Top 10 Reads for Independent Minds IV Book Blast Presents

bookblast diary top ten reads october 2017

The latest Top 10 reads from BookBlast to delight and inspire you @bookblast

Joyful satire

Don’t Panic, I’m Islamicwords and pictures on how to stop worrying and learn to love the alien next door, edited by Lynn Gaspard  (Saqi Books)  

chris riddell don't panic i'm islamic

Commissioned in response to the US travel ban, Don’t Panic, I’m Islamic includes cartoons, graffiti, photography, colouring in pages, memoir, short stories by 34 contributors from around the world, including: Hassan Abdulrazzak, Leila Aboulela, Moris Farhi, Alex Wheatle, Sabrina Mahfouz, Chris Riddell . . .

The writing and art in Don’t Panic, I’m Islamic subvert stereotypes propagated by reactionary voices in both the East and West. From the Muslim boy who dreams of becoming a drag queen, to the black gay woman finding a place for herself in New York and to the fearless human rights activists facing imprisonment or worse in Istanbul, this book is a powerful rebuttal to those who try to repress our individuality and personal freedoms, be it because of our religion, sexuality, colour or politics,” writes Lynn Gaspard.

BUY Don’t Panic, I’m Islamic

A sampler from the Contents: A personal guide to extreme vetting: how to distinguish an acceptable Arab from a terrorist in 6 easy steps . . . White like me . . . From Syria with love . . . Yesterday I stepped on a white woman’s yoga mat . . . Preparing my kids for the new America . . .

This is one of those books to read before turning 18 and heading out into the big wide world . . . it is the ultimate (hilarious) reality check. A provocative miscellany, Don’t Panic, I’m Islamic is subtly subversive, unpretentious, and a visual feast. We love it here at BookBlast HQ.

Artificial Intelligence is Here to Stay

Otherworld by Jason Segel and Kirsten Miller (Oneworld)         

otherworld jason siegel oneworldOtherworld is the first book in a new young adult sci-fi-thriller series set between the real world and a virtual reality world. Simon is a rebellious rich kid at odds with his parents. He thinks he knows it all, and loves his friend Kat so much that he risks his life to protect her. She gets caught up in Otherworld, a virtual reality game, in truly frightening ways. The dangers of being online all the time are all too clear; this underlying message is subtly done so it works.

“Full of high stakes, thrillers, and fantastic twists and turns, fans of Ready Player One are sure to love this addictive read,” Buzzfeed 

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Follow the yellow brick road

Happy Dreams by Jia Pingwa, translated from the Chinese by Nicky Harman (amazon crossing)

Hawa “Happy” Liu travels from his rural home in Freshwind to the city of Xi’an, taking with him an eternally positive attitude, his devoted best friend Wufu, and a pair of high-heeled women’s shoes he hopes to fill with the love of his life.

happy dreams jia pingwaIn Xi’an, Happy and Wufu find jobs as trash pickers sorting through the city’s filth, but Happy refuses to be deterred by inauspicious beginnings. In his eyes, dusty birds become phoenixes, the streets become rivers, and life is what you make of it. When he meets the beautiful Yichun, he imagines she is the one to fill the shoes and his Cinderella-esque dream. But the harsh city conditions and the crush of societal inequalities do not bode well.

READ our Top 10 Reads from China and HEAR our podcast with translator Nicky Harman HERE

BUY Happy Dreams

Hell on high seas

Lampedusa: Gateway to Europe by Pietro Bartolo & Lidia Tilotta, with Giacomo Bartolo Translated from the Italian by Chenxin Jiang (Maclehose Press) 

“An unusual and important addition to the growing literature of migration. Anyone wanting to understand the disaster that is happening around us should read this book,” Caroline Moorehead

Contrary to what you might think, the refugee crisis is anything but a recent phenomenon. Dr Pietro Bartolo runs a clinic on the Italian island of Lampedusa and works daily to save the lives of the many migrants and refugees who reach land – a quarter of a million by his own estimate. And he has been listening to them. Part reportage, part memoir, Dr Bartolo records their stories alongside his own.

People often assume the chief obstacle for refugees is having to cross the sea. That is just the last hurdle . . . I have spent hours listening to the refugees’ stories. The choice to leave behind home and country. Then the desert: they say that is a hell you cannot understand unless you have been there yourself. The heat is stifling. You are crammed onto a pickup truck, and if you so much as sit in the wrong place, you will be thrown out and left to di . . . finally, you arrive in Libya and think the nightmare is over, but it has only just begun: ill treatment, prison, torture. Only if you manage to survive all of this do you finally make it on to a boat. Only then, if you do not die on the open sea, will you arrive at your destination and begin to hope that your life can start all over again. On Lampedusa, I have seen it all.

