5 Amazing Books to Read in August

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Sorry for the long gap between 5 favourites! Without further ado, here are 5 of my favourite books lately, 4 fiction and 1 non-fiction. 

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1. City of Brass by S.A. Chakraborty

The Book: Nahri is a conniving beggar and jack-of-all trades in 19th century Cairo when one day she takes a con a little bit too far and summons an ifrit (like an evil spirit) and a djinn (think genie) who whisk her away to safety. Safety is the magical city of Daevabad. It is a place where djinn, and their half-human, half-djinn relatives (called shafit) reside amidst magic and history. Of course, Daevabad has its own set of problems, with its centuries of complicated history rooted in strife. Nahri’s arrival, as well as her companion, bring her right to the centre of the city’s unrest. 

Why I Love It: City of Brass, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways. 

  1. The characters are beautifully drawn, from the wily Nahri to the naïve, well-intentioned Ali, to the countless behind-the-scenes smaller characters. Everyone is so deeply flawed in a way that reminds me of the way George R.R. Martin depicts his characters, but so loveable you just want to hang out with them all day.

  2.  Everything is impeccably researched. Chakraborty says in the back of the book that she doesn’t include anything that she couldn’t find in Islamic myth.

    3. I loved how the character arcs (to me) told the diverse impacts of various kinds of pedagogical extremism, and the importance of flexibility of thought. 

    4. I loved the magic system, and the myths themselves, and how everything worked and worked together. It was so cool. 

    5. It was a page turner! I devoured each of the rather long books, and it was one of those books that had me finding excuses to read at all hours. 

This book was easily one of my favourite books of 2019 so far – and so was the sequel! – and so I hope you pick it up and enjoy! 

2. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

The Book: Starr is brilliant, but stuck. She feels like her world doesn’t have space for her to be who she really is. On one hand, she goes to a posh, mostly-white private school, and on the other, she lives in a rough New York neighbourhood entrenched with her family’s history. When her best friend from childhood is brutally murdered by a police officer, Starr becomes the only one who knows what really happened, and she is forced to navigate an unjust world. 

Why I Love It: Starr is an amazing character, and the way Thomas infiltrates the character is very visceral. I really felt like I was in her head. Also, the way that she describes her family, her neighbourhood is so lifelike. Everyone has a story, conflicting motives, and a unique voice. She really made her story, her settings, and her characters feel real in way that reminds me of Stephanie Perkins

This really is an incredibly beautifully crafted story, but you don’t need me to tell you. This book spent over a year on the New York Times Bestseller list in the #1 spot, and has already been made into a movie. Thank you, Angie Thomas, for telling stories with so much truth!

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3. The Sisters of the Winter Wood by Rena Rossner

The Book:  In 19th Century Ukraine, two sisters live in a small village where Jews and Christians dwell together in peace. They are as different as bears and swans, and soon, when their parents must leave to deal with the death of their grandfather, they discover their family’s unique history. Meanwhile, the appearance of a group of enchanting boys spewing hatred soon has both sisters – and the town – riled up and ready to cause some chaos. With all of this on the horizon, Liba’s task of protecting her sister only becomes more and more difficult.

Why I Love It: My great grandparents were Jewish and Lithuanian, and I know almost nothing about their lives in Eastern Europe. After the Holocaust, our connections to Eastern Europe were effectively destroyed. And yet, I know that almost everyone came from somewhere exactly like this book. As a result, the setting was particularly compelling to me. I also enjoyed the two sisters, personally preferring Liba over the flighty Laya, particularly because Liba’s portions were written in prose. Laya’s portions were quick and lovely, however. I thought Rossner’s use of alternating prose and poetry was an interesting convention which really contrasted the voices and minds of the two sisters. 

4. Tempests and Slaughter by Tamora Pierce

The Book: Arram Draper (aka the one-day Numair Samalin of the Immortal Series fame [yes I am a Tamora Pierce Super Fan]) is a young boy in Carthak who is especially talented at magic. His talents soon draw him powerful friendships as he develops through his first years at school. Like many of Tamora Pierce’s books, it doesn’t necessarily race headlong into a conclusion, but instead uses the world and character to take you to an exciting finale. 

Why I Love It: When I read this book, my thoughts were, ‘Yes! She’s back!’ This felt like vintage Tamora Pierce – a young protagonist finding their way in the world, struggling to succeed despite the obstacles of an unjust world. Of course, young Arram has it better than most, being the young friend of a character that we know will one day grow to be an ostentatious tyrant. I loved the world she created. I loved the freshness she brought to the characters. I love that she went there with puberty for boys. I love that I don’t know where the next book is going to go. 

Even though it wasn’t necessarily fast-paced, the compelling narrative and characters and world had me hooked and I couldn’t put it down. I loved living here in this world, and I loved seeing how things I loved that happened later came to pass. Tamora Pierce is an author where the more you read her, the more you love her, and this book, in my opinion, is no different. 

Tempests and Slaughter by Tamora Pierce
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The Sumerians: Their History, Culture, and Character by Samuel Noah Kramer
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5. The Sumerians: Their History, Culture, and Character

The Book: Sumerians lived in southern Mesopotamia (now Iraq) between around 2000 BCE and 5000 BCE. This book is an extremely thorough and fascinating resource about them, their culture, their religion, their local resources, their history, and even their literature. 

Why I Love It: This book served me as a valuable resource when I needed it. Also, Kramer is a true academic, discussing issues with translations and understanding, and giving plenty of context for his explanations. His passion for the topic shines through the writing, keeping the top fascinating (albeit rather dense). The Sumerians were an incredibly cool people, and one of the things I was most interested to learn about them is that they were actually not so different to us. Key quote, a lament written about the destruction of the city of Ur: 

“My possessions like heavy locusts on the move have been carried off,
O my possessions, I will say.

My possessions, who comes from the lands below, to the lands below has carried off, 
O my possessions, I will say,

My possessions, who comes from the lands above, to the lands above has carried off, 
O my possessions, I will say, 

My precious metal, stone, and lapis lazuli have been scattered about, 
O my possession, I will say.” (Kramer p. 263)

What are you reading? Should I read it, too? Tell me in the comments below!

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