I’ve been shamefully neglectful of both my blog and my books in the past few weeks. What’s taken the place of my regular reading and writing habits? The Evening Standard puzzle section is 110% to blame. Because my 84-years-old-on-the-inside self has become addicted to a good Crossword/ Codeword/ Gogen, I’ve been dedicating all of my train time to honing the art of the newspaper puzzle. I’ve got pretty damn good. Just saying. But, before my addiction spiralled out of control, I did read some kind of cool books in September (and I might even venture to pick one up again this month, too).

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves – Karen Joy Fowler

I’m ashamed to admit that the book snob in me took over when I picked this book up in Waterstones and I judged this book by its cover, more than anything else. First, because it’s yellow and I like yellow. Second, because there were awards and quotes all over it. Having judged accordingly and skimmed the blurb, I decided that this was the book for me, as I continue to (snobbishly) branch out and broaden my literary horizons.

I can’t really talk about the book without talking about the plot so spoiler alert. We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves is told through the eyes of Rosemary, a now-twenty-something college student living with the guilt of having her sister sent away and the sense of abandonment she feels after her brother goes missing looking for her sister. Turns out, her sister is a chimp and her brother’s an animal rights activist who’s wanted by the FBI.

This sounds like a pretty far-fetched plot, I know. The thing is, the mix of witty irony and painful emotion makes it all too real. Drawn from Fowler’s research about the chimpanzee studies of the 1970’s, this is less of a novel and more of a 400-page moral compass, showing the heartbreaking implosion of a young family and the effects this has on the individuals involved.

Talking With Psychopaths and Savages – Christopher Berry-Dee

I don’t usually read non-fiction books, but I’m sort of morbidly fascinated by the way crazy people think, which is why I decided to give this a try.

It might just be because I’ve watched one too many episodes of Luther, but this wasn’t nearly as sensationalist as I thought it would be. This is mildly disappointing and mildly terrifying in equal measure.

The book sets out on the premise that “psychopath” doesn’t have to equate to “homicidal maniac” (hence the less-than-sensationalist angle). Instead, it’s something more insidious and altogether more common than we might like to think (hence the terrifying).

Disappointing editing aside – there are literally whole chunks of the book that have been copied and pasted from one chapter to another – this proved interesting reading and I’m pretty impressed with Berry-Dee’s nonchalant attitude towards some of the UK and US’ scariest people.

What bothers me a little though, is the ease with which he manipulates the minds of his interviewees; surely someone who can sway others that easily has a bit of the psycho in himself?


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