We get recommendations for holiday reading from bookstores in London, Jerusalem, Beijing and Brussels. (Click on the books for more information)
Recommendations from Joe Mahon and Helena Halme at England’s Lane Books
Night Haunts by Sukhdev Sandhu (Verso, 2007) -chosen by Joe Mahon
An intrepid journey through the London night, revitalizing the myth of London for a new century. Traditional depictions of London at night have imagined a lawless orgy of depravity and pestilence. But is Britain’s capital after dark now as bland and unthreatening as an evening in any new provincial town? Sukhdev Sandhu journeys across the city to find out whether the London night really has been rendered insipid by street lighting and CCTV. Night Haunts seeks to reclaim the mystery and romance of the city—to revitalize the great myth of London for a new century.
Purge by Sofi Oksanen (Atlantic Books, 2008) – chosen by Helena Halme
A hauntingly intimate portrait of one family’s shame against a backdrop of European war.
Old Aliide Truu lives alone in a cottage in the woods, pestered by flies she wishes would leave her in peace. Her isolation is interrupted when she spies a young woman under a tree in her garden. The girl is strange; arriving in the dead of night, bruised, dirty and shoeless – why is she at Aliide’s door? Overcome by curiosity the old woman decides, warily, to take her in. Purge is a fiercely compelling novel about what we will accept just to survive and the legacies created by our worst experiences.
Recommendations from David Ehrlich at Tmol Shilshom bookstore
The Book of Intimate Grammar by David Grossman (Picador, originally published 1994)
Aron Kelinfeld is the ringleader among the boys in his Jerusalem neighborhood, but as his 12-year-old friends begin to mature, Aaron remains imprisoned in the body of a child for three long years. While Israel inches toward the Six-Day War, and his friends cross the boundary between childhood and adolescence, Aron remains in his child’s body, spying on the changes that adulthood wreaks as, like his hero Houdini, he struggles to escape the trap of growing up.
Open Closed Open by Yehuda Amichai (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2000)
In poems marked by tenderness and mischief, humanity and humor, Yehuda Amichai breaks open the grand diction of revered Jewish verses and casts the light of his own experience upon them. Here he tells of history, a nation, the self, love, and resurrection. Amichai’s last volume is one of meditation and hope, and stands as a testament to one of Israel’s greatest poets.
Recommendations from Katie Hughes at the Bookworm
Three Sisters by Bi Feiyu (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2010)
From the small-town treachery of the village to the slogans of the Cultural Revolution to the harried pace of city life, Bi Feiyu follows three sisters as they strive to change the course of their destinies and battle against an “infinite ocean of people” in a China that does not truly belong to them. Yumi will use her dignity, Yuxiu her powers of seduction, and Yuyang her ambition—all in an effort to take control of their world, their bodies, and their lives.
Change by Mo Yan (Seagull Books, 2010)
In Change, Mo Yan—China’s foremost novelist—personalizes the political and social changes in his country over the past few decades in a novella disguised as autobiography (or vice-versa). Unlike most historical narratives from China, which are pegged to political events, Change is a representative of “people’s history,” a bottom-up rather than top-down view of a country in flux. By moving back and forth in time and focusing on small events and everyday people, Yan breathes life into history by describing the effects of larger-than-life events on the average citizen.
Recommendations from Jo Köhler-Ryan at Sterling Books
The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas (Penguin, 2010)
In this powerful and riveting novel, literary phenomenon Christos Tsiolkas unflinchingly exposes the inner-workings of domestic life, friendship and parenthood in the twenty-first century, and reminds us of the passions and malice that family loyalty can provoke. When a man slaps another couple’s child at a neighborhood barbecue, the event send unforeseeable shockwaves through the lives of all who are witness to it. Told from the points of view of eight people who were present, The Slap shows how a single action can change the way people think about how they live, what they want, and what they believe forever.
The Memory Chalet by Tony Judt (Penguin Press HC, 2010)
The Memory Chalet is a memoir unlike any you have ever read before. Each essay charts some experience or remembrance of the past through the sieve of Tony Judt’s prodigious mind. His youthful love of a particular London bus route evolves into a reflection on public civility and interwar urban planning. Memories of the 1968 student riots of Paris meander through the divergent sex politics of Europe, before concluding that his generation “was a revolutionary generation, but missed the revolution.” A series of road trips across America lead not just to an appreciation of American history, but to an eventual acquisition of citizenship. Foods and trains and long-lost smells all compete for Judt’s attention; but for us, he has forged his reflections into an elegant arc of analysis. All as simply and beautifully arranged as a Swiss chalet-a reassuring refuge deep in the mountains of memory.