Writers Recommend these Reads

By Intralingo

By Intralingo

On a Sunbeam

Tillie Walden

$21.99 $20.23

Allison Charette, translator of Return to the Enchanted Island, recommends a graphic novel set in outer space that is magical and deliciously refreshing. “I fell headfirst into this gorgeous world of colorful shadows, and didn't come up for air until the end. Where most outer space settings are cold, clinical, and austere, Walden imagines cozy space, teeming with fish ships, wrapped in blankets and cats. There's a story of young love in here, but I got more sucked in by the other relationships: the families and chosen families, the school bullies that evolve into better people, the way the settings imprint onto identity. The number one reason people should read it? There are no men in it. Seriously: just women and non-binary people. And it's never explained; that's just the way it is. It's deliciously refreshing.”

What Will People Say?

Rehana Rossouw

$21.99

Bridget Krone, author of Small Mercies, recommends a South African novel so powerful, so shattering, so triumphant that it left her in a daze. This novel tells the story of the Fourie family who live in Hanover Park on the Cape Flats - a rough part of Cape Town, South Africa. Neville and Magda Fourie have three children and they are trying with all their hearts to ‘raise them decent’ in a place that is festering with poverty, gangs and political rage. The novel, set mostly in 1986 just before the end of the apartheid regime, tracks the fate of all five members of that family. Who thrives at the end? Who plods on burdened and weary? Who doesn’t survive? Nothing about these characters’ lives is predictable, but I cared about them all so deeply that I read this book late into the night desperate to know what became of them. The first third of the book is hard: there is a sense of impending doom that I found hard to shake and there is the issue of language: Rossouw’s writing is thick with ‘Cape’ colloquialisms that some international readers might struggle with. But I found the characters so compelling, so brave, tragic and complex, that I kept going – and by the time the novel finished, I was walking round in a daze. It takes a big book to make you feel so shattered and so triumphant that you don’t want to read anything else for days, out of respect for that experience. This was such a book for me. There is a poem by Rilke that describes God walking a person out of the night towards their life and he says: ‘Nearby is the country they call life. / You will know it by its seriousness.’ This book, about a single family living on the tip of the African continent, embodies that exact seriousness and gives it five very human, beating hearts. I cannot recommend it more highly.”

Educated: A Memoir

Tara Westover

$28.00 $25.76

Carla Damron, author of The Stone Necklace, recommends a memoir known to shock yet always bring readers back to the remarkable strength and courage of the human spirit. “As a writer and a social worker, this book affected me in ways I didn’t expect. Educated is a memoir about a child growing up in a survivalist family. Westover’s father had a paranoid view of the government, followed an extremist form of Mormonism, and did all he could to keep his family isolated from any outside influence. The threat of an imminent doomsday governed his actions, which meant no school. No friends. No access to traditional medical care, even in an emergency. As a social worker, I’ve experienced families subjected to horrific abuse, so Westover’s account did not shock me. Instead, it reminded me of the remarkable strength and courage of the human spirit. Despite the neglect and violence, Westover climbed out of her crazy childhood and made her way to the world—even thriving in the formal education system. But it was not an easy path. Westover’s transition was emotionally devastating for her. She writes of straddling between two worlds: ‘For as long as I could remember, I’d known that the members of my own family were the only true Mormons… and yet here at this university…I felt the immensity of the gap. I understood now: I could stand with my family, or with the gentiles, on the one side or the other, but there was no foothold in between.’ Educated is a journey of self-discovery. We watch as she rejects the values that had been engrained in her. We grieve as she misses the family that offered its own form of love. We struggle with her as she tries to reconcile her past with her future: ‘Until that moment [the girl in the mirror] had always been there. No matter how much I appeared to have changed—how illustrious my education, how altered my appearance—I was still her. At best I was two people, a fractured mind. She was inside, and emerged whenever I crossed the threshold of my father’s house.’ But as she transforms: ‘She left me. The decisions I made after that moment were not the ones she would have made. They were the choices of a changed person, a new self. You could call this selfhood many things. Transformation. Metamorphosis. Falsity. Betrayal. I call it an education.’ Westover gives us an intimate look into the inner workings of extremism. In some ways, her family’s cult-like following of their father, no matter how bizarre his beliefs, defies logic. Yet his power was in their fear of losing his love and their place in the small world he created—to reject his beliefs meant you no longer had a family. You were orphaned, as Westover was. This is how it works in other extremist groups, too. The need to belong to something—a religious faction, a radical political group, or a family—can drive some people to do dangerous, unthinkable things. Yet there is also hope. Like Tara Westover, we each have in us the will to overcome, to climb out of the dysfunction. To become Educated.”

