I sit here – like many others I’m sure – within “stay at home” measures, as we have been officially encouraged (no lockdown in Brunei), privileged to do so while having to adjust to the changes, amidst all the ways in which the COVID-19 has affected our lives. And I remember that I have a blog.

So, books. I had an interesting 2019 when it came to books. My reading record was still awful (I finished 6!). I was pleased to represent our Feminist Book Club, first booth-repping (that ol’ booth life) at YEP’s Thought Festival in September. Then two months later, I was invited by our book club founder Kat (Kathrina) to be a panel moderator (!!) during Heartwrite’s Tiny Lit Fest.

Picture of a table with a small number of books on it, a sign "Great books about women & feminism - free to read", some stationery, and an empty board with a sign "What does feminism mean to you?"

Our booth at the beginning of the day at Thought Festival. The books were later moved to a charming book trolley (from Kat!) and our “Feminism is…” board filled up with answers

If you’re wondering how both of those events went, here’s our Thought Festival highlights on Instagram. While you wait for my write-up on the book club panel (no promises, lol), here’s a thread about it from panelist and friend Ain Bandial:

(open in Twitter for full thread)

Original tweet excerpt removed

The original excerpt or content shown here has been replaced/removed. The original was from someone who was a friend, who I later learned had sexually assaulted another person. In respect to the assault survivor, and as a stance against legitimatising those who commit assault or sexual violence, I’ve removed the content from here.

Otherwise, I honestly spent too many days in 2019 hung up on my struggles with time management, too racked with guilt to spend time on my usual hobbies, or on any new ideas or side projects.

And yet those rules don’t seem to apply right now. As many of us adjust our time and space in the time of #DontPushIt, it almost feels like “anything goes” with how to spend time.

I’ve been reading, a little. And for this blog? A little book round-up, after hmm, 8 years? Why not.

Books Still To Be Finished From 2019

* One of our book club reads in 2019! No, I haven’t finished reading it – we don’t always finish the books :p

Of interest:

  • Inferior was a discussion topic at our event at Thought Festival. We opened the book club for others to join us in our conversation on women in science or related topics.
  • The Weight of Our Sky – thank you Kat for the lend! At The Tiny Lit Fest, we were treated to a reading of the first chapter from the author, Hanna Alkaf, as well as a lively Q&A with her. I knew little about the 1969 race riots in Kuala Lumpur before this.

Books I Started, January to April 2020

I started Broken Stars for B:Read’s February book club – themed “Constellations: Elements of the Night”, so it was fitting. Although if anyone from that night remembers, I spent more time talking about the predecessor to Broken Stars, the 2016 anthology Invisible Planets – an excellent collection!

But both Broken Stars and The Testaments feel a little intimidating right now for me to resume reading. I really appreciated this piece of advice on what to read during these mentally disruptive times, from a Twitter conversation with local booktuber Akhmal Aiman:

After that, I decided to pick up another book. I started the Ruth Rendell anthology, A Spot of Folly, a relatively small volume of short stories of crime and murder. I am actually making good progress with it!

So far, there’s far too many men in these stories who are killing, or attempting to kill, women. Hmmm. But the stories seem to be mostly from the 1970s or 1980s. I do like the writing – the sense of suspense is undeniable.

Books I Finally Gave Up On, 2020

Maybe a presumptive list, but during a minor clean-up at home I found The City of Dreaming Books sitting at the bottom of a pile of (clean) clothes. I started this book in 2016 and, I swear, I only manage to read a handful of pages per year. It’s seen me before I got married, it even has a reading tracking record that survived a phone change:

My app says I only need 1.25 hours per day, to finish the book in 3 days, but it can’t fool me! I rarely read for over an hour a day anymore. *insert crying*

I also seemed to only be reading it in April? So perhaps April is a symbolic month to finally give it up. (Even as I write this, I’m seriously second-guessing myself. This may be why the book is still in my possession.)

I really don’t know why I feel that way about this book. I found it fairly interesting and inventive, with a tone and setting of a curious fantasy world that I haven’t experienced in a while. It also appears to be part of a series, although it’s supposedly fine as a standalone read – I don’t think that was my main issue with it. I just never felt compelled to get on with it.

So, finding it by chance and feeling that familiar dread upon seeing the cover, I thought: Okay, I am never finishing this book.

(If anyone wants it, I’m open for book-swapping – contact me! – or else the book will go to the next round of book donation)

All book covers sourced from: LibraryThing / Amazon

That’s it for the round-up!

Here’s a link to my book catalog on LibraryThing, still kept fairly up to date:

My current and lightweight involvement in Brunei’s book scene, if you’re interested:

Group Name Platform What I’m/we’re up to
Feminist Book Club Instagram I’m a regular member 😀 Mentioned a few times in this post! We’re based in Brunei and currently closed to new members, but we’re open to comments and DMs on Instagram
B:Read (Bruneians Read) Instagram
I’m a social media volunteer for B:Read and currently administrate B:Read’s Twitter
Brunei Bookswap Facebook Okay, so between you and me – because we’ve not posted it anywhere else at the time of my writing this, lol – changes could be coming to the Brunei Bookswap group on Facebook.

It has been recently detached from B:Read, with permission from current B:Read committee. The group actually turned 10 last year, and I was hoping to use the anniversary to turn the inactive group into a small-scale quarterly bookswap group.

A bunch of plans have come along since then and with COVID-19’s interference too, and well, we’ll see what happens.