Non Fiction

So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson

you have been shamed

My boyfriend James likes to say rather sarcastically: “Good luck having Vera read something from one of your recommended authors”. Why? Well, I tend to possess the gift of ‘a zero attention span’. I get super excited about an author’s recommendation, and five seconds later, I forget all about it. Despite how much I would like to read something from that author and the fact that their books are added to my TBR list (which I tend to ignore completely these days).

Why am I telling you this?

About 6 years ago, James recommended Jon Ronson’s The Psychopath Test to me, telling me how brilliant Jon Ronson was and how much he enjoyed that book. I listened, got super excited … and still haven’t read that book to this day….

A few weeks ago, I happened to find out Jon Ronson wrote this book about shame. Shame is one of those topics I always want to know more of. My curiosity was immediately sparked, I had to read that book!

Well, I did. And I loved it and I promptly told James off for not telling me sooner how brilliant Jon Ronson was… true story. 😉

For those of you, who have recommended me authors or books so far: there is still hope that I may read them one day… it may be a convoluted and a long-winded process, but I may get there. Do not despair! 😉 And I do appreciate all of your recommendations, I promise. ❤️


Let’s have a look at what Goodreads’ says about this book first:

From the internationally bestselling author of The Psychopath Test, a captivating and brilliant exploration of one of our world’s most overlooked forces.

For the past three years, Jon Ronson has been immersing himself in the world of modern-day public shaming—meeting famous shamees, shamers, and bystanders who have been impacted.  This is the perfect time for a modern-day Scarlet Letter—a radically empathetic book about public shaming, and about shaming as a form of social control. It has become such a big part of our lives it has begun to feel weird and empty when there isn’t anyone to be furious about. Whole careers are being ruined by one mistake. A transgression is revealed. Our collective outrage at it has the force of a hurricane. Then we all quickly forget about it and move on to the next one, and it doesn’t cross our minds to wonder if the shamed person is okay or in ruins. What’s it doing to them? What’s it doing to us?

Ronson’s book is a powerful, funny, unique, and very humane dispatch from the frontline, in the escalating war on human nature and its flaws.


I listened to this book as an audiobook. It is narrated by the author himself. I enjoyed both Ronson’s musical Welsh accent as well as his narrative. If you enjoy listening to non-fiction podcasts, the audio version of this book may be a way to go.

So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed investigates, as the title suggests, public shaming. Shame is this corrosive feeling we may experience when we think we may just not be good enough. And we are worried that ‘they’ will find out one day. Public shaming is turning that fear of being found out, into a nightmare scenario of a roaring and upset crowd shouting at us ‘shame on you, what a terrible person you are’.

“We are defining the boundaries of normality by tearing apart the people outside it.” 

Ronson’s book seriously played with my emotions. His curious and funny approach got him to meet people who, according to his words: ‘didn’t do that much wrong’. I could not stomach how torn apart those people got. Hearing about it was both chilling and utterly terrifying. Sadly, it was all believable as well. And I think that is what got me.

“There is nothing I dislike more in the world than people who care more about ideology than they do about people.” 

I personally enjoyed the first half of the book a little bit more than its latter part. That could have been me getting confused with names though. I do have a poor memory and perhaps reading this as a book, rather than listening to it,  would have helped me as I would have been able to reference names a bit better that way.

What I did enjoy was Ronson’s sharp writing style, his diverse spectre of cases as well as the thought provoking topic itself. I also appreciated Ronson sharing some of his own stories. And his use of humour sometimes helped, especially when thinking about such heavy topic as shame.

What’s Ronson’s answer to public shaming? I’ll let you read the book to find it. 😊

Recommended? Yes! It’s not a collection of boring facts but rather a vivid portrait of incidents that could have potentially happened to many of us.

Non Fiction

We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

we should all be feminists

We live in a society where shame can cause us to put on so much emotional armour that we are no longer connecting with others. You can call it fear, self-doubt, insecurity… whatever we call it, it’s than feeling we may get from time to time thinking we may just not be good enough. And all we do want is to hide. You may know by now, that shame is something Dr Brené Brown’s books talk about and I did explore it a bit in this post.

Why am I talking about shame whilst analysing a book about feminism? You see, how we perceive shame has something to do with our gender.

