5 Books to Read in November

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It is a truth I’m being forced to acknowledge that I don’t always read 5 books in a month, and sometimes I don’t love everything I read. I prefer to talk about the things I like over than the things I don’t, so I’m think I may just post recommendations less often, but when I have something to say. 

That being said, here are some books that I loved recently, and that I hope you might love, too. Let me know if you’ve read them, or if you’d like to, in the comments!

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1. Earth Dance by Oka Rusmini

The Book: Set in Bali, Indonesia over four generations, this 141-page book packs a punch. 

Luh Sekar’s father was killed for his political associations, leaving his family poor and desperate. Luh Sekar grows up with one desire: to marry a noble man. 

Later, Luh Sekar’s daughter, Telaga, has the opposite desire. A noble, unlike her mother, she loves a man below her station. Both women face struggles as they try to change their station, but more important than plot is the stories these women tell of what it means to be alive and a woman in Bali. 

Why I Love It: Nobody told me there would be MEGA LGBTQ representation in this book — completely unexpected. Not to mention the beautiful insight into Balinese culture. I felt so much for Kenten, and for the virginal, elderly master dance teacher who we learn about in the story. 

All of the characters were depicted with depth, tenderness, and compassion as they were shown to be living their lives within the complex restraints of their family and social expectations, all while fighting for their own definitions of a good life. 

 

Though many of my favourites are side characters, I found that Kenten and the dance teacher stole the show for me with their unusual lives. This quote is on the back of my copy: 

Kenten could only sigh and wonder. “Is it a sin that I’m only able to love women? That I only feel moved by the presence of a female body?” She felt that the feminine form was the true universe. Without it, the earth would have no soul. How cold the earth would be if there were only men. 

2. Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi

The Book: Freshwater is a deliciously good story about Ada who is born on the ‘other side.’ The story is told through her various selves, which split and fracture as she experiences life. That life begins in Nigeria, then moves to college in America. One could say that in setting it’s similar to Chimamda Ngochi’s Americana, but in telling it’s more like The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison – though, honestly, it isn’t told like any other story I’ve ever read. 

Why I Love It: This is the kind of book that you reread. It reminds me of Virginia Woolfe’s Jacob’s Room with the fractured portrayal of self. I love how trauma is depicted through different selves, and the lyricism of her writing is simply gorgeous. I feel like its complexity means that you don’t necessarily get everything the first go around, but unlike other similarly complex works, I felt so absorbed that the journey itself was beautiful and enough. 

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3. The Night Tiger by Yangsze Choo

The Book: When a  foreign man in colonial Kamunting, Malaysia dies, he tasks his 10-year-old servant with finding his missing finger and burying it with his body before the 49 days of his soul are over.

Meanwhile, in Ipoh, Ji-Lin’s step-brother comes home from his medical training in Singapore. Their relationship is complicated, but they are forced together by a rash of strange, inexplicable murders around the hospital. 

Weretigers and legends mingle with Confucian principles in this story of magic and colonialism. 

Why I Love It: I love the characters, and the depiction of how colonialism impacted peoples lives (though there were only a few Malay characters). I loved that colonialism was not glorified as it so often is in books written about the period. 

I also enjoyed the romance, though there was a bit of uncomfortableness at the end. I also adored the Malaysian legends brought to life by the folly of ego. 

Ji Lin, one of the main characters, has a romance with her step-brother, Shin. Technically they’re not related, but they did grow up together, and I personally wasn’t a fan of their relatedness, but not everyone may share that opinion. Despite that, however, the romance is written beautifully. 

4. A Face Like Glass by Frances Hardinge

The Book: This is going to get a bit wild. So, there’s a girl named Neverfell. She’s young. She lives underground in a cavernous city called Caverna with the man who adopted her, who makes the most incredible cheeses. Everyone underground has incredible, magic abilities to make the most wonderful artisan products… but people must learn to change their facial expressions, and not everyone can. Lower-ranked people have only one or two expressions, while the wealthy can afford to learn many expressions. One day, Neverfell chases a rabbit through a hole, and stumbles upon intrigue.

Why I Love It: The world building is just so magical and interesting. I loved how Hardinge played with social constructs to build a layered and interesting world, and the way she told it made the story feel like a fairy tale. I left the story curious, thinking and adoring, which I always love. Plus, I’ll be honest – I’m obsessed with a good story about an underground world. 

And the twists! So good. 

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Buy Online: 

5. Culture Wardlords by Talia Lavin

The Book: Talia Lavin, a bisexual and Jewish journalist who often got death threats for her opinions even before she wrote this book, describes her experience of going undercover for a year in Dark Web chatrooms. She discusses the links between racism, anti-semitism, and power, and the history of the above as well. She delves into fascists, Proud Boys, incels, National Socialists, and Christian extremists, as well as the toll it took on her to be in such close proximity to the above. 

Why I Love It: I’m always very interested in connections between power and society, and this painted an interesting picture. I will say that because Lavin is Jewish, her perspective is often focused on how bigoted people are focused on and targeting Jews. She mentions in the book, however, that this is because she doesn’t feel comfortable pretending to be a Black or POC person or fishing for anti-Black or anti-POC or immigrant racism as a White Jew, which I think is fair. So, it’s not going to tell you everything you’ve ever needed to know, but this book provides what I think is a very valuable perspective and insight into WTF is going on with people on the internet. 

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So, what did you think? Would you read these books? Have you read these books? Do you agree, or disagree? Let me know in the comments, below!

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