A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of "a Course in Miracles"

Marianne Williamson

$16.99 $15.63

Hope Mueller, author of Hopey, recommends a spiritual guide that resonates, awakens and inspires change. “My experience of this book was a spiritual awakening. A beautiful and clear telling of our purpose on this earth as human beings is to give and receive love. The book encourages, inspires, and helps the reader understand their own value and worth. This book changed my entire life; how I engage with life, how I engage with people, and how I feel and love myself. This book is a gift to the world. If everyone in the world read this book and believed in the principles, we would be forever changed. The world would experience a fundamental shift from individualism to shared love, health, and joy. ‘Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.’ -Marianne Williamson”

Soul: And Other Stories

Andrey Platonov

$18.95 $17.43

Hamid Ismailov, author of Gaia, Queen of Ants, recommends a devastatingly wrought book, which for him is the quintessence of Russian literature. “Having read Andrey Platonov's Soul—or rather Dzhan—in my youth, I fell ill. Before that, this happened to me only while reading Anna Karenina, and it happened twice more later, after reading The Metamorphosis by Kafka and The Stranger by Camus. If you write yourself, these are the books, after reading which you want to give up your writing, and it seems to you that everything has already been said by those authors, that you have nothing more to say. Platonov's Soul is one such book. Being an Uzbek writer, for a long time I thought and told my literary friends that if we put Soul on one half of the scale and all Soviet Uzbek literature on the other, then Soul, paradoxically speaking, would easily outweigh. It might be read as a Sufi treatise, as a failed Soviet manifesto, as a post-modern Gospel, as the quintessence of the great Russian literature.”

Snow at 5 PM: Translations of an Insignificant Japanese Poet

Jee Leong Koh

$19.00 $17.48

Poet Miho Kinnas, author of Move Over, Bird, recommends an exquisite poetry-fiction hybrid that sweeps and wheels vertically, and may forever change how you think of haiku. “Snow at 5 PM is a book which freely traverses so many borders. This poetry-fiction hybrid crisscrosses multiple cultures, languages, and timespans. I devoured it. Then I found an entry on one book-website in which a reader rated this book as a "slow" read. That made me think. Bestselling novels, typically plot-driven, connected from one chapter to another with cliff-hangers, are called fast reads. They, however, go fast horizontally. On the other hand, Snow At 5 PM sweeps and wheels vertically. Each segment begins with a three-line haiku placed at the left corner of a page. The rest of the page is blank, silent. One hundred and seven haiku, supposedly written by an insignificant Japanese poet and translated by one Jee Leong Koh, are exquisite. (For the second read, I only read haiku, and it was a satisfying experience.) Following the pose, considering a haiku, we dive into the prose, starting on the opposite page. The prose often "explains" the haiku; it makes me realize one can go so far in a short poem and, therefore, so much is condensed in such a small form. The prose is where various characters' (yes, there are characters) experiences, observations, and relationships are revealed concisely together with erudite/informed/borderless references. I chuckled at honest comments, the kinds usually said only within an understood circle. The quips/insights on haiku as a literary form are thoughtful and revealing. Haiku lovers would be the natural readers for the book, but a skeptic who finds haiku too limiting or too slight might become convinced otherwise.”

Children of the Alley

Naguib Mahfouz

$17.95 $16.51

Dr. Monther al-Kabbani, author of Warriors and Warlocks: Outcast, recommends an allegorical tale by Egypt’s Nobel laureate that prompts questions and philosophical musings. “This novel created a lot of controversy when first published in the Arab world, and was banned because of its allegory to the three monotheistic religions. The novel is considered among Mahfooz’s finest work and was cited by the Nobel committee that awarded him the prize. The story is so profound and philosophical that it forces the reader to ponder much about it after finishing reading it. These are the kind of novels that I like, that raise many questions in one’s mind, thus inciting you to think more about its meaning. The most important question that was raised in my mind after reading the novel is the following: Did Mahfooz want to say that modernity led to people to reject the notion of a GOD? And if so, did that make us better or worse?”

