With England plunged back into a second lockdown in November, this month I managed to race through five books, which is probably my personal best so far in 2020. Having already experienced lockdown once before, I felt much more able to focus and concentrate on reading, even if it wasn’t always for escapism. I’ve noticed that this year I’m reading more non-fiction than ever, keen to learn more about the world around me and soak up the stories of intelligent, articulate souls that walk with you and I. In fact, now that I’m writing this round-up, I realise just how excellent a month November was for reading!
Brit(ish): On Race, Identity and Belonging by Afua Hirsch
It’s not often that I reread books, so you know it’s A Book Well Worth It when I do. I first read Brit(ish): On Race, Identity and Belonging when it was released around two years ago, and it felt pertinent to revisit it this year. In it, Hirsch clearly and generously shares her experiences growing up as a Black Muslim woman in the UK. It’s packed full of her lived experiences, history that we simply don’t learn in the British education system, and anecdotes that I felt so sharply it knocked me for six. I really feel this should be mandatory reading at school, but even though it isn’t, it’s a great tool for your anti-racism journeys. What I found, too, what that I got more from it on the second read.
Last Tang Standing by Lauren Ho
Continuing on my exciting path to reading more and more books by Chinese authors, I picked up Last Tang Standing. This is a bit of a Bridget Jones’ Diary sort of read, following 30-something lawyer Andrea Tang on her dating escapades. As someone that simply didn’t get to read about characters with the same heritage or culture as me, I’m always elated to see Chinese New Year references, Chinglish intonations and more in books. That alone sold me entirely. In Last Tang Standing, we join Andrea as she pushes to nab the coveted partner position at her firm whilst dealing with her recent breakup. There are date mishaps, choices between men, and plenty of female friendships sub-plots in this, all of which culminate in a heart-warming, non-linear ending. I really enjoyed this.
Love in Colour by Bolu Babalola
Having followed Bolu on Twitter for years – her Love Island commentary in particular is immaculate – I was really excited to pick up her debut novel. Love in Colour is a collection of love stories, either retold or told anew, all from the perspectives of people of colour. I worried that I’d struggle to connect with the short stories, because I’m definitely more of a big-immersive-book girl, but Babalola’s storytelling style packs plenty in, within a few pages. I really appreciated reading about love from non-white narratives, something that I didn’t know I needed until I got them (here). My only qualm with Love in Colour is that was only one story that wasn’t heteronormative.
Explaining Humans by Dr. Camilla Pang
Although it took me a fair while to get through, Explaining Humans turned out to be one of my favourite books of 2020. Authored by Dr. Camilla Pang, a neurodiverse scientist, it breaks down human behaviour into chapters and backs everything with science. Now I’m definitely not one for the sciences, hence why it took me so long to read this book, but I’m always curious to learn and understand more about the world around me. Pang lives with autism and ADHD, and I learned so much about how she experiences life; I think it’s already making me a more compassionate human.
The Greater Freedom: Life as a Middle Eastern Woman Outside the Stereotypes by Alya Mooro
Lastly, but certainly not least, I read The Greater Freedom: Life as a Middle Eastern Woman Outside the Stereotypes by Alya Mooro. Like I just mentioned, I’m keen to learn more about the world around me and also the people around me. Some of my Middle Eastern friends and I often talk about how our lived experiences feel vastly different from those in the dominant culture around us (a white British one), and reading this book helped me to understand more. Mooro is a British-Egyptian journalist and author who was raised loosely Muslim. Through a number of well-structured chapters, she unpacks the different threads that make up a stereotypical Middle Eastern woman, and applies it to her life, whereby she doesn’t always meet those stereotyped standards. It’s pretty short, but gives a great introduction into the Middle Eastern diaspora experience.
What have you been reading lately?