I know that building up a christmas wishlist is not a task people regularly complain about, and if you’re like me, you have a neverending wishlist of books you’d like to read, like, RIGHT NOW.
There are, however, supposed to be people who are unlike me, and I don’t think it’s unheard of that someone just can’t think of books (and other things, but who wants them, amirite?) to ask for for christmas (or other very festive occasions people might gift books for…). Just for you, here’s four specimens you need in your life.
Starting with the wonderful Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi. This one intrigued me so much, because it ticks literally all the boxes: it’s a memoir set in the Middle East by a literature scholar, talking about feminism and interweaving politics and books. I know.
Azar Nafisi is a woman who lived in Iran before, during and after the Iranian Revolution and taught English Literature at universities in Tehran throughout her life. After she had to stop teaching, she started a bookclub with some of her (female) students to continue discussing literary works and the current politics in Iran.
That’s literally what happens. She takes different books, tells stories about how her students received them and tries to seamlessly work in comments on Iranian society changing around her. Which mostly works in my opinion.
Most people who didn’t like this book critizised it for being to much theoretical literary criticism. And yes, I can’t deny that it kind of comes with a required reading-list. But trust me, I hadn’t (and haven’t) read all of the referenced books and could still enjoy Nafisi’s book. So if you like memoir and books (as well as some heavy literary criticism) and don’t mind some (admittedly annoying) classics spoilers, this book is wonderful.
Next up: The virgin suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides. This one’s weird. And insanely beautiful. What does it do? There’s five Lisbon sisters from a very let’s-call-it-complicated sort of home and all of them (totally not spoiler, I promise) commit suicide.
This book is a handful of neighbourhood boys trying to piece together the short lives of the Lisbon girls, obsessively collecting stories and knickknacks and just generally being slightly creepy indeed.
What makes this a book you’d want to read is the enchanting perfection that is its language, the delicious piecing together of words that is its sentences. This book is a joy to read because it creeps up on you and lulls you into a lustrous flurry of beauty. Loved it so much, please go read it.
If you want to ask for a classic and impress your grandparents (look at me being all intellectual this christmas, reading the victorian literature) but still have a jolly good time, may I suggest The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins?
I’ve talked about the wonderful weirdness that is this story before (here!), but this is just so entertaining, engaging and accessible. I laughed at parts (Miss Clack, right?!?), I was intrigued by the mistery and is there any setting better to curl up with and disappear into than a victorian one? Right.
Yes, I totally saved the best for last and yes, I’m totally going to shove this book in your face several more times this month but people never seem to talk about it. The Group by Mary McCarthy is just. completely. utterly. brilliant.
Again a boxticker for me: New York in the 1930s and all the feminism. This novel follows eight Vassar graduates through their first years in the real world. They marry and they have children, they move away, meet again, they have sex and have all the worries about getting contraception. It’s a group of women trying to find a corner of society, coming to terms with the fact that they got a great education just to end up at home with the children.
If ever a book nailed the commenting on gender roles and feminism, it’s so this one. It’s really open and franc, but still intricate and complicated and just so darn good. Honestly just read it!
One more thing though. Please just skip past the f*cking introduction by Candace Bushnell. If someone tells me that “all great literature is lost on teenagers” then that someone is not even getting a snarky comment back. Very much crap.
On that very happy note, let’s wrap this up and go back to frantically adding stuff to the wishlist. Bye.