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Read This Book…

Welcome to Read This Book, a newsletter where I recommend one book that you should add to your TBR pile or nightstand or hidden stack under the bed, right away!

“Have you read it yet?” My colleague and I would ask each other every Monday after vowing to read my next pick. But somehow neither of us had gotten to it. “Next weekend, for sure,” we’d say and move on. There was just something that stopped me. I would look at the gorgeous cover, hear its accolades, and walk away for the fear of disappointment.

It wasn’t until my two months of being unable to finish anything in its entirety that I picked my next pick off the shelf, with its small number of pages and a world of promise. And sure enough, I was hooked. I switched to the audio version narrated by Frankie Corzo immediately so I could listen to it while I went about life.

Book cover for Of Women and Salt

Of Women and Salt by Gabriela Garcia

Our story begins in a 19th-century cigar factory amidst a group of resilient cigar rollers who above all believe in the power of literature to keep them going. From the 19th century, we shift to the present day to the story of Jeanette, who is battling addiction but finds herself finding redemption in the unlikeliest of people and places. Determined to find answers to where she comes from, Jeanette decides to travel back to her homeland of Cuba, to find her history waiting to reclaim her. 

What is it that makes it so captivating? It’s hard to say. The writing is impeccable, a combination of intricate yet simple. The feelings it evokes are tender and heartbreaking in equal measure. But ultimately, it’s the characters, their ferocity in the face of what seems like immeasurable misfortune. When there is as much sorrow as the characters in this story carry, it’s hard to immerse yourself beyond the sorrow. But with these, you are never quite sure of where their story ends and yours begins.

This is a multi-generational story from an author who knows how to capture the threads that forms a family, a lineage. It is a meditation on choices that mothers make, and how these choices have the power to shape generations.

If you have ever read works by Isabelle Allende like The House of Spirits or Like Water for Chocolate, you will find yourself pulled in almost immediately.


Come tell me your thoughts on this one on Twitter, @JavedNusrah.

Happy Reading!
Nusrah

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Read This Book

Read This Book

Welcome to Read This Book, a newsletter where I recommend one book that you should add to your TBR pile or nightstand or hidden stack under the bed, right away!

When Ann Patchett’s The Dutch House came out and I found it was narrated by Tom Hanks, it went from a book on my radar to a book I needed to read immediately. Once the preorder of the audiobook landed in my Libro.FM app, I began. For me, it was Tom Hanks’ narration that saved a book that was probably a bit messy (in my very subjective opinion).

Once I had finished, all I could think of was how I wanted all my audiobooks narrated by Tom Hanks. Sadly, there are not many, but then I landed on my pick for this week.

Book Cover for Uncommon Type

Uncommon Type by Tom Hanks

A short story collection penned and narrated by Tom Hanks himself. Before I move forward, I will say that these stories are delightful both in print and on audio, and the genuine-ness of Hanks’s voice shines through in both.

This is a collection of 17 stories of ordinary people captured in ordinary moments in their life. There is a very low-stakes feel to all the stories, similar to Hanks’ movies (except maybe Castaway) which I always appreciate in my reads. The author’s signature quirk is present, too, because each of these stories in some way or another references a typewriter, which Tom Hanks also collects in real life and is what he used to type out this collection.

The stories range from two friends stepping out of their friend zone to the lost art of writing and reading your words. Each of these stories don’t seem interrelated but they actually are, which adds to the fun. I wouldn’t advise rushing through them, but rather reading one at a time with a hot mug of tea, making it something to savor. I saved these for an extra stressful week at work and advise you to do the same.


If you have read this already come and tell me what you thought on Twitter, @JavedNusrah.

Happy Reading!
Nusrah

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Read This Book

Read This Book…

Welcome to Read This Book, a newsletter where I recommend one book that you should add to your TBR pile or nightstand or hidden stack under the bed, right away!

Is it too soon for books with a fall feel? Back up. Is it ever too soon for books with a fall feel? Doubtful on both ends. Take a book that is fall in a paperback, add hints of childhood nostalgia to it, and what do you get? My next pick of course.

Cover Image of Something Wicked This Way Comes

Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury

This book by Bradbury is one that I started a good seven times. But each of these times means it made me stop for reasons you wouldn’t think. Every time I’d read the first few chapters, I would feel this pit in my stomach, this sense of vertigo from when something is going too fast. It was I, I who was going too fast, growing up too fast.

So naturally, I would deal with it the way I deal with all big emotions; I shoved it under the carpet. The sense of nostalgia it created in me was so potent that I couldn’t do anything but.

