The God of Small Things - Arundhati Roy
If you haven't yet read this modern classic, perhaps now's the time, recommends our team member Cui:“
Perhaps it’s true that things can change in a day. That a few dozen hours can affect the outcome of whole lifetimes. And that when they do, those few dozen hours, like the salvaged remains of a burned house… must be resurrected from the ruins and examined. Preserved. Accounted for. Little events, ordinary things, smashed and reconstituted. Imbued with new meaning. Suddenly they become the bleached bones of a story.”
A heartrending novel about life, love, and loss in the lives of fraternal twins Estha and Rahel, who grew up in a little town in Kerala, India. As children, they saw firsthand how life and society punished the people they loved for breaking the Love Laws, the ones that lay down “who must be loved, and how, and how much”.
Roy is a masterful storyteller, weaving layers and layers of poignant narratives in which her characters are inextricably bound, then irrevocably broken, by the Great Stories, Love Laws and the Small Things that are the bleached bones of life. A well-deserved Booker Prize winner, this book will indubitably change your life as it did mine. - CuiFor more recommended reads, click here.
John Dies at the End by David Wong
Think Stephen King meets Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure
meets Invasion of the Body Snatchers
and you'll understand why this work of fiction will soon hit the big screens. It's billed as a horror story - and there are enough creepy bits in it to warrant that - but on many levels it reads a bit like a satire of the blood-spattering, OTT B-grade horror flicks where the actors know they're in a horror film (think Scream
), know what I mean? Author David Wong is the protagonist in the book, which is why David Wong isn't really the author actually; it's Jason Pargin
writing as David Wong the protagonist in the book. David and best friend John (yes, the one that's supposed to die at the end) have a special gift for the undead and all things paranormal, on account of a substance (which they call 'soy sauce') they ingested, which was doled out by a Jamaican druggie aptly named Robert Marley, mon, ya feel me? This leads them on a very very strange journey which is told retrospectively, zipping between events that after a while, you feel as disoriented as the heroes themselves. All by way of saying, I couldn't put the book down because Pargon does a great job of keeping the reader guessing. He's got a wicked sense of humour and even grisly stuff feel tongue in cheek. Given, some scenes are a bit cliched, but then Pargon throws in a twist here and there that you didn't see coming. A great fun read, an enjoyable roller coaster ride. Welcome to the dark side hehehehehehehe (evil laugh) :) - FranFor more recommended reads, click here.
The Retrospective - A.B. Yehoshua
One of Israel's most prolific and successful writers and a committed advocate for peace in the region, A.B. Yehoshua manages to enter the inner worlds of his characters, both men and women, with intense honesty and compassion. The Retrospective, his tenth novel tells the story of an aging film director and his longtime muse/actress summoned to a Spanish pilgrimmage city for a retrospective of their earlier work. Their shared and complicated past, embodied in each of these films, as comes under scrutiny, highlighting the tensions and conflicts which existed between Yair Moses, the Ashkenazi director and Shaul Trigano, his one-time, now estranged Sephardic screenwriter.
What begins as a very personal deconstruction of artistic choices made decades ago, becomes, in the end, a meditation between two styles of art, two ways of being Jewish, two ways, in fact, of being human. Gripping from the first page, The Retrospective takes place as much in the surreal world of imagination and artistry as the real world of a man facing the indignities of physical decline, the unrelenting persistence of desire, and the need to make peace with the ghosts of the past. - ShivaunFor more recommended reads, click here.
The Book of My Lives – Aleksandar Hemon
In this moving memoir Aleksandar Hemon combines humour, compassion and a deeply felt humanity to create what is ultimately a lovesong to his native Sarajevo and equally to his adopted city of Chicago. It recaptures the exploits of a young boy growing up amid football, books, and an annoying younger sister. But this is no simple memoir. In the end, this book is a heart-breaking portrait of a city under siege and an entire world lost to one of history darkest and most bitter conflicts. For those who have enjoyed Hemon’s fiction, this offers a deeper insight into the man, the writer and the world from which he comes. For those yet to discover him, this is a timely, and intimate introduction. - ShivaunFor more recommended reads, click here.
Children of the Days by Eduardo Galeano
Eduardo Galeano is perhaps best known for eschewing a prevailing Eurocentric perspective of the world. It is unsurprising then that his latest work, Children of the Days: A Calendar of Human History
, is an attempt to rescue 'human history' beyond well-known global milestones. Within this book's pages, you will find events and incidents that have long been forgotten, in places dotted across the globe that don't often make the front pages of a broadsheet. Written in sparse, yet beautiful prose -- one entry for each calendar day; Galeano's recounting of history reads almost like poetry. Highly recommended :) - FranFor more recommended reads, click here.
