Eight books to read in May
1. Small Worlds by Caleb Azumah Nelson
Themes: Coming of Age, Faith, Family, Love
Summary: The one thing that can solve Stephen's problems is dancing. Dancing at Church, with his parents and brother, the shimmer of Black hands raised in praise; he might have lost his faith, but he does believe in rhythm.
Stephen has only ever known himself in song. But what becomes of him when the music fades? When his father begins to speak of shame and sacrifice, when his home is no longer his own? How will he find space for himself: a place where he can feel beautiful, a place he might feel free?
Set over the course of three summers in Stephen's life, from London to Ghana and back again, Small Worlds is an exhilarating and expansive novel about the worlds we build for ourselves, the worlds we live, dance and love within.
2. The Covenant of Water by Abraham Verghese
Genre: Historical Fiction
Themes: Family, Spirituality, Culture, Medicine
Summary: Spanning the years 1900 to 1977, The Covenant of Water follows a family in southern India that suffers a peculiar affliction: in every generation, at least one person dies by drowning - and in Kerala, water is everywhere.
A shimmering evocation of a lost India and of the passage of time itself, The Covenant of Water is a hymn to progress in medicine and to human understanding, and a humbling testament to the hardships undergone by past generations for the sake of those alive today. Imbued with humour, deep emotion and the essence of life, it is one of the most masterful literary novels published in recent years.
3. A Spell of Good Things by Ayọ̀bámi Adébáyọ̀
Genre: Political Fiction
Themes: Family, Power, Class, Culture
Summary: Ayobami Adebayo, the Women's Prize-shortlisted author of Stay With Me, unveils a dazzling story of modern Nigeria and two families caught in the riptides of wealth, power, romantic obsession and political corruption.
Eniola is tall for his age, a boy who looks like a man. His father has lost his job, so Eniola spends his days running errands for the local tailor, collecting newspapers and begging, dreaming of a big future. Wuraola is a golden girl, the perfect child of a wealthy family. Now an exhausted young doctor in her first year of practice, she is beloved by Kunle, the volatile son of family friends.
When a local politician takes an interest in Eniola and sudden violence shatters a family party, Wuraola and Eniola's lives become intertwined. In this breathtaking novel, Ayobami Adebayo shines her light on Nigeria, on the gaping divide between the haves and the have-nots, and the shared humanity that lives in between.
4. the three of us by Ore Agbaje- Williams Genre: Fiction
Themes: Friendship, Marriage, Love, Betrayal
Summary: A nice house, a carefree life, a husband who adores you, a best friend who never leaves your side. What more could you ask for? There's just one problem, your husband and best friend love you, but they hate each other.
Set over the course of a single day, husband, wife and best friend Temi toe the lines of compromise and betrayal. Told in three parts, each voice as compelling as the next, three people's lives, and their visions of themselves and each other begin to slowly unravel, until a startling discovery throws everyone's integrity into question.
5. River Sing Me Home by Eleanor Shearer
Genre: Historical Fiction
Theme: Motherhood, Family, Enslaved people's history
Summary: Mary Grace, Micah, Thomas Augustus, Cherry Jane and Mercy.
These are the names of her children. The five who survived, only to be sold to other plantations. The faces Rachel cannot forget. It's 1834, and the law says her people are now free. But for Rachel freedom means finding her children, even if the truth is more than she can bear.
With fear snapping at her heels, Rachel keeps moving. From sunrise to sunset, through the cane fields of Barbados to the forests of British Guiana and on to Trinidad, to the dangerous river and the open sea. Only once she knows their stories can she rest. Only then can she finally find home. Inspired by the women who, in the aftermath of slavery, went in search of their lost children.
6. quietly hostile by Samantha Irby
Genre: Non- Fiction
Themes: Memoir, Humour, Celebrity, Sexuality
Summary: This is not an advice book. Samantha Irby doesn't know anything. After fleeing Chicago to quarantine at home in Michigan, Irby finds herself bleaching groceries and wondering if her upper lip hairs are visible on Zoom. Her career reaches new heights: she gets to work with the iconic ladies of Sex and the City - her dream! - but behind the new-found glam, Irby is just trying to keep her life together. Our friend in print is back, on point, and ready to take us with her, from adopting Abe (her scrawny, watery-eyed firstborn dog) to her favourite, extremely specific porn searches (including two old nuns).
7. It's Not That Radical: Climate Action To Transform Our World by Mikaela Loach
Genre: Non- Fiction
Themes: Climate Change, Media, Capitalism, Race
Summary: For too long, representations of climate action in the mainstream media have been white-washed, green-washed and diluted to be made compatible with capitalism.
We are living in an economic system which pursues profit above all else; harmful, oppressive systems that heavily contribute to the climate crisis, and environmental consequences that have been toned down to the masses. Climate justice offers the real possibility of huge leaps towards racial equality and collective liberation as it aims to dismantle the very foundations of these issues.
In this book, Mikaela Loach offers a fresh and radical perspective for real climate action that could drastically change the world as we know it for the benefit of us all. Written with candour and hope, It's Not That Radical will galvanise readers to take action, offering an accessible and transformative appraisal of our circumstances to help mobilise a majority for the future of our planet.
8. Just Sayin': My Life in Words by Malorie Blackman
Themes: Career, Race, Hope, Humour, Illness
Summary: Malorie Blackman OBE is one of Britain's best loved and most widely-read writers. For over thirty years, her books have helped to shape British culture, and inspired generations of younger readers and writers. The Noughts and Crosses series, started in 2000, sparked a new and necessary conversation about race and identity in the UK, and are already undisputed classics of twenty-first-century children's literature.
She is also a writer whose own life has been shaped by books, from her childhood in south London, the daughter of parents who moved to Britain from Barbados as part of the Windrush Generation, and who experienced a childhood that was both wonderful and marred by the everyday racism and bigotry of the era.
This book is an account of that journey, from a childhood surrounded by words, to the 83 rejection letters she received in response to sending out her first project, to the children's laureateship. It explores the books who have made her who she is, and the background to some the most beloved and powerful children's stories of today. It is an illuminating, inspiring and empowering account of the power of words to change lives, and the extraordinary life story of one of the world's greatest writers.