Nokes on new books

I’ll be honest: I haven’t read very many recently published books.  It’s not that I don’t want to read all the wonderful books that I know came out in 2013; but I’m an English major and, at least for right now, I’m kind of in the business of reading not-so-new books.

Therefore, I must make the disclaimer that I have not read all of the following books, but I have had them all recommended to me by sources and people I trust. My aim is to make Lawrentians aware of the fantastic new books that are out there, including less well-known ones.

1. “The Cuckoo’s Calling” by Robert Galbraith (J.K. Rowling)

This one I have read. As a passionate, long-time fan of the Harry Potter series, I’ve been wary about Rowling’s new, non-Potter books because I felt sure that they wouldn’t live up to the particular magic of Harry Potter. That said, I recommend “The Cuckoo’s Calling” unreservedly. Rowling published it under the pseudonym of Robert Galbraith and withheld her identity as author for a while, no doubt to ensure that she would get fair consideration from people like me who can’t help but compare all her books to Harry Potter.  “The Cuckoo’s Calling” truly does work as a stand-alone. It’s an engrossing, page-turning hardboiled crime novel and private-eye mystery written in a classic style. Overall, this is a solid, good read. Whether you’re a mystery fan, a Rowling fan or just someone who enjoys a good story, I highly recommend this book.

2. “Eleanor & Park” by Rainbow Rowell

I believe that Young Adult books are often just as good, if not better, than adult books.  I really, really want to read this one. “Eleanor & Park” tells the story of two high school misfits. Eleanor is overweight, dresses differently, and comes from a poor, abusive family. Park is a half-Korean boy who feels alienated in his community.  On the school bus, they slowly bond over their mutual love of comic books, alternative music and, eventually, each other. This is a sweet love story that does not lack for serious material.

3. “Hild” by Nicola Griffith

This well researched and beautifully written work of historical fiction tells the story of St. Hild of Whitby as a young woman in seventh-century Anglo-Saxon England. The new religion of Christianity conflicts with the old pagan gods and feudalism holds sway. After the death of her father, Hild becomes court Seer for her uncle. Griffith writes vividly about life during the Middle Ages, especially the joys and struggles of female lives.

4.      “Americanah” by Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie

Ifemelu is a Nigerian immigrant to the U.S., coming on a college scholarship. She struggles with the new culture, racism and a job hunt, and eventually begins a romance with a rich white man. She then begins a popular blog about her experiences as a “Non-American Black.” The book also tells the story of Ifemelu’s old lover, Obinze, as he struggles in London. As in her last novel, “Half of a Yellow Sun,” Adichie combines expert prose and complex characters with a deep social consciousness.

5. “White Girls” by Hilton Als

In this beautiful, moving and keenly intelligent collection of essays, Als, a writer for “The New Yorker,” explores issues of identity, including race, gender and sexuality. His “white girls” include Michael Jackson, Flannery O’Connor, Truman Capote, Eminem, Malcolm X and others. He analyzes literature, history, art, television, film and photography with piercing wit and profundity. “White Girls” works as memoir, novel and work of cultural criticism. It’s like nothing you’ve ever read before.