We recommend: New books to check out
The fiction list:
The Laughter: by Sonora Jha. The book follows Dr Oliver Harding, an ageing tenured professor of English, who is obsessed with Ruhaba Khan, a Pakistani Muslim law professor, and her nephew Adil Alam. It captures campus life, and delves into events taking place on the university campus that highlight the differences between the worlds of Oliver and Ruhaba.
The New York Times says it is a “smart and hilarious book not just for anyone who wants to laugh at the absurdity of academia, but for anyone who wants to become a better person by doing it”. (February 14)
I Have Some Questions for You: by Rebecca Makkai. This one is a murder mystery. The protagonist Bodie Kane is a film professor and podcaster. In her high school days, her former roommate Thalia Keith was murdered, and Omar Evans was convicted of the crime. When she’s invited to teach a course in Granby School, Kane starts looking at the case again to see if there were any flaws in the investigation, and find out if the actual murderer is still out there. ( February 21)
The Adventures of Amina al-Sirafi: by SA Chakraborty. From the author of the Daevabad Trilogy comes a new magical trilogy set on the high seas with pirates, sorcerers, and mysteries to be explored. The first book follows Amina Al-Sirafi, a notorious pirate who has spent years adventuring out at sea. At a time when she’s considering retirement, she’s offered a job by the obscenely wealthy mother of a former crewman—retrieve her comrade’s kidnapped daughter for a kingly sum. Follow Amina’s last adventure with her crew to find out if they’ll be able to finish the job. (February 28)
Big Swiss: by Jen Beagin. This book is a romantic comedy which revolves around Greta, who’s in her 40s and lives in a Dutch farmhouse in Hudson, New York. Her work involves transcribing the therapy sessions of a sex therapist. She is captivated by the voice of one of the patients, whom she nicknames ‘Big Swiss’. The book expands upon a chance encounter between Greta and Big Swiss at a park, where one knows the deepest secrets of the other.
The Cut has high praise for the book and calls it “wry, fresh and absorbing”. The Washington Post says that the book is “bogged down by cultural references in silly wordplay” but makes for a fun read. (February 7)
A poetry pick:
Promises of Gold: by José Olivarez. In this collection of poems, José Olivarez explores all types of love—friendship, familial, cultural, romantic. He also grapples with the contradictions of the American Dream and attempts to reckon with the colonial legacy for Mexican descendants. The book also includes Spanish translations of the poems by the poet, David Ruano González. (February 7)
The non-fiction list:
These Seats Are Reserved: by Abhinav Chandrachud. In this book, Abhinav Chandrachud traces the history and makings of the reservation policy in India. The focus is on the intellectual debates that took place on this matter in the Constituent Assembly, the Supreme Court, and the Parliament. It looks at the decades-old debate concerning caste-based reservations in India and introduces the reader to the law and history of different quotas. (February 6)
Culture: The Story of Us, From Cave Art to K-Pop: by Martin Puchner. In ‘Culture’, Martin Puchner explores the ways that cultures have redefined themselves across borders through cultural exchange and free flow of ideas between various societies, ethnicities, and religions. It is a wide-ranging survey of how human culture has evolved over the last 37,000 years, ranging from the philosophy of ancient Greece to the dance choreography of PSY’s ‘Gangnam Style’.
The New York Times calls Puchner an “adept storyteller”, but says ‘Culture’ falters in tackling “contemporary arguments over race and appropriation”. (February 7)
Enchantment: Awakening Wonder in an Anxious Age: by Katherine May. This book is a memoir that invites the reader on a journey to understand our sense of wonder and awe. May looks at the feeling of being trapped in a grind of constant change, and shares stories from her own life on how she navigated bad news cycles, the constant chatter of social media, and difficult relationships. The focus of the book is on a different way of living, by exploring how we can pay attention to wonder and awe around us.
Kirkus Reviews says that May’s pursuit of enchantment will resonate with “anyone feeling burned out or disconnected”. (February 28)
Oscar Wars: A History of Hollywood in Gold, Sweat, and Tears: by Michael Schulman. This book provides a deeply reported behind-the-scenes look at the Academy Awards—focusing on the brutal battles, rivalries, and all the drama that we never knew about. Each chapter is a deep dive into a particular year, conflict, or category which tells the bigger story of Hollywood and culture. (February 21)