Vivatramp

adventures, books & creative lifestyle.

24 Books On My To Buy List

books on my to buy list independent bookshop week
A million years ago when I began shielding at my family home, I told myself I would use the time away as an excuse to spring clean my life somewhat. In lieu of making actual meaningful change, however, I decided to declutter the books on my extensive to buy list. 
Aspirational.
I removed all of the books that I was no longer interested in reading and spent time poring over various catalogues and articles in search of books I wanted to add to my collection. Since I love having any old excuse to talk about books, I figured I'd stop by and share a small selection of the books on my to buy list.
Feel free to share some of the books you're hoping to read in the comments below so I can spend even more of my free time avoiding my responsibilities. 
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lakewood by megan giddings

Lakewood by Megan Giddings

When Lena Johnson’s beloved grandmother dies, and the full extent of the family debt is revealed, the black millennial drops out of college to support her family and takes a job in the mysterious and remote town of Lakewood, Michigan.
On paper, her new job is too good to be true. High paying. No out of pocket medical expenses. A free place to live. All Lena has to do is participate in a secret program—and lie to her friends and family about the research being done in Lakewood. An eye drop that makes brown eyes blue, a medication that could be a cure for dementia, golden pills promised to make all bad thoughts go away.
The discoveries made in Lakewood, Lena is told, will change the world—but the consequences for the subjects involved could be devastating. As the truths of the program reveal themselves, Lena learns how much she’s willing to sacrifice for the sake of her family.
Provocative and thrilling, Lakewood is a breathtaking novel that takes an unflinching look at the moral dilemmas many working-class families face, and the horror that has been forced on black bodies in the name of science.  

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Whilst I don't often reach for science fiction or dystopia these days, I do like to delve into the genre when it is especially cognisant of its relationship with real-life sociopolitical and socioeconomic issues, so when I discovered this novel on a list of 2020 releases I felt compelled to read it. 
Throughout history, Black people have been subjected to medical negligence and traumatic experimentation, often in the name of scientific research, and it seems like Lakewood will explore the far-reaching affects such inhumane treatment can have upon the most disadvantaged communities in society.
An incredibly difficult read, I'm sure, but it feels like a particularly poignant story for me to engage with, especially as someone with a great deal of medical trauma but also a huge amount of privilege in terms of the quality of healthcare I receive as a white woman. 

my dark vanessa by kate elizabeth russell

My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell 

2000. Bright, ambitious, and yearning for adulthood, fifteen-year-old Vanessa Wye becomes entangled in an affair with Jacob Strane, her magnetic and guileful forty-two-year-old English teacher.

2017. Amid the rising wave of allegations against powerful men, a reckoning is coming due. Strane has been accused of sexual abuse by a former student, who reaches out to Vanessa, and now Vanessa suddenly finds herself facing an impossible choice: remain silent, firm in the belief that her teenage self willingly engaged in this relationship, or redefine herself and the events of her past. But how can Vanessa reject her first love, the man who fundamentally transformed her and has been a persistent presence in her life? Is it possible that the man she loved as a teenager—and who professed to worship only her—may be far different from what she has always believed?

Alternating between Vanessa’s present and her past, My Dark Vanessa juxtaposes memory and trauma with the breathless excitement of a teenage girl discovering the power her own body can wield. 


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Every now and again a book comes along that captivates the book community for many, many months prior to its release. My Dark Vanessa is one of those books.
Another heavy read - my speciality, it would seem - I'm intrigued to see how Russell moves between time periods as Vanessa, like many others, explores what it means to have to reassess everything we thought we understood about a person and their motivations. 


These Ghosts Are Family by Maisy Card

These Ghosts Are Family by Maisy Card 

Stanford Solomon has a shocking, thirty-year-old secret. And it’s about to change the lives of everyone around him. Stanford Solomon is actually Abel Paisley, a man who faked his own death and stole the identity of his best friend.
And now, nearing the end of his life, Stanford is about to meet his firstborn daughter, Irene Paisley, a home health aide who has unwittingly shown up for her first day of work to tend to the father she thought was dead.
These Ghosts Are Family revolves around the consequences of Abel’s decision and tells the story of the Paisley family from colonial Jamaica to present day Harlem. There is Vera, whose widowhood forced her into the role of single mother. There are two daughters and a granddaughter who have never known they are related. And there are others, like the house boy who loved Vera, whose lives might have taken different courses if not for Abel Paisley’s actions.

These Ghosts Are Family explores the ways each character wrestles with their ghosts and struggles to forge independent identities outside of the family and their trauma. The result is an engrossing portrait of a family and individuals caught in the sweep of history, slavery, migration, and the more personal dramas of infidelity, lost love, and regret. This electric and luminous family saga announces the arrival of a new American talent. 

