Heroes by Stephen Fry

Heroes by Stephen Fry

  • Stephen Fry’s Great Mythology #2
  • Nonfiction
  • Mythology
  • Retellings
  • Paperback
  • 476 pages
  • Goodreads rating: 4.31

Rating: 4 out of 5.

“Such is the paradox of living. We willingly accept that we have no will.”

Stephen Fry, Heroes

Heroes: Mortals and Monsters, Quests and Adventures is the sequel to Mythos, in which Stephen Fry (re)tells classic Greek Mythology. Where Mythos tells the tales of the Greek Gods and their victims, Heroes focuses solely on, sorry for stating the obvious, the heroes of Greek Mythology. It tells the stories of Perseus, Heracles, Oedipus and many others. The Heroes kill horrible beasts, endure the wrath of jealous wives and complete impossible labours.

“Oh Icarus, Icarus, my beloved boy. Why couldn’t you listen? Why did you have to fly so close to the sun?”

Stephen Fry, Heroes

I enjoyed reading Heroes a lot. It definitely lived up to the expectations that Mythos had set. On the whole, the contents of the book appealed to me more than that of Mythos, since the adventures of Greek heroes interest me more than the gods’ pedigree. I read some reviews saying that Heroes is much more organised than Mythos and I have to agree. Heroes is organised by hero. All the adventures of a hero are bundled in chronological order in a chapter with the name of that hero, whereas Mythos was full of shorter stories and felt like complete chaos. What still kind of bothered me, though it isn’t really Fry’s fault, is the insane amount of names in this book. Every time Fry introduces a new character of creature, the name is spelled in capital letters, which happens pretty much every page.. luckily there is a List of Characters in the back of the book. It’s about 40 pages long, so I guess that tells you all you need to know.

Lessons I’ve learned from reading Heroes:

  • If you don’t like someone, just send them to kill some kind of bull and hopefully you’ll never see them again;
  • It is totally okay to throw your children off a mountain if the oracle vaguely tells you to;
  • All mythological creatures are dumb as hell, either insult or flatter them and you’ve practically already won;
  • If you don’t know who your father is, it’s a safe bet to assume it’s Zeus;
  • Don’t insult the gods, especially not by claiming you’re better at something than they are or by having sex on their altar;
  • Beastiality was completely normal in ancient times;
  • If you lay eyes on a handsome youth or girl, it is customary to tell them you love them within the first 10 minutes and then betray your family and risk your life to be with them.

“An unamused Hades cast them into stone chairs, their naked buttocks stuck to the seats, their legs bound by living snakes.”

Stephen Fry, Heroes

Heroes is exactly what you’d expect when you let a comedian write a nonfiction book. The information is definitely there, but you’re not always sure whether he’s kidding or not. I’m pretty sure he paraphrased a little, now and then.

Of course not every hero in Greek mythology is accounted for, but the biggest names are definitely there. It felt like Fry made an attempt to shorten the stories as much as possible to be able to fit more of them into a book, which affected the stories negatively, because a lot of detail was left out. I understand Fry’s choice in this, though, for the book is already 476 pages long and as much as I enjoy Greek mythology, I don’t think I would read an 800 page book about it.

Though this is technically the second book in a series of three (so far), it isn’t necessary to read them in that order. Heroes sometimes gives a reference to Mythos, but you usually get a one sentence summary of the story Fry is referring to.

TW: it may not really be a trigger, but there’s a lot of murder, familicide and sex with mortals, gods and animals, yes, animals, in this book. It’s not very descriptive, but nevertheless, I would recommend younger readers with a curiosity towards Greek mythology to start off by reading some Rick Riordan books, like the Percy Jackson, The Trials of Apollo or the Mark of Athena series. That’s about 15 books worth of kid-friendly fiction based on Greek mythology.


Women Don’t Owe You Pretty by Florence Given – book review

Book review: Women Don’t Owe You Pretty by Florence Given

Rating: 3 out of 5.
  • Feminism/Gender studies
  • LGBT
  • Activism
  • Published in 2020
  • Goodreads rating: 3.90
  • Hardcover Edition
  • 224 pages
  • TW: rape, sexual assault

Disclaimer: I use the word “queer” in this review, because that’s the word that Florence Given uses in her book. Please do not take offense if that’s not the term that you prefer or think should be used.

I picked up this book quite a while ago in an American bookshop in Amsterdam (The American Book Center). It is Florence Given’s, a London based artist, writer and activist, debut novel. In 21 chapters, she gives an accessible introduction into feminism, self love, being queer, privilege, sex, ghosting, gaslighting, pros and cons of social media and many other related subjects. All of the art in the book is made by Given herself.

“Stop breaking yourself down into bite-size pieces. Stay whole and let them choke.”

Florence Given, Women don’t owe you pretty

I initially gave this book 4 stars, but in retrospect I decided to lower it to 3 stars. Mainly because I looked at the back cover and the blurb said: “The game-changing book that every woman needs” and well, it’s really not… Don’t get me wrong, it’s a pretty good read. I went through it fairly easily and I definitely learned some new things every now and then, but it’s really more of a summary of the basics of feminism and it focuses A LOT on being queer, which I am not. If you are and you’re struggling with what that means to you and your femininity, I would recommend reading this book, because it does give a lot of useful advice in that department. However, if you’re a straight cis woman, a few of the chapters will not apply to you.

