What we’re reading: writers and readers on the books they enjoyed in November

2 months ago 22

In this bid we inquire authors, Guardian writers and readers to stock what they person been speechmaking recently. This month, recommendations see mind-bending fantasy, superb memoir and Greek myths retold. Tell america successful the comments what you person been reading.


Emily Bootle, writer

Ottessa Moshfegh’s Death successful Her Hands has provided immoderate slow-burning, mind-bending airy phantasy successful caller weeks. Though determination is little of the outright self-absorbed irony of her millennial favourite, My Year of Rest and Relaxation – a publication that hugely appealed to me, being an ironically self-absorbed millennial myself – successful Death successful Her Hands determination is the aforesaid dilatory quality unravelling, the aforesaid uneasy watercourse of consciousness. Here, the blurriness comes successful the signifier of the execution that the protagonist sets retired to lick aft uncovering a mysterious enactment successful the woods, with a backdrop of conifer needles, plain bagels and memories of a belittling hubby (it is punctuated occasionally with the acquainted lukewarm lick of her dog, who is unconcerned with this not-quite-real detective work). This is simply a communicative astir stories: chiefly the stories we archer ourselves to marque consciousness of what happens to us. Not slightest for its predominant invocations of William Blake, Death In Her Hands has beardown parallels with different of my favourites of caller years: Olga Tokarczuk’s Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead. Both novels are astir ageing women who find themselves preoccupied, successful immoderate way, with death.

Ultimately, some characters extremity up embarking connected exercises successful avoidance, embroiled successful quests for certainty to quell feelings that are fundamentally unsolvable. Emily Ogden’s On Not Knowing: How to Love and different essays is providing maine with affluent worldly connected wherefore affectional grey areas are worthy looking towards and embracing successful their ain right. Unknowing is not a occupation to beryllium solved but a indispensable state: it serves the contiguous not arsenic “the defensiveness of wilful ignorance but the defencelessness of not knowing yet”. Not each our problems tin beryllium blamed connected the relentlessness of our online lives – but I person recovered undeniably that the much I go absorbed by societal media the much I consciousness I should beryllium having what Ogden describes arsenic “lightning flashes” of strength and clarity each the time. And yet, arsenic she writes, portion “it tin beryllium bully to be to moments of passion, clarity, revelation, ecstasy, discovery”, we indispensable besides recognise however fleeting they are. Ogden illustrates, elegantly and authoritatively, wherefore we should beryllium looking astatine those “blurriest, fleetest experiences”, and sticking with them.

This Is Not Who I Am: Our Authenticity Obsession by Emily Bootle is published by Ortac Press (£10.99). To enactment the Guardian and Observer, bid your transcript astatine guardianbookshop.com. Delivery charges whitethorn apply.


Tom, Guardian reader

I picked up Pat Barker’s The Silence of the Girls and its sequel The Women of Troy successful Athens airdrome erstwhile I was bittersweet astir my vacation coming to an end. I wanted to work thing that would support Greece live successful my thoughts.

Both the novels are a retelling of the Iliad, focusing connected the destiny of the Trojan women captured aft the Greeks seized the metropolis of Troy. The celebrated heroes specified arsenic Achilles and Odysseus are each present, but we spot them done the eyes of these hopeless and frightened women. The stories are dense with a changeless menace of unit and they contiguous a nightmare satellite wherever men brutalised by years of savage warfare workout uncontrolled powerfulness implicit their pistillate captives. The unit is often shocking, and there’s 1 peculiar statement of quality sacrifice which I haven’t been capable to forget.

I fishy Barker’s top accomplishment is inactive the Regeneration trilogy, but these 2 novels enactment successful a subversive mode to burrow beneath what we deliberation we cognize astir the Iliad and contiguous an alternate narrative.


Sabba Khan, creator and writer

I person to confess, I person a bitter narration with the enactment of speechmaking for pleasance – I americium everlastingly trying to find the time, buying and borrowing books, surrounding myself with them, but past ne'er uncovering the clip to beryllium down, to really unbend into a seat wherever I tin autumn into the pages.

But winning the Jhalak prize for my graphic novel earlier this twelvemonth urged the writer successful maine to springiness myself the clip to read. I’m blessed to stock that I person work truthful overmuch much than past year, including Consumed by Arifa Akbar, which I’ve work doubly now. On 2nd speechmaking it was adjacent much iridescent than the first. Akbar captures the twisted timeline of migrant household constellations from a unsocial position of her ain narration with her sister. Not lone is it idiosyncratic and vulnerable, Akbar holds our hands successful zooming out, successful seeing the bigger picture, and shows america what heavy familial and authorities neglect looks like, and the acold wider reaching ramifications connected achromatic and brownish diasporas successful the UK. If you haven’t work this already, delight do.

Arifa Akbar.
Unique position … Arifa Akbar. Photograph: Suki Dhanda/The Guardian

Lots of my friends person opinions of Rachel Cusk and her work. Until recently, I’d ne'er work immoderate of her work. I was advised to commencement with Outline, and initially, I didn’t rather recognize what I was reading. But by the end, Outline turned retired to beryllium precisely what I needed: it felt similar a carnal slowing down. I was invited to participate Cusk’s caput and unpick, unpack, ruminate, muse implicit what was happening to the cardinal quality during her travel to an overseas penning course. I’m looking guardant to speechmaking much of her work.

Being a diaspora Londoner, I loved Open Water by Caleb Azumah Nelson. It felt similar a love-letter to each of america who are successful the large metropolis due to the fact that this is wherever our parents learned to survive, and we besides proceed to survive.

The Roles We Play by Sabba Khan is published by Myriad Books (£18.99). To enactment the Guardian and Observer, bid your transcript astatine guardianbookshop.com. Delivery charges whitethorn apply.


Deepak, Guardian reader

Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri is simply a compilation of eclectic tales that gully from experiences crossed the Indian diaspora. It effortlessly tells of the joys and sorrows of mean beingness successful tiny capable parcels to gully you into its worlds without investigating your attraction span. Many authors cognize however to constitute a poignant story, but fewer cognize erstwhile to stop. This publication came highly recommended by my spouse – and I tin spot why.