Between Worlds and Effortless front covers

I’m actually all caught up with my April NetGalley releases, although I have been clicking away and requesting more (post coming this week!) so hope I can stay caught up. These two are quite different, sharing only the features that they’re non-fiction and from NG, however I could either write everything or a very short review, so here are round-ups on both of them.

Jeffrey Weeks – “Between Worlds: A Queer Boy from the Valleys”

(08 April 2021)

I requested this one because I’ve been working on a project about Wales featuring many people of Weeks’ generation, and it also ties in with my interest in LGBTQI lives and history. Weeks is a well-known sociologist and historian of LGBTQI sexuality, in particular, and here presents his autobiography.

The most lively and interesting part of the book is the description of his childhood in the Welsh Valleys, part of a close community that also imposes a very strict and regimented, gender-based, hegemony on all the inhabitants. Men are super-masculine, women are the matriarchs who run it all from home, and there’s no room for difference or gender non-conformity. He gets out as soon as he can, discovering himself and the gay liberation movement in London.

From then on, autobiography is mixed with history in a useful way, applying the changes in legislation and attitudes to his own life and experience. There is useful reflection on the ways in which the original gay liberation movement wasn’t inclusive of GMP* folk and people along the line of initials from the L and G, especially transpeople. There’s also acknowledgement of friends and comrades and a few shots at others and evening of scores. There is a lot of detail about Marxist magazine publishing collectives and the intricacies of academic life which did, I’m afraid, get a little tiring. It’s a shame, as there’s a great story and good work on linking the personal and the political which gets slightly lost.

*GMP = Global Majority Peoples – I encountered it in “Loud Black Girls” as an alternative for BAME and took to it. Thanks to Laura for pointing out this wasn’t a hugely well-known acronym yet.

This book was published on 01 April – thank you to Parthian Books for making it available to me via NetGalley.

Greg McKeown – “Effortless: Make it Easier to do What Matters Most”

(31 March 2021)

McKeown made his name with another book, “Essentialism” but when he found himself burning out on book tours and other work, unable to pare down his to-do list any further (the basic point of Essentialism). So he decided to look at how to simplify your life and make things easier and smoother to deal with. It’s not until the Conclusion, which is pretty moving, that he reveals the other reason why he wrote the book, when faced with an almost unbearable family issue, and I wonder if this would have been better moved to the front, though it is mentioned early on.

The book is really suitable for people on the way to burn-out or already there. Much like “Brave, not Perfect“, it addresses mainly workplace situations – trust in teams, not pulling all-nighters, being organised, etc. – although it does cover household tasks, too (make things fun by ironing while listening to podcasts!). So it probably wasn’t massively aimed at me, as having got through the initial working-two-jobs-when-building-my-business phase, I’ve made a big effort to get enough rest etc. (I start early and finish later than a standard work day, but usually have a big slab of exercise or, in The Before Times, a coffee with a friend in the middle, for example), set manageable expectations (I underpromise and then overdeliver without destroying myself) and not overwork, and I’ve managed to maintain that more of the time than less. So it’s a good confirmation to me about doing the right things and would be useful for a burning out executive or similar.

I very much liked his enthusiastic thanks to his editor in the acknowledgements!

This one comes out on 27 April. Thank you to Random House / Virgin Books for making this available to me via NetGalley.