New London Book Haul
(This is Part Three of a three-part series, click on the names to check out Part One: Back to London and Part Two: London Bookstores Review)
I’m back to share the last and most important part of this series with y’all—my London book haul! As always, I’ll give a brief explanation as to why I picked up each book. This time I went all in (and completely broke) with 13 books to present to you!
Becoming | Michelle Obama
This one I don’t even have to explain. C’mon, how can I not read a book by our Forever First Lady Michelle Obama?
And by the way, I got this book at Foyles with five pounds off!
The Good Immigrant USA | Edited by Nikesh Shukla and Chimene Suleyman
A collection of essays by 26 writers who are first and second-generation immigrants to the U.S. sounds like a much-needed attempt to capture the complexity of the immigrant experience in America. I noticed a couple of familiar names (Teju Cole and Chigozie Obioma) and it made me want to read this book even more.
How to Love a Jamaican | Alexia Arthurs
As you’ll see, this book haul largely centers around the works of West Indian authors. My girlfriend is from Grenada, so I have a certain affiliation with the region although I haven’t been there yet. But I realized that I haven’t really read any Caribbean literature either. Russian bookstores don’t have a lot to offer in that respect, so shopping in London was like a breath of fresh air!
How to Love a Jamaican was among my first picks. Apart from an intriguing name and a super colorful cover, this book attracted my attention on so many other levels. It’s a collection of short stories (and I love short stories!) with a variety of characters who live between the two worlds of Jamaica and the U.S. This promises to be a fantastic debut for Alexia Arthurs! And I also want to give a shout-out to Cindy (@bookofcinz) who really pumped up my excitement for this book with her Instagram posts and an amazing giveaway (even though I didn’t win).
Freshwater | Akwaeke Emezi
I’ve been following sisters Emezi for quite a while on social media, and I remember how elated I was when I found out that Akwaeke got into Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Farafina Workshop. For those of you who still don’t know, Chimamanda is one of my top three all-time favorite writers.
Since then, I patiently waited for Akwaeke Emezi to publish her first work. Freshwater came out a while ago, but an opportunity to get my hands on it presented itself just now. I’m really excited to finally read it!
The Girl Who Smiled Beads | Clemantine Wamariya
Before I even knew what this book was about, I found the title captivating. It was showing up on my bookstagram quite a lot when it came out and eventually it ended up on my to-get list. Now that I know what an important story it holds within—that of the Rwandan genocide—I’m even more eager to read and learn.
Children of Paradise | Fred D’Aguiar
I’ve been searching for The Longest Memory by Fred D’Aguiar everywhere I went in London. Unfortunately I couldn’t find it, but I came across Children of Paradise instead. The haunting story of what happened in Jonestown has been on my mind ever since I first learned about it a few years ago. And while this book is a work of fiction that’s only based on what took place there, I still really want to read this perspective animating the real story in a way that only fiction can.
There’s a very special reason why I was searching for books by Fred D’Aguiar in the first place. I was tremendously fortunate to be in his Creative Writing class at UCLA in the fall of 2015. To say I learned a lot from him would be a grand understatement. He taught me to ‘read as a writer and write as a reader’ and turned my experimental fling with creative writing into a life-long love affair. I carry this love for writing with me to this day, and every day it inspires me to commit words to paper and to people’s minds and souls.
On the Come Up | Angie Thomas
On my previous trip to London I picked up The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, and this book blew me away! It has this rare combination of a very powerful story and unparalleled literary prowess, and I just couldn’t put it down. Her characters are so alive and real! I’m yet to write a blog post about it so I’ll save my thoughts on it for later, but I can definitely say that I became a huge fan of Angie Thomas.
I could barely wait for her next book to come out, and she didn’t have us waiting for too long. On the Come Up is not directly related to THUG but it’s set in the same neighborhood, Garden Heights—a place where, metaphorically speaking, roses grow from concrete. Angie Thomas’s literary universe is in full bloom, and I invite all of you to join me and follow the journey of a 16-year-old Bri, an aspiring rapper from Garden Heights who dreams of getting her come up while struggling to stay true to who she is on her way to the top.
