In this series we ask authors, Guardian writers and readers to share what they’ve been reading recently. This month, recommendations include a page-turning tale of a toxic relationship, a pocket-sized poetry pamphlet and an allegory of what it means to be alive. Tell us what you’ve been reading in the comments.
Norman Erikson Pasaribu, author
Until recently, I hadn’t been reading anything cover to cover for almost a year. I often got anxious, and kept putting books down. But I found myself bringing The Stories of Mary Gordon almost everywhere with me. I practised a kind of bibliomancy with it, asking a question that made me anxious, and letting a random word, sentence or paragraph present itself. The results required my own interpretation, but they were often surprising and helped me to make sense of what has happened in my life.
In March, I regained some hope and energy and started reading short stories and poems again. I enjoyed Bora Chung’s Cursed Bunny, which my friend Anton Hur translated. I reread some poems from Khairani Barokka’s Ultimatum Orangutan. It’s an exciting book of poetry – everyone should try picking it up. And, last week, I finally bought Yōko Ogawa’s The Memory Police (translated by Stephen Snyder)! Such a harrowing allegory of what it means to be alive, to remember, to have a freedom to remember.
Happy Stories, Mostly by Norman Erikson Pasaribu, translated by Tiffany Tsao (Tilted Axis £9.99) has been longlisted for the International Booker prize. To support the Guardian and Observer order your copy at guardianbookshop.com. Delivery charges may apply.
Melissa, Guardian reader
I’ve been reading Acts of Desperation by Megan Nolan. The short, sharp chapters keep you turning pages long after you should have gone to bed! I’m a sucker for unlikable, flawed narrators and I loved this unnamed narrator’s internal dialogue as she navigates a toxic relationship.
Sana Goyal, critic
I recently read Preti Taneja’s second book, Aftermath – written from “the centre of a wound still fresh” – which allowed me to think through terror, trauma, grief and the genre in which we give it shape, violence, vulnerability, memory, complicity and empathy. It made me return to and reread fragments from Lola Olufemi’s Experiments in Imagining Otherwise. The resonances between these two radical texts, which offer, above all else, hope for humanity are remarkable and should be required reading for everyone.
Like many others, I suspect I read Warsan Shire’s eagerly awaited debut poetry collection, Bless the Daughter Raised By a Voice in Her Head, greedily, in one giant gulp. It surpassed my expectations, and shortly after I turned the final page of this collection, I wanted more – more poems centred on coming-of-age experiences of women of colour in the diaspora. Pocket-sized, but packed with a punch, Fathima Zahra’s pamphlet, Sargam / Swargam, was the perfect follow-up.
Joe, Guardian reader
I’ve not read Kazuo Ishiguro before, but he’s one of those huge authors that everyone talks about that you feel like you should have read. I picked up Never Let Me Go on a whim, and was bowled over by the chatty intimacy of the first-person narrator. She leads us through a tender study of what it means to exist in a world where cloning has blurred the boundaries of humanity. In spite of the clones’ otherness, the trials and turmoil they go through are hauntingly similar to those we all experience as we muddle our way through life. For all its subtlety and depth it still managed to be a page-turner, and I finished it in a couple of days. It is a book that will stay with me for many years.