The eighth time was the charm though. It is then that I got into the story of Jim Nightshade and Will Halloway. Two best friends chase after the Cooger & Dark’s Pandemonium Shadow Show only to be wrapped in the sinister mystery the traveling carnival brings with it. There is magic, mystery, two boys leaving behind their youth, and the power of friendship in helping to reclaim it all.

If you have never read a Bradbury before, then you are in for a treat because Bradbury’s work strikes the perfect balance between commentary and story, where other authors falter. If you have ready Bradbury’s other popular works such as Fahrenheit 451 and The Illustrated Man, both equally brilliant, then stay. You are in for a treat too.

If you have enjoyed books like Darren Shan’s Cirque du Freak and Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus, then this one is most definitely for you.


If you have read this already come tell me what you thought on Twitter, @JavedNusrah.

Happy Reading!
Nusrah

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Read This Book

Read This Book

Welcome to Read This Book, a newsletter where I recommend one book that you should add to your TBR pile or nightstand or hidden stack under the bed, right away!

When I was younger, I often used to tell my mom that I wanted to be a journalist when I grew up. My mom used to dismiss it as another one of my pursuits, along with dragon hunter and marine biologist. But, just for one split second, a look of terror would gloss over her eyes. Having grown up in Pakistan and then living in the Middle East, she had seen the price free press had to pay and it seemed too high to be fair.

With the news centering around Afghanistan for the past weeks, I have thought of that look often and then thought of the bravery that goes with telling a story, your story, and all the journalists and reporters who risk everything to bring us those stories. That is what inspired my latest pick for you all today.

Book Cover

Our Women on the Ground by Zahra Hankir

This collection is a series of essays from nineteen ‘sahafiyat’ [Arabic word female journalists] telling their own stories through the stories of others that they have told over time.

With an enlightening foreword by Christiane Amanpour, these essays by the featured female reporters recount the harassment experienced when walking on the streets of Cairo, to the difficulty of not being able to walk by themselves in the streets of Yemen.

But they also tell the stories that no male reporter has been able to tell. Having been granted the privilege of going into spaces occupied by females alone, these female journalists have been able to add context to a history which often forgets the impact events have on fifty percent of its population.

Apart from the resonant themes of bravery these journalists display, this collection also puts on display the culture of the Middle East. The catch-all term it has become doesn’t do justice to each of the individual countries that make up the region. 

Each of the stories in this collection is eye-opening and a transformational experience of its own. If you have read stories like Girls of Riyadh and want more, this is for you.


Happy Reading!
Nusrah

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Read This Book

Read This Book…

Welcome to Read This Book, a newsletter where I recommend one book that you should add to your TBR pile or nightstand or hidden stack under the bed, right away!

If you, like me, want to hang onto that fleeting moment of joy you felt when summer came and you thought it would last forever, before it all went from warm to scorching, then I have the book for you.

The Enchanted April book cover

The Enchanted April by Elizabeth Von Arnim

If you have so far lived your life without either hearing about or reading The Enchanted April, then you are in for a delight.

This is the story of four women, who are complete strangers to each other, pooling their money together to retreat to a castle in a small Italian village.

As the story unfolds, you learn more about each of these women and what brings them to the village. You watch as reunions happen, realizations about life come to light, and everlasting friendships form, all the while surrounded by the blooming flowers and lush landscapes the Italian seaside has to offer.

What Elizabeth Von Arnim succeeds in doing is showcasing the extra in the ordinary. She is one of the first few authors who made me see that, and the meandering contemporary literature heralded today was pioneered by such works in my opinion.

That’s really all there is to it. In a world where it feels like events happen before you can catch up to them, it’s a nice feeling to hold onto, of being able to find joy in the ordinary, in the everyday.

If you have enjoyed works like I Capture the Castle and Excellent Women, then this is for you!

BonusL this book is available for free through Project Gutenberg, and you can start reading as soon as you finish reading this newsletter!


Come tell me what you thought of this read if you do pick it up on Twitter @JavedNusrah.

Happy Reading!
Nusrah

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Read This Book

Read This Book…

Welcome to Read This Book, a newsletter where I recommend one book that you should add to your TBR pile or nightstand or hidden stack under the bed, right away!