“There is enough room for all women to be whole without tearing each other down.”

Florence Given, Women Don’t Owe You Pretty

I really liked chapter 20: Check Your Privilege. It gives a very clear definition of privilege and then does a privilege check on white privilege, cisgender privilege, male (passing) privilege, straight privilege, non-disabled privilege and class/financial privilege. It made me realise that I’ve always been really aware of male privilege, because I’m a “victim”, but I actually have lots of different kinds of privilege as well that I’ve been blind to.

I really liked the artwork in the book. It’s colourful and original and it’s a nice break from the heaps of information you’re given. The quotes also make it very understandable and easy to retain what you’ve learned.

I would recommend this book if:

  • You like reading about feminism or are interested in feminism;
  • You’re looking for a smooth introduction into feminism;
  • You’re LGBTQ+ and you’re struggling with femininity
  • You want to read about a queer girl’s struggle with feminism.

Side note: I’ve been seeing a lot of comments and reviews about this book saying that the whole concept of this book is stolen from Chidera Eggerue’s “What a Time to Be Alone”. I haven’t read it, so I’m afraid I can’t really shine a light on this matter. Reading the summary of “What a Time to Be Alone”, I do see some similarities in the topic, but no signs of plagiarism so far. I’ll put it on my TBR and see if I can do a post some day that compares these two books.

The Subtle Art of not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson

The Subtle Art of not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson

Book Review

“Don’t hope for a life without problems,” the panda said. “There’s no such thing. Instead, hope for a life full of good problems.”

Mark Manson
  • Paperback, 206 pages
  • Published September 13th, 2016
  • Nonfiction, Self Help, Psychology

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Gosh, I read this book back in like 2017 or something, but I still think about it all the time. I think I read this book in one, maybe two sittings, but definitely within 48 hours.

The Subtle Art of not Giving a F*ck is a Self Help book that is one of a kind. It is very informal, very humoristic and full of anekdotes. In other books, I often find myself skipping the anekdotes, because they can feel redundant, but I read all of the anekdotes in this one. I actually still open this book every now and then and find some anekdotes that I remember from reading it in 2017 and reread them (and I NEVER reread books, so that says something).

This is thé book I will never stop recommending. There are so many funny anecdotes and quotes that really make the information stick with you for the rest of your life (or at least 4 years, I’ll keep you posted). My favourite is definitely the Disappointment Panda story (I am not going to provide spoilers. If you’re curious, google it or read the book).
Like most advice/self-help books, there are plenty of passages that I don’t (entirely) agree with or that don’t really apply to my situation, but that’s okay. We’ve all been blessed with a brain (although not everyone has figured out how to use it yet), so just filter out the advice that dóés help you and forget the advice that doesn’t.

“Life is essentially an endless series of problems. The solution to one problem is merely the creation of another.”

Mark Manson

Mark Manson is a really good writer, even if you don’t completely agree with his opinions (which a lot of people don’t). His writing is funny and clever, though maybe a little controversial sometimes. If you’re not sure if his book(s) are for you, he started out as and still is a blogger, so you should definitely check out his blog.

I five-starred this book back in 2017 and today, rereading some of the passages that I highlighted 4 years ago, I still whole-heartedly agree with 2017-me.

The Diary of A Bookseller by Shaun Bythell

The Diary of A Bookseller by Shaun Bythell

Book Review

“The immersive capacity of a good novel to transport you into a different world is unique to the written word.”

Shaun Bythell, The Diary of a Bookseller
  • Paperback, 310 pages
  • Published September 13th, 2018
  • Nonfiction, Autobiography, Memoir
  • Goodreads rating: 3.75

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The Diary of a Bookseller tells the stories from the life of bookseller Shaun Bythell. He writes about the interesting customers that walk through the doors of The Bookshop in Wigtown (very original name for.. a bookshop), its extravagant employees and everything that makes being a bookseller fascinating (and sometimes infuriating).

I absolutely loved this book. It’s funny, it’s well-written, it’s packed with sarcasm, it’s interesting and it WILL make you laugh out loud. It definitely makes me want to be a bookseller.

The book is written as a diary (well, duh) and is actually the autobiography of bookseller Shaun Bythell. The book covers a little over a year of his life as a bookseller. Bythell starts every new month with a quote from George Orwell’s Bookshop Memories (an essay that describes Orwell’s memories from his time working at a bookshop), which really made me want to read Bookshop Memories (add to cart).

If you want a hilarious book about selling books, I would definitely recommend reading The Diary of a Bookseller. I honestly can’t think of anyone who likes reading, who would not like this book.

The ONLY thing I didn’t like about it, is that it’s a very slow read. It’s only about 300 pages, but it took me a full month and a half (of unemployment, I might add) to finish it. It’s the perfect book to read out of in between other reads, but it’s not a book you can finish in one sitting.

Bythell wrote two more books, Confessions of a Bookseller and Seven Kinds of People You Find in Bookshops, which I added to my TBR faster than you can say “Seven Kinds of People You Find in Bookshops” (though I can think of a million things you can do faster than saying that).

If you’re not sure if my definition of funny is the same as your definition of funny, you can just go to Shaun Bythell’s Goodreads page and read some of his quotes. I especially like the one about Dracula (easy to find, it’s printed on the back) 😁