My room is filled with books that I have yet to read, and even so I always end up buying more. There is no such thing for me as “finishing the books I have before getting new ones.” I always stumble upon classics or newly published books that I am too intrigued to leave behind, so naturally I already have a pile ready for me to discover. To start the new year and for some reading inspiration, I composed a list of my top five favorite reads of 2017.
5. Histories of Nations: How Their Identities Were Forged edited by Peter Furtado
I love learning more about the world and often to have a better understanding of events happening today we have to look back to the past. Edited by historian Peter Furtado, this book is wonderful because you get to read about twenty-eight countries written by writers and scholars from those places. They give their account of their own nation’s history and what factors shaped those perspectives. As the reader you get to compare their views from foreign commentators, who often seem to be the leading narrative available in the media and in literature.
4. Girl Up by Laura Bates
Covering body image, sex, relationships, rape culture, social media pressure and media representation, the Everyday Sexism founder Laura Bates created a feminism guide for young women. It is a book I wish I had as a teenager, as it touches on many important and relevant topics. Girl Up is written with a comedic tone (also including hilarious illustrations, the tap-dancing vaginas being a proof of that), making it an entertaining as well as essential read. To be read at any age, it has a powerful message of you defining yourself and not the world defining you.
3. How We Survived Communism and Even Laughed by Slavenka Drakulić
Having family who lived in communist Czechoslovakia, this book instantly caught my attention. A collection of essays by the Croatian writer and journalist Slavenka Drakulić the book uncovers the lives of eastern European women during the communist regimes. Drakulić shares her life in former Yugoslavia and also stories from friends living in Prague, Warsaw and East Berlin. In a world divided with manual labor and drastic measures to feel “feminine,” the essays expose a paradoxical world that even when rejecting capitalism and communism, fetishism for both ideologies was born. The book also recounts that even if the iron curtain has gone down, a life time lived in fear cannot be easily forgotten.
2. The Optician of Lampedusa by Emma-Jane Kirby
The Optician of Lampedusa is a real story covered by journalist Emma-Jane Kirby. The book follows an optician in the small Italian island who was indifferent towards the fate of thousands of refugees crossing the Mediterranean. On a late summer boat trip with friends he encounters the sea full of drowning people. The trip becomes a rescue mission, and the group of friends save 47 people on a boat designed for ten. With the refugee crisis in Europe this book is very current and the reader gets to follow the optician’s awakening of conscience of the reality of this crisis. On the frontline of a tragic event where 360 people die and 47 are saved, the optician and his friends also open their eyes towards the bureaucracy and failings of Europe’s governments.
1. Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
A debut novel, Homegoing is the type of book that I cannot stop recommending. Captivating from the beginning till the end, I can’t wait to see more of Yaa Gyasi. Homegoing starts off telling the story of two sisters in 18th century Ghana who end up having extremely different fates, as one is sold into slavery and the other one marries a slave trader. The book traces the lives of their descendants over three decades in Ghana and in the U.S. It is an emotional journey of how consequences from the past can shape lives of several generations. Homegoing is truly an intelligently and beautifully written novel.