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Stolen identity? A secret revealed on a deathbed? Stories that chart characters over a long period of time? You got me. You got me good. 

I've not necessarily always been into character-driven family sagas but I think the tides are turning a little, as I grow as a reader and a person, and I'm finding them all the more intriguing. 

Before we move on, I'd like to take a minute to appreciate that cover though.


Funny Weather: Art in an Emergency by Olivia Laing


Funny Weather: Art in an Emergency by Olivia Laing

In the age of Trump and Brexit, every crisis is instantly overridden by the next. The turbulent political weather of the twenty-first century generates anxiety and makes it difficult to know how to react. Olivia Laing makes a brilliant, inspiring case for why art matters more than ever, as a force of both resistance and repair. Art, she argues, changes how we see the world. It gives us X-ray vision. It reveals inequalities and offers fertile new ways of living.

Funny Weather brings together a career’s worth of Laing’s writing about art and culture, and their role in our political and emotional lives. She profiles Jean-Michel Basquiat and Georgia O’Keeffe, interviews Hilary Mantel and Ali Smith, writes love letters to David Bowie and Wolfgang Tillmans, and explores loneliness and technology, women and alcohol, sex and the body. With characteristic originality and compassion, Funny Weather celebrates art as an antidote to a terrifying political moment.


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The Lonely City: Adventures in the Art of Being Alone was one of my favourite books of 2017 because it masterfully struck the balance between memoir, art history, sociopolitical commentary, and historical look at New York City and the creative minds it spawned.


Whilst Funny Weather is a collection of creatively linked essays, as opposed to one seamless meditation, I'm intrigued to see what conclusions Laing comes to, especially as I have such an invested interest in creativity and the way it intertwines with both our private and public lives. 


I should probably read the unread Olivia Laing book that I own - The Trip To Echo Spring: Why Writers Drink - before purchasing this but I'll definitely promote it to the top of my to buy list once the paperback edition is released. Not much of a hardback reader, me. 




Miracle Creek by Angie Kim

Miracle Creek by Angie Kim 

How far will you go to protect your family? Will you keep their secrets? Ignore their lies?

In a small town in Virginia, a group of people know each other because they’re part of a special treatment centre, a hyperbaric chamber that may cure a range of conditions from infertility to autism. But then the chamber explodes, two people die, and it’s clear the explosion wasn’t an accident.

A showdown unfolds as the story moves across characters who are all maybe keeping secrets, hiding betrayals. Was it the careless mother of a patient? Was it the owners, hoping to cash in on a big insurance payment and send their daughter to college? Could it have been a protester, trying to prove the treatment isn’t safe?
 


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There are times when I will deem that a book is simply not for me, typically because there are elements that I think would cause me to lose interest along the way despite the blurb sounding vaguely interesting, but then the book follows me around wherever I go. 


It turns up in the articles I read and on my leisurely scrolls through Instagram. It starts to seem like everyone and their dog has read the very book I shrugged off, until I eventually cave and read it so I can make my own mind up. The Miracle Creek is one of those books.


Whilst it sounds quite thrilling, I'm not big on court room dramas or procedurals but there's so much promise here, and so many positive reviews, that I want to give it a try. 



 Catherine House by Elisabeth Thomas

Catherine House by Elisabeth Thomas

Catherine House is a school of higher learning like no other. Hidden deep in the woods of rural Pennsylvania, this crucible of reformist liberal arts study with its experimental curriculum, wildly selective admissions policy, and formidable endowment, has produced some of the world’s best minds: prize-winning authors, artists, inventors, Supreme Court justices, presidents. For those lucky few selected, tuition, room, and board are free. But acceptance comes with a price. Students are required to give the House three years—summers included—completely removed from the outside world. Family, friends, television, music, even their clothing must be left behind. In return, the school promises its graduates a future of sublime power and prestige, and that they can become anything or anyone they desire.
Among this year’s incoming class is Ines, who expects to trade blurry nights of parties, pills, cruel friends, and dangerous men for rigorous intellectual discipline—only to discover an environment of sanctioned revelry. The school’s enigmatic director, Viktória, encourages the students to explore, to expand their minds, to find themselves and their place within the formidable black iron gates of Catherine.
For Ines, Catherine is the closest thing to a home she’s ever had, and her serious, timid roommate, Baby, soon becomes an unlikely friend. Yet the House’s strange protocols make this refuge, with its worn velvet and weathered leather, feel increasingly like a gilded prison. And when Baby’s obsessive desire for acceptance ends in tragedy, Ines begins to suspect that the school—in all its shabby splendour, hallowed history, advanced theories, and controlled decadence—might be hiding a dangerous agenda that is connected to a secretive, tightly knit group of students selected to study its most promising and mysterious curriculum.
Combining the haunting sophistication and dusky, atmospheric style of Sarah Waters with the unsettling isolation of Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go, Catherine House is a devious, deliciously steamy, and suspenseful page-turner with shocking twists and sharp edges that is sure to leave readers breathless.

