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"This is how The Spill’s editorial team is relaxing these days, with mountains of unread stories piling up on our nightstands."
It’s a new year (even though it feels the same as the last), it’s winter (for the foreseeable future), and it’s not like the world out there is particularly inviting (looking at you, Vlad), so why not stay home, turn off the news, cuddle up with a good book and warm tea?
This is how The Spill’s editorial team is relaxing these days, with mountains of unread stories piling up on our nightstands. Here are the books we’ve been reading lately, and what we’re looking forward to in 2022.
19 Love Songs, by David Levithan
Levithan has a tradition of writing a story for his friends each Valentine's Day, and he compiled them all for his readers in this delightful collection, published in 2020. It starts with the story of Alec, a resentful member of a high school Quiz Bowl team with an unrequited crush on his friend Damien, and moves through genres from fiction to nonfiction and verse that will appeal to both adults and teenagers. A beautiful, funny and unique book to read (or devour) all year round. And just like the title suggests, the playlist is all about love - and it made us fall in love with music and literature all over again.
Sputnik Sweetheart, by Haruki Murakami
Sumire, an aspiring writer who dresses like a character straight out of a Kerouac novel, is in love with Miu, a glamorous and successful businesswoman seventeen years her senior. Narrator K tells us the story of his friend Sumire, her frenzied search for the answers to life’s big questions, and his unrequited love for her. Sexual desire, literature, unspoken feelings and trauma are some of the themes explored in Murakami’s novel, published in 1999. International travel and a mysterious disappearance add to the intrigue, and while it does take a while to get hooked, it is worth reading every page - especially if you’re a writer yourself.
The Arab of the Future, by Riad Sattouf
Originally published in 2014, this French comic book captures both the immediacy of childhood and the fervour of political idealism. Riad Sattouf recounts his nomadic childhood in rural France, Gaddafi's Libya, and Assad's Syria - following his parents, a flamboyant Syrian Pan-Arabist father who drags his family along in his pursuit of grandiose dreams for the Arab nation, and a modest, bookish mother from France. When the family discovers another family occupying their apartment one day, his father comes up with yet another grand plan: building his own great palace. This book is like no other: it is visually and intellectually striking, with a prodigious graphic style that overflows with life and dark humour. It’s also highly relatable if, like our Editor in Chief, you’re also coming from an eccentric Middle Eastern family in a French suburb.
10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World, by Elif Shafak
Leila recalls a sensuous memory each minute after death, slowly and steadily: spiced goat stew, sacrificed by her father to celebrate the birth of a yearned-for son, bubbling vats of lemon and sugar to wax women's legs while men are at prayer, the cardamom coffee she shares with a handsome student in the brothel where she works. Each fading memory brings back the friends she made in her bittersweet life - friends who are now desperately trying to find her. This book is remarkably written. Elif Shafak as usual manages to work her magic with words and transports you right into the mind of a woman with a troubled past, walking you through her memories, the beauty that surrounded her life, and the friendships she created along the way. Once finished with this book, you may find a new appreciation for life, and the small things that happen around it.
Crying in H Mart, by Michelle Zauner
Japanese Breakfast rockstar Zauner has written here a beautiful, unflinching, powerful, and deeply moving memoir about growing up mixed-race, Korean food, losing a parent, and finding her identity. With humour and heart, she recalls being the only Asian-American kid at her school in Oregon, struggling with her mother's particular, high expectations of her, and her treasured moments spent in her grandmother's tiny apartment in Seoul, bonding with her mother over heaping plates of food. After moving to the East coast and meeting the man who would become her husband she began to feel her Koreanness get more distant. Her mother's diagnosis of terminal pancreatic cancer, when Michelle was twenty-five, forced a reckoning with her identity and brought her to reclaim the gifts of taste, language, and history her mother had given her. A heartfelt book that showcases the complexity of identities in a culturally diverse family, loss and grief, and claiming back your life.
Gold Diggers by Sanjena Sathian
Neil Narayan's parents moved to America for a better life, and his perfect older sister is now headed to an elite university. Neil is funny and smart, but he is not living up to his parents' dream. While he tries to want their version of success, mostly, Neil just longs for his neighbour across the street, Anita Dayal. Anita is thriving academically, athletically and socially, but she has a secret: she and her mother Anjali have been brewing an ancient alchemical potion from stolen gold that harnesses the ambition of the jewellery's original owner. Anita wants this to get into Harvard, while Neil needs it for a whole lot more. Neil joins the plot, and tragedy rips their community apart. Ten years later, Neil and Anita have had very different destinies than planned, but they have a chance to pull off one last heist that could save Anjali, the woman who gave them both so much. This book manages to address the complexities and richness of the protagonists’ cultural heritage through a fictional piece, something a lot of people from diverse backgrounds can relate to.
In 2022, we’re also looking forward to reading The Trayvon Generation by Elizabeth Alexander (April 5th), Olga Dies Dreaming by Xóchitl González (January 4th), Call Us What We Carry by Amanda Gorman, Beyond the Gender Binary by Alok Vaid-Menon, and Disability Visibility: First-Person Stories from the Twenty-First Century by Alice Wong.