147 Things is a non-fiction book written by YouTuber/presenter/blogger/model/now-author Jim Chapman, someone whose videos I’ve been watching since about 2010. As such, when he announced his book a few months back, I had a definite interest. Jim is a genuinely funny guy, and if you’re the type of person who likes random facts that – by Jim’s own admission – are pretty much “non-essential” to your everyday life, this is a book for you.
As the title may suggest, it is a book which quite literally covers 147 ‘things’, the ‘things’ being facts. It ranges from the standard “why are human babies born so incompetent when giraffes walk within minutes of crashing into the ground, headfirst” to the all-too-understandable premise that the reason we’re all so stressed these days is we’re dealing with an all-too-new world with outdated brains.
The world of random facts is quite familiar to me; my dad often crops up with knowledge about obscure things and has done for as long as I can remember, so the premise of this book was amusing to me from the get-go. Maybe now that I’ve read it I can retaliate whenever my dad comes out with something totally obscure.
Jim has this very particular tone, which is just undeniably happy. I don’t know how one goes about making 147 facts all sound exciting, interesting, and somehow definitely essential (even though it definitely isn’t) to your life, but that’s what he’s done.
But don’t get me wrong, not all of the facts are strictly scientific. A lot of them are honestly just things you’ve most likely wondered throughout your life, some of them debunk those old wives’ tales literally everybody has been told by their mothers, and others are, shall we say, more speculative.
(Like the size of a dinosaur penis.)
I don’t think this book is particularly one to categorise. It’s not for any specific age group (though maybe some, uh, genitals-talk is not quite appropriate for younger groups), it’s hilarious, it’s one of those books that makes you go “ohhhh” while nodding your head as you realise that what you’re reading makes perfect sense.
I’m going to turn twenty at the end of this year, so I thought it’d be cool to recap some of the books I’ve loved the most over my teen years. Many of these have had quite a big impact on me and helped shape a lot to do with who I am now, and how I view the world. Most of these should be found in the YA, teen and tween sections of most good bookstores (Waterstones all the way, y’all).
The Skulduggery Pleasant Series – Derek Landy
Going right back to the start, I first discovered these books aged twelve (twelve counts, right?) and back then, the series was still being released. If you want a bigger rundown of these, I have written about them before – check that post out here! Essentially, they’re funny, lighthearted, magic-filled and badass. Highly recommend for anyone aged 11 up.
The Starcrossed Series – Josephine Angelini
These were great, using a high school setting and intertwining bits of Greek mythology into it. It involves a bit of romance, a lot of danger, and quite a bit of the Fates coming in and messing everything up, until eventually the Gods decide to come down and start an even bigger conflict. Ever since I discovered these, I’ve had such an interest in Hades and the concepts surrounding Zeus and the Underworld.
The Hunger Games Series – Suzanne Collins
Everyone’s got to have heard of these by now, but if you’ve only seen the films then I BEG YOU to read the books. I think these were what kickstarted my interest in the dystopian genre, which was a huge part of my mid-to-late teens, and still feature a lot in my reading interests. In addition, I used this series as part of my research base when I did my Extended Project in sixth form, which led me on to a vast array of other books as well, some of which I will get to shortly!
13 Treasures – Michelle Harrison
I’m pretty sure I found this book when I was thirteen, stumbling across it in the bookshop. It’s been years since I read it, and I know there are follow-ups that I never got around to reading, but I remember loving this book. It’s got fairies in it, mischief, runaways… It was the perfect mixture of rebellion and enchantment.
Nineteen Eighty-Four – George Orwell
I hated Animal Farm, but 1984 has so much to be said about it. It’s fascinating how much of what Orwell was writing about in the ’40s is directly relevant to today, and that’s exactly what I felt as I read it back in 2013 or 2014. It may not be a typically ‘teen’ book, but it definitely resonated with sixteen-year-old me.
