It’s the holiday season. Amidst all of the shopping, cookie baking, family gathering, and general merriment, it’s important to set aside some “me time.” Reading is a much needed reprieve from the hustle and bustle. It’s what keeps us sane and interesting at all of these parties. Here’s what’s on our shelves.
Let us know what you’re reading the comments below.
Ever since I graduated I’ve been trying to fill in the gaps in my fancy, name brand education. It’s really unfair. (Emma Watson talks about this issue in an interview she conducted with Reni Eddo-Lodge.)
One of my reading gaps is in African literature. There’s a recent buzz about a “new wave” of African literature that makes it really encouraging to jump in now, but as Chibundu Onuzo points out, “There is no new wave. The waves have always been crashing steadily and regularly against the shore. […] That you just arrived at the party doesn’t mean the party just started.”
Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Half of a Yellow Sun follows two sisters, Olanna and Kainene, during the Biafran War as they each try to survive. It’s not a typical war novel. Adichie says it best:
My book is not just about people thrown into a war where we watch them die. It is about people who have full lives and how war changes them. […] I wrote this novel because I wanted to write about love and war, and in particular because I grew up in the shadow of Biafra.
Adichie’s version of love is complex, challenging, and unexpected. Not at all the simple stuff of rom-coms. The characters are so real and I connected with each of them, even though they lived very different lives than I have.
Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue
Behold the Dreamers made Ophrah’s book club and (I felt) got a lot of press particularly because of our current political climate. The novel takes place during the 2008 financial crisis and follows a young couple from Cameroon, Jende and Neni, as they struggle to make ends meets in New York City. Jende is hired as a chauffeur by an executive at Lehman Brothers and the two families quickly become entwined together.
It’s a typical immigrant experience novel bordering on cliche until about halfway through where it diverges in interesting and unexpected ways.
Winter, my favorite seasons, is finally here. Beside the sun going down at about two in the afternoon, winter brings forth some of the best reading time for me. What’s better than a cup of tea and a book? Even if that book is about how prostitutes are like department store Santas.
Super Freakonomics by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner
Let’s address that last sentence up top. Super Freakonomics, the follow-up to the wildly successful Freakonomics, takes a deep look into seemingly random things, such as how street prostitution is a lot like department store Santas, why suicide bombers should buy life insurance, and other weirdness. If you’re a fan of the podcast, which has basically taken on a life of its own, I highly recommend both books.
Night Watch by Terry Pratchett
On to the next one. That’s what I think every time I finish reading a Pratchett book. This month, Night Watch, which follows Commander Vimes and his ragtag police force as they solve another crime. The books revolving around the Night Watch are some of my favorites, though I’m also a huge fan of the books about Death and Rincewind, too. Can’t wait to knock this one off the list, but kind of sad because it will mean the end of the Night Watch for me. (I didn’t read them in order.)
Only two books from this time around, mainly because I know I’ll be getting a ton of different ones from friends and family later in the month.
December is a weird time for me. While everyone is cozy and warm indoors, doling out gifts and cursing the cold, I’m out and about, either taking in a run or strolling through the park, wondering if I still know songbirds by their songs. So, if you see some lone crazy person sitting and reading in a park in the dead of winter, it might be me, and I might be reading one of these.
After the Quake by Haruki Murakami
Every time I need a literary gut check, I return to After the Quake.
This quick collection by Haruki Murakami is vitally important for two reasons: First, each selection is a solidly-crafted, expertly-executed short story. Second, it reminds me how much room I have to improve. If you’re feeling like you're a big fish surrounded by guppies, give this a try. See how you feel afterward.
The Multiversity by Grant Morrison and Frank Quietly
Comics can be kind of impenetrable, especially work from within the past ten years. And, if we’re being real, The Multiversity is just as bonkers as you might think. But, if you can find a way to move past (or embrace) the craziness, you’ll find a crafted work that may be the most successful contemporary take on the literary epic in recent memory. Colorful characters, intricate plots, and the most familiar faces of every DC universe await in this action-packed page-turner.
In the Miso Soup by Ryu Murakami
Nothing says “holidays” like an existential murder-fest, right? That’s really the only way to describe Ryu Murakami’s most well-known work. Half scathing critique of Japan’s consumer and gaijin cultures, and half unflinching, poetically rendered violence, In the Miso Soup is just the right amount of shock, slathered in beautiful prose and social criticism. What’s not to enjoy?