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That blurb is a literary equivalent of laying down a Hansel and Gretel style trail for me. It hits so many marks that it actually frightens me because I don't want to build it up in my head as being a book that I could potentially fall in love with if it's only going to disappoint. 

Rural setting, seclusion in an idiosyncratic school filled with secrets and sanctioned revelry, opulent, Gothic surroundings, the promise of tragedy, honestly I don't think I'll even wait around for the paperback release to get my paws on this one. 



We Know You Know by Erin Kelly

We Know You Know by Erin Kelly

 You can't keep the secret.
You can't tell
the truth.
You can't escape
the past...
Marianne was seventeen when she fled her home in Nusstead - leaving behind her family, her boyfriend, Jesse, and the body they buried. Now, thirty years later, forced to return to in order to help care for her sick mother, she can feel the past closing around her. And Jesse, who never forgave her for leaving in the first place, is finally threatening to expose the truth.
Marianne will do anything to protect the life she's built, the husband and daughter who must never know what happened all those years ago. Even if it means turning to her worst enemy for help... But Marianne may not know the whole story - and she isn't the only one with secrets they'd kill to keep.  

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In an unintentional turn of events, I've managed to read four novels by Erin Kelly so far this year - He Said/She Said, The Poison Tree, The Burning Air and The Sick Rose - and I will not rest until I have burned my way through her entire back catalogue. 
As you may be able to tell, I've been on a bit of a psychological thriller kick of late and Kelly's novels have been sating that hunger with her unequivocal ability to write settings and characters and situations that I'm entirely fascinated by, from big houses in the countryside filled with secrets to grubby, trinket-filled indoor market stalls overseen by lovesick teens. 
We Know You Know, previously known as Stone Mothers, sees a woman return to her difficult past whilst trying to not let it consume her and boy do I love that thriller trope with all of my heart. I'm really looking forward to this one. 


 The Memory Place by Yōko Ogawa

The Memory Place by Yōko Ogawa 
On an unnamed island off an unnamed coast, objects are disappearing: first hats, then ribbons, birds, roses—until things become much more serious. Most of the island's inhabitants are oblivious to these changes, while those few imbued with the power to recall the lost objects live in fear of the draconian Memory Police, who are committed to ensuring that what has disappeared remains forgotten.

When a young woman who is struggling to maintain her career as a novelist discovers that her editor is in danger from the Memory Police, she concocts a plan to hide him beneath her floorboards. As fear and loss close in around them, they cling to her writing as the last way of preserving the past.

A surreal, provocative fable about the power of memory and the trauma of loss.


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Like Miracle Creek, this is a novel that I'd sort of written off slightly as it seemed like something I would've perhaps loved whilst at university but my reading taste has evolved somewhat, not for better or worse I might add, so I wasn't sure whether or not I should pick this one up. 
It hasn't left the back of my mind, however, especially as it keeps turning up on my social media timelines, so I've decided I'd quite like to read it, if only to escape the real-life dystopia that is currently blooming around the world. 


Pine by Francine Toon

Pine by Francine Toon 

They are driving home from the search party when they see her. The trees are coarse and tall in the winter light, standing like men. Lauren and her father Niall live alone in the Highlands, in a small village surrounded by pine forest. When a woman stumbles out onto the road one Halloween night, Niall drives her back to their house in his pickup. In the morning, she's gone. In a community where daughters rebel, men quietly rage, and drinking is a means of forgetting, mysteries like these are not out of the ordinary. The trapper found hanging with the dead animals for two weeks. Locked doors and stone circles. The disappearance of Lauren's mother a decade ago. 
Lauren looks for answers in her tarot cards, hoping she might one day be able to read her father's turbulent mind. Neighbours know more than they let on, but when local teenager Ann-Marie goes missing it's no longer clear who she can trust. In spare, haunting prose, Francine Toon creates an unshakeable atmosphere of desolation and dread. In a place that feels like the end of the world, she unites the gloom of the modern gothic with the pulse of a thriller. It is the perfect novel for our haunted times. 