BUY Lampedusa: Gateway to Europe

Are you a believer?

as a god might be neil griffiths bookblastAs a God Might Be by Neil Griffiths (Dodo Ink)

As A God Might Be is a humdinger of a book which sucks you into the great swirling paradoxical world of what it is to be human. It is a long and complex and disturbing read . . . “We are defined by our flaws and it is only through our flaws that we meet life head-on. We can only know ourselves by what we find irresistible,” writes Neil Griffiths.

Read our review of As a God Might Be

Vive la France!

Peirene Press has celebrated France being the guest of honour at Frankfurt Book Fair this year by running a half-price books sale for three top titles, all of which are translated by Adriana Hunter (Peirene Press)

under the tripoli sky peireneNo. 15 Under the Tripoli Sky by Kamal Ben Hameda is a portrait of pre-Gaddafi society on the verge of change. Hadachinou is a lonely boy. His mother shares secrets with her best friend, Jamila, while his father prays at the mosque. Sneaking through the sun drenched streets of Tripoli, the boy listens to the whispered stories of the women.

No. 20 Her Father’s Daughter by Marie Sizun, is a poetic story about a girl’s love for her father whom she only meets when he returns home, having beeninterned as a prisoner of war in Germany. When he returns to Paris, the girl’s mother switches her devotion to her husband. The girl sets out to win over her father; and we experience her desire to be noticed by the first man in her life.

No. 17 Reader For Hire, Raymond Jean’s homage to the art of reading and a celebration of the union of sensuality and language.

BUY Under a Tripoli Sky

Nostalgia, cricket, claret and Wagner

hampshire eland bookblastHampshire Through Writers’ Eyes, edited by Alastair Langlands  (Eland Publishing)
Contributors include Jane Austen, Edward Gibbon, Thomas Hardy, Conan Doyle, P. G. Wodehouse, Beryl Bainbridge, Gilbert White, Olivia Manning

To many writers, the downs and chalk streams of Hampshire are a crystallization of all the quiet virtues of England. It was in Hampshire that the novel reached its fullest expression through the native genius of Jane Austen, where fly fishing and cricket were first organized, and where D-day was launched. Not the least of its claims is as the birthplace of nature writing, where Gilbert White first opened up a universe of observation to the world, by confining himself to the infinite details of his Hampshire parish of Selborne. This tradition was furthered in the county by W H Hudson, and reached its apogee with the night walks of the poet Edward Thomas before his early death in the trenches.

BUY Hampshire: through writers’ eyes

Random thoughts from an offshore island

Consolations: A Commonplace Book by Linda Kelly (Starhaven Press)

As John Locke writes, “Commonplace books, it must be stressed, are not journals, which are chronological and introspective.” A commonplace book is a compilation of knowledge, a thinker’s scrapbook that is filled with quotes, letters, poems, proverbs, ideas, sketches, anecdotes, random observations and information. Essentially it can be what you like. The commonplace book is a classic tool used by writers and artists.

Shortly after I got married, over half a century ago, my mother-in-law presented me with a beautiful red-leather album. Its pristine gilt-edged pages seemed too precious to fill with anything so prosaic as recipes or addresses. I decided to use it as a commonplace book and have been keeping it, off and on, ever since . . . The red leather album is falling to pieces now, a good reason for gathering up its contents before it collapses altogether. There are still a few more pages to fill and I hope to go on making fresh discoveries . . . But this is where I’ve got so far,” Linda Kelly.

Fun for baby Halloweenies!

wickle woo nosy crow bookblastTiny Tabs: Wickle Woo has a Halloween Party (Nosy Crow) 

Tiny tots can pull the tabs of this board book to find out who is coming to the party and what their costumes are. And a handy way to allay the tears as big brothers and sisters head  to go out trick or treating leaving the little ones behind.

Poetic modernism and subversion

The President of Planet Earth by David Wheatley (Carcanet)

In his fifth collection of poems, David Wheatley twins his birthplace and his current home, Ireland and Scotland, and tackles globalism, identity, and language. He takes inspiration from the Russian Futurist poet Velimir Khlebnikov, self-nominated President of Planet Earth, who in a state of apocalyptic rapture envisioned a new world culture, its rise and its dramatic undoing.

Wheatley marries classical, Gaelic, Scots and continental traditions. He deploys several styles – prose poetry; concrete poetry; translations from Middle Irish, Latin and French; sestinas and sonnets in Scots – bringing an experimental sensibility to bear on his provocative and expressive poetry. 

BUY The President of Planet Earth

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About Georgia de Chamberet 377 Articles
Bilingual editor, rewriter, anthologist, French-to-English translator. Has written for 3am magazine, words without borders, The Independent, The Lady, Banipal, Prospect Magazine, Times Literary Supplement. Currently writes for The BookBlast Diary. Founder (1997) of London-based writing agency BookBlast.