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January 6, 2021

Books to Read in the New Year: Our Recommendations

The Christmas holidays is the best time to get back into reading as everything else winds down for a while.

That's certainly our plan going into the New Year, so we've compiled a list of some of our favourite books to get inspired and kickstart our reading lists.

1.      Paulo Coehlo’s The Alchemist

The Alchemist is a short, yet powerful novel, widely beloved around the world. The narrative follows a young Andalusian shepherd boy named Santiago, who leaves his flock to seek treasure that’s buried near Egypt’s pyramids. He meets a myriad of people and complications along the way, but none deter him nor waste the reader’s time: this story is one about the journey rather than the destination.

Full of poetic philosophy and a dream-like atmosphere, The Alchemist is a must-read for everyone.

Don't give in to your fears. If you do, you won't be able to talk to your heart.

 

2.      Bruce Pascoe’s Dark Emu

Dark Emu is a non-fiction book that re-evaluates the label of ‘hunter-gatherer’ for precolonial Indigenous Australians. While colonial rhetoric has long claimed that the land was empty or unused before European settlement, Pascoe presents evidence that shows the use of domesticated plants, sowing, harvesting, irrigation, and storage of food – behaviours which contradict the concept of hunter-gatherer society.

Dark Emu challenges Western preconceptions of Indigenous populations and is critical reading not only for Australians, but for readers the world over.

Kirby’s preconceptions of what he was going to find on this frontier are so powerful that he skews his detailed observations to that prejudice. The activity he witnessed was, in fact, a piece of ingenious engineering.

 

3.      Shyam Selvadurai’s Funny Boy

Funny Boy is a coming-of-age novel told in six poignant stories, all centred on Arjie, a young boy living in Colombo, Sri Lanka. Sexuality, family, and gender and racial relations all play a role in the tales of his life: Arjie grapples with his sexual identity against a backdrop of the civil war in Sri Lanka, where the racial conflict between minority Tamil and majority Sinhalese Sri Lankans leaves the family in a state of uncertainty.

Blending the personal and political in beautiful prose, Funny Boy explores the multifaceted nature of identity on both the individual and national scale.

I would be caught between the boys’ and the girls’ worlds, not belonging or wanted in either.

4.      Haruki Murakami’s Dance Dance Dance

Dance Dance Dance is Murakami’s sixth novel and follows the experiences of an unnamed protagonist as he revisits a formerly seedy hotel that has been transformed into a high-end establishment. The protagonist’s dreams lead him to the mystery of a call girl’s murder, and as he uncovers the course of events, he encounters a myriad of surreal people and circumstances.

The reappearance of Murakami’s character the Sheep Man in Dance Dance Dance reinforces the surrealism of the novel, delivering a dream-like existential tale characteristic of the author’s style.

We knew exactly what we wanted in each other. And even so, it ended. One day it stopped, as if the film simply slipped off the reel.

5.      Becky Chambers’ To Be Taught, If Fortunate

To Be Taught, If Fortunate takes its title from the opening audio recording on the Voyager Golden Record, the time capsule sent into space in 1977 as an introduction to Earth for extraterrestrial life. Space exploration is the core of the novella: the narrative follows four interstellar explorers across four different planets as they discover new environments and forms of life. As they reach their final planet, contact from Earth ceases, and they are faced with a choice: return to Earth or press on into the unknown.

Chambers is a master of intertwining realistic sci-fi with profound reflections on humanity, making To Be Taught, If Fortunate a quick yet impactful read.

If I ask what I'm asking only of people who agree with me at the outset, with whom I already share a dream and a language, then there's no point in asking at all.

 

6.      Tina Brown’s The Vanity Fair Diaries: 1983-1992

Tina Brown became editor-in-chief of Vanity Fair when it was a struggling flagship magazine, and kept a daily diary detailing the inner world of the New York media scene as she transformed the magazine into the glamourous household name it is today. The Vanity Fair Diaries is a fascinating insight into the star-studded politics of the world of media in 1980s New York, with enough celebrity name-drops to interest anyone with even a passing interest.

Written in Brown’s characteristic wit and flair, The Vanity Fair Diaries is both funny and astute, giving an account not only of the magazine, but the woman behind its success.

To maintain momentum, you must rejoice in risk.
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