This Is How You Lose the Time War

Max Gladstone and Amal El-Mohtar

$14.99 $13.79

Natalia Borges Polesso, author of Amora: Stories, recommends a mesmerizing, award-winning, sci-fi novella by a Canadian & American duo. “I was mesmerized by the writing as well as the story. The story is actually simple: agents Red and Blue travel in time (future and past), altering the history of multiple universes on behalf of their warring empires. So far ok. But they leave each other letters, secret messages, actually. And as they read each other's words, they start to fall in love. I started reading this to translate (it was supposed to be a just a job) but I dived into it. It is beautifully written, the images built are amazing. The language is very beautifully crafted; the images are sensational; it is approaches gender issues, since the two main character (who fall in love) are women warriors; it won the Nebula Award and the BSFA.”

Istanbul: Memories and the City

Orhan Pamuk

$16.95 $15.59

Katherine E. Young, translator of Look at Him, recommends a Turkish memoir reminiscent of a love letter and French art film. “Orhan Pamuk’s Istanbul: Memories and the City, which is neither memoir nor history but has elements of both (and much else, besides), is a love letter to the city where Pamuk grew up and still lives. I’d spent a semester studying Ottoman history and even visited the city briefly in the 1990s, when I stayed in a nineteenth-century Ottoman guest house built into the outer wall of Topkapı Palace—but I was completely unprepared for Pamuk’s version of Istanbul. Reading this book is like falling into a French art film filled with quirky characters, meandering plot lines, existential musings, and ever-present melancholy. Which is to say that its pleasures are smoke-filled, coffee-flavored—and profound.”

Solarpunk: Ecological and Fantastical Stories in a Sustainable World

Carlos Orsi and Gerson Lodi-Ribeiro

$14.95 $13.75

Sue Burke, author of the duology Semiosis and Interference, recommends a sci-fi anthology from Brazil that just might inspire you to be part of a passionate, global conversation too. “Ray Bradbury said about writing science fiction, ‘I don’t try to predict the future; I try to prevent it.’ This science fiction book, Solarpunk, is intentionally different: It tries to create the future. The anthology is also important in two other ways. First, it turned ‘solarpunk’ into literature. Solarpunk began in the early 2000s as an aesthetic and an ecological movement. Then Brazilian editor Gerson Lodi-Ribeiro called on writers to imagine a sustainable world run on clean and renewable energies, and to imagine humanity under the impact of these changes. The resulting anthology was first published in Brazil in 2012, and five years later it was translated into English via a crowdfunding campaign. Sustainable futures did not turn out to be pastoral utopias. The stories range from a murder mystery to a family drama, even a vampire story. After Brazil launched the idea of writing about an optimistic future despite climate change, solarpunk went on to inspire writers around the globe in many languages to write their own fresh visions of an anti-apocalyptic future. It’s become a growing sub-genre in speculative fiction. Second, the book represents an example an expanding commitment by science fiction publishers, editors, and readers to the translation of more works and to the creation of a worldwide dialogue. This involves not only publishing novels and short stories in translation, but welcoming readers and writers from other cultures and countries into the science fiction community through scholarships and events designed to be global. A recent example is September’s online science fiction convention, Futurecon. With the slogan, ‘The future happens everywhere,’ it was organized largely by the science fiction fans and writers in Brazil, including participants in the Solarpunk anthology, and it engaged writers and editors from around the world. Literature can enrich lives, change perspectives, and open hearts. Solarpunk also aspired to be the first step toward envisioning large-scale hope for the future through literature. For me, as a science fiction author as well as a translator and reader, this book encouraged me to think wider and farther, and to listen and be part of the passionate global conversation that science fiction readers and writers seek to sustain. We want to work to encompass more voices than ever as we move toward a better future.”