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Modern gothic with the pulse of a thriller? That's my type. 
Whilst I sort of made a promise to myself that I'd avoid stories about small, creepy communities as I can't seem to stroll through my village without assuming there's some great conspiracy or someone waiting in the bushes for me, I can't let this one slip by.
It sounds like the perfect read for October time so I think I'll hold out 'til then. 


Luster by Raven Leilani

Edie is stumbling her way through her twentiessharing a subpar apartment in Bushwick, clocking in and out of her admin job, making a series of inappropriate sexual choices. She's also, secretly, haltingly figuring her way into life as an artist. And then she meets Eric, a digital archivist with a family in New Jersey, including an autopsist wife who has agreed to an open marriagewith rules. As if navigating the constantly shifting landscapes of contemporary sexual manners and racial politics weren't hard enough, Edie finds herself unemployed and falling into Eric's family life, his home. She becomes a hesitant friend to his wife and a de facto role model to his adopted daughter. Edie is the only black woman young Akila may know.

Razor sharp, darkly comic, sexually charged, socially disruptive, Luster is a portrait of a young woman trying to make her sense of her life in a tumultuous era. It is also a haunting, aching description of how hard it is to believe in your own talent and the unexpected influences that bring us into ourselves along the way.
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I always used to think I didn't like reading books that were at all romantic or that concerned intimate relationships but then I realised over time that I in fact do, especially if they're particularly messy or complex. 

I stumbled across Luster on one of my adventures around the internet looking for 2020 releases and it instantly found its way onto my to buy list. 


I'm so intrigued to see how Leilani explores the intersection between sexual and racial politics, as well as how the relationship seeks to serve the protagonist and her developing sense of self.  



Adults by Emma Jane Unsworth



Jenny McLaine is an adult. Supposedly. At thirty-five she owns her own house, writes for a cool magazine and has hilarious friends just a message away. But the thing is:  She can’t actually afford her house since her criminally sexy ex-boyfriend Art left. Her best friend Kelly is clearly trying to break up with her. 

She's so frazzled trying to keep up with everything you can practically hear her nerves jangling. She spends all day online-stalking women with beautiful lives as her career goes down the drain. And now her mother has appeared on her doorstep, unbidden, to save the day…

Is Jenny ready to grow up and save herself this time? 

///

Here's the thing, I don't usually tend to read funny books. I read Unsworth's debut novel, Animals, on a whim back in 2017, however, and it was a five star read.  
I remember appreciating it for the way it explored romance in friendships, from the frantic highs to the almost painful lows, from strained loyalty to shy forgiveness. 
The blurb for Adults seems so unassuming but then that was also the case for Animals, so I'm hoping this book will similarly over deliver in terms of the way it explores the frailty of the human condition and our all-consuming desires to be more than we are.


The Perfect World of Miwako Sumida by Clarissa Goenawan

trigger warning: suicide 

Miwako Sumida is dead.

Now those closest to her try to piece together the fragments of her life. Ryusei, who has always loved her, follows Miwako’s trail to a remote Japanese village. Chie, Miwako’s best friend, was the only person to know her true identity — but is now the time to reveal it? Meanwhile, Fumi, Ryusei’s sister, is harbouring her own haunting secret.

Together, they realise that the young woman they thought they knew had more going on behind her seemingly perfect façade than they could ever have dreamed.
 

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A well-established literary theme, perhaps, but that's not to say that there isn't more to be explored. 
There's something quite interesting about stories that build a picture of a person through the way their lives intertwined with those of their loved ones and beyond, especially when there is so much uncertainty and a great deal of grief-tinged retrospection involved, so I'm hoping this novel does the fragility of the subject justice.
What a great cover.

Educated by Tara Westover
Educated by Tara Westover 
Tara Westover grew up preparing for the End of Days, watching for the sun to darken, for the moon to drip as if with blood. She spent her summers bottling peaches and her winters rotating emergency supplies, hoping that when the World of Men failed, her family would continue on, unaffected.

She hadn’t been registered for a birth certificate. She had no school records because she’d never set foot in a classroom, and no medical records because her father didn’t believe in doctors or hospitals. According to the state and federal government, she didn’t exist.

As she grew older, her father became more radical, and her brother, more violent. At sixteen Tara decided to educate herself. Her struggle for knowledge would take her far from her Idaho mountains, over oceans and across continents, to Harvard and to Cambridge. Only then would she wonder if she’d travelled too far. If there was still a way home.

EDUCATED is an account of the struggle for self-invention. It is a tale of fierce family loyalty, and of the grief that comes with the severing of the closest of ties. With the acute insight that distinguishes all great writers, from her singular experience Westover has crafted a universal coming-of-age story that gets to the heart of what an education is and what it offers: the perspective to see one's life through new eyes, and the will to change it.

