To reiterate the same sentiments I had in August, subscribing to online booksellers is (really) a bad idea. HAHA! Because I follow and subscribe to many of them, my book pile is growing at a very fast pace. It also came at a moment when I wanted to step on the brakes (on my spending, LOL). I am always tempted to buy, even when I visit the mall for some other matters. In September, I had more books than in August. This was because of 11 books I purchased in August but were delivered in September. Maybe I can never ever fulfill my yearly resolution of reading more than I purchase. Tsk.
As the list of books I purchased is quite long, I will be dividing my book haul post in two. The second part will be purely books written by Japanese writers. As you can also notice from my purchases this month, majority of the books were not originally published in English. It came as a surprise when I realized this as well. What is even more surprising is that I have already read eight of these books from this pile! Without more ado, here is the first part of my September 2020 Book Haul list. Happy reading everyone!
Title: The Nickel Boys
Author: Colson Whitehead
Publisher: Anchor Books
Publishing Date: 2020
No. of Pages: 210
Synopsis: “When Elwood Curtis, a back boy growing up in 1960s Tallahassee, is unfairly sentenced to a juvenile reformatory called the Nickel Academy, he finds himself trapped in a grotesque chamber of horrors. Elwood’s only salvation is his friendship with fellow “delinquent” Turner, which quickly deepens despite Turner’s conviction that Elwood is hopelessly naïve, that the world is crooked, and that the only way to survive is to scheme and avoid trouble. As life at the academy becomes ever more perilous, the tension between Elwood’s ideals and Turner’s skepticism leads to a decision with repercussions that will echo down the decades.
Based on the real story of a reform school that operated for 111 years and warped the lives of thousands of children, The Nickel Boys is a devastating, driven narrative that showcases a great American novelist writing at the height of his power.”
Author: Colum McCann
Publisher: Random House
Publishing Date: 2020
No. of Pages: 457
Synopsis: “In this daring, symphonic novel, the National Book Award-winning and New York Times bestselling author of the Let the World Spin tells an epic story rooted in the real-life relationship between two men united by loss.
Colum McCann’s most ambitions work to date, Apeirogon – named for a shape with a countably infinite number of sides – is a tour de force concerning friendship, love, loss, and belonging.
Bassam Aramin is Palestinian. Rami Elhanan is Israeli. They inhabit a world of conflict that colors every aspect of their daily lives, from the roads they are allowed to drive on, to the schools their daughters, Abir and Smadar, each attend, to the checkpoints, both physical and emotional, they must negotiate.
Their worlds shift irreparably after ten-year-old Abir is killed by a rubber bullet and thirteen-year-old Smadar becomes the victim of suicide bombers. When Bassam and Rami learn of each other’s stories, they recognize the loss that connects them and they attempt to use their grief as a weapon for peace.
McCann crafts Apeirogon out of a universe of fictional and nonfictional material. He crosses centuries and continents, stitching together time, art, history, nature and politics in a tale both heartbreaking and hopeful. Musical, cinematic, muscular, delicate and soaring, Apeirogon is a novel for our time.”
Title: Celestial Bodies
Author: Jokha Alharthi
Translator: Marilyn Booth
Publisher: Sandstone Press
Publishing Date: 2019
No. of Pages: 243
Synopsis: “In the village of al-Awafi in Oman live three sisters. Mayya marries after a heartbreak. Asma marries from a sense of duty. Khawla rejects all offers while waiting for her beloved, who has emigrated to Canada. Elegantly structured, Celestial Bodies is the story of the history and people of modern Oman told through one family’s losses and loves.”
Title: Mexican Gothic
Author: Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Publisher: Del Rey
Publishing Date: 2020
No. of Pages: 301
Synopsis: “After receiving a frantic letter from her newlywed cousin, Noemi Taboada heads to High Place, a distant house in the Mexican countryside, unsure what she will find.
