This year, I picked up my reading habit from where it had lain for ages, gathering dust. I know that reading is helping me cope with the isolation that comes with living in a pandemic, and for sure it helped get me through some tough work days in January and February.
Here is a brief review of the books I have read so far:
- The Cure by Rachel Genn ★★★★
I gave this book 4 stars for its poetic writing style, I quite enjoyed it. This is a book you read at bedtime. “Escaping heartbreak, a raw and humble Eugene Mahon leaves small town Ireland for London. His horizons expand as he meets and befriends men from all over the world on the Shoreditch building site where he works.”
However, there is something missing in this book. I don’t know if it’s because the characters felt immature and the setting is unrelatable to me. As someone else said on goodreads, “the storyline is too slight to sustain a novel of nearly 300 pages, and many of the detailed descriptions of everything feel a bit like padding”.
Don’t ask me what The Cure is. I’m still mulling over that one. If you insist, I would say it’s the truth. The truth is the cure.
2. The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold ★★★★★
I purposed to read more women and more black authors this year and it just so happens that these two books (The Cure and The Lovely Bones) that my friend lent me are written by women.
The Lovely Bones was a solid 5 stars for me. I enjoyed the narrative style. The book is narrated by a dead girl in heaven who was murdered when she was 14 years old. It’s not about heaven or what happens in the afterlife, but about how the characters left behind deal and learn to live with the loss. The ending is a little meh but I think I read this book in a couple of days, it’s an easy read. I hadn’t heard of the hype around this book so I picked it up with no expectations. I don’t think it should be read as literary fiction; this is more of a pop culture book. I think a lot of the people disappointed in it expected critical literature.
3. Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata ★
I wish there was a 0 star rating because that’s what I would award this book. It’s neither quirky, nor funny, neither witty nor interesting. It’s the worst book I’ve read this year but luckily, it is short.
It follows a character who has worked in the convenience store all her life, makes a half-hearted attempt to move up in life career-wise and socially, and gives up and goes back to the convenience store. I don’t know why international media is gushing about it, honestly. Maybe it’s because it’s based in Japan, then it must be quirky? I think that because I am living in Japan, I don’t have the rose-tinted glasses that the Western media views Japan with.
My review on goodreads:
It was never funny, nor quirky, nor exhilarating. It’s rather sad and depressing, and worst of all, boring
4. 1984 by George Orwell ★★★★
Forgive me for not having read George Orwell before. 1984 is a novel about a dystopian future “of a totalitarian, bureaucratic world and one poor stiff’s attempt to find individuality.” There are certain parallels of that world with the current world. For example, we have devices watching and recording our every move – our smartphones.
It’s not an easy ready but it is a haunting one. Makes you really think about the political and social structures we have today. It’s quite grim so be ready for that. It’s where the term “proles” comes from. “The proles made up almost 85% of the population in Oceania; they receive little education, work at manual labor, live in poverty (although in having privacy and anonymity, qualitatively better off than Outer Party members), and usually die by the age of sixty.” Sounds like a description of the masses in Kenya.
It wasn’t required reading during my time in school, but I see why it is in many parts of the world.
5. Tropical Fish: Tales From Entebbe by Doreen Baingana ★★★★★
The book gets 5 stars from me for the narrative style. It is in form of short stories told by 3 sisters. I wish it was longer and told from one person’s perspective, that way there would be more depth and connectivity to the book. I could relate to the characters in the book as it’s mostly based in neighbouring Uganda. There are a lot of similarities. An easy and enjoyable read.
6. We are Going to Need More Wine by Gabrielle Union ★★★★
In this no-holds-barred memoir, Gabrielle Union talks open about her life and background, and her life’s journey into Hollywood. It’s “a powerful collection of essays about gender, sexuality, race, beauty, Hollywood, and what it means to be a modern woman.” I really enjoyed it. 4 stars.
7. The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett ★★★
“The Vignes twin sisters will always be identical.. Many years later, one sister lives with her black daughter in the same southern town she once tried to escape. The other passes for white, and her white husband knows nothing of her past.”
Interesting premise, right? This book explores race and gender in the US. The storytelling is great, but the jumping between timelines and characters frustrated me, hence the 3 stars. You read a chapter, it ends in a cliffhanger but the next chapter is a scene from a faraway character in a faraway time and place. In this sense, it’s kind of like soap operas that rely on cliffhanger scenes but fail to deliver by switching to other scenes. The book then starts to introduce new characters with tons of background info that I don’t care for.
It would make a great TV show though. Correction, it will. “HBO and Brit Bennett made a 7 figure deal for the adaptation of the book into limited series!”
8. This Mournable Body by Tsitsi Dangarembga ★★★★
This book is not an easy read. It’s a sad and depressing read, told in second person so you can’t escape feeling what the character is feeling. You cannot disengage, and that’s what makes it powerful. It was shortlisted for the Booker Prize 2020.
This is my review on goodreads:
This is a very complex novel, to be unpacked in a literature class. I suspect I barely scratched the surface when it comes to understanding it. While the book is titled “This Mournable Body”, the main character is actually never physically harmed, she’s more psychologically tortured. It’s all the women around her who endure so much violence. It’s like she absorbs their pain when she’s not the cause of it. Right up to the very end, we never know if the main character got her redemption.
I just discovered that it is a the third book in a trilogy. I think it would be a more enriching experience to read the first two books before this one, but it’s too late for me. Still, I will go hunting for the first two books.
So there you have it, my review of the 8 books I have read so far. Which one do you think you’re likely to pick up based on my reviews?
What books would you recommend for me?