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I've always been interested in stories that explore the extremes of the human condition, as well as those who intentionally live on the fringes of what is expected of them, so whilst I don't tend to read a great deal of non-fiction I find myself really interested in reading this particular slice of it. 

Westover's physical and emotional journey to discover the very world that she has been preparing for the demise of is absolutely fascinating to me and I think it's in stories such as this where creative non-fiction truly comes to life and underlines its true potential for shifting perspectives and endorsing empathy. 


Ghost Wall by Sarah Moss

Ghost Wall by Sarah Moss

In the north of England, far from the intrusions of cities but not far from civilisation, Silvie and her family are living as if they are ancient Britons, surviving by the tools and knowledge of the Iron Age.
For two weeks, the length of her father's vacation, they join an anthropology course set to reenact life in simpler times. They are surrounded by forests of birch and rowan; they make stew from foraged roots and hunted rabbit. The students are fulfilling their coursework; Silvie's father is fulfilling his lifelong obsession. He has raised her on stories of early man, taken her to witness rare artefacts, recounted time and again their rituals and beliefs—particularly their sacrifices to the bog. Mixing with the students, Silvie begins to see, hear, and imagine another kind of life, one that might include going to university, travelling beyond England, choosing her own clothes and food, speaking her mind.
The ancient Britons built ghost walls to ward off enemy invaders, rude barricades of stakes topped with ancestral skulls. When the group builds one of their own, they find a spiritual connection to the past. What comes next but human sacrifice?
A story at once mythic and strikingly timely, Sarah Moss's Ghost Wall urges us to wonder how far we have come from the "primitive minds" of our ancestors. 

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I'm always drawn in by books that feel quite claustrophobic and heady - think Water Shall Refuse Them - so it makes sense that this piqued my interest, even though I'm not big on reading mythical 
kinda stuff. 

This could go either way, I think. I'm either going to be fully immersed in the suffocating mythos of it all or I'm going to be entirely turned off and cold. We'll see.
I've not read a really enthralling novella since Grief is the Thing with Feathers by Max Porter and The End We Start From by Megan Hunter so I'm hoping this will join them high in the ranks. 


The Undocumented Americans by Karla Cornejo Villavicencio


The Undocumented Americans by Karla Cornejo Villavicencio

Writer Karla Cornejo Villavicencio was on DACA when she decided to write about being undocumented for the first time using her own name. It was right after the election of 2016, the day she realized the story she'd tried to steer clear of was the only one she wanted to tell. So she wrote her immigration lawyer's phone number on her hand in Sharpie and embarked on a trip across the country to tell the stories of her fellow undocumented immigrants--and to find the hidden key to her own.


Looking beyond the flashpoints of the border or the activism of the DREAMers, Cornejo Villavicencio explores the lives of the undocumented--and the mysteries of her own life. She finds the nation of singular, effervescent characters often reduced in the media to political pawns or nameless laborers. The stories she tells are not deferential or naively inspirational but show the love, magic, heartbreak, insanity, and vulgarity that infuse the day-to-day lives of her subjects.


In New York, we meet the undocumented workers who were recruited into the federally funded Ground Zero cleanup after 9/11. In Miami, we enter the ubiquitous botanicas, which offer medicinal herbs and potions to those whose status blocks them from any other healthcare options. In Flint, Michigan, we learn of demands for state ID in order to receive life-saving clean water. In Connecticut, Cornejo Villavicencio, childless by choice, finds family in two teenage girls whose father is in sanctuary. And through it all we see the author grappling with the biggest questions of love, duty, family, and survival.


In her incandescent, relentlessly probing voice, Cornejo Villavicencio combines sensitive reporting and powerful personal narratives to bring to light remarkable stories of resilience, madness, and death. Through these stories we come to understand what it truly means to be a stray. An expendable. A hero. An American.


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A particularly poignant read considering that the Supreme Court recently blocked Trump's attempt to end the DACA programme, deeming it 'unlawful', which means the recipients, hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants who were brought to the US as children, can continue to live without fear of deportation for now. 

One of the things that interested me the most about this book is how Villavicencio said she wasn't interested in documenting why the recipients came to the country with their families, having little interest in exploring what they had hoped to find in the US. She, instead, wanted to focus on the real-life, day-to-day stories of these people and the ways in which they both survive and thrive.

I really hope this book finds its way into the hands of many and I'm looking forward to giving it the time of day soon.



