for a fair and honest review via Netgalley.

How to Understand Your Gender: A Practical Guide for Exploring Who You Are by Alex Iantaffi, Meg-John Barker

Synopsis: Have you ever questioned your own gender identity? Do you know somebody who is transgender or who identifies as non-binary? Do you ever feel confused when people talk about gender diversity?

This down-to-earth guide is for anybody who wants to know more about gender, from its biology, history and sociology, to how it plays a role in our relationships and interactions with family, friends, partners and strangers. It looks at practical ways people can express their own gender, and will help you to understand people whose gender might be different from your own. With activities and points for reflection throughout, this book will help people of all genders engage with gender diversity and explore the ideas in the book in relation to their own lived experiences.

Meta Details and Rating:
Source: Netgalley
Format: eBook
Length: 280 pages
Publication Date: September 21, 2017
Trigger Warnings: lots of heavy shit about gender. They usually warn you and recommend taking breaks during these bits
Recommended for: EVERYONE
Rating: 📖📖📖📖📖

Ginny Lurcock’s Thoughts: I spend a good portion of time considering my own gender. Like, on a weekly basis. Sometimes daily. It’s a thing. I’ve never felt like I fit. Partially because of my mental illness, partly because of my sexuality, but I’m also not always comfortable in my own skin. Thanks to internalized misogyny and other factors, I never felt like I fit into the roll of “feminine woman.” I also knew I was not a man. And while I’m coming to terms with myself more and more over time, I still want to know.

I still want a label, because labels can be very important.

As a result, I was excited for the book. And right from the intro I was really into it. It’s super inviting. And I know you might not believe that a book can be inviting, but this totally was. From the language straight through to the font, this book wants you to read it. It promotes intersectionality and equality at every turn. It wants you to consider gender and what that means. Not just for yourself, but for everyone. EVERYONE. It wants you to learn not just for your own physical and emotional well being, but for those around you. It encourages empathy and for you to take time for yourself.

There is guided self-care periodically throughout the book.

I’m crying. I cried while reading, and I’m now crying while reviewing. It’s a beautiful book, y’all, and I want to buy a copy for the entire world…

And as for my label? I’m glad you asked! (Please note, I know you did not ask but I feel this is important to the review, so…)

Turns out, I am female. It’s my own internalized misogyny as well as societal misogyny that made the label feel as if it didn’t fit. I do enjoy things that are typically seen as “male.” I’m a nerd who loves learning and video games and comic books. I enjoy building things, math, and the sciences. I’m pansexual with a high sex drive so ads targeted towards men have historically appealed to me too. I have a high amount of dark body hair. I’m awkward and don’t feel like I fit into my skin. I don’t understand makeup. I grew up with mostly male friends. I have dry skin and shaving my legs is a real fucking issue because of it… Because of all these things (and more, including jealousy that I was not comfortable being feminine) I previously saw being feminine as wrong. I’m slowly coming to terms with that. I’m slowly coming to terms with dressing more feminine (clothes are expensive…) and with the knowledge that I don’t have to be femme 100% of the time to be female.

It won’t happen overnight, this acceptance of myself, but that’s okay. Just like it’s okay to have quiet moments of introspection where I consider my gender from time to time. It’s healthy. Alex Iantaffi and Meg-John Barker taught me that.

A complimentary copy of this book was provided in exchange for a fair and honest review via Netgalley.

(I hummed this while formatting this review)

How to Teach Meditation to Children: A Practical Guide to Techniques and Tips for Children Aged 5-18 by David Fontana, Ingrid Slack

Synopsis: This is a new edition of the classic guide to teaching meditation to children – one of the first and still one of the best in terms of clarity, practicality and usability. Avoiding religious terminology, it’s aimed at both parents and teachers and explains the varying techniques for working with children in different age groups (from 5 upward), offering a wide range of easy-to-follow and effective exercises. The book explains the benefits of meditation for children, from relieving shyness, anxiety and tension to reducing hyperactivity, aggression and impatience. Meditation has also proved helpful when treating asthma, insomnia and depression, and in improving concentration, establishing emotional balance and enhancing imagination and creativity. In fact, meditation is one of the best tools we can offer children to help them cope with the intensity of their feelings and ease the pressures in their lives – among family, with friends and at school. It gives even very young children power over their thinking and emotions through enhanced self-understanding and is incredibly valuable in helping adolescents to navigate the emotional peaks and valleys of the transition from childhood to adulthood. The edition will be given a new foreword by a prominent child psychologist, and a design that highlights the exercises and makes the text even easier to navigate.

