And we’re in the final stretch of the year! Time is surely flying fast. In the past month, I managed to purchase a bevy of interesting titles, most of which are translated works. The books that I managed to score also come from different parts of the world, from Colombia, to Europe, to Vietnam, and even to Somalis. Aside from Gabriel García Márquez and Amor Towles, these are authors who works I have never read previously. Without more ado, here are the books I purchased during the month.


Title: News of a Kidnapping
Author: Gabriel García Márquez
Translator: Edith Grossman
Publisher: Penguin Books
Publishing Date: 1998
No. of Pages: 291

Synopsis: Consumed these past twenty years by a “biblical holocaust,” Colombia has endured leftist insurgencies, right-wing death squads, currency collapses, cholera epidemics, and most recently and corrosively, drug trafficking. Returning to his days as a reporter for El Espectador, Gabriel García Márquez chronicles, with consummate skill, the period in late 1990 when the Colombian security forces mounted a nationwide manhunt for Pablo Escobar, the ruthless and elusive head of the Medellin cartel. Ten men and women were abducted by Escobar’s henchmen and used as bargaining chips against extradition to the United States. García Márquez reconstructs, from the testimonies and diaries of the survivors, the bizarre drama of their negotiations and ordeals with cinematic intensity, breathtaking language, and rigor. It draws us into a world that, like some phantasmagorical setting in a great García Márquez novel, we can scarcely believe exists – but that continually shocks us with its cold, hard reality.

Title: Fear of Mirrors
Author: Tariq Ali
Publisher: Verso
Publishing Date: 2016
No. of Pages: 233

Synopsis: With the fall of Communism, East German dissident Vlady Meyer’s life begins to fall apart. As the German nation unifies, his wife splits up with him. He loses his university job now that the times have turned against his Marxist views. He want to tell his alienated son, Karl what his family’s long and passionate involvement with communism really meant, but he can’t. Vlady’s story is interwoven with that of Ludwik, Kim Philby’s recruiter, and his four comrades, brilliant Galician secret agents working for the Fourth Department of the Red Army.

Thoughtful and intimate, Fear of Mirrors unfolds an expansive plot that touches on the greatest political upheavals of the twentieth century. Its protagonist captures the hopes once roused by the Bolshevik Revolution and the hard realities that followed; Vlady Meyers is a mirror reflecting impeccably the intellectual milieu of an incomparable period.

Title: The Sorrow of War
Author: Bao Ninh
Translator: Phan Thanh Hao
Publisher: Vintage
Publishing Date: 1998
No. of Pages: 217

Synopsis: Bao Ninh, a former North Vietnamese soldier, provides a strikingly honest look at how the Vietnam War forever changed his life, his country, and the people who live there. Originally published against government wishes in Vietnam because of its non-heroic, non-ideological tone, The Sorrow of War has won worldwide acclaim and become an international bestseller. (Source: Goodreads)

Title: Secrets
Author: Nuruddin Farah
Publisher: Penguin Books
Publishing Date: 1999
No. of Pages: 298

Synopsis: Set against the backdrop of Somalia’s devastating civil war, Secrets is a stunning revelatory novel by one of the major figures of modern African literature. The city of Mogadiscio is in crisis when the protagonist, Kalaman, receives an unexpected house guest, his childhood crush returned from America. Sensual and demanding, Sholoongo announces her intention to have his child, pulling Kalaman back into a past full of doubts and secrets. As Kalaman begins to tear apart the myth that is his family, he uncovers the startling truth of his own conception.

Secrets displays Farah’s talents to the fullest. His “daring, lush, urbane voice” (The New York Times Book Review) evokes the beauty and tragedy that is Africa. It will stand as one of the great works of modern African literature.

Title: Captain of the Sleepers
Author: Mayra Montero
Translator: Edith Grossman
Publisher: Picador
Publishing Date: February 2007
No. of Pages: 181

Synopsis: For fifty years, Andrés Yasin has carried a grudge against J. T. Bunker. Now eighty-three-years-old and dying, Bunker wants to tell his side of the story, the story of his affair with Estela, Andrés’s mother. As a child Andrés knew Bunker as the “Captain of the Sleepers” – so called because he transported back to Vieques those who had died on the mainland but wished to be buried at home. But what really happened between Bunker and Estela, and between Estela and her one true love, a leader of the Puerto Rican Nationalist Movement? What did Andrés witness, and what were the real circumstances of his mother’s mysterious death?

