In today’s post, I’ll be discussing my thoughts on the FIVE books I predicted would be 5-Star reads back in April, earlier this year. I will be answering the question; Were these books as life-changing as monumental as I had initially hoped? Please click here to read that blog post. BUT before we get into my thoughts, First things first…
Happy International Friendship Day! 🎈
To honour this most amicable day, I’ve put together a list of 10 book recommendations about friendship or that feature friendship as one of its main themes. To view my list and all future curated lists, please Sign Up! to my monthly newsletter by entering your email address below. And also, don’t forget to tell a friend how awesome they are today!
Afropean – Johny Pitts
Afropean is the backpacking non-fiction memoir that seeks to explore the black identity within Europe. The paperback edition pictured above was published in 2020 by Penguin books plus it won the 2020 Jhalak Prize for BAME writers literary award. This book looks at how originally African traditions, ideas and an altogether African presence has shaped the social fabric of many European countries. Afropean was an intelligent and meaningful read that I learnt a great deal from. Pitts’ writing in this book conveys a romanticism synonymous with being a sole traveller backpacking his way across Europe and I felt like I was on that journey with him.
In the end I genuinely enjoyed this book, but the writing at times felt cumbersome. I can’t really critique the author on the typeset but reading page-length blocks of text did make the experience more challenging.
Crooked Kingdom – Leigh Bardugo
Crooked Kingdom is the award-nominated second book in the Six of Crows duology by Leigh Bardugo. The paperback edition was published in 2016 by Orion Children’s Books. In this pulse-racing sequel, we follow Kaz Brekker and the gang on another dangerous heist mission. They have successfully managed to make it back to Kerch with their prisoner, Kuwei Yul-Bo in tow but the merchant who contracted Kaz and his comrades for the mission to kidnap Kuwei double crosses them and makes off with their money, taking Inej prisoner.
Crooked Kingdom maintains the steely grit of the Six of Crows, as we learn more about the characters we’ve grown to love, despite all their flaws and meet new ones, just as formidable. Bardugo gives us even more cunning and intrigue in this sequel novel but even with all the pragmatism, she still manages to transport the reader into a world of enthralling magic. I did have minor grievances with some elements of the plot but overall the enjoyment value of this book made it worthy of 5 stars!
If Beale Street Could Talk – James Baldwin
If Beale Street Could Talk is the 1974 novella by the highly influential James Baldwin about romantic and familiar love in the face of injustice. The edition pictured was published in 2018 by Penguin Books. We follow the somewhat omnipotent narrator, Tish who is nineteen and pregnant. The father of her child is twenty-two year old Fonny who has been wrongfully convicted for a crime he didn’t commit. Tish’s family as well as Fonny’s father Frank, battle a system of social injustice in 1920s Harlem to get Fonny out of prison.
The story had a very slow start but it was told with a passionate honesty and simple poeticism. If Beale Street Could Talk is a book I would definitely read again!
The Ministry of Utmost Happiness – Arundhati Roy
DNF at 40%
Of the books in this list, The Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy was probably the one I was most looking forward to reading. Having read Roy’s Booker Prize winning debut The God of Small Things early last year, a book I consider to be one of my all-time favourites, I was expecting bigger and better things from The Ministry of Utmost Happiness. The pictured copy is an embargoed paperback edition that was published in 2017 by Hamish Hamilton.
Set in New Dehli, India and the Kashmir regions, this story story follows a strikingly unique set of characters; Anjum, an intersex woman or hijra who owns a guest house built on a graveyard, Sadam, her vengeful friend as well as the inscrutable S. Tilottama. These characters are all connected by the mysterious appearance of an orphaned baby in a place known for its activism.
This book has a sharp wit and a pointed focus that I cannot fault. Roy’s writing is mentally challenging in a good way, but with such a wealth of characters and its exhaustive politicising, I decided to stop reading The Ministry of Utmost Happiness at 40%. This is book holds a lot of import but requires much slower reading to fully appreciate so it’s going on my save-for-later list until such time as I can dedicate the amount of concentration needed for a book of its size.
Natives: Race And Class In The Ruins Of An Empire
Natives is a non-fiction cum memoir book that looks critically at the state of lingering racism and racial inequality that continues to persist in the U.K despite the general attitude of ambivalence and denialism to these crippling issues that disproportionately affect the black British population. The paperback edition pictured above was published in 2019 by Two Roads.
Having read Natives, I can only describe it as an absolutely crucial book! I love the passionate, authoritative way in which this book argues the case for racial bias in Britain. This book was the inspiration behind my most recent Booktube video about structural racism and denialism in Britain, which you can watch here. As I hoped, this book did not disappoint and I awarded it 5 shimmering stars!
So in the end, 2 of my predictions were 5-star reads in my opinion, 2 were 4-star reads i.e. still highly recommended books and 1 (the most anticipated one) was unfinished and therefore unrated. But overall I enjoyed all the books on this list and my reading for the first half of this year has been altogether strong. Here’s hoping it continues!