In honor of Women in Translation Month, the pick I have for you all is an eccentric story collection, translated from Japanese to English. As someone who is always complaining about not being fond of short stories, I do recommend short stories a lot, huh? It’s just when I come across one that captivates me from the first page, the first story, I want to shout about it at the top of my lungs.

book cover of Where the Wild Ladies are by Aoko Matsuda

Where the Wild Ladies are by Aoko Matsuda

This story collection is a mix of horror and fantasy, but the kind that is deeply rooted in real life. There are ghosts, lingering spirits, and creatures of the night, but all never doing more damage than the living do to themselves. Each of these stories draws from Japanese folklore and mythology and towards the end of the collection, which folk tale it draws inspiration from is mentioned. It is reminiscent of the collection, His Hideous Heart, edited by Dahlia Adler, which features stories that put a spin on Edgar Allan Poe and his short stories.

The first story in the collection begins with a woman getting her laser hair removal treatment done, and the observations in the story were so sharp, that I who was actually reading the story while waiting at Laser Away considered canceling my appointment. None of the stories get too heavy-handed though, there is such a fine balance of quirk thrown in, that it will win your heart. If stories like Her Body and Other Parties and Angela Carter’s The Bloody Chamber have left holes in your heart, then this is for you.

From cynical to heartwarming in the lapse of a story, we witness stories set in a world populated by wild women, who happen to be ghosts. It’s a discovery reading these stories, and one I think you should not deprive yourself of.  


Come tell me what you thought of this read if you do pick it up on Twitter @JavedNusrah.

Happy Reading!
Nusrah

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Read This Book

Read This Book

Welcome to Read This Book, a newsletter where I recommend one book that you should add to your TBR pile or nightstand or hidden stack under the bed, right away!

When shelter-in-place orders went into effect in my then-home state, Oregon, I was a fairly new mom emerging from my post-partum haze. The world was slowly opening up for me when all of a sudden it shut down on me again.

To cope with this recurring sense of isolation, I developed a ritual. Calling it a ritual might come off as a bit of a hyperbole, but that’s what it felt like to me – sacred. During this time, I would put my little baby in her stroller and take a 30-minute walk along my block. I lived in deep suburbia so my block was a mix of hills, climbs, and plains. While out on this walk I always had an audiobook on, and I remember each and every one of the audiobooks I listened to during this time. I think of them fondly and every time I see them mentioned, I feel a sensation similar to when you return home, to your safe space. It is one of these books that I want to share with you today.

Life Among the Savages by Shirley Jackson

Many of you know Shirley Jackson from her famous works like The Haunting of Hill House and her short story The Lottery. But, what a lot of you might be missing out on are her memoirs.

I have been reading up on a lot of biographies of Shirley Jackson and a lot of them talk about how her nonfiction writing reflects her troubled domestic life. But, what they fail to mention is Jackson’s humor that sparkles in these writings.

Her memoir Life Among the Savages starts off with her moving to Vermont with her and her family, and right from the start, she narrates the debacle in the most hilarious of ways. It is in Vermont that the Hymans settle down to make baby after baby, and to count out their nickels and dimes, with Shirley commenting on her colorful neighbors and her own colorful inability to fit in anywhere properly.

Describing her wonderful home, she says,“Our house is old and noisy, and full. When we moved into it we had two children and about five thousand books; I expect that when we finally overflow and move out again we will have perhaps twenty children and easily half a million books…” Who wouldn’t want to live in such a house (minus the twenty children)?

On describing a gentle moment of parenting she says, “I looked at the clock with the faint unconscious hope common to all mothers that time will somehow have passed magically away and the next time you look it will be bedtime.

At one point when she is about to have a baby, she talks about looking forward to having two days away from home for her delivery and being able to catch up on her mysteries, and I felt that.

You don’t need to read too much between the lines of this memoir, but if you do, you will see the brilliant mind of Shirley Jackson shining through, and this is a glimpse you won’t want to miss.


Come tell me what you thought of this read if you do pick it up on Twitter @JavedNusrah.

Happy Reading!
Nusrah

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Read This Book

Read This Book (07/28/2021)

Welcome to Read This Book, a newsletter where I recommend one book that you should add to your TBR pile or nightstand or hidden stack under the bed, right away!

I love the idea and allure of historical fiction – the promise of being transported to another time and place, it’s tempting, to say the least. For my pick today, I have one such book that had this effect on me.

widows of malabar hill cover image

The Widows of Malabar Hill by Sujata Massey

Set in 1920s Bombay, this is the story of Perveen Mistry, who is one of the first female lawyers in India. Although qualified to practice law, she works in her father’s law firm since as a woman she isn’t allowed to argue a case in court.

When working at her father’s firm, Perveen comes across the suspicious legacy of a wealthy mill owner and looks into it further. She decides to visit the mill owner’s three widows to help them understand their rights. However, she quickly finds herself caught between tensions that escalate into murder.

