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7 Books to Read In The New Year

With the new year starting, it’s time for you to put your textbooks aside and cozy up in bed with a book that you actually want to read before all the work of school piles up. Make reading one of your resolutions this year! Here are some of the books that I have read in the past year that I recommend you add to your reading list.

Go Tell It on the Mountain, James Baldwin

Baldwin’s semi-autobiographical debut novel Go Tell It on the Mountain centers on the life of teenager John Grimes during 1930s Harlem. The story examines John’s complex relationships with his family and the church, additionally sharing the pasts of his family members. In doing so, we witness how powerfully generational trauma and familial bonds influence the identities and individual lives of the characters.

Frankenstein, Mary Shelley

A figure prominent in popular culture, Frankenstein’s monster is known to be the creation of a scientific experiment gone wrong. Mainstream media, however, has failed to preserve the compelling character of the wretched creature that it is worth reading Shelley’s novel to return to the questions that are explored through his existence: what does it mean to be human and what is our purpose?

Child 44, Tom Rob Smith

Set in Joseph Stalin’s Soviet Union, MGB Agent Leo Demidov finds his loyalty to the state tested when he uncovers the possibility that a serial killer has been murdering children. The likelihood that a serial killer exists conflicts with Soviet ideology that crime no longer exists in the state. In his pursuit of the truth, Demidov transforms from a war hero to a threat to the state, which keeps the reader in suspense throughout the novel.

The Reluctant Fundamentalist, Mohsin Hamid

Post-9/11, a Pakistani man named Changez talks about the time he spent in the U.S. to an American visitor at a cafe in Lahore. Changez has a brief romantic affair with an American woman named Erica and temporarily works as an analyst at the firm Underwood Samson. The story serves as an allegory that criticizes the empty promise of the American dream and condemns the global effects of U.S. imperialism. 

Americanah, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

During a period of military dictatorship, Nigerian teenagers Ifemelu and Obinze fall in love with each other. While in America for college, Ifemelu experiences what it is like to be a “black person” in the country, later establishing herself as a blog writer who shares her observations about race as a non-American black person. Although Obinze applies to study in America as well, he is denied a visa post-9/11 and instead lives in England as an undocumented immigrant. Returning to Nigeria, he establishes a successful career as a property developer and becomes a married man. After many years since she left, Ifemelu also returns to Nigeria, where she and her former lover must address the situations that have set them apart. 

Normal People, Sally Rooney

Sally Rooney’s second novel Normal People explores the complicated relationship between teenagers Connell and Marianne who keep their affair a secret from their peers to protect their reputations. In college, Connell and Marianne individually wrestle with their insecurities through the ambiguity of their relationship as they remain important to each other’s lives even while dating other people.

On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous, Ocean Vuong

Structured as a letter, On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous tells the story of Little Dog, a young Vietnamese-American man, who is writing to his illiterate mother Hong. He recounts an array of childhood and adolescent memories, from the abuse that his mother inflicts on him to his sexual experiences with a boy named Trevor. As a poet, Vuong writes his debut novel with lyrical prose; his love for language and storytelling is moving.

Alice Nguyen

UC Irvine '20

English Major at UCI with a weakness of writing biographies
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