Cameron and his brother Ruben are hopeless. Not quite sure how to fill their time, the two get into quite a lot of trouble– needless violence, humiliating moments, and making up robbery plans that never take place. But then Cam falls for a girl, and suddenly things aren’t quite so simple. While Cameron hangs his heart on his sleeve, he isn’t too sure about how to approach her. After all, who could ever fall for an underdog like Cam?
Personal Take: This is quite a different tone from Zusak’s other books. Not quite a masterpiece like I Am The Messenger, but it still packs a little rawness. The setting Zusak paints for his characters is quite bleak, and yet, they fit so well in it. Cameron, his family and friends, the people he interacts with– it’s all so well crafted into this short story that I was still captivated by it. The format was also interesting, ending each chapter with a little of Cameron’s dream that feeds into his reality somehow. This is the first of three books, and while it doesn’t delve too deep into Cameron’s life yet, I enjoyed reading about his “beginnings”.
It’s a little rough around the edges compared to his other works, but it’s still a page-turner.
Audience: Older teens and adults.
Recommendations: Markus Zusak is well known for two major works: The Book Thief and I Am the Messenger (which is my personal favorite). He also wrote The Wolfe Brothers trilogy.
The first novel written by Haruki Murakami, Hear the Wind Sing follows a Japanese student who spends his summer at home, reminiscing on years past, while keeping his friend, who goes by the name Rat, company.
Personal Take: After reading Wind-Up Bird Chronicles, and After the Quake, I am a huge fan of Murakami. His words (and his translator’s) are so beautifully crafted, and his characters quirky, and always a vehicle of exploring the human nature. His first novel is just the same– not only exploring his character’s life, but the supporting characters as well. Though it was a little aimless, Murakami’s words counted in each chapter. Some chapters also alternated to different formats; one sentences, sketches, even a monologue by a radio host, which was pretty interesting.
It fascinated me that this was his first novel, and how it set the style for his writing. For Murakami fans, I definitely recommend it.
Audience: Adults, as Japanese literature tends veer into the dark side of human nature and introspection.
Other recommendations: I read Wind-up Bird Chronicles and After the Quake– and I recommend both. I’m still working my way through his other works.
At some point, every one of us embarks on a journey to find love. We meet people, date, get into and out of relationships, all with the hope of finding someone with whom we share a deep connection. This seems standard now, but it’s wildly different from what people did even just decades ago. Single people today have more romantic options than at any point in human history. With technology, our abilities to connect with and sort through these options are staggering. So why are so many people frustrated?
For years, Aziz Ansari has been aiming his comic insight at modern romance, but for Modern Romance, the book, he decided he needed to take things to another level. He teamed up with NYU sociologist Eric Klinenberg and designed a massive research project, including hundreds of interviews and focus groups conducted everywhere from Tokyo to Buenos Aires to Wichita. They analyzed behavioral data and surveys and created their own online research forum on Reddit, which drew thousands of messages. They enlisted the world’s leading social scientists, including Andrew Cherlin, Eli Finkel, Helen Fisher, Sheena Iyengar, Barry Schwartz, Sherry Turkle, and Robb Willer. The result is unlike any social science or humor book we’ve seen before.
In Modern Romance, Ansari combines his irreverent humor with cutting-edge social science to give us an unforgettable tour of our new romantic world. (From Goodreads.)
Personal Take: I love a book that can balance hilarity and interesting facts. Ansari did just that, in his pursuit of what makes men and women look for a romantic partner, and how they go about it. His findings offer a lot to debate about, scoff about or relate to. A lot of it was also either disturbing or intriguing, but one thing is for sure– people in general are just plain weird when it comes to setting the norms of mating. This was a repeated theme across most of the research that was conducted, focus groups (that one was just hilarious), and interviews. I liked Ansari’s honesty and his understanding of what he found, his comedic voice offering some relief in the mess that is the human quest for romance.
Though the book doesn’t get to answer anything, this is still a great read, both hilarious and insightful all in one.
Audience: Adults. For relatable and the weird stories.
Other recommendations: This is the only printed book from Aziz Ansari, and the rest are in audio format.