Kinky Gazpacho: Life, Love & Spain | Lori L. Tharps
Neatly tucked in between tomes of Spanish prose and travel guides to the land of flamenco and fiesta on one of the shelves at Daunt Books, Kinky Gazpacho: Life, Love & Spain immediately attracted my attention. The title and the summary on the back made me want to learn more about Lori Tharps’s story—a Black American woman’s complicated love affair with Spain, her intercultural and interracial marriage to a Spaniard, and her life-long quest to finding her own true identity that crosses borders, languages and color lines.
I also felt that this book could provide some new insights into what my girlfriend experiences and feels living in Russia. So I’m looking forward to seeing this new perspective and learning.
Gödel’s Proof | Ernest Nagel and James R. Newman
I don’t even want to get into it here and now and go on an infinite descent to the dangerous depths of pure mathematical excitement, but just so you know, Gödel's incompleteness theorems move me like nothing else in math does. See, I used to major in math for one year and then switched to economics, which has two important implications. One, I know enough math to know how much math I don’t know—and also enough to get really excited about both the things that I know and that I don’t know. And two, I didn’t get all the formal training that I need to really understand most advanced concepts in math.
Gödel's incompleteness theorems are a good example of something I don’t have enough formal training to understand fully and deeply. Thanks to the profound impact these theorems had on the foundation of mathematics and, more importantly, thanks to their philosophical implications, I’ve been wanting to learn more about them since I first heard about them. Except, I guess, without doing all the hard preliminary work. And finally I came across just the right book to be able to do it. Written in layman’s terms, but with enough rigor and attention to detail, this is your guide to one of the most important results in modern mathematics.
Here Comes the Sun | Nicole Dennis-Benn
Every time I look at this cover I can almost hear gentle guitar strumming, and George Harrison’s voice fills my ears. The book probably doesn’t have anything to do with the Beatles, I know, but this is the side effect of being a fan of the Fab Four.
Here Comes the Sun has actually been on my radar for quite some time. It’s been showing up on bookstagram quite a lot, and based on the summary on the back this story tackles a number of very serious and important subjects. While the sunny title and the vibrant cover may suggest otherwise, this book is about the darker side of life in Jamaica as it examines race, prostitution, homosexuality and much more.
Beyond a Boundary | C. L. R. James
For the longest time cricket just wasn’t part of my universe. That was the case until I met my girlfriend who showed me how big of a deal it is for West Indians and for people in many other parts of the world as well. I still don’t know the rules and don’t understand what’s going on on the field (which is the case for most other sports for me), but she was able to explain its cultural and political significance to me, and now I have a great deal of respect for the game. And with David Rudder’s anthem playing at our home almost every other day, I definitely want to learn more. This highly regarded book by C. L. R. James looks like a great place to start!
An American Marriage | Tayari Jones
I’ve seen this book come up on bookstagram a million times, but somehow it never got my attention. I couldn’t decipher anything about it from the title, and that blue cover with a tree on it didn’t help either.
I know I sound very shallow right now, literally judging the book by its cover, but it is what it is. Sometimes in this age of bottomless timelines and endless scrolls of comments I resort to a simple algorithm—click if it catches the eye somehow, otherwise move on. I’m really not proud of it, and I have to come up with a better approach.
Fairly recently, I found out what An American Marriage is about, and of course I couldn’t keep overlooking it any longer. I learned that it’s a story of how the system of (in)justice shattered the American dream life of a newly married Black couple. I also found out that it was chosen for Oprah’s Book Club and made Barack Obama’s summer reading list. He described it as ‘moving’—and that sealed the deal for me!
Factfulness | Hans, Ola and Anna Rosling
I thought this book was meant to be a decisive takedown of fake news (no, not the real news that Trump refers to as ‘fake news’, but the actual fake news). It turns out it’s something quite different—a sort of a self-help book on how to have a fact-based worldview and a data-driven understanding of the changes that happen all around us. This book also had a blurb by President Obama on the cover, so I had to pick it up. So I guess this is another major theme of this book haul—thanks Obama!
I hope you have enjoyed this three-part series about my latest trip to London—I’m trying to do something new here and keep my blog posts to a reasonable length. If you’ve missed out on the first two parts, please click on the names to read Part One: Back to London and Part Two: London Bookstores Review. As always I’ll be super happy to hear back from you!