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Texts from Jane Eyre by Daniel Mallory Ortberg
This book is like if Beyoncé did the Kiki challenge. It’s silliness raised to the level of art. Well okay, art critique. The premise is accessible and funny on the face of it: all the best-known characters from English literature baring their soul via SMS. But this popular device becomes even more potent when it’s wielded by the co-founder of the erstwhile The Toast, which charmed readers online for years by pontificating on such themes as, what if Ayn Rand wrote ‘You’ve Got Mail’. The result is a collection of very satisfying and hilarious character sketches drawn from the classics. The timeline ranges from the epic of Gilgamesh to the adventures of Harry Potter. Ortberg uses the urgent, self-absorbed tone of SMS lingo to bring to life such divas as Mrs Bennet from Pride & Prejudice, Daisy Buchanan from The Great Gatsby and Scarlett O’Hara from Gone with the Wind. It will make you want to read the books if you haven’t, and roar with knowing laughter if you have.
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
I didn’t expect a book about an American teenager to have such a profound effect on the way I saw the world, but Young Adult Fiction can sometimes travel to places that more serious-minded literature may fear to tread. Starr Carter is a precocious teenager from a stable home with a cute boyfriend and a bright future ahead of her. But Starr is also growing into her identity as an African-American from the poor part of town, who at age 16 has witnessed the murder of two close friends. In the second instance, her friend Khalil is shot dead by a white cop in front of her. Speaking up for him will mean surrendering one of those personas she has cultivated so carefully. To see current-day social justice movements like Black Lives Matter play out through the eyes of a child is bracing. Children don’t think in abstract terms; they have no interest in playing devil’s advocate nor do they claim complete objectivity. Your best friend unfollowing you on Tumblr, your neighbourhood exploding in gang wars, the coldness between your parents at dinner—these are all equally urgent threats to a child. But Starr is exceptional both for her voice and how she chooses ultimately to use it.
The Crazy Rich Asians trilogy by Kevin Kwan
Ever wish you could erase a book from your memory just to have the thrill of discovering it again? I feel that way about Kevin Kwan’s trilogy detailing the lives of Singapore’s rich and fabulous, and the many innovative ways in which they make each other miserable. The story (‘Now a major motion film!’) starts in Crazy Rich Asians with a sweet young couple in America. Rachel Chu and Nick Young are flying to Singapore to meet the Youngs, who are genetically blessed with wealth, connections and snootiness. Nick’s mother is not thrilled that he’s marrying a non-billionaire nobody, so she schemes to break them up. So far, so Bollywood. And that’s part of the charm of this series, which narrates the saga of the Young family through China Rich Girlfriend and finally, Rich People Problems. To Indian readers, it will all seem so comfortingly familiar—interfering relatives, tyrannical grandparents, gossiping aunties and above it all, the pretense that there’s nothing like family. Then there’s the voyeuristic delight in reading about the rarefied universe inhabited by Asia’s super-rich. It’s a glittering spread of couture, high art and dazzling mansions, which births a shadow world of Gucci rip-offs, disgruntled scions and most interesting of all, fallen royalty who trade in something more precious than gold: access to power.