In 2008, J.K. Rowling delivered a deeply affecting commencement speech at Harvard University. Now published for the first time in book form, Very Good Lives offers J.K. Rowling’s words of wisdom for anyone at a turning point in life, asking the profound and provocative questions: How can we embrace failure? And how can we use our imagination to better both ourselves and others?
Drawing from stories of her own post-graduate years, the world-famous author addresses some of life’s most important issues with acuity and emotional force. (From Goodreads)
Personal Take: I’m always get excited when my favorite authors impart wisdom to graduating students, and then their speech gets viral on the internet. And if we’re really lucky, we get the speech printed in a visually appealing way, where we can peruse it at our leisure during our darkest moments. At least, that’s how I feel when I find these printed speeches. Much like Neil Gaiman’s speech Make Good Art (one of my favorite speeches), Rowling’s speech is both light, wonderful, insightful, and at some level, personal. I think she should be one of the most notable role models to graduates that nothing always goes according to plan, and that failure can be a stepping stone.
She also touched on the perceptions of entering the job market, and the metrics in which people are valued: something not a lot of people think widely about, or if they do, fall into the trap of how to measure themselves.
I truly believe that this book should be given away in bulks to graduating students all over the world to both comfort and set the tone for what to expect.
Audience: Everyone, but especially graduates.
Other recommendations: Really, there’s no need to list down what J.K Rowling is known to write: the Harry Potter series, as well as the Casual Vacancy.
Mindy Kaling has lived many lives: the obedient child of immigrant professionals, a timid chubster afraid of her own bike, a Ben Affleck–impersonating Off-Broadway performer and playwright, and, finally, a comedy writer and actress prone to starting fights with her friends and coworkers with the sentence “Can I just say one last thing about this, and then I swear I’ll shut up about it?”
In Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?, Mindy invites readers on a tour of her life and her unscientific observations on romance, friendship, and Hollywood, with several conveniently placed stopping points for you to run errands and make phone calls. Mindy Kaling really is just a Girl Next Door—not so much literally anywhere in the continental United States, but definitely if you live in India or Sri Lanka. (from Goodreads)
Personal Take: After reading this book, I feel guilty about one thing– that I’m not a fan of Mindy Kaling’s show. Nothing against her, I just didn’t click with the show. Which is too bad, because Mindy herself is an interesting person. Much of her childhood is very relatable, and her stories of friendships, work and just the mundane thoughts of everyday life varies between absolute hilarity to solemn truths. The wonderful thing about this book is how it encourages girls to be who they are, as that is what makes a girl beautiful.
I did wish Mindy was more specific in some chapters; more of her career, for example, or writing. Most of the time, it felt like she skimmed certain stories for the sake of humor. Her lists were entertaining though.
I enjoyed reading this book, if only to reassure myself that success comes to those who do things differently, and that even successful people waffle when doing work.
Audience: This book is definitely for teen girls and above.
Other recommendations: Mindy wrote a second book called Why Not Me? which I’ll be reading sometime next year!
Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops was a Sunday Times bestseller, and could be found displayed on bookshop counters up and down the country. The response to the book from booksellers all over the world has been one of heartfelt agreement: it would appear that customers are saying bizarre things all over the place – from asking for books with photographs of Jesus in them, to hunting for the best horse owner’s manual that has a detailed chapter on unicorns.
More Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops has yet more tales from the antiquarian bookshop where Jen Campbell works, and includes a selection of ‘Weird Things…’ sent in from other booksellers across the world. (From Goodreads.)
Personal Take: Ever since I read the first book Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops, I’d hoped there would be something similar– and there was! The sequel is just as hilarious as the first, revealing original and unbelievable takes on customers, and the wise cracks of the booksellers who serve them. My favorite too was the innocence of children and their interaction with books.
If you’re looking for a nice and quick reading break, this is definitely one to pick up, and have you rolling on the floor with laughter.
Audience: Definitely for readers of any age who deal who are familiar with non-reading friends, family and strangers.
Other recommendations: Jen Campbell’s first collection is called Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops.