NEW BOOK

THIS WEEK

THROWING THE CROWN

By: Jacob Saenz

From the first stanza, readers fasten onto a different reality. Jacob Saenz reflects on his youth and adulthood against a backdrop of constant turmoil in Throwing the Crown. Topics of gang violence, race, marriage, youth, and family are all instances to challenge normality. Through love and struggle, there is a constant urge to question the status quo that is the patriarchy, heteronormativity, and masculinity. The rhythms and rhymes of his poems encapsulate such a distinctive experience. He composes the reality of Latinx identity in a Cicero/Chicago backdrop and is raw, unrestrained.

PACHINKO

By: Min Jin Lee

What would make you leave home?

 

Pachinko written by Min Jin Lee traces four generations of a family, between 1910 to 1989, from Korea to Japan. After a woman named Sunja is impregnated, she must leave her home in Yeongdo, Busan and start a new life in Osaka. The turbulent tale follows Sunja and her family amid the political chaos, as Korea is held under Japan’s rule. Both politics and warfare exacerbate the economic predisposition of her family and take a toll on the wellbeing of multiple characters.

The beauty of the novel lies in the characters’ intricacies. For instance, we quite literally watch Sunja grow from an infant into adulthood, and old age. Reader’s instantaneously make a bond to Sunja’s character, and for many femme readers, sympathy is shared and abundant. As she goes from her mother’s boarding house in Korea to her new home in Japan, she is forced to depend on her independence and crafts a business of her own. She begins by selling Kimchi near the train station in Osaka, and her haggling eventually develops into stability.

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Elina Arbo

THE THREE BODY PROBLEM

By: CiXin Liu

My friend Xavier recommended me this book, and he never really reads, so I knew that I had to give this book a shot. I’m not big on anything science-related or sci-fi for that matter, and this book definitely has a lot of physics-related jargon. Despite that, I found it to be really insightful in thinking about how small our little world is on Earth, as the plot of the book revolves around a secret military project that attempts to establish contact with aliens. If you don’t know anything about Chinese government and its history, this book also weaves major elements of Chinese culture with the moral dilemmas in the story. Personally, I was fascinated by how seamless the author was able to integrate Chinese history, complicated science that I definitely could not understand, and an engaging storyline. My mom also gave a great review of this book and English isn't even her first language, which goes to show how incapable I am of understanding physics!

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Teresa Xie

A LITTLE LIFE

By: Hanya Yanagihara

It’s hard to describe and analyze A Little Life without taking away the experience of reading and holding the book with its cover photograph titled Orgasmic Man. Perhaps the title itself provides more insight into the book than any review about it, for within its 720 pages it portrays the emotions inherent in life. A Little Life follows the lives of four college friends and how their relationships ebb and flow throughout the rest of their lives, highlighting how their individual stories, particularly one of them named Jude, impact these  relationships. I read this book without knowledge of its story or reviews (for it was a gift from my close friend REN who got that recommendation from her sister) and it's always surprising to look at critiques, because their perspective often differs to mine. So I suppose this book is dense enough for everyone to see themselves in. Additionally, in my conquest to confirm that previous sentence, I have aggressively recommended this book for my friends, even sharing my copy with my notes in it so much so that my copy is full of crumples and little rips everywhere. Read it if you like, but be aware that it does delve deep into themes of addiction, mental health, sexual assault. P.S. it was also the 2015 Man Booker Prize finalist if that means anything to anyone.

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Elizabeth Van Ha

WOMAN AT POINT ZERO

By: Nawal El Saadawi

“I am saying that you are criminals, all of you: the fathers, the uncles, the husbands, the pimps, the lawyers, the doctors, the journalists, and all men of all professions”

 

It shook me to my core, stressing the inescapable reality of what life is for many women and femmes, inflaming within me an inexorable sense of rage. Woman At Point Zero, written by Egyptian author Nawal El Saadawi, is the most captivating and heart-wrenching text I have ever read. While published in 1975, decades ago, the novel resurfaces ceaseless issues. Readers transfix to its entire 114 pages: not a single page is skipped, not a single word is missed. Following the life of a woman hours before her death, Saadawi documents Firdaus’s story for her.

 

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Elina Arbo

THE PROPHET

By: Khalil Gibran

The Prophet by Khalil Gibran is composed of dozens of prose-poetry excerpts that cover various aspects of life. From Houses, Eating and Drinking, Pain, and Beauty, Gibran reveals his philosophies on multitudes of feelings and actions. Following the composition of prose, yet sharing the qualities of poetry, the book has a unique form that makes it simple to read yet is still captivating in content. Between the pages of poetry feature Gibran’s own drawings, mainly of human figures, that complement the text they accompany. He captures the sincerity and vulnerability of the human form in each. Due to its structure, the book can be read at any point; each poem is divided up by subject. The book is available online for free through Project Gutenberg.

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Elina Arbo

AMERICANAH

By: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Yes, everyone already knows about this book, but here's an additional recommendation just in case you're on the fence about it. Americanah traces the story of Ifemelu, a Nigerian woman who immigrates to the United States for university, as well as her relationship with Obinze, her teenager lover. It is rare to find a novel that covers complex themes of colonization, the American Dream, and migration while also telling the protagonist’s individual story in a way that feels extremely personal. The realization that the “American Dream” comes at a big and often unkind price is something that we’ve all come to realize at one point, and that understanding the American culture is not the same as trying to fit in with it.

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Teresa Xie

FORGET US NOT

By: Malachi Jones

Rooted in nostalgia, Jones explores topics like community, racial identity, and personal growth. The author reflects on race by splitting the book into essays and slam poems. He provides readers with an insight into his observations and how he navigates life as a response through essays like “Blackface” and “Blonde”, and in poems like “Shooting Pebbles at the Sun”. He examines identity through the multiple facets of his life including school and church. Jones traces cultural phenomenons, like blackface, historically. Rhythm and soul are breathed into each work regardless of structure or genre. Jones creates a deep connection with the reader, drawing you in from the very first words; he creates a home, a sanctuary, a path to follow his life and experiences.

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Elina Arbo

WATCHMEN

By: Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons

I had to read this book for a bogus (but ~fun~) English elective junior year of high school, where we just read graphic novels for a whole semester. Before this class, the last time I read anything graphic novel related was in middle school, when I was obsessed with the Amulet series. Watchmen kinda changed my whole perspective on graphic novels, as being an intricate and compelling literary form, where you essentially get the storyboard, but fill in the gaps of the movie in your head. Watchmen depicts a world where superheroes are actually in our real world, and their presence changes the course of history, leading the United States to win the Vietnam War and Watergate basically never happens. Now this graphic novel is an HBO series, which I heard was actually good.

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Teresa Xie

WHITE TEETH

By: Zadie Smith

My friend Janelle recommended me White Teeth, which she described with a disclaimer: took a while to get into, but so entangling when I finally did. Even though this book was published in 2000, it reads like an old novel. The language and literary anecdotes by author Zadie Smith reads as if she is way ahead of her time. The premise of White Teeth focuses on the lives of two old friends, and opens with one of them attempting to commit suicide in his car. The expertise of this book lies in its complicated array of substories that should feel disconnected from the centrality of the novel, but don’t. Chapters follow characters ranging from family members, sons, daughters, friends of friends, weird neighbors, and an estranged twin brother.

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Teresa Xie

THE ALCHEMIST

By: Paul Coehlo

The Alchemist by Paul Coelho is also a sweet and easy read. The book is second most translated following the Bible. Readers follow the journey of an Andalusian shepherd named Santiago who makes a fateful encounter with the alchemist. He decides to travel to the pyramids of Egypt in search of a treasure, and towards the end of the book, he discovers what he has been looking for the entire time. He meets a variety of characters including the alchemist, gypsy, Englishman, and wife, Fatima, who each brings him closer to his goal. While trekking far, the book creates an aura of tranquility through each character interaction, good and bad. Coelho brings out the curiosity and youthfulness in all of us, emphasizing the importance of our dreams.

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Elina Arbo

By: Ruth Ozeki

A TALE FOR THE TIME BEING

At the beginning of the year I burned through 40% of the book on a single plane-ride, and did not touch it again as the semester started back up. However, after being locked down for several weeks I dove back into the world, eager to figure out how the lives of two female characters in Japan and Canada would ultimately intertwine. An intense but light-hearted read reflects on cultural differences regarding purpose, health and familial bonds. Written in the first person alternating between the two lives, with footnotes and a plethora of different characters, A Tale for the Time Being is a book that fits the niche of quarantine reading. P.S. it also was a 2013 Man Booker Prize finalist if that means anything to anyone.

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Elizabeth Van Ha

By: Paolo Cognetti translated by Simon Carnell and Erica Segre

THE EIGHT MOUNTAINS

It is a tradition that for every backpacking or camping trip with my friends, we bring a book and read it out loud before turning off the flashlights. In 2018, that book was The Eight Mountains, which not only comforted us during elevation gains and added some extra weight to our packs, but also allowed us to reflect on the power of mountains across cultures. The Eight Mountains traces the life of an Italian boy Pietro and his relationship with the mountains and the people he meets on them. Although it is another coming-of-age story involving male friendships (surprise!) it is artistic and lyrical, and allows the non-mountain enthusiasts to appreciate how mountains allow for human connection.

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Elizabeth Van Ha

By: Hanif Abdurraqib

THEY CAN'T KILL US UNTIL THEY KILL US

I found this book in a small bookstore in Martha’s Vineyard, where I was looking for a read I could lounge around with on the beach. What stood out to me from the shelf was the cover of this book: a wolf wearing a tracksuit and a gold chain. I flipped through it, expecting to find one of those new mediocre novels that somehow end up on The New York Times bestseller list. Instead, I found a collection of essays on music and personal tidbits by Hanif Abdurraqib, a poet whose work has been featured in The Fader, The New York Times (ironic) and Pitchfork. If you’ve ever tried to write about music, you know that it’s hard as shit. Abdurraqib seamlessly achieves this feat, making music writing seem like second nature. Also check out one of my favorite articles on Pitchfork: The Albums of 9/11.

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Teresa Xie

By: Stephen King

11/22/63

This is the only Stephen King novel I have read, and I remember reading this book in middle school partly because I wanted to be able to finish an ~850 page book. As irritating as my middle school self was, she definitely hit the nail on the head with which Stephen King novel to read (he’s published more than 60 novels at this point). 11/22/63 was the day President Kennedy was assasinated, and this book is about an English teacher who travels back in time to try to prevent the Kennedy assassination. As someone who’s not a history buff, this book also interweaves pivotal moments in history surrounding the JFK assasination, while having the reader question the inevitability of events and the preventability of single moments in time.

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Teresa Xie

By: Gabriel García Márquez

One Hundred Years of Solitude

Some books resonate with us long after we have turned the last page. For me, One Hundred Years of Solitude is one of these books. Márquez’s magical realism weaves an intricate entanglement of stories that underscore the intangible humanness of being alive. His entrancing writing deftly removes the scandal out of incest and leaves behind a tragic family saga of love and suffering, underscoring fiction's power to connect readers to unapologetically authentic characters. The experience of reading this novel is akin to entering a vacuum in which time transcends itself and the inevitable morphing of past, present, and future becomes overwhelmingly clear.

Janelle Schneider

By: Jia Tolentino

Trick Mirror

Most cultural critiques I read come from niche socialist papers, from publications by disillusioned and rightfully angsty Ivy League alums, or from sources that I consider leftist, not liberal. Edgy, I know. Those writers are the type that turn their noses up at an obnoxiously colorful Aspen Ideas Festival backpack and view a New Yorker tote bag that comes with an online subscription as a gesture of performative intellectualism.

 

What makes Trick Mirror by Jia Tolentino different is that it seemingly spouts from the $4 oat milk latte yuppie urban millennial world.

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Ria Chinchankar

PEDAGOGY OF THE OPPRESSED

By: Paulo Freire

I wish I had read this book during high school. In typical angsty teenager fashion, I spent hours upon hours trying to determine what the purpose of life was. Freire answers this clearly, and early on: our “ontological vocation” is “to be a Subject who acts upon and transforms his world, and in doing so moves toward ever new possibilities of fuller and richer life individually and collectively.” By viewing the world around us in a dialectic manner and knowing that we have the power to name it and improve it, we give ourselves purpose. 

Ria Chinchankar

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