Apart from this present-day story, we also get flashbacks to Perveen’s past in the year 1916, learning more about what made her who she is today.

What Massey accomplishes here is exceptional because she delivers on three levels; we have a mystery, a character study, and a vivid portrayal of historical Bombay. There were subtle descriptions of food and architecture woven into the story, which only elevated the experience of this read.

If you have enjoyed works by authors such as Rhys Bowen and Marie Benedict, then Sujata Massey is an author to have on your radar for sure.

What’s even better? This is the first in a series and has two fantastic follow-ups already out: The Satapur Moonstone and The Bombay Prince.


Come tell me what you thought of this read if you do pick it up on Twitter @JavedNusrah.

Happy Reading!
Nusrah

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Read This Book (07/21/2021)

Welcome to Read This Book, a newsletter where I recommend one book that you should add to your TBR pile or nightstand or hidden stack under the bed, right away!

I have recently become interested in learning about the craft of writing. I think this interest originated after reading On Writing by Stephen King, where he approaches his story of writing very methodically. I am no one to say whether his methods are the best in his field, but having read the majority of his works, I can confirm they are not the worst.

I then picked up George Saunders’ A Swim in the Pond, and what a revelation. In the essay collection, Saunders breaks down 8 stories from 4 Russian authors and talks about what they do, how they do it, and how these stories have stood the test of time. After reading his breakdown of the first story itself, I approached the short stories on my bookshelf wistfully, ready to put into practice what I had just learned. My pick is the winner from this expedition.

cover image of Milk Blood Heat by Dantiel W. Moniz

Milk Blood Heat by Dantiel W. Moniz

What do you think when you hear the phrase, ‘Milk, Blood, Heat?’ To me, it represents a newborn-ness, a kind of raw vulnerability that is inherently part of being human. That is the kind of rawness this story collection captures.

Each of the stories is focused on a single point in time for each of the characters. At the end of each story there is not much resolution, but rather a sense of transformation of the characters, of the reader.

Moniz’s stories range from adolescence to adulthood, capturing all that one loses along the way. We have a woman trying to come to terms with having a baby, and a woman coming to terms with losing one. We have the budding misunderstandings between two friends and that between family members. In a mere 208 pages, there is little that is left unexplored.

If you always find yourself on the hesitant side of trying out short stories, then this might be the collection for you. I stepped away a changed person after reading this book and it almost filled the hole in my heart left behind by The Secrets Lives of Church Ladies.

Plus, the audio is exceptional. I do want to take a moment add some trigger warnings for miscarriage, suicide on page, and some mentions of abuse (off page).


Come tell me what you thought of this read if you do pick it up on Twitter @JavedNusrah.

Happy Reading!
Nusrah

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Read This Book

Read This Book (07/14/2021)

Welcome to Read This Book, a newsletter where I recommend one book that you should add to your TBR pile or nightstand or hidden stack under the bed, right away!

For the longest time, I would proudly claim that I don’t read much non-fiction. My pride was not a result of any prejudice against the genre, but rather my defense ready for anyone who was getting ready to make me feel less about choosing to read fiction. There were many reasons I had a hard time getting into non-fiction; I could never find something that held my interest, was too long, or just didn’t appeal on another level. Then I discovered memoirs.

Within a few months, I was obsessed. This sub-genre within the genre was giving me the best of both worlds; a story as well as scratching that itch to learn more about the world we live in. I ate it all up. From Bill Bryson’s In a Sunburned Country to Robin Wall Kimmerer’s Braiding Sweetgrass, you couldn’t keep me away.

In my infinite quest to keep searching for more memoirs to add to my shelf, I stumbled upon my pick.

The Prince of Los Cocuyos by Richard Blanco

If you are unfamiliar with Richard Blanco, he is a famous poet and essayist, who read the poem “One Today” for Obama’s second-term inauguration.

This memoir is him recounting his childhood experience of living as a Cuban-American and what it meant for him to hold onto that hyphenated identity. He captures the essence of what it means to exist in a crossroads of nostalgia, for where you are and for what you have left behind.

His stories start with the hilarious (convincing his grandmother to shop at Winn-Dixie for the first time, making an American Thanksgiving) and move on to poignant but heart-breaking tales of growing up gay in the suburbs of Miami.

A mix between David Sedaris and Augusten Burroughs, Blanco reminds you of what it means to come into an identity, and what it means to carry the stories and memories of the people who got you there, all the while making you snort in the process.


Come tell me what you thought of this read if you do pick it up on Twitter @JavedNusrah.

Happy Reading!
Nusrah