Transcedent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi


Transcedent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi 

As a child Gifty would ask her parents to tell the story of their journey from Ghana to Alabama, seeking escape in myths of heroism and romance. When her father and brother succumb to the hard reality of immigrant life in the American South, their family of four becomes two - and the life Gifty dreamed of slips away.

Years later, desperate to understand the opioid addiction that destroyed her brother's life, she turns to science for answers. But when her mother comes to stay, Gifty soon learns that the roots of their tangled traumas reach farther than she ever thought. Tracing her family's story through continents and generations will take her deep into the dark heart of modern America.


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Homegoing was one of my favourite books of 2019 - as well as being one of my favourite books we've read for my Patreon book club - so I'm not about to apologise for building hype for this book even though it's not being released until 2021. 


After writing one of the most accomplished debut novels I think I've ever read, it's safe to say I have high hopes for Yaa Gyasi and everything she turns her mind to going forward. 

One of the things I loved the most about Homegoing was the way it seamlessly traversed through generations, exploring how we are often shaped by those who have come before us in ways that we might not even comprehend, and Transcendent Kingdom, by the sounds of it, promises to capture a similar spirit. 



My Sister, The Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite


My Sister, The Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite 

When Korede's dinner is interrupted one night by a distress call from her sister, Ayoola, she knows what's expected of her: bleach, rubber gloves, nerves of steel and a strong stomach. This'll be the third boyfriend Ayoola's dispatched in, quote, self-defence and the third mess that her lethal little sibling has left Korede to clear away. 

She should probably go to the police for the good of the menfolk of Nigeria, but she loves her sister and, as they say, family always comes first. Until, that is, Ayoola starts dating the doctor where Korede works as a nurse. Korede's long been in love with him, and isn't prepared to see him wind up with a knife in his back: but to save one would mean sacrificing the other...


///


This book has been everywhere so it's about time I added it to my ever-growing collection. 

As a sister myself, I'm always interested in stories that explore the complexities of sisterhood and the unspoken trust and ride-or-die bond that I have been lucky enough to experience in my own life. Although, having said that, I would like to make it clear that I have yet to clear up any crime scenes. 

My Sister, The Serial Killer comes highly recommended by so many and I can't wait to find out why. 



Exciting Times by Naoise Dolan

Exciting Times by Naoise Dolan
Ava, newly arrived in Hong Kong from Dublin, spends her days teaching English to rich children.

Julian is a banker. A banker who likes to spend money on Ava, to have sex and discuss fluctuating currencies with her. But when she asks whether he loves her, he cannot say more than 'I like you a great deal'.

Enter Edith, a lawyer. Refreshingly enthusiastic and unapologetically earnest, Edith takes Ava to the theatre when Julian leaves Hong Kong for work. Quickly, she becomes something Ava looks forward to.

And then Julian writes to tell Ava he is coming back to Hong Kong...


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Naoise Dolan has, through no fault of her own, fallen fowl to the age-old desire of reviewers and publishers alike to group authors together based on arbitrary markers - often used when authors hail from the same place or similarly work outside of the typical confines of their form - and I find that really irritating.


Whilst I've heard some mixed things about this book, I can't really resist a good ol' bisexual love/lust triangle so it has made its way onto my to buy list. 



 Paul Takes The Form Of A Mortal Girl by Andrea Lawlor


Paul Takes The Form Of A Mortal Girl by Andrea Lawlor 

It’s 1993 and Paul Polydoris tends bar at the only gay club in a university town thrumming with politics and partying. He studies queer theory, has a dyke best friend, makes zines, and is a flâneur with a rich dating life. 

But Paul’s also got a secret: he’s a shapeshifter. Oscillating wildly from Riot Grrrl to leather cub, Women’s Studies major to trade, Paul transforms his body at will in a series of adventures that take him from Iowa City to Boystown to Provincetown and finally to San Francisco—a journey through the deep queer archives of struggle and pleasure. 



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If this novel is as wildly hypnotic as it sounds, it'll probably end up becoming of the most immersive books in my collection. 

I really adore books that explore queer counterculture, especially through the lens of love and lust and all of the collateral damage that both inevitably create for the protagonist, and, if the reviews are  anything to go by, Paul Takes The Form of a Mortal Girl promises that in spades. 



Severance by Ling Ma

Severance by Ling Ma 

Candace Chen, a millennial drone self-sequestered in a Manhattan office tower, is devoted to routine. With the recent passing of her Chinese immigrant parents, she's had her fill of uncertainty. She's content just to carry on: She goes to work, troubleshoots the teen-targeted Gemstone Bible, watches movies in a Greenpoint basement with her boyfriend.

