In the month which bags the returns of bestselling authors Dan Brown, John Green, and Rupi Kaur, many important books will fly under the radar.
BEIRUT: October is always a big month for literature. The Man Booker Prize, the Nobel Prize for Literature, and the Frankfurt Book Fair promise bibliophiles a juicy reading list every year. This October saw the return of everyone’s favorite (and only) “symbologist” Robert Langdon, with Dan Brown weaving a new screenplay for Tom Hanks to play. Brown’s newest thriller, Origin, will pit artificial intelligence against religion, revolving his plot around the idea of creation. It hit the shelves in Lebanon a few days ago, so here’s to hoping it doesn’t get censored soon.
Teenagers continue to dominate the focus of the publishing industry as John Green’s Turtles All the Way Down will be released to much fanfare on October 10, as the writer of The Fault in Our Stars delves into Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, the mental illness he suffers from. Of course, a romantic subplot will be featured with the main character, Aza Holmes, chasing a runaway billionaire.
Rupi Kaur, the world’s most famous “Instagram poet” comes back with The Sun and the Flowers, after the success of her debut book Milk and Honey. Not much can be said about this book or I’d risk writing more words about it than she did in it. Kaur’s “poetry” is not particularly evocative or poignant, so her new collection will not deviate significantly from the first.
But setting these blockbusters aside, what are this month’s must-reads?
Paul Auster, 4 3 2 1
One of this year’s Man Booker Prize underdogs will be available in paperback this month, after being published as a bulky 880-page hardcover earlier this year. Auster continues exploring his usual themes of existentialism, free will, and identity. 4 3 2 1 explores the life of Archie Ferguson, a lone child born in 1947, in four parallel paths. Every reiteration of Ferguson’s life varies depending on the choices he makes, the circumstances he endures, and the personal experiences he passes through. Despite having the same family and, mostly, the same friends, and the same DNA, the four Fergusons lead entirely different lives; captivating the reader’s emotions and thoughts in the process.
Pablo Neruda, Venture of the Infinite Man
Before you accuse me of deception, this work by the late Pablo Neruda was somehow overlooked for 44 years since his death and never translated to English. Originally published in 1926, Neruda was in his early twenties when he wrote this volume, two years after the much celebrated Twenty Love Poems was released. Here he deviates from his usual style, forsaking rhyme and all forms of punctuation in favor of a free-flowing poem of 44 pages. Neruda complained this was the least studied and most overlooked work of his.
Irvin D. Yalom, Becoming Myself: A Psychiatrist's Memoir
Yalom, a professor of psychiatry and an existential psychiatrist who made a living of reconstructing and exploring other people’s lives, dissects his own in this essential autobiography by delving into the roots which formed his empathy and identity. He explores how he found meaning to his life and reflects on his development; helping readers discover themselves and their meaning.
Meg Wolitzer, The Best American Short Stories 2017
This is a quick read suitable for those who cannot decide what to read. Wolitzer compiles a volume of diverse and relevant bite-sized novels, ranging from light reads to thought-provoking novellas.
Niall Ferguson, The Square and the Tower
The exact opposite of the above, this work of history is a heavy and enriching read. Dubbed the most brilliant British historian of his era, Ferguson explores the history of networks and argues that social networks are not a new concept. He explains how networks have shaped the history of power; the Freemasons, the cults of Rome, and the protestant reformists to name a few, all contributed in ushering new eras of global politics and economy. Ferguson examines how such networks curtailed and dismantled hierarchies over time, framing the role of social networks into a similar perspective.
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