By Joel Francis
Choosing the right book can be a difficult task. Going into a bookshop (well in Gibraltar’s case, Amazon or Book Depository because they closed all the bookshops – still sour about it, don’t @ me) can be daunting if you don’t have a specific read in mind. I find it much easier to go in with a list, usually from year-end book lists or friends’ recommendations, which allows me to broaden my horizons when it comes to genres I would usually avoid.
With this in mind, here is a curated selection of books from a spectrum of genres and styles that I’ve enjoyed this year… you never know, one of them might become your new favourite!
Genre: Hard Science Fiction
What’s in the pages? Jason is walking to his Chicago home to his wife and son one night when he is kidnapped at gunpoint by a masked man. He loses consciousness and awakes in a lab with a man he’s never seen before welcoming him back. Jason has woken up in a world here his house is not his house, his wife is not his wife and his son was never born. Worst of all… he’s being hunted!
Why should you read it? I know that synopsis doesn’t tell you that much about this book, but it’s really hard to talk about the plot without spoiling it. So instead I’m going to say this: Just Read This Book. Dark Matter is seriously one of the best books I’ve ever read – and one of the few that I read in one sitting. It’s a compelling read about family, love, and the fear of losing it all. This book will keep you gripped from the first word until the very last, and will more than likely stay in your mind long afterwards.
Even if science fiction is not your thing, I would recommend this book. It’s similar to The Martian, Arrival & Interstellar, but those comparisons really don’t do this book justice when Dark Matter stands very much on its own merit and originality.
Crouch shows off his chops for intelligent, mesmerising, beautiful & thought-provoking writing in this book, and I am still to come across anyone who disliked it.
Genre: Young Adult / Poetry / Contemporary Fiction
What’s in the pages? Xiomara Batista lives in Harlem and is unheard but unable to hide. She doesn’t talk much, instead she lets her fighting do the talking. But Xiomara has secrets, she keeps them in a notebook. One of the secrets is she’s fallen for a boy called Aman. Her super religious Mami would never understand, so she keeps her reality a deep dark secret – however, this will all change.
When she’s invited to participate in her school’s slam poetry club, although she risks Mami finding out, she knows she has to perform in order to survive.
Why should you read it? This book was all up in my feelings, it’s a rollercoaster ride of air punching triumph and heart-wrenching defeat. I don’t think I’ve ever read anything quite like it and I was not expecting such brilliance when approaching this novel.
Don’t let the Young Adult tag fool you, this book is for everyone. It’s the underdog tale at its finest, setting you smack bang in the middle of Harlem it really allows you to live within the mind of a teenage girl coming to terms with her body, her sexuality and finding her voice through a supremely underrated (in my opinion) art form: slam poetry.
As someone who has attended a lot of spoken word events while at university, the truth is, a large majority of it can come off as self-important, preachy and somewhat narcissistic. However, Acevedo’s writing is none of that – she’s a master of her craft and a top tier writer. Very rarely have I felt such gut-wrenching fear for a character as I did when reading this book. It’s a superb example of world building and character arc design I wish I could see more of in Young Adult novels.
Genre: Non-Fiction / Politics
What’s in the pages? Reni Eddo-Lodge was frustrated about how the discussions of race and racism were being led by those who were not affected by it. She decided to write a blog post called “Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race”. Three years later, this book was born. Looking at issues including the whitewashing of history and feminism to white dominance and the link between class and race, Eddo-Lodge offers a framework for how to approach racism in Britain in the later 2010’s.
Why should you read it? The irony of this recommendation is that Reni Eddo-Lodge actually ended up talking to a white person about race, and I am extremely glad that she did. This book is broken up into seven chapters, each approaching a different aspect of racism in Britain in a unique chronology. It provides a unique look into hidden histories of Britain and the dirty secrets of an empire that reinvented its face, while never really changing its soul. I learned a lot about the erased history of racism in Britain and beyond in this accessible take on an otherwise complicated, vast subject. Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race left me wanting to find out more about the politics and race relations within Britain while also making me face up to certain aspects of white privilege I was otherwise unaware of.
For more book recommendations follow Joel’s Instagram @neurodiversebookworm.