For this inaugural episode of the Boundless Book Club from the Emirates Literature Foundation, you’ll find Ahlam, Andrea and Annabelle talking about Isolation, and books that in some way connect to the topic of either physical, or perhaps more common, social isolation.
We also discuss how the social distancing and subsequent lock down has affected our own reading, and what genre we reach for in this time of need.
Books recommended in this episode:
- Men without Women, by Haruki Murakami
Ahlam starts off confessing to a penchant for all things Japanese. First up is a collection of short stories where the men all for one reason or another find themselves alone. In the completely unique Murakami way, no less. In this collection of stories, Ahlam found the reference for her next book recommendation, Kokoro.
- Kokoro, by Natsume Soseki
This novel from 1914 explores loneliness and isolation as well as the transition from the Japanese Meiji society to the modern era through the relationship between the narrator and his Sensei (which means teacher).
- The Road, by Cormac McCarthy
Content warning: this one might be a bit too harrowing for many listeners right now. This unforgettable Pulitzer prize winning story about a man and his son, moving south along the road in a dangerous world after an unspecified extinction event, is not for the faint of heart. It is beyond bleak, but oh so worth the effort.
- Where the Crawdad Sings, by Delia Owens
Yes, it has been recommended before but there is a twist: Annabelle recommends this to anyone who enjoys Tiger King. Yes, you read that right.
There was something about a Venn diagram mentioned, where it sits very loosely in the fictional intersection between Tiger King wildness and the lonely lyricism of Educated by Tara Westover. Apparently it is a mystery, a coming of age novel, and so much more.
- Practices of Selfhood, by Zygmunt Bauman and Rein Raud
A book for anyone who has ever wondered about what makes you the person you are. Are we as human beings determined by our genetic heritage, social circumstances and cultural preferences, or are we free in our choices? How does selfhood emerge? Zygmunt Bauman and Rein Raud explore notions of self, drawing on their combined expertise in sociology, philosophy and cultural theory.
- The History of Wolves, by Emily Fridlund
This one-time Booker nominated story of social and physical isolation and the things people do - and don’t do - for love is the first of Andrea’s two coming of age recommendations. In this beautiful and masterfully crafted story, we feel the slow creeping of horror as we realise what our protagonist is struggling to understand – that love is not a guarantee of safety.
- The Girls, by Emma Cline
This is another coming of age story, but that is where the similarities end. This was a smash hit when it came out, and you can see why. It is a fast paced and fascinating look at how a teenage girl ends up joining a cult.
- After the Fire, by Will Hill
And if cults are your thing.. This award-winning YA novel looks at what happens after, when all you have ever known is gone.
- At Home: A Short History of Private Life, by Bill Bryson
“I saw it on my book shelf, and thought – hey, I’m at home.” - Annabelle
Wars, famines, the Industrial Revolution, the Enlightenment - they are all there in your sofas and chests of drawers, tucked in to the folds of your curtains, in the downy softness of your pillows, in the paint on your walls and the water in your pipes.
Houses are where history ends up, and since we are spending so much time at home these days, isn’t it a good thing that they can be more interesting than they seem?
Ahlam Bolooki is the Festival Director for the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature, the largest celebration of the written and spoken word in the Arab World. Ahlam finds it difficult to choose a favourite genre as it’s always changing and she’s still in the midst of discovering her literary self. She’s catching up on all the gems she missed as a child such as The Little Prince and The Giving Tree, but has also developed a new appetite for Crime Fiction so who knows what’s next?
Andrea Gissdal is the Head of Communications and Marketing for the Emirates Literature Foundation. From a voracious and indiscriminate reader as a child, to a part-time bookseller as a student, as an adult she has become literary omnivore but with a preference for fiction. She also dabbles in creative writing, organises her life on post-its, and has a penchant for Scrabble.
Annabelle Corton is part of the team that puts together the programme of events for the EmiratesLitFest each year. She runs the Festival Book Club and has a background in guesting and presenting on talk radio shows about various literary topics. She likes words like ‘equinox’ and ‘vespa’, and loves a good pun. She’ll read anything in reach, but has a fondness for witty tussles of good vs. evil on page and screen, especially vampire fiction where a great deal is at stake. Get it? Stake? She’s not sorry.