Noemi is an unlikely rescuer: She’s a glamorous debutante, more suited to cocktail parties than amateur sleuthing. But she’s also tough, smart, and not afraid: not of her cousin’s new English husband, a stranger who is both menacing and alluring; not of his father, the ancient patriarch who seems fascinated by Noemi; and not even of the house itself, which begins to invade Noemi’s dreams with visions of blood and doom.
Noemi’s only ally in this inhospitable place is the family’s youngest son. But he too may be hiding something dark. For there are many secrets behind the walls of High Place, as Noemi discovers when she begins to unearth stories of violence and madness.
Mesmerize by this terrifying yet seductive world, Noemi may soon find it impossible to save her cousin – or even escape this enigmatic house.”
Title: The Night Watchman
Author: Louise Erdrich
Publishing Date: 2020
No. of Pages: 444
Synopsis: “Based on the extraordinary life of Louise Erdrich’s grandfather Patrick Gourneau, who worked as a night watchman and carried the fight against Native dispossession from rural North Dakota all the way to Washington, D.C., this powerful novel explores themes of love and death with lightness and gravity, and unfolds with the elegant prose, sly humor, and depth of feeling of a literary master.
Thomas Wazhanshk is the night watchman at the jewel-bearing plant, the first factory located near the Turtle Mountain Reservation in rural North Dakota. He is also a Chippewa council member who is trying to understand the consequences of a new “emancipation” bill on its way to the floor of the United States Congress. It is 1953 and he and other council members know the bill isn’t about freedom: Congress is fed up with Indians. The bill is a “termination” that threatens the rights of Native Americans to their land and their very identity. How can the government abandon treaties made in good faith with Native Americans “for as long as the grasses shall grow, and the rivers run”?
Since graduating from high school, Pixie Paranteau has insisted that everyone call her Patrice. She makes jewel bearings at the plant, a job that pays barely enough to support her mother and younger brother. Patrice’s alcoholic father returns home sporadically to terrorize his wife and children, and to bully Patrice for money. But Patrice needs every penny to follow her beloved older sister, Vera, who moved to the big city of Minneapolis. Vera may have disappeared; she hasn’t been in touch in months and is rumored to have had a baby. Determined to find Vera and her child, Patrice makes a fateful trip to Minnesota that introduces her to unexpected forms of exploitation and violence and endangers her life.
Thomas and Patrice live in a reservation community. We also come to know young Chippewa boxer Wood Mountain and his mother, Juggie Blue, and Patrice’s best friend, Valentine, as well as Hay Stack Barnes, the white high school math teacher and boxing coach who is hopelessly in love with Patrice.”
Title: All My Mother’s Lovers
Author: Ilana Masad
Publishing Date: May 2020
No. of Pages: 315
Synopsis: “After Maggie Krause’s mother dies suddenly in a car crash, Maggie finds five sealed envelopes alongside her mother’s will, each addressed to a mysterious man she’s never heard of. Maggie and her mother, Iris, weren’t close, especially since Maggie came out, but she never expected they’d run out of time to work through their differences. Now in her late twenties, Maggie is finally in something resembling a serious relationship, wondering if some of whatever shaped her parents’ decades-long love story might exist after all, and it’s especially hard to accept that her mother will never witness it.
Overwhelmed by her grief and frustrated with her family, Maggie decides to escape the shiva and hand-deliver her mother’s letters. The ensuing road trip takes her over miles of California highways; through strangers’ recollections of a second, hidden life, almost impossible to reconcile with the Iris that Maggie knew; and on a journey through her own fears as she navigates her new relationship. As she fills in the details of Iris’s story, Maggie must confront the possibility that almost everything she knew about her mother – her marriage, her lukewarm relationship to Judaism, her disapproval of her daughter’s queerness – is more meaningful than she ever allowed herself to imagine.”