As Brown says, women tend to experience shame mostly about appearance – if we are thin, young or/and beautiful enough. Side note: of course, appearance shame is not limited to women only, men can experience it as well. It is however the number one shame trigger amongst women.

Adichie says: “forget the history of the word and the baggage it carries and think about the idea of it”.

And I agree. But before we do that, let’s address shame first.

Let’s say I tell my friend I’m a feminist and he looks at me and laughs whist saying back: “so you are telling me you stopped caring, won’t use deodorant and won’t shave your legs?”. Side note: that actually happened to me, admittedly it was more than a decade ago and had a lot to say about that certain individual rather than me… but the memory of it still stinks sometimes.

If the baggage around the word feminism targets a lack of interest in women’s appearances… then by default, it is used to instil shame in women. In other words, if you are a feminist, you clearly don’t care about your appearance, shame on you!

It bothers me.

That baggage is heavy, and I admit there were times when I would rather use a label of a ‘human activist’. Which is not a lie as I wholeheartedly believe in equal rights regardless of one’s gender, age, ethnicity, political, religious and sexual preferences etc.

But that didn’t specifically address the gender issue.

And I admit I was afraid. I didn’t want to be perceived in a certain way where I would have to defend myself. And I didn’t want to feel ashamed.

“My own definition is a feminist is a man or a woman who says, yes, there’s a problem with gender as it is today and we must fix it, we must do better. All of us, women and men, must do better.”

Not only we can start viewing that word feminist as something both men and women could use, but we can also address how we raise our children – and that applies to raising both girls and boys.

Side note: this is not to shame anybody’s parenting skills, I believe we all do the best we can. I’m talking about more general issue that goes very deep into our origins and roles we all play in this, regardless if we are parents or not.

In general, girls tend to be taught to be careful, to stay away from danger so they won’t get hurt. Boys are encouraged to be brave, to go out and seek adventures. If a boy gets hurt, he will be clapped for being the daring one, if a girl gets hurt, she will be scolded for being reckless and told not to do it again… Boys are encouraged to be loud, angry at times. But girls.. not so much. Pleasant is a word I personally cannot stand but sadly is the one sometimes used to describe a ‘nice’ woman. Why is it that if a woman is angry, she may be perceived as hysterical whereas a man may be perceived as passionate?

What can we do about it?

“Gender matters everywhere in the world. And I would like today to ask that we begin to dream about and plan for a different world. A fairer world. A world of happier men and happier women who are truer to themselves. And this is how to start: We must raise our daughters differently. We must also raise our sons differently.”

And I could not agree more.

To make this world a different world, we must think about how we interact with each other, and that includes children, and how we rise up to challenges that will then shape our future. Using shame to solve a certain issue is not a way forward, it is an easy way out that doesn’t create such world.

We Should All Be Feminists is a short essay. I listened to it as an audio book and found Adichie to be a phenomenal narrator. Her beautiful voice talked about issues I really needed to address.

It’s a thought provoking piece that is extremely digestible as it is told via stories. And there is no judgement or hate attached to it. Just an open mind and a vision for better future.

I recommend this short book to everyone.

It’s an important topic and it gave me many thoughts that still linger days afterwards.

I understand the word feminism a bit more and sincerely hope that we all can be feminists

Verdict: Hot Beverage on Apple Hot Beverage on Apple Hot Beverage on Apple Hot Beverage on Apple  Hot Beverage on Apple  (5/5)

Non Fiction

Educated: A Memoir – Tara Westover

educated

Educated is a powerful testament of how we can choose to stop being defined by our past.

It is a thought provoking memoir that left me with a strong feeling of unease long after I finished reading it.

Its main theme is privilege. We don’t get to choose circumstances we are born into.

It also explores belonging, shame, forgiveness as well as the ability to become an observer, rather than a victim of your past.

“You can love someone and still choose to say goodbye to them,” she says now. “You can miss a person every day, and still be glad that they are no longer in your life.” 

