The Weekender is a special collaboration between OZY Tribe members near and far to provide delicious recommendations for your valuable weekend time, as we grapple with turbulent times.
Saturday, December 05, 2020
Every year when the holidays roll around, many of us get a rare, much-needed break from the world. In this issue of OZY’s Weekender we want to help you escape. Here are the 25 best books of 2020 from every continent.
This short-story collection from Chilean author Mónica Ramón Ríos spans continents and politics for a roller-coaster ride of a read. Filled with violence and acts of bravery, it’s an adventurous, thrilling and tender look inside Ríos’ head, with stories veering from comedy to tragedy, guided by her skillful hand.
Do you remember when you stopped viewing your parents as heroes? Running,by Peru’s Natalia Sylvester, is the story of one Cuban-American 15-year-old girl who sees her father without those heroic goggles for the first time when he runs for president of the United States. The tabloids, scandals and other campaign pressures allow Mari to learn details about him that change her point of view forever.
3. Tender Is the Flesh
This horrifying sci-fi book from Argentina’s Agustina Bazterrica imagines a future where animal meat becomes poisonous to humans due to a virus — and people are the next thing on the menu. Bold, emotional and gruesome, it’s likely to become a modern classic, if you can make it to dessert.
Domestic violence, religion, class: Cockfight encompasses 13 stories of trauma in various forms, a raw unfiltered look at modern-day Latin America. While it’s undeniably heavy, Ecuadorian journalist María Fernanda Ampuero is skillful with her prose, using harrowing details sparingly to show the importance of home life.
Teens these days have it tough. The 12-year-old bisexual heroine of Zaina Arafat’s You Exist Too Muchis forced to quickly adapt to the nuances of a new world after moving from Israel to New York City. Arafat examines culture, family and romance, jumping back and forth in time and place to explore how the narrator’s early experiences follow her into adulthood … and how she ultimately faces her perceptions of not belonging.
2. The Disaster Tourist
This thriller by South Korean author Yun Ko-eun will have you rethinking both travel and natural disasters. The Disaster Tourist focuses on a travel agency that specializes in sending people to destinations recently affected by events such as cyclones and volcanic eruptions. But one employee faces her own personal cataclysm while assessing the company’s least profitable holiday, accompanied by a predatory boss and forced into an ethical dilemma.
3. These Violent Delights
In 1926 Shanghai, two rival gangs — the Scarlets and the White Flowers — have been decimating the city for years when two rival members must come together to fight a common enemy. In an unexpected take on the most famous Shakespearean romance, the Scarlet Gang’s newfound commander — teenaged Juliette Cai — has to prove her leadership and humility by working with her ex (and first love), White Flowers heir Roma Montagov.
4. Fifty Words for Rain
In Asha Lemmie’s first novel, Noriko “Nori” Kamiza, a lifelong outsider born into a traditional Japanese family in the late 1940s, is the illegitimate daughter of an aristocrat and a Black American GI. Left to be raised by her grandparents, who are ashamed of her mom’s decisions, Nori finds herself sleeping in an attic and enduring her grandmother’s skin-bleaching treatments. All seems lost until her epic search for identity is bolstered by a friendship with her half-brother.
5. A Burning
After a Muslim girl’s offhand Facebook comments are taken as evidence of a connection to a terrorist attack on an Indian train, a gym teacher with political aspirations and a mysterious, exuberant girl named Lovely impact her in unexpected ways. Megha Majumdar’s gripping novel captures the chaos of modern India.
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This gothic Southern novel puts you in the passenger seat of a middle-aged Mississippi cabbie who has all but given up on life. The would-be novelist and UFO buff tools around backroads contending with the rise of Uber — but when a rival ex-dispatcher resurfaces in town, Lee Durkee’s novel delves into the criminal underworld.
2. Crooked Hallelujah
Told through the eyes of Justine, a 15-year-old Cherokee girl living in 1970s Oklahoma, Crooked Hallelujahis a story of boom and bust in the American Southwest. Author Kelli Jo Ford, who’s Cherokee herself, has woven an epic, multigenerational story about Native women and conflicting identities.
