It's rough keeping up with trends.
Perhaps I'm being nostalgic for 'good old days' that never existed. Yet it feels as if, now, in the hyper-fast reality of 2018, trends are here one day and gone the next. It's no different when speaking of the literary landscape. Between large publishing houses, independent presses and the vast world of self-publishing, there are endless options in terms of reading 'what's current.'
In many ways, I don't think it matters. One thing I've always loved about the literary (non) scene is its devotion to classics that were published decades, even centuries ago, and remain relevant. I'm currently reading Dostoevsky's The Brothers Karamazov and James Joyce's Ulysses, if that's any indication of my personal sentiments.
At the same time, however, I am interested in knowing what books are trending right now. I don't want to completely retreat into the past, comforting as it may be. As a reader and writer, I also find it interesting to know what others are finding thought-provoking and relevant today.
If you're looking to do the same, I've assembled a list of 10 of the most buzzworthy books of Bookstagram right now. These are books I've seen with remarkable frequency in my newsfeed and on my Explore page. They're books I'm interested in diving into that promise to contain opinions and narratives both insightful and reflective of our current world.
1) We Should All Be Feminists
Written by Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, this is a book length personal essay adopted by her TEDx talk of the same name. It is a nonfiction piece published in 2014 that examines what it means to be a woman and a feminist in the twenty-first century. Rooted in inclusion and awareness, Adichie looks at female-male relationships and is critical of the way our society conceives of masculinity. It also argues, as you might expect, that we should all be feminists.
I've been interested in this book for a while and the more I read about it, the more I need to have it. Writing this blog post was the final shove I needed: I ordered it today.
2) Why I'm No Longer Talking to White People About Race
Award-winning journalist Reni Eddo-Lodge was frustrated with how discussions about race and racism were being led by people not affected by them (read: white people). And so, she wrote a blog post about it. The positive reception inspired her to turn her blog post into a full-length book that explores what it means to be a person of colour living in the UK. Eddo-Lodge incorporates black history, the concept of white privilege and the link between class and race while speaking to the denial of structural and institutional racism in her current world.
As a white female, I think this will be an eye-opening read. It may not be easy, but I would say it's highly necessary.
3) Little Fires Everywhere
The second novel by American Celeste Ng, Little Fires Everywhere follows the intertwined lives of the Richardsons and the Warrens in Shaker Heights, Ohio, one of the first planned communities in America that also happens to be Ng's hometown. The world of the picture perfect Richardsons is rocked by the arrival of Mia, a single mother and unconventional artist, and her teenage daughter, Pearl. When the Richardsons attempt to adopt a Chinese-American baby, sides are drawn and drama ensues.
If you're engaged with the online literary community at all, you'll know this has been everywhere the past few months. It's also now bound to take over the world of television: Reese Witherspoon and Kerry Washington will be executive producing and co-starring in an eight-episode miniseries adaptation of the novel for Hulu. The next The Handmaid's Tale? Stay tuned.
4) The Immortalists
The second novel by American author Chloe Benjamin, the premise is simple and, alas, complicated. How would your life change if you knew when you were going to die? This is the question Benjamin asks in her novel that follows the lives of the Gold children after their visit to a psychic in 1969. A family saga, it examines the power of prophecy and how our lives can, and cannot, be altered in the face of knowing the future.
The Immortalists debuted on the New York Times Bestseller list and it's another one I've seen a lot of in the past couple months. The mystical element meets family dramat seems to me reminiscent of Alice Hoffman. I imagine it will be a fun and breezy literary ride.
The follow up to Madeline Miller's bestselling novel The Song of Achilles, this novel takes flight from the foundation of Greek mythology and the captivating figure of Circe. The daughter of the god Helio, Circe is neither a god nor mortal. However, she does possess the power of witchcraft. Banished to a remote island, Circe hones her skills and receives a variety of Greek mythology's most famous figures including that sort of, just a little, famous man called Odysseus. The novel follows her along this journey through to her moment of reckoning when she is forced to choose between the two worlds of gods and mortals.
A retelling of Homer from a female perspective, Circe seems to be one of those books I can't help but love, even if I haven't read it (yet).
6) All the Light We Cannot See
Anthony Doerr's haunting novel won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction back in 2015 but it hasn't slowed down yet. A Romeo and Juliet/ West Side Story/ any number of famous literary works -esque story, this historical novel set in occupied France interweaves the lives of a boy and a girl from the other side of the tracks, so to speak, during World War II. Marie-Laure is a blind French girl living in Paris. Werner is a German orphan employed by the German army. I think we can safely say already that turmoil, drama and heartbreak will ensue.
This has been on my bookshelf for a while and comes with countless accolades. There's no such thing as a guaranteed can't-miss but it seems pretty close.
7) Hygge: The Danish Way to Live Well
We all want to be happy. And so, if Denmark is said to be one of the happiest countries in the world, there must be something we can learn from it. This is the premise behind Hygge: The Danish Way to Live Well. From what I can tell, the book is a sort of self-help lifestyle guide that revolves around the Danish concept of Hygge. There's no direct translation but it seems to encompass coziness, being surrounded by soothing things and a degree of intimacy.
Written by Meik Wiking, the CEO of Copenhagen's Happiness Research Institute (who knew there was such a thing), it promises to make your life a happier and warmer place. This novel is all the rage for self-help addicts and it seems like a fresh take i.e. not North American. I, for one, am in.
8) The Heart's Invisible Furies
If you were on Bookstagram last year and didn't find it oversaturated with this novel were you even there? The answer is no, I don't think so. Written by Irish author John Boyne, the novel tells the coming of age story of Cyril Avery, an adopted boy who struggles to fit in. A portrait of postwar Ireland, we follow Cyril in his struggle to find a home, a country and most importantly an identity.
This is one of those novels I'm a tad scared of, to be honest. It's all the rage and has been so hyped up I'm sure the reality of the novel will pale in comparison to the grandeur I'm expecting. However, it probably has its merits. When all the attention has quieted down, I'll give it a read.
9) Black Swans
A collection of short stories by Eve Babitz first published in 1993, it's enjoyed a nice resurgence as of late thanks to a 2018 reissuing. The stories look at the seedy, dark underground world of the United States in the 1980s and 1990s, examining jealousy, AIDS, sex and Jim Morrison (so, rock and roll).
With the promise of hedonism, California and raw honesty, it seems to me a sort of decades later follow up to Joan Didion's Slouching Towards Bethlehem. I suppose I'll have to read it to find out if this is an accurate assessment or not.
10) Rough Animals
I'm concluding with this one because it's a bit of an odd man out: it isn't actually published. However, it's already quite the rage in the bookstagram community. The first novel from American writer Rae Delbianco, it's being billed as a modern Western about a down on their luck set of twins, Wyatt and Lucy, who struggle to survive on their Utah ranch. After four cattle are killed and Wyatt is injured by a young girl with a gun, Wyatt himself is forced to go on an odyssey to seek revenge. In the process, he is also forced to examine the hard truth about his own life.
One of the things I think is interesting about this is how the buzz surrounding the novel is linked to the profile of its author. Rae Delbianco has 19.3K followers on Instagram and counting, and her beautifully composed page is filled to the brim with rustic photographs showing her surrounded by books, horses and the great outdoors. I'm curious to see how well the novel is received and whether this is the start of writers increasingly marketing themselves, quite effectively, through social media.