For the book’s summary, here’s what GoodReads’ summary:

An unforgettable memoir in the tradition of The Glass Castle about a young girl who, kept out of school, leaves her survivalist family and goes on to earn a PhD from Cambridge University

Tara Westover was seventeen the first time she set foot in a classroom. Born to survivalists in the mountains of Idaho, she prepared for the end of the world by stockpiling home-canned peaches and sleeping with her “head-for-the-hills bag.” In the summer she stewed herbs for her mother, a midwife and healer, and in the winter, she salvaged in her father’s junkyard.

Her father forbade hospitals, so Tara never saw a doctor or nurse. Gashes and concussions, even burns from explosions, were all treated at home with herbalism. The family was so isolated from mainstream society that there was no one to ensure the children received an education, and no one to intervene when one of Tara’s older brothers became violent.

Then, lacking any formal education, Tara began to educate herself. She taught herself enough mathematics and grammar to be admitted to Brigham Young University, where she studied history, learning for the first time about important world events like the Holocaust and the civil rights movement. Her quest for knowledge transformed her, taking her over oceans and across continents, to Harvard and to Cambridge. Only then would she wonder if she’d travelled too far, if there was still a way home.

Educated is an account of the struggle for self-invention. It is a tale of fierce family loyalty, and of the grief that comes with severing the closest of ties. With the acute insight that distinguishes all great writers, Westover has crafted a universal coming-of-age story that gets to the heart of what an education is and what it offers: the perspective to see one’s life through new eyes, and the will to change it.


Sometimes, to break a thought pattern, we need a perspective. An ability to distance ourselves from our emotional involvement, to see things for what they are – i.e. to distinguish between facts vs. our opinions / stories about them.

Westover did this brilliantly in her raw memoir.

You can see her coming-of-age story through her mature observer’s eyes.

You can feel how much pain she must have bravely experienced to get to the point where she is now.

Her writing evoked a strong emotion in me.

As I immersed myself in Educated, I started experiencing deep gratitude; for being born into a loving and nurturing family; for them enabling me to question the world; for them loving me for who I was, no conditions attached.

“It’s strange how you give the people you love so much power over you.”

Imagine growing up in a family that completely cuts you out of society.

Imagine not having friends, not knowing any facts about the world you live in. The only truth you know is the one your psychologically ill father tells you:

“Everything I had worked for, all my years of study, had been to purchase for myself this one privilege: to see and experience more truths than those given to me by my father, and to use those truths to construct my own mind.”

Imagine being physically abused whilst thinking it may be your fault, that there must something wrong with you.

Imagine feeling like you don’t belong anywhere else but to your highly dysfunctional family.

This is not a competition who had it ‘better’ or ‘worse’.

Not having to experience any of those points above, that is privilege.

I am so impressed with Westover’s courage.

Her ability to recognise that she could want more for herself.

Her willingness to stand on her own even though she, like majority of us, yearned to belong.

That curiosity that lead her to define her own life and own her story.

Just bravo, nothing less than that.

Possible triggers: domestic abuse, and abuse in general. This book is quite graphical and left me disturbed, if you are sensitive to these topics, please take care of yourself.

Have you read this book or planning on reading it? Let me know in the comments below. 😊🙏

I would like to thank NetGalley and the publisher Random House for providing a free copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

Verdict: Hot Beverage on Apple  Hot Beverage on Apple  Hot Beverage on Apple  Hot Beverage on Apple  Hot Beverage on Apple  5/5

Fiction

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

big little lies

I loved this book. It was my March’s book of the month.

It is a wonderful story of a friendship of three women, their dealings with motherhood as well as having to come to terms with some dark demons from their pasts.

I saw many shame related topics in this book. Moriarty deeply understands human behaviour and portrayed honest struggles of mothers and women in general.


Before we dive into this book, let’s have a look at GoodReads’ blurb first:

Big Little Lies follows three women, each at a crossroads:

Madeline is a force to be reckoned with. She’s funny and biting, passionate, she remembers everything and forgives no one. Her ex-husband and his yogi new wife have moved into her beloved beachside community, and their daughter is in the same kindergarten class as Madeline’s youngest (how is this possible?). And to top it all off, Madeline’s teenage daughter seems to be choosing Madeline’s ex-husband over her. (How. Is. This. Possible?).

Celeste is the kind of beautiful woman who makes the world stop and stare. While she may seem a bit flustered at times, who wouldn’t be, with those rambunctious twin boys? Now that the boys are starting school, Celeste and her husband look set to become the king and queen of the school parent body. But royalty often comes at a price, and Celeste is grappling with how much more she is willing to pay.