So Candace barely notices when a plague of biblical proportions sweeps New York. Then Shen Fever spreads. Families flee. Companies cease operations. The subways screech to a halt. Her bosses enlist her as part of a dwindling skeleton crew with a big end-date payoff. Soon entirely alone, still unfevered, she photographs the eerie, abandoned city as the anonymous blogger NY Ghost.

Candace won't be able to make it on her own forever, though. Enter a group of survivors, led by the power-hungry IT tech Bob. They're travelling to a place called the Facility, where, Bob promises, they will have everything they need to start society anew. But Candace is carrying a secret she knows Bob will exploit. Should she escape from her rescuers?

A send-up and takedown of the rituals, routines, and missed opportunities of contemporary life, Ling Ma's Severance is a moving family story, a quirky coming-of-adulthood tale, and a hilarious, deadpan satire. Most important, it's a heartfelt tribute to the connections that drive us to do more than survive.


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Part of me wonders whether or not it's foolish to want to read a book about a plague sweeping the world during a global pandemic but then I've never really clung to logic and good sense so why start now?! 

I went through a little apocalyptic phase some years back, particularly during my third year at university when I wrote a poly-vocal collection of post-apocalyptic stories for my final creative dissertation, and I've been hesitant to dip my toe back into the presumably poisoned waters ever since. 

I've heard, however, that this is a darkly satirical take on the genre, with the plague itself taking somewhat of a backseat to the protagonist's search for self-enlightenment and her growing inclination that there's gotta be more to life. I'm here for it.  



Writers & Lovers by Lily King

Writers & Lovers by Lily King 

Blindsided by her mother's sudden death, and wrecked by a recent love affair, Casey Peabody has arrived in Massachusetts in the summer of 1997 without a plan. Her mail consists of wedding invitations and final notices from debt collectors. 

A former child golf prodigy, she now waits tables in Harvard Square and rents a tiny, mouldy room at the side of a garage where she works on the novel she's been writing for six years. At thirty-one, Casey is still clutching onto something nearly all her old friends have let go of: the determination to live a creative life. When she falls for two very different men at the same time, her world fractures even more. Casey's fight to fulfil her creative ambitions and balance the conflicting demands of art and life is challenged in ways that push her to the brink.

Writers & Lovers follows Casey--a smart and achingly vulnerable protagonist--in the last days of a long youth, a time when every element of her life comes to a crisis. Written with King's trademark humour, heart, and intelligence, Writers & Lovers is a transfixing novel that explores the terrifying and exhilarating leap between the end of one phase of life and the beginning of another. 


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There's a lot of books on this list about youngish women looking for themselves or something other than what they're currently experiencing isn't there?! Let's not psychoanalyse that. 

We typically accompany characters at the very start or end of a phase of their life, so I quite like that Writers & Lovers instead focuses on the period in between knowing and longing. 

This is supposedly quite a quiet, introspective sort of novel and I think that might make for a welcome reading experience, especially after all of the fast-paced literary thrillers that I seem to be reaching for at the moment. 



 How To Write An Autbiographical Novel by Alexander Chee

How To Write An Autbiographical Novel by Alexander Chee 

How to Write an Autobiographical Novel is the author’s manifesto on the entangling of life, literature, and politics, and how the lessons learned from a life spent reading and writing fiction have changed him. In these essays, he grows from student to teacher, reader to writer, and reckons with his identities as a son, a gay man, a Korean American, an artist, an activist, a lover, and a friend. He examines some of the most formative experiences of his life and the nation’s history, including his father’s death, the AIDS crisis, 9/11, the jobs that supported his writing—Tarot-reading, bookselling, cater-waiting for William F. Buckley—the writing of his first novel, Edinburgh, and the election of Donald Trump.

By turns commanding, heartbreaking, and wry, How to Write an Autobiographical Novel asks questions about how we create ourselves in life and in art, and how to fight when our dearest truths are under attack.


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Despite its title, How To Write An Autobiographical Novel is a collection of essays that explores Alexander Chee's life and the way he both expresses and explores his multi-faceted identity as a gay, Korean American man. 

My favourite kinds of personal essays recognise the enormity of what it takes to a build person, delicately balancing the first-hand experiences that they can recall without a second's prompting with the people, places and things that have invariably transmuted the way they see themselves over time. 

I very much hope this collection is as well-measured as reviews make it out to be.  


The Body Lies by Jo Baker

The Body Lies by Jo Baker 

When a young writer accepts a job at a university in the remote English countryside, it's meant to be a fresh start, away from the bustle of London and the scene of a violent assault she is desperate to forget. But despite the distractions of her new life and the demands of single motherhood, her nerves continue to jangle. To make matters worse, a vicious debate about violence against women inflames the tensions and mounting rivalries in her creative writing class. 