I start a lot of books. My bedside table is an overcrowded space and my unread, half-read pile now extends onto my dressing table, down the hall, into my study and out into the lounge. It's the repeating motif of our flat; every single room/living space has its selection of books- novels in the bedroom, Vanity Fair in the toilet, life writing/creative writing texts in the hallway, Shiv's phd-related stuff in my office, Fran's phd-related stuff in her office, a mix of literature, art, photography, non-fiction, Yiddish writings, and lots more besides in the living room. In the shop, I get excited when new orders come in, tear open the boxes, pull out the contents, pore over a few pages...take the 'worthy' ones home and add to the pile. Those that command my attention from start to finish are few. When I happen upon one that I really can't put down, I read through the night, every night until it's finished and when I turn the last page I feel saddened, like I'm losing a good friend. I can think of several books that have stayed with me, lingered on, long after I turned that last page: The Camerons by Robert Crichton, The Furies by Janet Hobhouse, The Mandarins by Simone de Beauvoir- and now I add a new best read: You Are Not Like Other Mothers by Angelika Schrobsdorff. The subject - - an assimilated German Jewish family's struggles during the Holocaust- is a familiar one. My phd, which I am now finally in the stages of writing up, focuses on Holocaust memory in elderly Lithuanian survivors. I am all Holocausted out... and yet... this book re-awakened the 'reader' in me. Is it because the mother of the title is like my own, who also was not like other mothers, or because it is written so beautifully, so lyrically and yet captures fear, anguish, guilt in such an agonizingly truthful way? Because its approach is unique? It vacillates between first and third peson. Because it has a lovely cover? Yes, I can be swayed by style over substance. Because it landed in my lap at the right time? Possibly all of these. What I can say is that I loved, loved, loved it. And that is all too rare.
Kishwar Desai's debut novel reads like part crime-thriller and part social commentary. Through this novel, we are informed about the scourge of female infanticide in India - certainly something I knew nothing about. I thought it only happened in China. After reading this novel, I looked online and found articles written by Kishwar on the topic. A real eye-opener - apparently, such practices are not limited to India; there is a growing trend among the Asian population here in the UK too.
We are introduced to Simran Singh, a social worker who returns to her hometown to help in a case where a 14-year old girl has been accused of killing her family - 13 members in all. Her investigations lead us into a world where caste systems prevail, where tradition and modernity collide, and one in which girls are perceived as a liability. The action moves quite swiftly along, with enough twists and turns to keep turning the pages. If there's any criticism, it's that I felt like everything tied up too neatly in the end and in an almost offhanded sort of way; kinda like a Miss Marple wrap-up if you will. I don't know why that bugged me a little. Perhaps because of the gravity of the issue raised, I was left wanting for some real justice to be meted out. Author Kishwar Desai will be speaking at Woolfson & Tay in October
. It will be an opportunity to understand and learn about the facts of such crimes. So don't miss the event. - Fran
A touching pictorial memoir by photographer Phillip Toledano, chronicling the last three years of his father's life. Through photos and text, he captures his dad's battle with memory loss and the tenacity of a man determined to make the most of his life, despite the fading twilight.
This is a book you can browse through quickly, or if you like, linger on the images and immerse yourself in the little vignettes. These are intimate portraits, so intimate you feel as if you are in the sitting room, by the bed, or at the kitchen table. Some of the images and accompanying text are humorous, more often they are sad and poignant. Like the ones that Phillip takes of his dad's scribbles which are left about the house. One says, "Where is everybody?" Touching, hauntingly beautiful and yet, so full of love and life. A gentle reminder of the inevitable end that awaits us all. Will we slip so gracefully and so loved into the night? - Fran
Let's face it. This is not a book you read in one sitting. This is not a book you read for fun. This is a book that will invoke claustrophobia and feelings of helplessness. This is also not a book for the squeamish. This is a tale about an Afghan woman, stuck in her home, nursing a husband who is barely alive, keeping her children in check, even as she totters between grief, anger, frustration, sanity and helplessness. Outside, the bombs explode, sending dust and dirt everywhere; now and then, the sound of chants from wannabe martyrs punctures the silence; occasionally there is also the peppering of gun fire. Haunting, dark and sad. Very sad. - Fran
Imagine multiple afterlives. Imagine they are not as usually portrayed - not just harps and angels and pearly gates. One of them is a waiting room. This is where you go and you must wait, and wait, and wait. Until your name is no longer spoken on the earthly plane. Otherwise, you're stuck.
David Eagleman's deceptively simple scenarios in this collection of short stories can be read in a few ways. As the wanderings of a very imaginative mind. Or the musings of a neuroscientist (which is what he is) about the correlation between the mind, the body and the soul. Or a man who's just trying to remind us to stop griping and be grateful for all the many little things we take for granted, 'cos life really ain't that bad. Read it whichever way you like. You'll still be amused no doubt. - Fran