When I discovered that there is a Japanese word for the pile of books you buy but never read (Tsundoku), I felt both seen and slightly attacked. As an English Literature graduate, I don’t read nearly enough, but I do a very good job of maintaining a sizeable list of books I intend to read at some undefined point in the future. Here are four books that I have actually managed to read in the last few years, which I highly recommend putting to the top of your pile.
The Vegetarian, by Han Kang
The Vegetarian by South Korean author Han Kang is the book I recommend to anyone who asks for reading suggestions. The novel tells the story of Yeong-hye and the fallout from her sudden decision to stop eating meat and live a more plant-like existence following a bloody, nightmarish dream.
Both beautiful and at times violent, it has a slightly surreal, otherworldly quality to it that has stuck with me more than any other book I have read in recent years. I would really recommend reading anything by the author, but this one is definitely where I would start.
How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy, by Jenny Odell
As we give up increasing amounts of our lives to technology, the feeling that we all need to be constantly productive and optimising our existence can feel really overwhelming. This book is a powerful call to arms to resist that pressure and reconnect with the world around us — a reminder that I frequently require.
no one is talking about this, by Patricia Lockwood
Written in two parts through a series of short narrative fragments, the story follows a chronically online writer whose life is altered by a family tragedy. At first the fragmentary format can seem impenetrable, but it is definitely worth giving it your full attention.
Lockwood captures the absurdity of our online existence with lots of humour, whilst also dealing with some more universal human themes. Both funny and poignant, it is a great example of the possibilities of contemporary writing.
Bless the Daughter Raised by a Voice in Her Head, by Warsan Shire
This is the first full-length poetry collection by Warhan Shire, whose poem Home has travelled far and wide online on a number of occasions over the last few years.
I sometimes struggle to fully engage with poetry, but Shire’s collection is really vivid and powerful. She writes beautifully about womanhood, motherhood and family, as well as the experiences of refugees and immigrants.
Featured image: Bless the Daughter Raised by a Voice in Her Head, by Warsan Shire