It’s always good to get reading recommendations, and who better to get them from than the intelligent and attractive Bookstr staff with their notoriously good taste?
Mercedez Pulse – Editorial
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I recently finished reading Problems by Jade Sharma and I highly recommend it! It’s a fairly quick read that takes complicated topics, such as drug addiction, the effects of addiction on relationships and identity and discusses them in a way in which all audiences can understand and identify with.
The narrator, Maya, is a young addict whose dependence on heroin wreaks havoc on her personal and professional life. Maya is deeply flawed, constantly ignores the emotions and needs of others, and is inherently selfish. And yet I absolutely love her character.
Narrators with drug addictions are not exactly uncommon, and Maya’s story isn’t the most original idea an author has concocted. But what makes this story stand out from the rest of its kind is the obscure way in which Maya is completely relatable. Maya is cynical, sarcastic (really freaking sarcastic) and isn’t exactly a people person. For people like myself, she is not only easy to relate to, but is entertaining to follow. I can’t begin to tell you how many stories I’ve read in which the protagonist is either incredibly self-pitying or obnoxiously jovial. Despite her flaws, her ability to call bullshit on the world around her is so refreshing and makes it worth investing your time in the story. Publishers Weekly gave it this review:
Sharma’s debut novel is an uncompromising and unforgettable depiction of the corrosive loop of addiction. . . . there is a propulsive energy in Maya’s story, guided by her askew yet precise perspective . . . in Maya’s voice, Sharma has crafted a momentous force that never flags and feels painfully honest.
Chris Eder – Editor
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I’m reading Else Roesdahl’s The Vikings, which is awesome. It’s basically a textbook of Viking facts. Learning about medieval Scandinavians may sound painfully boring, but it’s not. For example, did you know Vikings had fine-toothed combs? They were very into grooming. Also, the areas that moved past haggling (Denmark, Sweden, parts of Norway) used silver as currency, which can get heavy. So what they’d do is double their silver jewellery as currency. If they wanted to buy a silk tunic from the east, they might take off their silver necklace and hack a piece off.
Other surprising things Vikings had access to: tweezers, nail clippers, cushions, griddles. Basically, the book is all about those Viking facts. I TA’d a Viking lit class for two semesters in grad school, so the Vikings have a special place in my cold heart.
Francesca Contreras – Editorial
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I recently read a really touching novel by Jhumpa Lahiri called The Namesake. It’s her first novel and it follows Bengali couple Ashimi and Ashoke’s move from India to Boston and how they find their way through the trials and tribulations of marriage. When they welcome their first child, rather than sticking to a tradition, Ashoke names his son Gogol because, when he was younger, a train accident nearly killed him and he believed that the book he was reading on the train, The Overcoat by Nikolai Gogol, saved his life. As Gogol grows up, his name becomes the center of all struggles in balancing family and friends, culture and belonging. Its uniqueness is what defines him yet tears him apart as he tries to find himself.
Although it only sounds like uphill battles, this is a sweet, sentimental story about family, love, identity, and the tides of life. Everyone has felt the way Gogol does about his parents and upbringing. It’s okay to fly off and go somewhere, but you can’t forget where you came from. Lahiri’s voice comes across as soothingly familiar, a feature that makes her work so popular. Try watching the film adaptation of the same name. This is definitely one for the heart and soul.
Hilary Schuhmacher – Editorial
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Once again, I’m reading Chuck Palahniuk’s Lullaby. Reporter Carl Streator has been investigating a series of cases of sudden infant death syndrome. After he unintentionally murders his wife and newborn after reading them an African chant from a book titled Poems and Rhymes Around the World, he discovers that in each case he’s investigating, the book is not only in the child’s room, but open to the same page.
The “culling song” has the power to kill anyone it’s spoken to and eventually Carl finds out that the song’s power works even through thought, after memorizing the poem and unintentionally becoming a serial killer. His victims include, but are not limited to, rude radio hosts and people who elbow their way into elevators before people have gotten off. It’s a great book, give it a read.
Laura-Blaise McDowell – Editor
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I’m reading Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff. As a rule, I really trust the National Book Award, for which this was nominated in 2015. It’s never steered me wrong, and this is no exception. An all-knowing narrator explores the points of view of various passing characters (including, at one point, a cat) while focusing on those of the protagonists Lotto (full name: Lancelot Satterwhite) and Mathilde, whom she tracks from birth onwards. The story is interspersed with classical references and excerpts from plays Lotto has written, which can at times become a little tedious, but that’s pretty much my only complaint. The way in which Groff navigates between characters makes the reader feel as if they are nose-diving like a bird into the minds of each character before returning to the sky, the greater plot of the story, with an image of something huge and all encompassing; the ocean or space. It’s really incredible.
While this narrator lets us in on almost every minute detail of the lives and thoughts of the characters, what keeps the reader hungry for more is the staggered and skillful way in which Groff delivers the information. You are constantly surprised and things are often not as they seem. Her examination of the terrible truths of the everyday lives of people in love is just astonishing. She’s a true wordsmith as well. Her grasp and manipulation of language is unique and the text is absolutely glittering with stunning sentences. While the general premise, the tracking of two people’s lives, is not necessarily the first of its kind, the way in which Groff approaches the story, the voice, the writing, the images are all unique and quite unlike anything else I’ve read. I’m into it.
Feature Image Via Annie Pratt