Meta Details and Rating:
Source: Netgalley
Format: eBook
Length: 240 pages
Publication Date: September 19, 2017
Recommended for: People who understand meditation, for starters…
Rating: 📖📖📖

Ginny Lurcock’s Thoughts: I actually picked this up because I have no idea how to meditate myself. I figured that in reading this guide for children, I might learn as well. Turns out it is what it says, a guide to teaching children for people who already know…

So it made no sense to me.

It’s not the book’s fault. It was well setup and easy to read. It just might as well have bene in another language since I’m unable to learn…

A complimentary copy of this book was provided in exchange for a fair and honest review via Netgalley.

Vibrator Nation: How Feminist Sex-Toy Stores Changed the Business of Pleasure by Lynn Comella

Synopsis: In the 1970s a group of pioneering feminist entrepreneurs launched a movement that ultimately changed the way sex was talked about, had, and enjoyed. Boldly reimagining who sex shops were for and the kinds of spaces they could be, these entrepreneurs opened sex-toy stores like Eve’s Garden, Good Vibrations, and Babeland not just as commercial enterprises, but to provide educational and community resources as well. In Vibrator Nation Lynn Comella tells the fascinating history of how these stores raised sexual consciousness, redefined the adult industry, and changed women’s lives. Comella describes a world where sex-positive retailers double as social activists, where products are framed as tools of liberation, and where consumers are willing to pay for the promise of better living—one conversation, vibrator, and orgasm at a time.

Meta Details and Rating:
Source: Netgalley
Format: eBook
Length: 296 pages
Publication Date: September 8, 2017
Recommended for: people who don’t care about intersectionality, I guess…
Rating: 📖

Ginny Lurcock’s Thoughts: As a sex positive fan of vibrators, masturbation, and sex, in general, I was so excited to read the history of how feminist sex stores changed the business of pleasure. That’s like… that’s my jam. My husband and I have a varied and extensive collection of sex toys. I have been to several sex toy parties. I watch pornography, occasionally with my husband but not always. For fuck’s sake, I write erotica.

But I also love inclusion and intersectionality. So while this book includes really important history, the beginning at least focuses on white feminists… and seems to have a preference for lesbians at that. I can’t tell you what happens after that because I lost interest. Any book that focuses on feminism and doesn’t mention WOC in the first 20% isn’t a book I have time for.

A complimentary copy of this book was provided in exchange for a fair and honest review via Netgalley.

Maria and Me: A father, a daughter (and Autism) by Miguel Gallardo

Synopsis: Giving a father’s insight into life with his daughter Maria, aged 12, who has autism, this comic tells the story of their week holiday in the Canary Islands, Spain. Delightful illustrations and dialogue between father and daughter show the day-to-day challenges that people with autism and their carers face, and how Miguel and Maria overcome them.

Funny and endearing, this comic helps to show how Maria sees and experiences the world in her own way and that she’s unique, just like everyone else.

Meta Details and Rating:
Source: Netgalley
Format: eBook
Length: 64 pages
Publication Date: September 21, 2017
Trigger Warnings: people being shitty to people with autism
Rating: 📖📖

Ginny Lurcock’s Thoughts: This reads like the narration of an art house documentary. Specifically, it reminds me of Barney’s art film from the Simpsons… So, you know, not ideal. Disjointed and jarring in places as it lurches from one event to the next. And while that might be what the author was trying to get across, I don’t think it’s the best way to show what being a carer is like.

(It is possible, I should mention, that I am being overly judgemental because of how fiercly I love the people in my life with Autism, and not wanting anything else that is unfair or not ideal thrown out in the world for them…)

A complimentary copy of this book was provided in exchange for a fair and honest review via Netgalley.

That’s all I’ve got this time around. There should’ve been other books… but the ones on suffrage and shame were thick and I kept zoning out because of heavy real life shit. Wanting to give them the attention they deserve, they’ve been postponed to the next roundup. Sorry.

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