Beautifully translated by Edith Grossman, Captain of the Sleepers is a startling tale of remembrance and reality, and Mayra Montero’s finest book yet.

Title: The Pianist: The Extraordinary True Story of One Man’s Survival in Warsaw, 1939-1945
Author: Władysław Szpilman
Translator: Anthea Bell
Publisher: Picador
Publishing Date: January 2003
No. of Pages: 222

Synopsis: On September 23, 1939, Władysław Szpilman played Chopin’s Nocturne in C-sharp Minor live on the radio as shells exploded outside – so loudly that he couldn’t hear his piano. It was the last live music broadcast from Warsaw: that day, a German bomb hit the station, and Polish Radio went off the air. Though he lost his entire family, Szpilman survived in hiding. In the end, his life was saved by a German officer who heard him play the same Chopin nocturne on a piano found among the rubble. Written immediately after the war and suppressed for decades, The Pianist is a stunning testament to astonishing human endurance and healing through compassion.

Title: The River Why
Author: David James Duncan
Publisher: Sierra Club Books
Publishing Date: 2002
No. of Pages: 291

Synopsis: Since its publication by Sierra Club Books two decades ago, The River Why has become a classic, standing with Norman Maclean’s A River Runs through It as the most widely read fiction about fly fishing of our era. This captivating and exuberant tale is told by Gus Orviston, an irreverent young flyfisherman and one of the most appealing heroes in contemporary American fiction.

Leaving behind a madcap, fishing-obsessed family, Gus decides to strike out on his own, taking refuge in a secluded cabin on a remote riverbank to pursue his own flyfishing passion with unrelenting zeal. But instead of finding fishing bliss, Gus becomes increasingly troubled by the degradation of the natural world around him and by the spiritual barrenness of his own life. His desolation drives him on a reluctant quest for self-discovery and meaning – ultimately fruitful beyond his wildest dreams.

Here, then, is a funny, sensitive, unforgettable story about the relationships among men, women, the environment, and the spiritual forces that firmly join them. Stylistically adept and ambitions in scope, The River Why is a touching and powerful novel by an important voice in American fiction.

In a new Afterword, written for this twentieth-anniversary edition, David James Duncan reflects on the writing of the novel and on the surprising link between fishing and wisdom.

Title: The Horseman on the Roof
Author: Jean Giono
Translator: Jonathan Griffin
Publisher: The Harvill Press
Publishing Date: January 1995
No. of Pages: 374

Synopsis: In the white heat the sky is opaque, the air leaden and the light intense. A single cavalryman wonders at the oppressive atmosphere of the unfamiliar countryside he is entering. Exile from his Italian homeland as well as an innate, stubborn pride compel him onward, into the heart of Provence and into the acute cholera pandemic which ravaged the country in the 1830s.

Giono here directs a hallucinatory, lyrical narrative in which the mortal odours, the violent contractions of those who meet with the disease and the fear of a people confronted with insuperable natural forces are palpable. Death pervades the novel, but Angelo does not cease journeying, dodging blockades and quarantine imposed by troops – even seeking temporary refuge on the roofs of one town – determined to fined his childhood friend, Giuseppe. Others join him on the road, and leave him. Only the young woman, Pauline de Theus, who calmly receives the intruder who one night descends from the roofs, proves a worthy travelling companion.

Title: The Lincoln Highway
Author: Amor Towles
Publisher: Viking
Publishing Date: 2021
No. of Pages: 576

Synopsis: In June 1954, eighteen-year-old Emmett Watson is driven home to Nebraska by the warden of the juvenile work farm where he has just served fifteen months for involuntary slaughter. His mother long gone, his father recently deceased, and the family farm foreclosed upon by the bank, Emmett’s intention is to puck up his eight-year-old brother, Billy, and head to California, where they can start their lives anew. But when the warden drives away, Emmett discovers that two friends from the work farm have hidden themselves in the trunk of the warden’s car. Together, they have hatched an altogether different plan for Emmett’s future, one that will take them on a fateful journey in the opposite direction – to the city of New York.

Spanning just ten days and told from multiple points of view, Towles’ third novel will satisfy fans of his multilayered literary styling while providing them an array of new and richly imagined settings, characters, and themes.