Friday, 8 June 2018

Books and Food: Recently Read

Joining a bookclub when I moved to Dubai was one of my better decisions. In the past year I've read more books than when I took part in the 1999 Welwyn Garden City library reading challenge and have the pleasure of spending a few hours discussing each one and more with an incredible diverse group of book-lovers who have since become friends.

If you're Dubai-based and looking for a bookclub then come join: Dubai Bibliophiles Book Club.

George Saunders - Lincoln in the Bardo -
This year's Man Booker Prize winner isn't an easy read. This is a book that cannot be compared to any other because it is like nothing else I, or anyone for that matter, have ever read. The writing style was one I struggled to get to grips with, not realising at first that the disjointed paragraphs are the voices of various ghosts in the "bardo" - a state of existence between death and rebirth in Tibetan Buddhism. The story centres around the death of Abraham Lincoln's son, Willie, and Saunders' tale is spun out of a single historical fact - a grief-stricken Lincoln visiting the crypt and holding his son's dead body. Despite this, the novel weaves in humour, an insight into human nature and a serving of American political history all while making you feel slightly less clever than you felt before picking it up. 

Served with - birthday cake for the 7th anniversary of Dubai Bibliophiles.

Samantha Schweblin - Fever Dream - 
Longlisted for the Man Booker International Prize, Fever Dream is Schweblin's first work to be translated from Spanish. The Argentinian author, in a volume that can be read over the course of an afternoon, crafts a tale that is mesmerising and terrifying. A young woman lies in a hospital bed, while a man named David prompts and guides her through a tale of the supernatural, of motherhood and, ultimately, the devastating effects of pollution. A book that has stayed with me long after putting it down, the chilling atmosphere and (scary) dream-like quality of the writing make this one to not read just before going to sleep... 

Served with - a chickpea and guacamole Buddha bowl.

Rachel Cusk - Outline -
A female writer spends a summer in Greece teaching a writing course, here she catalogues her encounters with fellow teachers, students and a man she meets on her flight to Athens. Revealing little about herself initially (the narrator's name is mentioned in the last few pages), the conversations documented slowly reveal the narrator's loneliness. Athens in the summer may be beautiful but this book leaves an unsettled feeling, one where stories are the ones we chose to tell, and how we chose to tell them and where people can be lonely even in one another's company.  

Served with - mini egg and avocado wraps.

M L Steadman - The Light Between Oceans
I still haven't watched the movie (I am strictly a book first, movie second kinda girl) but I can see why this book was made into a film - the remote lighthouse setting,  on an island off of the coast of Western Australia, is surely crying out to be cast with some beautiful actors for a tale of questionable morals and period costume. The book follows Tom and Isabel, a childless couple during the aftermath of WW1, who find a baby washed up on a beach. They take the baby in as their own and what follows is a rather excruciating range of poor moral decisions, bad choices and further questionable morals. I couldn't feel much sympathy for any of the characters and felt like the key premise of the plot was rather rushed in favour of a few pages too many of plot turns which didn't add much.

Served with - aubergine and quinoa buddha bowl.

Sonia Shah - Pandemic
A rare non-fiction read (book for the book club and for me) but this was one of the best non-fiction books I've read. I am fascinated by medically-things (I used to want to be a doctor but watching House killed off that dream pretty fast) and Shah's exploration into the history, current status and future of pandemics is fascinating. The chapters on the history of New York were particularly interesting, I will never see the streets if Manhattan in quite the same way. If you are easily grossed out, I would recommend not reading this while eating lunch. The writing is great - easily readable and complicated concepts are explained simply but without being patronising. A-Level biology was a while ago, y'know? I am still re-calling facts from this book to make me sound more interesting in conversation and it's not all doom and gloom - I'm actually less fanatical about using hand sanitiser than I was before reading it.

Served with - a Diet Coke (it's a book about germs!)

What have you read recently?


1 comment

  1. Ahh these books sound quite intense! I try to have a one book for me and one for my brain kind of sequence but at the moment all I fancy is easy reads... but I'm with you on the book before film rule!


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