Recently, a friend asked me if I had any good book recommendations. My brain started to shut down as I was left to wonder: “Books? What are books? Can I read? I have no idea.”
So, now that I have the time, and I’m not in “deer in headlights” mode, I happily offer the following three book recommendations to said friend and anyone else.
Contemporary Fiction: Americanah
Americanah, written by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, is a gorgeous story about two young people, Ifemelu and Obinze, as they journey away from their homeland (Nigeria) and each other. The story, told in limited third person perspective, switches between both character’s lives as they fall in love, grow frustrated with their country’s economic problems, and seek to find better choices in foreign lands. The book then follows them back to Nigeria as they look at their old home with new perspectives.
This book is really honest about a lot of things, sometimes brutally so. Race is a big topic, especially comparing the American understanding of race and how that differs from the UK and Nigeria. The characters also struggle with the concepts surrounding immigration, mental health, love, friendship, personal growth, and politics. However, while honest, the book never strays away from offering something to be learned about these difficult topics. I haven’t read anything like this book before, which makes me want to recommend it all the more.
Fantasy: The Slow Regard of Silent Things
If you haven’t read The Name of the Wind and The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss, may I humbly suggest you do, even if only to lead up to my actual recommendation, The Slow Regard of Silent Things. However, while it’s predecessors do provide some context and background information, The Slow Regard of Silent Things can be read on its own.
The Slow Regard of Silent Things is not a long read, clocking in at a whopping 150 pages. However, it’s a wonderful book that almost feels more like poetry than prose. This is the story of Auri, her daily life, and how she sees the world. She’s a little broken and a little sad. She’s also fierce and filled with a deeply held belief on how the world should work. Rothfuss wrote her with a loving sort of tenderness that makes me admire him immensely. I will warn you that there’s no dialog in this book, and one of the most engaging scenes surrounds the process of soap making. However, I hope this only peaks your interest, because books like this don’t get published very often.
Literature: Moby Dick
Moby Dick by Herman Melville is my favorite book in the whole world, and you should read it.
It’s hard to actually describe what Moby Dick is about. At one point, it’s about the whaling industry. In another, it’s about the friendship between an American white man and a Mauri from New Zealand who may or may not be a cannibal. There’s also a man named Ahab who happens to be obsessed with a whale, and a whale who is vaguely indifferent to that tiny human’s obsession. There’s a lot about whales in general. There are chapters of encyclopedia-like entries of whale types and biology.
This book is long and it’s not tightly structured. The story meanders here and there, sometimes forgetting all about what is probably the main plot. The chapters are named silly things like “Stubb and Flask kill a Right Whale; and Then Have a Talk over Him”, “Of the Monstrous Pictures of Whales”, and “Of the Less Erroneous Pictures of Whales, and the True Pictures of Whaling Scenes.” However, I will say this: I felt more while reading this book than I think I have from reading any other book in my life. It made me shout out loud in joy. It made me cry. It made me passionately invested in the lives of sailors with ridiculous names like Starbuck, Stubb, Flask, and Queequeg. After reading this book, I felt hope for the future of humanity. I should probably write a post about just this one book. I’ll finish by saying Moby Dick is brilliant and is most likely the best book written in the English language.
So, do you guys have any book recommendations for me? I always like to add more books to my reading list.
2 responses to “Three Book Recommendations for a New Year”
Ha, I’ve so been there! It’s suddenly as though I haven’t cracked a book in the last ten years and the last thing I can remember reading is “The Hobbit.”
I confess I’ve always found Moby Dick pretty tough going, despite it containing some glorious language (“damp, drizzly November in my soul” is one of my favorite lines anywhere)… perhaps it’s time I revisit it. I did find Nathaniel Philbrick’s “In the Heart of the Sea” pretty riveting, it’s the nonfiction story which almost certainly inspired Moby Dick, but contains quite a lot more as well (including a description of human dehydration so horrifying I had to skim a bit). I’m a sucker for historical tales of shipwrecks and ship things.
Oh, I haven’t read “In the Heart of the Sea.” I think I must now.