Lessons Lessons

Bedtime reading with Friederike Schilbach

There’s nothing better than those extra hours in bed on the weekend, sipping your morning coffee and diving into a book. Here is a selection of six that will make you discover new ways of living and venturing outside your comfort zone.

 

There Are Things More Beautiful Than Beyoncé by Morgan Parker

A soulful poetry collection riddled with pop cultural references about what it means to be a black woman today. Morgan’s poems bear names like, “All They Want Is My Money My Pussy My Blood”, “Beyoncé on the Line for Gaga” or “Heaven Be a Xanax”. A ferocious book about vulnerability, feminism, race and sex.

 

Ghachar Ghocha by Vivek Shanbhag

An elegant little novella by the ‘Indian Chekhov’ set in contemporary Bangalore. It’s about a family that comes to wealth after the narrator’s uncle founds a successful spice company, changing their fortunes overnight. Soon enough the family dynamics begin to change and things become “ghachar ghochar” – meaning messy and tangled beyond repair.

 

Dear Ijeawele, Or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

A childhood friend of superstar writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie asked her for advice on how to raise her little baby girl. Adichie, who became a mother herself a couple of months ago, sent her a long letter with fifteen suggestions of how to empower her child to become strong and independent. Brilliantly simple and direct, this gem will not only change the way you interact with kids but everyone around you.

 

Tell Me How It Ends by Valeria Luiselli

This is easily the most moving book I’ve read this year. Thirty-three-year-old Mexican writer and essayist Valeria Luiselli volunteered at the immigration courts in New York City, working as an interpreter for undocumented children who tried to flee from Mexico to the US. In order to seek a new life there, each of these children must answer 40 official questions in court that will determine their future. Luiselli interviewed them and translated what they had gone through from Spanish to English. “But nothing is ever that simple. The children’s stories are always shuffled, stuttered, always shattered beyond the repair of a narrative order. The problem with trying to tell their story is that is has no beginning, no middle, and no end.”

Too Much and Not the Mood  by Durga Chew-Bose

In 1931, Virginia Woolf ended a diary entry with the words “too much and not the mood.” She was describing how tired she was of correcting her writing, of the “cramming in and the cutting out”, wondering if she had anything at all to say. The character of that feeling inspired Durga Chew-Bose to write and collect her own work. Her first book of essays is full of refreshing thoughts and vivid descriptions. She talks about the feeling of daughterhood when spotting her parents ‘umbrella tree’, describes her grandmother as “the sort of woman who is so obstinate that even the knot in her silk scarf looks stubborn, like a bulb unwilling to blossom” or muses “being alive is a beta test full of little frights”.

 

Memoirs of A Polar Bear by Yoko Tawada

In this outlandish tale, Yoko Tawada, a Japanese writer who moved to Germany in 1982, tells the story of three generations of polar bears. The first one is a ‘writer’ living in Soviet Russia and working on her autobiography called Thunderous Applause for My Tears. The second, her daughter, is part of a circus in East Berlin, and the third one, her grandson, is real-life Knut, the late darling of Berlin’s zoo in the West. Our world and especially the purgatory of summer, as seen through the eyes of these bears, has never looked stranger.

About the Author

Friederike Schilbach is a book editor at S. Fischer Verlag working with writers such as Edouard Louis, Elif Batuman and Leanne Shapton.

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