July has been a great reading month, not just in quantity (I have read quite a lot because I’m currently not working and have no dependents/commitments) but because of the quality of the books I read.
I read my first Ursula Le Guin, which I loved.
I read two Nobel Prize winners (Tocarzuk and Alexievich), not that I really seek prize-winners out but these were phenomenal.
I tried to get through some of the ARCs I kindly received from publishers (starred). I’ve never requested ARCs myself, but I have accepted ones I would have been interested in reading whether they were offered to me or not.
I read The Shadow King which has been on my highly anticipated reads after learning about it at the beginning of the year. Just as I was about to finish it, the Booker long list was announced. There are so many issues with these elitist prizes (and more specifically with the Booker and a particular nominee in the long list this year) but I was so pleased to see Maaza Mengiste on it as well as a large number of debuts.
I discovered more debut writers, Eliza Clark and Pauline Delabroy-Allard, who have such fresh and exciting voices I can’t wait to see what they produce next.
I began the iconic anthology New Daughters of Africa edited by Margaret Busby. I’m not planning to rush through it (it’s over 800 pages long!), but I am trying to read at least one entry a day. I’m currently midway through the fifties.
I read so many books that made me think and engage critically with the past, from Ayesha Harunna Attah’s novel exploring internal slavery in West Africa and the impact it had on those involved, to the employment of time travel in Butler’s Kindred to show how the brutalities of the past still affect the present, to Federici’s book of essays connecting the witch hunts of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries to the rise in capitalism and the witch hunts that still occur in certain areas of the global south today, to The Unwomanly Face of War and The Shadow King, which both rewrite a masculinised version of history in the frontlines of the Second World War and the Ethiopian resistance against Mussolini’s Italy.
You can find some of the reviews for these books on my Instagram.
I can only hope for another brilliant month of reading in August! What were your favourite reads of July?
- The Hundred Wells of Salaga by Ayesha Harruna Attah
- Flights by Olga Tocarzuk
- Kindred by Octavia E. Butler
- Boy Parts by Eliza Clark *
- The Divine Boys by Laura Restrepo *
- The Birds They Sang by Stanisław Łubiński *
- All About Sarah by Pauline Delabroy-Allard*
- The Unwomanly Face Of War by Svetlana Alexievich
- The Shadow King by Maaza Mengiste
- Witches, Witch-Hunting and Women by Silvia Federici
- The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula Le Guin
- I’ve also read three out of five of the Caine Prize shortlisted entries, which you can find here, and the Commonwealth Short Story Prize winner here.
- Japan Sinks, 2020 – a Netflix original anime series by Masaaki Yuasa following the Mutoh family in the aftermath of a devastating earthquake which precipitates the sinking of Japan. I’m not even going to pretend I know anything about anime or Yuasa’s work (I’ve only really watched Studio Ghibli movies and a few episodes of Attack on Titan), but I found this series brilliant in how it explores peoples’ reactions to natural disasters and how long we cling to disbelief even when the seemingly impossible happens before our eyes. It was a bit unsettling to watch during the midst of a global environmental crisis which has been overshadowed by a global pandemic, if I’m honest.
- The Luminaries – the highly anticipated adaptation of Eleanor Catton’s prize-winning novel of the same name on BBC iPlayer. I’m still not entirely sure what happened (in the book and the series) but it captured the grittiness of the era.
- On The Record – a documentary charting the decades of abuse at the hands of US Hip Hop Mogul Russell Simmons, it really exposes how Black women have been left out of the Me Too movement (despite the hashtag being created by a Black woman), and the fact that Simmons is living in Bali as we speak (a place that has no extradition links to the US) really speaks volumes not only to his own claims of innocence, but to how rich, powerful men can get away with so much.
- I May Destroy You finale – I can’t stop thinking about the last two episodes of this show, Michaela Coel is one of the most talented creators around.
- Stance Podcast, Episode 39 – I cannot hype this podcast enough, each episode is full of insightful conversations on art and culture that make my heart feel so full, it was also where I learnt about the On The Record documentary and the podcast Am I Making You Uncomfortable? which is just as well as they will be taking a well-deserved break until October!
- Borderless Bookclub – Tilted Axis Press, 28/05/2020 – in this bookclub discussion Borderless Bookclub speak to the translator of Duanwad Pimwana’s Arid Dreams, Mui Poopoksakul, and publisher Theodora Danek. I decided to listen before reading the book, which I have lined up for Women In Translation Month, and I’m glad I did.
- Am I Making You Uncomfortable? Podcast: Body Image In Lockdown – I’ve come to this podcast rather late in lockdown (it almost seems as if we are coming out of lockdown entirely right now) but I related so much to this episode and can’t wait to listen to more.
- Books & Rhymes Podcast: Resisting Narrative Closure with Erica Sugo Anyadike (Caine Prize) – a really interesting discussion with one of the Caine Prize shortlisted writers on craft and how to demystify the writing process, as well as some of the themes that come up in Anyadike’s short story, How To Marry An African President.
- True Currency: About Feminist Economics – Episode 1: If Women Counted – created by artists Ruth Beale and Amy Feneck, this episode unpacks issues around work, care and parenthood.