2020 has been a year of both being unable to read for months and months, and also having spurts of reading a lot. And with that reading, I’ve had a chance to read some incredible books, and have started posting on my YouTube channel again. Here are two recent videos. The first is about my eight favourite reads of 2020 thus far, and the second is a review of an incredible book: “The Vanishing Half”. I’d love to hear your thoughts!
It’s summer time and there’s no better time to find great books, support your local bookstore and open up your bookshelf to authors you wouldn’t normally try. Below, a haul of (some) books during a recent trip to Toronto and my thoughts of a book that is quite possibly my favourite read of all time.
Is chocolate and food ever out of style? (Cacao 70, Sept 2017)
“One day I craved a fish taco and could only find it in a single restaurant in Toronto. A year later my city was crawling with them, from a dozen dedicated fish taquerias that sprang up overnight to really bad fish tacos served in faux British pubs. How did this happen? I wondered why my father was suddenly eating pomegranate seeds with every meal and why my wife’s best friend spent thirty dollars to attend a food truck event, lining up for an hour to get in, only to line up for another hour to buy a lobster roll, which sold out right before she finally reached it. Meanwhile the Sri Lankan samosa vendor twelve feet away sat and wondered why nobody wanted what he was selling. Why was one food more popular than another? Both the lobster roll and samosa were delicious, and both cost around the same amount of money – so why the discrepancy in demand?
[..] At its worst, when you’ve eaten your fifth mediocre fish taco in a week, you realise that this onslaught of food trends can be relentless, vapid, and exhausting. Why does food have to be trendy? Why can’t it just taste good on its own merits? I often find myself just wanting to be given a grilled chees and then left alone. Not”artisanal” aged cheese, mind you, or ancient grain bread. Just cheese. And bread.”
~The Tastemakers: Why We’re Crazy for Cupcakes But Fed Up With Fondue by David Sax (2014)
My Favourite Book of 2017
Planning your reads for 2018? I suggest “Salt Houses” by Hala Alyan, a beautifully written generational family story that is unforgettable. The story starts in Nablus in 1963 with Salma, the mother of Alia and Mustafa. This book follows Salma and her family through time, and shows us how conflict and war plays out on the micro-scale of one family. This book teaches us as readers about trauma and love and marriage and family and gives us complicated, flawed characters that defy categorization. I highly highly recommend this book. My video review is below.
Whether you’re about to head off for your last summer getaway before September arrives, or you’re planning out what to do during your summer staycation, books are one of the nicest ways to spend a holiday.
If you’re planning time outdoors and want something that will fit easily in a small bag, check these three books that are perfect for a summer hike:
If you have many hours at one stretch to read, may I suggest the magic that is Mohsin Hamid’s latest book and the genius of Maggie O’Farrell? Below are descriptions as to why you can’t go wrong with either of these readings selections.
What are you reading this summer? Please do share in the comments below.
The first time I read a novel with Muslim characters, I was 21, and the book was “Does My Head Look Big in This?” by Randa Abdel-Fattah. The main character was sixteen years old, and even though the drama of being in high school and being the only person in a hijab was something I had experienced several years previously and had largely processed by then, it was affirming to read about a character who looked like me.
It was a lesson that women in hijab have stories worth telling.
Love stories can be stressful. Tea helps.
“And I know the job market is competitive, and I know everyone finds it hard, but I can’t help thinking: What did I do wrong? Was I crap at the interview? Am I crap, full stop? And if so..what am I going to do? A big black chasm is opening up in my mind. A scary dark hole. What if I can’t find any paying job, ever?” (Sophia Kinsella My Not So Perfect Life, p.183)
I had so many dreams. I used to lie on my bed and study the tube map and imagine becoming one of those fast, confident people I’ve seen on day tripst to the capital. People in a hurry, with goals, aims, broad horizons. I’d imagined getting on a career ladder that could take me anywhere if I worked hard enough. Working on global brands; meeting fascinating people; living life to the max.” (Sophia Kinsella My Not So Perfect Life, p.172)
When I am sick in bed, there are two things that make me feel better – television and books. Last week I was home from work, and because there wasn’t anything in particular I wanted to watch, I read Sophie Kinsella’s new book “My Not So Perfect Life” from start to finish. The book follows the story of Katie, or Cat as she’s known in the London ad agency where she works, as she tries to figure out how to advance in her job and get noticed so she can get to do the kind of work she wants to do. The story is relatable and I thoroughly enjoyed Kinsella’s depiction of surviving a difficult commute, stay with a tight budget, battle dreadful roommates and try to make friends, figure out who you are, and decipher your love life at the same time.
Instead of Kinsella’s normally fun but completely unfamiliar books, this book resonated and I found Katie to be her most likeable character that she has written to date. Where this book frustrated me though, was in its depiction of male characters.
I have a lot of take-aways from this book – “Our Turn by Kirstine Stewart
I’ve been thinking a lot about work and careers recently. After living in Johannesburg, South Africa for almost two years, I started a new job in an unfamiliar field in 2017. That job involved a country change as well, and because of my new role and new home, I’ve been thinking a lot about how my identity as a female, visibly Muslim, person of colour shows up at work, how to do well at work, how to find energy for projects that I want to pursue, and how to balance and manage the projects I want to do with family life and relationships given that “making things” often requires solitary focus and lots of time. It’s hard to find one book that addresses all those questions, so I’ve been reading different books for different purposes.
The past few months for me since November’s election results in the US have been a time of feeling bewildered, confused, angry, despondent and fiercely determined. Reading has been a way to make sense of my confusion, and here are four books that have helped me make sense of the world.
These four books are:
- Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
- The Good Immigrant, edited by Nikesh Shukla
- The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon
- Three Daughters of Eve by Elif Shafak
Watch the video below for my take-aways from each book!
I have a new favourite book. I just read Nadia Davids book “An Imperfect Blessing” published by Umuzi Press in 2014 and it’s difficult to express how amazing this book is. This book is about a Cape Malay family in Cape Town in 1986 and 1993, and in the telling of the family’s story, so much of South Africa’s history is told as well. I love the incredible female characters, the window it offers readers into South Africa, and the way it challenges readers to go and read more about South Africa’s history. It is a stunning book, and I highly highly recommend the book. The information I had about South Africa was poor before I moved to Johannesburg, and in the telling of one family’s very specific story, this book shares so much about South Africa as a whole. This book is a gift.
My full video review is above. Please do share and comment with your thoughts!