Title: The Mountains Sing
Author: Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai
Publisher: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
Publishing Date: 2020
No. of Pages: 342
Synopsis: “Set against the backdrop of the Viet Nam war, The Mountains Sing tells an intimate, enveloping story of four generations of the Tran family, as seen through the eyes of the matriarch, Tran Dieu Lan, and her granddaughter, Huong. Dieu Lan was forced by the Communists to flee her family’s prosperous farm during the Land Reform in 1955; with five of her six children she embarks on a perilous journey to keep them safe – and is forced to make unthinkable choices along the way. Years later, in Ha Noi, she survives the American bombardment with young Huong, whose parents and uncles have left to fight in the conflict that continues to tear both her family and her beloved country apart.
As Huong comes of age, awaiting word of her mother and father, Dieu Lan gradually reveals the secrets of her past, teaching her granddaughter indelible lessons about not only what it takes to survive but what it means to live with courage, grace, and compassion.
Page-turning, lyrical, and steeped in the language and traditions of Viet Nam, The Mountains Sing offers a moving account of the spirit of resilience among the women and children left behind by war.”
Title: Anxious People
Author: Fredrik Backman
Translator: Neil Smith
Publisher: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
Publishing Date: 2020
No. of Pages: 336
Synopsis: “Looking at real estate isn’t usually a life-or-death situation, but an apartment open house becomes just that when a failed bank robber bursts in and takes a group of strangers hostage. The captives include a recently retired couple who relentlessly hunt down fixer-uppers but can’t up their own marriage. There’s a wealthy banker who has been too busy making money to care about anyone. Add to the mix a young couple about to have their first child; an elderly woman who is not afraid of someone waving a gun in her face; a flustered but still-ready-to-make-a-deal real estate agent; and a mystery man who has locked himself in the only bathroom, and you’ve got the worst hostages in the world
Each of them carries a lifetime of grievances, hurts, secrets, and passions ready to boil over. None of them is entirely what they appear. And all of them – the bank robber included – desperately crave some sort of rescue.”
Title: The Sirens of Baghdad
Author: Yasmina Khadra
Translator: John Cullen
Publisher: Anchor Books
Publishing Date: 2008
No. of Pages: 307
Synopsis: “The third novel in Yasmina Khadra’s bestselling trilogy about Islamic fundamentalism has the most compelling backdrop of any of his novels: Iraq in the wake of the American invasion. A young Iraqi student, unable to attend college because of the war, sees American soldiers leave a trail of humiliation and grief in his small village. Bent on revenge, he flees to the chaotic streets of Baghdad where insurgents soon realize they can make use of his anger. Eventually he is groomed for a secret terrorist mission meant to dwarf the attacks of September 11, only to find himself struggling with moral qualms. The Sirens of Baghdad is a powerful look at the effects of violence on ordinary people, showing what can turn a decent human being into a weapon, and how the good in human nature can resist.”
Author: Jorge Amado
Translator: Gregory Rabassa
Publisher: Bantam Books
Publishing Date: 1988
No. of Pages: 422
Synopsis: “Amado’s largest, most magnificent novel to date is set in earthy, tropical Brazil. It is an unforgettable tale of the frontier full of violence and courage, lust and adventure. (Source: Goodreads)
Title: Zorba the Greek
Author: Nikos Kazantzakis
Translator: Carl Wildman
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publishing Date: 1996
No. of Pages: 311
Synopsis: “Zorba the Greek is the story of a Greek workman who accompanies the narrator to Crete to work a lignite mine and becomes the narrator’s greatest friend and inspiration. Zorba has been acclaimed as one of the truly memorable creations of literature – a character in the great tradition of Sinbad the Sailor, Falstaff, and Sancho Panza. He is a figure created on a huge scale. His years have not dimmed the gusto with which he responds to all that life offers him, whether he’s supervising laborers at a mine, confronting mad monks in a mountain monastery, embellishing the tales of his past adventures, or making love. Zorba’s life is rich with all the joys and sorrows that living brings, and this is one of the great life-affirming novels of our time.”
