October was a pretty good month for reading. I’m back to turning my phone off and mostly avoiding social media, and it’s been so good for productivity and for nourishing my little hobbies. My sister and I were really busy with the final preparations for launching our own little brand, & Chai, which meant I was keen to spend any spare time indulging in books and offline time. Plus, testing candles means it’s the idyllic set-up to cosy up with a great read!
Shine by Jessica Jung
When I first read that Jessica [Jung, previously of Girls Generation] was writing her debut novel, I immediately rushed to place my preorder. Touted a blend of Crazy Rich Asians and Gossip Girl – two of my favourite book series – I was piqued by the plot: Rachel Kim is a 17-year-old Korean-American who dreams of becoming a K-pop idol. Now in Seoul on one of the industry’s most rigorous training programmes, Rachel learns just how tough the K-pop world is.
I gobbled up Shine in a matter of days and it was the ultimate guilty pleasure read. Sure, it isn’t the most polished body of work or the most original, but Jessica’s unique lens on the topic provides a scope of experience that not many can comment genuinely on. I’m 97% sure that Jessica worked with a ghost writer on this novel, but many passages do glow with Sica’s voice and mannerisms. The plot is your classic YA lit; a love triangle peppered with lots of jealousy, competitiveness and K-pop inflections. The characters aren’t particularly deep or smoothly written – I must admit I spent much of my reading sprint trying to match characters up to their real-life counterparts! But amongst this, Jessica conveys important thoughts and insights into pressing issues that are rife in the K-pop and real-life worlds. From sexism to bullying to the impossible standards trainees are held to, Shine will be a fun read for my fellow K-pop enthusiasts.
The Overstory by Richard Powers
I added The Overstory to my ‘2020 Book Pledge’ in December last year and shamefully I only managed to pick it up this month. Of all of the books I’ve read this year, so far, The Overstory has left one of the biggest impressions on me. This is a novel that is labelled ‘eco fiction’, where trees, nature and forestry play as big a part as the human characters. Wondrously slow-paced and meandering, it follows a cast of 10 characters in varied settings and ultimately entwines them in one thread.
What I adored most about The Overstory is Powers’ ability to create magic from mundane. The first part of the book is a joy to read, full of immersive prose and just-enough action. The middle part felt a little trickier to read, as it is much slower, but overall, I finished it feeling richer and more knowledgeable, with a thirst to be more preservative of the world around me. I really, really recommend this book to you all.
Everybody Writes by Ann Handley
Now that my work setup has changed and I have tangible goals to work towards at my part-time job, I’m keen to actively expand and update my skillset. My freelance business has understandably dwindled during this pandemic, and so it’s been a privilege to continue working elsewhere.
This book is touted ‘your go-to guide to creating ridiculously good content’. It’s from an American market, so it’s been incredibly useful to me as I studied for a British industry yet work a global role in editorial and content marketing. But as far as producing better content goes, I found it missed the mark a little for what I wanted. Divided into clear, digestible chapters, Everybody Writes is for the every-writer. If you’re new to content creation and writing, or are a content creator without professional or academic training, this could be a really interesting and useful read for you. Fellow writing peeps, I would probably give this a miss.
Brit(ish): On Race, Identity and Belonging
I also completed my reread of Afua Hirsch’s brilliant Brit(ish), a book I first read a few years ago and that resonated powerfully with me. Immigrant life is no news to me, having grown up ‘othered’ my entire life. But reading Brit(ish) further deepened my knowledge of other communities, namely the Black British experience. Afua has a keen eye on the world around her, and this book should be essential reading. From mispronunciations that mean Ghanian names are pronounced wrong on purpose to unpacking micro-aggressions for what they are, Hirsch lays the cards on the table and lets us in to a world between cultures and how she came to learn and build her own identity.
2020 has been a big learning curve for many of us, hence why I thought it apt to revisit Brit(ish) with new facts in tow, and I gained even more from it the second time around. If you haven’t yet picked this one up, I really recommend it. It’s available in libraries as well as all good bookshops.
Which books have you been reading lately?