When a troubled student starts turning in chapters that blur the lines between fiction and reality, the professor recognises herself as the main character in his book--and he has written her a horrific fate. Will she be able to stop life imitating art before it's too late? 


At once a breathless cat-and-mouse game and a layered interrogation of the fetishisation of the female body, The Body Lies gives us an essential story for our time that will have you checking the locks on your doors. 

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There is, in my opinion, nothing quite as scary as a grown man with both an inflated sense of self and the power of the patriarchy on his side. 

The Body Lies therefore sounds like the sort of psychological thriller that could eat me from the inside, especially as it grapples with what it means to exist as a woman in the world today. 

From what I gather, this isn't the sort of psychological thriller that relies on twists and turns to captivate its reader. Whilst I am very fond of twists, especially those that I don't see coming, I'm looking forward to reading a thriller that feels suffocating enough without that cherry on top. 



A Burning by Megha Majumdar

Jivan is a Muslim girl from the slums, determined to move up in life, who is accused of executing a terrorist attack on a train because of a careless comment on Facebook. 

PT Sir is an opportunistic gym teacher who hitches his aspirations to a right-wing political party, and finds that his own ascent becomes linked to Jivan's fall. Lovely--an irresistible outcast whose exuberant voice and dreams of glory fill the novel with warmth and hope and humour--has the alibi that can set Jivan free, but it will cost her everything she holds dear.

Taut, symphonic, propulsive, and riveting from its opening lines, A Burning has the force of an epic while being so masterfully compressed it can be read in a single sitting. Majumdar writes with dazzling assurance at a breakneck pace on complex themes that read here as the components of a thriller: class, fate, corruption, justice, and what it feels like to face profound obstacles and yet nurture big dreams in a country spinning toward extremism. 


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If this book is as good as the blurb leads me to believe it is, it could reach the heights of Homegoing in terms of debut novels that are both highly ambitious and masterfully executed. 
A Burning is another novel that has been topping the lists of 2020 releases in recent months, with the hype typically accredited to its all-consuming, compulsive nature. 
I think we're all looking for reads that are particularly engrossing during this turbulent time when processing information feels like a total minefield at times so this could be an excellent shout. 

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That was quite a nice little break from everyday life, wasn't it?!
Make sure you stop by my most recent bookish adventure post (COUNTRY PUBBING & BOOK SHOPPING: BOOKBARN INTERNATIONAL & THE WALDEGRAVE ARMS, EAST HARPTREE) if you have yet to! 
What books are on your to buy list? 
Will you be adding any of the aforementioned titles to your list? 
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If you like what I do, you can find me on Twitter, Instagram, Bloglovin and Goodreads.
If you'd like to support my creative work through further means, you can find me over on Patreon. As a disabled, self-employed creature, I very much appreciate each and every one of my patrons and the insightful conversations we have.
There are three different tiers ($5, $7 or $9 a month) and this support gives you access to 100s of exclusive posts, including creative guides, etc, as well as my book club and more!

Two of my recent posts are set to public as a way of spreading important information, you can check them out if you'd like to:

14 ways we can all support Black creatives
25 Black bookstagrammers to support
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It's #IndieBookshopWeek so to celebrate I'm sharing a series of bookish posts because if there's one thing I've been clinging to whilst shielding at home for three months it's my book collection! 
What's #IndieBookshopWeek? Independent Bookshop Week, which runs from 20th June to the 27th June 2020, is part of the Books Are My Bag campaign, run by the Booksellers Association, and it seeks to celebrate independent bookshops in the UK and Ireland. 
Whilst many of us can't get out to independent bookshops at the moment, many of our faves are offering online orders or orders by phone. If you're able to, treat yourself to a book or two from an indie or, alternatively, share links to your favourite bookshops on your various social media platforms and spread the love. If you're looking for independent bookshops to support, please consider buying from Black-owned bookshops. 
This post isn't affiliated with the campaign and I haven't been asked to post any content. I just wanted to share this post with you all and to share the campaign because it's something I support. I have, however, collaborated with them in recent years so I'm stating that here for full transparency. 

Comments

  1. What a great list definitely adding some from on here to my own. I read Educated last year and it ended up as one of my favourite books of 2019. I also read My Sister The Serial Killer just this month after seeing it everywhere on Instagram. Such a great short read, if you're into audiobooks I highly recommend the one narrated by Weruche Opia!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Ali! Glad you enjoyed it.

      Ah, I'll definitely have to get round to purchasing them both. Thanks for the audiobook recommendation too - will check that out!

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