Uncovered: ALA’s Best Holiday Reads

December 19th, 2017

There’s always time for a good book. But there’s never a better time to indulge in an absorbing read than during the holidays. So it’s only fair that we share the tales that have gripped us most – and hope you’re as thrilled with them as we were…

Call Me By Your Name: Andre Aciman
(Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2007)

Gavin Peter, Staffulty:  This was given to me by an Alum, Assisatou Diagne, when she visited this year and I saved it for the holidays – it was the perfect read for then with its backdrop of warm sun and lazy holiday pace, and the underlying drama of the tale. Really enjoyed it. I hear they’ve made a film of it now. (The film was released in November 2017.)

SUMMARY This coming of age story tells of the  intense connection between 17-year-old Elio – whose family villa on the Italian Riviera is a summer home for writers – and Oliver, a young visiting professor. Egyptian-born author André Aciman is a US-based novelist, memoirist and scholar of seventeenth-century literature, with many essays and reviews on Marcel Proust to his name – and the story brilliant conveys a similar sense of loss and nostalgia.

The Three Body Problem – Liu Cixin
(Tor Books, 2016)

Hatim Eltayeb, Dean of the Academy: It’s an epic journey into the not so distant future – good fun with lots of hard science. Also, it paints some fascinating portraits of leadership including perhaps one of the most austere servant leaders I’ve ever come across.

SUMMARY The first of an acclaimed science fiction trilogy from China’s favourite author of the genre, the story unfolds against the backdrop of China’s Cultural Revolution. A secret military project sends signals into space to establish contact with aliens, and is caught by an alien civilization on the brink of destruction.

When Breath Becomes Air: Paul Kalanithi
(Deckle Edge, 2016)

Ansi Harford, Staffulty: It is the most extraordinary account of a doctor’s battle against cancer. It is powerful and uplifting.

SUMMARY The memoir of a young neurosurgeon confronting his own mortality at 36 has been named Best Book of the Year by various publications and turned the author into a Pulitzer Prize finalist. It’s a profound chronicle of the quest for a meaningful life.

 

Difficult Women: Roxanne Gay
(Grove Atlantic, 2017)

Sarah Beth Lardie, Staffulty: Roxanne Gay is an amazing in American writing – most people in the US didn’t come to know her work until 5 or 6 years ago. She has a perspective that needs to be heard and amplified and because I loved much of her previous work, including Hunger, which I can also recommend.

SUMMARY A collection of stories that resonate with women the world over, depicting real lives, passionate loves, and quirky human connections that may be hard to comprehend but won’t leave you untouched.

Ibadan: The Penekelemes Years: A Memoir: 1945-1965: Wole Soyinka (Methuen, 2001) 

Lisa Simelane, Staffulty: He skipped the border and escaped from Nigeria to Benin on a motorbike through a forest – who wouldn’t want to read about that?

SUMMARY The third volume in Wole Soyinka’s series of memoirs, it combines fact and fiction – to protect the innocent and nail the guilty and shape an often intolerable reality – and  tells of the coming of age of a writer and political activist. It follows Soyinka’s alter ego from schooldays in Ibadan to student days in Leeds and travels around the world before returning to Ibadan.

Exit West: Mohsin Hamid
(Hamish Hamilton, 2017)

Stephen Fox, Staffulty: My favorite from my reading list

SUMMARY Nadia and Saeed fall in love to the approaching sound of bombs and public executions. When civil war erupts, they join the mass of people fleeing their motherland, through the magical door that will lead to their place in the world. The Man Booker-shortlisted author of The Reluctant Fundamentalist, brings the refugee crisis home, conveying the turmoil and pain of leaving home and loved ones for the unkown, with only hope to cling to.

Homegoing: Yaa Gyasi
(Knopf Publishing, 2016)

Mopati Morake, Staffulty: “It is excellent.”

SUMMARY Homegoing follows the parallel paths of two half-sisters born in different Ghanaian villages in the eighteenth century. One marries an Englishman and lives a luxury life in a castle; the other is sold into slavery after being imprisoned in the same castle. This exceptional tale spins through eight generations and plays out along the Gold Coast and Mississippi plantations to early 20th century Harlem.

The Color Purple: Alice Walker
(Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1982)

Keabetswe Zondi (South Africa), Student: As we move into a December festive season, Christmas looms around the corner and we often hear stories of baby Jesus and celebrations of his birth. This is a story I am used to hearing – however one year I was introduced to a different story of spiritual re-birth. This story not only had characters of colour, but a new version of God that I was personally more connected to.

SUMMARY This Pultizer Prize-winning read follows Celie, a poor black woman from rural Georgia in southern USA through about 30  years of her life and tells harrowing tales of abuse. An intense read, it does have a happy ending. It has been made into a major film and Broadway musical.

Le Petit Prince: Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (1943) 

Milind Bhoyroo (Mauritius), Student: This book talks to everyone. It shows that you don’t have to fit in to what is expected of you to discover yourself properly. Reading this  reminds you to live for yourself and not for others. It also describes human relationships,  and our development into our true selves.

SUMMARY A literary classic published more than 70 years ago, this is philosophical tale of a grown man meeting his inner child. Written by French aristocrat, writer, poet, and  aviator, it is one of the most-translated books in the world and was voted the best book of the 20th century in France.

The Whisperer: Donato Carrisi
(Abacus, 2011)

Kezia Adesanya (Nigeria), Student: Crime thrillers are my favourite and I loved this because I learned so much about personality traits; it also helped with anthropology, which is what I’m interested in.

SUMMARY A gripping, thought-provoking literary thriller that has taken Europe by storm, it follows the relationship between the profiler and criminologist trying to solve the mystery of six severed arms discovered in the woods.

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