We Kiss Them with Rain

Futhi Ntshingila

$14.95 $13.75

JL (Jessica) Powers, author of Under Water, recommends a realistic fairy-tale-slash-Shakespearean-style-comedy bursting with truth and humanity set among the Zulu people. “14-year-old Mvelo ends up dealing with more than she can handle in this coming-of-age novel published for adults, but appropriate for teens 15+ and above. I love its humor, verve, and sheer realism. Set in a Durban squatter camp and dealing with rape, teenage pregnancy, HIV-AIDS, child abandonment, and extreme poverty, it's also funny, profane, real, and supremely hopeful! In the marketing copy I wrote for it, I called it a realistic fairy-tale, and a Shakespearean-style comedy set among the Zulu people because it's one of those tales where people's true identities are hidden, even from themselves, and when those identities get revealed, it solves all the problems in the story. This novel was particularly moving to me as I have spent time in the townships in and around Durban while learning the Zulu language, and lived for a while in a house with a squatter community on the hillside literally next to our house. It's impossible to deny the authenticity and empathy with which Ntshingila presents the characters living in squatter communities and facing the difficulties of extreme poverty. Even more, I love her loving portrayal of a teenager facing an impossible situation, making a choice many would judge her for. This is a book worth reading again and again. I find it incredible how much truth and humanity Ntshingila packed into this slim volume.”

The Age of Skin

Dubravka Ugresic

$16.95 $15.59

Ellen Elias-Bursac, co-translator of Catherine the Great and the Small, recommends a book of perceptive, hilarious essays by a Croatian author known as one of Europe’s most distinctive novelists and essayists. “Ugresic has a penetrating eye, a critical sensibility, and a zinging sense of humor. The essays range across topics such as obsessions with skin, the joy of swimming with fish, the plight of refugees, a meditation on historical monuments. In my favorite essay in this collection, ‘There's Nothing Here!’ Ugrešić uses her already famous way of stitching together into a synthesis a curious grouping of stories, vignettes, observations, which at first glance seem to have little to do with each other. She starts off musing about health spas, then describes her visit to a spa in Croatia, an excursion to see a near-by devastated war monument, her young niece's thrill at Harry and Meghan's wedding, government agents staying at the hotel on the lookout for refugees from the Middle East on the move through the region, the Japanese movie Departures, and her experience of seeing Toward a Concrete Utopia: Architecture in Yugoslavia, 1928-1980, a show at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and eyewear ads that use monuments to people massacred in WWII as the backdrop for their sunglasses. This juxtaposition of found objects and subjects into a powerful assemblage is what makes her essays, both dark and often hilarious, well worth your time.”

Unbroken Spirit: My life before and after quadriplegia

Gilbert John

$24.95 $22.95

Paula Gordon, co-translator of Catherine the Great and the Small, recommends a unique, inspiring memoir by a Navajo man and activist that challenges assumptions. “My sister told me she was working with this author, a Navajo man in his 60s who had become quadriplegic at the age of 17, and despite this had gone to college, traveled, become an activist for the rights of disabled people, and written a memoir. This is a coming of age story at so many levels: a boy being brought up in his family's traditions, then having to navigate boarding school plus family obligations, his introduction to ‘Anglo’ people... The closer he got to the age at which I knew his accident occurred the more nervous I became. (I had no idea how it happened; I just knew his age.) But after the accident, to my surprise, the story's pace picked up, it got even more interesting. The protagonist continued growing, learning, overcoming obstacles and became a leader of others, a ring-leader, even, among friends and in various improbable adventures. John’s is a priori a unique perspective, and combined with his personality and intellect, his story is a page-turner. I hope this book will open readers' eyes to the arbitrary and unnecessary obstacles our society imposes on people who don't walk on two legs, who need assistance in activities many of us take for granted (until we, too, happen into or age into needing assistance) and the assumptions we make about people different from us -- to quote a character from a different story, ‘If he's lame he must be lame-brained.’ Gilbert John has a lot of life lessons to share and he doesn't mince words: ‘[L]ive like we mean it. Live like tomorrow is not promised, because—it’s not.’”

The Ministry of Guidance: And Other Stories

Golnoosh Nour

$14.95 $13.75

Olja Knežević, author of Catherine the Great and the Small, recommends the beautiful, heartfelt, insightful, true stories in this debut collection by an Iranian author. “In 2019, during one of my visits to London, I went to a Literary Salon, not knowing what to expect, but there, I heard Golnoush read one of her stories, and I was immediately a fan. She was still hoping that the collection of her stories would be published soon. I knew immediately, 'Here's a really talented young writer,' and was equally happy to find out her book was indeed published in 2020, and quite successful so far. These are the stories of leaving one’s country in order to meet a different type of struggle, and to grow through it; to give yourself a chance at becoming the deeper version of yourself - so you can imagine that it was straight up my alley.”