New to town, single mom Jane is so young that another mother mistakes her for the nanny. Jane is sad beyond her years and harbors secret doubts about her son. But why? While Madeline and Celeste soon take Jane under their wing, none of them realizes how the arrival of Jane and her inscrutable little boy will affect them all.

Big Little Lies is a brilliant take on ex-husbands and second wives, mothers and daughters, schoolyard scandal, and the dangerous little lies we tell ourselves just to survive.


There are three distinct voices, three unique stories, all intertwining over a mysterious murder story. I enjoyed the suspense of something just about to be revealed throughout the book. You know from the beginning that someone was murdered. But you don’t know who it was and why. That guessing game kept me engaged till the end.

The book is told from three different perspectives:

  • Madeline: on the outside, a strong and forceful mother who knows what she wants. On the inside, she is coming to grips with her teenage daughter rebelliousness and deals with shame over her parenting / motherhood.
  • Celeste:  on the outside, she is the ‘I have it all and I am so blessed’ mother, on the inside, she is harbouring many dark secrets, which she perceives as being partially caused by her own making. Side note: shame at its most powerful form.
  • Jane: another broken character. She is younger than the one two women and her voice reflects that. She also struggles with shame and does not believe that she is enough. Her story of coming to grips with her past was one of the most powerful parts of this book.

What all these perspectives shared was their dealings with shame.

Before we look at shame, here’s a quick note on the difference between shame and guilt.

Let’s say you promised your friend you water her plants for her. And somehow you forgot / didn’t get around to it and those plants died.

Guilt is you recognising you broke your promise and your behaviour was not in line with who you want to be. You feel guilty for your actions or rather the lack of them.

Shame on the other hand is when you internalise this incident and will make it mean all about you, rather than your actions. You will feel terrible for who you are and will feel like you, not your actions, failed your friend. As a consequence, you may feel like a failure.

Guilt can enable us to grow; shame on the other hand wants us to hide.

Shame loves secrecy and will try to prevent you from sharing that deep feeling of not being good enough with anyone else around you. They must not know at any cost!

What’s interesting is that women tend to get shame triggered on different topics than man. I guess it’s not surprising given how our society shapes us and what gender roles we observe whilst growing up.

Women tend to experience shame predominantly regarding their appearance and parenting.

Have you noticed when a discussion starts turning ugly, someone’s looks are usually amongst the first ammunition that gets used amongst women? Parenting comments are usually the next in line… All so readily available and capable of causing us a lot of pain.

I know when shame washes over me immediately. My face goes red, I feel like I want to hide under a blanket and not talk to anyone for days. My breathing becomes shallow, I may start sweating and all I want is to hide. I hate it. I absolutely hate that warm feeling of shame. The flip side is that via experiencing it, I must, be default, not be a psychopath… oh goody… thank goodness for the flip side eh? 😉

Anyhow, as I am growing I have learned that shame hates sharing. Opening up and being vulnerable with people I love and trust creates connections and makes me heal / cope much better.

With a risk of sounding like a broken record: Dr Brené Brown’s books on shame and vulnerability are my favourite non-fiction books. She offers many useful tips on shame resilience, is a great story teller and I am her big fan. ❤

I digressed a little. Following extract from the book deeply resonated with me:

“It wasn’t telling __ about ___. It was repeating those stupid little words he’d said.

They needed to stay secret to keep their power.

Now they were deflating, the way a jumping castle sagged and wrinkled as the air hissed out.”

So true!

All those little lies we tell ourselves to keep going, all those little secrets we harvest in the hope that no one will discover the real truth about us as we believe we may not be good enough and are desperately trying to become someone else. That’s Big Little Lies in a nutshell.

I wholeheartedly recommend this book to anyone who likes character driven books. Moriarty’s characters are utterly believable.

I could not put it down, it made me cry at times but it also gave me hope.

5 out of 5 stars without a shadow of a doubt.

Possible triggers: domestic abuse and abuse in general

Verdict: Hot Beverage on Apple Hot Beverage on Apple Hot Beverage on Apple Hot Beverage on Apple Hot Beverage on Apple 5/5