Victoria Smith, author of Hags: The Demonisation of Middle-Aged Women recommends a superb selection of books! Before jumping into the interview, please check out Victoria's book:
Q. Do you have a favourite smart thinking book (and why that book)?
Katrine Marçal’s Who Cooked Adam Smith’s Dinner? really changed my perspective on how we undervalue the type of care work that is mostly done by women. Once you start to see the way in which our anxieties over acknowledging dependency colour how we decide what does and doesn’t have economic value, you really can’t unsee it. This dependency denialism feeds into so many political decisions that harm not just the most vulnerable but ultimately everyone. It’s also an incredibly accessible, witty read.
Q. What's the most recent smart thinking book you've read (and how would you rate it)?
Cancelled, by Umut Özkirimli, which explores the politics of outrage and intolerance on the left. It’s written from a left-wing perspective, applying an intersectional feminist analysis in places and drawing comparisons with right-wing authoritarianism. I’ve felt for some time that “cancel culture” – or whatever one wants to call it – is real and disturbing, but this book made me question my own complicity in it. I think a lot of us have a tendency, if we’ve not openly embraced some form of radicalism, to regard ourselves as a nuanced golden mean as far as our own politics are concerned. This book shook me out of my own complacency (a little!) in relation to those I’ve often viewed as “the baddies”.
Q. Do you have a favourite childhood book?
I loved Beverly Cleary’s Ramona series. Cleary had such great insight into that mixture of humiliation and resentment that comes with being a child, constantly undermined by adults who – quite unfairly! – only know more than you because they’re older. All the minor dramas of Ramona’s life are portrayed with such empathy and humour, because small things just aren’t all that small when you’re young.
Q. Do you prefer reading on paper, Kindle or listening to an audiobook?
Kindle, because I am always highlighting and making notes, and if I have print I end up scribbling all over it. I do listen to a lot of audiobooks when I’m commuting but these tend to be fiction (otherwise I’d be distracted from driving by wanting to note-take).
Q. Do you have a favourite bookshop (and why that shop)?
Blackwells in Oxford – I grew up in a relatively small town, then went to university in Oxford, so Blackwells was the first really large bookshop I could go in whenever I wanted. My mum (a school librarian) and I used to always spend hours there whenever she’d visit. I recently signed some copies of my own book there and thought how much she would have loved it.
Image Copyrights: Little, Brown Book Group (Hags), Granta Books (Who Cooked Adam Smith's Dinner?), John Wiley and Sons Ltd (Cancelled), HarperCollins Publishers Inc (Ramona Collection).