Title: The Librarian of Auschwitz
Author: Antonio Iturbe
Translator: Lilit Zekulin Thwaites
Publisher: Square Fish
Publishing Date: 2017
No. of Pages: 423
Synopsis: “As a young girl, Dita is imprisoned by the Nazis at Auschwitz. Taken from her home in Prague in 1939, Dita does her best to adjust to the constant terror of her new reality. But even amidst horror, human strength and ingenuity persevere. When Jewish leader Fredy Hirsch entrusts Dita with eight precious volumes the prisoners have managed to sneak into the camp, she embraces the responsibility – and so becomes the librarian of Auschwitz.
From one of the darkest chapters in history comes this extraordinary story of courage and hope.”
Author: Emma Donoghue
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Publishing Date: 2010
No. of Pages: 321
Synopsis: “To five-year-old Jack, Room is the world. It’s where he was born, it’s where he and his Ma eat and sleep and play and learn. There are endless wonders that let loose Jack’s imagination – the snake under Bed that he constructs out of eggshells, the imaginary world projected through the TV, the coziness of Wardrobe below Ma’s clothes, where she tucks him in safely at night in case Old Nick comes.
Room is home to Jack, but to Ma it’s the prison where she has been held since she was nineteen – for seven years. Through her fierce love for her son, she has created a life for him in that eleven-by-eleven-foot space. But Jack’s curiosity is building alongside her own desperation – and she knows that room cannot contain either much longer.
Told in the poignant and funny voice of Jack, Room is a story of unconquerable love in harrowing circumstances, and of the diamond-hard bond between a mother and her child. It is a shocking, exhilarating, and riveting novel – but always deeply human and always moving. Room is a place you will never forget.”
Author: Roberto Bolaño
Translator: Natasha Wimmer
Publishing Date: September 2009
No. of Pages: 893
Synopsis: “Three academics on the trail of a reclusive German author; a New York reporter on his first Mexican assignment; a widowed philosopher; a police detective in love with an elusive older woman – these are among the searchers drawn to the border city of Santa Teresa, where over the course of a decade hundred of women have disappeared.
In the words of The Washington Post, “With 2666, Bolaño joins the ambitious overachievers of the twentieth-century novel, those like Proust, Musil, Joyce, Gaddis, Pynchon, Fuentes, and Vollmann, who push the novel far past its conventional size and scope to encompass an entire era, deploying encyclopedic knowledge and stylistic verve to offer a grand if sometimes idiosyncratic, summation of their vulture and the novelist’s place in it. Bolaño has joined the immortals.”
Title: Like Water for Chocolate
Author: Laura Esquivel
Translator: Carol Christensen and Thomas Christensen
Publishing Date: October 1992
No. of Pages: 246
Synopsis: “The number-one bestseller in Mexico in 1990, Like Water for Chocolate is a romantic, poignant tale, touched with bittersweet moments of magic and sensuality. Evocative of How to Make an American Quilt in structure, Tampopo in its celebration of food, and Heartburn it its irony and wit, it is a lively and funny tale of family life in turn-of-the-century Mexico.
The narrator’s great-aunt Tita is the youngest of three daughters born to Mama Elena, the tyrannical owner of the De la Garza ranch. While still in her mother’s womb, she wept so violently – as her mother chopped onions – that she caused Mama Elena to begin early labor, and Tita slipped out in the middle of the kitchen table, amid the spices and fixings for noodle soup. This early encounter with food soon became a way of life, and Tita grew up to be a master chef. Each chapter of the novel begins with one of Tita’s recipes and her careful instructions for preparation.
In well-born Mexican families, tradition dictates that the youngest daughter not marry, but remain at home to care for her mother. Even though Tita has fallen in love, Mama Elana chooses not to make an exception, and instead, arranges for Tita’s older sister to marry Tita’s young man.
In order to punish Tita for her willfulness, Mama Elena forcers her to bake the wedding cake. The bitter tears Tita weeps while stirring the batter provoke a remarkable reaction among the guests who eat the cake. It is then that it first becomes apparent that her culinary talents are unique.
Laura Esquivel’s voice is direct, simple and compelling. She has written a fresh and innovative novel, bringing her own inimitable strengths to a classic love story.”