We put a ban on choosing Ferrante for our 2015 Books of the Year, because you’re probably bored of reading about how much we love her. But I’m choosing her in this opening paragraph by stealth. There have been so many brilliant books this year that omitting her wasn’t actually that hard. Below are my choices. And I’m aware that there’s a strong theme running through them (ahem)…
What Else is in the Teaches of Peaches
By Peaches and Holger Talinski (Akashic Books)
The absolute highlight of my year was the last ten minutes of a Peaches show at the Electric Ballroom. I’d already watched her walk into the crowd inside a giant inflatable di*k, and dance between two human-sized, gyrating vaginas. But the best bit was the last song, Light in Places; while Peaches sang, aerial superstar Empress Shah was doing her thing on a trapeze above the stage, steering lasers over sweaty bodies from a laser butt-plug. There were lasers everywhere. It’s hard to describe the experience of being covered in light-beams shining down from someone’s bum. Except: it was really good.
Given this joyous moment of 2015, it’s fitting that Peaches should also have published a book this year, which is without hesitation my top choice. The book is a collection of photographs taken by Holger Talinski and chosen by Peaches; there are photos of her on stage, off stage, in all kinds of costume, in a bathtub with Annie Sprinkle and just generally messing around. And there are essays by Michael Stipe, Yoko Ono and Ellen Page. Yep.
For me, Peaches’ aesthetic and the atmosphere it creates has always been completely on point; maybe that’s because I’m queer, or maybe it’s just because I like things that are riotous. In any case, this book is completely gratifying. It’s enough to make you forget about all the rubbish things that go on, at least until there’s another chance to see that laser butt-plug again.
$PREAD: The Best of the Magazine that Illuminated the Sex Industry and Started a Media Revolution
Edited by Rachel Aimee, Eliyanna Kaiser and Audacia Ray (The Feminist Press)
I was quite blown away when a copy of $pread landed on my desk. First off, it looks great. It’s a big heavy thing, black with bright pink type on the cover. Secondly, whatever page I flipped too was completely engaging; either funny, or heart-breaking, or enlightening or all of those things together. It’s an anthology of $pread magazine, which ran in America between 2004 and 2011, and was created entirely by and for sex workers. It’s almost 400 pages long, and contains stories, essays, photos, illustrations and some poems. It’s super inclusive, all genders and sexualities are represented; there are contributions from POC, from trans sex-workers, from old, now-retired sex workers and from college-girl escorts. There are writings on sexual health, pimps, activism, brothel work, workplace safety and weird role-play requests.
I’ve learnt a lot from reading $pread; possibly the main thing is that this is a book that really needs to exist and be read by everyone. Sex work and sex workers have been stigmatised, fetishized and discriminated against since the beginning of time, so it’s totally refreshing to read a book in which the job and the industry is defined by sex workers themselves.
We Go to the Galley
By Miriam Elia
You’ve probably read about this book before. Maybe even on this blog. I had to choose it as one of my top three because I’ve read it so many times this year and it’s still as hilarious now as it was the first time. In fact it gets funnier the more you read it. It’s the original Ladybird parody by Miriam Elia, in which a mother takes her kids to an art gallery to teach them about “the debilitating middle-class self-hatred in contemporary art.” I say original, because since Miriam published the commercial edition, Penguin have pretty much ripped of her idea and made some Ladybird parodies of their own. Not before first trying to sue her for copyright infringement, obvs.
You can read about why We Go to the Gallery is the best here. And I’d recommend you also click here to read Miriam’s amazing comeback over the debacle. Most of all I suggest you grab a copy of the book and just read it over and over again.