3. The Velvet Rope Economy
What’s in your wallet? Nelson D. Schwartz’s engaging nonfiction dive into the lives of the 1 percent — the “velvet rope” of the title is a virtual and literal representation of economic disparity — is a juicy look at the way superrich people benefit from ever more extravagant perks like VIP airport terminals. Not only is the wealth gap growing, Schwartz explains, but businesses are stepping in to cater to those with money and leaving the ever-growing, increasingly angry ranks of proles behind.
4. The Vanishing Half
The Vignes sisters are twins, and they’re inseparable. Until the biracial pair decide to live apart, one identifying as Black while the other, married to a white man, passes as white. Brit Bennett’s sophomore effort is just as gorgeous and heart-rending as her debut, The Mothers.
5. Hurricane Season
The witch is dead! While such an occurrence might be celebrated in some parts of the world, in one small Mexican town it’s a cause for concern. Written in impossibly long sentences by Fernanda Melchor, Hurricane Season tells the brutal tale of a witch found with her neck slit and the town’s mission to uncover the culprit in a story that, in gruesome detail, encapsulates a mix of drugs, sex and mythology.
This bilingual anthology of young Cameroonian authors will introduce you to a whole new generation of writing — and give you a glimpse of the cultural and ideological influences in modern West Africa. That means stories of lost and found love, and occasionally stories of janitors making exciting discoveries.
2. Sacrament of Bodies
Nigerian poet Romeo Oriogun’s collection is an exploration of being queer in a country where homosexuality is still a cultural taboo. With honesty and attention to detail, he sheds light on a society that hasn’t made it easy to heal from discrimination or to cultivate an LGBTQ community. The solution Oriogun finds? Migration.
3. A Girl Is a Body of Water
Ugandan-born author Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi’s newest novel melds long-standing origin myths from her home country with the bloody history of Idi Amin’s dictatorship. The result: A coming-of-age story about a young woman, who, in seeking her lost mother, finds a power that women have long forgotten.
4. Sex and Lies
In her first foray into nonfiction, award-winning novelist Leila Slimani delves into the lives of young Moroccan women negotiating femininity and freedom within the confines of a conservative Muslim culture. This collection of deeply reported essays gets real about sex and its complications, with plenty of surprises along the way.
Craig Silvey’s coming-of-age novel about Sam, a transgender teen in Australia, is a tender and fascinating look at the moment of connection between Sam and an old man named Vic on a bridge. Loneliness, grief and family all intertwine as Sam grows, changes and becomes the person they want to be.
2. I Catch Killers
This one does exactly what the title says. It’s a memoir from Gary Jubelin, one of Australia’s all-time great detectives, who’s spent 34 years, well, catching killers. The investigations he worked on included high-profile disappearances, serial killings and gangland murders, and this tell-all offers all the true crime backstory you could ever want.
3. The Dictionary of Lost Words
Rising star of the Aussie literary scene Pip Williams gives the reader a front row seat to the compilation of the first Oxford English Dictionary in the 1880s, from which young Esme watches words being added … and begins to steal some for her own secret, gender-inclusive lexicon. We can guarantee that you’ll improve your vocabulary with this one.
4. Fake Baby
They say to write what you know. Author Amy McDaid’s day job as a neonatal intensive care nurse at New Zealand’s Starship Hospital proves the adage: Her first novel tackles child loss, along with mental illness, in tales of three Aucklanders who struggle to cope with these very private situations.
Well, it feels like we’re there already. Why not prepare? At least that’s what it appears Irish author Mark O’Connell has done with his newest offering, Notes From an Apocalypse — except he began working on it four years ago. Now, with doomsday on our doorstep, O’Connell’s prepper interviews and meditations on the end times and what comes next really hit home.
2. The Splendid and the Vile
You’ve probably already read Erik Larson’s The Devil in the White City (or had everyone you know say you have to read it), but his latest is even more apropos, as it illustrates a population on a different kind of lockdown — in this case, the World War II Blitz, under the leadership of Winston Churchill and the cast of characters who made up his inner circle.
3. The Discomfort of Evening
This best-selling novel from the Netherlands is a tale of guilt, grief and isolation: When rural girl Jas is left alone by her brother, she wishes he’d never come back — and then he doesn’t. Marieke Lucas Rijneveld’s masterful illustration of a descent into despair is unmissable.