#SurvivalStories2021 Adult Award-Winning Books Genre International Lifespan of a Reader Literary Fiction Reading Themes

[Saturday Reads] GatheringReaders Book Club Picks

"Nothing must happen to you No, what am I saying Everything must happen to you And it must be wonderful." - Bodil Malmsten

SaturdayReads

Myra here.

Every Saturday we hope to share with you our thoughts on reading and books. We thought that it would be good practice to reflect on our reading lives and our thoughts about reading in general. While on occasion, we would feature a few books in keeping with this, there would be a few posts where we will just write about our thoughts on read-alouds, libraries, reading journals, upcoming literary conferences, books that we are excited about, and just book love miscellany in general.


These two novels (one from Sweden, another from Japan) feature deeply moving stories that can be loosely tied somewhat to surviving anxiety and the loss of memory, grief and loss. Both are international titles (translated from their original languages) and were selected as our BOTM for June and July for my GatheringReaders book club at the United Arab Emirates University.


Anxious People (Amazon | Book Depository)

Written by: Fredrik Backman Translated by: Neil Smith Publisher: Atria Books (2020) Original Title: Folk med ångest ISBN: 9781982121600 Award: Goodreads Choice Award Nominee, Fiction (2020) Bought a copy of the book. Book photos taken by me.

This was the book I needed to read at the exact time when I did – books are funny that way, they just manage to find you at the right time. The voice of the novel is deceptively-flippant and lighthearted, if only to disguise the terror, the lurking despair, the attempts to claw its way out of sadness and hopelessness. It had me in stitches in the first few parts and bawling my eyes out towards the end, with Backman’s uncanny ability to pierce the tenderest parts of my consciousness. I don’t want to reveal much about the plot, the characters, the storyline itself – after all, it will be made into a Netflix TV series soonest. Suffice it to say that I will read anything and EVERYTHING that Backman writes. Amen.


The Housekeeper And The Professor (Amazon | Book Depository)

Written by: Yoko Ogawa Translated by: Stephen Snyder Publisher: Vintage (2010, first published 2003) ISBN: 9780099521341 (ISBN10: 0099521342) Original Title: 博士の愛した数式 Awards: Independent Foreign Fiction Prize Nominee, Longlist (2010),Yomiuri Prize 読売文学賞, Fiction (2003),本屋大賞, 1st place (2004). Bought a copy of the book. Book photos taken by me.

I wouldn’t call myself a fan of Mathematics, although I do appreciate its logic and precision. This novel, however, brought to light its awe-inspiring quality with its intricate web of patterns that is revealed only to a select few who would take the time to really pay attention to it. Similar to Backman’s novel, this story held my heart throughout my experience of reading it. I am in awe of Ogawa’s brilliance – her Memory Police (which I shared here) is so startlingly different from the plot, theme, narrative of this one. I also read her Revenge (see here for my feature) which had horror at the heart of the storytelling. It is like she sheds off skin after skin with every book that she writes, mirroring different parts of the world for the reader to examine. The Housekeeper and the Professor is a story about unlikely friendships, kindness, and the wonder of the human mind. There is remarkable restraint here and a childlike delight at the beauty of the universe. Read it.


#SurvivalStories2021 Update: 97/98 out of target 100

Myra is a Teacher Educator and a registered clinical psychologist based in Al Ain, United Arab Emirates. Prior to moving to the Middle East, she lived for eleven years in Singapore serving as a teacher educator. She has edited five books on rediscovering children’s literature in Asia (with a focus on the Philippines, Malaysia, India, China, Japan) as part of the proceedings for the Asian Festival of Children’s Content where she served as the Chair of the Programme Committee for the Asian Children’s Writers and Illustrators Conference from 2011 until 2019. While she is an academic by day, she is a closet poet and a book hunter at heart. When she is not reading or writing about books or planning her next reads, she is hoping desperately to smash that shuttlecock to smithereens because Badminton Is Life (still looking for badminton courts here at UAE - suggestions are most welcome).

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