Brave New World – Aldous Huxley
Again, not typically a ‘teen’ book, but this was written way back in the early ’30s, and is credited with being the origin of the dystopian genre. I’d never heard of it before, and came across it during my Extended Project, but it’s full of fascinating topics also played on by modern series such as Uglies by Scott Westerfield. The use of recreational drugs, mind-controlling the masses, and creating the illusion of utopia where if you scratch beneath the surface, you find a much more sinister reality.
Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
I honestly don’t remember exactly when I first read this book, but it was definitely early-to-mid teens. I didn’t really get it at first, perhaps because I was unused to the classic style of writing – but I watched the BBC TV series, then re-read it, and have loved it ever since. It definitely helped expand my reading interests and introduced me to the classics.
To Kill a Mockingbird & Go Set a Watchman – Harper Lee
Everyone who’s been through school has probably read TKAM, and those who liked it have probably read GSAW. I first read TKAM for my GCSE English, but I did honestly love it. I was studying the Civil Rights movement in America for my history GCSE at the time, and it just resonated with me. It’s a brilliant narrative, and the way Scout just cannot understand people’s racism was exactly me when I was a child. The release of GSAW was just a bonus, and I know it was a bit controversial, but I loved it.
War Horse – Michael Morpurgo
Who couldn’t like this book? It was so moving and so utterly compelling, about such a tragic time in our history. No matter how old you are, this book should be on your ‘read’ pile.
And that’s about all I can think of at the moment! I realise the collection is somewhat eclectic, but I like reading different genres. It keeps life interesting. What were/are your favourite books as a teen?
If there’s one thing to know about my entertainment-watching habits, it’s that I haven’t watched live TV regularly since approximately early 2014. At first I was just watching recorded programmes from the TV planner, and then we got Netflix too, and then I got Amazon Student Prime, and of course there’s YouTube…
Either way, I tend to pick one show at a time to binge-watch, often as background noise while I do other things (like write this blog post, for instance). In no particular order, here’s some of the shows I’ve been loving recently!
Z: The Beginning of Everything
Amazon Prime Video
If you love everything 1920s New York, this is for you. Z was released last year, and so far only has one season – though I believe they’re bringing out the second soon. It focuses on the tale of the ‘original flapper’, Zelda Sayre, who married F. Scott Fitzgerald: the man behind The Great Gatsby.
This show is great because it’s just so fascinating as a modern-day viewer. I think it’s difficult not to be enthralled by the idea of the Prohibition era, and all the extravagance and splendour it’s known for. But with all that comes something sinister, and that’s explored brilliantly in Z.
13 Reasons Why
This one has been getting around recently, but I hadn’t actually seen anything about it online until after I watched it. It’s based on the book of the same name, written by Jay Asher in 2007, and was produced by Selena Gomez. I haven’t read the book, but the show is one that gets you so invested that you just need to know how it ends.
Essentially, Hannah Baker has committed suicide, and left behind 13 tapes she recorded to explain her reasons for doing it. At the point where the show picks up, the tapes are given to Clay Jensen, who brings us through the narrative. This programme touches on some really important topics, like cyberbullying and mental health, and I haven’t seen anything that’s tackled these issues in this way before.
I had heard of Riverdale before I started watching it, and I only jumped on the bandwagon earlier this week. It’s set in a high school in the US, in a small town (because small towns are sinister towns, we should all know this by now). A student at the school has died, and now the town is left with the question of how.
I’ll admit, the main reason I started watching was because I found out Cole Sprouse is on it (y’know, Cody from The Suite Life of Zack and Cody back in the day), but it’s actually turned out to be pretty cool. If you like detective-type shows, and don’t mind the high school setting, you should give this a shot.
This is sort of in a different category to the others, as it’s vlogs rather than TV shows. The SacconeJolys are an Irish family living in England, and they’ve just had their third child (literally – she was only born on 30th March!). I’ve been watching them for a couple of years now, I think, and they’re just so cute! They vlog every day, post the videos at 6pm, and it’s just so heartwarming. I’m a sucker for an Irish accent anyway, so I always like to make time to watch their videos.