What Are They Reading?—The A&C Team’s Current Literary Favourites
Mairi Alice Dun, A&C Editor During those cruelly tantalising few days of false spring last week, I picked up My Body by model, actress, social activist, and now author, Emily Ratajkowski. Initially I was sceptical as to whether there would be anything nuanced in the way yet another model shares how she and her body have been mistreated and surveilled by the beauty industry, but I found myself engrossed and even further horrified by the truths of Ratajkowski’s experiences. I foolishly thought the narrative of abuse and objectification she has endured, both in her career and in her daily life, as a woman would be predictable and repetitive. I have come away from the book of essays more aware of and un- settled in my body than before. If you have grown too comfortable living with the realities of misogyny—or if you have purposefully been avoiding this New York Times bestseller simply because a supermodel wrote it—I strongly recommend My Body. I will extend a possible trigger warning for eating disorders and sexual assault.
Lucy Buchanan, Deputy A&C Editor Dark academia is in! The phenomenon has made the social media rounds recently and seems mostly about wearing little, round specs and accessorising any outfit with a tie—like the pop punk prophet, Avril Lavigne. With that in mind, I am currently reading The Secret History by Donna Tartt. The novel is a deliciously sinister modern classic. The text follows a group of clever, albeit eccentric, students at an elite New England college as they transcend the confines of normal morality in search of a life outside the mundane existences of their peers.
Serena Mirisola, Deputy A&C Editor One of the most beautifully writ- ten books I have ever read, A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini left me in a puddle of tears on an aeroplane when I finished it about two weeks ago, and I still have not recovered. The text follows the entangled stories of two Afghan women between the 1960s and 2000s, touching on themes of extreme loss and grief, mother- hood, war, and violence against women. If you’ve ever read The Kite Runner, you’ll recognise Hosseini utilisation of the same addictive and heartbreakingly beautiful language. A Thousand Splendid Suns is truly a must-read.
Anna Owen, Deputy A&C Editor Current tenant of my bedside table is Deborah Levy’s Things I Don’t Want to Know. In the first instalment of her “Living Autobiographies,” a feminist response to George Orwell’s 1946 essay ‘Why I Write,’ Levy explores her troubled childhood in apartheid South Africa, her emigration to the UK and what it means to be a female writer. It is understated, illuminating, and well-worth a read: “What do we do with knowledge that we cannot bear to live with? What do we do with the things we don’t want to know?”
Thomas Gibbs, Deputy A&C Editor Decline and Fall by Evelyn Waugh—My favourite book is Fitzgerald’s Great Gatsby, I’ve always wanted to go back in time to the 1920s and be Nick Caraway. Truth is though, if I went back to the 20s I’d be Paul Pennyfeather—kicked out of Oxford, disastrously in- competent boarding school master, then led down a path of increasingly outlandish and painfully funny exploits. An ab- solute masterpiece, this book re- ally brings a smile to my face and all my friends’ faces because I insist on reading extracts every thirty seconds. The BBC adaptation with Jack Whitehall is good too!
Katherine Sier, A&C Staff Writer It may not be the most cheery or spring-like pick, but the book I’m reading at the moment is apocalyptic thriller The Silence by Tim Lebbon. Similar to the plot of A Quiet Place, The Silence sees a family fighting for survival against a plague of blind monsters that hunt by sound, told from the perspective of Huw and his hearing-impaired daughter Ally. The short timeframe of the plot and setting in present day Britain makes for an unsettling story that feels almost a little too believable. It’s safe to say that I’m already hooked.
Helen Lipsky, Deputy A&C Editor I’m currently reading I Am Brian Wilson by Ben Greenman and Brian Wilson. The book is an autobiographical text on Brian Wilson, one of the founding members of the Beach Boys. I like to read about music history, but that’s not a necessary prerequisite for enjoying or understanding this book. The text covers all the interesting components of who and what made up the origins of the iconic California-native band. I originally thought the Beach Boys were just happy, beach music to enjoy over the summertime, but Greenman shows me the ways I was wrong. I’m learning about the complex nature of the music production and a bit more about one of the band’s most legendary albums, Pet Sounds. The book also touches on Wilson’s struggle with schizoaffective disorder and the crossover between musical inspiration and struggles with mental health.
Lucia Schmid, A&C Staff Writer On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous is a masterful novel writ- ten by Vietnamese author Ocean Vuong, who originally got his start in poetry. It weaves a dynamic story about a young Vietnamese boy named Little Dog, who was moved to Hartford, Connecticut from Vietnam with his mother and grandmother in the wake of the Vietnam War. Written as a letter to his mother who cannot read, the book details various memories from Little Dog’s childhood growing up with two women suffering from PTSD, proving that the effects of war are never truly gone. Vuong writes with beautiful metaphors and windows into his past, and though the content can be heavy at times, he has a wonderful way of pulling you into his story and making the boo impossible to put down.